Go Around! Go Around!

More aviation geekery.  I’ll let you look that one up yourself.

Go-mode ensued immediately upon our arrival back in the Annapolis area.  It was the proverbial “twenty pounds of stuff jammed into a ten pound sack” scenario, as not only did we have a ton to do in order to clean out the house entirely for closing, but we been out of it since March, with lawn-mowing being the only maintenance that had been performed.  Things were a little rough around the edges, and I started immediately on a new punch list and the attendant prioritization.  Dumpster ordered, storage “Pod” ordered, moving boxes bought, dentist appointments made, trampoline dismantled, unwanted gear onto Cragislist, man that fence looks bad, better pressure wash and paint it, clean the siding, go go go…

We had just shy of two weeks until closing, and it was tough to visualize getting “there” from “here,” particularly with the inevitable onion-peeling that reveals sub-task after sub-task once you start tackling such a big job.  It had been blissfully easy to forget about the state in which we had left the house while on the road.  While it was certainly show-ready, the corners we had cut in order to pack into the motorhome and depart on semi-short notice made themselves painfully apparent; we still had tons (literally) of our “stuff,” mostly in the garage and basement, through which we still had to sort and pack/sell/discard.

And the pool.  I hadn’t been able to come up with a good solution for that.  In normal circumstances we would have “opened” it in the Spring, a process which, after the initial actions by a pool service, can take up to a week of close attention, cleaning, and chemical balancing.  So, even without considering the cost and liability issues involved with maintaining an open pool at an empty house, that was off the table – can’t clean your Maryland pool from the Rockies and Pacific Northwest.  The problem with leaving it closed and covered, however, is that the longer it stays that way in warm weather, the more it resembles a swamp, and therefore the longer it takes to bring it back to swimmable status.  It’s also not an especially appealing way to for a potential buyer to see it.

With our buyers, we had, after quite a bit of back and forth, resolved the issue by agreeing to drain the pool and have the long-in-the-tooth vinyl lining completely replaced, then have the pool filled and open for them at closing.  Reasoning that it was going to be their pool, we even had them choose the lining.  It was a good solution, but added significantly to the effort and expense jammed into our short Annapolis stay.

On top of all that, we wanted to see friends and family while back in Maryland, as did the kids.  So we plowed through the packed days and relatively sleepless nights, propelled by caffeine (me, Tacco doesn’t tolerate it well) and the inertia of our frenetic activity.

Meanwhile in Portland… Davista wasn’t playing nice.  After not hearing from the maintenance folks for several days, I called for a status update, only to hear that they had been unable to duplicate the problem.  Good God.  “Have you driven it?”  “Well, yes.  Some.  It’s tricky to just drive around town you know.”  “Yes, believe me, I know.”  A couple days after that I got a call with “Great news!” Evidently they had gotten the check engine light to flash.  But only at 12.5 miles per hour.  “Consistently??  Because if you remember, we were getting it at any speed and any driving condition, and I couldn’t correlate it to anything th–” “Yes well, it’s 12.5 mph and hem haw hem haw assure you yadda yadda best mechanics don’t you worry…”

Yeah.

I figured they had at least 10 more days to work it out, and besides, we didn’t have time to worry about such things – we still had a house to close on.  Back to the grind.This was the state in which we finally met our new buyers, or at least one of them.  Due in no small part to the rapport we had sensed, given that they were very much in the situation we ourselves had been in when had bought the house five years earlier, we opted to contact them directly during the pool negotiations, as going through the real estate agents was proving cumbersome.  It was a good call, in that we were able not only to communicate and negotiate much more effectively, but to ease some of the tension and uncertainty involved in dealing with a nameless/faceless entity.  So we had exchanged several text messages and emails, as well as a phone call or two.  Since we had been back in Annapolis, the communications had ceased, but we chalked that up to their being just as busy as we were.  They had completed the home inspection just prior to our arrival back in town, and I had remarked to Tacco, after seeing the somewhat alarming sight of the pool drained and green with moss and algae, the old vinyl now hanging limply from the sides, that I bet seeing that freaked them out a little.  Even with pool experience I had found it difficult to visualize that eyesore becoming a functioning pool within a week or two.  We laughed it off though – the pool folks knew what they were doing and we didn’t have the time to sit and worry.  The buyers had one final inspection to perform, this one on the fireplace and chimney, and he (the buyer) was tagging along.  We met in the kitchen, all of us sleep-deprived and harried, shook hands and exchanged brief pleasantries.  His eye contact was tentative though.  Why?  Nah, never mind.  The stress, I’m sure.  The inspection went well, with the chimney inspector finding a few small things, but making a point to turn to the buyer and ensure him that this was a great house, and had clearly been well taken care of.  “Mm hm, yeah, thanks,” he responded curtly while turning for the door.  Stress.  Gotta be.  We felt it too.

“Very nice to meet you – we’ll see you soon!” we offered as he headed for the door.  “Yes.. well… I need to tell you that we’re significantly less enthusiastic now than we were a couple weeks ago.  Uhhh.. we’ll let you know.”  And he left.

Um… what? 

Wait, what??  WHAT?!!  We did not just hear that.  We could not have just heard that.  The real estate agent looked at us, eyebrows raised.  Clearly this was news to her too.  I wish I had a picture here, but I don’t.  This is the best I can do.

Now what?

Fixing Our House

So about that flashing Check Engine light…

I previously wrote about the diagnosing and repair of its cause leading to, among other things, “the worst sort of bloviating.”  This is probably overstated, and more a more a function of dealing with repair experts in general, particularly self-styled ones on the internet, many of whom I spent a good bit of time engaging in this case.

The issue was this – is Davista now safe to drive in this condition?  And secondarily, if she’s technically safe to drive but it’s not recommended to do so, will driving a significant distance (i.e. Bend to Portland) affect the warranty?

To get answers to these questions, I talked to many, many Ford mechanics at many, many Ford dealers in an expanding circle centered on Bend and eventually reaching Portland.  I also registered on an RV enthusiast website and tossed my question, along with all the pertinent data, into the appropriate forum.

In an ideal world, there would be a simple answer.  What I got instead was a spectrum of info that varied from thoughtful, well-meaning advice to finger-wagging lectures about what was almost certainly wrong with my vehicle and what I Needed To Be Doing, almost all of them to some degree contradictory, and zero consensus.  Which is fun way to spend the better part of a day. 

The “bloviating” came primarily from the internet, and I should have expected that. It comes with the territory, and teasing out the thoughtful (and freely given!) nuggets of actual wisdom from within the sea of anonymous “I have an opinion and an audience now, look out!” noise is pretty much what we do in 2018. The mechanics, at least the majority of them, did their best to help, and I appreciated their time.

But still… nothing approaching consensus, even among the actual experts. Amusing to have two people with “years and years of experience” assure me with total certainty both that I would absolutely be able to detect actual misfires, and that I almost certainly wouldn’t feel a thing in a single cylinder misfire situation. “Trust me.”

I also discovered that, though there are several Ford dealerships in and near Bend, the closest one both certified to and capable of handling a vehicle this size is in Portland.  After aggregating everything and taking what I thought was the best advice I had been given, I called Ford themselves (rather than a specific dealer) and put it into their hands.  After some wrangling and convincing them that no, none of those dozen closer Ford dealers can handle us, they decided that driving was unwise and arranged a tow to Portland.

So we broke camp, put what we needed into our car, and watched as the huge tow truck arrived (three hours late), lifted Davista’s front end, disconnected her real axle, and towed her away.  Disconcerting.

We met her in Portland after checking in at our hotel near the airport, and told our long story to the service coordinator.  To my substantial dismay, he didn’t appear to be interested in any of the data I had collected on the problem or the troubleshooting I had already done.

“Check engine.  Got it.” 

“No… again, it’s a flashing check engine, and it’s throwing these codes, and it’s been happening when we..”

“Yup, flashing check engine, that’s right.  Don’t you worry about a thing.”

“OK, don’t you want to hear about the conditions in which is comes on, for how long, etc?”

“Uhhh… ok, yeah, sure.” [eyes glazing over as I tell him, with his pencil hovering over the page but writing absolutely nothing down]

“OK, so you’ve got all that?  You’ll tell the mechanic?”

“Yup, of course.”

“And you’ll call me if you need any further detail, as well as any time you find out anything?”

“Absolutely”

“Because this is our house.  We can leave it with you for a while now since we’re leaving town for a week or two, but it’s important we get it fixed asap.”

“Oh, I assure you I understand.  Don’t you worry.”

*sigh* “ok.”

And with that we jumped on a plane back to Maryland to throw more money at put the final touches on our actual house and get it completely packed out prior to closing.

Short Final on the Deschutes

“Short Final” is aviation-speak for the very last phase of a flight, by the way. I probably didn’t need to say that, but have never been one to under-explain.

Back to Bend, and it feels like home.  I keep waiting for the bomb to drop, where we discover some seedy underside to the picture perfect downtown or the dirty secret that its ostensibly happy residents have been coerced to hide.  But no, our fourth visit in the third season (we’ve yet to get there in Spring) was, if it’s possible, even more pleasant than the other three.  If Bend has a dirty secret, it’s its not-secret-at-all isolation.  It’s a tough place to get to, and there’s really no getting around that.  I suppose the presence of active volcanoes just upwind of town might qualify as well, but that’s a dice roll it shares with most of the Pacific Northwest, so I’m willing to live with that.  Most places are a massive natural disaster away from total ruin when you look hard enough.

The aforementioned Check Engine light intermittently flashed itself all the way into town, but after Davista got us to Bend safely we opted to forget about it while we played.  Not only did we have a river to float and some hiking and biking to do, but we had rented a house for a few days and invited my parents up (unbeknownst to the kids) to celebrate Firebolt’s 9th birthday with us.

Opting not to break with tradition, we headed out on night one to Crux Fermentation Project’s al fresco playing field / dining area.  Despite some parking issues they’re battling through and what appears to be a significant renovation / expansion in progress, the place was packed as usual, and we set up our picnic blanket, ordered some beer and food, and dug in. 

As Keeper joined in to the impromptu soccer game that some of the kids had gotten going and the girls bobbed and weaved around the field like they tend to do, Tacco and I once again looked at each other and agreed that this does not suck, not one bit.

I managed my first flying commute out of the local airport (Redmond) to Boston in order to fly a two-day trip, and though it took quite some time, it wasn’t bad at all.  The Redmond airport is tiny and impossibly easy and relaxed, at least in good weather.  I connected to Boston via Denver on the way out and Seattle on the way back.  Took the majority of the day both directions, but no hitches.  Noted.  Though my intention, should we live there, would be to fly trips out of Los Angeles / Long Beach rather than the East Coast, it’s helpful to know that a commute across the country is at least doable, if not preferable.

Upon my return, my parents and I converged on Tacco and the kids playing at one of the riverfront parks just about simultaneously, and Firebolt’s expression once she realized that her birthday celebration just got larger and more joyful was priceless.

As the weather was perfect and most of us had been cooped up and sitting for most of the day, we took a short hike along the river, letting the kids show their Grammy and Papa what cool things they’d discovered about our possible soon-to-be hometown, including the white water park, the riverfront “casting course,” and the panoply of river floaters on tubes, paddle boards, and inflatable flamingos, meandering through the scenic Old Mill district.

Resolving to float the river ourselves the next day, we headed back to our rental house to settle in.   Ideal, as expected.  Quiet neighborhood near the river, criss-crossed by walking and biking paths, and infused with the scent of the plentiful ponderosa pines.  A few deer strolled by as if on cue, and at one point we spotted a large owl silently eyeing us from just under the roof on the next house over.

Though we had floated the Deschutes last Fall, that was several miles upstream, in Sunriver, and a much more serene undertaking given the location and time of year.  In downtown Bend during the Summer, it’s pretty much a party on the water every day.  There’s a shuttle that runs floaters and their tubes / inflatables between the put-in and the take-out, and we took advantage of it, as well as the tube rental company that operates at the shuttle stop.

Most of the float is gentle, and people tend to attach tubes into mini flotillas as they meander through town.  There’s lots of jumping into the clear water and swimming from tube raft to tube raft as well.

The whitewater park sits at about the midway point through town, and is a relatively new feature, replacing a semi-inconvenient portage under a bridge.  The river is divided into three sections there – a “natural” section down which floating is prohibited, a “serious” rapid section on which there are four sizable standing waves on which kayakers (and even surfers, I noted) can play & practice moves, and then the main tubing section, on which they’ve made about 10 smaller drops over which everyone can float.

The smaller rapids are fairly gentle, but they’re still rapids, as the tube rental folks were careful to emphasize.  They suggested beginners might benefit from taking out at the portage and watching how folks on tubes navigated them prior to doing it ourselves.  Sound advice, which we promptly ignored.  For my part, I was surprised to discover how easy it is to flip over in a tube.  The natural tendency, when seeing a breaking wave looming in front of you, is to lean back, bringing the front of your tube up a bit to meet the wave and hopefully get over it.  This is actually the exact opposite of what you should do, which is to lean forward into the wave to keep your momentum moving with the current and prevent sliding back into the trough of the wave, where the current wants to push your low/back side down and forward, and the breaking wave wants to push your front/high side up and back. 

I traversed the section the first time connected to Woodsprite and her tube, completely unaware that flipping would be a possibility, and full of assurances to her that while we would most certainly get wet (welcome in the 90 degree sun), her nervousness about flipping over was completely unfounded.

Well.  Very fortunately for me, my credibility with her wasn’t destroyed for life, as we did emerge unscathed and laughing.  But I’m glad she didn’t look over at me while cresting the last wave, on which I went wide-eyed when we came a hair’s width from going inverted. 

Firebolt, on the other hand, was another matter.  Though her horizons have expanded immeasurably on this trip, she still possesses an innate skittishness beyond that of her siblings.  Certain things frighten her, and when she gets it into her head that she doesn’t want to do something, she doesn’t budge.  The rapids were borderline for her, and required some cajoling.  Her initial plan was to take her tube out and walk through the portage while we had our fun.  We were, however, able to talk her into navigating them attached to one of the adults, which she did, and enjoyed immensely.  Victory!  Until the next float.  We actually floated the river one more time after the grandparents had left, having enjoyed it so much the first time, and Firebolt, flush with confidence, opted to hit the rapids solo.  On the last rapid, the one that almost claimed my credibility with Woodsprite, she initially got stuck in the wave.  I happened to be standing nearby, having just gone through with Woodsprite again, and could see the panic beginning to register in her eyes as I waded toward her.  What happened next was a bit unclear, and transpired very quickly.  A tuber behind her either tried to help by nudging the back of her tube with his foot, or simply collided into her due to the current, and the contact was all the tube needed to flip her over backwards and put her underwater in the wave with the tube on top of her. 

I pulled her up almost immediately, but between the confusion, the rushing water, and the fact that she had hit her head on the rocky bottom when flipped, she was terrified and inconsolable.  Poor girl.  It was all we could do to get her back on her tube to complete the float, even though the rest of it was flat water.  She informed us that she would never tube or kayak on a rapid again, and I almost believe her – of the three kids she tends to be the most serious and resolute about this type of pronouncement.  But still, I think she’ll come around.

Mishaps notwithstanding, floating the Deschutes was a huge success, and planted even more let’s-live-here seeds in all of us, as if we needed them.

One of Firebolt’s birthday requests was a hike (!), so we of course obliged her with another walk to Benham Falls, this time with my parents along.  It’s so easy and appealing to imagine doing this on a whim in the future, particularly when confronted by a casual “I’m bored” from one of the kids.

After my parents left and the celebrating ended, we relocated to the RV park in Sunriver where we had stayed the previous year.  We found it to be much busier and more “resort-y” in the summer, but also discovered that we definitely prefer Bend to Sunriver.  Nice to know it’s nearby, but there will be no temptation to look at Sunriver houses during the home shopping phase, should it come to that.

Overall, Bend hit it out of the park once again.  We spent a decent amount of time exploring neighborhoods when we could, and again managed to have our expectations exceeded.  Everything looks well-planned and thoughtfully appointed there; there were no ugly neighborhoods, only pleasant and frequent surprises.  “Look at that, another insanely well-appointed local market!  A cidery!  A charging station in the middle of the park!  Sculptures in the middle of the traffic circles!  More bike paths!”  and on and on…  We didn’t have a chance to look at any houses, but do feel like we’re homing in on a few neighborhoods on which to focus, should we move.  And the kids are even more enthusiastic about it than they were after our Winter visit. 

We’re still not 100% there, and of course we technically still haven’t sold our house, though our intention is to fly back to Annapolis in a few days in order to complete our pack out / storage and finish whatever else needs done (which is quite a bit, it turns out) prior to the closing. 

It’s a strange feeling, to have everything seeming to come together, yet still feel a universe away from settling down, despite its being our goal.  We’ve drifted in and out of a similar phenomenon over the past year, where whatever groove we’re in begins to feel familiar and “normal” and then we’re abruptly jolted back out of our comfort zone when confronted with some combination of the reality of what we’re doing and a change in our situation.  It’s difficult to describe, though I would imagine similar to what one would think (and what we thought) when considering the idea of doing what we’re doing now.  It seemed utterly overwhelming.  Extremely cool, but ultimately impossible.   Well, stopping what we’re doing and actually living somewhere now seems the same way.  It’s like we’re completely aware that it’s possible and could tell you how to do it, but the actual getting from here to there seems insurmountable and on some level terrifying.

And on that note, we leave Bend again.   

Gremlins in the Hinterland


This thing.

Argh!

I’ll say it, Check Engine lights suck.  They do.  Your brakes go, you replace your brakes. Cracked windshield? Repair it. But Check Engine? Vague cause, even vaguer potential fix, and can lead to the worst sort of bloviating when seeking opinions on them. 

Once again I’m getting ahead of myself though, let me back up.

We drove down the mountain out of Park City and into western Utah’s desert, which is as desolate and unappealing as the eastern half of the state is spectacular.  The last stretch of I-80’s traversal of the state, just before reaching the border town of Wendover, takes you across the Bonneville Salt Flats, of land speed record fame.  The name says it all – miles and miles of flat salt. 

I don’t want to strike the wrong tone here, though – it’s an interesting drive in its own way, through a unique part of the country. Unavoidably, though, if you start in Utah and head toward points west / northwest, you are going to find yourself in wide open, empty territory for at least a day, no matter which route you choose.  Here’s the one we chose.

Most folks, I would suspect, opt to put the pedal down and make this drive “the long one” in order to blow through Nevada, but we’re mostly over long drives.  If there’s nothing compelling us to hurry, then six hours or so is about as much as we try to do.  So we chose Winnemucca as our midpoint overnight stop.

Winnemucca was ok.  Here’s a pic, which about covers it. 

The exceedingly friendly and aggressively sunburnt campground host informed us that we had just missed his famous tri-tip, of which he had grilled several pounds for the campground’s residents on the 4th.  I was actually bummed we missed that; it sounded tasty. 

There was also a dirt racetrack at the adjacent Humboldt County Fairgrounds, at which some event was sharing its noise and bright floodlights with us.  But it wasn’t enough to keep us awake.  We crashed early and left in the morning.

One thing that was surprising about the drive was the extent to which Nevada, at least along I-80, was greener and more populated than expected, and eastern Oregon was more empty than expected.  To an extent I knew this from driving Bend-to-Boise last Fall, but this particular quadrant of Oregon I had never seen, and it is easily the most wild and empty region we’ve yet traversed.  Tacco remarked that we could be in the Scottish highlands.  Probably a bit less green and craggy though.  Regardless, it was worth seeing.

But that Check Engine light.

So if you’ve been with us here since the beginning, you may remember that this is not the first time it has reared its yellow head.  It illuminated in August 2017 while crossing Reservation land in Montana, and caused enough concern for me to pull over and do a little quick research.  After determining that it was almost certainly nothing of concern, we pressed on, only to have it extinguish a few days later. 

One of the problems with a Check Engine light is that even if the underlying condition clears, the light will stay illuminated for three “drive cycles,” which are essentially complete drives of reasonable length.  Normally, in a car, you can easily do three drive cycles in a day.  For us, we tend to drive for 4-6 hours at a time and then stop, sometimes for days.  So one Check Engine light that’s telling us about something that the computer sensed for a second, could theoretically stay on for a couple weeks. 

It becomes hard to take seriously.  Being in aviation, I’ve become hard-wired not to ignore warning lights, so this was especially difficult for me.  It would illuminate, stay on for a while, and then at some point at a gas stop or getting underway I would start up Davista and note that the light was out again.  This cycle played itself out no fewer than a dozen times over the past year, and what’s more, we’ve had three routine maintenance visits since then, and told the mechanic about it each time, but were assured that it’s nothing.  “Probably just a loose gas cap.” 

Well.  Somewhere between Wendover and Winnemucca it started flashing for about 30 seconds, which is where stuff got real.  Having never seen it flash before, I pulled over to investigate, and discovered that a flashing Check Engine light, unlike a steady one, means one thing only, and that’s an “active misfire” situation.  In other words, one or several cylinders are misfiring, right now.  The operating manual’s guidance in such a situation is to take it in ASAP for service, but if that’s not possible, to “drive moderately” until it is possible.  And to look out for excessive temperatures under the floorboards, as the catalytic converter, among other things, may dangerously overheat.  Not what you want to hear in the middle of Nevada.

Here’s what was strange though, it didn’t feel like it was missing.  I’d like to think I know what a missing engine feels / sounds like, and I noticed nothing.  Hm.

The next time it started flashing, I looked down at it and got distracted enough between looking at the light and feeling/listening for misfires, that I remained in the right lane and blew by one of Nevada’s finest as he was finishing up writing someone a ticket on the shoulder.  Seeing his angry / flabbergasted hands-thrown-up-in-the-air gesture in my rear view mirror made my heart sink, and his rush to his patrol car and quick sprint to my tail with lights ablaze to pull me over confirmed my feeling.  First ticket in Davista.  Actually it’s my first moving violation in as long as I can remember – at least 20 years.  Good times.

The Check Engine light continued to flash intermittently, without apparent rhyme or reason and for durations varying from 5 seconds to about a minute, for the rest of the drive to Bend.  It was extremely disconcerting. 

At some point post-Winnemucca I decided that it was time to buy an OBD2 Scanner so that I could plug into Davista’s computer brain and see for myself what was going on with the light. We stopped at the next population center to do so.  If you’re thinking that this is something I should’ve bought prior to the trip, then I wholeheartedly agree.  But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

The scanner informed me that our engine’s #2, 4, 6, and 8 cylinders were misfiring.  Frequently.  Well, shoot.

The troubleshooting side of me that had spent hours, by necessity, attempting to solve airborne maintenance puzzles in the 1960s-vintage P-3 back in my Navy days kicked into high gear and immediately told me that something wasn’t right – that four separate cylinders don’t fail randomly and simultaneously, and that this data coupled with my not feeling anything resembling a misfire pretty much screamed that we had a sensing problem, not a misfiring problem.  But the pragmatic side of me kicked in, too, and told me that not only do I not know squat about truck engines, but that this particular truck engine was under warranty, and therefore the fix was essentially out of my hands. 

We pulled into Bend with the check engine light still on, having flashed dozens of times between Winnemucca and our destination.  Each time I wondered whether this was the time that would culminate in a loud bang and thick black smoke pouring out of our dead engine. 

Fortunately it never came to that, but I was a frazzled upon our arrival.  The plan is to forget about it for now, and enjoy Bend, yet again, while celebrating Firebolt’s 9th birthday.  We’ve rented a house for her birthday weekend and have a surprise visit from my parents on tap.  Gremlins can wait.

Progress!

We have an offer on the house.

We have an offer on the house!!  

This has been such a torturous road.  Not the one we just drove back to Park City from Moab, that one was nice in a rocky desert sort of way.  The home selling road I mean.  I could not flip houses for a living or a hobby.  Perhaps repetition and lack of attachment would make the process more palatable, but still…no.  I don’t stress out easily, but something about the combination of dealing with such a high-priced asset, having its valuation seem so arbitrary, getting occasionally harsh feedback on it from potential buyers (and real estate agents), and on top of all that having such a personal connection to the thing you’re selling…  Like most people, I’ve heard both the aphorism “it’s just business” and the less common but to me more resonant “it’s never ‘just business.’”  Try as I might, I’ve not been able to detach from the process and accept that housing markets, like most markets, are both efficient and impersonal.  So this past 15 months have taken a toll.

For some time now, to anyone who would listen, I’ve launched into multiple extended rants about the “comps” in our mini-subdivision, the frustration of being on what feels like an ice-cold islet surrounded by a sea of supposedly red hot housing market, and various other things that are equally beyond my control.  Through her frustration, Tacco has heard me out patiently and lovingly each time, even when the rants weren’t directed her way.   So I’ll refrain from launching another into the ether here.  Instead I’ll just say that it’s a massive relief to have an offer that looks legitimate and promising, even if not lucrative.  No endless chains of contingencies, no ongoing criminal record for the potential buyer – in fact they (the buyers) look a lot like we did a few years ago, in that they’re a Navy couple moving to the area with young kids, about to start a stint teaching at the Naval Academy.  Not breathing easy just yet, but this looks promising!

Park City, though… we’re back to Park City.  Though a stroke of luck (and possibly a computer glitch) I was able to reserve a full hookup campsite for ten nights at Jordanelle State Park, including the 4th of July.  As we learned after receiving an automated vacancy notification from the website and quickly making the reservation, this particular campsite is normally blocked off for campground volunteer workers.  Not sure why it popped temporarily onto the open market, but after calling and asking about it, the State Park informed me that it was indeed a mistake, but they would honor it.  Sweet!

Despite our strong draw toward Bend, Park City is still very much on the final list of potential future homesteads, and like Bend, it’s a fantastic place to spend the 4th of July.  Along with the continued town auditioning, our plan was to relax for a while after the frenetic activity in Moab, visit some friends and family, check out the parade down Main Street on the 4th, and watch fireworks from the dry slopes near the resort’s base.  

I also had a five-day work trip to fly, and had set up an appointment with a local “back guy” (sports chiropractor, in this case, but with a unique treatment modality that a local friend of mine swears by).  Though my sciatica has finally shown signs of easing, likely spurred by Tacco and her friend’s aggressive acupuncture treatment in Albuquerque, it’s far from gone, and I really need to stop hurting.  I’m hopeful.

Jordanelle is just a bit outside of town, as I’ve previously described, but it sports a large reservoir on which there’s tubing/skiing/wakeboarding, as well as decent fishing.  There’s also a view of Deer Valley’s ski slopes, whose widespread groves of aspens turn vibrantly yellow and red in the Fall.  Relaxing comes easy there, and the cool evenings brought on by the 7,000’ elevation were a welcome change from Moab’s heat.

Before leaving on my trip, I was able to link up for a bike ride with an old friend who lives in town.  I say “bike ride,” but that definitely undersells it – his wife (another old friend) drove us and the bikes up to 9717’ Guardsman Pass, where we joined the Wasatch Crest Trail and rode the 13 miles to his house via the ski resort’s relatively jagged ridge.   Whoa. 

He had advised me to “bring some film along” as the views were non-stop and spectacular, and he was correct. 

Fortunately for me, the ride was net downhill by about 1500’, but that didn’t stop us from having to tackle several climbs, one of which, he informed me just before downshifting and grinding away, is called “Puke Hill.”  For the obvious reason.  

We finished up with some cold drinks and long-overdue catching up in he and his wife’s backyard, through which, true story, wayward moose often wander and pause to be photographed.  I was very curious to get their take on living and raising kids in Park City, and was able to get what felt like a pretty solid picture of it.  Positives: climate, recreational activities, ski slopes in your lap, athletic/outdoor orientation (I believe Park City counts more Olympians as residents than any town in the US), and well-appointed schools, due to all of the property taxes collected.  Others: Expensive housing, potential lack of water, traffic in town, and the money thing – i.e. there’s a lot of it around, and though most of the owners of the truly ludicrous 8-figure ski cabins are part time residents at best, it’s still quite a “rich” town, which can be a mixed blessing.  More on that later.

I returned to Davista exhausted in the best possible way, and couldn’t help remarking to Tacco how extraordinary it was that I had ridden Slickrock with Keeper two days ago and the Wasatch Crest with my friend today – the abundance of it was nearly overwhelming, and I tried to make a mental note to remember this feeling when discussing future lifestyle and residence choices with Tacco.

After a pleasantly uneventful work trip, I returned to the family and the next morning visited the chiropractor down in Salt Lake.  He asked an extensive set of questions and put me through various contortions in an effort to determine the source of my pain, and seemed to come to a highly confident conclusion that the source of my sciatica was muscular (glutes) rather than spinal.  This was good news, and jibed with Tacco and her friend’s sense of my issue’s source as well.  It’s no less painful, but far easier to treat.  His actual treatment is difficult to describe, but involved more (and more precise) contortions combined with sustained pressure on very specific points.  Just as he had warned me it would be, it was quite painful.  But it seemed like a good pain – a productive pain.  I left his office feeling somewhat better than when I came in, and more importantly, optimistic that I’ve turned a corner.

Our plan for the 4th was to drive into town to see the parade, then to meet up with the friends with whom we had hung out on our last visit (and in Montana), as they were throwing a mini party in a condo overlooking Main Street.  Then we would make our way to the base of Park City Mountain Resort for a bit of play time (live bands, etc) while we waited for night time and the firework show. 

Traffic, as it turns out, really is a factor in Park City.  While it’s unfair to judge it by what is arguably the busiest day of the year, the fact remains that due to geographic constraints, there are only two roads into town, one from the east and one from the north.  They gum up quickly.  Our intention was to do the smart/responsible thing and park on the outskirts of town, taking the free shuttle bus into the center.  It didn’t take long to discover that we were at least an hour too late for that to be a workable plan – given the number of people waiting for the busses, the speed at which the busses were able to get into town given the traffic, and the number of busses running, the parade would be long over before we even left the parking lot.  So back in the car we went and braved the gridlock.  Frankly we’d have been far better off riding our bikes from well outside of town, and we filed that away.  

We managed to find parking near and soon enough to enable us to reach and then briskly walk the parade route in the opposite direction of parade flow in order to see the entire parade, more or less.  It wasn’t optimal, but it was somewhat festive, and we were able to find our friends and join them for the party.  

The festival at the base of the resort was more spread out and less frenetic.  The kids were able to do some rock wall and ropes course climbing, as well as get their faces painted and meet some other kids with whom they ran around the hillside, always a welcome activity.  

Snow!

We laid out blankets on what would, in a few months, become the ski area’s shallow-sloped beginners’ area and watched as the fireworks were shot more or less right over our heads.  If there’s one thing I appreciate on the 4th, it’s a firework show that I’m right underneath.  I’ve been known to say that I want my eyeballs compressing with the explosions – watching a faraway burst followed a few seconds later by a weak “pfoof” disappoints me.  Park City’s show emphatically did not disappoint.  The kids, fortunately, shared my enthusiasm and we oohed and aahed and clapped un-selfconsciously while bundled up against the mountain air’s chill.

So how did Park City do audition-wise?  Tough to say.  There was a vibe there that was noticeably different than Bend’s, and as previously hinted at, it seemed to center on money in a vague way.  One of the things we would like our kids not to dwell on while growing up is socio-economic status.  To an extent this may be both unavoidable and representative of naivete on our part, not to mention a form of sheltering.  Still though, one thing about Bend that stood out to us, whether projected or authentic, was an emphasis on good living, by which I mean the outdoors, clean air, clean water, good food, physical exertion, natural beauty, etc etc.  Shared passion for all of the above and no pretense.  Someone later asked me about the general political bent there and my answer was that I didn’t know, but that more than anything it seemed completely beside the point in that sort of place.  Park City is similar, but seems less so due the veneer of glitz, or at least the high-elevation version thereof. 

This characterization may be completely off the mark, but Tacco and I got there independently, so I want to be careful not to ignore these impressions.  We still love it — the slopes are world class and the climate is ideal.  We have friends and family nearby, and the convenience of the nearby major airport may tip us back over the edge.

In the meantime, we’ve reached an interesting stage in our travels.  We’re almost at the one year mark, which as initially planned, was the end.  With the offer on the house, Plan Sun has gotten a huge boost, and if we do go that route, then we head to the Pacific Northwest now and we stay there.  It’s hard to imagine that.  We have become so accustomed to this life that it’s nearly as difficult to imagine stopping as it was to imagine going in the first place.  A lack of a defined end (both destination and date) contributes to the general ambiguity as well.  I’m starting to realize that planning and executing our re-entry into “normal life” will require almost as much effort as getting on the road did.

Baby steps, though.  What made doing this manageable was breaking the whole into measurable subtasks, and what we need to start thinking about now, particularly if we’re not 100% ready to choose a stopping point / home base and act accordingly, is getting back to Maryland to vacate our house for good – no small task, that.