Re-launch!

[For any who may not know: We’re not using our real names, click here for details]

One of my major concerns about halting our progress back in December, was, as a friend put it, “re-establishing escape velocity.”  Not only had we attained a comfortable momentum in living on the road, but we were really enjoying ourselves.  Bringing it all to a screeching halt, re-integrating into our previous life, and then trying to start all over again a few months thereafter seemed beyond daunting when we tried to envision it.

It turned out to be considerably less daunting than we had imagined.  It helped not to think about it too much.  We basically just set a date and then forgot about it.  Which isn’t entirely accurate, but what we did do was pack our schedule so full with putting-the-house-on-the-market tasks that we really didn’t have time to consider anything else.

I did do some pre-planning and campsite reserving (we learned our lesson last time about staying ahead of that), so I was mentally ahead of Tacco in that particular arena at least.  But two weeks, one week, even down to just a couple days ahead of our departure date it felt absolutely nothing at all like we were about to upend our lives again.  Several times we stopped whatever we happened to be busy with, looked at each other, and tossed out something to the effect of “wait… check me on this, this can’t be right.  Are we seriously leaving this house for good and living on the road again in xx days?”

It was right though.  And if things go as planned, not just the house, but the life.  Everything.  Crazy.

Preparations were orderly right down to the last day – anyone surprised?  Our intention was to fly from DC to Los Angeles via a connection in Boston, leaving early on Wednesday, March 21st.  We had emptied and unplugged our fridge, made reservations for a fun dinner out on Tuesday night, and figured we would have the rest of the night to tie up any loose ends prior to bolting for the airport at 5:30AM.  But I didn’t intend to have any loose ends to tie up.

And then… here’s the weather forecast for our departure — the day we had planned on for the past three months:

Wx departure

Yes, biggest snowfall event of the year for Maryland.  Wintry mix, freezing rain, sleet, then snow and more snow.  10” forecast, and oh by the way that storm was set to move up toward Boston immediately thereafter.

The cascade of flight cancellations began on Tuesday morning, and within an hour or so the entire schedule out of BWI and DCA for Wednesday was gone.  There go plans A through K.  Tacco and I had multiple flip-flopping (and each time conflicting, amusingly enough) gut reactions about how to proceed.  The one general tack was to do whatever we possibly could to get to Boston ASAP, get a hotel for the night, then escape to the West Coast before the storm hit Boston.  The other was to relax, have a nice dinner, watch a movie, and don’t even think about leaving Maryland until the storm cleared and the scads of displaced passengers had worked their way through the system.  We didn’t know how long that would last, but my best guess was Friday.  The latter approach held considerable appeal, given that leaving Tuesday afternoon/night rather than the following morning would force us into crisis mode with respect to getting the house ready to leave, and there was no guarantee we wouldn’t get stuck anywhere along the way, including at the airport in DC (we didn’t have a car), or at the hotel in Boston.  Yet we did have a plan, and people expecting us, and the kids wanting to scramble on Joshua Tree’s rock piles on Friday (no space available next week)… shouldn’t we at least try?

Oh, and also – here’s the Southern California weather forecast for our arrival.  Southern California!  Thursday was supposed to be our get-everything-in-order day and they’re calling for a maelstrom.

Wx arrival

Sparing you the gory details of our pulling off getting the house ready and the MANY interim plan changes, I’ll tell you that we found ourselves at DCA (Washington National Airport – sorry, can’t get used to spelling out airport names) at about 9:30PM on Tuesday night awaiting a flight to Boston now delayed until 12:30AM.  And here I should clarify this process briefly – when flying standby the game is to figure out which flights or combinations thereof can get you to or near your destination, and then to check the “loads” (seats available) on these flights, through various means, so that you can determine whether you’ll actually get a seat.  Flying on your own airline is preferable because it’s free, but other airlines are possibilities too, just less desirable because there’s a fee involved and the means for load-checking aren’t as accurate.  Where it gets hopelessly complex is during periods of cancellations, because all those displaced passengers are re-booking in real time and they all have priority over you.  So a wide open flight can become a fully booked flight within minutes, not to mention the fact that everything gets delayed, so you have to start looking at whether connections will work, and then on top of that you start getting crew availability problems.  Anyway, back to our now-after-midnight hop to Boston.  After deicing the freezing drizzle and ice pellets from our wings and braving the bumpy ride, we pulled into Boston at just shy of 2AM and made our way through the empty airport toward our hotel van, armed with the newfound knowledge that the next day’s flight to LA that we had been banking on had filled up with revenue customers somewhere between 11 and midnight.  So that was now off the table.

Woodsprite had a meltdown in the airport, and I so wish we had pictures, because it was so her…  she was dead tired (of course) and dragging her roll-aboard through the airport like the rest of us, and she just flippin’ lost it.  Just started crying angrily and inconsolably, but kept dragging the rollaboard through the airport.  It wasn’t a minor meltdown by any stretch of the imagination but it was so civilized how she waved everyone off and just kept doing what she was doing.  “I’m 6 years old and it’s 2AM for Pete’s sake, just get away from me and let me cry my head off while I do this bag drag, will you??”

Plans L though Y or so died quick deaths between our DCA time and my extra hour awake in the hotel by the light of my laptop.  But plan Zulu prevailed, and at 10:36AM we jumped (still flying standby, miraculously) onto an American Airlines flight to LA.  How this flight had open seats I have no idea.  It even surprised the gate agent, who advised us, prior to taking a look at our flight’s status, that we shouldn’t bother our checking bags because “everything’s full today.”  Everything except this flight I guess!  We even sat together.  Victory!!

Here’s our (very very) rough plan for the last phase of our journey.

Da Plan

See you from the road.

Plan Zulu Post Phase Two

I can’t believe it.  Our redeployment day is actually here. Oh no, wait, that’s tomorrow. Or it was when we were on Plan Alpha. We’ve now made our way through the alphabet and I’m writing this post from somewhere over the Midwest as we make our way from Boston having overnighted there to avoid the season’s third Nor’Easter. We’re on our way to Southern California, which is expecting downpours and ensuing mudslides, to reacquaint ourselves with Davista and continue our travels this time from the southwest to the southeast. For starters. You can see our proposed path on Flight’s post here.

So, a summary of Phase Two of our travels (decidedly less nomadic) is probably in order. Until I can catch up with my musings from Phase One, a quick recap…. “No, there is too much, lemme sum up…

Our house didn’t sell in our absence, so we redeployed to Maryland on December 7th (notable in that during my squadron days I both deployed and returned from deployment on the “date which will live in infamy…”), two days before the Army-Navy game and the heaviest snowstorm of the season. We had shipped seven boxes back to Maryland, one of which WoodSprite could have comfortably slept in, and spent our first two days unpacking and settling in, picking out and decorating the perfect Christmas tree, dropping off our 4Runner for a deep detail (it had grown a disturbing layer of moldy fuzz in the wildly varying weather extremes during our 4.5-month absence), before popping over to enjoy America’s Game with my Academy roommate’s family and several of our friends. Although I had a hard time packing up to leave Davista, immediately basking in solid friendships softened my heart as soon as we returned.

However, we weren’t in town for too long before we departed again. Nine days later we loaded up the car and drove to the Chicago area to spend the holidays with my family.

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Our departure timeline was dictated by the dates of Chicago’s Do It Yourself Messiah. If you haven’t been to one of these events, you need to put it on your list. A volunteer orchestra plays the Messiah, accompanied by four professional soloists, and the audience arrives, scores in hand, to sit by vocal range and serve as the evening’s chorus. A classically-trained violinist, my father has played in the volunteer orchestra for the last twenty years and since my first DIYM 17 years ago, it has remained one of my favorite Christmas events. A bonus was that our extended family was joined my closest friend from childhood and her niece.

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The joyful flurry of activity that makes up our family holiday routine zipped by and we returned to Maryland for a fairly quick turn around. We were in the house less than 48 hours to unpack from Christmas and brutal 4o Chicago cold, do laundry, and repack for a stint in San Diego and Mexico. Flight took off on a trip that had a crazy-long layover in San Diego, so I followed the next day with the kids.

We met up on December 31st in San Diego and I was able to visit with a friend over coffee before spelling Flight. He went back to his hotel room to sleep for his New Year’s redeye back to Boston and his immediate return as a passenger to San Diego, while the kids and I enjoyed a marvelous taco dinner and watched the ball drop in New York before crashing out. Happy New Year indeed. I couldn’t help but wonder where we might be residing when we ring in 2019.

The next morning we met a very groggy Flight at the airport and caught our flight to Cabo to spend five days celebrating his parents’ 50th Anniversary with Flight’s sister and her family.

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The week in Cabo was magical, save acute Achilles tendonitis experienced by yours truly following yoga and my second surfing lesson (I refuse to be older than 30, but sometimes my body tells me otherwise) and I’ll devote another post to our time in Mexico when I can get to it. We all flew up to the Bay Area to celebrate in our nephew’s coming of age celebration, a wonderful family tradition that also warrants its own post.

Upon our return to Maryland, the mother of one of WoodSprite’s closest friends told me that she had mentioned to their teacher (We learned that WoodSprite was originally assigned the same teacher as her friend, the discovery of which on Meet Your Teacher night was met by her friend bursting into tears knowing that her BFF would have been in her class were we still in town…) that we were back for a few months and their teacher said, “Have her come to school!” You can do that? Originally I had planned to take advantage of all the local things we hadn’t yet seen in the area, but this was a new possibility. WoodSprite wanted to try out Kindergarten and take the bus. Firebolt just wanted to hang out with her friends again in the classroom. The only downside I could see was not keeping up with our homeschool curricula, which moved at a different pace.

After a trip to DC to see Ford’s Theater to learn more about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency at Firebolt’s request (she has been fascinated with his story since studying him the previous year and has since proclaimed that she, too, will be a lawyer before becoming president), we met with the local school’s principal two days later. Upon hearing that we were curious about the options for our girls to return to public school for only a couple of months, not including two trips out of town that we’d already committed to, she said, “We’d be delighted to have them – please send them both.” Okay then. Their first day back was on January 22nd.

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Following her first day of Kindergarten WoodSprite came home thoroughly nonplussed by the experience. She pronounced she would much prefer homeschooling with me and did NOT want to take the bus (it was too loud). Each day was a challenge to get her to go to school and we talked about her observations from each day. On day one she expressed her frustration with her classmates who “Talked all the way through the principal’s daily message. I tried, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. It was really annoying.” Day two, “Hey, Momma, I don’t know why other kids go to school. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do. They don’t want to do their work.” Noted. Although her teacher told me she integrated beautifully into the classroom, WoodSprite and I fought the “I-Don’t-Want-to-Go-to-School” battle until we went to Bend nine days later.

Firebolt’s reaction to being in her old stomping grounds was 180o out. She has loved every minute of it and lost no time in accruing behavioral yellow cards in defense of her friends. We opted not to rock the Middle School boat and have continued homeschooling Keeper, which has been a different adventure for his solo pupil status and being back in a non-moving house. By way of compromise for the girls, I mentioned to them I didn’t want them to lose their hard earned math skills and required each of them to do a daily math exercise as well as do some reading. Following a week after our return to Bend, WoodSprite rebelled against this requirement and eloquently stated, “Hey, Momma? I don’t know why you’re having us do math after we go to school all day. I’m not going to lose my skills. Firebolt’s not going to lose her skills.” Apparently my girls have non-perishable mad math skills… Maybe yes, maybe no – I’m hoping to flesh out another homeschooling post before to long to talk about just that.

Before we went West for another 10 days, I attended a conference for my Navy job. I had the privilege about speaking to 150ish of our nearly 200 Reservists who support the Office of Naval Research (ONR) on the two acupuncture research studies I’m heading up, namely evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Phantom Limb Pain (PLP). The majority of the ONR Reservists are STEM Professionals who collectively boast more PhDs than I can count (e.g. We have a fellow in our unit who holds 6 patents for the process to transform sea water into JP-5 jet fuel. ??!?! Exactly…) and it was a challenge to find the best way to introduce the challenges of these conditions, the basic tenets of acupuncture (few of which we understand from a Western medicine perspective), and the potential for its use to address PTSD and PLP. All in 15 minutes. And begin. Despite being unsure of how it might go, the talk was well received and I am eager to see where these studies take me…

Two days after the conference, we went to Oregon for ten days: first, to audition Bend in yet another season and, second, to celebrate 16 years of wedded bliss. Bend did not disappoint, far from it in fact, which means it looks like that’s where we’ll be heading to establish new roots. Until I can get to my summary, you can read about Flight’s perspective here. Take away: Bend continues to tug at my heart and soothe my soul, regardless of the season, and I can’t wait to get back.

Flight and I then flew the kids down to Oakland to spend sometime with Grammy and Papa and celebrate Keeper’s birthday before we jumped on a plane and went right back to Portland to celebrate our marriage milestone. Every year we take turns planning an anniversary trip that is a total surprise to the other person. This lively city had been another one of our next residence possibilities so I thought an anniversary trip seemed the perfect time to explore all that Portland has to offer (it was my year to plan…). While we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, we have since stricken Portland from the potential residence list for reasons I will get to in yet another post.

We returned to Maryland and realized we really had no more fart-around time. In just shy of six weeks’ time (we had set the first day of Spring as our schedule redeployment day) we needed to: hire a new realtor team, do one or two passes of combing through and discarding superfluous belongings, determine which of the eleventy billion house projects were necessary (presumably under the guidance of a newly hired realtor team) and feasible to complete before our departure given Flight’s absence for more than 50% of our remaining time, tackle said overwhelming list, pack for redeployment, ship boxes (fewer this time) back to Long Beach, and leave the house in museum state when we flew out on the spring equinox. There was no longer any time for a second exploratory trip to New England. Our time in Bend had rendered that unnecessary and our mounting TO DO list made it entirely unwise, and, consequently, we cancelled our second ten-day travel plans.

Okay then. It’s go time and we kicked it into high gear.

Miraculously, despite (or maybe owing to?) four days of power outage, all that needed to happen did. Although I wasn’t particularly appreciative of my necessary focus on non-electron-requiring projects (e.g. It’s as good a time as any to defrost the fridge…), especially since I weathered (pun most certainly intended) without Flight in the wake of the season’s second Nor’Easter, the experience was made far more palatable by our time in Davista (“Wait, we’re dry camping in our house, but we at least have water? Sweet!”) and, only after it got really cold, I cried uncle and we went to a hotel for what we hoped would be (and was) the last night sans electricity.

All told, we managed quite a bit after hiring a solid realtor team: Flight power-washed and repaired the fence surrounding our acre stretch; we had a long overdue professional landscaping service clear out the dead remnants leftover from fall; had the carpets replaced (due to a cancellation, they came almost a week ahead of schedule with only 80 minutes heads up – !!!); homeschooled Keeper daily in Reading, Writing, Math, Knitting, U.S. History, Housekeeping, Cooking, Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics; I painted trim throughout the house, a ceiling here and there, and the upstairs office; we packed out more than a dozen boxes and staged our house for showing in our absence, which brings me to about 14 hours ago when we drove away from our house to begin the crazy journey to rejoin Davista in Long Beach. While I was disappointed I was unable to carve out more visits with our local friends, I’m very thankful for the few opportunities that did manifest while we were in Maryland.

Just to give you a picture of the stark difference between our redeployment days, here’s a picture from last July when we had Davista in front of our house to easily load up anything we might need.

 

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A bright, sunny, but not obnoxiously hot July day. And look how blissfully unaware we are of all that this lifestyle entails…

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Deployment this go around feels vastly different because we now have some idea of what we’re getting into, at least in the general sense, although we’ll be roadschooling in a very different part of the country. Our lessons learned (many of which we’ve shared in this blog) have been added to our collective stash of corporate knowledge and I feel far more comfortable resuming our travels. A few months is just enough time to start losing the details of what exactly we left in Davista and what we needed to come back with us. Fortunately, I’ll be back in the area for Navy work in a few weeks and can collect any straggler items (e.g. my toothbrush charger – !!!).

Equally different are the accompanying meteorological conditions. Originally planning to leave on March 21st, Flight started tracking the inbound storm that threatened our departure and, as I was painting more white trim, gave me updates throughout the day (March 20th) and our plans steadily evolved through versions Bravo to Quebec. For those who are unfamiliar with the standby travel privileges afforded airline employees, allow me to share the most prominent positive and negative aspects. If we fly with Flight’s carrier airline, we can do so for free. If we fly with a partnered airline, we can do so at an extremely discounted rate. Huge plus, certainly, but it is always, always, always, as standby passengers. So, what does that mean for us? We need to be flexible in our travel plans, certainly, yet if any flights to our intended destination are cancelled, the others fill up with paying passengers and we are out of luck, meaning we’re stuck until five seats on the same flight free up. !!!

As we were getting the girls off to their last day of public elementary school in Maryland, Flight informed me that all the following day’s flights out of BWI and DCA were cancelled due to the inbound storm. Crapity crap crap CRAP. I had two meetings scheduled that day and cancelled both to get prepared to leave that night. True to my genetic stock (my parents are notorious for pulling all nighters before they travel, even at their current seasoned age…), I was anticipating an additional 12 hours of time to finalize our departure checklist. Nope. With the frantic assistance of the whole family, we pulled the house into perfect order and drove to DCA to catch a very delayed flight to Boston to overnight and catch a flight to LAX. At least the storm shouldn’t be getting to Boston until well after our departure, which thankfully held true.

After rolling into our airport hotel room at 2:20 am (“Kids, we’re getting on West Coast time…”) with only one rather civilized meltdown by WoodSprite, all but Flight crashed out. Flight spent another hour awake looking at all the possible ways we might make our way to Davista in the most expeditious manner. Did I mention the inbound front heading for Southern California and forecasting torrential rain for our day to ready Davista for the road? Should be interesting! Fortunately those who will be required to spend time outside (namely the oldest three of our flight) have waterproof pants and exceptional rain shells.

Never a dull moment and we wouldn’t have it any other way…