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Old 03-29-2018, 11:22 AM   #1
Didace
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Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

It was always on the agenda to eventually move somewhere west. We like living in Northern Virginia, but this was never going to be our "forever" place. Her three kids live in the west - two in southern California and one in Las Vegas - and her parents live in Arizona. It seemed logical that we would end up someplace out there.

There was never a specific time that we had in mind to do this. We just always thought that life would tell us when to go. Now there is a marriage coming up in early fall, and another one is sure to follow soon after. This probably means grandbabies. It is clear to me nothing will stop her from getting her required grandma time. And then last August her dad had a stroke. He has had increasing health problems for the past several years and the stroke has accelerated his decline. This is taking a toll on her mother. We've been out several times for a few weeks at a time in the past few months to help, but it's obvious they need more than the occasional assistance.

So, the thought was always that "sometime" we would move out there. After a lot of thought, we've determined that "sometime" is now.

Yesterday our house - our home for 17 years - went on the market.
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Old 03-31-2018, 12:52 AM   #2
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Where west?
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Old 04-04-2018, 04:05 PM   #3
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

God I'm so done with California. Gotta wait til my kids finish school to gtfo, though.

#notcalifornia
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Old 04-04-2018, 06:29 PM   #4
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

I'm sorry to hear about your FIL. It's great you are willing to move for your wife because it will mean so much to her. Good luck.
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Old 04-05-2018, 09:37 AM   #5
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Selling a house, when you get down to the basics, is really no different than selling something else you have - a car or some furniture you no longer need. You offer something for sale to the public, people come look at it, if they like it they make an offer and you negotiate a sale. No big deal. To be fair, it is the largest transaction most people will ever make, and unless someone does it a lot, most will need some kind of professional help to make sure all the legalities are correct and proper forms filed. But strip all that away and it's more or less the same as selling a lawn mower you no longer need during the Spring community yard sale.

Selling a home is an entirely different matter.

Once you've made the decision to sell you start preparing your home so that it looks its very best for a quick sale at a price you want. All the little jobs that have been put off - fixing some trim, touch up the paint, a deep cleaning that doesn't happen often enough - get done in a flurry of activity. You clear out things you have accumulated over the years to stage your home so that it "shows well". Once you do all of that you think to yourself, "Damn, this house is nice!" and you wonder why you are selling it.

People set up appointments to come see your home. You make sure everything is perfect and then leave. While you are gone, other people - OTHER PEOPLE THAT DON'T BELONG THERE! - come and wander through your home passing judgement. Most cross it off their list of potential houses right away; it's just not for them. Who do these people think they are to not fall in love with the best house they will ever visit? Can't they see how wonderful it is?

The process definitely plays with your emotions. You don't want these people in your home thinking about taking it away from you. But at the same time you want them to immediately say, "This is the one!" and make an acceptable offer so you can get on with things. To get on with your life.
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Old 04-06-2018, 05:57 PM   #6
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

I want as many people as possible to say "this is the one!"
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Old 04-12-2018, 09:51 AM   #7
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

No offers yet. There have been plenty of "we really like it, but...", "you're our second choice", and a few second visits. But nothing real has come of it. I'm trying to be patient - it's only been on the market two weeks and the first weekend was a holiday - but it's hard. We really aren't in any hurry to do a deal. No "Motivated Seller" here. But we've made the decision to sell and would like to get it done.

Part of the problem for me is we haven't yet purchased a new house. We have two that we've been looking at, but we are holding off making an offer until we have a contract to sell this one. Both of these houses seem right and we don't want to miss out even though waiting is the right thing to do. And it's not even a problem if they are gone by the time we are ready to act. We have a temporary landing spot if we end up not having a place to move into while we search for something else. So there really is no pressure.

But, I want this done.
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Old 04-20-2018, 02:35 PM   #8
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

I don't remember the experience of selling our prior house. It was 17 years ago but I should remember something about it, don't you think? It can't be that the memories have faded over time; I remember everything I felt while buying it three years before that. If the experience was anything like what I'm going through now, there would be no doubt I would remember the process. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Selling this house is becoming all consuming. The house always has to be in perfect shape. We need to be able to leave on short notice (this can cause problems as we both work from home and she is on conference calls all the time). I get back home after one showing is done and then need to figure out what to do before the next showing in 90 minutes. Or, I spend all day wondering why no one has called to schedule anything for the day.

My wife just left on a 16-day international trip and now I'm on my own. We've checked and we can do e-signatures if we get an offer we like - or to make a counter - but, after having one showing this morning I can tell these two weeks will really stress me out.

As I said last week, I really want this done.
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Old 04-26-2018, 10:28 AM   #9
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

We almost sold the house. Yes, I know almost selling a house is like being almost pregnant; you are either pregnant or you are not, the house is sold or it isn't.

We almost sold the house.

Someone came back to look at it for the third time and then made an offer. It wasn't the best offer - came in low on price, wanted a lot of closing subsidy, contingent on the sale of their house that wasn't even on the market yet. Could have lived with one of those but not all three. We made a counter offer at a price below the listing but higher than their offer, and tightened up some of the deadlines for when they had to do things (mainly sell their house, we weren't going to let them have six months to dick around, sell it or not and move on).

They haven't got back to us yet. I'm going to talk to our agent and see if we need to withdraw the counter or just let it sit out there. All of this has been stressful. My wife is in Bangkok this week so we only have about an hour in the morning and in the evening to talk things over. She's letting me take the lead but we always done the big things together. I would really like her home. It will be better next week when she is in London. Our days will overlap more giving us more time during the day that we can discuss things.

But even after having this deal not work out, I'm feeling better about things. We had very good traffic last weekend. There has been a lot of interest. Not enough to make a deal, of course. But it only takes one. I feel it's coming soon.
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:27 AM   #10
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

We are homeless.

Not really, of course. But we do have a ratified contract to sell our house and nothing lined up on the other end. So, Yea!?

After a few weeks of "you're in our top two" and "we love the house but don't like the lot", the people with the offer I wrote about before came back with a higher offer and without the home sale contingency. After some back and forth we reached an agreement. We had some questions about what they are doing with their house but received assurance from their loan officer (one that our agent knows and trusts) that they will have no issues qualifying for a new loan without a sale. Also, they are going to rent their house and it's a very hot rental market so they should have no problem.

All in all, we are happy with the deal. The sale closes June 29.

Now we need some place to live.

We have a landing spot at my wife's parents' house if we don't find anything, so we are not desperate. But that's obviously not a long term solution. We have had our eye on two houses from a developer - one was built as a spec house and the other is one where the original buyer backed out before it was done. They both appear to still be available. We have sent a message to confirm.

My wife is traveling for work the middle of next week and then goes to California to do some wedding stuff with her daughter. I fly to Arizona on Friday. She meets me there Saturday.

Time to buy a new house.
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Old 06-04-2018, 11:37 AM   #11
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

The house buying trip was a success. Surprisingly, at least to both my wife and myself, we didn't get either of the houses we had previously identified and visited on a prior trip. While we liked the houses it came down to a gut feeling. Two things contributed to this.

First, we decided we just didn't want to live in that area. In 10 to 15 years the town might be really nice, but right now outside of the one small development, not so much. Since our plan is for this to be a shorter-term house, it's not worth it to live someplace you don't really like with hopes that it will improve long-term.

Second, and this is what really tipped the scales, the salesperson really annoyed us. It really shouldn't matter, especially for a large purchase like a house, but it was like everything she did was calculated to make us less likely to want to do business with her. She was unresponsive to emails we sent prior to our visit. She didn't come with when we looked at the houses; just said they were open and to look around ourselves. After we saw the houses on Saturday she promised us additional information by email that never came. And she was very dismissive on our questions about making a deal. She said there have been many people interested in the two houses so we should just sign the contract as offered. One of the houses was purely a spec house and has been sitting on the market 90% finished for six months! You would think that she would work a little harder to get it sold.

So we decided to reevaluate. After considering all the options in the area that met our parameters - from resales to spec houses to building new - we decided on a spec house from a different builder in a completely different area. In contrast to the other place, the salesperson was really helpful. She went with us to the house, answered all of our questions, gave us lots of info on the community. Basically doing what a sales person should. (She also has been responsive on email and has sent us pictures of progress on the house since we made the deal.) So after thinking about it overnight, and getting the advice of a few people we know in the area that we trust, we signed the contract in the morning.

Closing is tentatively scheduled for July 25. It could move up as much as a week. The day after the contract was ratified the construction supervisor called me to talk about the completion of the house. He said they might be able to get it completed up to a week sooner and he'll keep me informed.

The house isn't perfect, but it fits our current parameters. One disappointment is we were unable to choose any of the interior finishes. Tile, carpet, cabinets, and counter tops were all ready ordered and could not be changed. Fortunately they all look to be something we will be happy with. Once we get out there and settle in for a while, we will start to consider longer-term options, including doing a custom build. We will see what direction we end up going as we both realize everything changes everything and our current thinking is bound to change.

So now we are on to wrapping up our deal to sell the current house, making arrangements for the move, and figuring where we are going to live for the 20+ days we are homeless. Not stress free, but the end goal is in sight.
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Old 06-04-2018, 04:46 PM   #12
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Congrats!
Selling a house and buying one can be real stressful. It sounds like you've got everything under control. At the end of July when everything is done, you'll realize that you got a lot accomplished in just 4 months.
Glad you got the contingency clause removed - they are usually a disaster waiting to happen.
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Old 06-16-2018, 08:03 AM   #13
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Home Owners' Associations - What are they good for?

I actually don't mind HOAs. If they are well run they aren't a bother and they provide amenities maintain the community standards. It total, they are a net plus. We've lived with one for 20 years and don't have any complaints. Until now.

The HOA inspects your property prior to closing of a sale. Any violations of covenants are noted and you can't pass clean title to the new owner until the violations are cleared. Seventeen years in this house and we've never had anything on the annual inspection. But try to sell your house and all of a sudden there are multiple items.

Some are just silly.

We have a flower garden on the front and side of the house with a short (less than 24 inches at its highest) flagstone border. This was put in shortly after we moved into the house and no approval was needed at that time. The rules have changed and now they want us to fill out a form so that they have a record of it being granfathered in.

We changed the planking on our deck from wood to Trex. Again, no approval needed at the time we did it but now they want their form.

We have two 12x12 paving stones in front of the side door of the garage as a transition from the garage to the lawn. The stones are just laying there, but somehow now it's a "landscape change" and needs the grandfathered approval.

We filled out the form for all of these and got two neighbors to sign. It was approved right away and now they have their paper in the file. Yippee.

We live on a pipestem. That means we share a long private driveway with three other houses and our houses are away from the street. The pipestem is asphalt and each house has an extra-wide concrete driveway of their own in front of their garage. This is to add an extra parking space since there is no street parking right in front of our houses. The HOA inspector noted that there didn't seem to be any approval for the "driveway extension". We had to show the office the original plat map showing that the driveway was part of the original approved construction of the house. They put a note in the file.

All that was annoying, but not really an issue. The last item on the list is.

The suffix on our street is "Loop". And it is just what you might imagine. You turn off another street and loop around meeting back up with the first street further down the way, forming a big, flattened oval. There are about 40 houses on "the Loop". In the middle of this loop is a large area of trees that is common area owned by the association. Our house backs to this area. When the houses were first built, everyone had lawns sodded up to the property lines. This left an average of 30 feet of dirt sloped up to where the trees start. Of course all of the homeowners, proud of their brand new houses, took it upon themselves to do something with this area to make it more pleasant and added some landscaping. This was better for everyone - the association has never needed/attempted to maintain this area and everyone's yards look nicer and we all essentially have a larger usable lawn. Win-win for everyone.

But apparently ours is somehow over the line enough that it was noted. We have flowering bushes and perennial flowers on the area. It seems our mistake was putting in a stone border (about 8 inches high) combined with the fact our neighbors have a fence on the actual property line, so it's clear the area is not on our lot. This caused the the HOA inspector to think we installed a "retaining wall on association property". We were all set to get a waiver for this but the buyers didn't want to sign a statement agreeing to continue to maintain the area or the association would rip it out at the new owner's expense (but the buyers don't want us to rip it out since it's so "beautiful", morons). We've got one hail Mary left, but it looks like we need to return it to the original condition, dirt.

So the rules will be followed, but no one - not even the person insisting we follow the rules - is happy with the result.
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Old 06-30-2018, 10:19 AM   #14
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Yesterday was closing day! We signed all the paperwork to sell the house. So we are officially (temporarily) no longer homeowners. Except,... we are. The buyers didn't sign. It's just a paperwork issue, but still. Working with this couple and the "professionals" handling things on their end is annoying.

The offer to buy the house was in only the husbands name. Why? I have no clue. We know who the wife is - her name is all over everything because she's the buying agent. So the title company working on their end prepared all the paperwork with only his name on it. No one from the title company or the buyer thought to ask how the property should be titled, they just charged ahead without thinking. (Our title agent said, "There's a lot of companies that do shoddy work out there". He caught a huge mistake on the first Closing Disclosure document that the other guys made because they didn't read all the contract addendums.) Leaving the wife off the title was, apparently, unacceptable.

So the title company redid the paperwork; an easy fix. The only problem was that the error was not "discovered" and corrected until late Thursday. Why is this a problem? The rules are that the buyer gets, and has to take, three days to review the Closing Disclosure and this change was enough to reset the clock. Now the buyers are scheduled to sign on Monday.

And now we're in a strange place. All our stuff is packed up and in storage waiting to be shipped to Arizona. We have "moved in" with my sister and brother-in-law (neither of whom are actually home right now, they get back Monday) for a few weeks before we begin our drive to the new house. Our old house is sitting empty and we both have emotionally left it behind and moved on. Except, we still own it. Until Monday. Maybe.
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Old 06-30-2018, 11:52 AM   #15
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

No more DC area traffic for you! Everyone I know who has left the NOVA/DC area always says that is the thing they are most happy about. Next is usually not being constantly surrounded by materialist conspicuous consumption focused insecure ******* psychopaths. Some of them end up missing the Korean & El Salvadorian food options, but never enough to want to go back.
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Old 07-04-2018, 08:09 AM   #16
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

It's over. At least part one is. The buyers signed late Monday. It wasn't entirely smooth. There was one small correction having to do with June HOA fees that had to be made. We could have let it go but there was no way I was going to fight with those clowns later to get my $80 back. So early in the day we went in and signed a corrected copy. As far as I know the buyers' signing went off without a hitch. But, I really don't care. The deed was recorded Tuesday. Sale proceeds were released and showed up in our account late in the day. We are now truly homeless.
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Old 07-04-2018, 12:33 PM   #17
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Stay homeless and travel the world imo! I'm headed to the Serengeti tomorrow to get eaten by lions, could use the company assuming you run slower than I do.
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Old 07-14-2018, 10:27 AM   #18
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

It's been an odd few weeks. Staying at my sister's isn't really a problem for me. 20 years ago, before I got married, I lived with her for several years. But, of course, time changes things and now it's different - not really moved in and living there, but more than just a weekend guest. Plus, now I come with a wife, two dogs, and two cats. No real problems, just odd.

My wife went to Arizona on Wednesday. She'll be back here late Sunday. Her dad was supposed to have a "minor" procedure on Thursday (nothing is minor for him these days), so she was going out to support her mom and check on the new house. The procedure was originally scheduled for a week earlier but got delayed. And right before she left, it was delayed again. We decided she would still go out there and get some prep work done for moving into the new house.

The new date for the procedure was the 26th (we are supposed to close the new house on the 25th and move in the 26th). But then it got put off again to an unknown later date. Except now it's back on for the 26th. Apparently now it's urgent enough that they can't wait. I don't understand.

Six days until we start our road trip to Arizona. The internet tells me it's 2,300 miles and 33 hours. When I was younger I'd try to do it in three, maybe even two, days. Now I'm happy to do it in four. We're stopping in Nashville, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque. I'm excited. The last time I made a move like this was 1990. It's time to start a new chapter.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:02 PM   #19
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

All of our stuff that was shipped to Arizona is confirmed there and waiting to be delivered to our new house next week. We've wired the remainder of our down payment to the escrow company. The loan is confirmed with no additional info needed. All the utilities are set to be switched to our name on Wednesday. We are scheduled to sign the paperwork on Tuesday morning. "Orientation" at the new house is in the afternoon. The sale closes and will be recorded Wednesday. Once that happens we get the keys and it is ours.

We sold our old truck and will get a new one out there. Said goodbye to my sister on Sunday when she left on a trip. Went out to eat and said goodbye to my nephew and his daughters tonight. My niece is out of town so I said goodby to her last weekend. Said goodbye to my brother-in-law when he went to bed (he leaves too early in the morning to say goodbye then). The car is packed with all of the stuff we have with us now. The gas tank is full and it is ready to go.

Tomorrow morning, we - my wife, myself, a dog, and two cats - hit the road. First stop - a motel outside of Nashville.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:51 PM   #20
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Good luck on the drive. I hope you enjoy all your stops. I've never been any of those places, but I'm looking forward to hearing about all three. A lot of my friends say Nashville in particular is great.
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Old 07-23-2018, 09:02 AM   #21
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

We are here. Four Days. 2,332 miles - 647, 701, 546, 438.

A few travel notes:

The Interstate Highway System is a great way to travel by car. Great, that is, if you are mainly concerned about getting to your destination and not actually seeing the country. You drive along doing 75mph+ and before you know it you've gone from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the flat plains of wesstern Oklahoma to the high desert of New Mexico. There's a lot of interesting stuff to see if you took the time to stop. But you just keep eating up the miles to get where you are going.

114 degrees is too damn hot. At least it wasn't as humid in Oklahoma as it was in Tennessee.

Our car is comfortable for traveling a few hours; it was purchased mainly to be a commuter car. Spending all day in it is not comfortable.

Cats do not like traveling.

Rocko was a champ. He probably thought it was luxurious compared to the kennel truck he's used to when traveling to hunt tests.

La Quinta Inns advertise as "pet friendly". This is good when you are traveling with animals. But it also means there are a lot of people with pets staying there. Including people that think it's cute when their little yapper-dog barks the whole time they are not in the room.

All in all, I can't complain about the trip. No major issues (or even minor ones) along the way. Everything worked according to plan. Now it's just a few more days staying at my in-law's before we move into our new house.


The move from Virginia to Arizona has become real.
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Old 07-25-2018, 12:59 PM   #22
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

The deed has been recorded. We are no longer homeless.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:57 PM   #23
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Moving into a new house is always a pain in the butt. Especially if you are downsizing. We have too much stuff.

Getting our stuff unloaded on Thursday went well. We had several containers that we had to go get ourselves. So, we’d go get one, unload it in the garage, and then go back to get another one. We had help. My nephew flew in from Denver and my mother-in-law arranged for the handyman that they use to help for the day. I don’t know what we would have done without them. As it was, it took all day to get everything out of the containers and into the garage.

On Friday we started moving things into the house. Only my nephew was available to help but we did well. We’d bring some furniture into the house, and then when something had to be put together (like beds) I’d do that, and he’d work on organizing all the boxes in the garage. He was relentless on getting stuff arranged. By the middle of Saturday afternoon, we had all the furniture in the house and set up, and the garage was arranged with all the shelving up and the boxes sorted by what room they belonged to. We even had room to bring the car into one of the stalls. After three days of unpacking one would hope you could fit at least one car in a three-stall garage, but that just shows how much crap we have.

On Saturday night we took my nephew out to eat and have some beers. First stop was a brew pub downtown. I prefer just ordering a beer I know I’d like, but he likes to sample everything they have (I’m old, he’s young), so we ordered a flight of 15 4oz. glasses to sample. It was not surprising that I only liked the lager, pilsner, and wheat beer. My wife, who is not a beer drinker, almost gagged when she tasted the regular porter. Surprisingly, she kind of liked the chocolate flavored porter. My nephew had something to say about each of the beers. I guess that’s what people do now, sit around and talk about their beer.

After we ate – I had a really good brisket sandwich with a full glass of the wheat beer – we headed down the street to the Meadery.

I have to admit, I had never heard of such a place, but my nephew found it online and was excited about it, so why not? You had to enter through a different shop on the main street and then go down into the basement. It was an interesting place. It had a low ceiling, a bar, half a dozen low tables with couches, and one tall table that was a plank rough-cut (including bark on the sides) and finished on top. It was about 18 inches wide and kind of curvy. It was open, so we hopped on the stools and listened to the guy playing guitar while we waited for our waiter. The whole place gave off a funky coffeehouse vibe.

Just like at the brew pub, we ordered a flight of 12 meads to sample. Unlike the brew pub, I found tasting the different meads enjoyable. There were various flavors like mango, red wine grape, wildflower and blackberry, peach and apricot, pineapple and vanilla, and peanut butter and jelly. They were all pretty good, except the peanut butter and jelly. That was nasty.

After we finished the flight we headed home. We were all tired from unpacking and the little alcohol we had was more than enough. My nephew flew home to Denver on Sunday and my wife and I continued to try to get our new house in order.

Most of it is unpacked now. We’ll probably move stuff around a bunch of times until we decide where we want it, but for now we are in good shape – it looks like a livable house. New blinds went up yesterday. We talked to landscapers today. Tomorrow there will be something else. It will take a while, but we’re slowly getting there.
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Old 08-02-2018, 10:04 PM   #24
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

Your nephew sounds great! Flying in to help you and then convincing you to try something different
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Old 08-17-2018, 03:59 PM   #25
Didace
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Re: Go West Old Man: Didace Makes a Move

It’s been a strange couple of weeks.

We were just getting settled into the new house, and then we went on vacation. It was just a four-day weekend with some friends that we had planned months ago, before we had sold our old house and purchased the new one. So, we didn’t exactly plan on the timing this way, but even though it disrupted getting everything done for the new house it was good to get away and see our friends.

We had a condo outside Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I had never been there before; it was pretty cool. The closest airport was Knoxville so that’s where we flew into. I’ve been in smaller airports, but not many. Going from the airport to the resort was a nice drive through the countryside; and then we hit the tourist area. Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg was one long tourist trap. The main attractions seemed to be Family Fun Centers with go-cart tracks and amusement rides, restaurants that served the “Best” pancakes, tattoo parlors, and stores selling the usual tourist junk. But it was the best road into the park so you couldn’t avoid it. Gatlinburg was better as the street was walkable and the buildings looked like a town and not a strip mall.

Anyway, we landed mid-afternoon and drove from the airport to the resort (the drive was interrupted by a call from my nephew and then my sister, more on that later) and met our friends at the resort. It was a fairly nice three-bedroom unit. Not many amenities but this was the kind of place where it was expected you’d go do stuff away from the resort. We got settled in and went out to eat and explore a little bit. Walked around Gatlinburg a bit and took a tram up the side of a mountain at sunset. It was a nice evening after a travel day. Went back to the condo and talked until it was late.

Friday morning, we got up fairly early for a trip to the park. We went back roads to an alternate entrance to the park as it was an easier way to the area we wanted to do first. It is one of the few (only?) National Parks with no entrance fee. The original road through Newfound Gap – the main road through the park – between North Carolina and Tennessee was built and paid for by the two states. When they gave it to the federal government Tennessee put a restriction on the deed that said “no tolls” can ever be put on the road. I find National Park fees a bargain, but no fee is always better so that is good.

We entered the park and headed to Cades Cove. It’s a fairly flat valley that was settled by quite a few people in the mid-1800s. The drive was a one-way loop that went by lots of old buildings, many in their original locations. Along the way there were many photo opportunities, including the buildings, streams, waterfalls, and mountain ridges. We really enjoyed it. After a snack lunch at a visitor center we headed off towards the main road to Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome.

Newfound Gap road is an interesting drive. The forest changes quite a bit during the 3,000ft+ change in elevation to the top of the gap with a final elevation of 5,046ft. It’s always interesting to think about people crossing the southern Appalachians here because it was the “easiest” place to do so. At the top of the gap was a large scenic viewpoint on the North Carolina Tennessee boarder where you could look out in both directions and see many mountain ridges.

Just past the top of the gap is the road to Clingman’s Dome. It is the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains at 6,643 and the third highest in the eastern United States. From the parking lot at the end of the road there is a 0.5 mile paved trail to the top. This trail is steep. I took off on my own and was very winded after a hard walk up. My friend made it up about five minutes after me and our wives about 10 minutes after that. An observation tower at the top gives you a 360-degree view. The view was great, unfortunately it was getting pretty cloudy when I got up and by the time everyone was there it had started raining. They still saw some good views but not as much as I did.

It's easy to see why the area is called “Smoky”. Even when it is clear there are always small wisps of clouds rising up through the ridges that look like smoke. The weather was always changing. On our trip through the park it went from cloudy to sunny to rainy several times. Much of that had to do with the elevation changes as we drove but a lot of it happened when we were in one spot.

We made our way out of the park and back through Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge. We stopped at a place to eat called “The Local Goat” because we liked the name. It was pretty good. Nothing spectacular but better than your average place. Then it was back to the condo for more talk and games.

Saturday was “tourist” day. We started out by going to a large Christmas store. Why? Because that’s what wives do – shop for Christmas decorations in August. After that we went to the lunch show at the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theater”. Not my first choice but the food wasn’t bad and the show was funny for what it was. My favorite part was when a gunshot sound effect was about two seconds late and the two main actors couldn’t stop laughing. The scripted parts were also not terrible. After that it was off to Gatlinburg for some whiskey and moonshine tasting.

There are several distilleries in the area and they all have tasting rooms. We ended up parking on one end of Gatlinburg and walking the strip stopping in several shops to look until we found a tasting room that looked good and went in. It cost $5 dollars to taste 14 different flavors of whiskey. But then they gave you a $5 coupon good on anything they sold, including the booze. The two guys and my wife gave it a go (the other wife was driving). I was surprised my wife wanted to because she generally does not like whiskey, she’s more of a tequila girl. Most of the whiskey flavors were pretty good (two were actually moonshine). There were various fruit and spice flavors ranging from 40 to 80 proof. Only one was straight whiskey and it was only average. I was shocked when my wife wanted to buy some. We ended up getting cinnamon and mango habanero bottles of whiskey and an apple flavored moonshine. All totaled the 14 tastes were about 3.5 shots in about 10 minutes. I was feeling pretty good when we left.

After walking around some more we went in to a place for a moonshine tasting. Same set up as the other place - $5 to taste and you get a coupon. This time my wife sat out so there were just two of us. The highlight for me was the blue tinted straight moonshine. 170 proof. Brought me back to my youth when we would buy Everclear to mix with soda. We ended up buying two bottles of the flavored moonshine to make it five bottles of booze for the trip. Not what I expected. So after having another 3.5 shots we headed down the street to look for dinner.

We ended up down a side street towards the river and ate at an open-air bar by the river. An old guy in a cowboy hat was playing a keyboard and singing country songs. It was a good end to the night.
Sunday our friends drove back to Virginia and we headed to the airport to fly back to Arizona. It was kind of strange that it did not seem strange that I felt like we were headed home.

We got back to the house and I started to get ready for my trip to Minnesota (a result of the phone calls from my nephew and sister).
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