When you’re young, time goes at a snail’s pace. Waiting for your birthday, the start of summer, an upcoming trip, holidays, and a visit from a friend or relative seem years away and not weeks and months.
As you get older, time flies. The last twelve years have whooshed by.
In July 2002, Rich moved to Round Rock (Austin), TX. I followed six months later. While we had a fabulous house in the country, complete with a creek in the backyard, 1.7 acres of oak trees, hardwood and tile floors throughout, two covered porches with fans, a cover balcony, also with a fan, and four bedrooms and three full-baths in which to spread out, I missed the soggy Pacific Northwest.
To create an anchor back to the Pacific Northwest, in 2004, we purchased a 1.7-acre lot on Fidalgo Island, WA in the Puget Sound with the hope of one day building our “dream” house. The lot had a great view of Fidalgo Bay and March Point where several oil refineries are located. At night, they’re lit-up, resembling a magical, glittery fairyland.
A year later, Rich, who was an advisory engineer for IBM, decided to stop purchasing IBM stock through the employee purchase program and instead buy a house in Mount Vernon, 30 minutes from our lot on Fidalgo Island. Rich reasoned we could live in the house while building the house.
At the time, houses were selling like hotcakes or in Texas, BBQ ribs. We researched several houses online, located a realtor, and scheduled a trip to Washington in early August to coincide with attending the wedding of one of Rich’s best friends, Mike Jastad.
Paneling, Shag Rugs, Early American-Theme, Gasp!
We had a day and a half to look at houses, make offers, and sign paperwork. We’d scoped out a modest-sized house in a neighborhood, and the owners agreed to wait until we saw the house before reviewing all the offers. However, when we arrived, they’d already accepted an offer.
We were then shown a series of houses, none of which Rich particularly liked. The last house on the list was just outside the city limits in a rural area. From the outside, it looked fabulous with a large yard, huge deck, flowering bushes, and view of a lovely farmhouse and wetland across the street.
Inside, however, it had dark paneling in the dining room, 70’s burnt orange and brown shag carpeting, mahogany cupboards, old linoleum in the bathrooms, and brass early American-themed light plates, drawer and cupboard pulls, and worn orangish carpeting in the master bedroom. Downstairs the hallway and family room had dark brown paneling, dingy indoor-outdoor carpeting, and a 70’s wet bar with dark brown cupboards, built-in grill, and bright orange Formica, which extended around a ledge in part of the room.
The laundry room also had dark brown paneling with a hodge-podge of flooring and cupboards, along with an icky laundry tub and toilet. The laundry room was obviously used for cleaning greasy hands after working in the garage.
Various bits of woodwork, including the beams in the ceiling and folding doors to the space under the stairs, were painted olive green.
The more the realtor yacked-up the house, saying it had “good bones,” the more excited Rich got. Within an hour we made an offer, and the following morning, we signed paperwork. To say I was disappointed would have been an understatement. Nevertheless, I tried to keep an open-mind, especially when the selling realtor asked, “Do you know what flies in front of your new house?”
“Trumpeter swans from November through February,” he answered. Of course, my immediately thought was “hogwash.” Swans don’t just appear out of nowhere and touch-down in front of our new house.
Wedding Eased Trepidation
Shortly after signing the paper, we drove to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, and took a ferry to Orcas Island, where Mike picked us up, and drove us to West Beach Resort where the wedding was being held. The resort has a rustic look, but is idyllic with several dozen small cabins, RV and tent camping, all within walking distance of the calm beach, fishing pier, and many amenities. We had a cute little cottage with a front porch, comfortable bed with flannel sheets, and small bathroom.
Rich was the best man so while he was busy with the rehearsal, I relaxed in a large Adirondack chair, and chatted with others attending the wedding, while relishing a view of the Puget Sound, and reconciling the purchase of a house we toured a day earlier.
After a restful evening, I enjoyed helping set up the wedding tables, chair, place settings, and decoration under a large tent, a few feet from the gentle shore. The wedding took place in the open, under a deep blue sky with a gentle breeze. Everything was perfect from Teresa’s dress to the traditional Filipino shirts – called barong tagalog — worn by the men in the wedding party (see Rich and Mike to the right). We danced and partied late into the evening, and then got up early to take the ferry back to Anacortes, and then drive to SeaTac to fly back to Texas.
Relocation of Motor Home
In late 2005, knowing we were going to move back to the Pacific Northwest, and with our motorhome primarily baking in the Texas sun, we decided to cram it full of stuff, including a new futon, and drive across the country with the intent to leave the motor home at our Mount Vernon house.
On the way, we stopped in Bullhead City, AZ to visit Rich’s parents. Prior to reaching their house, we encountered a blinding sand storm, which compromised a hose in the motor home that happily was easily fixed. Driving through Nevada, we had snow flurries, but had no other incidents. On the third day, we stopped in Sherwood, OR to pick up my mother and her car. I followed Rich in the motor home, and we spent a few days in Mount Vernon, “camping” with minimal furniture and no water for a day because Rich had to fix a broken pipe.
We then left the motor home, parked in the driveway of our Mount Vernon house, drove to SeaTac. Rich and I flew to Texas, and my mother drove back to Oregon.
Kicking Off Moving
The following year, 2006, we decided to pack-up half of our house, and drive it in a large moving van to Mount Vernon, in preparation to list and sell our Texas house. We primarily packed pictures, collectibles, sets of dishes, books, and furniture. It was heartbreaking because it would be at least a year before we could unpack and I could once again see my Native American collectibles (kachinas, fetishes, ivory, etc.), Chinese teapots, crystal and other vintage pieces I’d inherited from my grandparents. Looking back many of these items ended up being packed for nearly two years!
We also decided to tow my Honda CRV behind the moving van. While we were in Texas, I would drive Rich’s manual-shift KIA and Rich would drive his truck. We’d already found a buyer for the KIA, which was in good shape, but a car we didn’t need. Months earlier, we’d ordered a 2007 Honda FIT, which was being manufactured in Japan, and wouldn’t arrive until mid-to-late February.
Because it was around Christmas, we put a large, white stuffed bear in the front seat of the Honda CRV, with a purple feather boa around its neck, red Santa hat on its head, and paws positioned on the steering wheel as if it was driving. During the trip, the bear generated quite a few waves and chuckles from people passed us on the freeways.
We chose to drive across country in late December. It was smooth sailing until we reach Yreka, CA, which is south of the Oregon border, and the last large town before the Siskiyou Summit, in the Cascade-Siskiyou Mountain Range. It’s not uncommon to encounter snow as you go over the Siskiyou’s, and to “breath through the threat” of being stopped at the pass, and forced to turn around.
With light snow falling, we debated going over the Siskiyou’s that evening, but decided to get a motel room, and see whether the weather cleared in the morning. With no place to eat, we had canned salmon, crackers, and other goodies from a gift basket Rich’s mother gave us for Christmas when we saw her in Anaheim, CA.
The next morning, brought bad news. The pas was closed. Adding to the anxiety was I had a phone interview for a job with Microsoft the next day. I was going to call from my mother’s house, but with snow delays, I needed to reschedule.
Determined to get to Mount Vernon, we opted to go around the pass, by travel east, and then up through eastern Oregon. To say this route is less treacherous, would be naïve. It was a horrific, stressful driving a 27-foot van, towing a car behind. Fortunately, Rich has nerves of steel.
We reached Sherwood, OR around 8 o’clock at night, having left Yreka almost 12 hours earlier. Normally, it takes just 6 hours to drive across Oregon. We had a quick dinner with my mother, and then drove north, reaching Mount Vernon in the wee hours.
We slept a few hours, then unloaded the van so it could be returned to the rental facility. That morning, I also have a phone interview with a Microsoft hiring manager, which went well. Because I was in-town, they wanted to have an in-person interview the next day, I ran to Ross’, bought an inexpensive suit and pair of shoes, and then cobbled together a couple of samples of my work to bring to the interview. Fortunately, I’d brought the box with my work samples and portfolio.
While the interview went well, I didn’t get the job, probably because I was a bit rattled, and wasn’t prepared to move back to the Pacific Northwest for a few months.
With half of our possessions securely in the Mount Vernon house – in boxes – my Honda CRV in the garage, and motor home parked in the driveway, we took an airporter to SeaTac, and flew back to Austin, TX.
(continued in Part II)