Home.

So we’ve gotten close enough now, and everything else has stayed relatively on track the past 2 months, so this is the part where I tempt fate and talk about something that hasn’t quite happened yet:

Ceteris paribus, this will be our new house in about 10 days.

It’s an old house, built in the early 1800s, about 1600 sq. feet inside. And it sits on 11 acres of…Christmas tree farm.

Our new backyard

Yes, really.

It’s up a hill in a small town set in what’s affectionately called the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont, or NEK for short…

In Lyndonville, to be specific.

Which is about what you’d think of a little town in Vermont with a population of 1400.

Not a big box store or a freeway in sight.

And before you scoff, you should know that the population of Fulshear in 2012, when we first bought our house there?

1,211.

Anyway, we’re more than ready to call Lyndonville home here in a couple weeks, once we get all the paperwork resolved.

Speaking of which, the seller of the house has done all the repairs that we’ve asked for, things like running the dryer vent to the exterior, having the boiler inspected (it seems that houses up here also boil things?), fixing a sizeable tub leak, and burning all the brush piles in the backyard…albeit perhaps a bit too exuberantly.

We’re told the fire dept. was called out for this last week.

I mentioned this in my last post, but Daphne has already made herself quite at home.

And, as you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done back there.

The fencing on the left is for the compost, which is one of about 9,000 farm processes that I know absolutely nothing about but am about to get a crash course in. And just in front of that is what’s left of an old vegetable garden, which will need a lot of love, a lot of tilling, and perhaps a fence too at some point.

I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with that huge hill, or how exactly I’m supposed to mow the damn thing, but it’s going to be entertaining finding out.

There will undoubtedly be many more pictures and stories ahead once we’ve completed closing next week (hopefully all will go well there) and all our belongings from Houston finally arrive…

This feels like a very long time ago…

The timing of which will be a logistical feat in and of itself… But, one miracle at a time.

Anyway, we’ll talk to you soon. And hopefully from the safe confines of our new home.

See you there.

Cruising Canaan

Hi there!

So I’m attempting this radical concept called “taking a weekend off.”

It’s a new thing, and I assume many of you are as unfamiliar with it as I am, so I’ll try to explain.

It apparently involves allotting two entire days toward simply relaxing, pondering, daydreaming, spending time with family, and perhaps, if you’re feeling adventurous, even doing a spot of writing and some spring sprucing of the ol’ blog template. (That menu bar is still a work in progress, by the way.)

The remarkable catch is that you must utterly refuse to address any transaction imports, note deletions, report requests, impending project deadlines, file transfer alerts, and/or helpdesk tickets while this is “weekend” thing is happening.

It’s unsettling, but it’s also quite nice. I should do it more often.

Okay! So when we left you all we had just arrived in Canaan, VT and I was lamenting the treacherousness of the staircase that leads up to our little apartment…

And now, 5 weeks later, I can say…

Nothing’s changed. It’s still a ludicrously difficult staircase to manage. But Jen and I have become slightly more adept at clambering up there without having Aetna ready on speed dial. (As long as we’re not carrying groceries.) Daphne, however, has actually become quite the pro at it.

As for Canaan itself? Well, there’s not a lot to show, really…

Here’s the intersection.

Yes, the intersection. There’s only one.

Having trouble reading that sign? Here, let me help.

Yes, “Canada. That-a-way.”

We tried it too. Totally works! You run right into the Canadian border patrol. (The last ‘Murica stop is the Ethan Allen furniture factory.)

I will confess that my mental image of this event was that we would be greeted by a phalanx of Mounties on mooseback, all eating poutine and brandishing hockey sticks while politely apologizing for not allowing us to cross…

You can imagine my disappointment when the border crossing looked more like…a Circle-K.

Fill ‘er up, eh?

Slightly disappointing.

We’re also told they’re not letting anyone across the border for a least another month, so it would appear that the rest of our time up here will be spent entirely within the confines of Canaan proper.

That’s not to say that we dislike Canaan. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s absolutely beautiful here. I think Jen and I say that to one another at least 4 or 5 times a day.

“Wow. That’s amazing. It’s so beautiful here.”

That’s the inaugural Flight of the Bumbledrone, by the way. And I apologize about the unedited footage and for any nausea that it may impart. I’m still learning to fly that thing and I can’t download my copy of Premiere Pro to edit the video because the house we’re staying in is connected to the ISP That Time Forgot.

Oh, that’s something to add, isn’t it?

Yeah, the DSL running into the house is every bit as bad as I’d originally envisioned. Worse, actually, since I think we’ve data-capped the ISP for the month and so they’ve throttled us to 300kbps. My work computer gets dropped 8-10 times a day from its VPN, which…

Waitaminute! **needle scratch**

No, no… No talking about work.
Man, this is hard.

Okay, moving on.

So, hey! Who digs hiking? Because that’s totally a thing that happened a couple weekends ago.

We drove over to a trail called Kilburn Crags just over the New Hampshire border, which promised a relatively easy walk for first-timers.

And look! A diamond-rare picture of my beautiful wife!

It was a little less than a mile in each direction, and while the trail itself was a but mucky and swampy in places, the payoff at the top was totally worth it.

The whole trek, including 30 minutes resting at the picnic table at the summit, took us about 2 hours, and it was a lovely way to spend part of the afternoon. That is, until we got back down.

Given that it’s early May in Vermont, we performed the requisite quick tick check before getting into the car. (I’m a little freaky about Lyme disease, you see…) I knocked two of the little bastards off of my pants, one off of Daphne’s, and another one off of Jen’s. We all lifted our arms, pulled our sleeves and cuffs up, pulled down our socks, checked our necks, did the Ticky Pokey and turned ourselves around…and we all appeared to be in the clear.

So we drove over to Littleton proper (which has rapidly become one of our favorite little cities up here so far), and pulled over to call in our pizza order to Gold House Pizza on Main St.

But right after I’d done so I felt this odd, quiet, gentle little tickle on my upper arm… I looked down and…

“Oh. Hey. How’s it goin’? Uh…candygram?”

I lurched upward in the driver’s seat while pinching the little bloodsucker off me and hucked it out the window.

I had just enough time to get out, “Ugh! What the hell! Where did that thing come fro-” before Jen yelled “TIIICK!” snatching another one off my arm and jettisoning it out the window toward its buddy.

Now, the words “panicked conniption fit” don’t properly do justice to the odd flipping, convulsing, and bodily searching that ensued after finding this second one. Because, at the time, it felt like they were… All. Over. Me. Exsanguination was clearly imminent within minutes. I’m gettin’ all itchy right now just thinking about it.

We actually pulled another three more of these damn wood ticks off of me while we were sitting there (thank God we were parked at the time), and after a grand total of 9 ticks being plucked off of our family, we’ve sworn off of hiking entirely up here until we can get some permethrin-coated pants and socks for the lot of us.

And perhaps a human-sized hamster ball, within which I’ll be more than happy to hike anywhere at all.

Try it now, you little arachnid bastards. I dare you.

So, aside from those events, there’s not a whole lot more to report.

We’re making what seems to be solid progress on the house front currently. In fact, hopefully by my next post I’ll have more concrete news to share. Obviously there’s a lot in the air, given the sheer insanity of the current housing market, so I don’t want to jinx anything.

For now, I’ll just leave you with this:

Talk to you soon.

j.s.

Day Six – The Finale

It is finished. And now it’s begun.

I’ll tell you this, today’s drive felt a heckuva lot longer than 4 1/2 hours.

Actually that’s not true. The first couple hours were great. It was amazing to see house after house after house that were all exactly what we’ve been looking for in a home. And it was really cool to see all these little towns that, up to now, we’d only ever heard of when browsing Zillow. Like…

“Oh, is that the awesome one in Chester with the chicken coop?!”
or
“Aww, the house in Brattleboro with the swingset sold…”

Those were awesome parts of today.

But then we got on I-91/Route 5 and…nothing but trees, man. Trees as far as the eye can see. Then trees and hills. Then trees and rocks and really steep hills…for an hour and a half. Then, suddenly, Canaan.

Which is not exactly a buzzing metropolis. I mean, it’s barely a town. But there’s a really nice little grocery store just over the state line in New Hampshire.

This river/bridge is the dividing line between VT and NH.

See that brown building there on the right? That’s Solomon’s (Grundy) Grocery. Nice little place. We’ve already been there twice to stock up the apartment.

Ah yes, the apartment. Disappointment, that one.

I mean, I suppose it’s about what you’d expect in an old Victorian house that’s standing on its own in the middle of frozen nowhere. The front door, foyer and staircase are quite nice, however the main entrance to our particular unit is via the back steps which what they lack in beauty, they make up for in dark, rickety, and general death trap-ness. We’re going to have to watch Daphne very carefully going up and down those things.

And the Internet was clearly not upgraded like the website said it was going to be back in March. (I’m currently pulling about 11mb down and 3 up, not even close to the 50mb down that was touted.) This will make working from here a challenge, though hopefully not impossible.

And the amalgamation of skunk weed bong rips that’s emanating from a neighbor’s apartment is mixing liberally with the insecticide smell on the back staircase to make an unsettling olfactory sensation everywhere in the apartment. We had the windows open all day and it helped a little…

Oh! And we just now found a drip in the pipe under the sink drain in the bathroom. We’ll have to call the landlord about that one tomorrow…

But enough about all that…let’s talk about the good things.

Well let’s see…

I mentioned the close proximity to Solomon’s already. And there’s something else that’s even closer…

Yes, there’s a full playground right across the street, which was a big reason why I chose this place…

And that’s about it, really. I’m not a fan of this little place. But I can say with the utmost confidence that living here will light a fire under us to find our new home without delay, so I suppose it’s doing its job.

Okay, I’m very tired now. I carried nearly everything in the car up those rickety steps today, then added 2 trips of groceries and a walk around the park. So I’m heading to bed now.

See you all soon, and hey, thanks for coming along with us on this trip.

Day Five

One more to go.

Let’s see, where did we leave you guys… Midnight in Winchester, surrounded by bed popcorn, right?

We had another late morning today, although a good percentage of that was spent waiting on the DoorDasher to bring us the breakfast we ordered from CVS.

Yes, we Dashed breakfast from CVS. It was a weird morning.

Turns out the selection in Winchester is rather limited. And you’d think, for as nice a hotel as The George Washington is, they’d have some kind of breakfast. I mean, fruit, cereal boxes, coffee, tree bark, anything. But no. Instead we were steered to a couple nearby sit-down diners and a “new donut shop up the street a ways”…and that was it.

So we DoorDashed some morning staples for Daphne which took nearly an hour to arrive. But totally worth it in the end, as she got down hard on some Cheerios and yogurt, and even tried several bites of my Frosted Flakes and seemed to like those as well.

“Daph, breakfast is over. Time to get dressed and head down to the car.”
“Old man… Do you not see me lying here comfortably watching Baby Bum?”
“Here’s what I think of that little plan… You get the Brother Finger.”
Bang.”
“Now run along. And let me know if that Dasher comes back with any more yogurt.”
*grumble* Must be outside his mind interrupting my programs…

Once we got her out of bed and dressed we were off on the longest day of the trip. And she was even better today than she’d been on the prior four days.

Nothing but smiles and giggles in the back seat, all day long. We couldn’t possibly have asked for a better traveling companion.

After a few hours, we made our first stop in Wilkes-Barre, PA. We’d originally planned on hitting the Chick-fil-A there but, man…you thought those lines were bad in Houston?

Good Lord… These people must LOVE their chicken.

A double drive-thru and there was still a line of cars that stretched around the casa del nuggets…twice.

Oh hell no...” was our mutual reaction to such chicky madness, and we sped right by. Unfortunately this is Pennsylvania and, for the benefit of our Texan friends back home, they don’t design roads the same way up here as they do down there.

You know, with logic.

Here there are restaurants with no visible entrance to their parking lots, freeway exits that spin you in concentric circles just for funsies before allowing you to escape, and, in the case of this particular street, NO way to turn around and go back the way you came when you find a chicken house that’s too packed to peck.

So we were somehow funneled right back up onto I-81 because reasons, which forced us back to our original route to try the whole thing again. I don’t know how anyone ever existed up here without a GPS.

Anyway, after that nonsense we gave up on trying to order directly from a restaurant, since the entire process appeared to be just too complicated, and instead went straight to Coal Street Park where we’d originally intended to sit down with our lunch. Daph played for a bit in what was a decidedly mediocre playground (although most would look mediocre after yesterday’s evening at Franklin Park) while I DoorDashed sandwiches, pasta salad, and a potato salad from some place called “PrimoHoagies” that turned out to be really quite good. In fact, their pasta salad was so good Daphne ate all of the rotini out of it… Now that’s saying something.

The issue with lunch was not the food itself, but with the Penguins.

Yes, you read that right.

It seems Coal Street Park shares a parking lot with the practice arena for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton American Hockey League team, the Penguins. And this practice arena was wide open when we first arrived and happened to be searching for a bathroom to change Daphne in.

Jen went inside with Daphne first, found a couple of “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS” signs leaning against a wall and, being the conscientious person she is, politely turned and left.

I am, most assuredly, not that kinda person.

So I strolled straight in through the automatic doors, past the empty ticket table, and searched around until I found the restroom. Once located, I headed back out to bring Jen and Daph in, but they’d already taken off for the playground instead.

I shrugged and set about ordering lunch and, when it arrived, we went back outside the practice arena to use their picnic tables.

And in the time we’d been gone they’d not only locked the front automatic doors, they’d also placed this in the window:

Subtle.

What’s more, right after we’d finished lunch some spindly woman in knee-high boots came out and made a lady who’d been sitting on a blanket too near their entrance get up and leave. She also glared at us as we drove out for daring to use a picnic table outside their precious facility.

And it is thus how an enemy for life is made.

The Yankees.
The Titans.
Australian sailors.
And the Wilkes-Barre Penguins.

Anyway, we left Wilkes-Barre and began the second leg of the trip which consisted of a whole lot of New York tollway. I’ve no idea how much it cost us to traverse the state (they have this weird toll by text system) but, because we’re talking about New York, I imagine it might be wise to simply ditch the car and buy a new one when they come to collect.

We got into Massachusetts just about sundown, and a golden hue was cast on Jen’s first little New England stone wall of the trip…something she’d been waiting almost a year to see again in person.

We arrived at our hotel right about 8pm, tired and ready to be out of the car. Unfortunately the lobby/office at the little hotel was completely dark and locked up.

Confused, I read the little slip on the door that stated the office was closed after 5pm and that we should call if we had a problem. Or we could simply go to the pub next door and ask them for help. Despite my better judgment, I called first and got a voicemail to which I received no reply.

So I traversed an adorable little wooden bridge that led from the hotel, over a babbling stream, to the aforementioned pub…

And, I gotta tell you, once I walked through the door it was all I could do to stop myself from sitting down at the bar, ordering a pint of whatever local brew happened to be on tap, and to just be still for a while.

But, Jen and Daph were waiting, so I did indeed ask for help. They called the owner of the hotel who drove back and explained that Booking.com has been flaky with their reservations lately, and that they had originally booked us for a room tomorrow night.

She had the vacancy, though (in fact, I think we’re the only people in the hotel) and I did score a free beer out of the deal…

A “Hoosac Tunnel” amber ale…fantastic.

And now, Daphne is striding around the hotel room as if she were rehearsing for an off-Broadway production of “Stomp.”

Actually, there’s a post-script to this video. Turns out she had to poop. And she did so in that far corner over there. So that might’ve been the source of some of the agitation…

Feeling better now, thank you.

And that’s about everything that went down today.

Tomorrow should be a short trip, and one that will take place almost entirely within Vermont. Canaan is roughly 4 1/2 hours from here and the weather report says the high tomorrow there will be 70. Lovely.

We’re almost there…

Day Four

Clear!

Another day northward in the books, and yet another fantastic effort by the little girl in the back seat. Seriously, not a single fussy outburst from Daph, and were in the car for almost 8 hours. I mean, I whined way more than she did today.

The day started better than any other so far on the trip. I wandered over from the guest cottage at around 8 for some real coffee (not the angry hotel room kind) and to borrow the washing machine for a quick load of road clothes. Later, we had a fantastic breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon with blueberry pancakes and then Daph got to play in the backyard with her Great Uncles.

“‘Finished?’ Oh no he’s not, Mom…”
Come with me. We’ve not yet begun to jump and swing.
“See? plenty more swinging to be done!”

While we weren’t at all ready to leave, we had to get the day’s driving started at about 11:30. And it was a good thing we did, since today saw several rounds of utterly inexplicable traffic along I-81. There were a feww warnings of mythical “shoulder construction” zones that never quite seemed to materialize. However this didn’t stop everyone else from slamming on their brakes and looking around…just in case a nefarious and camouflaged construction crew leapt out from beneath an overpass or something and started constructing a shoulder right in front of them.

Unfortunately, all that trafficky nonsense added an extra 45 minutes to the total trip length today. But, as I mentioned, Daph took it all in stride, singing with Scout in the back seat and/or playing with her fidgets.

We rolled into Winchester, VA at about 7:30pm and found our hotel, The George Washington, in the middle of town. After getting our luggage up to our room, we went down to their indoor pool to make good on a promise made over a month ago…

Jackpot.

Mom and Daph swam and bounced in the pool for about an hour while Dad took pictures and caught up on the day’s work email. Then, after a strangely reluctant bath, The Great Popcorning began.

I figured that Daphne and I would share a bag of microwaved popcorn as a snack before bed. That is, until she totally snatched it from me and proceeded to eat the entire bag by herself. So, I made another one for me.

She ate half of that one too.

So I made another one.

She ate that entire bag, and then another one after it. Then Jen finished her shower and had a bag as well.

All told we nuked 5 bags of popcorn, of which the little girl put away 3 1/2. And then she promptly passed out in the bed, which is where we all are right now. And so I don’t risk waking her up with the screen light and incessant keyboard tapping, I’m going to call it a night here.

Tomorrow is that long day I mentioned in the first post I made outlining our trip, and should see us officially cross the Mason-Dixon line early in the morning’s drive. Later we’ll try a pit stop in Wilkes-Barre for lunch and a swing-stretch session, and the day should wrap up at the last hotel we have booked…in Williamstown, MA, which is juuuuust south of Vermont’s border.

See you there.