Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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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.

Jan '10

Hurry Up And Wait

We keep getting asked, “So, when do you break ground?” Well, probably, February 23. We’ve had a couple permitting wrinkles with the City. Steve, our architect, says that Asheville aspires to be Seattle as far as regulations and red tape go. He keeps apologizing for the delay, but we aren’t fretting it. Compared to Seattle and King County, this is nothing.

One problem is that there is a difference of opinion as to the minimum setback from the street right-of-way to the house. We are “correctly” assuming that it’s 18′ as opposed to the normal 35′. The developer got this reduced setback approved when he built the subdivision because the lots were so steep. Otherwise all the homes would have to be built with very steep driveways and with their garages underneath in the basement. Unfortunately, the City seems to have lost their record of approving this reduced setback. So, we had to ask, again, for the 18′ variance and cited on our application the date that the approval was previously granted. It should be a rubber stamp to get this but the variance committee doesn’t meet until February 22.

The other problem is that there are strict rules for building on steep slopes above 2500′ elevation. A few years back a couple developers and builders clear cut several ridge lines and put in monstrous condos and McMansions that became real eye sores. Recently, there have been a few houses that have slid down the slopes because they weren’t properly engineered. In 2006 the City instituted strict rules for everything from colors to reflectivity to engineering to height. Because of the slope of our lot and because our garage is detached, the garage roof is considered to be too high per the guidelines. So, we need to get a variance and the variance committee doesn’t meet until, drum roll, February 22.

Our architect and builder have met with the powers-that-be and filled out all the appropriate papers and paid all the appropriate bribes fees. We have been assured that everything will be approved, which makes me wonder why we need to go through the all trouble, but, alas, the City has a few more $$ in its coffer and we need to wait until February 22 to get the “formal” okay. No way around it.

In the mean time, we’re waiting on our construction mortgage approval and an okay of our plans from the subdivision developer. The surveyor was out, today, marking the corners of the foundation so we can visualize where the house will eventually sit (and adjust the location as necessary). We can do anything and everything except break ground. February 23, or shortly thereafter, is the day.

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Jan '10

Beer City USA

This weekend we decided to mix some entertainment into our unpacking efforts. For Christmas, Valerie got us tickets to the Asheville Winter Warmer Beer Festival. If you hadn’t heard, little Asheville essentially tied with Portland in a recent non-scientific poll to be named Beer City USA. It was so close they named Asheville the east coast winner and Portland the west coast winner. I think, per capita, Asheville and the western North Carolina area has them beat because we have 11 breweries for 70,000 people and Portland has 28 for 575,000 people. All the local breweries, except for the brand new Lexington Avenue Brewery, were at the Festival. We got to try LOTS of local beers – it was unlimited sampling! Unfortunately, there was no Mac & Jack’s clone, but there were several good ones. Pisgah Brewing has a really nice Pale Ale and an Endless Summer Ale. Thomas Creek Brewery (SC) has a great Red Ale and Amber Ale (they bottle!). And, Valerie really liked the blueberry Insanity from Duck-Rabbit Brewery. There were several not-so-great beers and their notable trademark seemed to be this grapefruit/gin/pine kinda taste. Don’t know why it seems to be common but it must be related to the kind of hops they’re using. There must be people who like it so they’re brewing for that taste. To each his own. We have lots of good microbrews to choose from.

Today we saw another play, The Big Bang, at Asheville Community Theater. It was hilarious, laugh out-loud funny. The two guys who played all the parts were incredible and again, as with the Christmas play we saw, totally amazed us with their ability to have 90 minutes of flawless dialog in their heads. How do they memorize all that and sing it, to boot!? We’ll be back again and again – especially since ACT is 15 minutes from Camp Bell and less than 5 minutes from our future home on Town Mountain. Good stuff.

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Jan '10

The Big Orange Truck Cometh and Goeth

The trailer with our stuff (all 11,457 pounds) is schedule to arrive between 8:30 and 9:30 this morning. Yesterday I put together three more baker’s racks to stack boxes on and Valerie unpacked several boxes, relocated our “office” from the family room to the kitchen breakfast area, and made more space in the basement. I wasn’t feeling well (sinus infection and increased carvedilol dose) so I sat around much of the day. Today will be lots of running up and down the stairs, pointing to what goes where. In a few hours I’ll be having flashbacks from 1992 when the truck with our house-load of stuff unloaded into our little Redmond, WA, apartment. More to come…

11:00   The truck arrives. They were late because of the rock slide detour on I-40. I have no idea how Ernie made it into our subdivision and down our street with his huge trailer. Problem is, he pulled in and the access doors are on the opposite side from the house. He decides to back all the way out of Campbell and attempt to back in from Ballantree. He and the two helpers disappear for way too long. Kim, Valerie and I walk down to see what’s up. Ernie is getting an earful from our neighbor at the corner of Campbell and Ballantree. Ernie backed up about 6′ into his yard and left a 10′ long by 6″ deep dual tire rut in the soft grass. This guy is not happy and is saying he’s “gonna call Asheville PD!” Ernie apologizes and says that he’ll pull in again rather than back up and he’ll figure out how to get the stuff out and around the truck. I spend 5 minutes schmoozing Mr. PO’d neighbor and tell him I will personally make sure his yard gets fixed. Kim calls the office and gets a couple guys to come out tomorrow to fix it. Yeesh. Must be originally from New York.

11:30-4:30   We unload the truck, Pink labels go to the basement. Green labels go to where the label says. Kim says we’re the most organized she’s ever seen. We didn’t show her our spreadsheet that says exactly what’s in each box. One big oops. One of our dining room chairs fell about 8′ from the top of the load and landed on its legs. All four of them cracked and bent backwards. If it was a car, it might be totaled. Kim says they have great furniture repair guys and will be able to fix it or, if they have to, replace it (which is probably impossible). We’ll see. A ceramic pot fell out of a larger one and broke. No biggie. A couple wine glasses that we simply packed in the display box broke. No problem. Our huge Christmas cactus is a little worse for the wear. For some reason when they stacked its box in the kitchen they flipped it upside down. (Note that we weren’t allowed to ship plants). It’s pretty beat up but will survive and Valerie will take the broken stems and root them to make some offspring. All the furniture looks good, the pinball and juke box, too. All in all, it’s not bad considering what it went through.

5:00   We go out for a late lunch, pick up Serena, and return to unpack the plants and frozen food. Yep, we packed frozen food in a cooler and then in a box. Valerie had it at -20 when she packed it and it appears to still be frozen solid after a week going crosscountry. Don’t tell Allied…  Oh, and it all pretty much fit according to plan. The extra space in the basement is floor-to-ceiling-wall-to-wall boxes and the one garage bay is full of misc furniture but we can navigate around the boxes in the house. Now, to unpack.

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Jan '10

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I’m not an iPod guy. I have a basic, cheap, Sansa Clip that’s not fancy but does all I need for listening to music and podcasts. On our flight from Seattle to Asheville I used it a little until I fell asleep. On the way off the plane I put it and my new Sony earbuds in the pocket of my sweatshirt instead of back in my travel bag. My shirt went into the laundry basket and from there, on Sunday morning, Valerie put it directly into the washer.

On Sunday night she walked out of the kitchen (that’s where the washer and dryer are at Camp Bell) holding a tangled mass of wires, Sansa Clip, and Sony earbuds. Oops. It went through the full permanent press cycle; submerged, agitated, and spun. There was water inside the player as evidence by turning it over and over and watching the water flow across the display like a lava lamp. I didn’t even try turning it on but instead put it in front of the furnace register in hopes that the heat might eventually dry it out.

Wednesday morning I looked it over and the water appeared to be gone from the display. I turned it on. Nothing. But, that could mean the battery was dead. I plugged it into the charger and it immediately lit up and the display showed that it had resumed playing right where it had left off. I stuffed the earbuds in my ears and ta-da, out came Jimmy Buffet in perfect fidelity. The player works, the earbuds work! Try that with your iPod!

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Jan '10

Shocking Serena

Poor Serena got the shock of her life on Monday evening. Valerie was walking her in the neighborhood and passed a street light a couple blocks away. Serena was walking in the grass under the light and started acting strangely, lifting her paws up. All of a sudden she let out a yelp and jumped into the street towards Valerie, scared and whimpering. She was okay, but frightened. She hadn’t touched the pole so Valerie suspected that the light must have a problem and was electrifying the ground – but she wisely didn’t get close enough to find out.

When she told me about it, I was reminded of two things…One, my worm shocker. When I was a kid I sold night-crawlers. On rainy nights I could just pick them up in the yard. But, on dry nights I had this “contraption” that consisted of two metal rods, each connected to a bare wire on an extension cord that was plugged into an outlet. I would soak an area of the yard with a hose then pound the rods into the ground a few feet apart. When I plugged in the cord, out of the ground would come the worms, trying to get away from the electricity running between the rods. (Yes, it’s a wonder I’m still alive.)  Two, a couple years ago a spokesman for Puget Sound Energy talked at the Red Cross about windstorms and power outages. He showed us how you could be killed from a downed power line even if you were a good distance away from it and never touched the wire. The power dissipates in the ground as it gets farther away from the wire so if you stand with your feet apart there will be a voltage difference between your feet. If the power line is many thousands of volts, there could be hundreds of volts between your two feet and you’re, literally, toast as soon as your wet feet touch the ground. Poor Serena must have experienced this with her four bare paws that are a good distance apart!

This morning we were leaving for errands and we decided to take my volt meter with us to investigate. As we got to the light we noticed that it was semi-on, not full on, even though it was slightly overcast and none of the other street lights were lit. That’s a hint that something was amiss. Since I’m the heart patient and probably more susceptible to shock than most, I was the one to get out of the Jeep to check out the situation.  

I stuck one lead into the ground a couple feet from the metal pole and touched the other directly to the pole. The meter read 41 volts AC! Then, I stuck both leads into the ground a couple feet apart and a couple feet from the pole. The meter read 20 volts! Sure enough, there was a short in the pole and it was dumping electricity into the ground just like the guy from Puget Power told us. Now, 41 volts and 20 volts isn’t a lot, but you would feel it, and it hasn’t rained since Sunday so the ground wasn’t real damp. On Monday, the voltage was probably higher. Let me tell you, it’s weird to stick the two leads of a volt meter in the ground and get a non-zero reading. Serena did get shocked.

I immediately called the police (non 911) and explained the situation. I thought maybe it was the City who should be informed but the police said it was the electric company, Progress Energy. The police took a report and forwarded it on. I hand wrote a “Don’t Touch – Electrified” sign and taped it to the post (by standing in my rubber sole shoes on the dry asphalt). We went to lunch and about an hour later swung back to see if they were working on it. My sign was gone, the light was out, and I didn’t measure any voltage. Progress Energy must have come by and disconnected the light so it wouldn’t be a hazard until they had time to fix it. Tonight the light is still out so at least it’s safe to walk by and not get shocked.

Jan '10

We’re Here…

We slept for nearly 11 hours and I honestly don’t remember falling asleep. Late Saturday morning we had a nice brunch before running a few errands and visiting with John and Jan for a couple hours. We then picked up our donations that we had left at the house, said our final goodbye, and went to the library, Good Will, and a couple other places to make drop offs. We had a Thai dinner with Luis and Jolie who then took us to the airport. We will truly miss you two and hope that someday you can make the move, too. Our red-eye flight was uneventful. We picked up Serena on the way to Camp Bell (I can’t bring myself to call it home) and fell into bed. We’re Ashevillers.

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Jan '10

Elvis Has Left The Building

At 5:30pm last night the final box had been loaded, the last bit of dirt had been swept, the final counter cleaned, and Ernie (driver), Kim (wife and assistant), and Jarred (helper) pulled away from 13404 184th Ave NE. We were officially moved out. We took another thirty minutes to load up the pickup truck with stuff we were giving to friends and to walk through the house one last time. So long old friend. 

53' of Moving Goodness

Ramblings and Observations:

Those three movers worked the hardest I have ever seen three people work – for nearly nine hours! They only stopped for lunch. And, after loading the truck they were hoping to drive 400 miles.

Although we loved our house and had done so much work on it over the last 15 years, it really became obvious once all our stuff had been removed that it was a house, not a home, any longer.

I had to remove the sliding door to the basement one last time to get the pinball machine out. Going up the steps, the top fell down from its hinged position and hit Jarred on the head, hard. He didn’t drop it, but went down to his knees and I’m sure saw stars.

We were truly BeverlyWoodinville Hillbillies when we pulled out. It was all we could do to fit in the pickup. Besides our checked bag and carry-ons we also had stuff to drop off at friends’ houses – a large oxygen tank, a couple propane tanks, a large plant, a wicker table and chairs, a shredder, and a set of power tools. We also had a 50lb bag of sandblasting grit and some “favorite” rocks. We wanted to load a bunch of stuff for charity but had to leave it on the deck for pickup on Saturday. Oh, and it was pouring down rain so we had to bag everything. There was room for a single bottle of Corona and a ziplock bag of my brisket.

I was a bit embarrassed when we pulled into the Heathman, our hotel for the night. They only have valet service and the bellhop probably thought we weren’t exactly the type of clientele they normally serve. Wonder what the valet thought when he got in the pickup and smelled the brisket?

The rain seemed appropriate for moving day.

We slept for 10+ hours.

Farewell to all our friends we left behind. We will try not be strangers. We may be back as soon as August for the jazz festival at Chateau St. Michelle. And, if you’re ever “back east” please look us up!

Jan '10

All Work and No Play…

All work and no play…Not! We’re making good progress packing. So much so that we decided to take some time to have a little fun. On Sunday we went to Mac & Jacks Brewery in Redmond. Mac and Jack’s African Mac & Jack'sAmber is THE best beer, ever, and we’re not the only ones who think that. It has an almost cult-like fan base in the northwest. The brewery was started by two guys (Mac and Jack, get it?) in their garage in 1993 and we first had it that summer at the Microsoft company picnic. Unfortunately, it’s not bottled, and the farthest east you can buy it on draft is in Idaho. It’s one of the things we will truly miss…so much so that I am going to take up beer making and attempt to reproduce it. Several people have tried and/or are working on it and they have posted their recipes and techniques on the web. So, on Sunday we (and about 50 other people) took their brewery tour. Valerie and I listened intently, typed tidbits of the tour guide’s comments into our phones, and looked at the pallets and bags to get the names of all the malts and hops they were using. We got lots of clues as to what they do and how they do it. Interestingly, the guide said that it was their yeast that made the African Amber special and that he wasn’t going to say anything more about it. Good thing I’m married to a microbiologist who knows how to culture and grow the yeast from a beer sample! Besides the free tastings and the free glasses, we also bought two growlers to help get us through the week!

Today we went to Seattle in the driving, pouring, windy, rain which made it an appropriate trip for our last week here. We went to Sengware to pick up some more plates and bowls, went to Serious Pie for lunch, and went to Seattle Pottery Supply to buy a new kiln. They are having a sale, our kiln has crumbled away and won’t make the move, and it’s cheaper to have Allied move it with our stuff than to have it shipped sometime in the future. They’ll palletize it and we’ll pick it up on Thursday. From there we went to Issaquah to get some specialty boxes and packing supplies and finally got home in the early afternoon. Remember, we only have our pickup truck, so by the time we left the packing store, poor Valerie was buried in the passenger seat holding boxes on her lap between her thighs and between her ankles.

This evening we’re back to packing boxes and building crates. It will soon be difficult to decide what to pack now and what to wait on packing until Thursday afternoon or even Friday morning. The last thing to go in the truck is the vacuum cleaner and the dust rag.

Tomorrow we’re seeing Avatar in the afternoon and in the evening Valerie’s going to her bookclub meeting and I’m going out with Luis and Al. Wednesday and Thursday we’re back to packing full-time. The truck is confirmed for Friday.

We did meet with the new owners, Jonathan and Lauren and their 5-year-old son, Alexander, yesterday, to give them a walkthrough of the house. Nice family. They’ll make the house their own and be a great addition to the neighborhood.

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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!

Jan '10

Once-in-a-Generation Cold Snap Hits NC

Last week was record snow. This week starts a once-in-a-generation cold snap.  It was 13° this morning—but it is sunny. BRRR. What’s up with this place? It’s supposed to have weather similar to Seattle. Good thing we’re heading back there on Wednesday. A little rain might be nice. Did I really say that?

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