Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We Made It

4 days of travel.  4 time zones.  8 states.  Countless bathroom breaks, granola bars and movies but we made it.

A work relocation brought this Iowa family to Oregon and we are settling into life on the West Coast.

It's not even been a week, but a few early observations about our new home:

-People are super friendly.  Most clerks will chat you up as they check you out.

-People are also weather wimps.  The last few days it's been "freezing, bitterly cold"... yeah, the highs have been in the 40s.  Midwesterns don't use the term "bitter" until it's at least 20 below zero.

-Getting gas sucks.  You'd think having someone else fill your tank while you sit idle in the car sounds great but in reality, it is the longest, most aggravating excursion possible.

-It is insanely beautiful here.  Getting groceries, oh, there's Mt. Hood.  Playing at the park, oh, Mt. St. Helens over there.  Majestic is the only word I can think of and pictures don't nearly do it justice.
View from Mt. Tabor Park
-Coffee, coffee coffee.  It's everywhere and delicious.  Still trying to find my new "Java Johns"- with no success... they just don't make Marys around here but I found a fantastic drive-thru called "Dutch Bros".  The coffee is good and well priced and the employees are all super friendly and efficient.  If there is a line, one employee will be outside taking pre-orders so your drink is ready when you get to the front.

Complete with inspirational sayings
-Grocery pricing is really different than the midwest.  You can get a gallon of milk here for under $2.50 but the cheapest pack of bacon is $6!

We are renting a home here south of the city in wine country.  It's been about 10 years since we have rented so it's a little different for us but we are excited to have more freedom (aka time) to get out and explore the area instead of working on house projects all the time.  Completely unintentionally, we stumbled on a converted barn house.  It's been a dream of ours to convert a barn and we didn't have time in Decorah so it's really fun getting to live in one now.

Stars lead to driveway and garage door
The barn is at the top of a mountain- about 1000 feet above the town below.  Roads to the top are narrow and curvy- something that my straight, flat Iowa/Illinois driving is getting used to.  It also gets really foggy up here.

 Like no joke, can only see a few feet in front of the car, lose the road foggy.  But man, on a clear day it is beautiful. We can see Mt. Hood from our deck looking past the neighbor's house and get a straight view from the end of the driveway.
From the deck

From the road

Our rental has all the living space on the 2nd floor- below is garage space.  Single level living with three kids is awesome.  The house has a HUGE deck overlooking the valley.

The house even has wind and solar power!

From the deck, the door opens to an open concept living, dining and kitchen.  It is so bright and airy with a loft ceiling and huge windows.  From there, a long hallway leads to three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a million closets- there is seriously a crazy amount of storage here.

We are pretty much unpacked at this point and will share pictures as we can.  Today, I have the two finished kid's rooms.  E was sharing a room with F in Decorah but asked for her own room.  With the big move, we decided to grant her wish so she has her own room now.

Double closet which we used for toys
I bought 2 prints at the Decorah High School Winter Craft show and hung them here.  A great reminder of Decorah.

F and L now share a room which backs up to the living room.  This room doesn't have a window to the outside but gets light through a window into the living room.

I took pages from a "Where's Waldo" book and framed them

They got the dresser/bookcase combo I renovated last year as well as a lot of toy storage.

More to come soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 3: Epic Road Trip from Ohio to Oregon

In our 12 hours of driving today, we went through a 33 degree temperature fluctuation.  This morning, we work up in Rawlins, Wyoming to F excitedly proclaiming that it was snowing.  Less excited, at 5:13  am, we looked over and saw indeed there was a slight dusting on the ground.  

After a typical hotel breakfast, our 4th in as many days, we packed the car at a chilling 24 degree morning.  In the course of the morning as we traveled through the desolate plains of Wyoming, we dropped to 18 degrees, of course when the kid’s had a pee emergency so we had to hightail it out of the car in bitter cold with insane winds into a rest stop bathroom.  Not a trip I wish to repeat.  
Ominous Road Warnings
Overall, our drive today was like driving on the moon.  We expected to be driving through mountain passes all day as we went from Wyoming to the Oregon border, but instead were mostly driving on flat roads with rocky outcroppings around us.  

As we left Wyoming and entered into Utah, we finally got to go through an exciting mountain tunnel and had a bit of nice mountain viewing but that was really it.  F was excited by the baby mountains and the big mountains which he called “mommies” for some reason.

Sick of cold cheese, ham and crackers for lunches, we decided to stop for a hot lunch about an hour north of Salt Lake City.  We choose a dive diner which had the BEST chili we have ever eaten.  Amazing, meaty, beany and smoky chili.  The clientele were all hardened ranchers wearing Stetsons, spurs and worn jean.  Sounds like a romance novel fantasy but reality is a lot more grizzled with silky, feminine looking scarves. 
L eating lunch
After lunch, we continued driving on the moon getting a few more mountain sightings in the distance.  

We made a bit of a detour in Twin Springs, Idaho for a snack/coffee stop and got our first “scenic overlook” at a bridge over the snake river.  Heights are not my cup of tea so with knocking knees, I took a quick peak and picture and let the boys check out the view a bit longer and do boy things like pee on big rocks.

Driving through Boise, we hit our first traffic jam of the journey, temperature then at 51 degrees but luckily cleared out of it quickly to arrive in Ontario, Oregon at 7 pm , Mountain Time.  

night driving is not conducive to state sign pics

Amazing Mexican food in our bellies, we are no longer just a haggard shell of our former selves.
the one different thing about our Oregon hotel room

Miles: 639
Hours: 12 (had an hour lunch break that slowed us down today)
States: 4
Bathroom Accidents: 1 (this was before we left the hotel when L peed out of his pjs)

Coffee Stops: 1

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 2: Epic Car Trip Ohio to Oregon

Day 2 on our car trip and no one has been killed or left behind.  Success.  We are in the process of driving to Portland to begin a new job and driving with our 3 little kids to get there.  Yesterday, we traveled from Cincinnati to Omaha (more on that here).  Today, we tackled Nebraska and half of Wyoming.

Overall, the trip has been very uneventful today, for which we are very appreciative of.  We started off strong, leaving Omaha at the planned 7am departure time.  The brief view we got of Omaha was promising and looked to be a super cool city.  Perhaps a great vacation spot in the future.  We grabbed some great coffee on the way out of town from a drive-up coffee stand- they seem to be popular out west.

We had a bit of a bump in the road a couple hours in when F threw off his headphones and shouted, “I need to poo!”  Any with toddlers know that this means he has a turtle head ready to go.  Of course, we were in Nebraska where stops are far and few between.  Luckily, he managed to hold it for 10 minutes until we found a stop.  Crisis averted.
Nebraska Landscape
We got a call from the truck driver with our household belongings around noon.  His truck had broken down but he was finally back on the road with an anticipated delivery date a day later than originally expected.  Not a big deal to us since he will still beat us there.  Failed to ask if truck trouble was minor, or truck tipped over with destroyed piano.  Let’s hope it was the former.

As I mentioned yesterday, we don’t really stop for lunch so we stopped at a few rest stops to stretch our legs and go to the bathroom.  Our next food stop was in Cheyenne around 2 pm, Mountain Time for some coffee and pastries.  The view we got of Cheyenne was not as promising as Omaha and I don’t anticipate another stop there in the future.  Very industrial and overall run down- not what we expected.

Leaving Cheyenne, we ran into a random snow storm, of course going through the first mountain pass.  About 7 years ago, I slid off the highway in Illinois in my Jeep during a horrible storm and ever since then get SERIOUS snow driving anxiety.  Like, want a cigarette or heavy drinking anxiety (both of which I’ve never done).  Signs warned of doom until Tuesday at 11 am (snow/wind warnings) but luckily, the road was never closed and it passed quickly with me breathing into a bag in the passenger seat.

Tonight, we are in Rawlins, Wyoming.  After the Mexican restaurant we found on Yelp turned out to be closed, we settled on a country version of Applebees right in downtown complete with GIANT menus, chicken fried steak slathered in gravy and sundaes for the kids.  Perfect end to the day.

Miles: 639
Hours: 11
States: 2

Potty Accidents:  0 (but close today)

Coffee Stops: 2

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 1: Epic Road trip Ohio to Oregon

12 hours in.  Andy has swass (sweaty ass).  A month after Andy has started his new job in Portland, we are finally moving the whole family out there.  We are taking 4 days for this epic adventure and will (hopefully) share some delights about each day.  Here is day 1.

6 am (Eastern time)-  We roll out of our hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio and head to Waffle House for breakfast.  Why are we in Cincy instead of Decorah?  My Great Aunt Mary passed away and her memorial service was this weekend.  A career librarian, Aunt Mary would have loved our blogging literary tendencies.

7 am (still Eastern time)- We hit the road, aiming for Omaha, Nebraska bellies full of waffle.  We have 4 days planned for nearly 2500 miles.  Our thought is to bang out the “boring bits” in one long day, then step it back from there.  Growing up in the Midwest, we have driven the roads in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa frequently and don’t need to savor the sights. 

Our morning is uneventful with a stop every couple of hours to let kids pee and run around.  We travel a lot with the kids and have determined that life is easier for us if we pack food in the car for lunches- usually cheese, salami, crackers, hard boiled eggs, nuts peanut butter packets so we don’t have frequent bathroom stops PLUS a lunch stop which would equal a deathly long car ride.

1:30 pm (Central time)-  A pit stop in Iowa right outside the boarder.  2 miles into Iowa on I-80 and we are already frustrated with the truck traffic and discourteous drivers who don’t understand how to use a left lane.  Andy and I have switched driving duties at every bathroom break to prevent driver and kid fatigue (passenger seat victim is in charge of passing out food/activities to kids).

The boys have napped and E finally seems to have found something to occupy herself, creating a headpiece and necklace out of pipe cleaners.

  Andy and I have taken a break from listening to Aladdin, 101 Dalmatians and the Toy Story series to “watch” Happy Endings on our laptop.  (Don’t worry, driver doesn’t get to see, just hear!). 

4:15 pm (still Central time)- L is starting balk from sitting in the car seat all day and Andy is sick of car snacks and “bird food” for lunch.  We have 100 miles to go to hit Omaha and our planned Frudruckers for dinner.  Dreaming of toasted buns, seasoned fries and warm, yellow cheese from a push dispenser. 

6:30 pm-  Dinner consumed and the hanger monster is now at bay.  Heading to hotel when E starts a conversation- “I want to be married in Decorah” .  A bit of of the conversation:

E:  “I want to be married in Decorah"
A/M:  “Who will you marry?”
E:  I don’t know.  He will just be handsome.  I can marry whoever I want.
F:  I just want to marry mommy.
E: You can’t marry mommy.  She is married to daddy.  You can’t get out of marriage.
F:  I just want to marry mommy.
E:  MOMMY IS ALREADY MARRIED.  You can’t get out of marriage.
F: I Just want to marry mommy.
Me:  I’ll marry you buddy.  ::heart warms””

Tally for the day:
Miles:  724
Hours: 12
States: 4
Bathroom Accidents:  0

Coffee Stops:  2

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Frivolous Favorite Things about Decorah

It's here.  I don't even have to switch to the 10 day forecast view in my weather app to get to our moving day.

4 days.

The chains don't lie.  (Damn, that'd make a sweet song title...)

Our house is currently in total chaos- as one would expect of an imminent move of 5 people 2000 miles away.

The kids have turned rabid, eating mac and cheese in the living room in various states of undress.

The master bedroom is "Epic Car Trip Adventure 2015" command zone.

Trying to plan for living out of a car for a week is kind of an organized person's dream mission:  you have to plan it just right and get the jigsaw of car packing perfect and life will be complete.
Kid's clothes packed in Ziploc bags, tape-coded and labeled

Andy thinks I'm a nut job but I know 3 days into the trip when everyone is tired, dirty and cranky he will appreciate the fact that I labeled each bag and container so we can find the computer charger when it inevitably goes dead.

So in between all the lists, phone calls and goodbyes, I have been pondering all the things I will most miss about Decorah.  This will be a purely fluff list- of course we will most miss the amazing friends we have made but my computer keyboard is not waterproof so we will leave those words in our hearts and not on this blog.

So onto my frivolous favorite things about Decorah:

10.  Never waiting in line at the local grocery store.  Seriously, if you are in one deep you will hear a frantic call for another checker and get immediately waved over.

9.  Fareway cart service.  I wrote a post a bit ago about this local grocery store.  Once you are all checked out, a friendly employee pushes your cart out to your car and loads all the groceries.  I don't look forward to trying to strap three kids into carseats while trying to keep one foot on the cart to keep it from rolling away into another parked car.

8.  Nordic Fest.  Most Decorah-ites probably would disagree with this being on my list of things I'll miss, but I will.  This festival embodies midwestern small towns with its charming traditions and use of local organizations to run booths.  My belly won't miss the rommegrot and lingonberry ice cream but I certainly will.

7.  No traffic.  10 minutes to and from town- completely consistently.  No need for back-way routes or alternatives.  The most traffic you'll find in this small town is right at school drop off and pick up when you might have to wait at the light one extra time.

6.  Safety.  We don't lock our doors.  Rarely do.  Hopefully I can remember to hold onto a key ring again.  Once, I left my car sliding door totally open in the middle of town, did errands for an hour, came back to find it open and NOTHING missing.  Can't beat that.

5.  Kwik Star.  Love this gas station.  The prepared food section actually has good choices- yogurt, cheese, fruit, salads, etc and the milk, egg and butter prices are often CHEAPER than the grocery store!  They are always clean and the staff is super friendly.  Also, no fee ATMs!  Kwik Star is the model all gas stations should use.

4.  Fresh chicken eggs.  I'm a wacky person that will eat the same breakfast for like, 2 years straight then one day, out of the blue get sick of it and never eat it again (remember the frozen waffle incident of 2000, dad?).  Right now, my breakfast is an egg with an english muffin.  But my eggs are pretty much still warm from the chicken which makes a huge difference in flavor.    Store-bought eggs ain't gonna cut it.  We are planning to have chickens in Oregon but the soonest we would probably have egg producing chickens would be in a year or so so I have a serious gap to fill in my breakfast regime.

3.  Running into people.  Growing up in suburban America, the thought of running into someone I knew every time I left the house sounded like a nightmare.  Now though, three years of living in a smaller town I run into someone in almost every store I walk into.  And guess what, I like it.  Having a quick chat with an acquaintance while running errands makes the mundane so much more interesting and makes you feel like a valued part of a community.  And only in Decorah could you drive an hour up to Rochester and STILL run into people from town.

2.  Walkable shopping.  I LOVE parking my car at Fareway, getting the kids into strollers/carriers and then doing the loop to most of the stores I need to hit.  It makes shopping with little kids more pleasant since you don't have to constantly strap in and out of carseats.  It's also nice to get out and get some sun on your face.

1.  Java Johns.  Can't have a "things I'll miss" list without this little coffee shop.  For a good few months after moving to town I MISSED Starbucks.  I had my iced coffee order down to a science and was not in the mood to break in a new coffee joint.  I tried all the shops in town until I settled on this one.  On any given day, you will find me with at least one kiddo either running in and out with my drink (right now my drink of choice is a London Fog, yum!) or settled into a booth with a Bob's Breakfast Biscuit and F with his favorite- a cinnamon roll (this might have been his first word).  This was the first place we stopped on our way home from the hospital after both boys were born and feels like a second home.  The kids have adopted the owner, Mary to the point that upon entering they yell, "MARY!!" and people ask if we are related.  This was one of the first places we went when we arrived into town and will certainly be our last stop on our way out Friday.

So, now that I'm feeling slightly misty, let's back it up and throw out a few things we will NOT miss! Here it is in no particular order:

1.  No garbage pick up at the house.  Yeah, we seriously have to load up the car with garbage and take to a dump site.

2.  Living on a gravel road.  Dust, Dust, Dust= constant cleaning of everything and dust covered plants/grass during dry months.

3.  Walmart.  Yeah, I know they are everywhere but I am never stepping foot into one again when there is a Target next door.

4.  Having to drive 2 1/2 hours to get to an airport.  Such a logistic pain.

5.  Having to drive into town if we want to go for a walk or bike ride.  Not much walking to do on a gravel road.

6.  Midwest winters.  Lived these for 31 years.  I think I'll take some rain over the arctic cold and piles of snow.

7.  A DAMN decent hot dog.  Come on Decorah, this shouldn't be complicated. When one does hard work outside in the summer, one wants a HOT DOG!

8.  Drive-thru coffee.  Yes, I love me some Java Johns but I look forward to being able to get coffee while still in my pjs.