The Adventure Continues!

Whew! What a couple of days this has been.

One cable guy came out today and set us up with internet. He didn’t, however, bring the two cable cards that we need for the TiVo, so we had to request a second truck. But in between those, our power got cut off. So we had to go out to the utility company and have the power restored. But our lease didn’t quite have the right address on it, so we had to get a fax from the office correcting it. Bottom line, we have internet and basic cable and power right now, and that’s good enough for me.

Oy vey. This whole adventure, our mantra has been “one extra step”. Seems like everything goes relatively smoothly, EXCEPT that there’s always one unexpected extra step involved.

On the good side, we have some new things. We got a new LCD HD television at Costco, and we bought a new King-size bed (it will be delivered tomorrow) with a pillow top. Comfy! We planned on a Queen, but found a great price on a King. Tonight we spend one more night on our air mattress, which holds air much better now that we discovered a second valve on the underside that had to be shut (one extra step).

In kitty news, they survived the flight beautifully. We rarely heard any meowing, and only because we’re attuned to the specific noises the cats make; I doubt anyone around us realized there were cats on board. They certainly were overshadowed by the toddlers a few rows back who enjoyed screeching sporadically through the entire trip. Anyhoo, the cats have explored some of the new apartment, but are right now huddled under our bedding.


I’m getting pretty tired of hotel/motel rooms. I want my own bed, slathered with cats. I also want to cook my own food.

Almost all of the apartment paperwork is done, apparently … they were waiting on two more things when I talked to the lady earlier today. So hopefully we’ll be able to sign the lease tomorrow. I hope we do — we’d like to buy a few necessary items, like toilet paper and kitty litter, to put in the apartment so we have it when we get here for good. Weird to think that two weeks one week from tomorrow, we’ll live here. (Wow, it’s coming up sooner than I thought!)

The time zone change is still hard to wrap my brain around, and probably will be for quite some time. It’s so odd to think that it’s 5:30 here, but it’s only 2:30 back in Seattle.

The weather here today was around 80 degrees, cloudy with a few small bursts of rain. I don’t mind the humidity at this temperature (though I probably will when it gets into the 90s). We went to a Target that has a supermarket in it, which was awesome.

Travel Update – Day 6

Day 6
Baton Rouge, LA to Kissimmee, FL
706 miles / approx. 11 hours

We did it! Welcome to Florida, “America’s Wang”! Right now we’re in a 4th-floor room at a hotel in Kissimmee, FL — we can see the fireworks at Epcot from our window. We can also see the backside of Expedition Everest over at Animal Kingdom. Awesome.

We could have stopped for the night in Ocala, which is around 80 miles to the north, but we pushed through and drove all the way here. It’s a nice feeling that tomorrow morning we don’t have to set an alarm, and we’ll be ready to go in the right city when we leave.

Tomorrow morning I’ll head over to the Entertainment building (which I could actually walk to from the hotel) and pick up a copy of my contract, which should come in handy as proof of employment. Then we’ll start on the great apartment hunt.

Six days on the road wasn’t too horrible, but it’s a little too intense to do again anytime soon. Those of you who know us will not be surprised to hear that we had many laughs, the only tears were due to the laughs, and we didn’t have a single fight.

Travel Update – Day 5

Day 5
Ft Worth, TX to Baton Rouge, LA
450 miles / approx. 9 hours

We didn’t make it to Mobile, but we made it farther than we thought we would when we left this morning. When we woke up, it was snowing in Ft Worth, with about an inch on the ground. After watching the local news and fretting for a while, we got on the road around 9:30am. It was snowy and slushy through Dallas, and we ate up an hour going about 20 miles, but the roads started to clear up once we got out of the big cities. By 30 miles from Dallas, it was mostly just wet pavement with a little bit of slush, and by 50 or so miles from Dallas it was just wet pavement and sleet/rain.

We were delighted to hit Louisiana — there’s just too damn much Texas. The scenery got a bit more swampy (between Lafayette and Baton Rouge there’s a 20-mile long bridge that crosses: a swamp, a river, a lake, a bay, a channel, and a bayou) and they certainly do their own thing down here — instead of counties, they have parishes; instead of city limits, they have corp. limits. And at one point, this line was uttered: “Huh! Smells like … wax lips.”

We’re in the home stretch, guys! We’re going to give it one big push tomorrow and get as close to Orlando as we can, so we can start looking for an apartment first thing Friday.

Tomorrow’s goal: Orlando, FL (695 miles / 11 hours)

Good Morning, Ft Worth!

It’s 7am here, which means it’s 5am for those of you back home. Right now there’s just the tiniest bit of snow falling, and around an inch or so on the ground. Fortunately, the road underneath the snow was dry and bare, so there shouldn’t be too much ice to deal with.

We’re going to hole up here for a bit longer, and leave later than usual. Fortunately, this Holiday Inn Express has an “expanded” continental breakfast, and check-out is a delightfully late noon.

What fascinates me is that they get snowy weather like this here in Texas every three or four years. It’s kind of like Seattle in that regard, this current freakish El Nino year full of freak Seattle blizzards notwithstanding. But they seem to be handling it well — sand and salt trucks are out and about, and the drivers on the road appear to be taking it easy (as opposed to in Seattle, where every jackhole with an SUV drives just as stupidly as they would in dry weather).

Travel Update – Day 4

Day 4
El Paso, TX to Ft Worth, TX
605 miles / approx. 10 hours

As opposed to yesterday’s four-state extravaganza, today we crossed a big chunk of Texas. Dang, there is a LOT of Texas out here. And once again, every person we came across was friendly. Weird!

The weather looked iffy — we didn’t know if we were going to see snow, or ice, or rain, or what. We decided to go upward to Dallas via I-20 instead of downward to San Antonio/Houston on I-10, and it was a wise move — apparently they closed a chunk of I-10 today. As for our drive, we didn’t see a single drop of snow or rain from the sky, and the road only had a very little bit of ice here and there. But we saw almost a dozen wrecked big rig trucks overturned in the median (I took a couple of pictures, of course).

The big cities here are very nice. The small towns are depressing when viewed from the interstate, full of broken-down machinery and deserted old businesses. We passed through Midland, the location of GWB’s ranch. My intial reaction: “It’s a shithole!”

Tomorrow’s goal: Mobile, AL (650 miles / 11 hours)

Travel Update – Day 3

Day 3
Blythe, CA to El Paso, TX
580 miles / approx. 10 hours

Four states in one day, wow! We started out in Blythe, 5 miles from the Arizona border. Then we hauled through Arizona and New Mexico, and now we’re just over the Texas border in El Paso.

We stopped in Phoenix, AZ to have lunch with my parents, which was a nice little break in the middle of the day. I had my first In-N-Out burger. All in all, it was a decent little drive through the desert, which was nicer looking than I thought it would be.

So far, every person we’ve talked to in Texas has been super friendly. Granted, we’ve only talked to like four people, but that’s four out of four.

Tomorrow’s goal: either Dallas, TX (623 miles/10 hours) or Houston, TX (745 miles/11 hours) depending on the weather — oddly, it looks like it may be colder and more icy on the southern route (I-10) and slightly easier on the northern route (I-20). We’ll make our decision in the morning, when we can get updated weather.

Travel Update

Day 2
Lodi, CA to Blythe, CA
574 miles / approx. 9 hours

It was all about California today. We’re in Blythe tonight, about 5 miles from the Arizona state line. We thought about trying for Phoenix, but we pushed pretty hard yesterday, didn’t sleep very well, and we gave ourselves 6 days instead of 5 for a reason, dangit! It’s another 2-1/2 hours or so to Phoenix, so we plan on a later start, then meeting my parents for lunch somewhere around Phoenix/Mesa.

Today was my day to feel a little icky — I’m just not used to being in a car this much. So tomorrow’s goal is a gentler one, not just so we can take it easy, but because apparently we’re chasing a storm across the country. The weather today was sunny all the way, and I’d like to keep it that way (though I don’t think we’ll be able to avoid at least SOME rain).

There’s not a lot of cell phone reception here in Blythe (only one bar on both of our phones), but tonight’s motel has free wifi (which a ton of motels now seem to have).

Tomorrow’s goal: El Paso, TX (580 miles, approx. 9 hours)

Travel Day 1

Day 1
Seattle, WA to Lodi, CA
788 miles / approx. 13 hours

We tackled Washington and Oregon, and are now 300-ish miles into California. The passes at the bottom of Oregon were all dry and clear, including Siskiyou (elevation 4310). It was lovely. We meant to stop in Sacramento for the night, but they didn’t have a lot of easily accessible motels, so we pressed on a little further and are now settled in at the Best Western in Lodi.

Poor Scott wasn’t feeling well today, and was in fact up late into last night with an upset stomach, so I did most of the driving. No biggie, as I like to drive. The new car is handling like a champ, and it’s a much more comfortable and secure drive than our old car would have been.

Tomorrow’s goal: Phoenix, AZ (724 miles, approx. 11 hours)

a network of pure crystalline hatred

I’m putting together a cheat sheet for apartment hunting — a single page with our last few apartments’ addresses and phone numbers, as well as some employment history. It totally makes it easier than trying to remember everywhere we’ve lived on the fly.

Anyhoo, I was browsing around the internets, trying to find phone numbers for our last few apartment buildings, and I came across a page of reviews for the “management company” that owned our last apartment. For those who recall, it was the tiny craphole apartment on Queen Anne. It’s owned by a family, but they’re very weird about letting you know (the “handyman” was married to the “manager”, but neither would come out and call themselves an owner of the building).

Here are a few choice excerpts from the reviews:

“Basically, if you value your health, safety, privacy, and hard-earned money, you should stay FAR away from VIP. They are corrupt, abusive, and the worst property managers I have ever heard of or experienced directly.”

“The bottom line is the Varnes treat their tenants like the sharecroppers of the 1930s. They make it clear that you are, in their estimation, privileged to rent from them; and you should shut up and keep quiet.”

“They ended up keeping the whole deposit for a maintenance fee to clean the window blinds. They charge $25.00 an hour and it took 10 hours (so they say) to clean 4 window blinds! I left the place spotless, in fact, much cleaner than when I moved in. Never have I had a deposit kept from me by a landlord. Not only did I get charged for that, but I had bought some wall puddy to fill a couple of nail holes and they entered my apartment (when I was out and without notice), when I was still living there, filled the holes and charged me for that too! I was so happy to be out of there that I didn’t fight them for it. This is how they do business. I have never seen so many people move in and then move right back out, either from being evicted or sickened by VIP practices. These people are dishonest, opportunistic, money-grubbing slumlords who don’t care about their tenants or their rights. Do not rent from these awful people as they will take advantage of you…you have been warned.”

“All be it, the rates are below average and the site is good but, beware the witch woman SHE VARNES. This women is a devil from the deepest regions, she will present herself to you as a mere representative of the Varnes organization. But, in actuality this beast is THE VARNES itself. She herself is the driving action and force of the despicable Varnes network of employees, or web of deception. From Bjorne to their wethead attorney brother, the Varnes are a network of pure crystalline hatred. BEWARE”

One of the reviews mentioned that they “still use carbon paper when signing a lease”, which made me laugh — I found our file with our old lease, and indeed it’s generic documents that had been photocopied (hell, maybe even mimeographed) several times, and were filled out with carbon paper sheets. Shockingly high-tech! I’m glad to be rid of them, and I don’t know if I’d ever trust a small-family management company ever again.