27 July 2007

Don't cost nothin'

As noted in my last entry, I've been planning for a couple of days to write about a current situation among my hobby group. How a couple of people who complain about others who "can't let it go" can't themselves seem to let go of some property that rightfully belongs to others, and for which they really have no use, other than to keep it away from the folks who, for a variety of reasons, maybe justified, maybe not, they just don't like.

Today, I decided not to. I made a choice...to "let it go." And to challenge others to do the same. Someone sent this to me today and I decided to do what it says. Chances are I'll never run into those folks again, but if I do, I'm gonna keep this in mind. Will you?

"Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant - Be Nice to People"

At a TD Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story, which was typical of the way he operated.

I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player and I was 'havin' trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign out front that simply said "Restaurant."

I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I'm the only white 'fella' in the place. But the food smelled good so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, "What do you need?" I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today?

He says, "You probably won't like it here, today we're having chitlins, collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't even know what chitlins are, do you?"

I looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm from Arkansas, I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm in the right place." They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate.

When he comes back he says, "You ain't from around here then?"

And I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was and he says, yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good. And he gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach.

As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy, but a good one and he told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay.

The big man asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd get him one.

I met the kid I was 'lookin' for later that afternoon and I don't remember his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him when I met him. I had wasted a day, or so I thought.

When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Heck, back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. And the next day we found a picture and I wrote on it, Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had, Paul Bear Bryant.

Now let's go a whole 'buncha' years down the road. Now we have black players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and I forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway, he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed and go on see some others while I'm down there.

Two days later, I'm in my office in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says, "Coach, do you still want me at Alabama?"

And I said, "Yes I sure do." And he says, o.k. he'll come.

And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?"

And he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama , and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met."

Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy was and he said, "You probly don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him. My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm going to."

I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost 'nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breakin' your word to someone. When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's still running that place, but it looks a lot better now; and he didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that woulda' made Dreamland proud and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him too, along with a signed football. I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these lessons in mind when they're out on the road. And if you remember anything else from me, remember this - It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable.

Coach Bryant was in the presence of these few gentlemen for only minutes, and he defined himself for life, to these gentlemen, as a nice man.

Regardless of our profession, we define ourselves by how we treat others, and how we behave in the presence of others, and most of the time, we have only minutes or seconds to leave a lasting impression - we can be rude, crude, arrogant, cantankerous, or we can be nice.

Nice is always a better choice.

25 July 2007

Vehicular Hijinks in Oregon

Well, we finally have phone service. Qwest arrived Monday about 10AM. Our first phone call in our new home…was a wrong number.

As I said, Oregon’s state motto seems to be “Welcome to Oregon: It was very nice to meet you, now go away!” The hoops they make you jump through here to drive a motor vehicle are incredible.

First, let’s talk about getting a Driver’s License. Oregon makes all new applicants take the test. That’s right, although I’ve had a DL in Tennessee for 24 years, I have to take the written test. Apparently, the rules of the road are very different up here. Either that or they think no one else in the world has traffic lights, crosswalks, lane markings, etc.

Worse still is the process of getting car tags. My blogging friend Mike Bratton tells a funny little story about doing this in Birmingham in his blog here:

The Bratton Report

But I think I may have him beat. In Oregon, the offending vehicle, er, I mean, the relocated vehicle, must be re-titled in Oregon. This means that the existing title must be cancelled, surrendered, and replaced with an Oregon title. Do you have your vehicle title? If the vehicle is worth more than $1.45 or is less than 5 years old, probably not. The bank has your title. In a little file somewhere, in the bowels of their bank building, guarded by a Troll and two billy goats. Working at banks for over 20 years, I’ve seen the bank’s bowels, it ain’t pretty. Now I must depend on the bank receiving the form letter, courteously provided by the Oregon DMV, reading said letter, acting upon it, and actually delivering my title to ODMV in the hopes that ODMV will mail them a replacement, and mail me my tags. All within 60 days of establishing residency in Oregon, which I did on 7 July 2007 when I signed my apartment lease. The only redeeming feature is that tags here are about half of what TN charges, and I can renew for 4 years.

When I get time, maybe we will next explore the concept of “taking your ball and going home,” or in this case, taking someone else’s ball and going home, then blaming them for it. It’s happening again, although this time, miraculously, I had nothing to do with it. Although I’m sure I would have if I’d been present!

23 July 2007

Getting "wired" in Oregon

Having settled in to our new “home,” we began the process of getting the necessities of life: utilities, phone, DirecTV, etc. The first problem we encountered was the apartment complex’s ban on satellite dishes. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a 30+ year Saints fan, and of course, any game shown in this area will be the Seahawks. I like the Seahawks, but my heart will always be with the Saints. Since the NFL sold its soul to DirecTV, that’s the only way to get NFL Sunday Ticket. I found out that there is an FCC law that prevents the complex from prohibiting dishes, however (there’s always a however, isn’t there?), they can prevent you from drilling a hole in the external wall to run the dish line. Furthermore, being on the ground floor, we’d have to mount the dish on a removable pole on the patio. Removable would mean just that; anyone who wanted to could remove it while we were asleep. Since we know for sure we won’t be here beyond our one-year lease, I’ll just have to suffer through this season without my beloved Saints. Anyone with DirecTV who wants to burn the Saints games to DVD for me, I’ll pay you $10 each plus postage, and I’ll buy the DVDs.

Next we set about getting utilities, which of course we already had, we just had to get the local power company to switch them into our name. Salem Electric is a co-op, my first experience with such an animal. Apparently, our “ownership” entitles us to something called “retains,” which means we will get about $15 back…20 years from now.

Cable was no big deal. I hate it, and the guide and channel line up suck, but the guy that hooked it up was nice, and fast, and by mid-week we had TV and internet again. If you have broadband, you have no idea how spoiled you are to the speed until you have to use dial-up again!

The real adventure came with the phones. Apparently, we are the last dinosaurs in the Pacific Northwest that want land-line phones. Everyone else uses VoIP. Qwest is the local phone provider. I signed up online for local, long distance, and internet. Not knowing Qwest, I figured they couldn’t be worse than Comcast. I was wrong.

First, my appointment was for sometime between 8 and 5 (that’s right, a nine hour window) on Monday the 9th. At 4:30 on Monday, after [my now-ex-wife] had sat cooped up in the apartment all day with three kids with no TV, no internet, no nothing, I called them. They had my appointment down for Wednesday the 11th! Oh, but they would rush the service and get someone out tomorrow, the 10th…between 8 and 5. The next day, dude shows up to hook us up and finds a problem. There are 12 units in our building, which means 12 phone wires. All 12 were supposed to be run out the north side of the building to a Qwest-provided switchbox. For some reason yet to be explained, 6 wires were run out to the box, and the other six (you guessed it, including mine) were run out the south side of the building, through a conduit, and left hanging loose on the ground! He took me out there and showed them to me. Six phone wires just jumbled on a heap on the ground. Just my luck, I get the one builder in the Willamette Valley that can’t read a blueprint!! (Others have assured me this is not the case…there’s more than one). After a little butt-chewing and threats to call Polk County Code Enforcement and find out how the building got approved for occupancy in that condition, the builder finally, five days later, gets out there to (get this) install a box over the bare wires, connect a cable to them, and dig a trench around the building to the real phone box! So I call Qwest on Tuesday the 17th to reset the appointment. Now the earliest appointment they have is today, the 23rd, between (say it with me) 8 and 5. The very sympathetic lady agreed with my comment that this was not a very good way to make a good impression on a new customer...but of course could not actually do anything about it!

Tomorrow, if I get time, I’ll post an update on the phone situation, and begin the tale of what it takes to get car tags and Driver’s Licenses in Oregon! The state slogan seems to be "Welcome to Oregon: Keep Going."

19 July 2007

Settlers in Salem, Part II

The first night in the apartment, I moved just enough stuff in to stay there myself. Moving furniture by yourself can be tough, especially going down a steep set of stairs without a two-wheeler (which I apparently left in the Penske truck when I turned it in), but I suppose it’s better than going UP a steep set of stairs. [my now-ex-wife] and the kids were planning to come down from her mother’s house in Washington by about 5. My new assistant at work offered to come by and help, but I didn’t think it would be kosher to have a female there without [my now-ex-wife] around, so I was on my own. I tried to make sure I at least found the boxes that we had labeled “open first,” but despite my efforts while filling the storage unit, I found that some essential boxes were buried in the back. In fact, there’s still today a few boxes we kinda need that I haven’t been able to find. But I at least made sure we would all have beds to sleep on Saturday night. Our queen size mattress is one of the heavier pieces, so I brought the box springs, but left the mattress to pick up on Saturday after [my now-ex-wife] got there.

She made great time getting down from WA, and by 4:45 she was calling me to let me know she had just gotten off at our exit off I-5 and would need me to let her in the apartment. Unfortunately, I was on the appliance aisle at Wal-Mart at the time. I hurried up and finished shopping and headed back to the apartment. One thing that’s nice about Salem, but hard to get used to is that something can be “all the way across town,” and it’s still only 3 or 4 miles away. I’m used to driving 21 miles one way to work, a trip that used to take 40 minutes in morning rush hour. Here, it takes 7 minutes to get to work, and about 10 to get “all the way across town.”

[my now-ex-wife] took stock of what I’d brought and we went back to Lowes and Wal-Mart to pick up a few more things. It stays dark late up here, and so the evening can really sneak up on you. We piddled around until almost 9PM, so it was 9:05 when we pulled up to the storage unit gate to get our mattress. When my code didn’t work, that’s when I saw the sign that says the gate only operates between 6AM and 9PM. My mattress was about 100 yards away behind a locked gate! Being a Saturday night, there wasn’t even any manager on duty to call! Furious but powerless, we returned to the apartment and got the kids all set up for bed. I laid the box springs down, and found an inflatable twin mattress for [my now-ex-wife]. I gathered every quilt and blanket I could find and made a make-shift pallet on the other half of the box springs. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to convince [my now-ex-wife] that it would be cozy and romantic to try sleeping on the twin mattress together, I settled in on the qu9ilts, about 6 inches lower than [my now-ex-wife] beside me. Not exactly the way I had planned for us to spend our first night together in our new home.

16 July 2007

Settlers in Salem

Sunday evening, I drove down by myself to Salem to start work on Monday morning. We had applied to our first choice of apartments, but between the time we looked at it and then went back to give them our application (less than 24 hours), someone else had applied for it. They took our app and said they’d see if the other one went through, or if the other couple might be interested in a 2br instead.

For the first week, I’d planned all along to stay at the Extended Stay hotel in Salem. I like these places because of the kitchenettes and they are usually not expensive. Even at the cheap rate, we were looking at over $225 for the week (I only planned to stay through Thursday night. If we didn’t have an apartment by then, I’d go back up to Washington to stay with my mother-in-law). When I got there, it was obvious that this room had begun life as a regular motel room, and had a kitchenette crammed into it when Extended Stay bought the place. It was also in a less than thrilling part of town, but I didn’t have any problems while I was there.

Since 4th July was on a Wednesday this year, I had a day off in the middle of my first week. It didn’t make sense to drive 400 miles round trip up to Mom’s for the day, so I posted a note to the local geocaching forums to see if anyone wanted to go caching. I was immediately invited on an all day run ending in a cookout at one of their houses. A family known as Team Kensquatch (husband in named Ken and he’s 6’9”!) took me under their wing for the day and gave me a guided tour of Aumsville, Dallas, and Independence, OR. The 22 caches I found easily bested my one day record and got me close to 800. They showed me a sampling of area hides and techniques, including one of the best disguised custom made micros I’ve ever seen. One local in particular makes some fantastic looking fake rocks. We also visited a trail system at the site of an old quarry. Rumor has it that the quarry owners “delved too greedily and too deep,” but instead of a Balrog, all they got was ground water. Unfortunately for them, the pit filled up so fast they didn’t have time to get their Excavator out, which remains buried under 40 feet of lake! This was also the place I made a mental note of as an ideal fishing spot!

Independence, OR, as one might imagine, hosts a highly regarded fireworks display on the 4th. Unfortunately, it didn’t start until almost 10PM, and I still had quite a ride back to my hotel, so I thanked my new friends for their hospitality and made my exit about 9:30. I moved north to get back to the main highway and had to go through “downtown” Independence. Cars lined both sides of every street as I simply tried to get out! At one point, I turned on a side street and got halfway down when someone turned in from the other end to face me. We sat for several seconds as “bubba” didn’t seem to understand that we could not pass each other. By this time, cars had followed both of us, so neither of us could back up, although “bubba” clearly had no intention of doing so anyway. After about 2-3 minutes of me sitting with my back up lights on, “dude” behind me finally figures out what I’m doing, and the line behind me starts to back up. I finally extricate myself from this Chinese Finger Trap, and take another side street. Two or three turns later, and I’m free on clear on a two-lane blacktop headed back to Salem.

By Thursday, the apartment had notified me that our application was approved and we could move in anytime. I went ahead and got the keys Thursday and moved a few things in so I could stay there on Friday night, waiting for [my now-ex-wife] and the kids to come in Saturday, 7th July.

13 July 2007

Moving to Oregon, Part VI

We rested for a day in Auburn before taking the truck down to Salem to unload it. The plan was to leave Auburn about 8 or 9 AM and be in Salem by lunchtime. We decided to take the van instead of the truck, so I rearranged everything, backed the truck up and hooked up the trailer, blocking a large portion of the main entrance to Mom’s neighborhood, then got in to start the van to pull it off the trailer. Wouldn’t start. Instrument panel was doing goofy things, gauges moving, needles jittering, etc. Called AAA again to have it towed to the local Dodge dealer. Only took an hour this time. We finally got into Salem about 5:45 PM. A local geocacher, whom I had met online, had her son and one of his friends “volunteer” to help me unload the truck. I barely got into town in time to rent the storage unit! After three hours of unloading, everything wouldn’t quite fit in the unit, and I had to go back to the hotel that night, then come back the next morning and rent a small unit for the rest of it.

About noon the next day, I got the truck empty and told [my now-ex-wife] to meet me at the rental place to drop it off. Of course, I had to fill the truck up with diesel before I turned it in. One thing you might not know about Oregon: State law forbids self-serve gas. That’s right; they have attendants that pump your gas for you. Hard to get used to, but I suppose when it gets cold, I’ll appreciate it more. Anyway, it was like pulling teeth to find a station in town that could accommodate that big ole truck! But we finally got it turned in and were on our way.

After a brief visit at my new workplace to introduce the family, we visited two apartment complexes, both in the desirable “West Salem” area. We visited a couple of others the following day, a couple of very nice complexes in Wilsonville, about 30 miles north along I-5 from Salem. Finding anyone who had a 3BR unit actually available was a bit of a chore, and finding the 4brs we really needed was impossible. We were running out of time, so we headed back to Auburn for the weekend. Over the weekend, we ranked the complexes on a scale of one through four, and started applying. Although the commute would have been longer, the two in Wilsonville ranked second and third, behind the very first one we visited, which was a brand new complex in West Salem. Unfortunately, the Wilsonville complexes were also the more expensive, though one was not that much more. The number 4 choice was the cheapest, but also the least attractive.

Back in Auburn, we picked up our van, which they said had an “internal short” in the battery, about $200. Could have been worse.

That weekend, we took advantage of some beautiful weather to visit North Bend, WA, where [my now-ex-wife]’s grandfather and step-father are buried. It is an idyllic little cemetery in the shadow of Mt. Si (pronounced “sigh”). They also have a neat Railway Museum and old passenger train that runs about a 15 minute trip from North Bend to Snoqualmie Falls Resort. If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit.

On Sunday, we chilled a bit and got me packed and ready to head down to Salem to start work on Monday, 2nd July.

Moving to Oregon, Part V

The final leg of our trip was from Spokane, WA to [my now-ex-wife]’s mom’s house in Auburn, WA just outside Seattle. Eastern Washington is nothing like what you think of as the Pacific Northwest. The mountains provide a natural barrier that keeps the moisture from the ocean on the west side, so that Eastern and Central Washington are more like desert than anything else. We stopped at a rest stop called Schrag near Moses Lake to pick up a cache and stretch our legs. I remember telling [my now-ex-wife] that the place was so dry that if I’d dropped a match, the whole area would be in flames before we got out of the parking lot!

At Moses Lake, we pulled off to get something to eat. As I was following [my now-ex-wife] to the exit, a Washington State Trooper was beside me. When I slowed for the exit, he immediately stopped, backed up, and followed me up the exit ramp! I pulled into a nearby gas station, since 26’ Penske trucks towing minivans are not suitable drive-thru material, and waited for [my now-ex-wife]. The trooper pulls up next to me and knocks on the driver’s door. I rolled my window down and greeted him. He was courteous, but firm in asking for my license and rental papers. He asked if I had stopped at the rest area at Schrag, and I replied yes, we’d been parked there about 20 minutes. He said I had been involved in a fender-bender back there, and that they had been looking for my truck!! Now, I’ll admit, I was not expert at driving that behemoth, but I seriously doubted I’d hit anyone!! And in any event, if I had, I wasn’t about to run from them in THAT thing! If they’d followed me up a hill, they could have run alongside and opened the driver’s door! I’d have appeared on one of those “Look at this idiot running from the cops” shows!!

He calls my info in while I get out to examine the corners of the truck for damage. In short order, he calls me over and gives me my papers back, and apologizes, I wasn’t the Penske truck they were looking for. WHEW!

Back on the road, by mid-afternoon we reached the Columbia River Gorge. Let me tell you, it was worth the stop! Simply incredible view!! I’ll bet there was a cache there, but I didn’t have internet access. We got some good pictures and a little video footage, though.

Down the hill at breakneck speed, then losing all that momentum, I spurred my enormous steed up the 1,800 foot, 6% grade on the west side of the river. By late afternoon, we stopped at the Indian John Hill Rest Area, our last stop about 90 miles from Mom’s house. Remember the name of that rest area.

By about 8PM, we pulled into Mom’s house, tired, but glad to be there. We started unloading a few things for the stay there, including our two animals. I went to retrieve Smokey, our cat, who had ridden 2,700 miles under the seat of the Penske truck. She was nowhere to be found. We frantically searched the neighborhood, calling her and shaking her treat jar, with no answer. Finally, I went inside and turned [my now-ex-wife]’s cell phone on, since that is the number that is on Smokey’s $5 collar tag. And we waited.

Upset and blaming myself, I said a little prayer. The kids would be going through enough in the transition without losing a pet. Please, God, let us find our cat.

About 20 minutes later, the phone rang. Smokey had been found in the restroom at the Indian John Hill Rest Area, and the attendant was holding here there. By now, it was about 9:30, and Elizabeth and I jumped in Mom’s car and sped off through a dark rain to retrieve our wayward kitty. By a little after midnight, we finally got back to Mom’s house, safe and sound, all back together again after the most eventful day of the trip.

12 July 2007

Moving to Oregon, Part IV

After leaving Livingston, we began the steady climb toward the Continental Divide. There were several places where I really didn’t think our rental truck was going to be able to pull the hill! We got as low as 20 MPH going up one hill. I thought how stupid it would be if they had to send a tow truck to tow us 200 Yards to the top of the hill!!
We stopped briefly at a wide spot in the road to read the historical marker for Bozeman Pass, named after John Bozeman, who in 1863 to 1866 brought prospectors and emigrants through it northward from the Platte Valley route of the California-Oregon Trail to the Montana gold mines and settlements. Later in the day, we finally crossed the Continental Divide at the MT/ID border. I had high expectations of this momentous occasion, as marking a line of demarcation between our old lives east of the Rockies and our new lives west of them. I had visions of stopping at the Divide and taking pictures, reading something of the history of the spot, etc. Quite suddenly, we rounded a curve and there was…a sign about 6’ by 9’ on an overpass that said “Continental Divide Elevation 6393.” There wasn’t even a place to pull off the highway!
Once on the downhill side of the Rockies, we made better time, and better gas mileage! The mountainous areas of Montana and Idaho were the prettiest terrain we crossed on the whole trip! We passed through small little hamlets in Idaho that looked carved into the side of the mountains, like Thomas Kinkade paintings (well, except for the four lane interstate running through the middle of them). I was able to pick up a cache at a closed weigh station in Idaho. A few feet up the hillside I entered a world that looked like the Forest of Endor! Poor reception and being in a hurry conspired against me. There were a million places to hide an ammo can in there!! I finally gave up and stepped out of the woods, but decided this was my only shot at an ID cache, so I stepped back in and took one more look. Almost immediately, I spotted the hide technique; one I’d used myself back home!
We continued on to spend the night that evening in Spokane, WA, marking the only day during the trip that we drove in more than two states on the same day.

Moving to Oregon, Part III

The hotel we stayed at in Minneapolis had the neatest indoor pool I’d ever seen. It was like a mini water park, with slides and fountains. The kids thought it was wonderful! We still had the pets with us, and they couldn’t stay in the room alone, so [my now-ex-wife] took William and Elizabeth to the pool while I stayed in the room with Tim. Using the wireless access in the hotel, I spotted a cache .7 miles from the hotel that had a travel bug that had been dropped there 2 days earlier. The bug wanted to go to Oregon! So off I went at a near run, found the cache and retrieved the bug, then back to the hotel. Later, we started to take the van off the trailer to use it to visit around the area. I got it all unhooked and dropped the ramps…and it wouldn’t start. Since dummy here didn’t pack any jumper cables, we called AAA. I had signed up for AAA when I rented the truck, since the $250 discount we got on the truck rental far more than paid the $90 annual membership fee. An hour and a half later, I left to go to the store to get jumper cables, with [my now-ex-wife] on the phone with AAA for the third time to find out where the heck they were!! Here we were, 200 yards from an interstate highway, in the parking lot of a major hotel, in a suburb of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, and it takes AAA 1 ½ hours to get someone out there!! Anyway, he arrives and jumpstarts the van. He says we’d gotten water in the relay box, no doubt while driving in the rain the day before, and it had drained the battery.

Off we go to visit with three different sets of cousins and enjoy a little down time after three hard days of driving. Back to the hotel that night, load the van back on the trailer, and get ready to pull out to Minot, ND on Wednesday, the 20th.

MN to Minot was not a terribly difficult drive. All of the terrain so far looked pretty much like home. Farmland, a few rolling hills, nothing major. Stopped at a couple of rest stops to hit a cache or two in order to add states to my found list. The biggest problem of the day is that poor Elizabeth got some sort of bug and was throwing up in the truck most of the day. Couldn’t keep anything down. She tried hard to confine it to plastic bags, but inevitably some got on her, in the truck, on William, etc., so by now my truck smelled wonderful. We got to Minot in the early evening and discovered that it doesn’t get fully dark there until well after 10PM! They are very near the time change line, and far north, so in summertime, it stays light late. I could tell we might not be in the best part of town, though. Some guy at a Pizza Hut a few hundred yards away was very loudly explaining to the police that he wasn’t doing anything and that they were detaining him for nothing. But we had a quiet night and got up early the next morning to visit with [my now-ex-wife]’s sister, whose husband is stationed at Minot AFB.

We pulled out of Minot mid-morning, with a long 600+ miles to our next planned stop in Livingston, MT. Unfortunately, there were no easy, quick caches near our route, so I could not log a find in ND. Eastern Montana looks just like everywhere else we had been so far. By the time we pulled into Livingston near midnight, [my now-ex-wife] was spent and having a lot of trouble staying awake. We stopped a few times to let her take a short break, including at a rest stop that warned us to stay on the sidewalks, since rattlesnakes had been seen in the grass!! But we finally made it to Livingston safely and crashed (so to speak) as quickly as possible.

We had planned to make the drive down to spend the day at Yellowstone National Park the following day, but we were so exhausted, and Elizabeth was still recovering from her sickness. [my now-ex-wife] bought a strawberry air freshener for the truck, which made a big difference. Now it smells like someone was eating strawberries and puked in the truck.

Moving to Oregon, Part II

We took the next couple of weeks to do a little packing and wrap up some things in Memphis. My lovely wife graciously gave me a day to go caching, which I used to find the Lichterman Nature Center caches with Hoot Owl and the cache owner, Prontopup. Having two good friends along always makes caching more fun, and these four well done caches did not disappoint. Sadly, these few days also saw the sale of my secondary cachemobile, but I just couldn’t justify the expense of the bike in light of how infrequently I got to ride it.

I had the chance to have lunch with a friend who put me on to a realtor, who happened to be his in-laws, so we listed our house with them. The day they came out to place the sign, the ground was so hard it took both of us, and a sledgehammer, to drive the sign into the ground! Although we’d packed quite a bit of stuff, the last minute packing always seems to overwhelm us. It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate. We rented a 26 foot Penske truck, with a trailer to tow our minivan. [my now-ex-wife] had to drive my truck, which was 6 inches too wide to fit on the trailer. She was not happy, but we made do. That night, we stayed up til 2AM packing, then got up at 6AM to start again.

The day of the move arrived and we began loading the truck. Some genius at Penske decided that one-way rentals only get loading ramps, not lift-gates, so we played a balancing act with some of the items. Ever notice that your nicest furniture is also your heaviest furniture? Ben and Dee Parker were a HUGE help, and still are helping in many ways. Our neighbors, Matt and Michelle Sherrill, took turns helping throughout the day, and Stacey Berretta and her crew helped a lot with the packing. Our plan was to roll out for Aurora, MO by noon. When all was said and done, the truck was crammed full (with some stuff left we just didn’t have room for), and we pulled out at 8:30PM. We drove through the night, stopping just a couple of times for fuel and food.

Somewhere in the middle of NW Arkansas, we were stopped at a sobriety checkpoint about 2AM. [my now-ex-wife] was in front of me in the truck, and two different officers approached us at the same time. I could see the office in front interacting with [my now-ex-wife], while mine simply asked to see my license and if I’d had anything to drink. Actually, he asked if Timothy had forced me to have a drink tonight. I skipped the obvious joke about Tim driving us to drink, and the officer gave me my stuff and let us go. I noticed that [my now-ex-wife]’s officer did a double-take on my truck’s tags (which expired in May), but he let them go. Once back on the road, [my now-ex-wife] and I (via two-way radio) noted the close call, whereupon Elizabeth promptly takes credit for getting us off because upon stopping she immediately announced to the officer that we were moving to Salem, Oregon.

Once we reached Springfield, MO, it was after 3 AM and we were not safe on the road anymore. The long day, long drive, and strain of loading a truck for twelve solid hours had become too much, and we were both having a hard time staying awake, so we pulled off at a Baymont Inn. This was the first night that we faced a nightly chore: finding a place to park a truck that took up about 8 parking places! We finally got everyone settled in and asleep by about 5:30.

We got up about 9 and finished the drive to [my now-ex-wife]’s friend Kathy’s house. We spent a few hours there and tried to figure out how to get back on schedule. [my now-ex-wife]’s old boss at Best Western had allowed her to stay on the payroll for a couple of extra weeks so we got the employee rate at Best Westerns throughout the trip! The only problem was, we had reservations each night, so we really needed to make it to those places each night. One bad day, and the dominoes would start to fall. We continued on to Joplin, MO, where we met [my now-ex-wife]’s grandmother for what was supposed to be brunch, but turned out to be dinner. By 7PM, we figured out we’d never make it to IA, so we pulled off at a different Best Western in northern Missouri.

The next day was the toughest day of driving weather-wise. We drove through some strong storms, driving rain, etc. There were times when I thought I’d have to pull over because I couldn’t see to drive. The trailer on the truck was about 8 inches wider than the truck, and only about a foot narrower than the lane, so it was hard enough to keep that monster in the right lane, even when I could see! But we soldiered on and made it to Minnesota by about 9PM, back on schedule for a day of visiting family in the twin cities area.

11 July 2007

Moving to Oregon

I've been working on this entry for weeks. I guess I should go ahead and post something, even though it's not finished yet. Things are still pretty hectic. We finally have an apartment, but we're still living out of boxes. Stay tuned for, to coin a phrase, "the rest of the story."

For several years, my wife and I have talked about the possibility of moving to the Pacific Northwest. Her mother lives in Auburn, WA, a suburb of Seattle, and has for about 25 years, although she was born and raised in Memphis, as was my beautiful wife, [my now-ex-wife]. We visited the Seattle area several times in our marriage, and I fell in love with it on the first trip. Yes, it rains. A lot. Or more precisely, often. The actual rainfall is not that much more than Memphis. But where Memphis will get 10 inches in 2 hours, then go two weeks without a cloud, Seattle will get 2 inches in 10 weeks without a break in the clouds! Interestingly, the average Seattle temperature is only about 5 degrees cooler than Memphis, but much more moderate. It rarely gets below 30 or above 85.

For about 14 years, I have worked in the trust department of a bank. I never really set out to be a Trust Administrator, it just sort of happened. In 1993, I was a Facilities Manager at NationsBank. Someone in the corporate headquarters, who probably got a bonus, decided that my job could be done from Charlotte, NC, and my job was about to be eliminated. [my now-ex-wife] and I had been married for less than six months, and she was three months pregnant with our first child. On the way to my mom’s house that day, I took a slightly different route than usual and passed a church sign. On that sign was this verse: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. I felt like God was telling me that my job was no surprise to Him, and that He would take care of us. About a month later, an old boss called me out of the blue and offered me a job in the trust department of his bank. I never looked for a job at all, one came to me.

I enjoy doing what I do. But it is a very specialized field, and job opportunities do not come open often. Over the years, I watched the job market in Seattle off and on. Nothing much came along. Last year, [my now-ex-wife] and I went through a difficult period in our marriage, and a change of scenery seemed in order. Combined with some issues at my current job, the time seemed right, so I stepped up the search.

Back in November, I flew out to Tacoma for an interview with a bank there. All seemed to go well, and we got really excited about what seemed an ideal opportunity. But it ultimately fell through: they went with a local candidate. We were disappointed to say the least.

A couple of months later, I found a small bank in Salem, Oregon who was looking for a Trust Administrator. Salem is about 200 miles from [my now-ex-wife]’s mom, and easy weekend trip. After a successful phone interview, they flew me out for a face-to-face interview. The following Wednesday night, on the way home from work, they called and made me an offer. I countered and they said they’d call me back. By the time I got to church, they had called back and accepted my counter. That was mid-May, and they wanted me to start the first of July.

I gave my current job two weeks notice, which would leave me with a month off between jobs. We began packing, making plans to move, reserving rental trucks, etc. We decided to take the opportunity to visit some family [my now-ex-wife] had not seen in several years. We mapped out a route through Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington on the way to Oregon.