One aspect of pain that I find fascinating is that when
you’re experiencing it, it dominates everything. You can hardly think about anything
else. But when it’s gone, amazingly
quickly you forget it was ever there.
Which isn’t to say you forget that you were ever in pain at all, though
that can happen too, but remembering exactly what it felt like becomes
difficult almost the instant you no longer feel it.
Multiple reasons for bringing this up – one is that my
sciatica is gone, the other is that we closed on the Annapolis house and have
finally cut our ties there.
The sciatica… what a relief. It had been really starting to concern me, and was affecting decisions we were making. Yet when it faded away, and that happened pretty quickly, I had this odd nonchalance about it. Tacco would ask me how my leg was feeling, and I’d say “fine, why?” Oh no reason, only that you’ve spent much of the past few months literally sweating from the pain… I don’t know whether I can contribute its resolution to one particular treatment or many, but I know that it began to turn the corner when Tacco did a lot of acupuncture work on me, her friend did the varsity huge-needle-plus-electricity treatment in Albuquerque, and the chiropractor in Salt Lake seemed to put the nail in its coffin. Wish I knew exactly how to make it disappear if it comes back – I don’t — but I do hope that the knowledge that it originates in my glutes will help me keep it at bay. Regardless, good riddance!
The house… ok, not good riddance exactly. It served us well and we made great memories there. But it had become such an albatross. A growing albatross. Its failure to sell was hanging over everything we did and turning what few hairs I still have gray at an alarming rate. It was long past time to go, and… now it’s gone. I’d love to say we don’t even remember what the stress of its drawn-out sale feels like anymore, but that’s not entirely true. We’re still coming down from the experience, and there may be a lingering loose end or two. But we did close.
The week back in Maryland was fruitful but very difficult. We didn’t sleep. We did far too much hauling things and cleaning things and painting things. I came unhinged over a dumpster order gone awry, which isn’t my way. I don’t yell at people over the phone well, nor do I enjoy it.
Ultimately though, we all got together on our last day in Maryland
and signed the house over to a new and thoroughly pleasant family who we hope
will make it their own even more than we did, and create even better memories
We even got to use our newly lined pool. It looks pretty good!
Before leaving we each signed one of the studs in the basement, something that’s become a tradition for us as we move out of family houses.
I’ll miss the basement we built. It was only complete for our last year there,
but we more than made up for it in how much time we spent down there.
Most of all though, I’ll miss our friends and cousins. We stayed with them (our cousins) on our last night, and prior to that met in downtown Annapolis for a well-deserved outdoor happy hour. At one point an ‘80s cover band was belting out Take On Me below us in the grassy area. I sent a short video of it back to Keeper, hanging out with his cousins back at their house. Which is perfect, as there’s an infamous video of our three kids heavy into a Just Dance for Wii session in our living room with that song as the soundtrack. Keeper responded to my message with a spot-on text representation of their Norwegian singer’s falsetto. He’s pretty funny.
A night with family was the perfect way to bookend our impossibly hectic week and our five years as official Marylanders. And now we’re back to Washington, and breathing again.
Anacortes, Washington is a magical place. Reasonable people can and do quibble over its weather and its relative isolation, but no one in their right mind who has really seen it would say it isn’t beautiful. Most would say it’s drop dead gorgeous.
Though the entirety of Fidalgo Island is considered
Anacortes, the actual town occupies approximately the northern third of the
island, which, though not technically one of the San Juans, shares their geology
and geography. It looks more like a
peninsula from the air, but much of its eastern side is separated from the
mainland by a canal, and it is accessible via three bridges, two over that
canal and one from Whidbey Island spanning Deception Pass. As Anacortes is most well known for being the
location of the San Juan Islands’ ferry terminal, all most folks see of it are
the refinery you pass just south of prior to entering town, and its only two
busy streets, one of which runs most of the length of its small downtown (but
skips the interesting part) and the other which heads along the northern side
of the island to the ferry, in the process also stopping just short of some of
the island’s most scenic shoreline. Consequently
many people from the general area (*cough* Seattle *cough*) aren’t aware of its
Several lakes are scattered among its forests, all of which have excellent fishing and some of which are good for more active types of recreation (waterskiing/wakeboarding, cliff jumping…). Most of the shoreline is rocky and dramatic, but there are multiple beaches as well. Almost half of the town’s surface area is comprised of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL), which are lushly forested and riddled with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Mt. Erie, in the island’s middle, reaches just over 1200’ high and sports multiple rock faces that attract climbers from far afield. Two marinas make it a boating hub, with unparalleled access to the San Juans. And along with the ACFL there are several other parks, including breathtaking Washington Park in the northwest corner and the northern portion of Deception Pass State Park along the southwest coastline. Orca sightings are relatively common. Everything smells fresh and green.
Here are a couple more of our pics from when we lived there.
They’re ok, but there’s a local photographer who has managed to capture the island’s beauty. Check out his work if you’re so inclined. Here as well. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, at least if you like nature photography. You see the pictures and you think “wait, people actually live here?”
We did live there for the ten years prior to our move to Annapolis, not counting the time we were stationed there for our Active Duty Navy stints. Our house sat perched on the top of a steep, wooded bluff on the west side of the island, looking out through evergreens and madronas at the San Juans and the Olympic Peninsula. Bald eagles soared overhead and perched on our trees regularly. We gasped at and took photos of the sunsets every night until we realized that these sunsets were the norm, not the exception. These were all taken from our back deck.
There were down sides.
I mentioned the weather, and though it never bothered me while I lived
there, it’s undeniably chilly and often damp in every month but July, August,
and September, with stretches of grey that can extend from days to weeks. It’s also quite small, with only a few
restaurants and not much in the way of retail.
And our house sat on a reasonably busy street, with cars zipping by at
50 mph – having small kids on bikes was a non-starter.
My commute to work was also tricky, entailing an hour and a
half drive to the airport followed by a flight to my domicile (initially New
York, thereafter Long Beach/LA) prior to starting a work trip.
When we first departed on our adventure, an eventual return
to Anacortes to settle was by far our top choice, and it held that position for
quite some time, despite an event I’ll describe momentarily. Each time I would get the opportunity to
return for a short visit thanks to my airline schedule, I would steel myself
for what I imagined was the inevitable feeling of “this place is nice, but I
think we’ve moved past it.” And each
time I would surprise myself by experiencing the exact opposite.
It wasn’t until we visited for the 4th of July week just prior to our departure on this journey (which, at that time, we were far from certain would even happen) that the first small cracks started to appear. We were on the roof of the Majestic Hotel downtown, having just marveled at yet another magnificent sunset and just about to watch the fireworks, when Tacco and I looked at each other, shivering from the cold. “You know what?” I offered gingerly, “… it’s a little chilly!” What I didn’t add but was certainly thinking, as was Tacco I would soon learn, was “… and it’s July. I mean, I love this place, but shouldn’t we be in shorts right now?” I guess Maryland’s soupy summers, though not our preference, had nudged our tolerances ever so slightly toward warmer weather. And it was hard not to notice how small the town is…
And then came Bend, and Park City, the rocketing West Coast
housing market which priced us out of many of the houses we had been previously
checking out, and my airline’s partial pull out of Seattle, which promised to
complicate my commute even further should we return to Anacortes.
So we drove across Deception Pass very eager to learn how
Anacortes would sit with us and with the kids now that we had a year of travel
under our belts.
Our plan was to camp first in Washington Park, and then move
to the marina for the weekend, which is walking distance to everything
Washington Park is arguably the most sublime place on an already enchanted island. Tacco has on several occasions called it “sacred,” and I can get behind that — it definitely has that vibe. The campground sits in the interior of the park and therefore somewhat away from its jaw-dropping vistas and waterfronts, but we settled in and wasted no time getting to some hiking.
There are no uninteresting trails through Washington Park;
most offer multiple view points, mossy trees and rocks, and calm water lapping
against the rocky shore. The only
negative during this particular visit was the smoke. 2018’s summer was an especially brutal one
for wildfires in the West, and a lingering high pressure system gave the smoke no
Keeper had a bit of a damper thrown on his Anacortes visit
as well. We had been working hard over
the previous few months to find a time and a way to fly his good friend out
from Maryland to join us for a bit, and had determined our Anacortes stint to
be the best shot. It would require
Keeper and I to fly on the redeye from Seattle to Boston and thereafter to DC
in the early morning, meet his friend at the airport, and then do the whole
thing in reverse to get him to Seattle, but we were all set to go and Keeper
was thrilled to get the opportunity both to hang out with his buddy again and
to show him his childhood hometown.
Summer is definitively not the best time to fly standby, and this we
knew well, but I had checked the loads on all of the pertinent flights, and
there appeared to be plenty of space, or at least enough.
Right up until there wasn’t, that is… With everything in place and Keeper and I having driven down to the Seattle airport, we arrived at the departure gate only to find that several last-minute tickets had been purchased, not only on our flight out to Boston, but on the subsequent flights as well. Suddenly the entire plan looked dicey, and the house of cards crumbled. I searched frantically for other options, but nothing materialized. This is a semi-frequent occurrence, familiar to all non-revenue fliers (“non-revs”), but still it was difficult to make the late night call back to his friend’s mom in Annapolis to let her know that our plan had fallen apart and that there would be no visit.
Keeper did take it in stride though, I have to hand him
that. We’ll try another time.
Mountain biking is a year-round activity on the ACFL trails, as well as the many other trail systems in the area, and I had cut my teeth on ACFL’s singletrack back in my Navy days. We had a group of junior officers who would try to get together to ride every Saturday morning, and I could reach the trails from my house, so I would often go alone as well. After our Slickrock adventure, I was eager to show Keeper where I’d learned to ride.
What I had forgotten and soon re-discovered, was how technical those trails can be. They’re narrow, steep in places, and riddled with roots and rocks. This makes for more exciting riding, and after watching Keeper struggle to navigate some of the trickier stretches, I suddenly remembered from back in the day several tree collisions and “taco-ed” front wheels, not to mention the occasional unintentional fall into one of the lakes. His bike (my very old bike) wasn’t helping him much either – not only was the front suspension completely non-springy, but it’s a heavy bike, and the front brake is next to useless, having lost one of its calipers. He’s going to need a new bike if we move to… well, pretty much anywhere.
He was a good sport as always though, and we made it through a slightly shortened ride unscathed. As a bonus I was able to show him the spot where I nearly spent a winter night in the woods 23 years ago after having my brand new bike light’s battery go dead on its maiden night ride. But that’s another story.
After a few days in Washington Park we re-located to the
marina area downtown, where I recently learned there are several RV sites
available year round. No electrical or
water hookups, but the location couldn’t be more central. On Saturdays from late Spring to early Fall
there’s an outstanding Farmer’s Market that we would now be right across the
One of the kids’ memorable activities from our time living in Anacortes was picking blackberries on Farmer’s Market days, so they were excited to do it again. Blackberry plants pretty much blanket the island, or would if the residents didn’t control them like weeds, and they are huge and tasty when ripe. Some of the thicker patches sit right next to the square in which the Farmer’s Market is held, and there’s a more or less unlimited supply come August. We ended up with berry-stained faces and enough fruit to make several jars of jam. Which Tacco did.
The week passed far more quickly than we had hoped it would, and we faced our return to Annapolis to close on our house for good this time (hopefully!). We enjoyed ourselves in A-Town, no doubt. I think everything I’ve described about our visit was positive. Yet undeniably by the end of it both Tacco and I had at least a taste of the feeling I described earlier – the “I think we may have outgrown this place” feeling. Perhaps having the unpleasant task of cleaning out and turning over our house hanging over our heads affected our receptiveness to its charms during this visit. But I do believe it was more than that. It felt small. Small and a bit remote. I’m not sure those are negatives, but they came across that way this time. And the prices – if they haven’t quite outpaced our means, they’re certainly getting there rapidly. Many of the places in which we had imagined ourselves raising our kids we can’t quite manage now.
The kids’ impressions seemed to track with our own. They liked Anacortes. Quite a bit. But they didn’t seem to love Anacortes.
We will need some more processing time for this, but it’s an interesting development. To be sure, we need to narrow down our options, not expand them, so ruling out a potential future home town helps us. But it’s difficult not to wonder what happened, whether our needs and tastes have changed or we simply found places that seem to suit us better. Or whether possibly this was a temporary impression, colored by our current mental state. Impossible to know, and representative of this entire endeavor… while too much freedom is absolutely not a thing to bemoan, it can make the process of making big decisions dauntingly complex. At some point you just have to trust your gut and make a call. We’re not there yet.
We’re returning to the area after we close on the Maryland house, but we plan to stay in nearby La Conner rather than Anacortes. There’s an impossibly cozy restaurant there in which Tacco and I have nestled in a small booth on rainy nights over adult beverages and done some of our best collective thinking, hatching some of our greatest plans. Sounds like we need another session.
Before that though, time to cut Annapolis loose at last.
My first day on Whidbey Island is a distinct memory. It was June, 1995, and I had just spent the few years since college graduation in training mode for the Navy. Learning to fly in Pensacola and Corpus Christi, learning to operate the P-3C in Jacksonville, and learning to what to do if I were ever to be captured in combat in San Diego. San Diego was the training site, not the theoretical location of combat, if that wasn’t clear. There were also several boondoggles, mostly of my own making, thrown into that mix, made possible by the temporary glut of newly minted Naval Aviators at the time – I spent a few months hanging out in southern Spain with a C-130 squadron, and another few in Cambridge, England as part of a small permanent detachment flying King Airs. But all of it was preparation for this, my check-in at my first fleet squadron, VP-40 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Two of my flight school friends who had checked into a sister squadron a few weeks earlier met me upon my arrival to show me around. We had decided to share a rental house in nearby Anacortes, and they had set everything up and were eager to see what I thought of the house. I drove onto the base via the back gate, and basically what I saw was this.
Had they plopped a Naval Air Station into the middle of a National Park by accident? From the end of the runway and along the entire west side of the base you look out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the mid-line of which serves as the border between the US and Canada. To the south, the Olympic peninsula with its year-round snow-capped mountains rises jaggedly out of the water, and to the north the hundreds of San Juan Islands dot the calm ocean. And everything’s green. Except the water, of course, which is a deep blue that would make you want to jump into it if its temperature ever exceeded 50 degrees or so. I was overwhelmed; I could not imagine that this was to be my workplace and home for the next three years.
Check out the geographical setup above. Whidbey is the long island in the middle shaped like an old school telephone receiver, and the Naval Air Station is the somewhat lighter blotch just above the town of Oak Harbor. The nearest sizeable city as the crow flies is Victoria, BC, a few miles to the west.
Impossibly, the scenery got even prettier as we made the short drive up to Anacortes, first crossing the iconic Deception Pass bridge, under which several times per day the water roils itself into standing waves and whirlpools due to the rapid tidal currents.
We pulled up to the house they had rented and I think my first words were “you can’t be serious.” The entire front consisted of an A-shaped wall of windows that looked out upon the water, islands, and mountains. This was to be my view, every day.
Now, to be fair, I need to
concede that I was extremely fortunate to be able to have formed my first
impressions at the end of June. Whidbey
Island is a very different place from October to May. This is not to say it is ever less than
stunning, but the grey days, the misty rain, and the temperatures hovering
mostly between 40 and 50 well into June at times can be oppressive. But I didn’t know any of that then. And it was never enough to keep this Southern
California born and raised kid from loving the area for the three years I was
there, enough so that Tacco and I moved back for another ten.
It would have easily and
happily been the place we raised our kids and likely retired had the
opportunity for Tacco to teach back in Annapolis not arisen. And at the beginning of our current traveling
adventure, it held the front-runner spot by far in the where-do-we-settle
But the past is prologue, and
here we were driving our flight of five in our moving home back onto the base
to spend a week soaking up more of the Pacific Northwest summer vibe. Tacco and I were curious how it would strike
us, not to mention the kids, only one of whom had any real meaningful memories
of living here.
And of course this is what we
Cliffside Park, Whidbey’s RV
campground, has got to be one of the nicest, if not the nicest in the military system.
It was given a major overhaul a few years back, and on top of the
stunning natural waterfront setting, the trail system, the cheap (often free,
depending who’s on duty) rental bikes, and the easy access to civilization, the
gentleman who took the permanent camp host job happens to be a master
gardener. So you get this.
The playing comes naturally,
and play we did.
First a bit of work for me
though, as I flew up to Anchorage to meet a plane which I then piloted back
down to Portland. It was the only leg I
was required to fly on this particular trip, and was the result of another
boondoggle for me, the type that rarely falls into an airline pilot’s lap but
is hugely welcome when it does. Here’s
what happened… Essentially a flight had gotten “stuck” in Anchorage, presumably
because the pilot who had been scheduled to fly it out the following day got
sick. Not having any reserve pilots
available on the West Coast able to get to Alaska in time, they began calling
“local” pilots to see if any were able to operate the flight, and since I had
recently changed my “home city” of record to Portland (seemed as good as
anywhere to list, given our lifestyle), I got the call from our scheduling
folks just before our family’s departure from Seattle. If this doesn’t yet seem like a boondoggle,
it’s because I haven’t yet described how such a trip pays out. Essentially what I would need to do is get
myself up to Anchorage (easy to do from Seattle) and fly to Portland. That’s it.
BUT… as I am technically still based in Boston for my airline, they’re
required to pay me for the trip from Boston to Anchorage, as well as the return
leg from Portland to Boston. AND… it’s
paid at a higher rate due to its being an emergency assignment – almost
double. And as if that weren’t enough,
they “bought” my next trip, which I would now not be legal to fly due to my
flying this one – i.e. they paid me for it without my flying it. Basically that’s about as good as it gets
airline trip-wise. And lest you think
that description of the ins and outs of how airline flying can sometimes break
insanely favorable was excessive, there was a point to it, which will come into
play in a future post.
At any rate, I returned to
the family happily settled into Whidbey’s rhythms. The tidal swing there is high, about 15 feet
from the highest high to the lowest low, and that makes for fruitful exploring
at low tide. As Cliffside’s beach is
quite shallow, that much tidal swing makes for several hundred yards of extra
beach when the tide is out, much of which is teeming with semi-trapped sea life
that isn’t used to being sought out by curious kiddos.
The crabs were not as easy to
see as we imagined they would be, given the fact that they tend to dig mostly
into the sand when the water recedes.
But once we knew what to look for (and not to step on, oops…) we were
able to spot several Red Rock crab and a few baby Dungeness, whose parents were
presumably out foraging in deeper water.
The clams were somewhat
trickier to capture, as they tended to be visible only via a jet of water they
would shoot from their foot, only the top of which was exposed. What’s more, they’re skilled diggers, and can
immediately sense probing hands. Keeper
was pretty proud of himself for managing to unearth this one (which he shortly
thereafter returned to the wet sand).
And then there was this
guy. A baby flounder maybe? Not entirely up on my flatfish, but we
spotted him hiding from us in at the bottom of a large, shallow pool that had
been open water a half hour before. Keeper
chased him a bit, and to both of our surprises managed to grab him once before
he skittled away. Not enough for dinner,
or even a snack, but good to know my son can catch fish with his bare hands if
it ever comes to that.
In keeping with our National
Park site theme, we visited nearby Fort Casey, which I had flown over at low
altitude hundreds of times, but never spent the time to visit during my time as
a local. Puget Sound’s relatively narrow
and deep waterways make for easily defendable chokepoints, overlooking which sit
several gun embankments. I had ridden by
a few of them while mountain biking or unsuccessfully fishing for salmon, but
never took the time to learn much about them. The girls did so while earning
their Junior Ranger badges, and filled me in.
The rest of the time we spent
beachcombing, wandering, and playing in the campground for the most part. And it was soul-soothing.
Whidbey is such a relaxing place; it’s difficult to convey how calming looking out at this water is on a perfect 75-degree day, so I’ll just post the pictures.
After this we drive the few miles north to Anacortes, where we’ll camp at a few of our favorite places and attempt to pay attention to what our guts tell us about its prospects as our future home. It has dropped in the rankings throughout our travels during our time on the road, but that’s possibly just a factor of our prolonged absence rather than anything rational or even emotional. I’m curious to see where this goes. In a week we return to Annapolis to close on the house (again), which I’m certain will spool us back up. But right now, savoring the serenity is the order of the day.
Still discombobulated from the previous week’s flurry of
activity, we flew back to the Pacific Northwest eager to join our friends in
Seattle. Twice before we had made plans
to spend time with them at their gorgeous house on Lake Washington, and both plans
had been thwarted at the last minute by illness. Fortunately no wayward bugs this time around,
and we lumbered our beastly rig up into their golf course neighborhood on a
stunning Friday afternoon. The only uncertainty
that remained at this point was whether we would actually be able to maneuver
into their driveway. My friend had made
rough measurements which indicated that we’d make it, but you never know about
the angles, the slope, or the vertical obstacles, all of which had bitten us in
the past. His measurements were good though,
and I squeaked Davista down and into place in front of their garage. Let the recreation begin!
Here’s the setting.
Imagine waking up to this view every morning. “But wait, isn’t it always raining in Seattle?”
you say. Yes, absolutely. Especially in the summer. Every day.
Whatever you do, don’t move there.
Our arrival was a bit late in the day for watersports, but we
knew there was plenty of that on tap for the weekend, so dug into the first of several
tasty outdoors meals instead while the kids got reacquainted. Their two sons are the same age as Keeper and
Firebolt. In fact, we took a trip to
Tuscany with them back when Keeper and their oldest were just over two months old
(they were born two weeks apart).
Summer days are long, but summer days in Washington are even
longer, and the wine and conversation stretched well into the evening as the sun
didn’t set until well after 9PM.
The following day was Seafair day, Seafair being an annual August
festival that centers on Lake Washington and peaks with boat races and an
airshow. It’s quite the floating party, with
the best airshow viewing location by far being Lake Washington’s center, where
a giant, morphing raft of loosely connected boats bob and drift and their
occupants jump in and out of the water.
Water fights tend to spring up frequently as well, and our kids spent
some time building up their arsenal.
First, though, some pre-airshow tubing. The girls were less interested in getting
bounced around on the water, so we took the boys out early. Probably safe to say they enjoyed themselves. “Flossing” is even trickier when you’re doing
it on a speeding tube, “dabbing” less so.
After returning to the dock and packing up our gear we headed to Seafair central, where a couple more families (friends of our friends) were already anchored and in full celebration mode. After a few unsuccessful attempts to set our own anchor in the deep water, we tied up to their boat instead, unrolled the floating “party island” and got busy enjoying the day.
Quick Seattle geography digression. Everyone knows that Seattle is on the water, but some likely don’t appreciate the full diversity of its waterfronts and waterways.
Essentially it sits on a strip of land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Puget Sound is a large inlet of the Pacific Ocean carved out by glaciers, which left it with countless islands, canals, and passageways. On the western side of Puget Sound lie several islands and the Kitsap Peninsula, and beyond that, the Olympic Peninsula, with its year-round snow-capped peaks. To the east, the equally jagged and glacier-dotted Cascades run the length of the state from north to south. When you see the area from the air, it essentially looks like a maze of waterways sandwiched between the two snowy mountain ranges. It’s easy to think that they’re all saltwater since they’re all connected. But Lake Washington is entirely freshwater, fed by the Cascades’ snowmelt. Lake Washington feeds into Lake Union, which is right in the center of Seattle, and then to the Sound via a series of locks which bring the water down to sea level, as well as regulating the level of the lakes.
Here’s the point of all that, or at least a point – the
perception of Seattle is that the water is too cold to swim in, and that’s true
of the Sound. The lakes, however, are
pristine, fresh, and warm up nicely in the summer. Perfect for swimming and playing. Best of all worlds.
This being the third time we had seen a Blue Angel show, the
novelty had largely worn off, and it was tough to get the kids too enthused about
it. But the water fights and general
good cheer more than overcame any airshow ambivalence they were fostering.
It was more or less a perfect day, capped off by another
lakeside dinner and some sunset waterplay.
Though we opted to depart Sunday afternoon due to our friends having commitments the following morning, we managed to get another tubing run in that morning, with my getting talked into joining my friend and his younger son on the tube. My initial hesitation sprung from my not finding tubing especially exciting, but evidently that is entirely driver-dependent, as I would soon discover. We got flipped around like rag dolls back there. I didn’t know my face could do that.
The ride culminated in this spectacular spill. Evidently I was in the “lucky” seat.
No one hurt, but we did decide to cut our losses while we
were still laughing and get back into the boat.
I think my favorite part of a weekend that was one long
highlight was watching the kids play together.
It’s been awhile, but I know that I’ve mentioned one of my overarching
concerns about this trip was the lack of “play with other kids” time that we’ve
been able to provide for ours. Their
kids are not only close in age to ours, but also close in temperament. I have the feeling that if they lived near to
each other they would become lifelong friends.
That would seem to lead to an argument for considering Seattle,
more specifically their area of Seattle (which is actually Kenmore) as an ultimate
destination. Schools are good, we know
we love Seattle, there’s an airport nearby and good recreation around…. But of
course it’s never that simple. Seattle
of late has gone through a real estate boom that is comparable to the one in
California’s Bay Area. Houses get
snapped off the market within days, at prices higher than the asking price. Which means that we can’t afford it.
This is not to say that we would live in Seattle if it weren’t
for the cost. We’ve considered it during
our brainstorming sessions several times, and it always comes in high on our
list. But the final analysis we’re drawn
to smaller towns – traffic drives Tacco batty, and to an extent I agree. We both want fewer people around.
It’s not ruled out of course… nothing is really. But we left in a melancholy mood after
enjoying ourselves so thoroughly. The
kids connected deeply within 2 days, and we’re pulling them back onto the road
and pushing their rediscovered friends back to “hey let’s play Fortnite together
We did have a little fun with photography before
departing. There are a couple classic
pictures of the two oldest kids (and some of the adults) from our Tuscany trip
12 years ago, so we decided to re-create them.
Did a decent job, too, though we couldn’t quite get them into Baby
Ultimately, yet another highlight, leaving us with much more
to reflect upon as we head north back to Anacortes, where it all began.
And so we revised our paradigm to roll with Plan Moon. You can learn more about how we came to find ourselves in this new mindset in my previous post here. Since we were no longer tied to finding a permanent home in the immediate future, everything sort of opened up to us. The temporal reprieve we granted ourselves by taking another year to travel (or, as Flight so eloquently stated, we simply “kicked the can down the road for a year…”) was now wide open with possibilities, but there was so much we had to tend to immediately we couldn’t even contemplate what that meant.
Flight and I made the opportunity to go to one of our favorite places in DTA (Downtown Annapolis for any non-locals) leaving Keeper in charge. We went to Dry 85 (see below – not my picture, but found it on line…), which we love for fantastic eats and scrumptious beverages served in a gezellig environment, and squirreled away with computers, paper calendars, notebooks, and pens. Okay, so the former was all Flight and, as he calls me the “Walking Electromagnetic Pulse” (or “Walking EMP” for short), the elegant tools of 20thcentury record-keeping were all mine.
Based on Flight’s work schedule, we came up with an appropriate means of dividing and conquering the possessions we had amassed to shoehorn as much of them into a POD as possible. Flight tackled the shed and the garage during his few days home and I packed out the kitchen, all the while lamenting why we have so many dishes (living in 280 sqft has made me very aware that we truly don’t need much to joyfully exist – I think Marie Kondo is onto something…), and started on the basement.
I should mention that (over?)zealously packing up all the pots, pans, and dishes required some culinary creativity.
During one of our delivery runs out to the slowly filling POD, one of our gracious neighbors strolled over and casually observed that she noticed the “Under Contract” sign had been taken down before asking, “What happened?” We gave her the bare bones rundown of our latest real estate drama (which was nothing compared to the first go around and you can read more about that here) and she said something to the effect of, “Well, good friends of ours put in a contingent offer on your house and were disappointed when it wasn’t accepted. Let me reach out to see if they’re still interested…”
Within an hour, their realtor called ours to officially indicate their interest and we asked them to put together an offer once our house went active again the following week, most likely after we flew out. Our fantastic realtor team made the opportunity to reach out to other families who had expressed interest in our house to advise them the deal had fallen through and gauge their interest in writing an offer. One such family was hours away from writing an offer in on another house and jumped on our recently liberated property within hours after the first deal fell through. Through the neighbor network, the other couple also put in an offer as well, although as theirs was still contingent, we went with the first. Although, more than a little jaded by our Maryland real estate endeavor to date, we knew not to get our hopes up…
Flight and I took a break from sorting through, throwing out, and packing up most of our worldly goods to join in the celebration of a friend’s retirement from the Navy after 25 years of honorable service. Despite neglecting to get a picture of the man of the hour, I managed several with his wife, with whom I’d shared our four years by the Bay at USNA, and several of our Academy classmates.
While each of these women is remarkable in their own right, this lovely soul picture with me below is one whose friendship dates back to third grade Brownie Scouts. I’m not making this up.
After a couple solid days of work, Flight left on another work trip and I got down to serious business. I took the girls to gymnastics camp every day and left Keeper to tend to his own entertainment. He was so excited to have his own room again, one with a door that actually shut, that I’m not sure my abandonment even registered. Meanwhile, I squirreled away in the basement and streamlined 20 boxes of likely superfluous memorabilia down to eight (translated: 12 boxes sparked no joy…).
In my spare moments, I oversaw the bittersweet installation of our new pool liner chosen by a family who would not be residing here and, as Flight noted, the pool looked its nicest since we’ve owned it.
As is so often the case, especially when we attempt to fly standby in the summer, all the potential flights filled up at the last minute and we had to change our itinerary countless times. After being in the Caribbean for a few days, Flight had landed in Boston near midnight, called me and we talked through the possible options for the next day’s travel plans. Ultimately we decided on a late departure the following day to Boston, overnighting in Boston and an early flight to Seattle where Flight, after catching an earlier flight from Boston to Portland to collect Davista and drive to Seattle, would pick us up at SEA-TAC. I told the kids they could sleep in as long as they wanted because we were no longer departing early.
Flight called me at 6:38 the next morning to let me know most of the options we’d previously discussed were no longer possible. Well, shoot. I had a most impressive to do list still awaiting my attention, but really needed to prioritize because we now had to catch an Uber in less than three hours. Deep breath and initiate Operation Perfect Stage Triage Departure Checklist…
Okay, first things first – add a few more boxes into the POD in the driveway and secure our belongings in situ and away from the door so that if they move around and make it impossible to open the door when we get our stuff delivered at a time to be determined. Thinking ahead, my last trip to Home Depot was for boxes and more packing paper, but I also bought some rope and a few large boxes to tape together and create a barrier of sorts. Since we had another POD coming in a few weeks, I thought 100’ of rope ought to do it. After I cut the line in half, the ends immediately began to unravel, really faster than I thought possible. Not really thinking things through, I took both ropes in to the kitchen to burn the newly cut ends to preclude further unraveling. Good idea in theory that becomes a bad idea when the rope burns enough poly material to drip on the wood floors that have recently been refinished.
I immediately tried to get the black melted nylon off the floor but it was as if the new embellishments had been epoxied on. Awesome. The POD was going to be collected sometime this morning, so I needed to tie everything down and lock it first before I could tend to the self-induced disaster I just created.
After doing further research, Flight called me as I was, with surgical precision I might add, steadily peeling up the burnt rope droppings with an Exacto knife. He asked me if we could be ready to go in less two hours and I committed to being so. A crucial 20 minutes later it was as though I had never engaged in rope burning jackassery and the floor was returned to looking beautiful. The kids were extremely helpful in getting our house back to show condition, vacuuming all floors upstairs, the kitchen and living room downstairs and sweeping the stairs. I cleaned all bathrooms, took a four minute shower (and again gave thanks for my plebe year training at the Naval Academy) and cleaned the kitchen with our ride to the airport inbound.
We had hoped Flight would catch an early flight down to BWI and rent a car to come back, help finish up with loading the POD, and run us to the airport. Sadly, the flight he had his eye on pushed back from the gate 25 minutes early (that never happens!) and he wasn’t able to get back in time to be our shuttle. So we rolled with it. The only problem was I couldn’t sort out how to pay for an Uber or a Lyft with only our recently cancelled credit card stored in my phone. Our card had been cancelled the previous day after it was fraudulently compromised – I swear I’ve never been to a Walmart in Ohio. Given that I was unable to devote any further mental power to sort that out, I requested that Flight set us up with a ride, which he did from afar and we had someone coming to collect us soon.
The kids and I left the house in show ready condition and we made our way to the airport. We met Flight in Boston and caught a ride to Portland with his company. Our arrival in Portland was too late to collect Davista, so we collected the Subaru from the Radisson (where we’d parked for free for the last two weeks – !!!) and drove to a Marriott affiliated hotel to stay on points. As we collected our house on wheels, we were assured that Davista was just fine and sent on our way to Seattle. It took us about an hour to unpack and settle in before we buttoned up Davista and made ready to get underway again. No flashing check engine light on our way to Seattle – so far so good… Onto SeaFair and a good single malt…
In aviation-speak, a diversion is the term for when unusual circumstances dictate that you change your destination and land somewhere you hadn’t planned to.
So there we were. Shocked into silence in the kitchen, haven’t slept, home deal almost certainly about to implode (spoiler: it did), motorhome back in Portland not fixed, pool about to be opened with an expensive new liner that we don’t particularly like in a house in which we no longer live, packing everything out but suddenly realizing that we would have to instead get the house back to “show ready” in the next couple days.
While I realize that having a home sale deal fall through barely even registers on the “unusual events” seismograph (we had already had that happen once after all, though much earlier in the process), there were so many second and third-order effects tied to this particular event for us, that it was too much to process. We had to just stop, pop a bottle of wine, and detach.
My first thought was “Trip’s over! We’re pulling the house off the market and moving back to Maryland.” In all the disorientation, it was difficult to see another viable option. Not how we wanted to end this.
Fortunately we were able to
detach enough to recognize that we were in no condition to make any decisions, and
we slept on it.
It was not a fun week. But it resolved. And everything’s fine. Rather than drag you through the chaos of the rest of our time in Annapolis, I’ll tell you how it ended:
We committed to Plan Moon. Plan Moon, if you read our earlier post, was one of two “big picture” scenarios we were weighing, and entailed NOT settling as originally planned, but instead staying on the road, continuing our travels (though scaled down somewhat), and home/road-schooling the kids for another year. The prospect had been slightly terrifying to me when first proposed, but I had warmed to it in the interim, and these recent developments made it the only logical choice. It felt both right and good to make that call. A relief.
They finally fixed Davista. Well, maybe. They “fixed” her. At some point the technicians back in Portland threw up their hands and opened an assist case with the Ford mothership. After a string of troubleshooting steps, they landed on the serpentine belt tensioner, which apparently was at least marginally defective on our model of engine. “Huh??” you say? Me too. It took some mental gymnastics to connect a potentially loose belt to random misfires of multiple cylinders, but I pushed the “I believe” button after accepting the Portland folks’ assurances and reading through the self-styled internet experts’ descriptions of how a fluttering belt could case tiny rpm fluctuations, which could be interpreted as misfires, and and and… ok, sure, fine, enough.
Three days after the home deal’s implosion, that word somehow got out, and we got two more potential offers. Evidently the new sense of urgency spurred them into action. One offer was contingent on at least one home sale and gave us headaches, but the other looked promising, and they wanted a short closing time. We haggled the price a bit and accepted. Closing at the end of August.
We flew back to Portland, re-packed ourselves into Davista and hooked up our Toad, and set off for Seattle, where we had arranged to visit some dear friends for the long weekend. They live right on Lake Washington, with a boat and many toys, they’re some of our favorite people, they like good food and drink as much as we do, their kids are our two older kids’ age, and on top of all that, it was Seafair weekend in Seattle, the pinnacle of which is the Blue Angels airshow over the Lake. We would be watching from the water, and there is nowhere in the world better to be in August than the Pacific Northwest.