Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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May '09

Jay Leno and 17 Years

What do we have in common with Jay Leno? Jay took over the Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in May of 1992, the same month we moved out here to Seattle. Jay’s now leaving the show after 17 years to strike out and try something new. With a little luck, in a couple months, we’ll be moving to Asheville to do the same. It just doesn’t seem that long ago.

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May '09

Dive, Dive, Dive…

I am long past believing that our house is still worth what it was two years ago, or even that it was really worth that much two years ago. 2007-2008 was the funny money era and if you timed it right and were able to sell out then, good for you. But, we’ve been discussing pricing with our likely Realtors® and I’m starting to feel sick. Let’s just say that even in today’s market I think our house is worth more than they think it is. Yesterday they stopped by (on their Harley) to drop off some recent sales info for our area. The bottom line is that I think their data supports my thinking that our house is worth more.

They’re coming at it from the standpoint that if we want to sell then we need to price it right, that we need to sell in 60 days or less. If we don’t, then we priced it too high. Potential buyers don’t come back to take a second look unless you drastically reduce your price. Even then, you tip your hand and show them you’re desperate and they then try to negotiate even lower. They tell me that our 1300sf finished basement is a plus but, in the same breath, say that we don’t get “full value” compared with the rest of the house. That means that if the going price is about $200/sf for primary living space (kitchen, living, bath, etc) then the finished basement is less than that, say $100/sf. Average the two and we’re at maybe $175/sf for the whole house – even though other houses nearby have recently sold for $200/sf and up. Nothing is less than $200/sf. Then you take into account that no one, in this market, expects to pay the full listing price and we’re even lower than $175/sf. That can’t be. We’ve remodeled and refreshed this entire house. It’s spotless and in perfect condition. It’s not our neighbors’ house.

(Okay, okay, I know that some of you in other parts of the country are coughing out your morning coffee at $175/sf but this is Seattle, not Edinburg.)

So…we need to do more research. We need to think more about price. We can’t set it so high that nobody comes to look at it. We can’t set it so low that we give it away. We’ll spend the next 2½ weeks cleaning and prepping and hope that we can make this all work out. 

P.S. Bet you didn’t know that the word Realtor® is a registered trademark and is supposed to be capitalized and have the ® symbol after it. Yeesh.

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May '09

Sodium Hypochlorite and Sodium Hydroxide

We are in full-fledged house prepping mode trying to get this place spic-n-span for going on the market June 12. On Monday we had someone clean all our windows inside and out, pressure wash the driveway, and blow the loose debris from our roof. Valerie is re-working the front beds and picked up hanging baskets for around the deck. On Thursday I pressure washed the deck, sidewalk, gutters, and front of the house.

We have three levels of deck. Many years ago we had vinyl put on the top level to keep the lower levels dry. It works great but all the dirt, pollen, and tree sap lays on it, cooks in the sun, and becomes semi-permanently attached to it. Over the years I’ve pressure washed it with our budget sprayer. It worked okay, but didn’t remove all the grime. Last year I rented a high-pressure sprayer and used Simple Green. It worked better but still didn’t take everything off. This year we needed to get it really clean in preparation to sell and Luis recommended a product he bought from Costco—a 2.5g jug of Thompson’s Heavy Duty Deck Cleaner.  This stuff sprays on with a tank sprayer (I did keep one behind just for this purpose), you wait 10 minutes, then hose it off. You’re also supposed to wet down any plants or lawn that might get sprayed prior to using it. Hmmm, wonder why?

I twist off the cap from the jug and am immediately hit with the smell of strong bleach. I decide to go change into my “paint” clothes and rain pants as as I envision white dots being bleached into the jeans I was wearing. I fill up the sprayer, pump it up, and start spraying. Within seconds a white fog starts rising from the deck and I understood why the warning label says “for exterior use only.” Then, before my eyes, the black gunk starts to turn brown, then yellow, then it almost disappears. I cover about 25sf and wait ten minutes. I hit it with the sprayer and the vinyl reveals itself for the first time in many years. This is good stuff! I continue cleaning the rest of the deck. I do learn that the cleaner works best being applied to a dry surface. Once I get some of the deck wet, if I spray on the cleaner it seems to become too diluted to work well. So, it takes me a couple hours to get the job done because I need to periodically broom off areas and wait for them to dry. But, the results are fantastic. The sap blobs still remain and I’m looking for something to dissolve them (I’ve tried WD40, alcohol, and turpentine) but the deck is darn clean, clean enough to show.

So, what’s in this deck cleaner? The label says: Sodium Hypochlorite, Sodium Hydroxide, and a surfactant. Translated, that’s bleach, lye, and a wetting agent to make it spread out and stick to the surface.  Sometimes you just need chemicals.

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May '09

Rest in Peace, KeeKee

Today we put our cat KeeKee to sleep. She was only 12 but last week, while I was in Pennsylvania, Valerie took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with cancer in one of her kidneys that had spread to her lungs. She had been slowing down over the last few weeks, coming downstairs less and less, and eventually spending nearly all of her time on our bed. She was under 5lbs and was hardly eating. She was obviously in pain and very uncomfortable. It was time to let her go. We miss her dearly and it feels really strange to not have a cat in the house (Jessie passed away last October). We know it was the best thing for her. Rest in peace, KeeKee.

KeeKee Dee

May '09

Driving the Wrong Way on I-26

Last night we got a rental car at the airport to drive to PIT since we’re leaving Dad’s pickup here for visits. We did a walk-around of the house and tidied up a bit. Dad also stapled black plastic over the basement windows so people couldn’t look in and see all the boxes. We hit the bed around 10:00pm, were up at 5:00am, and were A.I.S. (Ass in Seat) in the rental car by 6:00.  Figure 8 hours to the Pittsburgh airport, maybe get lunch, allow for unknowns, and I should be safe making my 4:20pm flight.

About an hour north of Asheville, just south of Johnson City, TN, on I-26 we see cars stopped ahead of us and there’s a guy in a hardhat and yellow vest waving his arms for us to slow down. Soon we’re at a stop with a couple dozen cars in front of us. No one’s moving and people are starting to get out of their cars and walk ahead to see what’s going on. Dad joins them and comes back a several minutes later with news that there’s a roll-over tractor-trailer blocking both lanes. We sit, pondering our arrival time in PIT, and we hear, then see, a life-flight helicopter coming in. This is going to be a while.

A couple cars ahead on the right, Mr. Ensure, in his top-down convertable Miata, starts to jockey out of line and onto the shoulder. He then proceeds to back up and soon is around the bend and out of site behind us . Hmmm. We’re boxed in the left lane but I can see only a few cars behind me. They must have closed the highway soon after we arrived. Dad talks to the guy beside us. He’s in a hurry, too, and together we decide to follow the Miata’s lead. With a hole now beside me I jockey out to the berm, Dad jumps in, and we start backing down the highway. We see exit signs on the other side and know it’s probably a mile or so to the exit. We’re doing about 30mph in reverse but within a few seconds two pickup trucks start heading towards us, driving (not backing) the wrong way, one in each lane. Picture the scene. After they pass, I figure what the heck, do a U-ie, and follow them. You hear stories about tragic accidents when drunk drivers get on the freeway going the wrong way. Well, try doing it sober! Weird feeling. Within a minute we are at the exit. We head down the entrance ramp (no one coming and it wasn’t blocked off!) and we turn onto the side road. Now…Valerie and I used to live in this neck of the woods. I know that I-26 is new and that the old, original, 2-lane is still there and runs parallel to the highway. We make a left, drive about 10 minutes to the next entrance onto I-26 and are soon back on our way. Total delay, a little over 30 minutes.

With a quick stop for gas, grab-n-go lunch, and a fill-up before turning in the rental car we walk in the airport at 3:00. Not bad. Mom, Ruth, and Dave are coming at 3:30 to pick up Dad. We say goodbye and I say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and I’m off to security. Mom calls about 3:45 to tell me that they found Dad and that they’re on their way home.

I fly to Vegas, have a long layover, and eventually get home, to bed, at 1:00am — that’s 4:00am east coast time, 23 hours from when I started.

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May '09

The Asheville Tourists

Yesterday and today are a bit of a blur. We unpacked a few boxes but left most sealed as there was nothing in them that we needed. The neighbors came by—Gwendolyn and her two kids next door, Lee and Megan and their two kids across the street, and Sophia (70-ish widow) next to them. Dad hit it off with Sophia! She claims to be the cul-de-sac watchdog and told us not to worry about our house and the stuff inside. I believe her! We didn’t meet the 80-ish widow next door on the other side but were told by all three neighbors (in a hushed whisper) that she doesn’t spend much time at the house, that she has a boyfriend in the subdivision that she stays with most of the time. Small neighborhood.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we had lunch at 12 Bones with Shelle and later went to a Tourists game. Yep, that’s right, the minor league baseball team in Asheville is call the “Tourists.” So appropriate you gotta love it. The great thing is that Wednesdays are “Senior Nights” and all seniors get in for free. They also get 20% of merchandise. So, we walked up and got two box seats, five rows behind the home team dugout, for just the price of my ticket—$10. Thursday nights are “Thirsty Thursdays” and all draft beers, even microbrews, are $1. Cool town.

Dad enjoying the game  Ted E. the Tourists' Mascot

Today we woke up to a problem. There was water in the basement. Argh. It rained overnight and although there is a recently installed fancy perimeter drain around the basement walls, water was coming up through the concrete under the stairs and running into the center of the house and garage. Lovely. Luckily we moved our ladders so Dad and I checked out the gutters. They were all clogged with pine needles, but not enough that I was sure that was the problem. I cleaned them out and then poured a 5-gallon bucket of water on the roof to wash out the last bits of debris. Lo and behold much of the water ran behind the gutter and straight down to the ground rather than into the gutter. On closer inspection I saw that the shingles did not extend over the gutter, just up to it. Doh! This has probably been going on for years (since the roof was reshingled in 2005) and the water problem and the need for the fancy drainage system may have been due to this. We formulated a plan to buy and install flashing up under the shingles to create a 1-2″ extension/lip over the gutter. This afternoon we installed it and all the water poured from a 5-gallon bucket now runs into the gutter. Fingers crossed, this has fixed the water problem. Time will tell.

This afternoon, between buying the supplies for the gutter repair and installing them, I met for four hours with Steve, our architect. He had several pages of questions. Luckily Valerie and I had already discussed most of the topics and I was able to answer for both of us but there were several that we need to think about and get back to Steve next week. We are getting close to submitting to builders for bids. If we nail down some details that could happen in two weeks. They then have three weeks to respond. Steve continues to say that now is the time to build. Contractors, even the good ones, are hungry and willing to deal on price. Hope so!

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May '09

“Why do you need the circular saw?”

At 8:30am, Robert and Eric arrived to help unload. Valerie’s system for ID-ing the boxes made it easy to know what went where. Pink was long-term storage and green was short term. We put plastic down on the basement floor so the phrase of the day became “Pink Plastic” meaning “Put boxes with pink labels on the plastic in the basement.” Everything else (green) went upstairs. Box-by-box we made progress until we got to…the piano.

Movers and Shakers

First thing in the morning I had rented a piano dolly. It was this weird contraption consisting of two carts, each meant to go on an end of the piano and be connected together by four straps. When everything is laced together you step on a lever on each cart and they lift (in theory) the piano. There were a few problems. One, the dolly wheels weren’t much larger than the piano’s wheels and the ramp was corrugated metal with holes about the size of the wheels. Two, we couldn’t figure out how to fasten the straps to the carts so we simply tied them together. Three, when we stepped on the cart levers, the carts would squirt out from under the piano. We experimented for at least 30 minutes trying to get this Rube Goldberg device together. At one point I called Valerie to ask which box contained the circular saw (hence the title of this entry) so we could cut wood to put on the ramp. All the time we knew in the back of our minds that what we were attempting was totally unsafe to carry the 800lb piano from the trailer to the ground. Eventually testosterone won out and we decided to give it a try anyway. We stepped on the cart levers to lift the piano and found that one of the carts was broken—only one side would lift. The lifting mechanism had popped a large rivet and was missing a nut. We don’t know if the cart came that way or if our piano was too heavy. After dismantling everything, I went back to the rental store for Plan B.

It's Outta There!

They only had the one piano dolly (that was probably a good thing) so I decided to get two flat carts and extra straps. The flat carts had large rubber wheels, they would fit under the piano, and the straps would go up and around to hold the piano to the carts. After multiple piano lifts, tilts, and shoves we were ready to roll. Now thinking about safety, to hopefully slow things down, we also put some scrap carpet on the ramp and tied Dad’s 20′ tow strap around the piano and around Robert’s waist. Robert, leaning back, would keep the piano from running away. Anyone witnessing this circus would say, “Someone’s going to get hurt,” but in less than a minute after we all semi-enthusiastically said, “Let’s go for it!” the piano was down the ramp and safely into the garage. We had all our fingers and toes and no broken bones.

In just 3½ hours (the same amount of time it took to load the trailer) we had all 8,512 pounds moved into the house.

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May '09

“Hey, We’re ABF”

Last night the trailer arrived in Dayton. I figured that we would get up in the morning and “race it” to Asheville. But, I get up this morning at 6am and I’m surprised to find out that:


That would be 8:53 AM! It traveled overnight! It’ll be there in 3 hours!

So, Dad and I jump in the pickup at 7:00 and drive to Asheville. For those of you tracking at home…that would be PA-60 to I-79 to WV-19 (lotsa lights) to I-77 to I-81 to I-26 to Asheville.  530 miles door-to-door. 9 hours. 2 pee breaks (1 doubled as a grab-n-go food break). Arrive at 4:00pm. 

During the trip ABF calls me to say the trailer is on the way and ask when I would like it delivered? I look at the odometer, the map, and my watch and tell them I’d like it after 4:00. Later, when we’re sure we’ll be there on time, I have Valerie call them and confirm delivery. Sure enough, less than an hour after we arrive at the house an ABF truck with trailer #87001 pulls up to the driveway. I chat with the driver and tell him that I didn’t think they would make it on schedule, that the trailer was delayed for two days in Oregon and was in Dayton just last night. He looks at me and says (in his thick southern drawl), “Hey, We’re ABF.”

     'YOUR SHIPMENT WAS DELIVERED ON 05/11/09 1709.'

After the trailer was dropped off Dad and I went out to eat dinner at Frankie Bones. We were starving and this place was just around the corner. Dad had eggplant Parmesan and I had spaghetti and meatballs. It was okay, nothing special, but overpriced for what it was. No matter, we left full and ready to tackle pulling the essentials out of the trailer.

The Big Reveal

What would we find when we removed the bulkhead? I remembered that the front of the truck was packed high and tight but between the 16′ and 19′ marks the objects and boxes started becoming odd sizes and we resorted to using lots of ropes and creative stacking to hold it together. My Barcalounger, the lawnmower, workbench, misc chairs, and plants were all piled low and loose. I expected the worse but the big reveal was uneventful. We released the wall and pulled it away and everything was exactly where it was placed 7 days and 3000+ miles ago. The plants were even in great shape having weathered a 7-day night and who-knows-what temperature extremes.

We unloaded the plants, the mattress and box springs, and the three “open me first” boxes in which Valerie packed the essentials such as toilet paper, sheets, coffee, and a hammer. Shortly after, we crashed until morning, Dad on the regular mattress on the floor and me on the feather bed on top of the blow-up mattress.

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May '09

Mother’s Day in Edinburg

The trailer is now on its way to South Chicago:

     (WITH AN ETA OF 05/10 AT 02:26) LOADED TO DAYTON, OH.'

Assuming that it will arrive there on schedule, leave in the morning for Dayton and then continue on to Asheville Sunday night or Monday there’s no way it will be delivered to our house on Monday. We’ll postpone our drive until Monday morning and spend Mother’s Day in Edinburg.

11:00am Update:

     (WITH AN ETA OF 05/10 AT 17:00) LOADED TO DAYTON, OH.'

6:00pm Update:


Okay, that’s nice, but when will it be “ready for dispatch” to Asheville…?

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May '09

I Just Flew in from Seattle and Boy are My Arms Tired

It was an uneventful, ontime, flight from Seattle to Pittsburgh—but it was on Southwest Airlines so that’s not unexpected. Oh, I hope they start flying to Greenville-Spartanburg.

I get to the security line in Seattle with a 36″ cardboard tube made out of a bright red cut-up box…

   TSA Agent #1: “What’s in the tube?”
   Ron: “A doily…that my mother made.”
   TSA Agent #1: “What’s a doily?”
   TSA Agent #2: “It’s a fancy thing that you put on a table.”
   TSA Agent #1: “Okay. You can go.”

I feel safer. Do you?     

I was pondering delaying our drive to Asheville from Sunday to Monday but I got up this morning and the trailer is on the move again. 

     (WITH AN ETA OF 05/09 AT 14:53) LOADED TO DAYTON, OH.'

I think it can still make it to Asheville on Monday and be dropped at the house on Tuesday. Whether it continues on to Dayton, tonight, will be the indicator. Fingers crossed.

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May '09

Plane/Car vs. Truck

I’m leaving this afternoon to meet up with the trailer of our stuff. I’ll be flying to PIT and my parents will be picking me up. I’ll stay with them Friday and Saturday nights then my Dad and I will drive to Asheville on Sunday.  All the while, the trailer will be moving across the country with a scheduled ETA in Asheville of Monday. Given the delay in Oregon, I’m thinking we won’t see the trailer until Tuesday. That’s okay as that’s when I have the moving help scheduled and that’ll give us Monday to prepare for its arrival and do a bit of sightseeing. We’ll have to decide if Monday night will be spent in a hotel or if we’ll “camp” in the house.

Current status of the trailer as of 7:00am today:

      (WITH AN ETA OF 05/08 AT 16:32) LOADED TO DAYTON, OH.'

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May '09

Has Anyone Seen ABF Trailer #87001?

Our ABF Trailer was picked up Monday at 10:30am bound for Everett, WA. Later that day it was dispatched to Portland, OR. On Tuesday, it went to Ontario, OR (on the very eastern edge of the state). But, all day Wednesday and so far this morning, the tracking info says:


I hope that it’s still not sitting in Oregon and truly is on its way to Ohio. Maybe someone just missed scanning it. Otherwise, it won’t be in Asheville by Monday and my Dad and I will be staying an extra night or two or three at the Howard Johnson’s.

10:00am UPDATE:  The trailer is still sitting in Ontario, OR. I called the ABF terminal in Asheville and he had no more information than I could see online so I looked up the number for the ABF terminal in Ontario, OR, and talked to the dispatcher. He said they had a backlog of freight and no drivers so the trailer has been sitting. He said it should leave by midnight tonight and, although he won’t promise, he felt it would still get to Asheville on Monday and I could schedule a Tuesday morning delivery to the house. He said they run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He said to check back tomorrow morning to get a better idea if it would make it. Argh. If I was driving the U-Haul I would know exactly where it was because I’d be sitting in it. But…I was vetoed.

 9:00pm UPDATE:  It’s on the move!

      (WITH AN ETA OF 05/08 AT 03:58) LOADED TO DAYTON, OH.'
May '09

Nineteen Feet, 204 Boxes, and More…

Nineteen feet. That’s how much of the 28′ trailer we used. I had reserved 21′. There were 204 boxes and about a dozen miscellaneous unlabeled items.

Saturday and Sunday were a blur. Valerie pulled an almost all-nighter Saturday night to pack her shop. She finished up around 4:30am and went to bed. I fell asleep at 11:00 and got up at 4:00am to continue packing. As soon as the sun came up I strapped down the piano and moved the ladders and workbench from the crawlspace. Valerie woke at 9:00 and packed the last few boxes. I started loading boxes into the trailer. Valerie asked me “Why?” and I replied, “Because I can.” Somewhere in there I made a trip to the grocery store for snacks and drinks – and a coffee, too.

The three loaders from Rob & Son’s Moving Labor arrived at noon and after a quick walk-around to see what was being loaded, they started right at it. I was in the trailer and they were shuttling boxes.

Half-done   "Open Me First" Boxes

Three hours later the truck was packed to 18′ and I called it a day for them. Valerie picked up pizza and we all took a break. They left at 3:30 and we walked the house to find light stuff to fill in the holes. We also threw in the mower (see the Apr 27 post), the weed wacker, several house plants, and buckets of rocks (ask Valerie about those). I collapsed with a Corona into my Barcalounger. Then we put in the wall and closed ‘er up. Nineteen feet (one thousand three hundred sixty eight cubic feet) of stuff. The scary thing is, the inside of the house doesn’t look any different.

Ron in his Barcalounger      That's it, that's all

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May '09

The Player Piano has Left the Building

Brains and the right tools win over brawn. These three guys (two of them pretty darn skinny) from A-1 Piano Moving had our 800lb player piano out of the basement and into the trailer in 30 minutes. The tough part was at the top of the deck stairs and they needed me to help get it over the last step and onto the platform. To get it into the trailer they didn’t even use its ramp. Their truck has a lift gate. They put the piano on the lift, backed it up close to the ABF trailer, bridged the gap with a board (which I thought was way too narrow) and shuttled it over. No injuries. No collapsed deck. No damage to the piano. Done. To unload it, if we have a furniture dolly and some straps, we should be able to get it down the ramp and into the garage. Mr. Gravity will help – as long as he doesn’t help too much.

Half way there...     Serena and Ron

Valerie’s getting close to finishing packing. All that’s really left is her side of the shop.

Valerie taking it all in stride

The muscle guys come tomorrow at noon to load up the truck.

May '09

The Trailer Cometh

It’s here! 28′ of empty truck ready to be filled up with our stuff by Monday morning.

Patrick (the driver) waving Hello

Patrick (the driver) waving Hello


Mt. Rainier in the distance

Mt. Rainier in the distance

As an aside…I was on 520 on my way back from the Red Cross supply building dedication this morning when SMACK, something hit the pickup’s windshield. There was no car in front of me but cars were coming towards me in the other lane. Didn’t see it coming. At first I didn’t notice any damage but then I looked towards the bottom of the windshield. Nice. Luckily, Novus says they still stock windshields for 1988 Toyota Pickups and we have a $50 deductible. They’ll come by to replace it next Wednesday. Hope they bring a gasket, too, ’cause I checked and this one is so brittle it crumbles when you pinch it.

Something hit the Pickup Windshield

P.S. All the “stuff” on the windshield is not dirt. It’s tree pollen. This is a really bad spring. You don’t have to be allergic as it’s so thick it cakes in your eyes like it does on your windshield. We had the house windows open today and there’s now a fine layer of yellow pollen on the kitchen counters – and I assume all over the house. Yuck.

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