Friday, May 29, 2009

Massanutten Resort

Several months ago we sat through one of those annoying RCI time share pitches and took the 200$ Visa gift card and free 3 day stay voucher. Even though I wasn't sure we would use it I redeemed the voucher for May 26-29th. Luckily we were both available to take the vacation. The resort is actually very nice, they own a mountain range in the Shenandoah valley. We checked in and were upgraded from the hotel to a condo. Since it was the day after Memorial day weekend the place was deserted and it stayed that way our entire stay. The condo was old but nice. A king size bed, full kitchen, and full bath.

Rikki wanted a decent meal after her 4 day Greyhound ride so we went to the resorts Fareways Restaurant. It was expensive as expected but worth it. We crashed early and were surprised to find they offered free wireless Internet!

At check-in we were given free water park tickets. It was cool outside but the indoor portion was great. We took a lazy intertube ride, several different tube slides, and enjoyed the hot tub.

We also hiked to the look out point at the top of the mountain twice. Once in the morning when it was too foggy to see anything and again in the evening when things actually cleared up and provided an outstanding view. We called it another early night and spent thursday on the road to Vermont.

Massanutten Vacation Thanks To RCI

Nathan mentioned that we went to one of those RCI timeshare things at the Massanutten Resort earlier in the year. We got a free gift card that we used on gas and dinner and a free 3 day 2 night stay at the Massanutten Resort. The stay had to take place during the week on their off times. We weren't really sure we were going to be able to use it but the timing here worked out well.

When we arrived at Massanutten I took a shower, we went out to eat and then went to bed, after checking e-mail. The next day we went for a walk up to look-out point. We saw a beautiful deer jump out right in front of us to cross the road. We couldn't see anything when we got to the lookout. It was too foggy.

We hit the water park in the afternoon. It was cool outside but not enough to stop us from going to the park. We did the lazy river, two of the tube slides and the hot tub. We walked around and looked at the rest of the park. Nathan was interested in the FlowRider but there was a line and Nathan didn't want to wait. There was a food court with ice-cream and sweet treats. I managed to ignore that.

In the evening we went for another walk up to the lookout. The sun came out just in time for us to make it up to the top and enjoy the peaceful view for a little while.

Here is some history about the resort.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Greyhound

On Saturday morning I rearranged my suitcase. I left some things in the car that I wasn't going to need and packed some other things that were out in the car that I was going to need. I also had my laptop packed up, pillow and a bag of snacks for the 4 day long trip back to the East Coast. It was hard carrying everything from the room to the bus stop. It was more stuff than I expected. I spent $7.00 on the bus to go to Salinas. Probably cheaper than a cab ride. It was about an hour from NPS to Salinas Transit.

I made it to the bus station in plenty of time. I went and had lunch at a sandwich and donut shop located right next to the bus stop. I sat and read my book. I purchased my 4 day cross country ticket for $290. I gave Nathan a call to let him know my schedule was still as planned and that I would see him in 4 days. Called my mom to let her know and then waited a couple of hours (while reading my book).

At 3pm (when the bus was supposed to leave) it was running a half hour late. At 3:30pm another hour delay. But the bus station itself closes at 4pm so we had to stand outside and wait for the bus. BURRR!! It was windy and cooler at this point. The bus arrived at 4:45pm. I was really nervous about not making my connecting bus LA.

The trip did not start off so well. Yes I expected stops in between and yes the tickets do mention other stops but I wasn't expecting a stop like every hour or so. I was not doing so well, yucky motion sickness. I packed my patches in my purse so I put one on and tried to just go to sleep sitting up. Even with all the stops there weren't too many people getting on so I was able to keep two seats. However I knew if I laid down on the second seat I would just want to stay that way and once we hit LA I knew the bus would be more crowded.

I made it to LA with just 5 minutes to spare. I was able to get my suitcase, go to the bathroom, throw some water on my face and then try to find the gate for departure. At almost every transfer stop you will have to get your luggage and bring it with you to your next bus. Once I got to the terminals, I had to ask the security officer in the room where to go. At 1am I was very sleepy and not really awake enough to know what I was doing. I brought my luggage out to the handler, had my ticket stub taken for my seat and was handed a temporary pass to get back on the bus for the temporary stops (food and bathroom stops).

The next three days was about the same. Except I wasn't as sick. There were lots of interesting people, border and security stops and a serious lack of a shower or even brushing my teeth.

So the things I learned on my Greyhound trip:
1. Don't expect to shower if you are traveling more than a day to get to your destination.
2. Fast food or 7-Eleven stops no diner's or restaurants.
3. Bring gum (I had this and ran out after two days) or bring a travel toothbrush kit (I finally bought one at the end of day two). Even though you will have to take care of your luggage at most transfer stops there isn't any room in the bathrooms to open a big suitcase in them. If you are bringing a medium or smaller suitcase you might be able to do this.
4. Bring plenty of singles. All the greyhound locations have vending machines but it is pricey. I actually had a water bottle that I filled up when I could. It wasn't always cold water though.
5. You can't bring enough snacks.
6. Bring a pillow. Greyhound actually recommends it.
7. Always have your ID with you.

I was so happy to see Nathan once I arrived in Charlottesville. I was hungry, wanted a shower and was a little more stressed than I thought. He did receive the city, home, termite and even roofing report. Our realtor, Laura, had a roofer go over to the house and give us an estimate on the roof repair/replacement. This is something that Nathan had requested while I was on the "road." There were plenty of things for us to talk about over the next two days.

Busch Gardens

I am finally done with Norfolk, VA (though I'll probably be stationed back here again some day). I left early and took advantage of Busch Gardens military appreciation offer to get a free ticket. I was meeting Rikki in Charlottesville 3:30 that afternoon so I had the whole morning to hit the rides she would never do. I started with the Loch Ness Monster, then the Griffon, followed by Alpengeist, Darkastle, and Apollo's Chariot. They were a blast, the bottomless and extremely fast ones were my favorite. I toured the whole park in 4 hours and made an uneventful trip to Charlottesville. I picked up a surprisingly un-bedraggled Rikki at the Greyhound station and we drove to Massanutten Resort for a 3 day mini-vacation before heading to Vermont to visit family.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reflection

I have caught up on all of my todo lists and find myself actually bored for the first time in months. I guess I really did work too much. My mind is always running and without Rikki, work, or home to occupy it I find myself spinning my wheels. So I really should get back to actually writing this blog. I've posted sporadically since 2002 but it never really became something I expected to do daily. I might try it while I'm on vacation but I expect once I get busy again I will prioritize and use the time for something else. Rikki and I will be swamped for months fixing up the new house.

But writing is important. I need to bug more family members to start writing their own memoirs. So many stories and experiences are lost because no one takes the time to record them.

“Every time a person dies, a library burns.” -- unknown

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Committee on Veteran's Affairs Mark-Up - S 475

S 475 had its markup hearing today. All went well. Military Spouses Residency Relief Act passed without a problem or disagreement.

To view the Senate Hearing click here.

Elizabeth River Run 10k

I probably should not have given blood Thursday. I was a little slow running this 10k but it was a nice race with excellent turnout. I decided to schedule it since I knew I would be back in Norfolk by myself. The course followed its namesake and even ran through the Portsmouth Naval hospital (where I had my hernia repair).

When we moved to Norfolk in 2007 I joined my first running group. The Tidewater Striders has been great and well worth the membership. I've earned back my membership fees with their discounts and enjoyed the post race pizza and beer. I will have to look for another running club to join in Monterey.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Home and City Inspections Complete

I received the 36 page home inspectors report, no show-stoppers but dozens of things we will fix eventually. Not bad for a 50 year old house. The biggest worry is the original electrical system. We will bite the bullet and replace it. Rikki and I would both feel safer having this done. We will negotiate a new price with the bank and hopefully have them split some of the repair costs.

The city inspector also had some minor fixes. These have to be completed within 10 days of closing. They actually come back out to verify. Again nothing major we can't handle ourselves.

The roof needs minor repairs. Has anyone else ever heard of a tar and gravel roof? That is the standard out here. We might pay for an upgrade to shingle or maybe even metal. New tar and gravel roofs have a whopping 3 year warranty. I can spread tar and sprinkle gravel myself, but again Rikki and I would rather not have to worry about it. Especially if we rent it out down the road.

We will have to wait until after the long weekend for any further progress. The good news is that Rikki's work is done so she will be coming back to Virginia. I should pick her up on Tuesday so we can spend 3 days at Massanutten as a reward for our house hunting success.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Taking Chance

I can't remember the last time a movie held my attention like this one. It is based on a true story about a Marine escorting a fellow Marine killed in action back to his home for burial. The Navy and Marine Corps does an outstanding job of taking care of the deceased and their families.

At my last command in 2007 I volunteered to take the 2 day training and become one of the commands CACO's (casualty assistance calls officers). I am lucky that I have not had to carry out that duty. Though I have been on standby as an alternate twice. It is a job I hope I never have to do, yet I want to do it to ensure it is done right.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Escrow

The bank accepted our counter offer and Rikki is taking care of the paperwork and 3 inspectors over the next 2 days. It turns out the city has to inspect the house, then our home inspector, then a separate termite inspector. We'll keep our fingers crossed. The city inspector may find things we are required to fix within 30 days. That is one of the dangers of buying a foreclosed home. Past owners may have made changes or additions and didn't follow the proper city code or file the proper paperwork to do them. Some of the houses we looked at had 2nd or even 3rd bathrooms that were not approved and would have to be "removed." The city is strict on not allowing people to split a house up into smaller rental units.


USAA has locked our mortgage in at 4.25% with 1.5 points. This is the lowest rate I've ever seen. We are ecstatic about that. We will have a lot of work to modernize the house, but we are up for it. This is going to be a great investment. Check it out.

The picture to the right is absolutely horrible, we'll get more to post soon.

Kudos to Rikki for doing all of this on her own!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More Pictures

The beautiful plants.


The Farmer's Market.


Water Meter for the house out front on the sidewalk.


Geese not concerned about the softball game.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pictures

Just some pictures to share.

The morning fog.


Paddle boats at a lake near the ocean.


Kayak lessons on the beach.


Kayak crossing sign on trail.


Seaside from Fisherman's Wharf (after the fog lifted and just before the sun came out).


Biker's


Keep your fingers crossed we may have good news tomorrow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Monterey Hobbit House


To the right is the single house in Monterey for under 300k. We toured it. The insides are completely gutted with an illegal 2nd and 3rd bathroom that is half finished. Many of the homes have illegal additions that will have to be approved by the City or removed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monterey Video

A few quick clips of Herrmann hall where we stayed (used to be Del Monte hotel) and The Fisherman's Wharf.





Wednesday, May 13, 2009

House Hunting Begins

After a quick nap Monday we had supper in downtown Monterey at Rosine's (very good food, I had the Salmon) and met with our realtor to discuss Tuesdays plan of attack. She had 7 properties lined up and gave us the MLS print out for each. We talked for about an hour, reviewed paperwork, and had all our questions answered.

All the homes we are looking at are REO (real estate / bank owned). They are foreclosures that the bank has repossessed and is trying to get rid of. We are lucky the past few weeks the number of foreclosures has been going up. It looked like a possible recovery a few weeks ago but it doesn't look that way now.

Tuesday morning we toured 7 properties and placed a bid on the best. It was on the market over 200 days so we thought we had a good chance. We bid low only to find out they had another bidder. They recommended we submit our "best offer." So we increased our bid but they still chose the other bidder 2 days later. Very depressing since we were told we had a solid offer, especially since we have such good credit and will be putting 20% down.

So we went out again and looked at our 2nd best house again. We placed another low bid and are still waiting for a response. It doesn't look like we'll get it before I have to go back to Norfolk so Rikki will stay behind with the power of attorney. We are expanding our search further from Monterey. We want to stay close but we can get better deals (and houses) the further we go out.

Pre-Qualify

Nathan told you that we looked at 7 homes on our day out house hunting. Something that you should know if you are looking to purchase a home in CA is that you need to pre-qualify with the banks in CA. We pre-qualified with the bank we are going to have a loan with, USAA. Laura sent us an e-mail while we were in VA and told us that some of her other clients were having to wait the extra week or so because they weren't pre-qualified with the banks in CA. So I spent some time on the phone, exchanging e-mails and sending our financial data to at least two CA banks from the list that Laura sent us. We were able to put a bid down on our favorits house because we pre-qualified before we made it to CA. The house we were interested in just happened to be with the bank we did in fact pre-qualify with.

I am not sure why you need to pre-qualify with a bank out in CA and why our pre-qualify letter with USAA wasn't good enough. We are not sure if it is because we are looking at foreclosed properties, because of the budget crisis in CA or if CA tries to keep businss in the state.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Coast to Coast

Friday was crazy. But Rikki and I are very good at moving so we managed to get everything done on time even though housing was late for checkout by several hours. Luckily it didn't matter since I was at my hail and farewell at Red Robin.

We hit the road as soon as I made it back and immediately came to a stand still due to an accident on I-64 by the Hampton bridge tunnel. No surprise, we knew we would hit traffic but it would add about an hour to our drive to Kansas. We drove through the night (I-64 almost all the way) and made Ottawa 19 hours later. We visited with family, took a nap, had a good meal, and had a good nights sleep.

We actually slept in, had another big meal, and were out the door by 9 a.m. We wanted to try to drive straight. We took I-70 to Denver (don't bother with the toll road to skirt outside of the city, it was 3 tolls of 2.50 each only a few miles apart... what a rip-off). We then switched to I-80 through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. A very boring drive but I think it was better than the southern route through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. I might try that on the next trip. We did manage to go straight through with a quick nap at the rest area just before dawn. It took us 29 hours.

Overall it was less painful than I expected. A total of 48 hours isn't bad for the 3000 mile trip. I hope I don't have to do this all by myself next month. Being able to take turns with Rikki and catch some sleep made it go by much faster.

We only had one interesting mishap during the drive. An SUV in front of me was passing a tractor trailer when he drifted over the line and rammed into the side of the truck's trailer. We were a safe distant behind but we were still showered with what I assume was the shattered glass of his right side windows. I'm guessing he fell asleep. He is very lucky he was driving an SUV because a compact car would have probably gone under the trailer. The truck driver didn't even notice and kept going. The SUV driver swerved like crazy but luckily didn't overreact and spin out. He pulled over quickly.

Besides that it was pretty monotonous. The deer were not out much but I did almost hit a coyote. I hope it goes this smoothly the next time with my truck.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Moving

In just a couple of hours we will be on the road again. As soon as I finish this post I will box up the last of our stuff and get ready to go.

The movers were here on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday they packed us up and on Thursday everything went into the truck.

It is Military Spouse Appreciation Day today! Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day to all the military spouses. Thank you for taking care of your uniformed spouse who protects this country. I know how hard and yet rewarding it is.

If you know about the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act Coalition on Facebook then you know that the Surge on the Senate is nearly complete. Today is the last day and you should be taking this day off. Your uniformed spouse and friends network should be calling on your behalf today.

If you don't know about Military Spouses Residency Relief Act then please check out our Facebook Page. The bill numbers are S 475 (Senate) and HR 1182 (House of Representatives). This bill would amend the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act to grant military spouses one state of residency. Everything is explained on the Facebook page. If you don't have a Facebook account and would like more information please e-mail me.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Our 7th Move

Here we go again. This time crossing the country. We will be on the road May 8-11, try to buy our first home May 12-17, and then I will fly back for one more week of work to checkout. Yes, if we don't find a house right off I am abandoning Rikki so she can continue the hunt. Hopefully we can close quickly and she can visit her family in Kansas while I go home to Vermont. Wish us luck.

A Good Walk

I have been lucky enough to be able to walk to work the past 2+ years. Living on base, a half a mile from work, has been wonderful. When I was on the watch bill walking late at night or very early morning the base would be dead quiet and I would usually see a rabbit or two. For some reason they liked our grass. Angel did not like them and did give chase on a few occasions. I especially enjoyed walking home for lunch and taking a mid day break from work.

Rikki and I still don't know how we managed to get base housing here in Norfolk. Before the government gave it up and it became privatized (PPV) it was meant for only 0-6 and above. Coming from Hawaii we learned how to negotiate with PPV. It is a deal for us to pay 0-3 BAH (housing allowance) while my next door neighbor pays 0-6 BAH. I am the only 0-3 in the neighborhood. We are just one street back from admiral's row which is well taken care of with over a dozen historical mansions. They provide daily bus tours around the base that pass by admiral's row to gawk at the mansions and all the beautiful landscaping. In the spring when the flowers bloom the whole neighborhood smells great.

While our 6th home has been great it doesn't quiet beat out the brand new house we rented in Corpus Christi. But, the location makes it the best home to date for me.