Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

Choose a Topic:

Apr '09

My Oh My!

I’ve been uttering that phrase lately as I look around at all the boxes (159 and counting) and realize what’s about to happen. Tomorrow between 4:00 and 8:00pm the ABF trailer gets delivered. On Saturday the piano movers will (hopefully) move our HEAVY antique player piano from the basement into the trailer. And, on Sunday at noon, the movers come to load all the boxes. Monday morning at 7:00am I call for the trailer to be picked up and sometime on Monday much of our stuff will be on its way to Asheville. It’s happening. My Oh My!

We have most everything packed. Yesterday we concentrated on the bedrooms and the upstairs closets. “Gee, should I leave this out to wear now, pack it in the 3-month box, or pack it in the 12 month box?” Today we’re back in the basement to do the Christmas stuff and Valerie’s side of the shop (it’s about ½ done already). I also need to clear a path for the piano.

Tomorrow (Friday) won’t see much packing. I’ll be attending the dedication ceremony for the Red Cross supply building in Burien and Valerie will walk dogs at Homeward Pets. It’ll be good to take a break as we’ve been at it for two weeks. Saturday we’ll finish up and we have until Sunday at noon to pack the final boxes. I imagine we’ll be throwing odds-n-ends in the truck after the movers leave late Sunday afternoon until ABF comes to pick it up on Monday.

P.S. I’ve contacted Allied and United Moving to come by in mid-May to give us quotes to move the rest of our stuff. It’s all furniture, wall art, and object art that is big and/or bulky to pack. It’s pricey, too, relative to what we have in boxes. They break it, they buy it, so it may be best to have someone else take responsibility for moving it.

Stay tuned…

Comments Off

Apr '09

Briggs & Stratton – There IS no Substitute

Most people brag about how many miles they have on their engine…”Yah, Elmer, I gots o’er 200,000 miles on ol’ Betsy.” “Huh, well, I’ll see yer 200,000 and raise ya ‘nother 77,541 that I have on my pickemup truck.” You know the type. Well, I have a different measurement – how little you can use an engine, abuse it when you do, and have it still keep ticking.

In the summer of 1989, when we were living in Johnson City, we purchased a $99 lawnmower with a 3.5HP Briggs & Stratten engine. We used it for three summers to mow the little patch of grass we had next to the house. We moved it out here in 1992 and kept it in storage while we lived in an apartment. (I don’t remember ever draining or changing the oil). In 1994 we bought our house here in Woodinville and used the mower for one summer to mow about 1/4 acre of grass. Then our neighbor, Tom, took over using his mower until he graduated high school, then his sister Michelle, then our other neighbor Ben, then his brother Matt. Finally, last year we ran out of industrious highschoolers and hired a landscape firm to mow the lawn (since we knew we would be selling and wanted the yard to look good). All the while, our little mower sat in the crawlspace.

Somewhere in there, about 10  years ago, I attempted to use the mower to cut the grass on our hillside. Now, our hillside is VERY steep so I rigged up some long ropes that I could use to lower the mower down the hill and reel it back up (kind of fly-by-wire). With all the rocks, roots, and mountain beaver holes, that operation didn’t go so smoothly and the mower rolled over (while running) multiple times. When it did, the oil would run into the air filter, the gas would pour out of the vent holes, and the mower would cough and bellow massive amounts of blue smoke that I’m sure could be seen at the fire station down the street. Then it would stall and I’d drag it back up the hill, flip it over, give the cord a pull, and down, again, it would go. Eventually I gave up, resorted to using the weed wacker, and parked the mower back in our crawlspace where it has sat, untouched, since.  (I don’t remember ever draining or changing the oil).

Fast forward to today, almost 20 years since we bought it and at least 10 years since it was started. I’m saying to myself, “I don’t want to buy a mower in Asheville to use for only one, maybe two summers, at our Campbell address. Our Vance Gap lot won’t have any grass. I’ll just take our old mower with us, use it, then sell it.”

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way that thing will start. It needs to be stripped down, degunked, and rebuilt. Well, you would be wrong! I drug it out of the crawl space, dusted it off, checked the oil and added a bit, saw that the gas remnants were about as thick as turpentine so added a 1/2 tank of fresh gas and sloshed it around. I stood back to admire this fine “Made in America” piece of engineering and gave the cord a pull.

It turned over. That was good – it wasn’t frozen. I noticed that I had the lever in the Slow position, not the Start position, so I flipped it over and gave the cord another pull. Cough, Cough. Hmmm. Potential. On pull #3, it gasped, hesitated, gasped again, then roared to life sputtering like a 20 year old mower that hadn’t been serviced – ever. Tears began to well up in my eyes – not because of joy, but because of the blue smoke that had completely encased me, the deck, the yard, and some of the house. But, it lived! And, the longer it ran, the less smoke it spewed and the better it sounded. I clamped the safety bar so that it would run unattended (go ahead, call OSHA) and parked it next to a landscape timber to keep it from running away.  15 minutes later it was still running, puring actually, with no smoke. After 30 minutes it finally stopped when it ran out of gas – and yes, I started it again to make sure that really was the reason and not that the engine had seized.

So I pushed it up to the garage, sponged out the last remaining drops of gas, removed the handle, and wiped it all down. It’ll be ready to mow our Campbell house’s lawn later this summer after it moves 2700+ miles back from where it came. 

All this begs the question…should I change the oil or should I just leave well enough alone? After all, it’s made it this long…why mess with a good thing?

Apr '09


Today I took a break from packing – but it was a necessary break. We’re packing the smoker in the trailer next Sunday so we decided that we needed to make use of it before it left town. Yesterday we bought eight chicken breasts, a bunch of ground meat, and two briskets. Today, and tomorrow, I’m smoking all of it so that we can enjoy smoked meats for the next couple months. Valerie mixed up the rubs and made some sausage patties, too. From noon until about 6:00pm the neighborhood was wafted with the sweet smell of apple smoke over chicken breasts and hamburger and pork patties (yes we make awesome smoked burgers!). Tomorrow I do the horseradish briskets. Mmmmmm!

Comments Off

Apr '09

Elevator 1, Kitchen Seat 0

Our lot on Vance Gap is on a steep hillside. To make our future house work we needed it to be three stories – master suite on the top level, kitchen/dining/living on the main level, and two bedrooms and the game room below. Since we plan to “age” in this house (as well as having “aging” parents visit) we have allocated space for an elevator. We aren’t putting in the elevator, just framing in the 3-story shaft. When we eventually need an elevator we can have one installed. For now there will be three large closets.

Until last week, our architect has held a placeholder space in the plans for the shaft. The dimensions were “typical.” Well, last week he discussed the details of our design with the folks at Asheville Elevator and it turns out that for our 3-story elevator we’ll need more space.

When Steve first drew our kitchen he threw in a bench seat along the back wall (between the elevator and the oven). We had never thought of such a thing but it’s one of his trademarks and he said people love them because someone can sit in the kitchen and watch the cook, cook. We weren’t sure about it, but it grew on us and we decided to keep it. Well…with the expansion of the elevator shaft, the seat is now too small to be practical so it’s going going gone. Valerie will work on her kitchen design this weekend but that area will most likely become counter space for a coffee/beverage nook. That’s okay, we wanted such an area but it was an interesting progression from never thinking of a kitchen seat, to seeing it, to thinking it’s kind of cool, to making it part of the plan, and then losing it. Oh, well, such is house design. Now you’ll be able to make coffee and sit at the bar, instead.

Comments Off

Apr '09

Windows – and not the MSFT kind

I haven’t discussed our house design much but some of that is coming later this week or early next week when we get a bunch more stuff from our architect, Steve. Also I’ll post some info on how we’re going to approach our contract with a builder. But for now…the issue of the day is casement, double hung, slider, or awning?

We had initially ruled our casement (that’s the kind with two latches and the crank) because of the crank, the fact that your open window is open to the elements, and that the breeze won’t come in if your window is pointed the “wrong” way. But, they are very energy efficient and they have another plus that I’ll mention in a minute.

We decided to go with double hung (two panes, top and bottom, and each pane slides up or down). They look good, especially with muntins in the top window and don’t have the problems that casement have…but we discovered a problem that we can’t live with – one of those little things you think about when designing a house that Joe the Building completely overlooks.

The back of the house is all about the view. We’re going to have 9′ ceilings and 6′ high windows so that you’ll be able to stand and look out a massive wall of glass. With double hungs the rail between the two panes is half way up the window. So…if the bottom of the window is at 24″ + 36″ for half the window height, the dividing rail will be at 60″ or 5′. Anyone between 5′-6″ and 6′-0″ tall standing just back from the windows and looking out and down would look right into the rail.

Since the view is the most important thing, we are switching to casement for the back of the house and will go with double hung in the rest of the house, except for some awnings in the stairwell and maybe the master bathroom.

And the reason we aren’t doing sliders (as we have in our Woodinville house) – they supposedly are terribly energy inefficient and our architect says that they just “scream 1970′s”.

Comments Off

Apr '09

99 Boxes of Stuff on the Wall

Today Valerie packed box #99 (glass casserole dishes). She also packed three “Open Me First” boxes that contain Excedrin, toilet paper, and sheets – among other essentials. I spent the day finishing up the basement game room. Tomorrow I hit the workbench and tools.

I’m able to do the tools now because yesterday I replaced the rotted siding and, hopefully, will no longer need the table saw, circular saw, or jig saw. No more work on this house! DONE! I think I can pack all my tools except for minimal basics – screwdrivers, paint brushes, spackling knife, etc.

One issue we need to decide on…we have a cracked slider window in the Living Room courtesy of a wayward rock thrown from a lawnmower years ago . The way it’s manufactured the glass can’t be replaced, you need to replace the entire slider. The estimate we got yesterday was $450! Ouch. Then it would need to be primed and painted. Our Realtors think we should just let that go, see if the buyer’s inspector catches it, if they care, and then maybe negotiate for repair. Sounds like a plan.

We met with our potential agents yesterday. Sales are slow but interest is picking up – the phones are ringing and people are looking. They seem optimistic that we can sell for a good price. We’ll see.

Comments Off

Apr '09

65 Boxes and Counting

We’ve packed 65 boxes so far. Looking around I’m scared to think how many we’ll eventually have. 300 maybe? There’s a line in Jimmy Buffet’s song, One Particular Harbor:

But now times are rough
And I got too much stuff
I can't explain the likes of me

The ABF truck arrives two weeks from today. We have lots of packing to go.

Meanwhile…the house inspector report came yesterday and I have a few little jobs to do. There are a couple places where the mulch around the house has been touching the siding and the siding has rotted. I need to get some new siding, tear off the old stuff, and replace and paint the new. A woodpecker has apparently been pecking at one of our deck post tops and made a nice hole that needs repairs. And, there are three outlets that should be GFCI that aren’t (two have always been that way and the other is new code but for $6 I’ll fix it). That’s all probably a day of work but needs to be done before May 1 so I can then pack my tools.  We also have two windows that need replaced in our bedroom because broken seals have let moisture in and etched the inside of the glass and there’s a broken slider window in the Living room. Those will be $$$ but I won’t have to do the work.

And…we should be getting a package from Steve, our architect, tomorrow with lots of stuff – CAD drawings, exterior perspective sketches,  interior views, etc. We’ll need to review all that over the next week.  

Valerie’s ready to start construction NOW. She said so.

Comments Off

Apr '09

I’ve Been VETOED!

Okay okay, enough already. I give. I surrender. You win. Game over.

My original plan has been nixed. My dreams (nightmares) of driving cross country are over. Valerie’s mother told Valerie to forbid me to drive – apparently there was some recent Inside Edition story about the poor safety of U-Haul trucks and trailers. Valerie said that she loved me and didn’t want me to do it. My Dad, my co-driver, who was initially excited about the prospect changed his mind and told me to “seriously seriously” reconsider my plan. So, alas, I spent the morning undoing and redoing reservations for Phase I of the move.

Plan B for Phase I is now to contract with ABF U-Pack Trucking to drop a 28′ trailer at our house, we load it and they drive it to Asheville where we meet them to unload. It’s more $$ and not as easy to load (4′ high vs. 2′) and involves coordinating non-optimal flights and driving between Pittsburgh and Asheville – but I’m whining.

Here’s the new plan/schedule:

Fri, May 1  Dedication for Red Cross storage building at 11:00
Fri, May 1  Trailer gets delivered to our house between 4:00 and 8:00pm
Sat, May 2  Piano movers get our player piano from the basement into the trailer
Sun, May 3  Movers load the trailer (21' is reserved but we can fill all 28' if necessary)
Mon, May 4  Truck picks up trailer
Tue - Mon   Five business days to transport
Fri, May 8  Ron flies SEA to PIT and spends two nights in Edinburg
Sun, May 10 Ron and his Dad drive 9 hours from Edinburg to Asheville; stay in hotel
Mon, May 11 Truck/Trailer arrive (hopefully, cause it's not guaranteed)
Tue, May 12 Unload trailer
Wed - Thu   Unpack some
Fri, May 15 Drive from Asheville to PIT, drop off Ron at airport, Dad drives home

We’ll save the cross-country driving for July when Valerie and I co-drive the Jeep towing a trailer with KeeKee and Serena in the back seat.

P.S. I became a believer after Valerie showed me these videos of people abusing their U-Hauls.

     Burnout in a U-Haul    Dirt Whomping a U-Haul    Donuts in a U-Haul    Hoppin’ a U-Haul    Figure-8 U-Haul

Makes you want to get in one and drive it 2700 miles at 70mph, doesn’t it????

Apr '09

Rockin’ Down the Highway

Valerie was not too keen on me driving alone cross-country in a 26′ U-Haul towing a pickup truck so…I needed to find a driving partner….Dad!  He volunteered to co-drive with me – which will actually cut a day off the trip because we can drive for a couple more hours per day.


So, here’s the tentative plan:

Sun, May 3    Get rental truck
Mon, May 4    Pack truck (with professional help); Dad arrives at SEA late
Tue, May 5    Final packing; Rest
Wed - Sat     Drive from Seattle to Asheville (4 days, 3 nights)
Sun, May 10   Recuperate; Clean house
Mon, May 11   Unpack truck (with professional help)
Tue, May 12   Sightsee; Meet with architect; Get rental car
Wed, May 13   Drive to PIT; drop Ron and rental car at PIT; Dad hitches a ride to Edinburg

An appropriate (?) tune: Rockin’ Down the Highway (by the Doobie Brothers)

Got those highway blues, cant you hear my motor runnin
Flyin down the road with my foot on the floor
All the way in town they can hear me comin
Fords about to drop, she wont do no more
And I smell my motor burnin
Underneath the hood is smoke
Can’t stop, and I can’t stop
Got to keep on movin or I’ll lose my mind

Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway

The highway patrol got his eyes on me
I know what he’s thinkin and it ain’t good
I’m movin so fast he can barely see me
Gonna lose that man, I know I should
I gotta kick in my pedal
Make my ford move a little bit faster
Can’t stop, and I can’t stop
Got to keep on movin’ or I’ll lose my mind

Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway
Oh, rockin down the highway

Comments Off

Apr '09

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours

At 5:00pm EDT we became the proud owners of 23 Campbell Circle, Asheville, NC 28803…including, unexpectedly but pleasantly, a washer, dryer, refrigerator, and empty keg labeled “Miller Brewing Company.” Shelle did the walk through and there were no water leaks (see below) so she turned off the water, turned off the breaker to the water heater, set the heat to 50°, and “left the yard light on for ya.”

Ron spent yesterday building a phone booth in the cavity where the antique phone booth lived. It should be completed this weekend and it will look almost like the real thing – except for not having a door. Valerie’s packing, starting with the books. She’s up to 11 boxes! The pickup has been relegated to the driveway to make room in the garage for the moving boxes and the yard sale stuff. Valerie’s going to organize a Belridge neighborhood yard sale to be held the first weekend in June, the same weekend as the massive annual English Hill sale.

The tentative dates for Ron’s cross-country-24′-U-Haul-towing-a-pickup-excursion are May 6-14. We’ll load May 3-5, drive May 6-10, unload on the 11th, then clean and unpack some May 12-13, and fly back on the 14th. Valerie’s not too keen on the idea of Ron solo driving cross country but it’s gotta be done. Ron’s parents will drive to Asheville from PA on the 10th (to offer moral support and some elbows for cleaning) and we’ll get a couple local “big guys” to help unload. This load will be non-essentials (stuff we won’t need for a year) and short-term household supplies (stuff we’ll need to live in Asheville until our Woodinville house sells.) It’ll also have all of our houseplants. The goal is to take at least 51% so that the rest fits in one more truck load. That’s the goal…

Comments Off

Apr '09

Water’s off, Power’s off, Thermostat is set to 50°

What’s wrong with that statement? That’s what the seller’s realtor told our realtor this morning.  Uh, how is the furnace supposed to work if the power is off? And…didn’t the renters move out on March 10? And…hasn’t it been below freezing since then? And… isn’t it forecast to go down to 27° tonight and 31° tomorrow night? Duh.

I signed up for electricity today and it will be turned on Wednesday. Tomorrow I’ll sign up for water/sewer but now we need to orchestrate getting the main valve turned off, the water turned on at the street, and then Shelle to be there to turn on the main valve and check for leaks due to (potentially) broken pipes. Hopefully all will be okay. If not, we won’t be closing on Thursday and the seller will have some repairs to do. Argh.

Thursday is the big day – closing. We should hear from the closing attorney tomorrow or Wednesday what the balance is and then wire the money for payment.  Thursday at 5:00pm EDT we’ll own a house in Asheville.

We started packing today. Valerie is hitting the books and I pulled out the phone booth. When I installed it I knew it was tight (less than ½” of gap) so it was a bit of a challenge for us to grip and pull out that 200lb+ 7′ x 3′ mahogany box out of the hole without scratching the hardwood floor underneath. A 4″ putty knife and a thin towel helped a lot. What did we find when we got it out? Seven dead mice and a newspaper that I stashed in there in June of 1999. It’s pretty bad when you’re digging up your own time capsules. I’m going to put in a current paper when I rebuild the “fake” phone booth. Someone will scratch their head when they open it someday and find two newspapers ten years apart.

Comments Off

Apr '09


We’ve been in Maui for 10 days celebrating our 20th anniversary and taking a break from reality. Check out our pictures at

Comments Off