Thursday, July 30, 2009

DMV & Home-Labyrinth

Well, we got our new licenses, registration, title and plates yesterday and it was totally amazing. In and out of DMV in under an hour, with everything in hand when we left! People were grumbling about how busy and slow it was... and I'm thinking that they have no clue what busy and slow really is (try WA, VA or CA if you want truly excessive time-suck at the DMV). It was completely refreshing to go in, do your thing, and get your stuff... no real wait times, no temporary crap that you have to wait for the real thing to come in the mail (hopefully before your temp expires!). And we got it all done for less that it used to cost Gungnir to just renew his annual tabs/registration... ah, bliss!

We also stopped by Alaska Dept of Fish & Game to find out about hunting, trapping & fishing licenses and regulations. They were really helpful and tried to have us only get the licenses and stuff we'd really need for this year (as a "non-resident" things are much more expensive) and give us tips on who to contact for other stuff so we didn't need a license (i.e. who always has extra fish or game in our area that we can barter for so we don't need to get the license or tag, etc). They may even be willing to bend the rules ever so slightly and overlook the exact date we moved to the state so that we can qualify for resident/subsistence licenses 9instead of "sport") next year even though the season starts a little earlier than our move-in date... they just care that we are really planning to stay, which we are, so it's all cool. But having someone who works in a government agency actually try to be helpful and save us money is a totally new experience ROFL!!

We sketched out our tent platform and cache/temporary cabin and formulated a materials list for lumber & such. Then went to the local lumber yard, and the two home-improvement labyrinths to start price research. Lumber actually seems to be the only thing cheap these days (cheaper up here than in Seattle for sure)! I'll have to tally everything up, but I don't think it'll be all that expensive to get our first winter's "cabin-ette" framed up... especially since it's going to be a shed/shop at some point and doesn't have to be too perfect or super-insulated, just keep us from freezing this winter so we can build the real cabin in the spring. Nothing special, just a stick-framed box (shudder) but it's only an out building, I'll have more opportunity to be cool and nifty on the main cabin.

One thing that constantly amazes me (although I should know better by now) is how disorganized the home-improvement stores are for certain things. For instance, we couldn't find concrete pavers (to use as foundation pads) anywhere near the lumber. There was tar paper, and concrete & sand bags, and even some cinder blocks... but no "pads". Go figure. Maybe they're hiding in lawn & garden?! But seriously, you'd think they'd put everything required of a single task (especially construction) all in the same place ya know?! Really... what can you do with a cinder block in the "construction center" without the pad to put it on?! If there isn't enough room in that aisle for something useful & related , at least put up a sign telling people where to find something obviously related. Jeez!!

Another pet peeve... put friggin' pricing signs on things. I hate finding the perfect thing (in this case a window), and not having any price information posted on or near it. I realize that prices can change due to options or sizes, etc... but seriously, if you mark the price label with "as shown" or "price may vary" then you clear yourself of legal obligation to give them a $219 4x6 window for the $99 price posted for a 2x2. I know that they want you to talk to a sales person or a "contractors consultant" but you can never find one when you need one and they get really grumpy with you when you tell them that you're just looking and doing price research. Either have really good customer service that is actually helpful, or post a friggin' price list with all the nifty disclaimers already. Makes me want to pull out my hair LOL! Maybe I'm just a little too counter-dependent, but I truly loathe talking to sales people when I don't absolutely have to... I'm the same way with mail & internet ordering, I'll go somewhere else if you make me have to call for pricing, etc. (I think the Aspergers might have something to do with not wanting to talk to people to get things done).

It's also been pretty hot up here. Sure, go to Alaska it's so cold up there... not this summer. Yesterday it was kissing 90, but I'm glad we got out of Seattle because it's over 100 down there right now. ICK!!! Also, there's a forest fire south of Fairbanks and it gets smokey when the wind shifts and we get rained on by ash. Same problem in Manley down near our property, worse actually since the fire is closer (across the big river, think we're safe). Oh well, as long as we can keep breathing it's good to keep the mosquitos away.

But the heat is definitely sapping my already tenuous strength and making it even more difficult to sleep. Really can't wait until I'm over my "moving lag" and my body clock isn't all jacked up anymore. Of course, it doesn't help that the city decided to re-gravel the perfectly good road in front of Kari's house... those weenies start with the big trucks around 7am, so I'm only getting about 4 hours of sleep. Joy! Much as I love Kari and appreciate her letting us stay with them, I'll be pretty happy to switch to our temporary base of operations in Manley on Saturday, if for no other reason than to get some quiet (the noise and commotion is really starting to tweak out my AS and I don't want to have to take my anxiety meds).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting things sorted out...

So after being in the largest state in the union for the past few days we're beginning to get things sorted out. While we haven't broken a new trail into our property we have been buzzing around getting other things sorted out.

Saturday was unpack day, as PC mentioned and we got some new bumps and bruises, and I got some muscle strain in my groin for a couple of days (phew not a hernia...).

Yesterday we went into Fairbanks to pick up our guns from the FFL transferee, and we got them all but my EBR (there's a surprise) but apparently that should have been delivered today, so we should be able to pick it up while doing tomorrow's chores.

Today we scooted down to Manley on the Elliot Highway (laughingly known as a highway) the truck was awesome and we bombed down there in about 2.5 to 3 hours while Plickety and I had a good chance to have a talk for the first time in a few days. While we've been on the road it's all been about the logistics, since we arrived here it's all been discussions about our plans, and we've had a few frictions building up, so it was good to talk and clear the air. Had a little lunch at the Roadhouse, and got a mailbox sorted out. Then bumped into Butch (one of the local characters) and chatted with him for an hour or so, times weird here, you need to slow down a lot I've noticed (no bad thing for Mr. Roadrunner here), even the Checkout at the local Wally World seems to take 3-4 times longer than down in the lower 48. Then we spent some time talking to Gladys, one of the town older timers owner of the Hot Springs Bath-House and school patron, who has a cabin for rent, chatted with her for about another hour, then we headed back to Fairbanks. We're renting a cabin in Manley for a month from Aug 1st so we're much closer to our place and we'll be breaking trail then.

Tomorrow's another full day, getting the truck re-registered, getting an AK drivers license, registering to vote and all that good stuff, that helps to establish our residency here, the sooner that we do that, the sooner we get the benefits of being resident.

Now, since we're this far north I thought I'd let you know about the light, it's light, nearly all of the time, I haven't yet seen it be dark although I do know we have at least about an hour or so right now of dark, but it hasn't been at midnight, or even 12:30am, and it's fully light before 6am. I know that probably sounds weird, since we're in Alaska, but knowing it and experiencing it are entirely different concepts. So I suspect that as the world turns November December and January is going to be almost exclusively dark that'll be interesting.

Anyway on that note I'll leave off for today.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

All unloaded

Well yesterday was extremely fun. Rented our storage room (for a year, got a discount) and unloaded both trucks. Packing storage rooms is almost as much fun as packing the U-Haul, but with slightly different objectives. You want to U-Haul weight-distributed and packed tight so nothing shifts, but you want the storage room packed so that the stuff you'll need sooner/more frequently is at the front (and it's a good idea to at least be able to get to some of the stuff in the back without unloading the whole room!).

We managed to complete the task with many less bumps, bruises and lacerations than moving out of the house... guess we remembered which boxes and pieces of furniture bite LOL! I did nearly break my neck doing my monkey thing to get light stuff up and to the back... stood on a box that shifted while the suitcase I was kneeling on with the other leg started to slide, had to jettison the whole attempt and jump down 5 feet because I couldn't find the step stool. Yeah, that could have been a very nasty outcome!

But it's great to be all sorted out and not driving that brick anymore. Even the Dodge is much more spritely without several flat-packed bookcases, the bed, etc loading her down. You know when the suspension bounces up on a jacked-up off-road pickup you had her loaded almost to capacity ;) I love those IKEA bookshelves, but man are they heavy!

U-Haul reimburse us for the tire we replaced in Dawson without any issues. They also gave us some extra free miles on the trip because we were over by 27 (probably from being lost trying to find Jim & Kathleen's LOL). I don't know who sets those long-distance mileages, but even if we'd stayed on the straight and narrow we would only have come in by the skin of your teeth. I guess they don't want you to ever get loast, have to take a detour, or just take a scenic loop! A well, at least it's done and over with now :)

We'll go pick up the firearms from FFL dealership today. Hopefully that won't be an issue at all... pretty much everyone has guns up here (and needs them!) so no one gets all freaky with the transactions like they can in the Lower 48 (and Canada - OMG!!). We really can't go down to our property without at least the shotguns, and it'll be a load off our minds to have all our weapons back under our control again. I'm sure we'll have to do a little show and tell with Kari and the girls when we bring them home... really, almost everyone is into guns! I think that Mark and Eric (Kari's DH) will probably end up going hunting once he comes back from Iraq. Supposedly, we're in a really great hunting district, so that's a bonus for our friends ROFL! (Plus, there are certain things we can't hunt without a guide or a previously licensed hunter until we've been here longer).

If everything goes well, we'll have a PO Box and a temporary place to stay (while we break trail on our property) down in the village on Monday and can get all the legal/financial crap that needs an address all sorted out quickly. Luckily, no one even bats an eye in AK when you say you don't have a street address or a phone... it's refreshing! Once all that nonsense is taken care of and we're all legal and loaded, we can start the real work :D

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Entering AK

Well we took these just before we crossed back into US territory...


We have arrived

Well, at least we made it to Fairbanks where we'll be hanging out for the weekend. Today was a busy day even though the driving was easy. We stopped in Tok to look at some properties for a friend, Darrel, in Louisiana. The stopped in Delta Junction to have dinner with another friend, Nick. Then getting here to Fairbanks and getting settled in with a nother friend, Kari, who'd putting us up for a few days until we get all the "transfer" stuff sorted.

Whew! We're exhausted... tomorrow will be the first day we can actually sleep in without worrying about anything. What a great birthday present for me :D

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Destruction Bay we have arrived, and it's not even Midnight yet

So we've got to Destruction Bay, on a remarkably smooth drive today Plickety had a bit of a ear problem and a slight fever with the Wind, but other than that it was fine, so it was a cool day for me since I haven't had a good chance to actually really unwind from the flurries of activities from me retiring on the 26th June all through to now. I know that probably sounds crazy, since you're all thinking what the hell have you been doing for the past 3-4 weeks but unwinding. Well life's not so simple.

Firstly there was the literal shock of leaving Microsoft, yes it was voluntary, but is that really relevant? I mean Divorce, and Moving are two of the most stressful events that can occur and they're voluntary (well at least to an extent, definitely on one side of the divorce, and moving is most frequently voluntary).

Then there was being home, while we were packing it up, and having the place completely in semi-organization for a period of time. Then there was time rushing forwards up to the move that we're currently in, where the days were full of things to do and no time to stop and unwind, even sleeping was to a degree filled with stress.

Yesterday as I was playing Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" with Tarp metaphorically responding in kind, I was really getting freaked out, we'd had a delay with the key's gotten started late, getting tired, and this was the last thing that we needed. Anyway after we got it all sorted out, and were moving again, there was a dawning realization, this IS NOT A VACATION, this is the rest of my life, we might take a little more time here and there, but we'll get there.

So todays drive being uneventful gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with relaxation, and while I have a few aches and pains from the mostly fixed position that you take while driving, I've not been suffering from some of the consistent aches and pains I've had for a little while, that have been driving me a little bug-nuts, you know the deal, something hurts a bit, you think about it, maybe WebMD it get concerned (because an anxiety related intercostal spasm isn't half as frightening as some other stuff), go talk to the doc they say it's nothing (and rationally I know it can't be anything given my degree of pre-move checkups), but it hangs around like a burned fish smell, you spin on it, maybe the Doctor's wrong, maybe you should go back and get checked again, etc. etc. etc. Then move about 2 tons plus of stuff in less than 12 hours where I'm pretty sure if I had anything approaching terminal (and lets face it that's what all these niggly problems that don't seem to want to go away, or are diagnosed as stress, psychologically circle) then I'd have probably crashed out after about an hour.

Anyway to the drive, we left Watson lake and drove here, couple of stops on the way, shot straight through Whitehorse (it didn't interest me and Plickety's been there before), but then we hit Lake Kluane wow talk about eye-popping, blue water, I think its got something to do with Glacial run off or something. Surrounded by mountains, it's one of those places that you look at and you get a skip in your heart, and at the same time you realize that this place has been since way before you set foot on the earth and no matter what we do to mess ourselves up it will be here millenia after we're gone, very humbling yet energizing place. Much like where we're moving to.

So with that here are some pics that don't do it justice, since it's cloudy, but that water is "optic Carribean blue" (From Plickety, I'm more of a "if it doesn't come in a box of 50 Crayola crayon's it's not a color type guy").

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OMG - the day from Hell

We finally made it to Watson Lake at 12:30 am. They're doing major roadworks between Tetsa & Toad rivers... just happens to be a steep steep steep mountain pass that goes on about 150 km. Yeah, it's all gravel and you can't see crap because of the dust being kicked up by the semi's. Weeeee nothing like flying down an 8% grade totally blind. So, yeah, that delayed us a few hours.

Then, my stupid-ass locks the keys in the U-Haul (why the hell they only gave me one is a mystery), and we had to pry the door apart enough to stick a coat hanger in from the top and pop the lock (sounds simple, but took almost an hour).

Then, G-man's tarp decided to fly out like Superman's Cape and the mattress damn near sent him on a mgic carpet ride off into Muncho Lake. Basically had to take all the ratchet straps off, re-fiddle the tarp and re-ratchet everything back down.

And the cat shenanigans continue. Charlie is being super-needy and insisting on spending the entire drive crammed in a tiny ball in my crotch... where she growls and hisses at me anytime I have to move my leg to brake or accelerate. Of course, she wakes up every now and then and paces the cab of the truck; doing major feats of acrobatics like it's Cirque de Soleil! And one fo them tried to use the litter box while the truck was moving, failed miserably, so there was pee all down the center console. Joy!!

Ahhhhh... but all-in-all we're having a good time and the trip is more than half over. Looking forward to sleeping in a little tomorrow and doing some laundry before we head out to Destruction Bay (Lake Kluane is sooooooo kewl!).

Signing off for the night to get some ZZZZZZs. Gungnir will likely post something in the morning since he passed out immediately upon getting the room (I swear, the boy has no stamina!).

All Hail the Road Gods!

So, we're still in Dawson Creek... waiting for Kal-Tire to finish up with the U-Haul.

About 50 miles outside Chetwynd yesterday, Gungnir calls me up on our 2-way radio and tells me to pull over because my back tire looks funny. We're on a high mountain pass with no services until we get down and there are limited pull-outs. But I finally find one and we check the tire pressure. Looks good... what's the problem?! Well... giant bubble protruding out of the inner sidewall of the rear driver's side tire. Joy!! I babied her for a while, but the bubble magically disappeared.

Welllllllll... turns out that it was a delamination and the bubble had actually burst and managed to reseal itself instead of causing a blow out. Praise be to the Road Gods! I don't think a rear wheel blow out in a U-Haul would be a pretty sight, those big boxes were not meant to cartwheel down a windy mountain road.

So we called up U-Haul this morning and they said they could send someone out to fix it or we could get it fixed ourselves and they would reimburse us. Since Kal-Tire is right across the street from our hotel (Inn on the Creek - lovely place!) we just took it over there. Of course, we're getting two brand new rear tires since it's a rear-wheel drive and U-Haul can just deal with it! I've still got 3 days of mountain driving left to do, so I'm not taking any chances on gimpy tires and tread not tracking properly. It's hard enough driving a pregnant water buffalo, no need to make things worse LOL!

I knew St. Christopher was still the patron saint of travelers even though the Catholic Church de-canonized him!

Winding our weary way

It's day 3 of our trek. Monday night we stayed with Jim and Kathleen at Canim Lake, BC and are very happy to have met such wonderful folks. Yesterday we made it to Dawson Creek, BC... actually made it in a little over 10 hours (I have no problems driving a fully-loaded U-Haul at 80 mph through the mountains... slowing down for the curvy bits of course). Today, we're off to Watson Lake, and this is the longest leg of our journey, but the last long-hard driving day. Woot!

The cats are adjusting fairly well. They only scream for 30 minutes every morning and sleep for most of the day. The Rescue Remedy seems to be working, but did give Celine the trots. Trust me, you do not want to be trapped in the cab of a truck with a kitty spewing brown goo... I almost passed out!!! Needless to say, I pulled over at the soonest opportunity to clean that up! Icky icky stinky!

Well, we're off to load up the trucks and grab some breakfast. See you all as soon as we have internet access again :D

Monday, July 20, 2009

Off we go

Well, we've got almost everything packed up and ready to go. Just need to load in the last couple of things, take a shower, shut down the house and herd the cats. We've got bruises on our bruises, and are running on pure adrenaline. Compared to what we've just been through, a 5-day road trip will seem like a vacation!

In hindsight... we needed a bigger U-Haul. I'm usually good with eyeballing volume, but there was a bunch of crap in another room that I'd forgotten about when I ordered the truck :( So, there are few things we're leaving behind for a friend to take to the dump, and the Dodge is packed to the gills. Oh well, Gungnir needed to learn how to drive a fully loaded down pickup sooner or later! But I did "fold space" (DH is convinced I have supernatural powers) and get more in the U-Haul and Dodge than anyone thought humanly possible... I'm good like that :)

So, we'll be taking pics and posting whenever we stumble across a town with internet access. If all else fails, we'll see you all on Friday when we get into Fairbanks. Off we go, into the Great White North... yipppee :D

Today's the day

So it's that time already.

We've packed the trucks, have our itinerary, lumps, bumps, bruises, aches, and pains from moving our gear and packing the trucks. We were a little short on space so some things need to be left (sadly) but in a couple of hours we'll be on our way on the great Alaskan Adventure.

First stop is Canham Lake so that's not a huge drive today which is a good thing, after yesterday's exertions.

Anyway I have to shower, since I didn't have the energy last night to do so and I smell like a horse.

Friday, July 17, 2009

We hate it when you move (a message from the cats)

Moving is stressful on everyone, pets included. Nothing makes this more abundantly clear than getting up in the morning and stepping right in a puddle of cold pee by the beside!! Oh yes, for the past few weeks, the litter box has magically become an optional convenience and our precious princesses have been leaving us presents all over the house. Yes, it's annoying and frustrating (and sometimes downright disgusting), but it's really the only way they have to let us know that all the packing and shifting and change of routine is really freaking them out.

After cleaning up this morning's first surprise, I set out to pack the newly laundered clothes... and got another lovely surprise. Apparently, one of the prisses decided that our wheelie duffle bag needed to be christened... a few times. *SIGH* Now I'll have to scrub it out and wait for it to dry before I can finish packing up the bedroom. I also have to wash out their carriers since they peed in those yesterday on the way to the vets. I'll have to take a formerly clean comforter back to the laundromat (big washers & dryers) because someone horked all over it again last night. I swear they just wait for the most inconvenient opportunities... sneaky weasels!

All this and we still have a 5-day car trip ahead of us. Joy!! Nothing quite as unhappy as a kitty in a car... except maybe a kitty in the bathtub. Hopefully we'll get all the major stuff completed today so we can spend some extra time loving on the furbabies and reassuring them... otherwise, I'm sure they'll just pee on more of our stuff. I am so glad I got the big bottle of Rescue Remedy.

I'm sure if I could speak feline, they'd tell me "We're freaked out. It's your fault. So we're going to go f*ck up your sh*t!" Ah, the joys of pet-parenting! It's a good thing they're so cute :D

It's all a question of air...

So prep stalled out a little last night for want of one of the worlds most common resources air.

Now we have this truck, it's tall, off road, and has 38" diameter tires on it. So because we're driving some distance with some load, I figured I talk to the manufacturer with the specs of our truck (and estimated bed load) and find out what the tire pressures should be. Well considering the surfaces and relatively high speeds (although I'm likely to stick to about 55-60 maximum) they recommend max pressure which is 65 psi.

So armed with this information I go to check the trucks tires, an find they have about 35 psi in them, not so much of a worry, since off road tire pressures can vary hugely depending on driving surfaces, conditions and speeds.

So we go to two local garages, and fail to achieve correct pressure, the big question I have is why is it so damn difficult to find a garage with a decent air hose? I mean come on even the soccer Mom every now and again puts air in the tires once between oil changes.

Ok you're thinking but my vehicle only needs 30 psi which is true to a degree, but there are a lot of trucks on the road, with higher pressure tires, and where do they get their air from? I mean they all can't own compressors.

So first thing to do today is go find a hose that I can use on our compressor (or a new compressor) so we can get the right pressure in our tires.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

3 days and a wake up

Hehe - while Gungnir is stressing the small stuff... I'm just plugging away like the Little Engine That Could. Snapshot of my focus right now:

Cats to the vet, health certificate for them to travel through Canada - CHECK!
Garage sorted, and all refuse scheduled for proper disposal - CHECK!
Still left to do today: pack bedroom, pack kitchen, load the truck up for the dump (too flippin' hot right now!)

Tomorrow's fun: dump run, donate my car to charity, breakdown & box up bedroom furniture (gotta love IKEA), laundromat run for comforters, start cleaning. (Hopefully, our tires will get delivered early enough for Gungnir to take the truck in and have them mounted - he also needs to take her in for a pre-flight service).

Saturday's fun: return our cable equipment, pack up the computer network, firearms to FFL for transfer up to AK, finish cleaning, and rest as much as possible. Call & annoy U-Haul if I still haven't heard from them!

Sunday's excitement: Pickup the U-Haul and load'erup.... rest as much as possible!

Then it's awake at O-Dark-Thirty on Monday to shut down the house, call the ultilities to cancel service, dope the cats and get our butts on the road! Woohoo!

So, really, not all the much left to do - ROFL. Trust me, when you've moved as many times as I have, actually feeling confident enough to say you're scheduling rest time means things are going A-OK! Thank goodness I'm a night person... sleep while it's hot, work while it's cool!!

Hopefully, I'll get a shower squeezed in somewhere in all this... I think I had one on Tuesday, might start drawing flies soon :D

Don't sweat the small stuff, and keep your eye on the goal!

Ok a short posting today.

I've been fretting and stressing about this whole AK move thing, and getting ready, and how everything will change, and there's a very wise man who reminded me to not sweat the small stuff, and to remember to think occasionally about what you're trying to do, and not get so task focused that you forget that goal.

So, this reminded me of my little dream, sitting on the Porch watching the Sunset, and seeing a big honking moose wandering through my yard. Now how damn cool is that, how many other people can say with regularity they'll be seeing this, and by regularity I mean more than once in a decade.

Now that's not to say that you don't need to be task oriented some of the time, but you do need to take pause every now and again and remember what it is that led to those tasks.

Now the other things that I worry about are the unknowns, now how funny is that, since I can't possibly predict what those unknowns are I can't plan for them, and I'll just have to deal with them as they arrive, that's what innovation is all about. However worrying about them seems kind of redundant, yes I might get a flat tire on the way, or we might run out of gas, or we might have some issues with the house construction, or the garden, or this, or that, things we didn't foresee. Well that's likely a lot of stuff, and worrying about that isn't going to help.

So today with renewed vigor, after remembering that I knew these things, with some assistance, I'm really looking forward to the trip, and the final few days of prep. It's going to be hard, but sitting on the Western Porch, watching the sunset, and seeing that Moose will make it all worth it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

4 days and a wake up

Since much of today is already gone, I figure we really only have about 4 days to go until the Big Leap. I have much much much more experience moving and walking through the shimmery surface of the Stargate to places unknown than Gungnir, so I'm not quite at the freaky stage yet.

What is freaking me out is al the little things that have yet to be firmly sorted. Things like when the tow company is coming to pick up my car that I've donated to charity (she's almost 20 years old and I doubt she'd make another winter in Alaska). Or will U-Haul down the street actually have the equipment for a one-way haul to Alaska, or will we have to drive into downtown Seattle to get it... sure wish that U-Haul rep would call us! And where can we get rid of household hazmat that has accumulated over the years of home improvement projects -- do we have enough time to dry out the half-buckets of latex paint, or maybe I should leave them for whoever gets the house? Hmmmm... should we take that spare lumber to the dump (they have a building material recycle pile) or leave it for the new folks.

Gungnir is zapping me with lasers right now because I am trying to clean everything out to get stuff to the dump and properly sorted... at our expense and on our limited time. But I've moved into "trashed" houses before and hate having to clean out the previous occupants mess. Plus, if I do it, then I know for sure that stuff is properly disposed of or recycled and not just going to end up wasted in a landfill or leaching toxic chemicals. Sometimes thinking green can work against you! I'm just trying to be as kind as possible to the planet and the folks who come into the house after us. Cuz you know it isn't the bank that will suffer the expenses and hassle of a junky house, it's going to be the new tenants. (Banks never suffer for anything!!)

Got my list of things left to do, which is actually pretty small if I could just get on with it. Constant phone interruptions and losing the packing tape is costing me dear seconds. And having to give "professional" moving guidance to Gungnir and following behind to make sure he's done his chores completely/correctly isn't helping (you know I love you , babes, kiss-kiss). I've got so much to focus on right in front of me that I'm not even sparing the brain-power worrying about next week or next month or next year. That'll all sort itself out when the time comes and I'll worry about it then :D

Only 5 days to go

So it's 5 days to go and we're well into prep, although maybe a little behind schedule because of the recovery time of moving all that junk for the yard sale.

Currently our living room looks like a bomb site, but only slightly more organized, with boxes of the stuff we're taking up against the wall, the food cache against the other, and a collection of empty boxes, buckets and other things on still a third.

So I'll now wax poetic and explain some of my current mental state, it's kind of weird, I feel like I'm about to take a huge leap of faith into the unknown and I'm not entirely sure that there's something there to stop me just falling to the bottom of the cliff and splatting like a bug. It's a life reaffirming sensation, which sounds weird I know, but we all working or not, property owners or not, married, in a relationship, single, or whatever, with kids, or pets, have a mental timeline and path, that's pretty consistent, and I'm headed to take a hard turn off that consistent path in only 5 days. Eliminating that comfortable feeling of being on a known path.

Now don't get the wrong idea that we haven't prepared, we have (I think you can see from some of the earlier entries); however thinking about being there and actually being there are entirely different propositions, and I've got to admit there's a little bit of (I'll say it) fear creeping in. I suspect it's just the fear of change, and the unknown, and I do have a propensity for being a little anxious at times. In the ladder that we've been climbing for the past couple of years to get here, we've gone from checking that it's safe and can support us both to about 5 rungs up, then in the next week to ten days we'll be about 3 rungs from the top. I guess that transition is the one that's giving me the heebee-jeebies.

Anyway on to more material things. We have a full backend system of inverters, conditioners and breakers for our Solar/Wind generation courtesy of a guitar and my home theater sound system and a guy called Nick from Camano Island (which strangely isn't an island, but a peninsula). So we just need to chuck in some solar panels, wind generators, and some AGM batteries (and this isn't a bad thing, since batteries do wear our sadly) and we've got 110v AC, sweet.

So as it's early here, 7:30 am, I'll leave it here, Plickety might write some more later, or I might come back and add some stuff you give you guys an update as how close to our schedule we really are.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Downsizing the "green" way

It's surprising the amount of things that we accumulate over the years that really should NOT just get chucked in a landfill when we're downsizing. During our preparations for this move, I made a concerted effort not to put anything that was reusable, recyclable or hazardous into the trash. Finding the proper places to get rid of things was sometimes a bit difficult. For many items, it cost more to get rid of them than I paid for them... so I'll be thinking of disposability the next time I purchase anything!

Here's a list of a few things (in addition to curbside recycle, the yard sale & charity donation) that we disposed of a gentler way:
  1. Old VHS cassettes & floppy disks: we had quite a few, and most were still in usable condition. I separated the usable ones from the questionable ones, and then boxed them up to ship (via USPS Media Mail) separately to Alternative Community Training (ACT) recycling program. I specifically chose this program because they provide work and training for people with disabilities. They clean up and resell usable media, and break down & recycle non-working media... all proceeds go back to more training.
  2. Empty CD Jewel Cases & DVD Jackets (PVC - notoriously hard to recycle): while ACT does accept usable cases, I had several that were broken. So, I ended up sending all my jewel cases/jackets and a bunch of used CDs & DVDs to Plastic Recycling, Inc. I just removed all the paper inserts from the cases, or removed the plastic wheel-jobbers from any cardboard cases, and separated the broken ones from the resellable ones. We had A LOT of empty jewel cases and DVD jackets since we have a huge collection of audio, video, software, and video games... I stripped all these down and put them in binders with their cover art, then put all the remaining paper packaging into the recycle bin. Amazingly, 8 bookshelves of disks now fit into one (16 - 3" binders) and our living room won't look like a Tower Records anymore :D
  3. Cell phones: there are several places that you can recycle and/or donate your old/used cell phones. Because all ours were working and we still had all the accessories, once I deleted the memory, I donated ours to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If they hadn't been working, I would have recycled them with my other eWaste.
  4. eWaste (telecomm & electronics): I took our dead laptop, spare montiors, dead VCR & DVD player, random circuit boards and accessories, and a huge box of miscellaneous cables and adapters to our local computer recycling place. They also offered data destruction for $5 a hard drive... so I gleefully chucked in 4 of ours and watched the monster chew them up (yes, I am such a child!)
  5. Eyeglasses: Since we both had laser corrective eye surgery, neither of us require our glasses anymore (until we need bi-focals in a few years at least). However, we did still have a few pairs hidden in drawers around the house. I took these into my optometrist, where they recycle them to be reground into eyeglasses for those in need.
  6. Scrap metal: lots of bizarre stuff went into these boxes -- unsharpenable kitchen knives, a thoroughly rusted lawnmower blade, old curtain rods, some rebar I found hiding in the shed, broken shelf brackets, a bag of rusty nails & screws, some random springs that I have no idea what they used to belong to, and all our old nonstick pans (evil evil evil - never buying those again!). A friend of ours is going to take them to our local salvage yard, which pays by the pound... so he should make a tidy bit of change for helping us get rid of stuff :)
  7. Pet supplies: I'm sure every pet-parent out there has a closet full of things that Fluffy and Fido didn't like, grew out off, or just plain weren't interested in. We had some extra carriers (the hardisded flight ones that our cats HATED), extra litter pans, extra food bowls, some toys, etc etc. I found a local rescue and foster shelter, and donated almost a full car load of our used pet supplies along with a couple bags of litter & food my precious little princesses turned their noses up at. They were especially happy to get toys in good condition because many of the animals need environmental enrichment while they are waiting to be adopted. Hard toys (plastic & rubber) generally clean up wonderfully after running them through the dishwasher. Soft or fabric toys should either go through the laundry, or be hand-washed and well-rinsed. Litter pans, carriers and crates should be thoroughly washed and then wiped down with a disinfectant before donation (but not one that turns white in water!).
  8. Building materials: we did sell quite a bit of our left-over new building materials at the yard sale, but we found some more during the garage clean out. We donated these, along with some unopened paint, to our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We took some reclaimed fixtures (still in decent condition, but not new) down to a re-seller who specializes in refurbishing old cabinets and fixtures to be reinstalled in new homes. They normally also take opened cans of paint & stains, but were overstocked for the season (so I checked with the sanitation department to find out what to do with this HazMat).
  9. Cars: Alas, my poor Cavalier that I've been driving since I was 19 wouldn't make it another winter in Alaska. At 200,000 miles, I don't think she'd even make it back up to Alaska. She still runs great, but is no longer beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. With heavy heart, I decided to donate her to Purple Hearts to benefit Veterans and their families. The salvage yard will part her out, re-selling the engine and good parts (hard to find '91 Chevy parts nowadays!) and then salvage all the metal, etc.
  10. HazMat: more things than you would think are actually Household Hazardous Material. Some things can be dropped off at the county transfer station, sometimes free but normally at a charge, things like batteries and TVs; but other stuff needs to have special precautions. We called the county sanitation department, and found out the Waste Mobile (which picks up everything) was coming NEXT weekend (grrrr). So that same friend who's taking care of our metal salvage agreed to take our stuff to the Mobile along with his. I boxed up all the oil paint, all the automotive fluids, the household poisons (left by previous owner), the garden fertilizer/pesticide/herbicide (left by previous owner), asphalt roof sealant, flourescent bulbs, and a few other things that once contained mercury (securely wrap and label the mercury stuff!!) in clearly marked containers for him to drop off. Latex and acrylic paints & stains I just dried out thoroughly (stir stir stir) and put in with regular trash per the SaniDept's instructions.
  11. Toner cartridges: I had a few empty toner cartridges, and a few unused cartridges from a printer that died (4 years ago, don't know where that stuff was hiding!)... and of course, my printer decided to go out of toner two days ago as well! So I boxed all these up and took them to my local office supply store since they offer store credit for returned cartridges (check online because a lot of charities also accept them as donation!).

So there you have it, probably my greenist move ever -- and I'm leaving the house 100% empty and clean of any toxic crap or random garbage so the new tenants don't have a bunch of stuff to haul to the dump when they move in (like I did!). I'll be able to claim several donations on my taxes next year, and I get the peace of mind knowing that as much stuff as possible will be reused, recycled and (at the very least) disposed of properly. Which is a great thing in my book :D

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Surviving a Yard Sale

Well, folks, time is ticking down and we did finally have that monster Yard Sale to get rid of all (most) of the stuff we weren't dragging with us to Alaska. Thinking ahead (a bit too far maybe), I scheduled a charity truck to come on Monday to pick up all the stuff I didn't expect to sell on Saturday. Surprisingly, I think we actually sold about 90% of our extra stuff, and the only big things really left for pick up is half of an office desk system (sold the file cabinets, but the buyer didn't need the desk tops or hutches), a kitchen table, and a sofa. I think charity will take the desk units and table, but they never accept used soft furniture... so it'll be off to the dump :( All the rest is just dishes, alarm clocks and other flotsam that charity always takes. Yippee!

Here are a few of my tips for a good yard sale:
  1. Dust/clean everything... people really appreciate it and it shows that the stuff is taken care of, not just junk!
  2. If something is missing parts, or you don't know if it works, mark it as such and keep the price really low (we sold a completely defunct computer because it was marked "salvage" and only $5 -- we removed the hard-drive first though!).
  3. If you have the original box, or at least the product manual, you can usually get a higher price... even if the item doesn't work (go figure?!)
  4. Try to arrange your sale like a department store. We had all the office/computer stuff in one place, all the kitchen/dining stuff in one place, all the books/movies/games/toys in one place, and all the yard/tool/construction stuff in one place (right up front so hubbies who got dragged out yard-saling had something interesting to look at!). We also prominently displayed our high-ticket/interesting items in a spread-out fashion to draw people through our entire sale... it's a cheap marketing ploy, but it works (a million department stores can't be wrong, right?!).
  5. Do all the cleaning, pricing and sorting well in advance so you don't end up awake all night (like me) getting everything ready, or having people showing up to buy stuff while you're still dragging stuff out. Being prepared makes everything so much easier and people seem to be reassured when they show up at an organized sale.
  6. If you're having a yard sale (as opposed to a garage sale) and have a lot of heavy furniture, consider scheduling a bunch of friends to come help you move it all outside, and arrange it, the evening before the sale (if the weather is cooperating). It's pretty safe to say that a 100 lb desk or 8 ft sofa is not going to "walk away" in the middle of the night unless you live in a really bad neighborhood. Moving all the furniture and heavy stuff was, by far, where the largest porportion of our injuries occured and we did some minor damage to a few pieces that required us to mark the prices down. Live and learn!
  7. Promote your yard sale well. We posted it with the newspaper's online classified (free), had it printed in the newspaper's classifieds the day of sale (free because it was only 3 lines - date, time, location), and online at Craigslist (also free). If you have an unlimited amount of free advertising space (like most online classifieds), make a list of the categories of stuff you have, noting anything particularly catchy (like our barely used spare bed that came with pillows and all linens), and consider posting pictures of unique stuff. The morning of the sale, I also ran around to all the major intersections nearby and staked out some hand-made flourescent yellow sale signs (with arrows!) as well as prominently marking our intersection since our house is hard to find. (Remember to take your signs back down when you're done!!!)
  8. We used our PayPal account to accept credit cards at our yard sale using our laptop. It came in handy for some of the larger/expensive things like furniture and computers. People didn't have to rush out (possibly losing the item to another buyer) to get cash out of an ATM; and we didn't have to reserve an item that others were interested in waiting for the original buyer to come back (or not) with the money. If you have several items costing more than $50, you may also want to consider the credit card option.
  9. Doing package deals really worked effectively. No one was going to buy a lone dust ruffle, but it went along with the bed... which somehow made the bed more attractive and got rid of the dust-ruffle. Bonus! Everybody wins. This worked really well for our computers, too... we put the Windows and Office disks in a zipper bag taped to the case AND allowed them to chose any monitor, keyboard & mouse they wanted from our selection, plus one additional software item or accessory for free (woohoo... that's one way to get rid of a 10 year old scanner!).
  10. You need to decide ahead of time what the objective is for your sale. Do you want to make as much money as possible, or do you want to get rid of as much stuff as possible? Often, you can only do one or the other well. If you want to make the most money, things really need to be good quality & condition, and you need to price them high enough not to lose out on haggling but not so high people don't even make offers. If you want to get rid of as much stuff as possible, you still need to make sure that things look decent, but you really need to price them low enough that people realize they are getting a real steal, erm, deal... but not so low that they think the stuff is junk or broken (low prices + organized sale = deals, not junk, so that's important to remember!)

We really wanted to get rid of the most stuff, being that we're radically downsizing and we didn't want to drag all this stuff up to Alaska (at great expense), so we priced everything fairly low... about a dime to the dollar of retail if it was newish, and $10 or less if it was pretty old (even if it was expensive 10 years ago when we bought it). We actually had several people give us more than the asking price because they felt it was too low and they were taking advantage (my faith in human goodness is restored). We did get people who haggled down to half the already low asking price, or did some "fuzzy math" coming up with the total (my faith in human shadiness is reaffirmed); but I let these things slide because I really just wanted the stuff out of my yard and out of my life. Of course, I didn't start really negotiating downwards until it got towards the end of the sale... no sense being completely beneficent about things because we actually needed to make some money to finance the move after all!

Now, there's a little bit of trickiness to getting rid of stuff and the best way to do it. There are some things that will not sell well at a garage sale, no matter how cool it is; or that you would take a real beating on even if it did sell. These are specialty-type items or entire collections of things. For example:

  1. Gungnir had 20-odd years worth of video games for the PC and multiple console systems. Yes, those things could have sold (maybe!) at the yard sale, but yard sale folks are picky about buying stuff like that when it's out of date but not yet "vintage". It's likely that they'll cherry pick-through it, buying only one or two things, but reducing the potential value because it's not a complete system/collection anymore . So, we found a speciality buyer online; boxed all the old consoles, accessories and games up; and shipped everything to them (at no charge!) for cash in return. We may, in theory, have made more on it at a yard sale or on eBay, but only if we sold it all... which never happens. Going with the specialty buyer was faster, guaranteed, and much less hassle.
  2. I auctioned off several lots of miscellaneous arts & crafts supplies (in related categories) on eBay and made way more than I would have at a yard sale, with no cherry-picking.
  3. Really expensive stuff, like our home theater system and Gungnir's guitars, we posted on Craigslist. Eventually (after 2-3 postings) everything sold or we found a mutually beneficial trade. Trading was a bit difficult because we were trying to get rid of stuff, not collect any more... but we lucked out and found a guy who wanted to trade a bunch of his renewable energy gear (which we actually need) for our home theater system (which was still really expensive even though we were asking less than a quarter of MSRP). Woot! That deal worked wonderfully for both of us.

So, all-in-all, divesting ourselves of our extraneous crap has been a time-consuming and exhausting ordeal; but well worth it now that it's all done and over with. We survived the weeks of classified ad inquiries and all the yard sale shenanigans relatively unscathed; and came out the other side with a few crisp Franklins in our wallets for the trip, and some new backwoods energy gear. Not too bad in the grander scheme of things... better than poke in the eye with a sharp stick at least ROFL!

So now the house is pretty much empty, looking sort of lonely really. The living room is lined with boxes and several piles of stuff that needs to go into boxes at the last minute when we're finally done using it. Now we just have to decide whether we have the energy and motivation to prime & paint, and do other little home repairs before we move; or just let the house go "as-is" and use the remaining time to recuperate our strength and reserves for the really hard part... bushwhacking through virgin forest and building our new home in the wilderness. I'm so exhausted and sore today, I'm really starting to lean towards Option B.

Yay! Its another Grumpy Post

Well I guess that the yard sale went well.

Although I feel like I went 25 rounds with Tito Ortiz (do they have rounds in UFC). However other and bruises and minor contusions I'm fine.

The thing that I guess is kind of amazing is the crap that people buy at yard sales, the stuff that you put out that's a steal just sits there and doesn't sell, but man people will fight over that cracked mug that says "I'm not a people person".

If you happen to be someone who bought something thank you for your generous patronage of course, we appreciate your puchases and hope that the quality goods that you received in exchange for some green will last you years and give you many great memories, especially if you bought the bed, I'm sure you'll get plenty of great memories in there, and possibly some not so good, but hey that life...

Anyway we made a spot of cash, not a huge amount but it should cover the cost of the U-Haul (which we opted to get rather than a trailer, two vehicles are better than one on a long journey).

So only eight days to go, and six days to recover, we do have to go dump some trash so that's another day of hauling stuff, and the charity truck comes tomorrow to I'd guess they'll need some assistance too. It's times like these that servants would come in handy, but you can't build without demolition, and that includes your previous life too, there's a bunch of junk that accumulates that you don't use, and don't need but sits around taking up space both physically and metaphysically, that you need to jettison before you move on, otherwise you'll end up in the words of "The Who"

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

well I don't want my boss to be my stuff. I'd like it to be me as much as possible.

Anyway off again, need more caffeine haven't achieve the desired levels of cynicism this morning.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

If I was one of the seven dwarves I'd be grumpy

So, it's been brought to my attention, that I tend to be grumpy... Yes that's right Lil' Ol' me being pessimistic. You know who you are ;)

Anyway, yes I do have that predisposition, however the thing that's cool about doing what we're doing is that it's an adventure. Maybe we'll succeed, maybe we won't but you know, we're trying something that is so cool, so radical, and so out there, that pretty much everyone I've told about it has been either 'you gotta be crazy' or 'Man, I wish I could do something like that'.

Now on the not succeeding, there I go being all pessimistic again, from a risk perspective we have a few, and a bunch of mitigations, which is all that we can expect to have. One of the exciting things though is that neither Plickety nor I know truly how this will all turn out, and here are so few things that you can say these days that that fact is so. For instance, if someone wants to get pregnant, it can happen, it's just a matter of the right timing, or the right medications, or at worst by proxy and that's about the most uncertain thing that anyone faces these days.

So, to me it's all about the journey, I don't specifically have a destination in mind, beyond having a rocker on the west porch so I can watch the sunset, and a cup of coffee in the kitchen in the morning with my wife. Now yes there's a lot of work between here and there, but it's the challenge and the journey that is motivating me... and anyway I'm not happy unless I have something to complain about, I am originally from Britain after all.