Renovation Road Trip
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10/11/12 (18:53)

  • started the trip today. went to work, got off at 4p and hit the road. first leg should get us to barstow or thereabouts. next leg will be long and we hope to be 1-2hrs outside of dallas so we can make the UT/OK game in time.

  • stressful two weeks leading up to this and it is probably going to be stressful during the trip. had to plan for 5 handyman type trips that i've never seen in person and are thousands of miles away from the home base. hopefully we have all the tools we need. gotta learn to roll with the punches. i'm not getting paid to finish these tasks so it's less pressure in that way.

    10/12/12 (20:20)

  • made it to barstow last night around 11p. i voted for more driving since i was feeling awake enough to go another couple. meryl wasn't too thrilled about being cramped in the passenger seat trying to get sleep. so we found a place that was cheapish, but safe-ish looking. watched some coverage of the vice presidential debate. we listened to a bit of that before listening to the disappointing a's game (another reason meryl just wanted to get to bed). at about 1am some a-hole outside had his car alarm going off. it was already bad enough because there was a light night club whose patrons were being annoyingly loud. the alarm went off a couple other times that night so the sleep wasn't great.
  • hit the road early-ish this morning after the continental breakfast. meryl drove first. when we got to flagstaff we switched drivers. stopped at a place called charlie's for lunch after being thwarted by a big crowd at diablo burgers. between walking to places we found ourselves in the middle of a hail storm. that was fun, although somewhat painful on my newly shaved head. charlie's had a good taco that they called a navajo taco. it came with the usual taco stuff on a navajo fry bread. google it. it's basically a more dense beignet. we also got a fry bread to go with honey and powdered sugar. diabetes aside, this was a good decision. they're tasty.
  • 5 hours or so of driving later and we were in albuquerque, the abq, home of breaking bad. i've been here at least two or three times before. there are some nice pockets of the city, including nob hill which is around the university. this time we found the university by accident (we found a place we liked on yelp and it happened to be near the u of nm), but we usually seek those areas out because colleges tend to be the best part of a city. colleges and downtowns are always a great place to visit if you're only there for a brief time.
  • we had dinner at bailey's on the beach. nice place which seeks to transport you to a beach atmosphere with a southwestern/mexican touch. so you get fish tacos, mexican food and american food. good place.
  • now we're on the road to dallas. it's 9:30p dallas time, the game time moved up to 11:07a and the gps says we're 11 hours away, so we're pressed for time at this point. doesn't look like we'll be getting much sleep tonight. saves on the motel bill at least.



    10/13/12 (20:50)

  • staying at a hotel in texarkana tonight.
  • last night was a lot of driving and not much sleep. we made a little detour to cross the red river so that meryl could cross oklahoma off her list of states visited. pulled over at a rest area and slept for about two hours before driving the last bit to dallas. traffic was insanely backed up to get off at the cotton bowl exit. stayed in the exit lanes for a while and then figured we didn't have time for that crap. got off on the next exit which had no traffic whatsoever and found our way over to a parking spot about a mile from the stadium. evidentally oklahoma and texas fans are sheep. that or they like traffic.
  • we didn't get there early enough to get a great sense of the tailgating scene. saw a couple people doing it, but nothing noteworthy. the texas state fair was taking place at the same time (not sure if that's how it always is) and it was right outside the cotton bowl. so, you have 92k people in the stadium and another 20k around the stadium for the fair. we didn't see any animosity or anything like that. the fans are pretty much as advertised and what you would expect from those two states. girls are pretty and made up, guys wearing big belt buckles and chewing tobacco. the game itself was pretty pathetic. i was rooting for texas because they're not as highly ranked and because we were in the tx section. tx never had a chance and was dominated in every phase of the game. 63-21, but it wasn't even that close. the stadium is functional enough. certainly nothing fancy. food didn't look any good. nacho cheese smelled awful. neither of the bands were impressive. overall not as fun a game experience as the ohio state game last year. that said, i think part of that can be attributed to the whole thing taking place off campus. the whole "neutral location" aspect doesn't hold much appeal for me.
  • tomorrow we have another long day of driving. we'll pass through mepmhis, nashville and knoxville on our way to asheville.



    10/16/12 (1:46)

  • after staying in crappy texarkana we hit the road for a long trip to asheville, nc. our first stay was at the nikki and marc's at they were really nice and gracious hosts. the project we did for them was to install some german siding in a closed in porch. had a couple little issues, but mostly it went pretty well. spent the last two nights at their place. my back hurts a bit which sucks. hopefully i'll heal up in the next two days which we have off. our next project is in michigan and it'll be installing a tile backsplash.
  • tonight we plan on driving to cincinati. it's a nice city, it's about half way between asheville and ypsilanti, michigan and meryl wants to visit the creation museum there. we actually saw an advertisement for the museum in oakland so somehow that advertising will have caused us to visit from 2k miles away.
  • niners evidently had an awful game. 3 ints from alex smith. good to get a little smack down after feeling great from two dominanting performances.
  • tennessee has some really beautiful trees. never been through here during this time of year.
  • two days ago on our way to asheville we stopped in memphis for some bbq at corky's great food and probably the best rolls i've ever had. it's been a good trip for food so far. their memphis style ribs were also good.
  • got a ticket just outside of nashville. was on cruise control for the last 5 horus or so and the limit changed to 60 so i got caught. i saw the guy's car and took it out of cruise ctonrol, but didn't brake quickly enough. first ticket in several years. that sucks. cop was a nice enough guy though.



    10/20/12 (7:59)

  • we stayed at a livinn hotel just outside of cincinnati. we had planned on going to the creation museum, but it was actually in northern ky and we were in northern cincinnati by the time we found a cheap place to stay. we decided we didn't want to have to double back and lose a bunch of time. so we pushed onward instead. we passed through dayton and toledo on the way to ann arbor which is pretty close to ypsilanti - where our next project was. we drove around campus and the downtown area. ann arbor is nice. we went to zingerman's deli which is a sorta famous deli in town. it's expensive, but very tasty. the customer service is great, you get lots of free samples of cheese and olive oil and anything else you want. it's better than katzingers in columbus, but that place was more economical.
  • after exploring ann arbor and being thwarted at our attempt to play some mini golf (they were closed) we went to ypsilanti to meet katy, brandon and kit. katy and brandon were our next project (a backsplash) and kit lives a little outside of ann arbor and she was our project after that. katy and brandon also invited steven (their architect and friend) to dinner. all of them were really nice people. real, laid back, and easy to get along with. katy and brandon bought a foreclosed property on 3 acres for $86k. then they put 200k into renovating the home. they live right on a river with a view of the train tracks. it's a great setup and a good deal. of course property taxes and regulations are also lower and more lax as well. they also have geothermal so their energy bills aren't as high as they would otherwise be.
  • the next day we worked on their kitchen backsplash. it was a small job and we were done with laying the tile in a few hours. it was a pretty straightforward job. unfortunately they didn't buy quick setting thinset (i didn't mention it until the day before the project), so we didn't get to do the grout for them. we spent the rest of the day hanging out, watching the tigers sweep the yankees, and then going out for dinner again with kit. katy and brandon are both science teachers at eastern michigan university so it was interesting talking to them about that as well as the places they've lived (brandon is from ohio, katy is from outside of boston, both went to osu) as well as what it's like to live in michigan.
  • after dinner we followed kit ( to her house which is in a small town outside of ann arbor. she has 6 acres, 3 outhouses and 1 main house with 3500 sq. ft. she lives by herself and bought the property online after it was foreclosed for $136k and she lives by herself.. we spent more than twice that for our place in oakland. i spent these last two days in michigan trying to convince meryl that it was a better place to live than california.
  • the next day we had a list of potential things to do with kit. the first thing was to get a big tablesaw out of her suv. that's when i hurt my back. in retrospect doing it first thing in the morning was a bad idea. so i spent the rest of the day being marginally helpful. i took three aleve and it warmed up as the day went on. i was still useful, but not as energetic as i would have liked. the next thing we did was to remove a jacuzzi tub out of one of the upstairs bathrooms. we removed the tile surround, disconnected the wiring and plumbing and then carried it downstairs. that was an interesting dance and, again, i wasn't super helpful getting it downstairs, but we got it done. then we took it out to one of her huge barns. i suggested we put the tub on a pallet and drag it to the barn with her car. it worked really well and was a true hillbilly moment.
  • the valves under the tub didn't shut off completely so we decided to cap off the pipes. kit didn't have any of the supplies on hand so we made a trip to town to get them and some lunch. when we came back i taught her how to sweat pipe and she capped the two supply lines.
  • after that we worked on installing some wood paneling on her ceiling upstairs. there is a hallway upstairs that she tried patching, but didn't like the texture match that she did so she decided to match the look with the paneling look that is in the kitchen. we did several rows of that and called it a day.
  • that night we wanted to see a michigan hockey game, but it sold out. then the weather turned more chilly and rainy than we thought so we ended up just hanging out with kit and having dinner.
  • now we're on the road for lansing and kalamazoo. to see another capital and then to see another city on johnny cash's "i've been everywhere song." after that we head to racine to meet up with the next couple. we're not sure what we'll be doing for them. hopefully my back is better by then. today it is stiff and being in the car most of the day probably won't be pleasant.
  • edit: just passed through lansing. nothing special from our quick tour. capitol building is nice. there's a state building across the street named after george romney. onto kalamazoo...



    10/21/12 (21:30)

  • after cruising through michigan we went chicago for lunch. we turned to yelp for a suggestion as we've done often this trip. found a place that had a lot of reviews and a high average. it's called xoco and it's a downtown mexican food place. good tortas and churros. also a good lemonade. overall a nice meal. we ordered to go to avoid the line. made a stop at a starbucks to upload some stuff and then hit the road again.
  • we made it into Wisconsin with plenty of time so we went to milwaukee for a driving tour. drove along the lake and saw a lot of beautiful homes.
  • so far on this trip we've gotten about what i would have expected in the lawn sign department - a pretty event split between obama/romney. in the country you see more romney and in the cities and hipster cities - asheville, ann arbor, etc. - you see more obama.
  • we've had a few people stop us and ask what we're doing - the car is wrapped in a "renovation road trip" sticker to advertise the website and the tour. brains on fire is the name of the company that is coordinating the trip on behalf of liquid wrench (the actual sponsor). they haven't exactly had their stuff together in some ways, including the fact that the car wrap has the wrong url on it. oh well.
  • after kicking around milwaukee for a bit we dropped down to racine to visit sara and shaun. they're a really fun and funny couple. we've been really lucky with the people we've met so far. meryl chose well. they're all friendly and happy and have nice midwestern sensibilities. gives me some hope for the country. the couple in asheville were both raised in the midwest - her in ohio and him in detroit. then there was brandon and katy, one from ohio and the other from boston, but both living in ypsilanti. then kit who was raised in ohio. and now  sara and shaun who are both wisconsin natives. there was a t-shirt from the michigan store in depot town, ypsilanti that showed a picture of the great lakes and it said "they're grrrrreat!" i agree. it may be my favorite region of the country now. if i had my druthers i'd move to michigan. land is cheap, becoming a general contractor is fairly easy (take a 60 hour class, pass a test), people are nice, have a few contacts already, not overpopulated, 4 seasons, living in the country is better for your soul and i'll never be able to afford that in california.
  • we arrived in racine around dinner time on saturday. we got the tour and introduced to shaun, sara, and ashford (their baby). it was decided that we would install a storm door and hang some shelves in the kitchen for them. the kitchen was mostly done, but they never did the shelves because sara was nervous about putting holes in the tile.
  • we went to menard's that night and picked up a door that we hoped would fit as well as some other stuff for the shelves and some stuff to patch a major hole they had in the same door that was getting the storm door. the door was a 32" door that opened up onto a flat roof deck above a garage. a bad idea in wisconsin, if you ask me. the rubber membrane had failed near the door and so a decent amount of rot had set in. i told them that it was a can of worms and they agreed and wanted to just buy some time.
  • we had some pizza that night from a pretty good local place and called it a relatively early night after some good chat time. they're both great people. i was worried about them at first because they complained a lot about their cats who throw up all over the place and their son, who cries a lot at night. but they handle all this stuff with laughter and i consider it an inspiration. they remind me a bit of luke. i'm not that way, unfortunately. things go wrong and it stresses me out more often than not. others have an attitude that crap happens and that's life and it's just time to move forward while laughing about it.
  • the next morning my back was stiff again so it took me a couple hours to be decently mobile. we installed the door without much trouble. i think that shaun was nervous the previous night about new people in his house and this half-baked plan of his wife's to invite strangers from california to work on his house. i think he warmed up to us, though, especially as we demonstrated that we knew what we were doing. we started having fun and the installation took less than two hours including flashing the wood rot and caulking the new storm door. not bad for having never done it before.
  • shaun claims he hates home renovation, but i think the truth is that he hates having to do it and not knowing what he's doing. others relish the opportunity to figure things out as they go. i'm a mix of both. i like figuring some things, but i definitely like to know what best practices are and how something is supposed to end up; otherwise it's frustrating.
  • next we installed the shelves in the kitchen. it was a pretty easy process. i've practiced all those fundamentals a million times so i was in my comfort zone on that project. we did need to stop to get a larger tile bit and longer screws from the store, though, because we didn't bring screws and i didn't know we were going to be drilling through tile when we started the trip. no biggie.
  • it was still only about 1pm, though, so we installed a few outlet covers on the tile backsplash and used the fein to cut out a hole for a heating register in the kickplate under the cabinets. then we finished the packers game and hit the road early.
  • stopped for a kringle, a burger from the  old fashioned in madison, and a frozen custard from michael's in madison. wisconsin food isn't entirely healthy.
  • now we're on our way to st. paul to find a place to sleep. the next two days we'll be on the road for 30+ hours to get to portland which is our final stop before going back home.
  • not looking forward to getting back to normal life. my inbox will undoubtedly be full of crap. i'm sure there will be plenty of broken things for me to fix and b.s. requests from the prima donna executive director. gotta figure a way to work for myself.
  •  i remember learning about solar panels when i was 10 or so while watching this old house. having a house and land and the self-sufficiency of solar panels was always something that appealed to me. i think i was meant to be a farmer. don't have the back for it sometimes, but everything else is ready for that life i think.



    10/23/12 (15:50)

  • back in the pacific time zone. last two days have been long. driving literally all day. yesterday we drove for probably 15 hours. today it'll be about 13.
  • yesterday we left from st. paul and got to bozeman, mt. saw TR national park along the way. quick stop just to see his old cabin and read a little bit. crossed off one more n.p. from my list.
  • saw some snow in montana. got down to 25 degrees and it was snowing at we left bozeman, mt.
  • today we'll end in portland and we plan on having dinner with the final couple on our trip. we'll be doing some small stuff for them, no big project. small stuff is more fun.
  • back continues to bother me. 28 hours in the car doesn't seem to help it. strange.
  • tomorrow we will work on their place and may leave that night. either way we'll be back home thursday. then we need to start reassembling the house which is in disarray because of the hardwood refinishing that happened while we were gone. thursday night we'll do that. friday morning i'll hit the road early for la. then i'll leave for tucson with my dad to see the usc/arizona game. then back to la and back up to oakland on sunday.
  • it'll be time to get back to real life before i know it. not looking forward to that. would much rather figure out some way to work for myself and be able to afford the kind of land and lifestyle i've always wanted. just tired of the stressed out rat race of the city.
  • montana is a nice place from a nature standpoint. unfortunately humans haven't improved upon it in any way so far as i can tell. in places like vermont or louisiana, humans have created towns and other improvements that either blend into the landscape well or improve upon a harsh land. in the parts of montana that i've been to, though, our contribution to the land has taken away from, rather than added to, nature.
  • i think in some ways i'm living life out of balance as seen in koyaanisqatsi. need to remedy that.



    10/29/12 (17:09)

  • went down to la and then arizona this weekend to see usc stink the place up. totally self-destructed, 5 turnovers, too many penalties, etc. the kiffins aren't thrilling me lately. nuff said.
  • i'm going down this weekend to see another usc loss, this one to oregon. then another thanksgiving weekend against notre dame. 4 losses in a year for the talent they have isn't acceptable. stanford and arizona should have been wins.
  • with these two usc trips and the renovation trip i'll have driven about 9,000 miles in a month.
  • the hardwood floors got refinished while we were gone, but they're a mess. they did a piss poor job and made a big mess. so the house is still all packed up. we had the owner's brother out tonight and he agreed it was a crap job so they're going to redo it starting thursday. blah.
  • our last stop on the trip was in portland. heather from 'just a girl with a hammer' had a couple electrical jobs for us. we replaced a light (simple) and tried to figure out why an outlet wasn't working and we uncovered an illegally covered junction box. we couldn't figure out why the outlet wasn't working and we couldn't figure out where the switch leg in the ceiling junction box went. kind of a downer that i couldn't figure that out in the time we had. we did fix up her door a bit, though, and cut in a box location for her switch so it we did get some stuff done.
  • we stopped in eugene that night after getting donuts from voodoo donuts, which is a weird and famous donut shop. we had the bacon maple bar and a mango tango jelly filled donut. the latter was better. both sent me into diabetic shock. breakfast the next morning was at a pancake house and they made good thin pancakes like my grandma makes. yum.
  • first day back at work wasn't bad.