Thursday, August 14, 2008

Landed and Finally Online

It's no Swiss picnic driving a non-airconditioned vehicle up California's I-5 "superslab" in the dead of summer. I left Carlsbad at 5 pm last Sunday night, and by 9:30 I was checking into the Lost Hills Motel 6. It's one of those wide spots in the road located near the kinds of facilities that truckers like to frequent, and as a result the various businesses light up the desert sky from dusk until dawn, and the sound of giant trucks is pretty much non-stop. However, a friend advised that I request a room in the back, "near the frog pond," and it worked out okay. The room as about as bare-bones as any motel room I've ever stayed in--didn't even have a clock--but for $37 it was fine. I reckon its location would have shielded me from much of the freeway noise, but since the ambient temperature was in the 70's all night long, I had to run the fan in the room to keep from baking and, as is normal in the United States hospitality industy where only the noisiest, rattliest, grindingness of air conditioning units are deemed acceptable for room that people expect to sleep in, a minor war could have taken place over at the offramp and I'd never have heard it over the local din in my room.

My Vanagon's 1.9L 68-hp engine did a fine job of pulling the heavy vehicle and 500 lbs of trailer up the Grapevine from the LA basin to the high desert. Of course, I was over in the rightmost lane, the truck lane, tailing a long line of 18-wheelers crawling up the grade, all of us with our 4-way blinkers flashing--me, desperately so--hoping to avoid being rear-ended by someone with fewer lbs per hp.

But up the grade, up the superheated valley the next day, all the way up 97 through Dorris and Klamath Falls and Chemult and LaPine, my old van ran just fine, and managed the best mileage I've ever seen it get: 19 mpg, which is phenomenal, considering that the best I've ever previously observed as a tad over 17 mpg. I attribute this improvement to the trailer: while it did add 500 lbs that the engine certainly felt during climbs, it also probably reduced drag by reducing turbulence behind the flat back of the van.

I pulled into the driveway of our new house shortly after 7 pm on Monday evening after having first stopped by the Newport Market to pick up dinner. In contrast to how nicely the trip had gone, my arrival into the house was considerably less pleasing: the place was a mess. Filthy, in fact. The seller had assured us that they would leave the house "spotless," but it was far from that. My realtor was shocked, I was shocked. Ashes and partially burned logs in the fireplace, dirty fingermarks on everything, plies of cr#p in the garage, heaps of wood and rubbish in the yard, a dirty kitchen, dirty bathrooms...I'm not normally very fussy about such things, but this was unacceptable.

A call by our agent to the seller to ask whether she was going to clean the place had elicited a response that she was "too busy to spend all day chasing after contractors." Sigh. Since nothing about how clean the place would be was in the Agreement, this is apparently as much as the seller cared to do.

Mrs Elliott is leaving our house--tomorrow--in Carlsbad in far, far better condition, and she deserves to find her new home as clean, so I'm paying top dollar to have the place super clean for her. The crew (two great women, one of whom had a professional cleaning company and is also a realtor here in town, the other self-describes as "A wife and mother - well, I'm not a wife anymore." [laughter]) are hard at work as I write this. The refrigerator alone took over an hour to clean.

The carpeting is stained and spotted, and smells of dog (the sellers had two or three large dogs) and cats (the seller also had two or three rather grumpy cats) so tomorrow it's all getting cleaned by Brad's Carpet Cleaning. He sold me on his service by describing some perfectly frightening carpet shampooing machine that he built himself out of dragster engine parts or something, but he seems to have a very good reputation so I'm going along with it.

The badly scratched and weathered cedar decks, which were promised to have been re-stained before our arrival, were not. The seller's brother, who owns his own construction company, was apparently given the job and while he seems to be the sort of guy that operates on his own schedule, he's also getting the job done, bit by bit. I reckon that if my sister asked me to take care of some mess that she'd left behind I'd be a bit less than enthusiastic about it. But he seems to be a good guy, so I'm sure it will be handled.

But on the brighter side, things are coming along very nicely in the shop. The guy (Jack Martin) who was hired to knock down two walls to join three small rooms into one larger one for the shop and install a new exterior door did a fine job. The room is painted in bright white paint with a tough gray vinyl floor and base coving--it will be just fine for assembly work. I could see that the wiring in the shop is far too skimpy to power the place so a couple of recommended electricians will be bringing in two new 20A circuits from the house panel to a subpanel in the shop and add a bunch of outlets. Trucking companies are delivering industrial shelving and assembly benches and other necessities daily and my man, Scott Hancock, is assembling them with his son.

I made contact with a concrete fellow (he's not actually made of concrete, concrete's his line of work) who has come up with an affordable bid to pour a new driveway from the street down to the new exterior door so deliveries and shipments to and from the shop won't have to be carried through the house or on a dirt hillside which will most certainly turn to mud in winter.

And our realtor, who was so upset by the condition the house was left called out a window cleaning company and is paying to have the windows done.

So -- how's Bend, you ask? Hot, I can tell you that. Weather's darn hot right now, but other than a couple trips to Liberty Bank to set up my accounts (thanks Stacy and Wendy in the Century Drive branch), a few trips to the Ace hardware on 3rd, and occasional shopping trips to get some food into the joint, I haven't had a chance to really "do" any of Bend. Everyone I've met so far, including the driver of the Bend Garbage and Recycling truck who asked me to put the containers on the street so he could access them, the installer from Bend Broadband who hooked up the cable for Internet, the tech from Connected Computers who I had to hire after the Bend Broadband guy left to figure out why I couldn't get onto the internet (faulty cable modem), the nice mini-skirted lass at Cascade Cleaners, the folk at the hardware store...everyone has been quite nice. It's a welcome relief from the disinterested folk that one meets in more crowded cities.

Tomorrow: the decks get bleached prior to staining, the carpets get cleaned. I need to find someone to put shelf paper in all the kitchen cabinets for Mrs Elliott, but the kitchen looks 1000% better after cleaning.

In other news, my oldest friend has spoken highly of Full Sail beer, but I've never tried it. I was gratified to see that the Newport Market had some in stock and I took home a bottle of their IPA tonight. He's right: it's a darn good ale.

And this just in: Mrs Elliott called to tell me that the packing of the 26-foot and 22-foot rental trucks was unsatisfactory, that a ton of stuff would need to be taken out and repacked in order to fit in all our stuff. This is scheduled to occur tomorrow morning, which will delay their departure.


  1. Glad to hear you made it safely, sorry to hear about the state of your house. Have you had much experience with Deschutes Brewery? The offerings in the store are great, but down at the pub, the original brewery and public house in Bend, the seasonal and experimental brews are incredible! On Bond street close to Greenwood. See you around!



  2. Thankee kindly, Brendan! I had the occasion to visit the Deschutes Brewery pub a couple months ago and thought it was a fine establishment. I shall drop in, perhaps tomorrow night (TGIF!) and taste their offerings.

  3. We've been having an incredibly pleasant summer. You missed out on our annual summer hailstorm last week. It's a little hotter here than what you're probably used to, but it's a dry heat ;-)

    Welcome to Bend, Jack!!

  4. I regret having missed the hailstorm! Everyone who's been helping me get this house into shipshape has commented on the heat. That said, while the temps are higher than what is customary down in coastal SoCal, the lack of humidity makes it far more tolerable. As you say, "It's a dry heat," and there is considerable truth in that.

  5. Congrats on the arrival Jack! Mellow Yellow did a fabulous job which is great news for all of us still driving vanagons with 1.9L in the engine bay. I was very surprised to hear of your mpg boost while towing and it's certainly great info for anyone taking on a long trip in a similar vehicle.

    Would your excellent cleaning duo take on the repapering of the shelves I wonder.

  6. The excellent cleaning duo would most certainly take on the shelf-papering duties, but I am kind of fishing around for some energetic youth who needs the work. A little summer folding money for some youngster.

  7. Good to see that my pessimisms (is that a word?) were ill-founded. Congratulations on a successful trip.

  8. @refisher: I forget . . . what pessimisms? (I like the word, let's stick with it!)

  9. Speaking of slow recall, what about the papers for the shelves, any update?

  10. @ closerOK: I was unable to find a shelf paperer, so Mrs Elliott and I picked up some paper at Home Despot and are lining the shelves ourselves. I must confess that I was initially attracted to white paper with a pattern of little flowers, but when I suggested it Mrs Elliott said "Ew. Like my mother would use."

    We settled on some transparent sticky film that lets the nice wood on the bottoms of the drawers and shelves be seen.


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