Plan A or Plan B (or Plan Alpha and Plan Bravo for you military folk our there) is usually how we hope life unfolds, having dedicated ample strategic planning before enacting surgically precise decision-making to effectively direct the outcomes at major forks in the road. That’s simply not how living this nomadic existence has played out as our circumstances change often all the time. Having already cycled through the alphabet a few times with our continuously evolving plans, Plan Charlie Foxtrot seems an apt title for where we presently find ourselves.
I will try my best to cover the last few weeks in one general post, but will likely come back to flesh out some of the experiences that merit more attention. As Flight mentioned, we have been a little, ahem, preoccupied as of late. Our (mostly Flight’s) intent planning for the summer had us celebrating Firebolt’s 9thbirthday in Bend, Oregon, on July 12th. I know my last post we were traversing Kansas over Memorial Day Weekend just before getting to Colorado. So much has happened in the meantime. I promise to go back to share our amazing adventures in Colorado, New Mexico, Colorado (again), and Utah, and all the wonderful experiences we had before getting to Bend, but let me read you into the latest chapter…
We left Park City the morning after the 4thof July. We celebrated our nation’s day of independence tucked into the Wasatch Mountains and got on the road again fairly early on the 5th. Our destination: Bend, Oregon – WOO HOO! – the most likely candidate for our next permanent address. However, as it’s quite a haul from Park City, we knew we wanted to stop for the night en route. Last time we made this trek, we were, ahem, underwhelmed by Boise, so we opted to go through and overnight in NV. Winnemucca to be exact. Our night was spent at the Winnemucca RV Park, which is known for its proximity to late-night Rodeo events. Actually, we were unaware of said notoriety, but we are now quite savvy. Knowing we had another long day’s drive the next day, we opted not to check out the barrel racing or the cow wrangling, but heard about it well into our slumber.
The next day was an interesting mix of events. First and foremost, we made it to Bend, however, it’s the journey that was interesting. Not so much in the scenery (have you been to that neck of Nevada?), but the CHECK ENGINE light that began flashing. The light had come on (and gone off) intermittently and we’d had Davista inspected in Durango and they found nothing. With the newest development of the flashing light, Flight and I immediately slid into P-3C crew roles and he was concerned with safety of flight and I was documenting every time it would flash, duration, etc. Try as we might we couldn’t corroborate why it would come on at any given time sometimes as long as a few minutes, sometimes as short as five seconds. It was during one of these periods of mental gymnastics in between light flashing episodes that we blew by a police officer conducting a routine traffic stop of a truck. Distracted by safety of flight issues and unaware of the recent law that requires every vehicle to pull left if possible and yield a lane of safety buffer to these professionals, we neglected to comply. We were pulled over shortly thereafter and given a hefty fine. Lesson learned.
On our way through one of the towns along HWY 20 (Burns, I think it was), Flight purchased a device (the fancy title escapes me at the moment) to read the engine’s error messages and we learned that Davista’s engine was misfiring on cylinders 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Um, what?! That was strange as it didn’t feel like it was misfiring. No skipping, nothing. I’m sure Flight will give his (read: more informed) perspective on this as well, but we were flummoxed by the intermittently flashing cue.
We rolled into the first of our campsites in Bend, the Crown Villa RV Resort, heartily perplexed, but turned our focus on getting to know our prospective new town. Only the day after we arrived, Flight got to try out commuting to work from Bend. This was a big deal as his commute to work is the only potential drawback of living in this amazing community. While he was gone, only a slightly less bigger deal (at least to me) was that Keeper and I packed up and moved Davista down the road to the Thousand Trails resort, which is about twenty minutes outside of town.
During our transit I, too, was favored with an intermittent check engine light.
Flight’s trip was a relatively short one and he met up with us in Farewell Bend Park just as his folks were rolling into town. Surprising Firebolt (and Woodsprite – but not Keeper as he can now keep secrets), Grammy and Papa met us there as well. We were delighted to learn it’s only a 7.5-hour drive to make the transit between Bend and where they live in the Bay Area. After we all stayed at the campsite, we rented a house in Mount Bachelor Village for a few days to better accommodate all of us and celebrate Firebolt’s birthday in style.
While tucked into a “real house” (as Woodsprite says), we turned to some pressing issues with both our house on wheels and our sticks-and-bricks house in Maryland. Flight called no less than half a dozen mechanics and got as many varied potential diagnoses for the misfiring error codes. Most critical was learning whether or not we could continue to drive Davista or had to have her towed to a mechanic lest we cause further damage to the engine. It was 50-50 on that recommendation too, but at the encouragement of the Ford warranty folks, we arranged to have her towed to Portland, the nearest shop that could handle Davista’s size, which was only 178 miles away, to be exact. We are very glad she was still under warranty as that fee alone would have been a pretty penny.
Almost simultaneously, we received an offer on our house in Maryland. After Flight and I realized we needed us (just a little younger) to buy our house, I had been praying that such a family would find us. Enter the Navy family who put in the offer – he would be teaching at the Naval Academy for the next six years and they were expecting their third child in December. Excellent! We were sorting out the details of when inspections would happen (necessitating opening the pool), signing and sending paperwork back and forth with our realty team, scheduling dental appointments for everyone, determining when we’d go back to pack out, how we’d pack out, where we’d store our stuff, etc., all interspersed with Flight’s conversations with various mechanics and his debriefing me on what he’d just learned and my planning an appropriate birthday celebration for our soon-to-be 9-year old. At one point, Flight realized Papa was listening to our very orderly discussion about all the stuff we were wading through and said something to the effect, “Hey, Dad, you might think this is an unusual occurrence with what you’re hearing us work through right now, but, seriously, this is like almost any other day.” And he’s right. This nomadic experience has really helped us embrace the adage “Semper Gumby” and has honed our ability to plan important missions (big and little) to allow as much future flexibility as possible, because plans change all the time. At least ours do…
So, just to sum up – house offer accepted (for much lower than we’d anticipated, sigh…) from a Navy family like ours, sorting out how to remove and store our belongings, Davista being towed to Portland to be fixed (we hoped), and Firebolt’s birthday party in the works.
After our day honoring Firebolt’s nine years (that will have its own post when I can get to it), we returned to Davista. We spent a few days packing up what we’d need in MD (including all the superfluous stuff we no longer needed in Davista but didn’t want to jettison altogether), transferred Flight’s mountain bike from the back of the Subaru to on top of our bed in Davista, watched our house get loaded up on the tow truck, piled into the Subaru, and headed to Portland.
For the night of the July 17th, we stayed at a hotel only five minutes from the repair shop and maybe eight to the airport, which was most fortuitous as we had to drop Flight off at the airport so he could get to Boston to start his next trip. Because Davista didn’t arrive at the shop until after he departed (apparently the highway was closed due to an accident for nearly two hours – we had just squeaked through!), we weren’t sure how long she’d be in the shop. It could be weeks (if an engine change was necessary) or only days (if it was only a computer glitch) and we wouldn’t learn anything until the following day.
Flight’s trip brought him right back to Portland. While he was flying back to meet us, the rest of our gaggle made use of our day to check out Fort Vancouver located across the Columbia River.
That was a lovely outing, one I’ll write more about in another post later. After chatting with the mechanic, we learned it would be at least a week before we knew more, so we made plans to fly back to MD to pack out our house. In the meantime, we enjoyed dinner at some amazing Food Trucks (those are plentiful in the foodie city of Portland!) and then returned to our respective hotels, planning to meet Flight at PDX in the morning to fly back East to oversee the installation of the new pool liner and get packing. Flight was the Captain for our flight back – that’s always fun!
After an uneventful flight and sleep in Boston, we returned to the Logan to catch a flight to BWI. We arrived at the house late Friday afternoon, a little taken aback by the dead front lawn (apparently it hadn’t rained for six weeks) and the empty and uncovered pool showing the drained cement pond, but happy to see “Under Contract” posted above the realtor’s sign. That placard served also a figurative sign for me indicating it was go time, and I spent an industrious evening packing out my home office as the first of the torrential downpours began.
The next morning came very early (we were happily acclimated to the West Coast time zone) and the chimney inspection was scheduled sometime between 7-9 am. The inspector was a no-show, but we learned later the buyers’ agent neglected to let ours know it would be a little later in the morning. Due to the added inconvenience, we opted stick around and continue packing during the inspection.
Chimney inspection looked great! So far, so good, until the prospective buyer let it slip that they were reconsidering the purchase of our house. Ever the gracious man, Flight said, “Okay, could you please let us know. Soon.” He said, “Yes, we’re taking the weekend to think about it and will get back to you on Monday.”
After that bomb was dropped on us, Flight and I took a moment to regroup and went into planning mode, yet again. We weren’t sure if we should keep packing out or leave the house staged, and ultimately decided we would ride that fence until we knew for sure. There was plenty of stuff we had yet to sort through, a necessary (albeit less than desirable) activity regardless of how far into the future our impending move stretches.
After a hardcore day of boxing up many things we probably don’t need, we popped over to our cousins’ house for a short visit before Flight departed in the morning for another work trip. When I said it was torrentially down-pouring, I wasn’t kidding. Their basement was flooding and we spent much of our visit working to minimize water intrusion and do our best to pump out the lake pooling in their basement. Oh, and did I mention his business was getting hacked? You simply cannot make this stuff up…
When Flight departed for his trip in the wee hours the next morning, it was raining.
It rained all day.
The deluge continued for days. So much so that our classy “cement pond out back” started filling up and, although I didn’t think it was possible, it looked even less appealing than it did upon our return.
The swamp that is known as Maryland attempted to reclaim our backyard. I busied myself with setting up play dates and sleepovers, and packing out the bar in the basement and the kitchen until we finally heard from our prospective buyers on Tuesday morning.
They backed out.
The house was too much for them, which was understandable given they had just come from a 1600 sf apartment in Italy and were first time homeowners. Why would a 5800 sf house on an acre with a beautiful pool be overwhelming? We found it so, and we already owned it. !! I just wish they had figured that out a little sooner. Flight and I spoke between his flights and agreed that we should proceed with getting the first of our PODS and start packing. Regardless of how long our house is for sale, we realized that returning to Maryland was no longer a viable option for us.
When Flight came back from his work trip, we rather unceremoniously removed the “Under Contract” and collectively focused on packing, because at this point we were sure we would not be returning here to live once our travels came to a close. As the elements whipped around outside, Flight and I took a moment to commit to a decision, the biggest one we’ve made since departing Maryland nearly a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth associated with identifying and reserving the perfect campsite along the way, but we’ve wrestled with nothing on this magnitude. With the deal falling through, we were faced with making the call to choose Plan Sun or Plan Moon. We knew that it would be fiscally irresponsible to rent or buy a house while still being saddled with this house, or this “albatross” (Flight’s perfect description). So as we surveyed the backyard swamp, we arrived at a decision.
Plan Moon it is.
Moments after we committed to Plan Moon, we called the kids into the living room to read them into the latest change in plans. We spoke first of immediate concerns, namely where we’d be dining that evening, and then followed up with our plan to stay on the road for another academic year. Much to their credit, an additional year of continued travels was met with nothing more monumental than a shoulder shrug and, “Okay, what’s for dinner again?”
Holy resiliency. May we continue to learn from their gracious flexibility as we plan for what comes next…