Mid-Life Crisis Trip
Entry 15: Another Moving Experience
July 12, 2006 Wednesday
Today, we begin Part I of a two-part moving series. Because we have an apartment in Seattle rented through the end of July, and an apartment in Salem rented at the start of July, we need to have some of our stuff in both places.
Sure, you could argue that there are logistical reasons and it provides a nice fall-back position and if there is a horrible truck accident we only lose half our stuff, but it really comes down to marking our territory. We put stuff in the apartment in Salem and it's "ours."
Although frankly, Robert's suggestion of just peeing in the corners of the new place is starting to look fairly attractive.
We have managed to catch both cats. Mooch is easy—heck, his gravitational attraction alone makes him easy to find. Indy is more challenging as she goes from zero to 60 with claws extended in 0.5 seconds, and she can sense when you've got something sneaky in mind.
They are now held in horrible, horrible conditions (judging by their howling) in our bathroom. They have a litter box, a giant bowl of food, catnip, cat magazines and plenty of places to hide. But this seems to be pretty much complete torture from their point-of-view.
Our last couple of moves have been marked by the total and complete absence of anything resembling rain. But our luck might be running out—some drops fall on the truck as Robert drives it back from the truck rental place.
Robert is totally bummed out by the truck. It has no CD player! ("Can you believe it? In the 21st century?? I mean, it's one thing to not have flying cars or personal jet packs or death rays, but no CD player in a truck?!? That's barbaric!") Mostly he's mad because he remembered to make a bunch of CDs to play on the drive down, and now they're useless.
Laura is relieved—she wasn't looking forward to hearing such classics as I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead and Will the Turtle Be Unbroken all the way to Salem.
The gorillas have arrived! And Muscle Mover guy is the same as last time! Through some strange quirk of fate, the skinny mover (they always seem to come in pairs like that—muscle guy and skinny guy) is not a meth addict (or, more accurately, he still has his front teeth, which, according to our sources, is how to spot Meth addicts).
The first task is to get the scooter onto the truck. Now, when we say "scooter" we mean "150 cc motorcycle" but legally, it's a scooter (you sit on it, you don't straddle it). It also weighs a lot. If it falls over, two people have to lift it up straight again
How to get it into the truck?
The ramp is lowered and locked into place. Robert revs the engine on the scooter, and—
—has a rare flash of prudence and says, "Nah, that would be stupid." He dismounts and the three of us push it up the ramp and get it into position in the truck.
Our job now is to stay out of the way of the gorillas as they move boxes and bookcases out of our apartment and into the truck. It's weird and makes us feel useless, but Laura sits at the table doing some paperwork, while Robert finds a seat outside and plays computer games.
"Whaddya mean, useless? I'm already at level 23!"
Plus, it means that we don't have to wince when things get dropped or whapped into other things...
The truck is packed! We pay off the gorillas (there was a three-hour minimum, so we told them to go move stuff out on the street for an hour), then we let the cats out of their horrible confinement (Mooch sauntered out with an aggrieved air, while Indy cowered in the corner before racing at high speed for her hiding place under the couch).
We've hauled camping gear down to the truck (for our stay overnight in Salem) and are now firing up the SS Giant Truck and pointing it at Salem via I-5. Of course, at one of the first stop lights, Laura stands on the brakes a little hard and we hear ominous clunks in the back.
Nothing to do about it, so we continue on our way.
It's raining, and we discover an interesting thing about our truck. It leaks. Right onto Robert's shoulder in the passenger seat. And, of course, we have nothing with which to plug the leak—all that's in the cab with us is our computer gear and an ice chest full of frozen chicken. Robert wants to thaw the chicken and stuff it into the leaky spot (it's his shoulder that's getting wet, after all), but Laura gives him "the look" and he shuts up and gets dripped on.
We stop for lunch at a Subway near the Fr. Lewis Army base, so there's an endless stream of soldiers going in and out of the place. We discover that soldiers now have business cards (with e-mail addresses!).
We guess it makes sense, but it still seems kind of strange. "Hello, I'm here to shoot you! Here's my card! Goodbye!"
It's much harder to mosey at 80 mph in a fully loaded Budget 16-ft truck. In fact, at about 70 mph, it feels as though you're going at Warp 9 ("I canna keep this up much longer! She's gonna blow!").
So, even though Salem is a four-hour drive (3.5 hours if Robert does a fair amount of the driving, because he's an impatient sort), we're only as far as Portland. No wonder nobody drives the speed limit.
We arrive in Salem!
It occurs to us that we now have to find a place to park the SS Giant Truck. Hmmm....
We have a covered parking spot at our new apartment, but it's about seven feet too short for the truck (and Budget made Robert sign a statement saying "I understand what 'too short' means and I will have to pay you a lot of money if I drive someplace that's too short").
Fortunately, we have the phone number of a friend of a friend named Dinah. It turns out that Dinah works in the office building right across the street from our apartment (Salem just might be a small town), and she lets us park the SS Giant Truck in her parking spot.
We're now pitching camp in our new apartment.
"This is just like our ancestors!" Robert proclaims. "No microwave! No cable TV! No internet connection! My God! It's like a third-world country here!"
Somehow, we manage to survive even though we have to walk 100 feet to the grocery store and buy some TV dinners and heat them up in the oven. But at least the beers are cold.
Laura starts measuring rooms and drawing our new apartment in Visio, so that she can figure out where the furniture goes. Robert, enchanted by an idea he read in "Hints from Heloise" about making cookies from a cake mix, whips up some chocolate cookies with butterscotch morsels. They make a fine bedtime treat and the apartment smells wonderful as we settle on our bedrolls to sleep.
July 13, 2006 Thursday
(middle of the night)
We knew there was a train station about a mile away. What we didn't realize was that trains have to get to the train station. Even at night. And they have to sound their horns whenever they come to any railroad crossing, of which there are more than a few near our apartment.
We're reminded of Paul Simon's lyric: "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance."
What he didn't write is "Nobody loves the sound of a train passing nearby sounding its damn horn at all hours of the night" (probably because it doesn't scan well).
Fortunately, it seems to be loudest on one side of the apartment, so we can use the other room as the bedroom. Also, it's better than listening to some moron's car alarm going off at 4:00 am (which has been a feature of our Seattle apartment of late).
We secure a local newspaper and are aghast at the news! Record rainfall! Over 0.06" of rain fell in Salem yesterday!
Apparently, since they started keeping records 114 years ago, it's never rained in Salem on July 12. It used to be a huge deal, with parades and contests and "a lot of hoopla" (to quote the local paper).
So yesterday's rain wrecked the whole thing and was the biggest story of the day.
Reading an editorial about this calamity (really, it got a quarter-page editorial) we discover an even larger catastrophe: there are no Krispy Kreme or Trader Joe stores in Salem! Yikes!
"I told you this was like a third-world country!" wails Robert.
Our new best friend Dinah has a strapping young college son (i.e., broke and willing to work cheap). She also knows where to get local day labor and muscular Danny shows up promptly at 8:30 am ready to exert his manly muscles.
Lanky college boy Colin strolls in about 15 minutes later (but with all his front teeth) and the pair (one muscular, one thin—it's like a universal law or something) starts shifting our stuff from the truck to the campground that is our new apartment.
The only thing left is the scooter and Robert "Eviel Knievel Bob" isn't going to do any sissy stuff this time. He straps on his helmet, his gloves, his long pants, his leather jacket, and his elbow and knee protectors, slips in his tooth guard ("I paid good money for these teeth!" he explains) and bravely inches the scooter down the ramp.
Then he races down the enclosed walkway in front of the apartments, just so the neighbors know that insane people have moved into the neighborhood.
We go out walking in the neighborhood (and to buy our train tickets for the journey back to Seattle tomorrow). We are about four blocks from the state capitol building, which features a golden statue of some female dressed in robes (Laura thinks it's "Columbia" while Robert thinks it's "Ms. Oregon").
Along the way, we solve the mystery of the train horns in the night. Seems that the train passes about a block away from our apartment and makes a turn and runs along the other side of our apartment (again, about a block away). And there are lots and lots of crossings.
There are lots of state office buildings and various associations nearby ("Oregon Small Grocery Association," for example). Almost everybody we see has a "State Employee" ID badge on.
Salem is also pretty flat. Laura explains that this is because we're in a flood plain (from the Willamette river, which is not pronounced how it should be, but instead is pronounced as: will-LAM-met). Robert is glad we're on the second floor...
There's a knock on our door—we don't know anybody, who could it be?
Well, it's our downstairs neighbor "Swede" coming to introduce himself. He's an older guy (well, our age, which makes him "well-seasoned" and "a grown-up") and works across the street at the Oregon DOT. And, of course, he knows our new best friend, Dinah, (what was that we were saying about small towns?).
Swede is responsible for all the crossings at railroads in the state of Oregon (over 2200 crossings!) and we really hope he's done a good job, because if our train hits a car tomorrow it'll make us arrive late. Plus, our engine will be scratched up and stuff.
Swede says that "either you get used to the noise the trains make or it drives you crazy." Pretty much our conclusion.
Swede also is learning to play alto sax, so he wanted to warn us about his practicing (heck, we're thinking of forming up a jazz trio—piano, sax, and autoharp—sort of a John Coltrane meets Loving Spoonful group).
Laura spends most of her day continuing work on the apartment layout in Visio. She's very good at this, and Robert is happy to let her do it, because his idea of arranging goes something like "Put things down wherever and we'll let it develop organically, which tends to result in having the bed in the living room ("Close to the refrigerator!").
It really works out much better if Laura does it.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Happy Bastille Day—Break a bunch of people out of prison to celebrate!
We were up at 5:30 am, so we could leap into our clothes and walk to the train station to catch the 7:00 am train to Seattle. (It turns out that it only takes 15 minutes to walk to the station, but one of us thought it was 45 minutes. She won't be hearing the end of this for some time.)
Anyway, they just announced that the train has been delayed for an hour, meaning we could have slept another hour on the floor of the apartment (which isn't nearly as appealing as it sounds).
Robert notices that vending machine prices here are cheaper than in most places ("Snickers bar for 60 cents! Pop-Tarts for 80 cents!").
Our choo-choo train has finally found the station (seems that there was some missing track in Eugene that they had to find before they could keep going).
The Voice of the Announcer tells us that we have "ONE minute to board the train; the train will be in the station for ONE minute"! And modern trains don't have a caboose, so you can't go racing down the track and make a leap for the end of the caboose like in the movies ("Darn!" says you-know-who).
Once aboard, we're finding it easier to forgive the lackadaisical attitude towards time that the railroad seems to have. The seats are comfortable, we got seats with a table and genuine made-in-America 120V power! Meaning we can play computer games—er, work on various projects as we roll across the farmlands of Oregon.
Also, it's fun to be causing a lot of noise as we go through towns blowing the train horn. Robert thinks they could make a few bucks by selling "horn blowing rights" to passengers ("Heck, I'd pay $1 to be able to toot the horn!").
The train pulls into Portland where we'll be getting rid of some passengers and getting some others. We have had the requisite cheerful announcement about how the train people hope that we have had an enjoyable time and how thrilled they are that we didn't crash (they never say that, but it's always in the sub-text).
Actually, it's been pretty nice. Laura dozed (which gives you some idea of how uncomfortable it is to sleep on the floor—it's easier for her to sleep sitting up on a train than lying down on the carpet).
Robert sat and played on the computer, and every time he looked out the window, there was another picturesque view. Even coming into Portland, we get a view of the Mighty Willamette and the bridges spanning it. Oregon railroads definitely have the whole scenic thing down.
Trains seem to be getting more and more modern. This one is showing a movie. Not a particularly good movie ("Swiss Family Robinson 1960" aka "White People Tame Nature and Evade Chinese Pirates"), but still a movie. There's even a safety video about how you should be careful in case the train crashes and warning you not to step off the train if it's still moving.
We're now approaching Tacoma, which is way more scenic when you see it from a train, because the tracks run along Puget Sound and you get to look out across the sound at various scenic items, such as the new Narrows bridge.
Across the aisle from us are a quartet of Amtrak engineers and brakemen, who have begun swapping stories of people getting hit by trains, and people who step in front of trains ("Oh, are you talking about the woman I hit?").
We're back in Seattle waiting for a bus in downtown Seattle to take us the rest of the way home. As we wait opposite the "Lusty Lady" theater (featuring Privates of the Caribbean and Bare Conditioning) we reflect that there are some things we won't miss about Seattle. Like the traffic that's making our bus 15 minutes late. And the crowds of people milling around pointing at the non-Hammering Man wondering what it's for.
Whew! Home again. And half our stuff is gone! Oh, that's right, it's down in Salem. In the confusion, we managed to pack off all our tables, so we'll be eating off TV trays for a while.
Mooch stares at us as if to say "Serves you right. Where's my food?" Feels like home.