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31 Oct

Much of the content of our new everyday lives is going on Facebook, or just going unreported due to the demands on our time… but this seems to apply nicely to our journey. If nothing else, it’s the first area we’ve found in which our new neighborhood thoroughly trumps our old neighborhood.

All this happens just a block or so up from our house. The police close the street off for several blocks, and the crowds mostly close it off for several more.  Only one house was deemed too scary to go ask for candy.  Double strollers are unfortunately not made for navigating crowds, but as masses of humanity go, this was pretty painless.


In-suite cinema

2 Aug

Ah, the things you do when you’re stuck in a hotel room or friend’s couch/basement for the 60th day, and need to find something to do with the five year old besides arguing about vegetable ingestion…

Shot and edited on one of our new iPhones.  Have to say, I’m not impressed with the App version of iMovie- can’t clip clips, can’t add music without it completely replacing the existing audio track, can’t adjust audio levels, etc etc, but it’s just a phone, so I shouldn’t expect too much.

Today was a bucket of fail for the most part; folks short on sleep and cranky, arguments about food at two instead of the usual one meal per day, several hours at the DMV before they told us they couldn’t process our new plates yet because the system in WA used to confirm VIN numbers is down for some reason, but they’d call (they haven’t).  Tried to pull it out of that with a nap for Mrs. Damn, some quality playtime (if not quality movie-making) with Moon, cooking dinner, cleaning up, reading story, doing laundry, etc, but overall it’s still at best a wash.

Which reminds me- time to go transfer laundry…

Plant seeds, add fertilizer

30 Jul

So we’re here now, but our arrival is being dragged out like a William Shatner death scene… which I suppose might be helping keep it from overwhelming us, so I probably shouldn’t complain.  I hear gift horses have halitosis.

Chandra’s WA plates expire next week, so some of the stuff you might usually try to deal with in the tail-end of your moving-in process is instead the prelude for us (no, not Honda Prelude, that was my first car).  Here in VA I’ve noticed they like to do things in person, and require lots of runaround, forms, etc.  Cases in point: they won’t let you do things online, as when they gracefully acknowledge the complete lack of any online listing of state-approved inspection locations for the multiple required inspections, for example.  Instead they show a picture of what the sign looks like, so when you’re driving around your town you know what to look for in the window of the car shop.  Works great if you already live here and know where to check… otherwise, not so much.  The parking permit we needed for the PODs delivery couldn’t be done online or over the phone either, and required a couple hours in city hall, multiple signatures from different departments, and would normally then be mailed to you in a couple weeks.  Please explain to me how this is supposed to be the standard procedure for people moving here; you have to be here to get the permit, which is then mailed to… where, exactly?  When?  Even the Kindergarten registration had to be done in person.

Their in-state tuition rules suck too, which I’m having to pay for big-time; actual time in state residence doesn’t matter, you also have to prove that you did not move to the state with the intent to go to school and get in-state tuition.  Guilty until proven innocent, and having been accepted almost two years before I came, that’d be a hard case to fight.  In many states, I’d be getting in-state tuition my second year, just for having been living there a year.

So here, in order to get new plates, you need to do inspections, fill out forms, prove residency, and get in-state Drivers licenses first- those in turn requiring Passports, Social Security cards, copy of Lease or other proof of in-state residence, etc.  We got the drivers licenses taken care of today, although the real cards won’t be ready for a while.

Does VA really not want more people?  They do seem to make it more of a pain to move here than I remember WA ever being.

We’re staying at an extended-stay hotel suite, which is both cheaper and nicer than most of the straight-out hotels we’ve been in this trip.  No pool or free breakfast, both of which Moon mourns, but having at least one door you can close is great, as is the kitchenette and free laundry.  Even with the suite setup I still sometimes have to take someone outside, so as to not wake the 5yo we’re trying to get to sleep on the fold-out couch in one room, or the other twin who’s starting to fall asleep in the other.

Cruising the hallways

Our free time, as such, is about setting up utilities installations (which can be just as difficult and bureaucratic as the government agencies, which makes me suspect cultural rather than official causes), trying to remember what all to change the addresses and phone numbers for online (and just beginning to memorize the new info after repeated entries on forms), trying to keep up with existing accounts (our between the POD shipment, hotels, gas, etc the AmEx bill this month makes me want to cry) figuring out registration and schedule for my courses (still working on that, thanks to some apparent conflicts in what I was told to do), and otherwise tying up the loose ends of a string we don’t even really have fully in hand, yet.

Not all who wander have somewhere to go home to…

26 Jul

So what was meant to be a travel blog may be coming to its end, shortly.  What was meant to be a cross-country adventure with many interesting and educational stops, the longest being in Colorado and New York, changed.  What was meant to be well documented, wasn’t.  Apologies all around.

The latter half of our mileage ended up being a mad dash through scorching heat, unable to stop for more than five minutes without fear of the cats dying in a hot car, until the end-of-day stop at a pet-friendly (or at least tolerant, for varying extra fees) hotel, the ritual unloading of two cars, the finding of fast food, the arguments about food, Moon being up later than she should, and then a mad dash to get everything back in the car to do it again in the morning.  Any hope of interesting sight-seeing stops got splattered on the windshield somewhere back in Utah, I think.

We did get the check engine light fixed under warranty, and the laptop fixed under Applecare, both for free, so some of the trials have had happy endings.  Likewise the brand-new, top-of-the-line iPhone that Mrs. Damn’s been wanting forever and that we finally got was stolen two days later, but also recovered within an hour or two due to Mobile-Me tracking and the assistance of the Chapel Hill Police Department.  Things could be much worse, but they haven’t been the most photogenic, or made for the best stories.

It’s also been an anticlimactic series of re-runs, as well.  First I flew to PA, then flew back so we could drive to PA.  Then we felt the need to go take care of some chores in Richmond (Moon’s school registration, securing a parking permit for the POD, etc), and at that point between the driving and the decreased time left and the setup that would need to happen in the currently unoccupied residence at Montaulk, Mrs. Damn decided to forgo that leg of the journey.  The hotel we were in while in VA was overpriced and mediocre, though, having been chosen for being on the North end of Richmond (as I thought we were just coming from and going back to the North shortly).   We ended up invading Grandpa Damn down in North Carolina, where we’re currently camped out in his living room.  Still not sure exactly when we’re heading up to Richmond, although it will have to be prior to our move-in date if only so we can find a way to block off the parking spaces (30 feet worth of street parking) we bought that permit for.

I’m not sure what Mrs. Damn, whose I consider this blog’s creator and owner, will opt to do from here.  Continuing to chronicle our adventures here would turn a travel blog in to a cabin-fever-due-to-heatwave, no-home, fighting over food with the 5yo, trying-to-stop-babies-from-killing-themselves, tired-of-eating-out, frustrated-with-not-being-able-to-get-anything-done, wish-we-had-our-own-space blog, which really isn’t something worth re-living or imposing on others I would think.

At any rate, this blog may well do more wandering than we do for a little while, and like the rest of us I’m not entirely sure what it will become when it gets wherever it’s going.  Still, feel free to come along for the ride.  There’s always room for one more… as long as you don’t mind cramped quarters, crying, and the smell of a warm litter box in the back.

Experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by

17 Jul

Unfortunetaly technology is conspiring against us. I type this on a hotel computer in a WordPress box that isn’t displaying the type, so I’m flying blind as it were- pardon any typos. Mrs. Damn’s laptop died, and we’re still without phones that will do anythingother than text-only email. Add to that a check engine light in the new Mazda and I’m feeling a bit let down by our devices, but such is life. Twitpics will continue in the sidebar, as we’re able.

We’ve had various changes of plans… I flew out of Denver to visit my grandmother in Penswood Villlage, where she’s planning as graceful an exit as possible despite increasing discomfort. Had a couple days there with my father as well, then flew back to Denver, and drove with the family back through Kansas, Missouri, Indiana (with a stop at our alma matter, Earlham College), Ohio, W. VA, Western PA, and today’s drive through PA with diversions through MD when I forgot we’d levft on a feature in the GPS to avoid toll roads.  It’s been a pretty hellish week, overall, and everyone’s been at the end of their ropes.  Did make it in time to have dinner in Pennswood though, and for my grandmother to finally meet the twins.

From here, we’ll have tomorrow morning again with my grandmother and the Uncle who’s been with her for the last couple weeks, then head to Richmond VA to tackle some initial logisttics (school registration for Moon, parekingpoermit for the moving pod and the cars, check on the laptop and car problems, etcf.then back up here to PA then on to Montaulk NY, then back.

At any rate, wish us luck, and I hope we’re able to be more connected in the near future… ideally without having to spend too many more hundreds of dollars this trip…

Identity and place

7 Jul

It’s been nice to be back here in Gothic for a while.  Besides the very welcome help with child-wrangling, food, and other necessities of daily life, the gorgeous scenery, and the fact that it’s not in the 90s, it’s nice to be somewhere familiar.  I could hike/climb/mountain bike/drive in any direction and know (for the most part) where I’d end up, where there’s fishing, where there’s edible mushrooms to look for in wet Augusts, some of the history of the place, etc.

Or at least, I could if I didn’t have three kids.

Moon’s old enough now I can remember what I did here at her age, but of course being her own person, and having not grown up here, she also isn’t going to choose to do the same things.  She just hasn’t been exposed to the outdoors that much- it’s been hard to get out of town while living in Seattle, despite the proximity to great camping, etc.  Theatre, the house, and other things just took up too much of my “free” time.  For the most part she’d be happiest just staying in Nonnie and P-Pop’s cabin playing ponies, and eating nothing but rolls, hot dogs, and string cheese.  Hard sometimes not to break in to the “back in my day..”s, but she’s very much her own kid.

What’s also been interesting is just noting my own differences here.  It’s easy sometimes to fall in to old routines when going to old homes with your parents, but it’s been a little different this time- whether because I’m dragging along so many of my own kids, or because we’re sleeping in another cabin, or what, I’m not sure.  Still, I’ve found it generally easier to just “be” here, having spent enough summers here working part-time or not at all.   Much of my time here was spent as the only person my age, without TV or movies, either reading books, drawing, or going outside to bike, fish, hike, etc.  Now most of our time is, as always, taken up with child-wrangling, and I’m sad we haven’t been able to actually go out and see/do/experience much of what I’d hoped to share with my family. It’s just hard to get everyone ready to go anywhere, to work around feeding & nap schedules, sunscreen the crew, figure out how we’re getting anywhere since we take up a whole car ourselves… so some of that may need to wait until the kids are all a bit older- but by then, the rest of us are a bit older too.

I remember finding out about the first of my grandparents to die, while out in my parent’s cabin here, 25 years and a few weeks ago.  His wife, my last remaining grandparent (having seen two husbands die, and suffering from a variety of ailments), is now seeking hospice care, and we’ll be cutting our stay here a day short so I can fly out of Denver to go see her.  There’s no more denying that I’m becoming the middle generation, instead of the kid, and relations to family members are all being reflected upon somewhat.  I’ll be overlapping for an evening with my older brother, who I far too rarely see, with my father (who we’re here with now), and I think both of his brothers- one whom we visited last month on the first leg of our journey in his ranch in Naches, WA, and the other of whom we’ll see much more of after the journey is over, as he currently lives in Northern Virginia.

The idea of Importance of Place has been highlighted in their recent conversations- my Uncle’s place in WA has really come to define and reflect him, as has Gothic for my parents, and to some degree my grandmother’s place in Vermont, purchased after the death of my grandfather.  My daughter still treasures the last small vial of maple syrup from my grandmother’s place there.

In retrospect, this really wasn’t a bad place to grow up, or at least spend parts of it.  Crested Butte would be a great place to raise a family, for those who can find a way to afford to do so… which I don’t think will be me.  It’s a rare gem, geographically of course but also for being small town that’s in no way small-minded.

I do hope to return some time in the next few years, and can only hope to do so under better (or at least more freeing) terms than mid-move with the cats and very young kids.

Not all who seek are lost

22 Jun

I’m sure whoever invented the “seek” button on car radios was a guy.  One of those increasingly rare things that seems to live up to the gender stereotype breakdown is channel-surfing, and the seek button is a sort of cruise-control meets channel-surfing right there in the dashboard of your car.

Now granted, Mrs. Damn doesn’t tend to listen to radio nearly as much as I do anyway, but I do think there’s something to be said sometimes for just letting the radio cycle through the local offerings a few times.  Occasionally you actually find something you like, but even when you don’t it does give you a sense of place.

On this last leg it was a mix of:

  1. Christian evangelism (spoken and sung)
  2. Hispanic and Spanish-only stations (which may or may not also fit in to category number one, since I don’t speak much Spanish).
  3. Oldies, by various definitions.
  4. Token rock station
  5. Talk radio/news/produce and livestock prices
  6. Lots and lots of country (which may or may not also fit in to category number one)

At least categories 1,3,and 6 tended to focus on pride, loyalty to your small-town roots, cautions against trying to change things, move to the city, or interact too much with outsiders.  As an outsider driving through town (or presumably as an outside-flavored insider listening to number 2) that’s not always the most comforting message to hear, of course… but it’s not at all surprising.  The number of rebel flags we passed (even here, so far from any historical Confederate action), the Glenn Beck playing at the Mickey-D’s where we stopped for lunch, it’s all so classically non-urban.  Gee Toto, I don’t think we’re in Seattle anymore.

Music can set a soundtrack for what you see, and anyone who’s studied cinema at all knows how huge a difference a soundtrack or score can make.  For a more lowbrow demonstration, you can always click this link to Surprise surprise, it plays music, so you may not want to do so at work.  Press the white button under the screen to change genres.

It seems to me that if part of the goal of this road trip (other than accomplishing the obvious daunting task of moving our family across the country and providing us with somewhere to stay for the months between homes) is to see different parts of the country, then maybe we should take “see” to mean more than that one of the five senses.  Hearing is good too.

Smelling, not always.  Tasting, only occasionally.  Feeling, maybe.  But hearing’s good.

Stunt double- actual stereo is older and does not hold multiple disks. Did I mention I listen to radio more?

It’s the little things…

21 Jun

-because currently that’s about all we can do on the fly: Blogging-wise, all we can do with our current phones and plan is post to TwitPic. Much of the first 400 miles were outside of cellphone signal, but cellphone camera photos snapped along the way are posted when possible.

Here’s me.


18 Jun

Being from a good hippie/environmentalist background as I am, I’m well aware of how driving an internal-combustion vehicle effects the planet.  We’re about to drive two decent-sized vehicles with car-top carriers and full loads over 4,000 miles each.

Being the sole income for a family of five, and heading towards a couple years as a starving grad student, however, I’m not in a position to do too much about that.

Should you feel so inclined, here’s a way you can help offset some of our damage:

I believe you can buy carbon offsets as present for others, and have used TerraPass for plane travel in the past.

In the meantime, maybe we can get a stuffed pelican for each of the kids and dunk it in black RIT dye, just to make sure we’re not shirking our responsibility.

Reliance on Technology

17 Jun

This blog might end up being less dynamic than we’d hoped, once we hit the road…

We’d been planning on picking up new phones before we left, as our two year contract is up.  Mrs. Damn has decided our next phones should be the new iPhones, which granted, would let us keep in touch, upload content, and heck, even edit videos and upload them from the road (presumably not while driving.  Of course not, officer…).  She’s had a mostly positive experience with her Apple laptop, and is now a devoted fan of them- especially the AppleCare protection plan.  That and her appreciation of the closed system/moderated app store seems to be the main selling points for the new iPhone over, say, the cheaper ($150 each on Amazon) Driod Incredible– but I could be missing something.

Unfortunately, things kept getting pushed back.  We waited on the announcement of the new phones, as we knew they would both open up new options and drop the price on the existing iPhones when they came out.  Then we waited for the pre-order deadline, figuring we’d have them shipped to us en route.  Then their servers and phone numbers couldn’t handle the rush for the trendy new phones.  Then they had to push back the delivery dates and make them tentative instead of guaranteed.  Plus the online ordering system would only let you ship and set area codes according to the billing address on your credit card.

So now I’m not sure… I have a feeling this means we won’t get new phones until mid-July or probably early August, when the new iPhones become more readily available in stores.  In the meantime, we have phones that can handle email but not web browsing or other fancier features.

Not our phones.

I’ll admit in addition to the blogging and general memorabilia appeal of being able to take & upload photos & video, I was set more at ease about our trip by the thought of being able to access maps, GPS, look up hotels, search for the next restaurant via voice commands, and all those other modern marvels that come with the current batch of mobile devices and applications, and I’m starting to worry more and more about how we’re going to fare on the longer stretches between havens (La Pine, OR to Gothic, CO being the first of several of them).

At the same time, I have to mock myself somewhat for feeling dependent on expensive new technology I haven’t ever even had yet.