Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Nov '09

Settling In

We spent lots of yesterday unpacking and shopping for necessities. Dog food, a broom, and beer were high on the list. With what we moved here in May and brought with us in the Jeep we have most everything else we need to live day-to-day. We had a great brunch at Limones, an upscale but informal and inexpensive Mexican restaurant. The food was fantastic and our bill was half what it would have been in Seattle for a similar meal. We also visited our lot and let Serena have some fun playing in the woods. She loved it. It’s like she knows it’s her new future home. She’s also adapted quite well to Camp Bell, although she seems to have claimed the bedroom with the giant featherbed as “her” room.

Today we made a trip to Lowes for 5 gallons of ceiling paint and painting accessories. Tomorrow, Valerie’s going to start trimming the edges of the ceiling in the master bedroom. It’s an ugly job because of the less-than-professional popcorn texture that was sprayed on 35 years ago. She going to scrape off the popcorn that’s stuck in the corners and on the walls to make our later painting of the walls easier. When she’s done I’ll paint the ceiling with a Wagner Power Roller. I splurged on it because I didn’t think there was any other way to paint a popcorn ceiling while staying sane and paint-free. The weather is supposed to be good so while Valerie is working on the ceiling I’ll be outside raking/blowing the thousands of pinecones in our yard. Did I mention that our yard is surrounded by pine trees?

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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Nov '09

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! We have so much to be thankful for, today: Family, friends, good health, safe travels, and much much more. We look at the frustrations and difficulties that we’ve experienced over the last year and THEY ARE NOTHING compared to what others have faced. Valerie and I have been truly blessed and we are especially thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

This holiday season please remember those who, through no fault of their own, have not been so fortunate.

American Heart Association      American Cancer Society      American Red Cross

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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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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.

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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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.

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.

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

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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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…

Nov '09


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).

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!

Nov '09

Fox Glove and Pit Vipers

In the last two days, I’ve had 90 minutes of consultations to get more information on my condition. Yesterday I spent 60 minutes with Dr. Maidan’s cardio nurse and today I had 30 minutes with Dr. Maidan. Bottom line: they’re not concerned. This happens, sometimes, after valve surgery. The heart simply doesn’t squeeze like it should. Yes, I’m technically in heart failure (ejection fraction <35%) but Dr. Maidan said that I’m not the typical heart failure patient. I’m not overweight, my arteries aren’t clogged, I didn’t have a heart attack, I don’t smoke, my physical recovery and activity are fine, etc. etc. He can’t guarantee that my heart will get better, but he feels that no matter what happens that it can be maintained with drugs and, if necessary, a biventricular pacemaker. He thinks we’ll know in three months or so, after another echocardiogram, what the prognosis will be.

foxgloveIn the last six weeks I’ve gone from only taking a daily baby aspirin and a multivitamin to being the proud owner of two, AM and PM, 7-day pill organizer boxes. Yes, I know, most of you are saying “been there, done that” but it’s all new to me. Bah humbug. Interestingly, two of the three drugs I’m on were discovered and derived from natural poisons. Digoxin, used to slow and strengthen the heart beat, comes from the foxglove plant (Dead Man’s Bells, and Witches’ Gloves). And, Lisinopril, a blood pressure medication, comes from the jaraca, a venemous pit viper found in South America. Both of these drugs, plus carvedilol (AKA Coreg), are used to treat heart failure. In trio, they make the heart beat stronger and make it easier for the blood to move around the body. Plus, Valerie has me on fish oil pills, CoQ10, and magnesium—all good for the heart. Better health through pharmaceuticals, eh?

The bottom line is my cardiologist is comfortable with my condition. He thinks it’s manageable and that it might improve but he can’t guarantee anything. I should continue taking my pills and come back for another echocardiogram in a couple months. Oh, and see my surgeon in Spokane for my post-surgery follow-up next week—more on that in tomorrow’s post. Que Sera Sera.

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