Sunday, March 29, 2015

The House Selling Song

(sung to the tune of "Life's Been Good To Me So Far" by the Eagles)

Listing Link

I've got a house on a friendly street
If you want it, then we should meet.

The space is great, the floor plan's open,
Colorful walls and the floor is oaken

It has a bath with a heated floor
The master suite right out the door.

The basement finished with paneled walls
For your man cave, it's got it all

The view off the deck is really sweet. 
When the garden blooms, it's a calm retreat

In the summer you can walk to the beach
By car or train, Boston's is in easy reach

We're only asking 388.
It's a sellers market, you might want to raise that rate.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

We're Going On the Road...and Trail, and Bike!

For Sale!
S.D. and I are hitting the road! We're selling the house, leaving our jobs, changing our state of residence to South Dakota, trading the car in for a van, selling almost everything in the house, packing what's left into the van and heading West. If it doesn't fit in the van, its not going.  For the next three or so years we plan on traveling around the country, camping, backpacking and bike touring.

Me and Austin
Thirty-six years ago, my sixteen year old self dreamed of packing her dog, Munchkin and her windsurfer into her Austin Healey, and heading West....and now it's going to happen. Sure, Munchkin will be with me in my heart, the windsurfer has been replaced by a bicycle, and the van will be much more practical than an Austin Healey, and I'm much older but now, and best of all I'll have my best buddy ever with me, S.D!

Ah, I fondly remember that awkward first date when S.D. defiantly told me he had no interest in having a house (although he did have a very nice house), his plan was to retire, buy a van, convert it into a stealth camper and wander around the county. Little did he suspect that was exactly what I was looking for, and that rather than scare me away, made me take a second look at the bearded, ex-boatbuilder-turned-fish-biologist-turned-government-bureaucrat. And good thing too! We're only two months away from making it happen.

Here are the details. S. D. is retiring as of May 29. I can't use the "r" word myself, but I'll be leaving my job, effective the same day. If all goes well the house will sell, or have sold just about the same time. We put it on the market today, and with the market being pretty "hot" here, hope to be under contract by mid-April, and on track for a late May closing.

Meanwhile we've begun making arrangements to establish residency in South Dakota. Why South Dakota you ask?  It's a little known fact but South Dakota is a virtual meca for folks who need a residence, but don't actually want to live there. With no income tax, no capital gains tax, a one-night once-every-five-year stay required for a driver's license, and a couple of companies that provide mail forwarding services, it's the perfect state if you plan to be on the move.  Once those arrangements are complete we can buy, and register the van (in South Dakota, by mail).

After the house sale, a week or two before the closing, we're selling almost everything in the house. If you're interested in buying anything let us know. Or stop by. We don't own anything fancy, but what we do have is useful and in good shape. Some stuff will be difficult to part with, it's funny how much things can mean to you, but if it won't fit in the van. It's got to go.

Then the house sale, then we head West!

First stop will be Traverse City, Michigan to visit Lyss, then UP. We're going to South Dakota via the Upper Peninsula.  Once in South Dakota, we have to spend a night in our new state, get our driver's license and move on. We might linger awhile in the Badlands, they sound really interesting. Lots of nice camping and bicycling locations.

We'll continue meandering west, camping, hiking and bicycling until early to mid July when we arrive in Ashland, Oregon. There we'll rent a storage unit for the remaining stuff.

*Route subject to change
And then the real adventure begins.

At the beginning of August we'll store the van too, put on our backpacks and head North on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). We'll hike until the snow gets too deep, or our legs too woobly. Whichever comes first.

And then we'll just see what happens, but for now the idea is to bike around over the winter, eventually ending up at the Southern terminus of the PCT in early spring, then hiking North again. We'll hike until our legs get too woobly, or the snow gets too deep (the snow pack in the Sierra's usually lasts until June).  Once the snow is gone, we'll continue on to Ashland, and complete the PCT.

...and beyond that... who knows. That's a long way away, and a lot of new things away.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Quotable Davy Crockett

Apparently, Davy Crockett is a fount of wisdom, a fact that was not apparent to an East Coast girl until a recent trip to Austin, Texas.
Sure she knew that he was the 'king of the wild frontier', that he grew up in Tennessee, that he killed a bear at the age of three, and was himself killed defending the Alamo. She did not know he was responsible for a number of quotes that Texans hold dear to their hearts and identity.

The most popular quote, found just about anywhere from napkins, to buildings, and tea cosies is: "You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas".There is even an Etsey store dedicated to the Hell vs Texas memorabilia

Texans are obviously proud of their state, and the Crockett quote does a good job of concisely summing up that feeling.

However, the Texans have another popular Crockett quote that seems a bit problematic:
"Be always sure you are right - then go ahead"

So popular, in fact that Fess Parker recorded an inspirational little ditty  based on it, and worth a listen if you're in the mood for good laugh

At S.D.'s suggestion I  looked up some quotes from another famous Texan and found one that is an appropriate counterpoint to Davy's righteous quote, and more to my liking. The Great Kinky Freedman states:

“If you have the choice between humble and cocky, go with cocky. There's always time to be humble later, once you've been proven horrendously, irrevocably wrong.”

Texas State Capital - Home of the Lone Star(s)

Texas Capital
As a bleeding-heart liberal I have to confess, I have issues with Texas. And while Austin's reputation as Hipster South had assured me I would like, maybe even love that city, what I did not expect was that I would also love the state capital building.

I went to Austin to attend an Electronic Resources and Libraries conference held annually on the grounds of the University of Texas (because that's what librarians do these days). Arriving early, and after enjoying an amazing burger I decided to wander about and headed south in the general direction of downtown. On the ride in from the airport we'd all noticed the capital dome. It's hard to miss, huge and shinning there is the dead center of town. And while I hadn't intended to go there at all, I
soon found myself wandering around the 22 acres campus, and then inside the  360,000 square feet capital building itself.

Extra points: The Star is in the center
As you'd expect from Texas, the building is huge! Bigger than the Federal Capital building. But it is also, unexpectedly symmetrical, open and a great place to play Find the Star, or rather Find the Lone Star. According to wikipedia "Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as a former independent republic and as a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today.[9]

Yup - here too
Actually, the Lone Star can be found on a lot more than the flag and the seal. Wandering around the massive capital you start seeing stars everywhere. And not just in the impressively large places like the rotunda ceiling, but also carved into the backs of the wooden benches, in the chandeliers, in the door hinges.

Bench Stars

 I even had to check out the bathrooms just to sure I didn't miss any. (1 of the 3 bathrooms had a star).

And then it was off to the Texas State Museum Gift Shop. Ohhh, the marketing opportunities!!!  That is museum gift shop that probably turns a profit. The Lone Star stuff was everywhere - and it was cool too.  You have to admit, the Star is pretty sweet.
A very small sample

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A Weekend's Visit to the Chesapeake

1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse
The Chesapeake Bay is a big-ass body of water. With it's rivers, streams, islands and meandering coast, it has an enormous amount of coastline, and an even bigger watershed.  And then there's the Chesapeake Bay Land Area, part sprawling metropolis, part remote farm/fisherman wilderness.  Layered over that is an amazingly rich history...and then there are oysters. And as different as some aspects of it may be from another, they are all connected.

At least that is my excuse. A few months ago S.D. and I visited  friends there for 3 days and I've been writing and deleting posts about it ever since. Trying to get a handle on the whole thing, or even a tiny part, and failing miserably.

This then, is attempt 312. the pensive Lighthouse Keeper
When traveling my biggest hope is that I can somehow get a sense of the area. Doing and seeing stuff that will give me a taste of the people, history and outdoors there are like.  So when our friends asked what we wanted to do during our visit I wasn't sure. What can you do in 3 days to get the feel of the this ginormous area? Luckily our hosts had a much better idea that I did.

Our first stop, and an excellent choice by our friends was Lures Bar and Grille.

The fish was excellent and then there was this thing called cheesy grits. I don't know how they make those, and considering the carbohydrates involved, I don't want to, but those were awesome.

The next day we went to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. A Museum with the unenviable task of telling the
Best stairway ever! (in the lighthouse)
story of the aforementioned giant watershed that is the Chesapeake Bay in 18 acres, 15 buildings and even more boats. And they do try. Some of the exhibits, like the signature 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, are pretty impressive. Some, like the "At Play on the Bay" exhibit try to cover too much and confuse the message.  Sometimes it was about recreation, and sometimes it seemed to be about the forces in conflict with recreation. The potential for the exhibit to act as a catalyst to conversation about those many conflicts were hinted at, but never fully realized. If it ever is, that would be an amazing exhibit.

Of course there was also lots of great stuff about oysters. Oyster boats, oyster processing, and some really great Oyster Advertising.

It was only fitting that after the museum we stopped at the Fisherman's Inn Restaurant.  With it's extensive collection of oyster plates, it was only natural to ordered oysters, and they were good. However, it was the butternut squash and lobster bisque that made the meal. Wow, that was really good! Even better than the cheesy grits.

The next day we were booked on an afternoon flight home, leaving a few morning hours for more exploration and our host, and expert tour guide wound around some back roads to Jackson's Landing.

Patuxent River marsh
The Landing is a small park on the Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake.  We took the trail from the parking lot and wound up through a small, random Henry Ford-ish type collection of buildings called the Patuxent Rural Life Museum .  The trail then dropped  down a switchback to a boardwalk.  Along the walk were interpretive signs of the nature-type.  The first one described the area as a Swamp, and half a mile later, another described this area as a Marsh. As a lover of salt marshes, I don't think I'd ever contemplated, or even realized the difference before.  But here for your edification and mine are the definitions:


A marsh is a type of wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species.[1] Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds.[2] If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs. This form of vegetation is what differentiates marshes from other types of wetland such as swamps, which are dominated by trees, and mires, which are wetlands that have accumulated deposits of acidic peat.

A swamp is a wetland that is forested.[1] Many swamps occur along large rivers where they are critically dependent upon natural water level fluctuations.[2] Other swamps occur on the shores of large lakes.[3] Some swamps have hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodic inundation.

A salt marsh is a marshy area found near estuaries and sounds. The water in salt marshes varies from completely saturated with salt to freshwater. Estuaries are partly sheltered areas found near river mouths where freshwater mixes with seawater. Both salt marshes and estuaries are affected by high and low tides.


Salt Swamp (w Cypress Tree)
And now I know! or do I?

The Patuxent is tidal, and therefore slightly salty,  the area of the boardwalk that fronted the river and was identified as a swamp had some lovely cypress trees.  So is it technically a salt swamp?


And after three days in the Chesapeake did I have any better understanding of the area? Well our friends certainly helped, and I now know just enough to know that it would take years of biking, kayaking and exploring to get a solid handle on it.  Thanks B and P!