Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Sweeeeet It Is!

I haven't owned a car for two years now and for the most part, I've been quite content with that status. I don't need one all that often, it costs a lot more to park and insure one than it does to rent for a weekend as needed, and I liked the environmental aspects of using my own two feet, bicycle or city bus to get around. This new purchase is for driving across country and will probably last the rest of my life. Doesn't mean I can't enjoy it now.

Yesterday, at home fighting the staph, I became aware of an almost overwhelming sense of relief that I never expected -- something so simple as relief that I won't have to walk 8 blocks each way to Safeway on Saturday to do my shopping. Normally I don't mind doing that, but last Saturday, with the staph raging, I barely made it home with the load of groceries. A little later I had to walk to the Urgent Care center a few blocks away. I was on overload by then, and broke into sobs as I lay on the examination table being painfully poked and prodded by the doc. It had all been too much. I was too tired.

Then yesterday, the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much relief I really feel, and what a sense of freedom. I haven't owned a car I felt comfortable driving far from home since the summer of 2000. My old, beat-up '83 Honda served me well, but because it was so old, I didn't dare do any joyriding in it. Now, I think what I want to do the most is drive over to the coast which, for me, is one of the most beautiful places imaginable. I miss being able to do that -- made the trip often when I first lived in Oregon, even lived over there for awhile. Don't think I'm going to find the energy to go this weekend -- but soon. The photo was taken just north of Florence, I believe -- a beautiful section out of many beautiful miles of coastline.

And if I had any vacation time, I'd drive down to Napa and visit my friends there -- in total confidence. I can go anywhere I want to, whenever I want to, and that sense of freedom and relief from running errands on foot is far, far greater than I ever expected it to be. I have to pick up some more staph meds from Safeway tonight, and I am SO glad I don't have to walk it! Even if I took the bus, I'd still have several blocks of walking to do.

Convinced my doc to pony up a prescription for Xanax, to help me sleep, so that should also be ready tonight. I need that more than anything. After 10 days of sulfa drugs, I need another 5 to clear this thing up! But -- the end is in sight, and I should be able to sleep. All is well in my world.

New Toy , New Timeline

And yes, there is a cause and effect thing going on here. I ended up spending more on a car than I had intended to spend, thereby leaving my savings woefully meagre. I 'knew' what the end result would be, but 'knowing' isn't quite the same thing as seeing that wee balance left once the money was transferred. No regrets on the car -- but I am going to put off that already open-ended retirement date for awhile, to get that account boosted back into something more comfortable. Don't know how long -- a couple of months can make a lot of difference, so we'll see. Fortunately, I haven't given notice at work or with the apartment, so there should be no issues there.

The car is cool -- although I only drove it from the dealer in Cottage Grove to the parking lot at home, and left it. Haven't done any of the usual things I'd do with such a sweet new toy -- check out the owner's manual, learn how to work things, etc. I've had a nasty staph infection for the last couple of weeks, and combined with lack of sleep, my body is really struggling. The infection is finally healing, but unless I can sleep, getting my strength back is going to be a slow process. Naturally, I could have stayed in bed and slept this morning, on the day I really have to go to work. Stayed home yesterday and couldn't sleep at all. So much more I want to write, but it'll have to wait.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Love at First Drive

If the world doesn't collapse before tomorrow, this is my new ride. I'm in love! Sweetest, snazziest car I will ever have owned. Mind you, I've gone for the quick, nimble little two-seater sports car most of my life, and that was perfect for me at that time. My last car was an '83 Honda with shredded upholstery, a cracked windshield and multiple dents in the body. Cheap, reliable, worked for the time.

This is now. 2007 Corolla still under factory warranty, low miles, like new, power everything, wood trim. Nice. 6-CD changer (useful only for long trips). I didn't want to commit today -- wanted to give it some thought, although right away it fit, felt right. Tomorrow I'll seal the deal. Did I mention it was love at first sight? I didn't expect to find a car I'd really be excited about, so this is way cool.

At least it's the same color as the Ferrari! I do realize that all similarities stop there, however. And that's OK.

Sigh. Happy sigh. Life is good. On so many levels.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Next Step -- Buying a Car

Okay, so it won't be one of these. I did drive that puppy from Reno to Denver way back in another lifetime, however. Took the photo atop Loveland Pass.

On to reality. I swear, this may be harder than buying a house on a small budget. I have, however been doing plenty of internet research and have narrowed it down to a few: Kia Rio; Toyota Corolla; Ford Focus; and an unaffordable Honda Civic. Also looking at a new Chevy Aveo because a local dealer has some for sale at almost giveaway prices, brand new. I've driven a rented Kia Rio a couple of times, think I rented an Aveo once, too. They all run together in me noggin.

I based my criteria on ranking (starting with a recent US News & World Report article on the best affordable cars of 2009), fuel economy and reliability. If none of those things met my criteria, I skipped over the car. Both the Kia and Toyota are ranked 13, and both have good long-term ratings over the years, for cars that I would buy used. The Aveo ranks pretty low, but that's mostly on stuff that doesn't matter to me like styling and performance. Been there, done that (see above). This older Kitty now wants practicality. For all these reasons, the Toyota is probably my personal #1 choice.

Next -- find one I have the guts to buy. I can't afford to buy a lemon, or have it fall apart on me halfway to Georgia. I think that whatever I buy will need to be evaluated for me by an outside mechanic, to make me feel better.

Alas -- will this ever be over? Yes. Soon!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Eugene Farmer's Market

It's not for nothing that Bon Appetit magazine chose Eugene to spotlight as the second best small-city for foodies last year. The only reason we got second place was because they weren't thrilled with our local restaurants. Their comment was something like 'this is not a restaurant town, but it's a home cook's paradise.' I have to agree with the latter, although I do think we have at least a few pretty good restaurants here.

But -- the reason they put us in the article at all is the Eugene Farmer's Market, which at its peak during the summer showcases the fullest bounty of the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Coast, and wild mushrooms from the Cascades. Aside from the usual exceptional veggies (all organic) and the usual fruits, there is much more to be had here. Freshly made local goat cheeses, chocolates, home-grown pork, lamb, beef, fabulous eggs plus a riot of the berries for which the Willamette Valley is so justly famed. Strawberries (sorry, California and Florida, but Oregon strawberries are the sweetest in the world), blueberries, raspberries, loganberries -- all kinds of berries. Freshly caught tuna from the coast. Piles of fresh Chanterelles from the Cascades. Local baked goods -- my goodness, I can't remember all of it. And of course, there is all that great Oregon wine or micro-brew to wash it all down with.

I bring this up because the market returned from its winter hiatus today -- and believe me, it's a long dry spell every winter for those of us who love it. Only a few vendors out today, but that will change as spring nears and soon the blocks will be crowded with stalls bursting at the seam with choices, choices, choices. Remember, this is only mid-February, but aside from these photos there was lettuce, spinach, onions, leeks, potatoes -- all kinds of wonderful choices for so early in the season. We are truly blessed to have this, and it's only 2 blocks from where I live. It's also one of the things I will miss greatly about living in Eugene. Right now, it's only open bi-weekly, but by mid-summer we'll have this 3 days per week, right in the middle of downtown Eugene.

I don't like beets, but even I have to admit these golden beets look wonderful.

Don't you just love all this fab color? I buy a ton of that rainbow Chard every year.

I didn't know carrots came in all these colors!

More lovely color. Red cabbage and hearty Kale.

My problem is that I always want to buy more than I can eat because it's all so lovely. So, what did I buy today? Rainbow Chard, Kale, and fingerling potatoes. I really love those wonderful greens, and they are so good for us!

Happy Valentine's Day!

While I still embrace the notion of Valentine's Day, I find that the weeks preceding this date tend to be depressing. All this media coverage and advertising make me want to hide out until it's all over -- until I am no longer bombarded with reminders of the fact that I don't have a valentine in my life and haven't had for a really long time. I'm fine with this fact the rest of the year -- but this time of year, I certainly notice the difference in my mood. OK -- no more whining.

I am once more caught up in a tizzy of 'what do I do' with retirement. There is some kind of deep fear associated with actually buying this house -- probably because I really won't have enough income to live without finding another source of income, as in that nasty four-letter-word work. But again, what are the options? I'm always brought back to the fact that an apartment would cost about the same on a monthly basis, for far less room and far fewer amenities. Far less work to keep up, too! But, as long as I remain healthy, I will enjoy the yardwork, the gardening, and the house.

I suppose part of all this indecision is simply that there are no decisions to be made at the moment. Until the contractor comes back with a cost estimate next week, there is nothing to be decided. I, of course, obsess over all the potential decisions and details, ad nauseum. Today is a day when I'd like to have a car so I could drive all over town -- Sears, Home Depot, Best Buy -- and narrow down appliances. If those become part of the mortgage, which I will try to avoid, I'll need to be able to get pre-bills from a vendor to present to the bank. Hard to do that from Oregon, but I'll find a way if need be. Maybe I'll take the bus and at least hit Sears and Best Buy, which are all in one area of town. I've done lots of research on-line, and am really disappointed in the ratings and customer remarks on pretty much any appliance I look at. It's enough to make me wonder how to make a choice, based on my limited resources. I've about decided to go for an Energy Star refrigerator, since it runs all the time, and opt for a regular washer, since I don't do a lot of laundry.

Guess that's about it for today -- my head is still a little foggy from the sinus pressure that plagued me all week. I promise more interesting reading in the future!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Home Again

What a trip, and what a day! I got up at 3:30am Georgia time [12:30am Oregon time], and arrived in Eugene at 1:45pm, a little over 13 hours of travel. Am I tired -- yes. But it feels immeasurably good to be home -- or, as the friend who picked me up at the airport said, home until I decide someplace else is home. My ears are still ringing hours later, but by morning I'm sure I'll be more or less on the road to some sense of normalcy. I can only hope.

How is this progressive, west-coast-liberal Buddhist going to assimilate into the heart of conservatism? It's a serious consideration, and one I've wondered about for some time. I think I can ignore and keep my thoughts to myself. But how frustrating will it be? Hopefully, only amusing. A sense of humor is definitely required here. I do love that southern gentility of manner and speech, no matter how much I disagree philosophically. I do believe there is room for all, and this will be a good test of that belief, for me.

But, I can't think about that now. Not enough brainpower to write any coherent words on the subject. Despite my time with Dale on Sunday I am no further along the path to homeownership than when I arrived in Georgia. I certainly have a much better sense of the facts, however.

I wanted to share a few random photos from the trip. I only took 134!

This is the kitchen of a place I looked at that is near the cottage I've always liked, on Girard St. About the same size property, bigger house,about $15,000 more expensive. Trust me, this photo is really flattering! It seems that someone put some cheap parquet flooring on the counter to the left. The sink is a very old porcelain one-piece, the yellow Formica, the flooring.....what a contrast to the Girard property, which at least has new counters, floors and a dishwasher and is much larger.

This is the exterior of that same house. Not bad from a distance, but check out that roof! And the entire interior and most of the exterior needed lots of work. Nice sunny garden space behind the garage, however.

The Silver Comet Trail, which runs from the city of Marietta to the Alabama State line, and its Alabama counterpart the Chief Ladiga Trail, combine to produce the longest paved trail in the country (about 100 miles). I can't wait to get my bicycle on this! The old train station brings back so many memories. My dad worked there for awhile after WWII, before he went back into the Army. And I used to ride the 'choo-choo trains' from Cedartown to Atlanta from time to time. Big, black smoke-belching engines chugging through town always captured attention.

This is greater downtown Cedartown -- or at least, the south end of it. Hasn't changed much since I was a kid. My grandfather's barber shop was just down the way on the left, right in front of that little white Prius parked on the curb. I spent a huge amount of my childhood in that place.

The barber shop was in one of these two identical storefronts. I can't remember just which one, but I think it's the one on the left. C'mon, the shop hasn't existed since about 1953, give me a break!

Regardless of whether I find a place to buy, or chicken out altogether and stay in Oregon or find an alternative, I'm glad I took this trip. Wonderful to be back in the folds of old memories, and realize that in many ways Cedartown does still feel like home. Familiar. Happy.

It's also good to be back in Eugene, even in the cold and damp. Go figure.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Now What?

Cedartown gets its water from a natural spring, fittingly called 'Big Spring". It's right in the middle of town in a small park. The water is channeled from the spring/waterworks out this small canal and, if memory serves, eventually becomes Cedar Creek. I wouldn't swear by that part of it, so don't go checking the facts on me. As a kid I played in this park often, fascinated by the crystal-clear water that still flows from the spring. It's pretty, and when I drove past this morning I couldn't help but get out and walk around. Nostalgia at work. Cedartown, by the way, is still a lovely little town, outside the commercial areas of the main drag. There are some beautiful homes, old and new, and wonderful neighborhoods.

The best thing about this day has been the Prius. I did find a lot of apartment areas, even looked at a couple and they would be livable, certainly, at a reasonable rent. Dale and I looked at 7 or 8 houses, including the little cottage I originally fell in love with and at the end of the day we both agreed that the original cottage was looking better all the time. The place I was most looking forward to seeing, with the barn-like garage, basically needs to be bulldozed. It was so filthy we didn't even want to go in, but we took a fast cruise through. I didn't take any photos, although now I wish I had one to show you. We have one more to see tomorrow, in Alabama, and because it's in Alabama the odds are very slim that I'll buy it. That's nothing against Alabama, but I need to keep my medical insurance that takes over where Medicare leaves off, and those are individual by state. I'd need to buy Alabama insurance, but the nearest medical care is in Georgia and I wouldn't be able to use it there except in an emergency. I'd need to drive to Birmingham for medical care, and that's just too far away. Besides, the naturopath I want to use is in Atlanta.

The highlight of the day was a wonderful old home that I just fell in love with. It's bank-owned and on auction terms - repossessed. It's a little funky, but has potential screaming from every room. It's huge -- I didn't count them while I was there, but going on memory I'm guessing 8 large rooms plus a large hallway and an indoor hot-tub room, complete with hot-tub and skylights. Beautiful hardwood floors, tons of windows letting in all that glorious southern sunshine, fireplaces everywhere, high ceilings, even a closet-sized bar with swinging door and etched windows on the cabinet doors.

This was clearly a party place of some kind, and somebody did some expensive rehab in the kitchen, one bath and a room I don't even know how to describe. There's a swing on that gorgeous front porch that would be so nice for watching the world go by. There's also dry rot in sight and no doubt more of the same out of sight.

The back of the house was clearly for parties. The room I can't define has a huge, professional level 30,000 btu gas griddle and huge restaurant-style exhaust hood, all built into a wide counter for seating people, leading to the hot tub room and also leading via a series of sliding french doors onto a deck. I can't imagine what they could have cooked that would have required a huge griddle like that, and the big hood. It's not a grill -- it's a thick, flat slab of steel griddle.

The kitchen was fascinating. Like much of the place, the finish work was crude at times and it's hard to figure what they were trying to achieve, but the idea was great. This photo is of the grill that's built into one corner. The entire room has the same walls, counters and cabinets. The list price of this place is more than I could afford, although it's hard to say what the bank might be willing to accept. Unfortunately, all that potential would require a lot of money to actualize, so I'm only posting these photos because from a property standpoint, it was the highlight of the day.

The roads all seem to lead back to the original cottage, perhaps with a rehab loan that would solve all the problems it has. It was smaller inside than the photos led me to believe, but large enough, and very sweet. I'm a little discouraged tonight, but thankful I don't have to make any decisions.

Maybe I will work for another year or so and buy a Prius. And maybe, since I don't have anything else to do in Cedartown on Sunday, I'll take the one I have up to the mountains and step foot on the Appalachian Trail again.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Here, There and Everywhere

Seems like this day started about 6 days ago. Actually, it began around 3am Oregon time, and it's now 8pm Georgia time, so that's only about 14 hours. Still seems a whole lot longer.

On the positive side, I had two easy, trouble-free, on-time flights with only a short layover in Denver. Clear skies all the way, and a spectacular ride over the Rockies at a really low altitude. Big, snow-capped mountains as far as the eye could see and it seemed like we were skimming right over the top of them. Pretty cool.

The Atlanta airport needs a people-mover. I walked and walked and walked from the gate, wondered if I'd ever reach the rental car booths, with the laptop over one shoulder and my duffle in the other hand. Whine. But I was really pooped by this point. Then, Enterprise bumped me up from my econocar reservation to my favorite car in the world, a Toyota Prius that has all of 2000 miles on it, for an extra $2 per day. I told that rental agent that I loved her, when she made that offer! I want one of these cars so bad I have actually given fairly serious consideration to continuing to work for a few more years so I can buy one. I wish I'd have more opportunity to drive it these next few days. But it was a sweet ride while it lasted.

So -- I skirted Atlanta and it's horrid traffic and looped around to I-20 west, cruising in my little toy. Cedartown looks a bit ratty -- but maybe that was just fatigue speaking. The people are friendly and the hotel gave me an Eco-Room because the one they'd reserved for me wasn't ready. Theoretically, it has all kinds of eco-friendly features and is cleaned with non-toxic stuff, so it's just like home. Except there's a big TV with cable and that's definitely not like home!

I admit to a few fears and uncertainties all day regarding the finality of this trip, if I actually find a place and make an offer on it. Do I really want to do this? I don't know, but if I don't do this, I haven't a clue where I might go. I opted out of Mexico months ago for a variety of reasons. There's no place else I can think of that I'd like to go that I can afford. It's a conumdrum that's plagued me for years now, and it's really discouraging. I don't have to leave Oregon, of course, but I'm really wanting a warmer climate and the possibility of me buying a house there is simply non-existent. Finding a desirable, affordable rental is almost as unlikely, so Oregon is not the best option.

Still -- I don't have to decide tonight. Hopefully, I'll get some sleep (what a concept!), and of course will spend the better part of the next 3 days driving around and seeing the town and general area. By Sunday I should have a much clearer sense of whether or not this is what I need to do. I don't plan to make any offers while I'm here, even if I find a place I love. I want to go back to Oregon, take a few days for some serious thought. For once, I'm not going to jump in head first. Another amazing concept.

I had another email today from CNN (actually Turner Broadcasting, this time) wanting to use another of my photos, this one from the Napa Valley. I posted this photo on the blog early on, it's the one with the yellow wild mustard and the pink blooming fruit trees. I'll post it again with the CNN logo, you can be sure. My ego enjoys this. Hopefully she and I will connect on Friday and she'll get the info she wants and tell me when it will run.

OK -- I'm rambling and I know it. Fatigue does that to me. Bye, y'all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Georgia On My Mind

As the old saying goes, what a difference a day makes! I can't say today dawned totally bright and peaceful, but yes, by noon I had succeeded in letting go of all the turmoil of yesterday. Then, walking home from work all the tensions of the past weeks seemed to float away into nothingness. I love it when that happens -- except that, as it's done today, I'm generally left feeling drained and wanting nothing more than to sleep for several days. Don't think that will happen tonight!

Tomorrow I fly away home. I'm starting to be abuzz with excitement about the trip, trying to remember all the last-minute things I need to do, what I need to pack -- you know the drill. I have a 4:15 AM taxi reservation (yikes!). Not looking forward to that in particular, but since I'm generally wide awake long before that time, I might as well have something to do.

I really don't have all that many properties to see, and I'm not absolutely in love with any of them, but it is what it is and I'll take what I get. I think all of them are more than serviceable, if not as charming as the first little cottage I fell in love with. I'm also going to scout out apartments, since this is probably the last opportunity to buy. Don't think I'll try buying something I haven't seen again, and I know I'm not going to make a second scouting trip. But hey, I get grits and biscuits for breakfast if I want it, and good southern food for other meals as well, so things could be worse.

On the brighter side -- the weather forecast calls for sunshine and near-70 degree weather for the weekend and I have five whole days away from work. Life is good.