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September 26th, 2010 by

As we drove across the U.S., covering darn near every inch of Interstate 40 from California to North Carolina, we entertained ourselves (when we weren’t talking to the cats) in whatever ways were available.  Sometimes all it took was looking out the windshield and paying attention to the signs passing us by.  If you’ve ever undertaken a ginormous road trip, and driven for long hours at a stretch day after day, you’ll understand why some of these made us buck and snort (see a reference below to a small town in Tennessee famous for its wildly muscled, heavily gyrating professional athletes).  Kevin threatened to undertake the challenge of dining at the first place bulleted below, which is apparently famous for offering a huge meal for free if you can eat it all in an hour and a half.  As it turned out, he wasn’t hungry when we drove by.

These are listed in no particular order, other than grouping them by what seem like common topics.

  • 72ounce steak—FREE FREE FREE (in my delirium, I thought it said FLEE FLEE FLEE).  Warning: clicking on the link to this fine dining establishment will produce musical accompaniment your boss or cubicle-mate may not enjoy.
  • Clean restrooms!  Large clean restrooms!  (we looked at each other and wondered aloud about the lack of any other selling point for a place to stop)

For spiritual inspiration:

  • check out the Texas Catholic Superstore (interesting that the link to the site does not have a .org suffix; making a profit off Jesus?)

..and remember that

  • Jesus Christ is not a swear word (we saw this, in big letters, on the side of a truck)

and when you’re hungry, don’t forget to

  • Come get a Heavenly Burger!  (on the sign for a bible store/Baptist restaurant)The Roadkill Cafe, Seligman, AZ

…of course, if one were not inclined toward God’s food, one could also eat at the Road Kill Café in New Mexico

In the mood to buy?  For sale, we saw:

  • Quilts 9 – 5, RVs Welcome (on the side of a barn)
  • and a few choice lots in Hawg Lake, just call the realtor
  • Perhaps our favorite sign combo,  toward the end of our trip, just before entering Tennessee:  in big bold letters, Guns! right next to Bootlegger’s Discount Liquor and Wine; the two always go great together

Welcome to our state!  Now behave:

In Oklahoma, the welcome sign read:  home of Roger Miller, King of the Road (does anybody still remember that song?)

Then, entering Arkansas:

  • A Warm Welcome to Arkansas, the Natural State

closely followed by

  • Speed Limit Laws Strictly Enforced, No Tolerance.

In other words, we’re glad to see ya, now slow the f**k down (we saw a lot of tolerant drivers in the Natural State).

Some enticing parks and their scenic sites:

  • Pig Trail Scenic Byway (we are, emphatically, not making these up; I include links here for the skeptical) in the Ozark National Forest
  • Toad Suck Park, in AR
  • Mouse Tail Landing outside Memphis in a Tennessee state park.  According to the TN state parks’ website, the name comes from mice turning tail when a tannery burned on the site during the Civil War.
  • Frozen Head State Park outside Knoxville; named, perchance, for a cryogenics experiment gone awry?  No, it has more to do with a natural formation than something unnatural.

A Town Name that made us laugh out loud:

Bucksnort TN (perhaps named before there was a written language so as to describe it phonetically).  Wikipedia tells us Bucksnort is the home of two or three professional wrestlers, including Dirty White Boy and Bunkhouse Buck.

there’s more than one way to move a cat, or is there?

June 5th, 2010 by

If you wanted to read more about building Fred, or modern architecture, or buying land: Move along folks. Nothing to see here. Keep it moving.

Also, if you don’t have pets, you may not understand what you are about to read. Our guys are our family, and we would do anything for them.

And the upcoming move is stretching that definition of ‘anything’ to the limit.

Cat mover RV

Just don't say a word, OK?

Here’s the deal: George is a prima donna, and remains remarkably unruffled in any environment. If all we had to do was move George, we’d pop him into his carrier, hop on a plane and be done with it. In the interim, he would charm anyone and everyone who saw him, and we would have to answer the ‘Does he bite?’ question about 50 times, because he is one big boy of a cat. More info on that subject can be found here.

Gus is a little tougher to move. You see, Gus is very vocal when he is displeased. And Gus is displeased whenever he is in his carrier. Further, Gus has amazing stamina, and is as stubborn as a mule-cat. Hence, Gus would be the feline equivalent of the crying baby on an airplane for the entire duration of the flight. (Of course, I’m currently writing this post on an airplane with five crying/screaming babies on it, so right now I’d actually love to have Gus as a meowing distraction.) So, moving Gus by air might be doable, but a little tougher than moving George.

Of course, it really doesn’t make any difference whether Gus would be a problem, because we have three cats, not two. Cat number three is Jack. All 20 pounds of him. Jack is the sweetest and best behaved of the three, so his demeanor is not the problem.

The issue with Jack is one of sheer terror. Jack is very comfortable and loving around people he knows. The problem is, by my best guess, Jack only knows about eight people, and chances are extremely good that none of those eight are going to be the exclusive occupants of two airports, two airplanes, a rental car bus, a security checkpoint, or any of the other way points that he would have to occupy during the sojourn to his new home.

When Jack gets scared, he gets very scared. He shakes and quivers, he tries to hide, and amazingly for Jack, who never met a morsel he didn’t like, he refuses to eat.

So, any veto on the flying option goes to Jack, and this has been seconded by his vet and by numerous cat-moving-experts on the interwebs.

With flying out of the picture, and Chapel Hill being a land-locked city without a major seaport (I looked it up to be sure), that leaves driving. 3,000 miles of driving. Laura’s Miata can’t even hold me very well, let alone three cat carriers, so that ain’t happening. The Audi station wagon could do the trick. Barely. But that means staying in hotels, which means transporting the cats in and out of a lot of strange places with loud noises and potential escapes into dangerous areas. And managing the litter box and feeding while on the road wouldn’t be pretty.

So the seemingly-brilliant idea Laura had about three months ago was to rent an RV in California, and drive that to NC. This helps with two things, because it also gives the guys a safe quiet place to stay at both ends as the movers do their very loud and scary business. There’s only one catch: No-one will offer a one-way rental (with or without pets) of an RV from West to East during the summer.

So, short of buying the RV we’ve always dreamed of never owning, we will have to do the previously unthinkable. Fly to Raleigh, rent an RV in North Carolina, drive it to California, load up the boys, and then just drive it back. Did I say 3,000 miles before? Ha! This idea will see that 3,000 and raise you another 3,000. Over a total of less than 10 days.

I know, you’re all envious, aren’t you?

So this July, if you happen to be cruising down I-40, (Pretty much anywhere there is an I-40, ’cause will be covering the whole damn thing. Twice.) and you see a 29′ class-C RV driven by two very tired ex-Californians with three little furry faces looking out the back window, be sure to give it a wide berth. If it wasn’t a rental, I would paint the following words on its massive flanks:

Caution: Contents Under Pressure

Alas, the above warning will have to suffice.

learning as we go (or read)

January 23rd, 2010 by

The process doesn’t always bring out the best in us. Kevin believes that research, research, research is the key to not getting ripped off or taken advantage of; his rationale is that knowing as much as possible about architect’s working ways, what builders do, how realtors work and what the laws are concerning real estate and construction will keep us safe from predatory designers, builders, realtors and lawyers.

That translates into a pile of books that collapses onto the table, and multiplies into several piles—in the bathrooms, where important reading is always done; in the bedroom; in the living room and the TV room, in his office, in my office; on the floor; against the walls…we will be able, after all this, to start a library of need-to-know building books.

My own style in this situation is as it is in most situations. I learn by listening, watching, asking questions. For me, we’re hiring experts to take care of this information for us, so learning all the things they should know is redundant and time-wasting. Of course, if I’m honest, the things Kevin knows I do absorb just from hearing him talk (even when I wish he would talk about something else or not talk at all). But he worries that I won’t know enough, and wants me to read “What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You” and all the how-to-design-your-own-home tomes he’s acquiring.

Interesting, really, that this process is pointing up our differences. It’s probably inevitable. His exactness, his need to know as much as he can about whatever the subject is we’ll be discussing with someone, never stood in as great contrast to my organic learn-while-we-do style as it does now. Of course, we seem to be learning just as quickly with our different methods, and all of this points out that smarts comes in different packages.

So we’re flying home, as I write this in my middle Southwest seat, or back to the home we’ve known for the past several years, with a path started down the direction of home buildership. Our architects are working on our feasibility study, Linda is looking for land (and checking out the land we found on this trip), Chuck is now our lawyer and we have new friends in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill modernist community.

Two of whom live in the first house our architects built, with an art collection that includes an apparently scandalous painting in their dining area (by a very well-known painter) featuring frontal male nudity. I mean, come on; everyone who’s seeming scandalized by it is married, so the women know what a naked man’s penis looks like and I sure hope the men do.

The other couple we’ve befriended live in Greenville, two hours east of Durham, and they own the most recent home designed and built by our design/build firm. No scandalous artwork, at least not that we saw.