Pre-Honeymoon Honeymooning on the Olympic Peninsula

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John and I were married on July 3rd this summer. It was 90 degrees. It was a beautiful ceremony, an amazing weekend full of family and friends, and it was great to be married right after the Supreme Court decision.

Prior to that, we sold my old house, moved into our dilapidated new home, designed, permitted for the remodel and moved out of the home, lived in our Airstream for 6.5 months on the property, did our business in a honey bucket, moved back into the house, had Thanksgiving, moved back out of the house, painted the interior, moved back in the house, finished it, remodeled the basement, and finished all the landscaping. Then I had a heart “incident” and then triple bypass surgery as John worked full time, while we planned and had a wedding for 100 guests. We have to thank John’s sister Fran for help through the roughest weeks.

We really needed a vacation, but I couldn’t do long flights yet. So we planned our pre-honeymoon honeymoon for the Oregon Coast and Olympic Peninsula in Margaret so we could bring Buster and enjoy some cooler weather. It was awesome.

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Our first two nights were at Nehalem State Park just south of Manzanita, which is a quaint little town south of Canon Beach and much less crowded. The beach was stunning, though the wind picks up mightily from 10am to dusk and then dies down again. The park was clean, well kept and the campsites quite nice though our drought has made everything look crispy. The campsite was very full so I recommend making reservations early.

Walking on the beach was sublime and we were shown the town by our friend, Sarah, whose family has owned a beach cottage there for years.

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The next day we drove down the coast leaving Margaret behind at the park and discovered the little seaside towns and coves along the coast. We had fresh crab at a little spot just off the highway. There are a few spots to do this, but we found this one not far from camp. Down past Arch Cape, Rockaway Beach, Bay City Garibaldi and then Tillamook we went to explore.

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The Oregon coast is, in a word, stunning. We stayed a couple of nights and then decamped for the Olympic Peninsula passing through Astoria on our way. I always love going over the bridge between Astoria and Washington. It’s an amazing sight.

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Our next spot was near Lake Quinalt Lodge at an RV camp right on the lake. It could not have been better although we were lucky as the camp was not nearly as crowded as we thought it would be.

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There, we met a few great folks, and we were able to wake up and walk Buster down to the lake and have our coffee while he played.

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We had an amazing and romantic dinner at Lake Quinalt Lodge. The food was terrific including a Brie appetizer that was delicious. The lodge is as rustic as they come and takes you back to the early logging days. You could see from the old photographs how many trees they felled around the lake and how they’ve re-populated the lakeside with them.

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The Lake Quinalt area does boast the largest Fir and Sitka Spruce trees and we took a hike along the trail where you could really see the old growth and then where trees were sheared during the hurricane force winds of 10 years ago.

The next day we drove down along 101 to explore our next planned camping spot at South Beach and took one look at the overcrowded campsite full of box RVs and ATV’s and dirt bikes and every other loud toy and decided to stay those nights back at Lake Quinalt and just hang out. We felt we’d discovered paradise on accident and didn’t want to break the spell.

To Beach 3 we went and explored the tide pools and rocks. Low tide revealed thousands and thousands of sea anemones, mussels and eaten razor clams.

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After the beach trek, I was pretty much toast; worn out from traveling, hiking and such, my body just stopped and my heart was telling me to slow down so John and I just drove out to the Hoh Rainforest and I rested in the car while he took control. We lunched at Kalaloch Lodge, which was surprisingly good! It is another one of the classic old lodges that was built with a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The trees are windswept, and the cabins sit on the edge of the cliffs overlooking a small cove.

It was beautiful as we drove up into the Rainforest and strolled along the Hall of Mosses. Since rain had not fallen for weeks and weeks, the mosses were not as brilliantly green as usual, but you could see how, during a typically wet year, how emerald colored it could be. We went slow through the trees and the trail was mostly flat so I navigated it pretty well given how tired I was. I am looking forward to being on the other side of this healing process.

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Returning, we met Malcolm and his dog, Sheena, who stayed with us for a night. Malcolm taught us Cribbage and Buster wore himself out running around with a much younger woman/dog.

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We then ventured up into the Quinalt canyon to Grave’s Campground and stumbled upon Barry, the camp host. Man, he could talk! A crusty old fellow who was suspicious of me since I was eyeing his sewer line from his trailer and wondering where it was going off to and I was asking him about it. He then said he had PTSD from the Vietnam War so I kept quiet. It was a really interesting interaction.

We also were impressed with the backing skills of a fellow streamer who had the best spot in the entire campground along the Quinalt River. It was simply amazing how he shoehorned the vintage Airstream in. The woods were beautiful as the sun was setting and light raked through the trees.

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The next day it rained, Malcolm left, and John and I were content to hang in camp and relax and read as we’d planned to leave the following morning for the Macah Indian Reservation and Cape Flattery.

The drive up to Cape Flattery and our campsite was beautiful as we followed along the coast much of the way. Stopping in Forks, we encountered the oddest, but coolest grocery/hunting/outdoor wear/fishing and general goods store you could ever hope to see. Awesome sandwiches, too!

We almost took the Twilight Tour, but John held me back. We are on Team Jacob, but a friend of mine is still Team Edward. Almost bought the t-shirt, but resisted that, too.

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On through Neah Bay and up to find our RV camp with some of the best views of the ocean one can see. It’s on the Macah Indian Reservation and is first come, first serve. You need a $10 permit to be in the reservation with an RV. We were the last ones to pull in and lucked out and got a spot for a full hook-up. In the picture, you can see the camp from the rocks. The clouds were coming in, rays of light shone through followed by the sliver of a sunset at the point. It was truly spectacular to see.

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The walk down to Cape Flattery was mostly on a boardwalk built for rainy days. The views out to the ocean, the craggy cliffs and swirling tides made for a terrific checkmark off John’s bucket list.

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On a side note, we picked up some smoked salmon in Neah Bay at a tiny little shack off the main road. There’s a sign that just says Fish so we followed it. Inside sat about five people while one guy manned the cash register. We were offered a taste and it was delicious, the Salmon jerky not so much. But we bought some and brought it home. We also tasted some salmon that had been traditionally cooked over an open pit on skewers that some women were selling for a fundraiser. It was some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted.

The next day we drove down 112, which is one of the windiest and hardest to navigate roads pulling an Airstream. But the views are spectacular and you follow along the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way to Port Angeles. There are some tasty RV camps along the way that we want to return to, but we had reservations at the Elwha River RV Park.

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When we arrived, we were amazed at how nice the park was. Full hook-ups, somewhat narrow, but level pull throughs, very clean laundry facilities and a location that can’t be beat. The staff was also pleasant and easy to talk to. We were to stay for 3 nights to explore all around the area, but had to leave after the 2nd night because we were put close to the septic tanks and the smell from them was extremely bad and overpowering – so much so that both of us couldn’t sleep the second night. We asked after the smell and were told they didn’t have the proper filters, and they’d only owned the park 5 months. If it were me, I’d be fixing that right away because we just simply couldn’t stay there any longer and won’t go back unless we are assured it’s fixed.

But as we arrived, our friend Merideth texted us and let us know she was arriving with 5 pounds of clams from Taylor Shellfish so John and I went to a great market nearby (Haggens) and bought chorizo, onions, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. We steamed the clams up and they were delicious.

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Meredith joined us the next day for a trip to Lake Crescent and to see the lodge on the way to Sol Duc Hot Springs where we soaked a bit. The lodge and lake were beautiful, but the hot springs were a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know if I was just tired that day, or there were too many people or that the pools weren’t what I was expecting, but it’s not a place I’d return to. I’d opt for a more natural surrounding or a place where there are less people. The lodge, however, was rustic, the surroundings lovely and the view across the lake quiet and peaceful. The water is clear and cold and reflects the surrounding trees and sky perfectly.

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We ended the day by heading up to the top of the Elwha River where they blasted the dam away to restore the river to salmon and reverse the damage done at the beginning of the 20th century. It was amazing to see how the river has cut through the valley even though we’ve had two low water years. The falls down through the shoot are spectacular and it was a very moving moment for me to see what can be done for the good of our ecosystem rather than greedily destroy things.

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The next morning we went to where the Elwha River meets the ocean and was astonished at how decades of silt had created a huge beach, and how the river had carved its way through it. We spent a fair amount of time there and Buster had a great time swimming down the current and to the ebb.

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Then on up to Hurricane Ridge, a place that John really wanted to see. I’d been there when wildflowers blanketed the ground, but this time the dry grasses were a perfect complement to dissecting lines of green and blue. We spent awhile just looking out across the horizon at the line of mountains, the threatening sky dissipating and the sun rising in the sky. It was the perfect ending to an incredible 11 day journey seeing our beautiful state. Now that fires are destroying the landscape and people’s lives in Eastern Washington, this trip brought into focus how lucky we are to live in such natural beauty. We know that the land will repair itself and were lucky enough to see that rivers can be reborn, too.

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Landscape changes every day – sometimes in an instant and much of it over eons. Our trip was but a snapshot – a blip on the radar of time and we were lucky to share it together with Buster and some new and old friends. This trip served as the start of our marriage and was so indicative of the easy way we are with each other given all we’ve been through during the past two years.

Many people have asked me how marriage has changed me. It’s very simple really. I feel settled for the first time in my life, which has not been an easy one. But I know John will be there at the end of the day, I know he’s there when he’s clear across country, or making children’s lives meaningful through music. I am settled, finally, 54 years into a life that could have ended just a few months ago. I consider myself one very lucky (and happy) husband. And if we leave our lives as two halves of a whole, on a beach sustaining the lives of other beings, well that will be fine with me.

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Onward….

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Traveler’s Rest, Florida

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Just outside Dade City, Florida is a place where Airstreams and their owners thrived and co-mingled. Developed by Jake Busch, a member of the Tampa Bay Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club, Traveler’s Rest was initially funded by Airstream enthusiasts who invested $500 a share and raised over $80,000 to help secure a site. Jake Busch scoured Florida for a beautiful location that could fulfill the dream he had of providing an Airstream Park for wintering travelers.

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He found it near Dade City, adjacent to the small towns of St. Joe and San Antonio; the are know as the “Florida Alps.” In 1972, the property was secured, volunteers helped clear brush, install drainage and water, and prepare sites for silver bullets to nestle in together for warmer winters. Wells for drinking water were drilled and a sewage treatment plant was planned and eventually built.

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Unfortunately, a corrupt contractor took advantage of the park builders and nearly bankrupted them right off the bat. Jake Busch stepped in and pulled the plug on him, but not before he and others paid him off. By 1973 part of the park was finished along with Busch Hall, which houses everything from church services, arts and craft fairs and, of course, the traditional Airstreamer’s pot-luck.

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As is the custom of ‘streamers, much of the work done was facilitated by volunteerism, and several things available today, like the front office, pool, snack area, and Busch Hall floor were the result of loans given for the cause. There was much trust and fellowship as they built out the cabanas, maintained the grounds and enhanced the park. By the end of the ‘70’s most all of the Village lots were sold as well as about 100 mobile home lots were occupied. Traveler’s rest was now a wonderful destination spot for ‘streamers and winter “snowbirds” that wanted a community.

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The golden years from the mid-70’s through the 80’s began. Tennis courts were built, Mirror Lake was created and a new golf course added. They were all enormous projects that today form the beauty that makes Traveler’s Rest unique. In 1986 the TR Times was begun by a retired newspaper editor and continues to this day.

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Can you imagine lines of silver trailers gleaming in the Florida sun? If you go to some of the larger Alumaevent rallies around the country, you might get the idea. But Utopia for Airstreams couldn’t last. Unfortunately, Airstream began developing a line of motor coaches that were strictly outlawed at Traveler’s Rest due to a clause prohibiting motor homes of any sort so that sight lines wouldn’t be ruined.

Additionally, Jake Busch was disheartened following a particularly nasty town hall meeting in his own hall. His dream sullied, Jake Busch passed away in 1993.

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Several “founders” stepped down including the park manager. Airstream sales began to decline and fewer trailers came to Traveler’s Rest as the elder ‘streamers declined. Discontent bread defections and many people simply left. Maintenance and park repair fell as money and interest dwindled and Traveler’s Rest was on the verge of collapse until the bylaws were changed admitting RV’s with other brands were allowed to stay. A renaissance of Traveler’s Roost was underway.

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As we walked around the park, we were greeted by a friendly wave from everyone. And I mean everyone. The sense of community was palpable, and while Airstreams still dot the landscape with newer and older models existing side by side sometimes, the other RV’s fit in well with the landscape in the various sections.

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We particularly liked the area of Cabana’s that were placed next to the Airstream offering what is known as a “Florida room” for residents to enjoy. Airstreams were next to mobile homes, or rested under canopies of Spanish moss covered oak trees.

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The gardens are well maintained by friendly Garden Club volunteers we met. The hall was bustling with church services, the golf links were busy and several people were out for walks with their dogs. They even have an off-leash area. Mirror Lake is now a bucolic view from the wood-planked walks and trails; wildlife teems along its shores.

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John and I now know a place to bring “Margaret” that will be close to his mom’s and provide us with a community of ‘streamers and RVer’s alike, but also that promise of a hookup for electricity and sewage for our longer stays. We are looking forward to our first trip across country!

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Roman, Josephine (John’s Mom) and John

Note: Much of the information on the park in the above article was taken from their history PDF available on their website here: http://www.travelersrestresort.com

T – Minus 1 Week Until Move In

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The posts stopped because, quite simply, I’ve been running around like a proverbial headless chicken trying to get everything done, and get some consulting business going so we have a little extra cash to play with. A LOT has happened. We are close to being in the house with a nearly finished kitchen, one finished bathroom, all trim in (but not painted), and hot water.

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I am officially exhausted, mentally and physically. And I can’t wait until there are no more workers, no more appointments with contractors, city inspectors, or waiting on deliveries. I think John is ready to move in as well as Buster, who got a new bed to hang out on in the house while we finish our work.

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The kitchen has turned out particularly nice. John did a great design with the help of Joy Dolling of Abodian. After all, the choice of Alder wood instead of the melamine was a great choice. It is warmer, more elegant and will stand the test of time. All of the appliances are in, the bar is ready to go, and I’m sure John will be pouring Scotch soon.

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I finished the front entryway this week. After a great assist on the framing of it from our buddy, Malcolm Smith, who knows his way around a circular saw and is a great photographer, I installed the IPE decking this week just in time for the onslaught of rain.

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Our finish carpenter, Chris Olson, was great, and cased the doors, trimmed the baseboards and finished out some shelving in no time. It was pretty astonishing. He worked a little too fast sometimes, but he was a pleasure to work with, mildly OCD, which is good in a finish carpenter, and very eager.

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He also finished up the Sky Deck and dining deck off the kitchen today. There was a double rainbow off the dining deck right after he left, so I think that’s a great sign. Now we are just waiting on the railing so that we can call the inspector for our occupancy ok.

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Then a final polish of the floors and top coat. Here I’ll add that the flooring company, Eurocraft, did an astonishing job on the floors weaving together the old and new. It was truly amazing to see how they did it considering we have three entirely different types of floors in the house.

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Our former neighbor, Steve Branca (Branca Tile), did an amazing job on our guest bathroom, and is now headed upstairs for the main bath. That is going to be beautiful soon, as well. He made the guest bath a nice haven while we wait for the upstairs, and it’s a pleasure to be able to shower again in a real bathroom.

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The whole process has been very challenging given the disruption in our lives, the constant decisions, and all of the people involved in creating a house. I don’t think I could ever watch another HGTV show and not laugh at the budgets, the time frames and how simple they make everything look. I’m convinced now that those shows are simply adverts for big box stores and unsuspecting DIYers like we envisioned ourselves to be.

I will say, however, that there is a great sense of accomplishment I feel. It’s a beautiful home; we’ve learned so much about this process, and through careful decisions, have come up with a house that feels warm and welcoming – two things I desperately wanted. And John and I made it through after so many people had told us how hard it is on relationships and such. I think we’re stronger for it. We made many key decisions quickly and efficiently particularly when it came to tile and color. And now we’ve been through the worst, and are looking forward to carrying on our lives in a comfortable home. It seems that there is nothing we can’t get through now.

We finally said adieu to the contractor, which took a lot of weight off our shoulders and allowed me to sleep a little better. While I wish Broadmore Builders well, I couldn’t recommend them at all if their project manager continues to be a part of them. I won’t go into all the details, but the one thing that infuriates me is that he belittles his own crew, who did great work despite him, in front of his clients, and to them. It’s sad to see Broadmore’s largely hispanic team so disabused by him in so many ways, not least of which is care for their safety.

We do miss Juan and Ivan and Leo – all from various parts of Mexico – all of them left family and loved ones to make a better life here in the US.

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The sunrises and sunsets continue to be beautiful. And the rains that have come, I’m not so worried about given our new sewer lines, roof and gutters. Though our Airstream has performed remarkably well over the stress of two guys and a big dog, we are ready for the creature comforts of home. A bigger bed, warmth, quiet, and the space to breath and to read. I miss reading soooooo much and have lots of books to catch up on.

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Happy Halloween… next post will be after we’ve moved in!

T

Six Weeks Down – Heatstroke Edition

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This week saw the increase in the heat index begin to rise quite a bit. We are trying to stay cool in the Airstream, but do not have enough power and the breaker keeps shutting down. We will be installing a 30 amp when the electrician comes to do the rough in beginning in a couple of weeks. Later in the week, however, John discovered that if we ran the water heater and refrigerator on propane, then we can run the air conditioner without it shutting off all the time. It’s changed our lives.

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Buster is worn out in the heat and sleeps a lot. Today, Sunday, we are taking him out to the Sound where he can play in the cool water.

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Monday, there was a beautiful sunrise throughout the newly framed upstairs. The master suite is far bigger than I had imagined it – even after looking at drawings of it for months. My spacial to actual measurement skills are not as good as our architect or John’s.

Here I should say a word about our architect, Katie Wells-Driscoll. Katie came to us by way of her brother, Justin, whom I worked with on a project at Tutta Bella. She stepped into a pile of poo that Batt + Lear had given us, and worked with John to come up with an amazing space. She also was the only architect out of ten or so that we interviewed who came up with a great solution on using the entire lot. She specializes in DADUs (Detached Accessory Dwelling Units) and has already designed a terrific one for us that we plan to build soon. We’ve enjoyed working with Katie immensely who brings a sense of calm to the chaos, and does a great job listening to our wants, and counseling us on our can’t haves. We’d recommend her whole-heartedly.

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The upstairs continued apace with more walls being framed, which allowed the interior space to become more visible. It was incredibly exciting. We do have to give a nod to our builders who said that it was possible to go up on both sides of the structure to create a larger top level by putting in a foundation wall.

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One of the highlights was the entryway into the master bedroom. We made pony walls that allows light to flood the stairwell during the day, and the room to open up for John’s office. Once finished, it will be an elegant preface to the master bedroom’s soaring ceiling.

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Wednesday morning found us quickly moving the Airstream out of the way for the delivery of our trusses. The crane hoisted up ten scissor trusses that the guys quickly began moving into place. It was amazing how fast the truck was in and out of here, and how, now that the trusses were up, they gave visual shape to the entire house.

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We do continue having issues with the project manager, this time over windows. We’ve made several changes, most due to seeing how the house is looking, and changing sliders to casements. It seems a hardship for the project manager, but not the actual window company who, when asked, said they go through this all the time. It’s part of the process of building a brand new home out of an old home and trying to weave the two together.

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The guys who are doing the framing are doing great work still, asking us about changes, and showing us how to do things better. One of which are the dormers to the west that will now shed water better and provide more space and light in their respective rooms.

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Remodeling is not like you see on HGTV. Nowhere near it. There is great frustration, many, many decisions that can be overwhelming, mountains of dirt and dust and debris, and the constant shifting of priorities. However, the highlight of our days continue to be evenings on the Sky Deck. This week, the Super Moon fulfilled its journey last night coming up over the Cascades big and beautiful.

Five Weeks Down – Fireworks Edition

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While a short week, this was an eventful one in which we saw the raising of the top floor so we could see how the master bedroom, our offices and the bathroom will take shape.

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Monday, the rest of the main floor exterior walls were finished, and the beginning of work on the upstairs. John returned home to a lot of changes and was amazed at the work that had been done in the week he’d been gone. It was fun to see the excitement he had for the house.

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Our framers, Ivan and Leo, worked in the blazing sun on Tuesday, our hottest day yet here in Seattle, and built two walls that were raised first thing Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to see how they are melding the very old frame with the new, and making the house very strong to withstand a new roof that is being built.

Working with the contractor proved stressful this week, particularly for John. As project management goes, there has been very little of it to be seen given we are on the property almost all the time. Luckily, Ivan, the lead framer, is very detailed, asks questions of us, and works diligently to make sure that things are done right.

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We spent a lot of time looking at cabinets and picking out countertops only to read incredibly negative reviews of the cabinet companies we’ve visited so far. It’s kind of a bummer. So we’re back at square one on that front.

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We also found some tile we like and are excited that our neighbor, Steve Branca, has agreed to do it. He’s a master craftsman and was my direct neighbor for 10 years.

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For me, I’m totally clueless about some things and was happy for John’s return to figure out the leak we had in the Airstream within five minutes. We also rolled out the awning so the Airstream would stay cooler for Buster when we were out scouting cabinets and such. It’s worked beautifully and has added a lot of shade to our camp/home site.

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Today, the Fourth, we woke to have coffee on the Sky Deck with Buster. We’ve set up some makeshift barriers so that we felt better about Buster’s curiosity. We also spent a few hours cleaning the house’s floors with the shop vac to mitigate the dust and debris. We were disheartened to hear from our neighbor just down the hill that the company she hired for their remodel cleaned up every single day after work. That’s not the case here.

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I’m constantly amazed at how many people tell us that doing a remodel greatly tests a relationship. John and I have been at this for nearly a year now and are stronger for it, even much closer. We work through our choices and disagreements easily and with care, oftentimes coming to quick agreements on almost everything. So we wonder every time we hear this statement if maybe other people’s relationships need a little nourishment from a remodel.

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We are both very excited to be seeing our home take shape. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Two Weeks Down

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The tear down is nearly complete. We are down to the studs and the fireplace was completely removed yesterday. The next step is fixing a good amount of dry rot that was under the stucco.

We were also able to get up on our future roof deck for the first time (with a summer cocktail, of course) and take in the amazing view we have of Lake Washington, the Cascades and the very top of Mt. Rainier. It is truly spectacular.

The Airstream is performing well. For the very first time since we’ve owned Margaret, we’ve turned on the TV with a cable hook-up, and although we don’t have our cable box, we are able to get a few regular stations digitally (CBS, ION and TeleMundo!) but are able to watch Netflix and Hulu Plus and HBOGo with Apple TV, which helps during the days of bad weather. Otherwise, we are out of the Airstream most of the time, greeting curious neighbors and giving tours of the carnage. Now we are in rebuild mode and it feels really good. We are working with some very good people in Broadmore Builders, though they think I’m a bit of a nudge and budget bully (which I am given the expense of the project). It is so good to be working with good people after a disastrous relationship with Batt + Lear who led us down some very bad paths and cost us a fortune for it.

John is getting along great and we had occasion to use the Airstream’s microwave for the first time to reheat his amazing Saucy Shrimp. He’s off to Florida to help his mom and see his kids and grandchild next week. I know he’ll enjoy being away from the chaos for a bit.

We do love being on site and seeing all the changes first-hand, and helping out where we can. I’m particularly enjoying helping out with demo as it reveals the bones of a very well built home, and offers opportunity to find things out about the house. There are many daily decisions to make.

One Week Down

photoWhile I was away at my nephew’s graduation, John created a beautiful sitting area with all our potted plants and furniture so we could sit out and watch the sunset over the lake with neighbors and friends as they pass by to marvel at the work being done on the house. We are one week into the remodeling and enjoying watching the changes. We know we have to be patient, but it’s kind of hard after thinking, planning and dreaming of it for nearly a year.

We are addicted to HGTV and we can watch it in the trailer once we get cable running again, which was unceremoniously ripped down just before the weekend. We do wonder if the budgets on HGTV are realistic in many of the shows.