November 5, 2009
The nice part about flying out last Monday night was that I had the whole weekend to get ready. I ended up having way more time than I thought I would, as one by one the three things I’d planned to do over the weekend ended up getting cancelled or postponed to times I wouldn’t be able to do them. That meant I had no problem getting to the bank to cash in some savings bonds to use as part of our down payment. These particular bonds were ones my dad bought through payroll deduction; he alternated putting me and my brother on them as the beneficiary, so after he died I got the ones with my name as the POD (payable on death). My brother cashed his in a long time ago; I’ve just hung on to mine, but this seemed like a good time to use them. I doubt my dad would have ever gotten out to the condo if he were still alive, though I like to think he would have enjoyed seeing pictures of it and been happy for me that things worked out the way they have. I’d never cashed in POD bonds before so wasn’t sure what documents I’d need; I figured a death certificate might be required, so I pulled that out but the bank didn’t ask to see it. That surprised me; surely if something is payable on death it would be good to verify that that death occurred before paying. It also surprised me when I got a little teary eyed after I gave them overâ€”it’s not like they were the last thing I had left from my dad, or that my loss of him was a fresh wound, but grief works in mysterious ways I guess.
Our travels Monday night went quite smoothly. We had a three-hour layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul which meant we were able to have a nice leisurely dinner instead of wolfing something down in the food court as often seems to be necessary on our trips through that hub. Even better, on the flight to Spokane, we ended up with the increasingly rare treat of an empty seat in our row. We hadn’t even been able to book window and aisle seats to try help that result along (in the old days, say 2006, that strategy worked a lot more often than it does now), but our window person did not show and you bet we spread out. We spent that first night at one of the airport hotelsâ€”the slightly farther away, slightly cheaper one as compared to the one we stayed at last winter. It was quite nice; not all that much longer of a walk and this one had free breakfast unlike the other one (though on that winter trip it wouldn’t have mattered since we had to be at the airport before breakfast time).
Tuesday on our way up to the mountains we stopped in Spokane to meet our insurance agents in person and pick up a copy of the HOA policy, which we’d been trying to get for weeks. Even though Mr. Karen called the day before to remind them, the copy was nowhere to be found when we arrived, so we ended up taking a walk along the river and doing some shopping while they looked for it. By the time we got back they had found the pesky policy. On our way out of town we stopped for lunch; we had to backtrack through a neighborhood to get to a Mexican place we’d spotted but could not turn into from the road we were on, and during that detour a black cat stepped out into the street as if to cross our path but then it turned back. I hoped that was a good omen. After lunch we made one more stop (at the Albeni Falls Dam) before we made it to town and our meeting at the bank which I covered in my last entry.
You already know about Wednesday’s big event: getting to the closing table. Since we couldn’t get into the condo immediately, we went mattress shopping instead (the bed in the master bedroom was one of the things that wasn’t included in the sale). Driving up the mountain Thursday when we could get into the condo was a bit more of an adventure than we planned on. Even though it was still October, it was snowing, and we had just a tiny rental carâ€”no 4-wheel drive on this trip. Coming up the winding mountain road was fine; I just took it slow. When we got to the fork in the road before the village, I took the most direct route to the condo, which also happens to be the steepest route. Up we went for about 30 seconds, at which point we ran out of traction and stopped going anywhere at all. We weren’t that far from the bottom of the hill, and there was no traffic, so I started backing down. All of a sudden I wasn’t driving so much as skidding backwardsâ€”as the car started turning sideways despite my attempts to steer it in a more reasonable trajectory I had visions of tumbling backwards down the berm (no snowbanks to serve as guardrails this early in the season) and really having a story to tell when I got back home. When the back wheels hit the gravel shoulder, the tires got enough grip to hold there and the front of the car succumbed to gravity and slid around to point downhill. After a moment to collect my thoughts and thank all deities and forces who might have contributed, I drove very slowly down to the fork in the road and we went up the long way round. Whew!
Thursday had one more trick in store for me. After we walked over to the village and bought our season passes (with the pre-10/31 discount, this actually made sense given how many days we plan to ski there) and chatted with the real estate agent (a sort of debrief, I guess), we walked home to have a celebratory dinner. Unfortunately a decent corkscrew was not among the kitchen utensils the sellers had left us, so we struggled to open the wine, attempting to get more leverage by putting a wooden spoon through the hole in handle of the corkscrew we did find. I was pulling on the bottle and Mr. Karen was pulling on the spoon when the cork finally popped out, which it did with such force that I crashed to my knees (I’d been semi-squatting). I wasn’t able to catch myself with my hands because they were busy holding the bottle, so I pitched over forward onto the kitchen floor, my face ending at the edge of the pool of wine that had splashed out of the bottle when I fell. Just great. First night in the new place and I’m face down on the floor smelling of alcohol before we’ve even had dinner. On the plus side, I’d managed to save most of the wineâ€”though it did cost me a scrape on one knee and a bruise on the other.
We mostly spent Friday and Saturday making lists of things to buy, things to bring from home, and things to do, then doing the things we could in between figuring out the appliances. Fortunately the previous owners had saved a lot of the manuals, as without them we might never have figured out how to operate the disposer in the sink. Every other one I’ve ever seen has been controlled by a wall switch, but try as we might we could not find any switch anywhere that controlled this one. Reading the manual clued me in that some models operated using a switch in the drain area itself, and sure enough, the model number on our unit was one of those. It took some fiddling with the special sink stopper we found but eventually Mr. Karen hit upon the right combination of lifting and turning motions to get it to start up. I practiced several times throughout the rest of our time there so I’d be able to remember on our next visit. The seller had shown me where the lint filter in the dryer was, but didn’t say a word about the disposerâ€”maybe they all work that way out there. Unfortunately we didn’t find the manual to the microwave, so it took a lot of trial and error to discover how to use that. It’s an “Easy-Matic”, with many preprogrammed buttons for reheating and such, but no easy way to cook for a particular time. To do that, one has to press the DEF button first, then repeatedly hit the preset time increments until they add up to however long one want to cook something. The power level feature is still a mystery. Breakfast burritos one day took about 10 minutes to cook; the next day it was about half that.
We tried to get as many of the things we needed at local stores as we could, which led us to a delightful drug/hardware storeâ€”it had a surprisingly good nail polish selection, though I didn’t buy any this trip because I didn’t have a good way to get it home–and a co-op that sells clothing and farm/ranch supplies and hardware and gasoline and housewares and all sorts of other things. We did have to resort to Home Depot and another chain for a few things. Going in we thought our top priorities were a bed for the master bedroom and railings for the stairs, but then we found out the dryer was venting into the house (it’s electric, so at least there was no carbon monoxide threat) and the batteries in the smoke detectors were dead (in one case, really, really dead, as in expired in 1994), so those tasks shot to the top of the list. We (and by that I mean mostly Mr. Karen) got enough done on those to feel good about having our condo sitter stay there starting later this year (she’s a friend who got laid off from GM and is will be using some of her severance to figure out what her next steps are). We (and again I mean mostly Mr. Karen) also spent a lot of time on the hot tubâ€”testing the water, adding chemicals, testing the water again, buying different chemicals to add, figuring out and fixing the timer so it will run periodically while we’re gone and not freeze, testing the water some more. Mr. Karen even got up once to check on it the middle of the last night we were there to make sure the timer was working. Maybe next visit we’ll actually get to sit in the hot tub and enjoy it.
When we had to change the dates of this trip because of the Bank of America nonsense, one thing that made me happy was we’d be there for the fall back time changeâ€”with that extra hour of sleep we’d be sure to be well rested for our drive back to Spokane on Sunday morning. As it turned out we stayed up so late Saturday night that we were pretty tired anyway. Since we’re not sure when our friend is going to be able to come out to condo sit and winter is fast approaching, we decided to winterize the water system before we left. The only problem with that plan was we vastly underestimated how long it would take to drain the water heater. One of the neighbor dogs came by to see that we were doing early on, then wandered off to make his rounds of the neighborhood; we still had the hose snaking down the driveway draining when he came back an hour later. We ended up leaving the water trickling down the driveway (under the closed garage doorâ€”a little settling so the door doesn’t seal is a good thing in this case) and a note on the neighbor’s car so she wouldn’t think something was wrong. Guess it’s a good thing the sellers didn’t get all their stuff out of the garage after all; now they’ll be able to check on things when they come by to pick that stuff up. Because we waited until the very last minute to leave for the airport, hoping the draining would finish, I was very worried we’d miss our flight, but we made it. We even had enough time for a quick lunch before boarding (thank goodness for small airports with a reasonable number of flights going out at the same time). Our layover in MSP was only supposed to be an hour, but we got in early and had enough time to eat some decent food (meaning, not purchased in a gift shop or from a kiosk) before our flight home to Detroit.
Now that I’m home and the stress and excitement of the purchase is behind us, I’ve had time to reflect on it. I sure hope this was the right way to go. On the one hand, we’ve wanted to do this for a long time and we are fortunate to have the resources to make it happen and we can share it with friends and family. On the other, it’s extra worry and trouble and guilt and expense. When I’ve ratcheted my anxiety way up, I remind myself that doesn’t have to be forever. I hope we’ll be happy with it for a very long time, but it’s not like we vowed to love and cherish the condo as long as we both shall live.