Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Sat
31
Dec '11

Western North Carolina Report – Our Yearly Christmas Letter

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

March 8, 2011 was a very good day. That afternoon, with the aroma of fresh landscape bark and drying paint wafting through the air, the moving vans arrived at our newly completed home and after a long, arduous, twenty-six months, our relocation from Seattle was complete. Okay, okay, it wasn’t quite complete (more on that, below) but it was close enough to declare victory. We were officially moved in!

The whole construction process went very well. There were a few gotcha’s and a few coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and we ended up taking eleven months instead of the planned ten, but all-in-all everything turned out great. Valerie still calls it “Ron’s house” but she kinda likes her mega-sized pantry, great kitchen, and outdoor pizza oven. We both especially love the screened porch and spent nearly every summer evening out there reading, watching TV, and listening to the cicadas.

Camp Bell – We Hardly Knew Ya

Although March 8 was a milestone for moving into our new home, we did have the little matter of selling good ol’ Camp Bell, our temporary fixer-upper house on the other side of town. Although Camp Bell had good bones, it was vintage 1975 and was fairly rough around the edges. We spent a year-plus in remodel hell (there, I said it) painting, grouting, spackling, flooring, fixing, wiring, plumbing, landscaping, etc. Our goal was to make Camp Bell spotless and move-in-ready so it would stand out from the many other comparable houses for sale in the area.

Over the year we watched the real estate sales numbers decline and cringed at our prospects. The move didn’t kill us, the construction didn’t kill us, the remodel of Camp Bell didn’t kill us, but sitting on an unsold Camp Bell in a tanking market for who-knows-how-long might do us in.

Well…Camp Bell went on the market on Monday, April 11. There was a showing on Saturday, April 16. We had an offer on Sunday, April 17. And, we closed the deal on Tuesday, May 17, five weeks after Camp Bell went up for sale. With the right house in perfect condition in the right neighborhood at the right price being marketed by a super real estate agent it is possible to sell a house in today’s tough market!

Unfinished Business

We’re not sure what took longer, packing 369 boxes or unpacking them. Needless to say, you know what we’ve been doing since we moved in. The phrase “Hey, do you remember this thing!?” has been said too many times to count. As of last week there was still one unopened box under the living room bench seat. It has a label on it so we could look up what’s inside, but, as they say, if we haven’t needed it by now…

One thing that contributed to our long unpacking process was that we chose not to finish the workshop when we finished the house. Ron had planned to work on it, himself, but March became July became September and he finally (with Valerie’s prodding) decided to just let Steve, our builder, finish it. Wow! That was a great decision. Steve does awesome finish work and the shop came out way better than we expected! We’ve spent the last few weeks unpacking those boxes, putting away long lost tools, and getting ready to be crafty, again.

Our Local Fauna – Bear and Delinquents

Although our house is just one mile from downtown Asheville we live in the woods. Lots are large and homes are sparse and the further you go up Town Mountain towards the Blue Ridge Parkway the fewer people and the more wildlife you see. Turkey, fox, coyote, bobcat, and black bear are common sights. In the late summer and fall as the bear search for food they become a bit too common. We had bear within peach-throwing distance of our house or along Serena’s walk nearly every day. Ron had to shoo one away that was sitting in our front yard eating berries off a bush, and Serena, on two occasions, chased one down the street. They are skittish and will respond to yelling and hand waving but it is a bit unnerving to walk out the door or round a bend in the road and happen upon a 250lb bear sitting there staring at you.

While the bear come from the woods, our other local fauna, delinquents, comes from downtown. We live in the only house on a dead-end street about 500’ from the end. The dead-end was created in 1977 when Interstate 240 was cut through the mountain and split Vance Gap Road. Our neighbors tell us that since then our street has been a magnet for mischief-makers. Luckily, we only had one incident during construction when someone stole the American flag from our front porch.

Wait, what? Someone stole your flag? Yep. It was a she, last January, in the dark of night. She ripped it from the flagpole and ran back to her car. We caught the whole thing with our security cameras. Ron reported it to channel 13 and sent them the video. Next thing we know the news crew is out front and Ron is being interviewed on TV to tell the sordid tale. They ran the story, “Our Top Story, Tonight”, for several days. The thief was never caught, but hopefully, with her picture splattered all over the TV, she and her family were thoroughly embarrassed.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Our neighborhood is not all bear and delinquents. The people who live here are fantastic and are a good match for us. Everyone’s laid back, friendly and inviting. Being on a quiet street, we have dog walkers going by the house throughout the day – Serena likes that. Wayne and Sally hold fantastic, over-the-top, dinner parties. We held a tamalada (a tamale making party) and have had neighbors over for ribs and pizza. Ron’s found a couple BBQ buddies and Valerie will be looking at starting a Town Mountain Book Club.

A Walk in the Woods

With our relocation fun behind us and our hiking boots unpacked we were able to get out and explore the area this summer. Every Friday the Blue Ridge Parkway rangers hold guided hikes on trails along the parkway and we made it out for at least a half dozen. The rangers talk about the history of the area, the geology of the region, and the plants and animals we might see. This was a great way for us to learn about the mountains of North Carolina and to get some exercise as well. We also went hiking several times on our own. One of our favorite hikes was on the Laurel River Trail, and old abandoned railroad bed, near the North Carolina/Tennessee line. On that hike we got to check something unique off our bucket list: “Saw a live rattlesnake in the wild!”

Other fun things we did…Asheville Tourist Baseball, Brewgrass Beer Festival, Texas Instruments/Siemens reunion, Ribfest, Asheville Food and Wine Festival, Western North Carolina Chef’s Challenge, Biltmore House, Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Festival, Belle Chere Summer Festival, Southern Highlands Craft Guild Show, Big Crafty, numerous plays and shows at the Diane Wortham Theatre, and last but not least…Discount Shoes! Hey, even Ron has been seen shopping there!

Miles and Smiles

It had been a long long time since we had been on a vacation so we made it a point to get away this year. Our first trip was to visit Cara and Mike in Phoenix. We had a great time doing the educational-tourist thing visiting Meteor Crater and the Titan Missile Museum (two must see sights). We got our vortex spiritual fulfillment walking around Sedona and, Cara and Mike, being fellow foodies, took us to several great restaurants for hot and spicy Southwest food.

In November we returned to St. John, USVI, for ten days. It was our fourth visit! We love the place for the views, beaches, snorkeling, food, and relaxation. It’s so much easier to get to now that we’re on the east coast. We rented One Particular Harbour, a house that we stayed at in 2004, high on the hill overlooking Coral Bay. On this visit we found a couple new bays to snorkel (glad we had a Jeep) and we sampled true local food at two hole-in-the-wall restaurants – Clean Plates (love that name) and Vie’s Snack Shack. We had a surprise, but very welcome, guest this time. Valerie’s sister, Pat, called the day we arrived and said she was coming, too. To quote Southwest Airlines: “Gotta Get Away!”

In June we attended a mini-reunion of a bunch of the people we worked with at TI and Siemens. My how we’ve grown up. We were just kids back then. It was great fun reminiscing old times and hearing what everyone has been doing for the last twenty years. The common theme seems to be that they’re all very ready to become empty-nesters.

Living closer to family we had lots of visitors this year: Mom and Dad Patton (twice); Linda, Steve and Sarah; Pat and Jack; Cindy and Jeremy; Aunt Edith and Cousin Denny. We also made some family visits: Ron to San Antonio and Pittsburgh and Valerie to Indiana.

Next Year

What’s in store for next year? Hmmm…Making a trip to Seattle. Crafting in our new shop. Celebrating Ron’s big Five-Oh birthday. Volunteering. Taking classes at Blue Ridge Food Ventures. Chasing Bear. Europe? Ron might even look at finding a paying gig…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Ron and Valerie

Fri
11
Nov '11

St. John Vacation – Epilogue

We’re back in Asheville! Our Charlotte to Asheville flight was delayed two hours, one of our bags didn’t show (it was delivered this morning), and the other bag had two broken bottles of Valley Doll Hot Sauce (thankfully the plastic bag we packed them in held most of the leak). Other than that, our return to reality was an uneventful exciting trip…why exciting? Because the first leg was on a 10 passenger (9 plus the pilot) Cape Air Cessna 402 from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico. Yee ha! That’s the smallest plane I’ve been on since the 4-seater that Bob Shaw piloted from Harrisburg to New Castle. Valerie’s never been on a plane that small. It was just a regular-day-at-work for Brian, our pilot, but was a bit of a rush for us and a great way to see Puerto Rico up close.

We had a huge beautiful rainbow over Coral Bay on our last evening and got to recreate our picture from seven years ago – we haven’t aged a bit. We tried to lunch on some local fare (mutton and oxtail) at the airport restaurant but they were sold out and only had chicken. Darn, I think. We picked Serena up from Happy Tails this morning and she’s recovering from her “vacation” by sleeping soundly and dreaming on the couch.

Ahhhh, what a fantastic vacation! We won’t wait 31 months to do this again!

  

 

 

 

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Wed
9
Nov '11

Walk of Woe

Ah, it’s time to leave. Tomorrow we take the “Walk of Woe” – that’s what the locals call it as tourists walk to the ferry at Cruz Bay for their trip back to St. Thomas and then the airport and home. But we had a great time. Pat left yesterday morning for Indiana after a “get-away” week. After we dropped her off we snorkeled around Waterlemon (not watermelon) Cay – THREE times – for a total of almost three hours in the water plus a half-hour hike/walk on each side. We’ve found that every bay is very different and at Waterlemon there were starfish galore and a stingray plus we got a great shot of an octopus that was out sunny himself.

Today was a rainout (actually a lightning and thunder-out) for snorkeling so we went to the Tektite museum (underwater research for the space program in 1969-70) and had lunch at Shipwreck Landing. Tonight we pack and tomorrow we “take the walk” – hey, but it was FUN!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sun
6
Nov '11

Double Dip

Today was a double dip. In the morning, Valerie and I snorkeled the west side of Salt Pond Bay and in the afternoon Pat joined us for a snorkel of the northeast side of Haulover Bay. In between we had brunch at Miss Lucy’s – their first day open for the season. We sat at at table right on the beach and the food (eggs Benedict, pumpkin hash, and island pancakes) was delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sat
5
Nov '11

Clean Plates

Below are a few pics of yesterday’s and today’s adventures. We snorkeled Kiddle Bay and Little Lamshur Bay. We saw two Lionfish in Little Lamshur bay and need to report our sightings. These fish are invasive and poisonous and have recently begun to appear in St John’s bays. Local divers capture and “dispose” of them because they can take over the waters by killing all the other fish.

For lunch, today, we ate “local fare” at Clean Plates, a newly opened home-style Jamaican restaurant. I remember when we first, back in 2001, ventured into Skinny Legs and wondered “should we be here?” Well Clean Plates has that similar “rough” vibe but lunch (steamed pot fish and jerk chicken) was excellent and we plan to stop back for a dinner. We highly recommend it for the adventurous foodie wanting something other than coconut shrimp and chicken wings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thu
3
Nov '11

Gotta Get Away

Valerie’s sister, Pat, dropped by for a surprise visit to join us on vacation! It rained so we didn’t snorkel :-( . The weather doesn’t look good for the next few days but we’ll see. Below are a few pics of our land adventures. Skinny Legs is the local Coral Bay bar-and-grill with great wahoo burgers and bottled beer (no draft and no fryer – we are on an island). Donkeys, cows, and goats are free-range and everywhere, even on blind corners when you’re driving on the left at night. Check out our grocery store and the USPS office annex downtown! Pictures coming soon of our 4Wd adventure up and over Bordeaux Mountain on an un-mapped road from Coral Bay to Centerline Road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wed
2
Nov '11

Great Lameshur Bay

This morning’s snorkel could have brought home lunch and dinner…

 

 

 

 

 

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Tue
1
Nov '11

Salt Pond Bay

Hey, this doesn’t look like Asheville!

 

 

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Tue
8
Jun '10

Ye Ol’ Gamma Knife

I’m driving to PA for a few days to help out Mom and Dad. Dad is having Gamma Knife surgery at UPMC on June 9 as a last ditch attempt to control his essential tremor. It’s progressed to the point where it’s really impacting his daily life and the medication is not helping. UPMC has a superb neurological program and his surgeon, Dr. Kondziolka, is probably better known and more respected in brain-land than my surgeon, Dr. Siwek, is in heart-land. Hey, it’s your health and your life, you gotta go for the best. Most insurance doesn’t care who you see as long as the doctor is on the their list. Hmmm, should I stay in my little town and be treated by some country doc or drive an hour to a big city and have the best doctor available? The choice seems obvious to me…I’ll gladly drive them to and from Pittsburgh for the best care.

Update: The surgery (actually more of a procedure) went well. Dad’s doing fine. But, now we have to wait…for several months…to see if it worked. The radiation was beamed to a precise location in his brain where the mis-firing neurons were located. Over the next few months a lesion will form and hopefully short-circuit what was causing the shaking—sort of like the Maze Procedure done on my heart for a-fib. Since he’s right-handed, they zapped a spot on the left side of his brain that controls the right side of his body (and hand). If this works, in two years after his brain heals, he could elect to do the right side. For now, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled if it helps to any degree on his right hand. There’s an 85% success rate, meaning major reduction in tremor. Here’s hoping he’s in that 85%!

The nurses were kind enough to take this picture of Dad in his Hannibal Lector mask…

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Sat
5
Jun '10

OBX

We just returned from a week of vacation at the Outer Banks (OBX) with Pat, Mike, Abby, Jack and Mike’s niece, Maura. We haven’t really “rested” since our 20thanniversary Maui vacation last March. It’s been a looooooong time coming and we took advantage of it…by doing mostly NOTHING. I can’t remember taking a vacation where we simply just sat and enjoyed life (and read and drank Coronas) like we did this time. We typically go out exploring and seeing the sights but, having been to the Outer Banks just a couple years ago, we were in that been-there-done-that mode and decided to just relax and enjoy our time off. No relocating cross-country, no heart surgery, no remodeling, no construction. It was pretty darn nice. We need to vacation like this more often…

It turns out this was sort of an Outer Banks anniversary for us. Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar, our favorite seafood restaurant for raw oysters and steamed shrimp, is celebrating its 25th year! Way way back in the late 1980′s when we were young and innocent and working at Texas Instruments in Johnson City, we used to vacation at the Outer Banks. Awful Arthur’s had just opened and was the hot place to go. AA’s hasn’t changed a bit. It still is the place to go. Same great seafood, same brick walls, same bar and tables, and the same 1980’s music playing on the tinny overhead speakers. Life is still good.

Rather than ramble on about our trip I’ve just attached a bunch of pictures, below. Those should be worth a least several thousand words. Hover your mouse over each picture for a short description.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tue
11
May '10

Southwest Airlines is Coming to Greenville!

WooHoo! Southwest Airlines is coming to Greenville, SC. GSP is 65 miles away so it’s not super convenient for us, but having Southwest fly there should put some price pressure on the other airlines serving Greenville and Asheville. If the price is right (and with Southwest, it will be) people will make the drive. The other airlines know that and will have to adjust. “Southwest’s senior VP for marketing and revenue management said that the discount carrier chooses to add destinations based on whether a city’s airport is ‘overpriced and underserved’ and does not go shopping for tax breaks and other incentives.” (For all you business majors…that’s how you do good business!)

More details…

Next up on our wish list…Costco and Trader Joes.

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Sun
9
May '10

So, What Else is Going On?

Here’s a rambling list of what else has been going on while we wait for our foundation to be completed.

We finished up the guest bathroom a week or so ago. We didn’t gut it down to the studs, but in retrospect, maybe we should have – it might have been easier. Valerie removed all the loose floor tile then scraped the deteriorated grout and caulk from between all the tiles surrounding the tub and regrouted it. She rebuilt the disintegrated sheetrock around the edges of the tub, removed the painted over wallpaper (two layers of paint over two layers of paper, I think), then skim coated, sanded and painted the walls. I put down a new oak-look vinyl floor, reset the toilet that I had removed, earlier, replaced the light fixture, mirror and accessories, hung a new 6-panel door and installed baseboard. Valerie painted the door and trim, put a semi-permanent matt in the tub to cover the rusty worn-through spots, and ta-da, we have a cute, usable, guest bath.

Valerie’s been working on a little garden. She took a few of the un-rotted joists from the balcony I dismantled and made a raised bed out of them. She has heirloom tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, garlic, snap peas, mizuna and more. She started most of the plants from seeds several weeks ago and this past week transplanted them to the bed. Mother’s Day is the safe planting date in Western North Carolina so fingers crossed, they should be good.

I started cleaning and repairing Camp Bell’s vinyl siding. Under all the dirt and grime we do have a white house, but in some places, it’s hard to tell. I bought an RV cleaning pole, the kind with a brush on one end and a hose attachment on the other. I’ve completed the back and it came out pretty well. There were a couple tough spots that Valerie had to scrub with a concoction of borax, bleach, and Mrs. Meyer’s liquid soap, but most of the nasty film came off. I’ve also replaced several damaged sections of siding. I bought a handy-dandy $5 vinyl siding tool that gets under a panel’s lip and unlocks it from the panel above and below. With that, and a few 12′ pieces of siding from Lowes, it’s been trivial to make the repairs.

  

Last week I broke out the smoker for the first time since we moved! We haven’t yet found a source for big chunks of apple tree (my preferred wood to smoke with) but Valerie found small bags of apple wood chips at Earthfare. She made burgers from scratch with her meat grinder and seasoned several chicken breasts. I smoked them up with some miscellaneous vegatables. Mmm. Mmm. Good.

We went to the Asheville Herb Festival where Valerie picked up a couple plants for her garden. We also went to the Home and Garden Expo and through blind luck stumbled upon the perfect color for the cedar shake sections of our new house. We are planning to use pre-painted fiber cement siding and have been wrestling with what color to paint it. At the show we saw that Certainteed sells a vinyl shake that’s a dead ringer for a real cedar shake and their Rustic Blend color is exactly what we’ve been looking for. We got a sample piece from our lumber supplier and will be taking it to Carolina Colortones to see if they can match it…if not, we may be going with these vinyl shakes – don’t tell our developer.

The torsion spring on our garage door broke a few days ago. Replacing one is not a DIY kind of thing but that’s never stopped me. It’s not overly complicated, just dangerous if you’re not careful. If you don’t buy the correct spring, unplug the opener, clamp the door to the track, clamp the bar from turning, and wind the spring properly “you could be severely injured or killed” (to quote the bright red warning tag on the spring). I ordered the correct spring off the web, watched an installation video, and completed the job in about 45 minutes. No problemo. Fixed. And, I saved at least $100 in labor costs.

Now that the guest bath is done, Valerie’s moved on to painting the door jambs. They’ve seen better days, actually 35 years of dings, dents, and scratches. They’re requiring much more than just sanding and she’s spending a lot time patching and filling before priming and painting. It’ll be nice to start checking entire rooms off as DONE!

This coming Thursday, Valerie will be going to Indiana to visit her family and to see the Dalai Lama with her sister Pat. She’s been watching flights for good deals. If she can snag a last minute discount she’ll fly, if not, she’ll drive – probably to Indianapolis on Thursday and back to Asheville on Tuesday.

We’re looking forward to our vacation at the Outerbanks the first week of June with Pat, Mike, Abby and Jack. It’s nice that we can now drive there and take what we need and not have to fly for two days with just a bag or two. We probably won’t miss much of our house construction…they’ll probably still be working on the foundation!

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Fri
12
Feb '10

R.I.P. Buffy the Guinea Pig

We arrived back in Asheville last night. The weather was great for driving – no snow! Indianapolis got a few more inches while we were there, enough to cancel schools one day and have a two-hour delay the next. Luckily it stopped snowing and the roads were cleared before we left. Because of the poor weather we ended up staying at Pat and Mike’s and only got to spend one day with Valerie’s Mom and Dad. We did get to visit with Linda and Sarah for a few hours but had to high-tail it back to north Indi before the snow rolled in.

We did have an unfortunate “incident” with Serena. Abby had (past tense) a guinea pig named Buffy who lived in a cage in Abby’s bedroom. Well, on Wednesday night, Valerie, Mike, Jack, and I we were all in the kitchen talking while Valerie was making dinner. Pat was out and Abby was at a basketball game. The three dogs typically hung out with us, but this evening Serena disappeared for a while. I didn’t think anything of it, which was a BIG mistake. After maybe 15 minutes of no Serena, she came down the stairs that lead from the kid’s bedrooms. She had an “I did something and I’m not sure you’re gonna like it” look on her face. Mike and I simultaneously knew what happened and bounded up the stairs. Abby’s door was closed but the bathroom door was open and its inner door to Abby’s bedroom was open. Buffy’s cage was tilted over and leaning on the bed. The cage had separated from the plastic pan underneath. Buffy was not inside. We started looking under the bed and behind the furniture. No Buffy. We walked out towards the hall and there was Buffy on the floor. Dead. Serena’s rodent catching skills were effective on guinea pig pets in cages. She probably caught a whiff of Buffy wafting down the stairs and went up to dispatch of it like she’s done with countless moles and mice. To her, a rodent is a rodent. Hopefully it went quickly and painlessly.

Mike and I bagged the body, cleaned up the carpet and cage, and put the cage and supplies in the garage. We waited until Abby got home for Mike to break the news to her. She cried, but handled it well. She’s okay with Serena and understands that it’s in Serena’s genes to hunt rodents. That doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is. We didn’t yell at or punish Serena. We didn’t catch her in the act so it was too late to correct her for it (the same reason why putting a dog’s nose in its poop doesn’t work for house training). Pat and Mike didn’t evict us but we’ll probably be leaving Serena at Happy Tails next time we visit. I think she’s worn out her welcome. We’re sorry, Abby.

In researching this post, I discovered that in a Spanish painting of the Last Supper, painter Marcos Zapata depicted Christ and his twelve apostles about to dine on…guinea pig.

Sat
6
Feb '10

Snow, Glorious Snow

We’ve been in PA visiting my parents since Monday evening and awoke this morning, our travel day to Indianapolis, to 15” of snow! Getting some snow wasn’t a surprise as the forecast was for 6-8”, but the storm hovered a bit longer than anticipated over western PA and dumped from 3:00pm yesterday to 10:00am this morning. We should be happy with just 15″ as some areas got even more. It’s beautiful and not something we get to see every day so we’re enjoying it. Dad manned the snow blower and I manned the shovel and we cleared off the driveway and the deck. Dad also did a couple of the neighbors’ driveways. Luckily it wasn’t heavy and wet so we were able to make short work of it. The state actually owns a few plows (unlike in WA and NC) so the roads were being plowed and salted all night. They were able to keep up with it. By midmorning, the asphalt was showing on the road out front so we decided to make the 360 mile trip starting around noon. The storm finished in Indiana last night so the weather and the roads should get better as we go further west. I think the snow is following us around the country. Let’s see if we get more while we’re in Indiana.

Snow Dog Only way to do it! 15 Inches

P.S. We made it to Valerie’s sister Pat’s house in Fishers, IN, at 7:00pm. Starting out, I-680 was pretty hazardous with lots of snow and ice. Once we got to I-76 and I-71 the roads became clear and dry. But, I-70 between Columbus and Indianapolis was VERY BAD. There were too many cars and trucks off the road to count. Some accidents had occured much earlier but several were very recent. The problem was that snow was drifting over the road and turning to a hard, rough, icy layer. We’d be driving along on clear pavement when all of a sudden we’d hit several inches of bumpy ice. Luckily we could see the taillights of trucks up ahead and know if they were slowing down or changing lanes. A Greyhound bus was down in the median. An Allied Van Lines truck and trailer was down there, too (I feel sorry for those people who had their household goods in that trailer). Several double trailers were way off the road – jack-knifed like an accordion and facing the wrong way. I would not want to see that happen! Cars were buried on both sides every couple miles. But we made it, despite our frozen wiper fluid and several stops to clean the windshield. The Indianapolis forecast is for another snowstorm Monday night and Tuesday morning. It has to be us!

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Sat
30
Jan '10

Our Lot is Staked, But You Can’t See Them

The surveyor came out this week to stake the proposed corners of our future home. The problem is, WE GOT 9+” OF SNOW and you can’t see them. After the last snow all the old-time Ashevillers were telling us how rare it was, that it never snowed like that here, that Asheville only got a couple inches now and then and that it melted off quickly. Liars liars pants on fire! Yep, we’re snowed in again. It started yesterday about 3:00pm and by 8:00pm there was Let's Go Out and Play!over 7″ on the back deck. Luckily it tailed off and overnight we only got 2″ more although the prediction was for a total of over a foot.  We were prepared and didn’t go out at all today except for Serena’s walks. When I went out at 4:00 I noticed that not one car had left a driveway on our street. The main north-south route, Sweeten Creek Road, was slushy but had been plowed and salted. There was the occasional car going by but people were smart this time and stayed home. But, it was beautiful – again.

We decided to not go to the David Sandborn jazz concert at the Grove Park Inn. If it was during the day I probably would have braved it but being that it started at 8:00pm and we wouldn’t get home until 11:00 and the temperature was dropping and the snow was falling again, it was better to be safe. Best not to become a statistic. Perhaps next year. We also decided to postpone our triangle trip to Pennsylvania and Indiana by one day. We’ll be leaving Monday morning, instead. The plan is to spend several days with my parents then drive to Indianapolis to visit Valerie’s family and have a big Superbowl party with all the Colts fans. We should be back in Asheville by Feb 11 or 12 — just in time to start getting serious about construction of our house.

Tue
5
Jan '10

The Final Countdown

We fly out tomorrow afternoon, arriving in Seattle at 9:08pm. It’ll be a very busy eight days getting ready for the movers who arrive on Friday, January 15th. Valerie’s to-do list is pretty much packing, packing, and more packing. My list is everything else (selling furniture, building crates, cancelling utilities, etc).

In two weeks we’ll be back in Asheville waiting on the moving truck to arrive with our stuff. Scary!

Sat
12
Dec '09

A Little of Everything

Our friends Luis and Jolie visited Tuesday evening through Saturday morning. Luis’ mom lives in the Raleigh area and they visited her for a few days before coming over to Asheville and then heading back there for a few more days. While they were here we checked out the Gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Inn. The top 10 finalists in each category were simply amazing. Valerie was considering entering next year until we learned that many of the entrants spend 600+ hours working on their houses. That’s a bit much and hard to compete with. We also went to the Biltmore to see the decorated house. It was nice but I don’t think really remarkable – except for the 35′ tree in the banquet hall! Now, that’s a tree. We’ll try to go back for the Candlelight tour where they have choirs singing European carols, vintage ballroom dancers, and dramatic Christmas readings. That’s the nice thing about the annual pass, we can go as often as we want.

Today. we’re back to painting the bedrooms, hallway, and bathrooms of Camp Bell.

The escrow company has FedEx’d our closing paperwork. It should arrive on Monday. We sign and FedEx it back. The buyers sign and on the 21st we become renters of 13404 184th AVE NE. Incomprehensible.

We met with Steve Farrell, our architect, and Steve Williams, our builder, to knock out a few details and discuss the path forward. We may go for permit this month just to get the ball rolling and could start construction in late January. We need to meet again early next week. Still lots to do. 

We stopped in at one bank that our builder has worked with. I wasn’t too impressed with them and will talk to a couple more this coming week about their construction/mortgage programs. Interest rates are at an all-time-low and we’ll never see money this cheap again. Need to take advantage of it and lock in before rates go up to pay for TARP and Obamacare.

We and Serena have an appointment on Tuesday morning at Happy Tails Country Club to see if Serena would be a good fit to stay there while we go back to Seattle in January to pack and move. They seem to be pretty thorough and don’t take just any dog – and that’s a good thing! Our decision as to where we leave from and where Serena stays for our 2-week Seattle trip will be made after our visit.

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Sun
6
Dec '09

What Now?

So what happens now? Well, closing is still scheduled for Dec 21 and so far, so good on that. The buyers have closed on their house in Baltimore so their only other outstanding contingency is the appraisal. As long as it comes back more than the selling price it’s all a done deal. We’re supposed to get our paperwork FedEx’d to us next Tuesday. We’ll meet at Shelle’s office to sign and get it notarized and FedEx it back. The buyers will sign on Monday the 21st and on the 22nd we’ll be 30-day renters of 13404 184th Ave. That’s weird.

Some time the first week of January we’ll head back to Seattle and spend two weeks packing so that the TBD movers can load up the week of January 18. What we don’t know is where Serena will stay and where we’ll leave from. One option is to drive to Indianapolis and have Serena stay with Valerie’s sister or mother. We could then fly Southwest from IND to SEA. The other option is to find a caring, reliable, trustworthy, qualified dog sitter in Asheville and then leave from here. We’re going to the vet on Monday and will ask them for recommendations.

I’ve been reading the online reviews of the major moving companies. All of them are highly negative (except for ABF’s). Basically people think they hire convicts off the street who steal their stuff, pack it poorly, throw it in the truck, drive it cross-country on bumpy roads, loose it, damage it when unloading, charge them extra, hold their stuff for ransom, ignore their complaints and never reimburse them for damage and loss. I’d love to use ABF, as we did for our first load, but this load will be mostly furniture which won’t pack well in a tall truck and will require lots of blankets. We’re just going to have to chance it and use Mayflower or Allied.

Sat
28
Nov '09

On the Road Again…

We’re leaving Indi this morning for Asheville to avoid the Sunday holiday traffic. Because of the rockslide that has closed I-40 in North Carolina we’ll have to detour. We’re not sure if we’ll take the Dixie Highway (2-lane) that adds 30 minutes or I-81/26 that adds an hour. Either way it’ll be our longest travel day of more than 8 hours. If we can leave by 9am we should arrive just after nightfall. 

Many thanks to the Himes clan, especially Pat and Mike, for their hospitality during our stay. It was great to see everyone. Once we get settled in Asheville, y’all are invited to visit us in our new stompin’ grounds. 

On the road again…

Update: Arrived at Camp Bell at 6:34pm for a total of 498 miles and 9 hours and 30 minutes. We lost lots of time on the Dixie Highway detour but I’m sure it will be much worse tomorrow. Time to settle in and relax a bit.

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Mon
23
Nov '09

The Digital TV Transition

Valerie’s parent, Martha and Bob, live in rural Indiana where there’s no cable TV. Prior to the June switchover to digital they were able to get a handful of stations with rabbit-ear antennas, a couple pretty good and a couple fairly snowy but watchable. Since June, even with an antenna in their attic, they’ve been struggling with “NO SIGNAL” messages and frequent pixelation and freezing. Valerie and I tried moving the antenna around but the signal levels were marginal and if we got one or two stations to come in, the others would be dropped. Spotters at-the-readyI think the foil backed insulation lining the roof and forming a big tin-foil hat over the house might have something to do with it.

On Sunday we gave up and decided to install an outdoor antenna. Since the antenna was already in the attic, it was a simple matter to fish the wire out the ridge cap and connect it to an antenna mounted on the eave. I was thrilled to get back to normal and do some hands-on work. It’s been a long seven weeks! I got to carry a ladder, climb on a roof, use some tools, and accomplish something mechanical. I think everyone is still overly concerned about my condition/recovery, though. They were afraid I might pass out and fall off the roof. Why I would pass out at that moment in time when I hadn’t passed out in the last seven weeks is a mystery to me, but…I do appreciate everyone’s caring. You will notice in the picture that my two spectators spotters, Valerie’s dad and sister, Cindy, were fully prepared and at-the-ready to catch me if I did fall. 

In the end, the installation went well and they now receive more than 30 channels on their living room TV with perfect reception and a great signal. We still need to run a cable to the bedroom TV but that’s all inside work. Martha can now unlearn her new word for 2009—pixelation.

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Thu
19
Nov '09

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Less than 48 hours after our arrival in Indiana on our way to Asheville for the holidays, because we needed to get away from the drudgery of living in a staged house with none of our stuff and having to deal with random showings…we sold our house. Yep. That’s right. We sold our house. I need to say that again so it sinks in. We sold our house. Five months of frustration and when we finally give up and leave town to clear our heads, we sell our house. If I was writing a TV drama that would be a great monkey wrench to throw in to screw with the plot—but I’m blogging our real life adventure. You can’t make this stuff up!

We’re happy (I think), relieved, sad, excited, and pondering what happens now. We watched the movie Up last night. Lots of it hit home with us. “It’s only a house.”

The offer seems solid and is only contingent on an inspection of our house and the buyers closing on their house (in two weeks) that they’ve already sold. Our closing is December 21 but the buyers are willing to let us stay in the house until January 21. Thank You! That will give us assurance that the deal will really happen before we start the ball rolling on moving, signing construction contracts, etc. and will give us time to pack and move.

Since we have that extra time, one option is to just continue on with our plan. We could stay here in Indiana through Thanksgiving then drive down to Asheville to stay through Christmas. While there we could talk to the bank for a construction loan, sign the building contract, find a cardiologist, and take in the Christmas season. If we can find a place for Serena for a couple weeks we could fly back to Seattle in early January, hire movers, pack up, say our goodbyes, then fly east. Another option is to turn the Jeep around and drive back to Seattle—now. Valerie’s not too keen on that idea. Can’t say I am, either. We don’t have to decide, today. We’ll figure it out. In the mean time, we’ll try not to stress and will enjoy Thanksgiving. We have lots to be thankful for.

Mon
16
Nov '09

Mauston, WI, to Fishers, IN

We’re here! 2355 miles. 4 days + 2 half days. 19.4mpg in our gas guzzling Jeep. We lost an hour with the time change and didn’t arrive until 6:15pm. It rained a little but was very, hold-on-to-the-steering-wheel, windy through most of Illinois. We decided not to go through Chicago on I90 and instead went south on I39 then cut over on I74. That may have added a bit of time but eliminated the variable and the stress of driving through Chicago. Instead we saw corn, corn, and more corn which followed the cheese, cheese, and more cheese (signs) in Wisconsin.

American_cheese_jpgFunny thing about that Wisconsin cheese…We had breakfast at the restaurant next to our motel. Valerie ordered a mushroom and cheese omelette with cheddar figuring she’d get some nice local cheese. Nope. It came with a semi-melted slice of orange American processed cheese product on top and the same thing inside. You would think that fake chemical stuff would be illegal in the grate cheese state. Guess not. Mmmm. Mmmm. 

We’re going to get settled in here at Valerie’s sister’s then after our hindquarters have recovered from 6 days in a car go visit the rest of the Himes family. We have no schedule other than heading down to Asheville a day or two after Thanksgiving.

P.S. Our realtors report that the Saturday and Sunday open houses at our house were busy and productive. There was lots of traffic and several interested parties. They’ll be following up with them this week to try and reel them in.

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Sun
15
Nov '09

Fergus Falls, MN, to Mauston, WI

Finally, civilization. A couple posts back I said that there wasn’t anything in Montana. Well, there’s even less in North Dakota. It was a welcome relief to get into Minnesota and begin seeing houses and people and cars again even though everything seems to be a shade of brown or grey. We had lunch at Ray J’s American Grill in St. Paul.  We didn’t know it when we walked in but the Vikings (as in Minnesota Vikings) were playing the Detroit Lions and they were serving a bottomless $5 taco buffet for all the fans. Needless to say, it was a happenin’ place. I think we were the only ones not wearing Viking football jerseys. We elected to pass on the tacos but did have the special game-day fried cheese curd appetizer. They were interesting, but greasy, maybe because we were in Minnesota and not the true cheese state of Wisconsin. That’s where we are tonight. Signs advertising cheese are everywhere. Tomorrow is the final push from here Indianapolis. We still need to decide if we’re going to plow through Chicago traffic or go around it. One route is shorter but riskier for time. The other route is longer but should have less congestion. Maybe we’ll flip a coin, or a wedge of cheese.

Sat
14
Nov '09

Dickinson, ND, to Fergus Falls, MN

Because we pushed it a little, yesterday, we only had to go 346 miles, today. That gave us extra time to visit two dog parks—one in Bismark and one in Fargo. Serena had fun and we got a break from the monotonous driving. The weather was perfect and we had time to stop at a car wash and clean the remnants of Montana (and there was lots) off the Jeep. As we passed Salem, ND, we saw this giant cow sculpture high on a hill. Valerie was able to snap a picture as we passed by. It turns out that this is “Salem Sue”, the “World’s Largest Holestein Cow” at 38′ high by 50′ long and 12,000lbs. We’re still looking for that record setting ball of twine… 

 Big Cow Art Serena does Fargo

Lunch/Dinner was at Kroll’s Diner in Fargo where we had burgers and Knoephla Soup. Never heard of knoephla soup? Neither did we, but when in Rome… Knoephla means little knob or button in German and is a type of heavy dumpling. Lots of Germans settled in Minnesota and North and South Dakota and this soup is their heritage. It’s a thick chicken and potato based soup, almost like a stew, but with nothing in it except for the knoephlas and chunks of potato. It’s different, but good, in a comfort food sort of way. There are restaurants, such as this diner, that sell knoephla soup by the bucket! Guess it keeps the locals warm on those cold Fargo nights.

Fri
13
Nov '09

Bozeman to Dickinson, ND

Can we go out and play?When we got up this morning it was 4°F and there was 18″ of fresh snow on the ground. Luckily, the folks in Bozeman know how to deal with snow (unlike the folks in Seattle). The roads were mostly plowed and salted and we got around easily. One small problem was that our windshield wiper fluid was frozen solid. Apparently the Redmond Jiffy Lube techs who filled our wiper reservoir last week used the Pacific Northwest blend (water?) not the Montana blend. We’ve never had it get cold enough in Seattle to freeze the wiper fluid and it made it a little difficult to see. We had to pull over once to clean off the grime.

Serena had been cooped up in the car for two days and needed some exercise – and we did, too – so, before we left town, we went to an offleash dog park for her to play in the snow. She had a great time running, snorting, and playing with other dogs and kids on sleds, as evidenced by the picture, below.

We hit the interstate at 10:15am. The trip up and over the pass between Bozeman and Billings was a bit dicey. We saw five wrecks. Four were cars or trucks towing trailers (one was U-Haul truck and one was a U-Haul trailer). A couple of them were way down off the road pointed in the wrong direction but with their trailers still attached. Imagine what a ride that would have been! One wreck was a log home kit (yes, dozens of logs) that was scattered across I-90. Ouch! Once we got to Big Sky Country the weather improved and it was clear sailing all the way to Dickinson, ND. We pulled in at 7:00pm. Notes to travelers: There ain’t nothing in central Montana and they don’t sell beer in grocery stores in North Dakota.

Bozeman Snow Frosty Serena

Thu
12
Nov '09

Spokane to Bozeman

My surgeon said that my ejection fraction is nothing to worry about…yet. It’s low, but he said to give it 3-6 months, have another echo, then we’ll know if my heart is recovering or not. He isn’t convinced that the numbers we have now are worth acting on as they were taken just three weeks after surgery (American Heart Association guidelines). He was happy that my heart had already shrunk so much so quickly and said that doing so was a good sign my heart might get better. But, he couldn’t guarantee an outcome. Basically, he said, give it time, don’t worry, be happy. So, we turned the Jeep eastbound at 11:00am!

We pulled in to Bozeman at 7:00pm after multiple stretch and pee stops, a gas up, an unsuccessful search for a dog park in Missoula, and a late lunch. Here’s the current Bozeman weather report:

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until midnight
MST tonight for Madison and Gallatin counties.
Moderate to heavy snowfall will continue across much of
Gallatin and Madison counties into the early evening hours.
Snowfall rates up to one inch per hour can be expected
through 6 PM today... then snowfall rates will slowly begin
to diminish in intensity through the evening hours. By late
this evening... expect storm total snowfall amounts to
range from 18 to 24 inches at lower elevations... including
in the cities of Bozeman and Ennis... to around 30 inches
in the mountains. Additionally... expect visibilities to be
reduced to less than one quarter of a mile at times.

Merry Christmas! It’s a winter wonderland! We’ll take some pictures and post them tomorrow. Hopefully I-90 will be cleared by late morning. The plans are to take Serena to a dog park to play in the snow and wear herself out then get back on the road, weather permitting. Worst case, we spend an extra day in Bozeman.

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Wed
11
Nov '09

Woodinville to Spokane

It was a good start to our trip! We spent the morning preparing the house for a long vacancy, packing, and trying to fit everything in the Jeep. Valerie had a goal of keeping a line of site out the back window. I originally said that was a fantasy, but by carefully using every nook and cranny we we were able to meet that goal. You name it, it’s in there, but it eventually all fit!

East of North Bend

Don't Get Used To ThisWe left at 2:00 and arrived at the hotel about 7:00—not bad for 286 miles with two doctor ordered stops to walk and stretch. Serena did fine, sleeping most of the way and sniffing anything and everything at the rest stops. I think it was all pretty mentally stimulating for her (especially the elevator ride) as she is now crashed big-time on her own queen sized bed in our room. 

Tomorrow at 8:00 is my appointment with the surgeon. After that we’re on the road to Bozeman. The weather report says something about snow…

Tue
10
Nov '09

Stuff

We leave tomorrow after lunch for Asheville via Spokane and Indiana. I was thinking about what I should write to describe my feelings and expectations for the trip but soon realized that George Carlin had already said it much better than I ever could. Here’s his take on “Stuff” from 1986. I laughed out loud at 3:50-4:10 because it’s so so true. (Note, this is George Carlin, so it’s NSFW).

Fri
6
Nov '09

Eastward Ho!

Wednesday after lunch we are handing the house keys to our realtors and heading east. At least that’s the plan. We’ve tried this before and, well, you can read what happened between the end of August and now. We’re tired and frustrated of not being able to live in our house—keeping it spotless and showing it at a moment’s notice. Five months of “For Sale” and we are at our breaking point. We need to get outa here!

Tomorrow (Saturday) we have FOUR! showings starting at 10:00am. Don’t know what that’s all about, but hey, people are looking and that’s a good thing. Sunday from 1:00-4:00 is an open house so we need to find something to do both days this weekend. Molbak’s Poinsettia Festival begins Saturday and we’ll be there. We may then say “No Showings” until we leave on Wednesday to give us time to pack and to clean the house one last time. You watch, we’ll get ready to leave and someone will make an offer on the house and we’ll have to cancel our trip. At this point, I’d believe anything.

We’ll leave Wednesday afternoon and the first stop is Spokane. I have an appointment with my surgeon Thursday morning. After that we’ll continue heading east with the route and stops determined by the weather. Around the 16th or 17th we’ll arrive in Indiana. We’ll spend a week or so through Thanksgiving with Valerie’s family then after turkey day we’ll drive down to Asheville. Our return date is unknown but we’ll be there at least a couple months. We have tons of work to do on Camp Bell but we plan to enjoy the holidays in Asheville, too. There’s lots new to explore and experience. Can’t wait to see the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn and Christmas at the Biltmore. Somewhere in there I’ll figure out how to get an out-of-town echocardiogram and maybe our house will sell and we can start building and moving. After the last several months I’ve given up trying to plan things. It’s time for an unplanned, unexpected, positive adventure!

Wed
26
Aug '09

Curveball

Here are a few other titles for this post: 

“Say What?”
“Just when you thought it was safe”
“Houston, we have a problem”
“Whoda Thunk?”
“Not so fast”
“Wow, I didn’t see that coming”
“WTF?”
“You can’t always get what to wa-ant” (apologies to the Rolling Stones)
“What a mess”
“What now?”
“You’re serious?”
“The best laid plans of mice and men so often go astray”
“We were going to stop in Spokane, anyway”
“It’s only heart surgery”

Are you sitting down? The short story is that our cross-country driving trip is off and instead I’m going to have heart surgery ASAP in Spokane. No joke.

First a bit of background. When I was 24 and living in Johnson City, TN, I went for my first real physical outside of little Edinburg, PA. The doctor comes in, does his pleasantries, puts his stethoscope on my chest, listens, listens again, moves it around, says “hmmm,” listens some more, stands back and says, “do you know you have a heart murmur?” Never had a clue. He then asks if I would mind if his interns could listen because “it’s pretty pronounced.” A few minutes later in walk several interns, same age as me, who proceed to listen to my chest as the doctor explains what they should listen for. Fast forward to nearly every visit with a new doctor I’ve had since. Same scenario, though not always with interns. I’m told it’s nothing to worry about, that it sounds like a leaky Mitral Valve, that 5% of the people have it, and since I’m not having any symptoms (shortness of breath, dizziness, etc) that I’m fine.

Now, on a parallel track I’ve also had marginally high blood pressure — 140/90ish. I’ve never done anything for it. Doctors have always said to watch it and if it ever got higher we’d address it. Three years ago it started to creep up to 150/95ish and I had a couple instances of heart palpitation. Two years ago I went for a physical. After the nurse took my BP and the doctor (and a couple interns) listened to my heart he told me that I needed to see a cardiologist, that my high BP, my murmur, and my palpitations were likely related. Valerie had been trying to get me to go for a while so this was the push I needed.

I month later I go see a cardiologist, Rubin Maidan. After a short listen to my heart he schedules me for a stress test, electrocardiogram (EKC), and an echocardiogram. A week later I’m on the table, and on the treadmill, and on the table again while the doctor and his technician watch the EKG and the images of my heart on the screen in normal and stressed conditions. The diagnosis: MVP (Mitral Valve Prolapse with regurgitation), a very leaky mitral valve with maybe 30% regurgitation and an enlarged heart. Translation: the heart valve between the left atrium and left ventricle goes past its normal closed position and 30% of the blood flows back through. My heart has to work harder to compensate so it’s enlarging and my blood pressure is increasing. My enlarged heart is also stretching out the electrical pathways and that could be causing my occasional atrial fibrillation (A-fib). Several times during the test they ask me if I have any shortness of breath or light headedness. Nope. I do my 12 minutes on the treadmill no problem. Pretty good for a guy whose heart is only operating at 70%. I’m now on a yearly test schedule to see if my heart gets worse over time.

Last summer I have the test again. Over the previous 12 months I logged 5 instances of A-fib. The doctor thinks that’s acceptable — but if they go longer than 24 hours, I need to go to the ER. My heart looks unchanged. Blood pressure is down a bit. That’s good and is probably due to me walking every day and taking Lycopene. I will probably, eventually, maybe need to get the valve fixed in my lifetime, but for now it’s unchanged. Come back next year.

Over the last year I’ve only had 3 episodes of A-fib, though one was nearly 24 hours (see 20th Anniversary). My blood pressure is great at 120/70ish. I feel fine. I briskly walk with Serena at least 45 minutes a day. Last week we hiked around Cougar Mountain. Did I mention that I feel fine? Today’s test should be routine. Valerie didn’t come because I was so sure I was fine. We leave on Sunday for our 6+ week roadtrip to Asheville. Ha Ha Ha. Curveball.

The technician, the same one I’ve had the last two times, isn’t her usual chatty self. While she’s doing the ultrasound she asks me repeatedly if I’m ever short of breath or dizzy. Nope. I ask her what she sees (as we know, she’s not allowed to say). She says that she needs to go outside to log her measurements, get the doctor, and that she’ll be right back. They come in and Dr. Maidan asks me if I’m ever short of breath or dizzy. No, again. He and the tech peer over the screen and start talking medicaleeze. I hear “maxed out”, “new jet”, “increase over last year by a centimeter.” Hmmm. I get on the treadmill and begin to walk. Every minute or so it increases in speed and elevation so that by 10 minutes I’m jogging up hill at a pretty good clip. The goal is 12 minutes — which I easily did the last two years. As the minutes tick by I’m doing fine. The doctor comes in and out. I can carry on a (slightly winded) conversation. The nurse takes my BP three times. It’s fine. My heart rate hits 186 at 12 minutes and the technician reminds me that I did 12 minutes last year and wants to know if I want to try for more. At this point I think I have an idea where things are going, I need to man up and prove that I’m healthy, so I say “sure, lets go” and I run full out, up hill, for another minute and a half. Then I quickly jump off the treadmill onto the exam table where she does an ultrasound of my stressed heart.

Dr. Maiden comes back in to look at the screen where the tech has placed non-stressed and stressed images of my heart. There are two view angles for each and they are running in an endless loop of a few beats. He toggles between that view and one with color doppler (think weather radar) that shows blood flow direction, red one way and blue the other. After a minute or so he swivels the stool around, clasps his hands, looks me in the eye and says, “I’m sorry, but it’s time. You need to have your valve fixed. Your heart has enlarge 1cm over the last year. It’s now the same size at rest as it is when stressed. A second  area of regurgitation has formed because the original one has maxed out. I recommend doing this sooner than later. One year would be too long, six months too long, three months max, one month better.” Yikes! 

We discuss the fact that I feel fine. That I can do 13+ minutes on the treadmill. He tells me that most patients with my level of valve failure can’t climb a flight of stairs. My heart is compensating but it’s reached the point where it can’t compensate any more. And, my lower blood pressure may be the result of my heart not being able to keep up. It’s possible, after I get the valve fixed, that I’ll have high blood pressure again.

We talk about the valve repair surgery. He recommends getting it done in Spokane. A Dr. Leland Siwek there does it robotically through 4 dime-sized incisions. He’s done several hundred repairs this way. In hicksville Seattle they still do it the old fashioned way by sawing and cracking your chest open. Apparently, Dr. Siwek is pretty well know for this surgery. Dr. Maiden will send my info to Dr. Siwek. I need to schedule an angiogram to get a detailed map of my heart. And, I may need additional tests, but we need to hear from Dr. Siwek to see if he wants them.

So, I don’t know when this will all happen. But, it will happen soon, probably in September. We, obviously aren’t leaving on our road trip to Asheville on Sunday. We don’t know what this means for selling our house. It does mean that no matter what we won’t start construction this fall — but that wasn’t happening until we sell the house, anyway. It’s all quite the Curveball.

More coming as I learn it.

P.S. Here’s a video that talks all about the valve problem and the robotic surgery.

P.S.S. Another video from Cleveland Clinic about mitral valve repair using robotics.

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Sat
22
Aug '09

Road Trip!

We’ve set a date to begin our cross-country adventure — Sunday, August 30. The plan is to go from Woodinville to Martinsville (IN) to Edinburg (PA) to Asheville while on the way visiting Yellowstone, Mt. RushmoreBadlands, and the Corn Palace. Once in Asheville, we’ll probably stay through the mid-October leaf change. (Yep, that’s right, over 6 weeks!) What the heck, we could use an adventure! It’ll give me an opportunity to be outside of my comfort zone. Valerie? She’s ready to go—yesterday. Serena? “Ride? Ride? Did someone say Ride?”

 

If the house sells while we’re gone, we’ll drive or fly back to pack it up and move out. If it doesn’t sell, we’ll gussie up Camp Bell and put it on the market, pack up our stuff to move, then drive back. We don’t know what will happen but we’ll take that road when we get to it. Ha Ha, Get it? Take that road…

I had originally planned to make it a 4-day, 3-night, drive from here to Indiana but was swayed to appreciate the journey rather than the destination so we’re going to take extra time to see a few of the sights along the way. Rather than take the shorter northern route through Montana and North Dakota (nothing to see there) we’re going to drop south and drive through Yellowstone. From there we’ll pick up I-90 and head east through the Black Hills where Mt. Rushmore is. Further east in South Dakota is Badlands National Park. We can drop off of I-90, drive through the park, then pop back onto I-90 again. Further east in Mitchell, South Dakota, is the Corn Palace. Saundra’s in-laws said that if we’re going by, we should stop. It’s a huge building decorated each year with murals made from over 275,000 ears of corn in 13 different varieties and colors. If we have time we’ll also check out the largest ball of twineRock City, and Wally World J.

We’re making our “Do it before we leave” and “Take it with us” lists. Those require some thought for a 6+ week trip. It’ll be a busy week then next Sunday, the road trip begins. Wally World here we come!

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