Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Trunk is Gone

This was the big pine tree that shaded our apartment and hid our ugly building. It needed some trimming sure, to get it off the roof and get the ragged branches on the bottom cleaned up. But our landlady decided to have it removed.

The neighbors were all very upset. The man across the street even called the police. Today an inspector from the city came and took photos of the totem pole and brush piles in the front lawn. He told me he would report the brush piles to the department in charge of pick up (Look out Daniel). He also said that it was convenient that our landlady works for the city as it will make it easier for her to pay her fines and get the permits necessary to replace the tree she has removed. I kind of liked the sound of that part.

Later today the tree guy came back to cut up the trunk, which we had nicknamed "The Totem Pole." He worked by himself for about 2 and half hours and did not fall out of the tree this time. There is not much left of our tree, in its tree form, that is. The brush piles are much bigger now and instead of mini pine cones we can now drag saw dust into the apartment. It is all very sad.

And, though it does not matter too much, since we are moving out of our apartment on Saturday anyway, it is much warmer in here now. I know there is a heat wave on, but the sun is pouring in the front window and warming up the place. It makes packing a bit sticky. Only 4 more days until we are homeless vagabonds!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ax Happy Hour

Following up on the previous post, we went to Happy Hour with some some friends and came back to a sad sight. That totem pole in the photo below is our former tree.

As we got closer we saw that all of the downed limbs are now on the ground. There's one pile in front of my car and then too huge piles behind my car. Apparently my landlady didn't want to pay for the "Arborist" to remove them as that is "too expensive." You notice that I wrote Arborist in quotes...that is because he fell out of the tree. And then left. With all of the limbs in front of our apartment. Until Monday.
I moved a bunch of the limbs by pushing and jamming them so that we could walk in and out of apartment. The whole building is up in arms. Chung, the landlady says she will hack up the limbs and trunk and put them in the yard waste. For our whole tree. It is going to take years, and this from a woman who can't remove the two beater cars dumped in the driveways or the quarters from the laundry machines before they jam up majorly. I was stressed about packing and moving out of this place before, but this whole episode has only gotten me more excited for our departure and adventure (and a little tempted to not leave the apartment in "move in condition," what ever that might mean to our crazy landlady)!

There Goes The Neighborhood!

I arrived home today from a 7 hour drive from Idaho to visit my mom at her new home. It was a long ride, but uneventful and sunny. I struggled through a little traffic on I-5 and then got in every red light between I-5 and our apartment (except for the Fremont Bridge one). I pulled up to the apartment just as the grungiest green pick up truck stalled out and collided with our front sidewalk strip. The driver rolled down the window and asked if I lived here. I assumed he wanted to use the phone since his truck did not seem to be in working order, but it's sadder than that. He told me that he was going to be sawing the giant pine tree down that sits in front of our apartment. It's an old tree, probably one of the oldest in the neighborhood. It is the tallest tree that can be seen from our walk way. It is a favorite for local cats and squirrels and it hides our ugly apartment building.

Here's a photo of the tree just as the guy started to chop limbs off the tree.

I'm sad that the tree is coming down. Mollie, our upstairs neighbor fought Chung, our deadbeat landlady to keep this tree for the local animals for years. Mollie died in May and now her apartment and ours are up for rent. I guess Chung is taking this opportunity to do some work around here.

Here's the link for google street view. Our tree is right there, forever, or until Google cruises down the street again with its camera crew.

View Larger Map

Take that Chung!

Couchsurfing rules!

I mentioned it briefly when I discussed budget and expenses, but we plan on using couchsurfing.org to find places to stay when we're on our trip. To those unfamiliar with couchsurfing, it's a website that connects those looking for a place to stay ("surfers") with those willing to host them. You create a profile page where you can add pictures and information about yourself and specify details about whether or not you can host others. There's a rating system and "friends" section where other couchsurfers can write about their experiences with you or put comments on your page.

Initially we thought we'd start hosting as a way to build up our ratings so that when we go looking to stay with other people they can look at our profile, see our good ratings and be willing to host us.

Well, we just had our ninth surfer stay with us since we signed up in May and I have to say it's been amazing. We've met some great people from Tennessee, Orange County, CA, Michigan, Maryland, Germany, Colorado, New York, Alberta, and Australia (by way of Korea). It's been really fun to meet all sort of different people, including a Medical doctor, an architect, college students, teachers, a nurse, and an Iraq war veteran. The only regret I have is that we didn't start a guestbook for our surfers to write in. We'll definitely do that in our next house or apartment, as I hope to resume hosting couchsurfers when we're done traveling.

What prompted this blog entry though was our most recent surfers. They're a couple from Edmonton, Alberta traveling with a six year old boy. They arrived last night and we went out to dinner and they picked up the tab. Then this morning they gave me a six-pack of microbrews that they'd brought from Alberta. Then when I came home from work I found this on my counter:

A half-liter of maple syrup (I'll give them a pass on it being from Canada as opposed to Vermont, seeing as they are Canadian), some maple candies and a voucher for a free movie ticket.

Additionally, UPS delivered the following package:

It was from the college students from Colorado who stayed with us. It's not so much the items that matters (this happens to be a bottle filled with paper crafts), it's the thought that counts. We've made some great connections through hosting couchsurfers and I can't wait to try some "surfing" of our own!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

35 Peaks

When I turned 35 last April I decided to set a goal of trying to climb 35 peaks before my 36th birthday. I love to hike, and I knew we'd be taking an extended road trip in the late Summer/Fall so I thought finding peaks to hike would be a great way to add fun excursions to our trip.

Jaimee and I were already planning on climbing Mt. Whitney in California and with a copy of this book (apparently it's out of print, so , I'm glad I have a copy) I thought it would be fun to climb some state highpoints along the way.

State highpoints I have in mind are Mt. Whitney, of course, plus if all goes well, the highpoints of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and possibly Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey and New York. I won't get ahead of myself with all sorts of planning, and I suppose I should save some for when I turn 50 and I can set that as a goal to hike all 50 state highpoints! (I'm sort of kidding.)

But, as far as the "35 peaks" project goes, any peak or mountain counts toward the goal, as long as it's some sort of highpoint. Here's a map of the peaks so far. I'll keep this map updated so check back. You can also check the picasa photo album (or watch the embedded slideshow below) which I'll add to as I go along. Additionally, I'll post individual entries for each peak with pictures and commentary. Because I know everyone is so interested in this goal of mine...

View 35 Peaks in a larger map

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garage Sale

We had a garage sale last Saturday, and I'd call it a success. We piled all our stuff for sale in our living room before we moved it outside:

Here's Jaimee setting it up on our sidewalk lawn strip:

Here's a shot of our books for sale:

Most of our larger items actually sold. These included a dresser, a book case, a sewing machine, bike rack, two printers and some coolers. We also sold our old sleeping bags and some camping gear (including a backpack I'd had since 1992!). We also sold a lot of books and our three boxes of CDs were a big hit with shoppers. It felt good to get rid of stuff and we made over $250. We're still trying to get rid of the TV and stand (dealing with craigslist people is driving me kind of crazy) and we also need to sell Jaimee's 2004 Honda Civic (any buyers?)

Everything that didn't sell that day fit into one wagon load to Goodwill. Most of the rest of the stuff in our apartment is spoken for; we already have buyers (takers) for our bed, bedside table and lamps and the rest of our bookcases. We're holding on to our couch for now, but eventually we'll need to get rid of that too, although I think we'll probably just give it away for free. In the end we should only be shipping about a dozen boxes or so.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Selling Stuff

I think it's finally starting to sink in that we're really moving. Last week we sold our coffee table and today we sold our kitchen table and chairs. This now leaves us with nothing to eat on! So, tonight we had a picnic in our living room (We had a delicious Greek salad.)

Tomorrow someone is coming to buy the TV (and stand) behind us. The fact that we're leaving in about a month is both daunting and exciting. We've also begun packing up our (I guess mostly my) books so that our bookcases are now empty:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Budget and Expenses

When we tell people that we're take a year-long around the world trip, we often get two reactions: 1) I'm jealous, followed quickly by 2) How much will that cost?

I started saving for this trip before I even knew if it was really going to happen. About two years ago when I was working at Microsoft, I stumbled across this blog of two people who worked at Microsoft who were taking a year-long Honeymoon around the world. Even though I didn't know them, I followed their blog as they cruised around the world. Although I'd always wanted to do a big trip, I think reading their blog helped me realize it was really possible and you didn't have to be a millionaire to do it. Reading the finance page of their blog gave me a rough idea of the costs we could expect.

Of course, we're not biking everywhere so we don't have the bicycle expenses, and we plan on saving money by camping, staying with friends and couchsurfing (see our profile here). Even with these savings, it seems that the "magic" number for a trip of this scope is about $20,000 to $30,000 per person. I recently stumbled across a family of four who took a round the world trip and they said the same thing.

So, long introduction to say that we'll update the spreadsheet posted below as we go along. As I kind of like numbers and personal finance I will probably post other entries regarding money but you can always come back to this post to see how much we've spent so far.


Here's a calendar which we'll update as we go along. Before we leave the entries are for people we've hosted through couchsurfing. We also updated the first little bit of our trip and the plane tickets we've already purchased. Check back for updates.

Route Map

Here is a map of our travels.

Pan on map to see all the points, or view Map in a larger page

I will update it as I go along, but the rough plan is to leave Seattle and:

- Backpack in the Enchantments
- Visit Jaimee's Mother and Aunt and Uncle in Idaho
- Visit San Francisco
- Climb Mt. Whitney
- Stop in LA for a Mariner's game against the Angels
- Visit my Aunt in Santa Fe
- Visit friends in Austin, TX and go to Big Bend National Park
- Visit friends in North Carolina
- Stay with family in Vermont and Massachusetts
- Fly to Australia
- Fly to New Zealand
- Fly to Malaysia
- Travel around South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)
- Fly to Nepal
- Fly to India
- Fly to Turkey
- Travel from Turkey to Greece, Italy and other destinations in Europe
- Come home

That's a very rough outline of our trip - we may change the order or add/eliminate stops (I'd love to visit Africa, for example), but I'll keep this map updated with our stops. Since I love maps, I'll be adding other maps along the way showing where we've been or are going.
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