This Barren Land

It has been quite some time since I last blogged. in fact, it’s been since our trip out here to the land of mountains and rain. But it’s not this area that’s barren – it’s my blog.

Yes, it’s been a while but I have been busy: busy with the new job and getting oriented to a new way of working. I have a team now, and that’s new for me – no transitioning in and out of a project never to see them again, no flying to and fro. It’s been a real change for the better I feel. I will be starting in a new office this coming Monday. We moved one building over and now I have a window in my office. I’ve also been busy trying to orient to the area and learn where things are, where the good restaurants are, where the stores are.

Fortunately, we just decided to extend our lease when the current one is up. We’ll get to live in the same house for a couple more years while we deal with renting and then hopefully selling our Virginia house.

I’m really glad that we moved our blogs to the cloud: our server was down for two months while we moved from apartment to apartment to house. Now, we’ve been able to cut down on the number of computers I’ve been using in the house. Previously, I was using 5 computers just host the home’s “infrastructure” and web sites. Now, we’re down to 3 which should save us a bit of money on power.

Now, my next task for the sites is to clean up what little data remains on my old web server, make sure it’s on the blogs, and then shut it down.

Most are done, but one more site remains.

Soon.

Road Trip: Day 8 – Pendleton to Redmond

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Or Woodinville, WA in our case. For now, anyhow, since the corporate apartment is there.

Yes, I know it’s now two weeks late, but I’ll give you the update now.

We have arrived in Woodinville, WA after a shorter trip than most days we’ve been spending on the road. We left Pendleton, OR in the morning and drove a little over an hour to Walla Walla, WA. Somewhere along the way, we crossed the border into Washington State.

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Stopping in Walla Walla, we had breakfast at a local place called the “Maple Counter” which was supposed to have much gluten free stuff. However, there seemed to be a miscommunication about whether or not they had GF waffles or not in the restaurant and the service we received was somewhat lackluster. My food was excellent, however, and after the meal, we spoke with the management and they will be making some changes in the future to make the GF experience better. We will certainly be coming back to check. 🙂

Once again, we were on the road – this time, to the Greater Seattle Area. First, of course, we must clean the bugs off.

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The road ahead changed from arid to heavily forested almost immediately over the next major rise. Tumbleweeds to pine trees – well, almost. We never actually saw any tumbleweeds, although in many places it seemed we should have.

Our goal at this point was to head straight into town, pick up they keys to the corporate apartment, head there, unload the trailer and turn it in. There were a couple of missteps with this plan. First, I got the wrong key pickup location, which cost us an extra hour in drive time to go pick up the keys at the new location. This, combined with the stairs at the corporate apartment and unloading time, pushed our trailer return time past the closing time of the local U-Haul place. This added a level of stress. Secondly, as mentioned, there were stairs. I suppose I was spoiled by the last corporate apartment which had an elevator. This one was a low-rise and therefore only had stairs. Third, it was HOT. And I mean in the 90s. That made for a very sweaty, uncomfortable unloading.

But, I had asked for AC in the apartment, so it should be okay, right?

Wrong.

There was AC in the apartment… which hadn’t been turned on. And, it was one of those portable units and incapable of cooling the entire place. I was very upset when confronted with this as I had specifically requested AC since we were to be there during one of the hottest months of the year. So I was grumpy, exhausted, tired of driving, hot and sweaty that night – which is why I did not want to write this blog entry. Plus it was not properly installed. They had put it in the living room – blocking the sliding patio door. We had them move it to the bedroom, and even then it was bad.

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As you can see here, there is a piece of the machine that is supposed to go in a window to exhaust the hot air. Only they used tape and didn’t fit it properly into the window. I had to fix it. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The next morning, which was Sunday, we decided to sleep in a bit but we still had to get up and return the trailer. Now, we were finally and officially “done” with the road trip.

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We were able to negotiate a little with the relocation people to find a better place with AC. More on that next.

But – we have arrived and the road trip is complete. All 3,560 miles of it.

Road Trip: Day 7 – Tremonton to Pendleton

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Today was a long day. Long because we wanted to have a short last leg tomorrow.

It started very well… until a great chasm was opened in the pancake-like plains of Idaho. We only had a handful of miles left in Utah, so they passed quickly.

Now apparently, the state tree of Idaho is an orange barrel.

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They seem to plant these along the side of every road. In fact, I don’t think we saw a road without one. This began at the state line and didn’t end until… well, the other state line.

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After taking this picture, we were unceremoniously chased away by an irate construction worker. We fled the scene in dismay.

Now that we had become accustomed to the flashes of orange streaming by our car in regular intervals, we were lulled into a sleepy trance by the gentle, rolling flatness of the surrounding area. We had heard that there were some waterfalls in the area, hence the name “Twin Falls” and were attempting to find them. When, much to our surprise, we see the chasm mentioned above. It was also known as the Snake River Canyon

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We dallied here a few moments before attempting to find more of said waterfalls.

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Here, Laura located a rare (apparently) road-trip rainbow.

After moving on from here, we made a few stops at other places, we crossed the state line into Oregon. Soon, we refilled the car with gas and cleaned the windshield, as is our normal routine: pump the gas, use the restroom, clean the bugs off.

Only, this time, not five minutes from the gas station – not even yet to the freeway, our windshield was plastered with numerous bug carcasses and their fluids in grotesque splatter patterns across our field of view. This made taking pictures as well as driving somewhat difficult, as you might glean from the picture below.

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While taking a cross-country road trip sounds romantic and fun, and certainly it has it up-sides, there are some drawbacks, some “realities” that make it not picture perfect.

We have enjoyed the trip so far, but now… we’d like to be done.

Signing off in Pendleton, OR.

Road Trip: Day 6 – Laramie to Tremonton

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Today, since we got to a late start, we made some plans while dining at the local McAlister’s deli where my niece works.

Say hello to Brittany:

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The long journey across Wyoming was indeed long and full of strange sights for people used to the Virginia hills. There was a definite theme, however, to the landscape: flat mixed with strange outcroppings or sudden drop offs. The wind was atrocious in many places. At first, it was fine since it was pushing us along, but later it shifted to the side and made us and all the trucks lean to the right. Maybe that’s why there are so many windmills along the way. This is certainly a good place for it.

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Towards the end of Wyoming, the sun began to go down and we then crossed over into Utah. We had been seeing mountains towards the south with lots of snow on them for a while, and Laura pointed out that they were part of a national park in Utah.

The scenery changed drastically with the border and the freeway began to roll down into a valley lined with cliffs of multi-colored stone. Much grass and other green plant items covered the hills – very unlike Wyoming. The road began to curve more and we eventually arrived in a small town called Riverdale for dinner. Soon after, we were back on the road unable to see the Great Salt Lake right next to us.

We must now sleep. We are in Tremonton, UT in our hotel. Tired.

See you tomorrow.

Road Trip: Day 5 – Rapid City to Laramie

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After a long and arduous drive across South Dakota, we were expecting more of the same for the next part of the trip. We were, however, pleasantly surprised with the change in topography. Where there were wide, flat plains before, there were now beautiful rolling hills (or mountains, depending upon your perspective) with trees. The road began to curve quite a bit more as well, thus slowing our already stately progress. Our objective this day, was first to hit Devil’s Tower and to finally end up at my sister’s place in Laramie.

The first part of the trip again started a little slow. This was primarily due to our difficulty with breakfast. It seems, that if you want a fast breakfast in “Rapid” City, you must avoid IHop. We chose an alternative, which was passable but not recommended. Moving on, we travelled north through the aforementioned rolling hills towards Wyoming.

Along the way, we decided that we should make a token stop at the city of Sturgis, SD where the biker rally is held.

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Getting our first view of Devil’s Tower was impressive. It rose from the ground like a wart on a witch’s nose.

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The formation is very interesting up from and seems to be out of place when contrasted with the rest of the land features of the surrounds. We took a hike around the base gathering even more pictures, some of which I will post later. After wasting much time milling around, we moved on to hurry to my sister’s in time for dinner. We almost didn’t make it in time.

Now, after leaving the tower, Wyoming changed and became even more boring and flat than South Dakota. Eye-numbing flatness… We chose a route which put us on a back road, but cut at least 30 minutes off the drive. However, I neglected to make a bathroom stop at the last civilized town on the interstate… and we drove for the next 2 hours or so needing to stop for a restroom. Imagine, however, a place with no pit stops, no gas stations, no rest areas, no pull offs, not even any trees to hide behind while “communing with nature”…

We finally made it to Laramie and had a great dinner with family and got to spend some time staying up a little late. We also left late this morning, but that was so that we could spend even more time with them.

Thank you, Mandy, for taking some time off work to spend with us! I type this now in the McAllister’s where my niece Brittany works and we’re finally getting on the road for Day 6.

Onward, Ho!

Road Trip: Day 4 – Sioux City to Rapid City

2016-05 VA to WA Cross-Country-Relo Sign Day4My apologies for this taking so long, but on Tuesday (May 31) we had a very busy day and I was so tired that I didn’t take the time to whip up a blog post.

Tuesday morning, we woke a little earlier, but had to waste some more time re-arranging some things in the trailer and still didn’t get out when we wanted to. But fortunately for us, we had a time change mid-state that gave us an extra hour at the destination.

What can I say about South Dakota? Well, it takes a long time to drive across. Wow. And it’s flat, too. We saw a lot of this:

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After many grueling hours of driving this barren land, we ended up passing through Rapid City, had dinner at Firehouse Brewing Co, which wasn’t all that great. Then, we drove up to a winery on the way to Mt. Rushmore. The winery had mostly sweet wines, based on various berries and fruits, although their most famous one was a rhubarb wine.

After that, we headed over to Mt Rushmore which was appropriately impressive.

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We got a good hike around the park and came back for a truncated lighting ceremony, which was fine since it was still rather cold.

Then, the day was done and we retired to our hotel. Thus was the end of Day 4.

Road Trip: Day 3 – Kenosha to Sioux City

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Since parking has been our concern with this trailer, I decided to park where I could get a good look at it overnight and in the morning:

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Today, we began our journey a bit earlier than yesterday. Last night, we decided that I did not need to go all the way to Omaha to broach the Nebraska border, but instead we chose to go to Sioux City which is on the river just across from Nebraska in Iowa. This puts us an hour ahead of our other route while saving us another hour in our drive today. With that in mind, and that we wanted to get up and leave early, we of course… didn’t. Instead, we got a bug in our ear that led us all the way up into Milwaukee – which I had already removed from our plans to save drive time. We went in and had some frozen custard at a place called Leon’s:

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After enjoying the wonderful, rich custard, we ventured into the downtown area, which was mostly deserted due to the Memorial Day holiday. We snapped a few pictures and saw the “Bronze Fonz” overlooking the river.

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Finally – we were then on the road again. Southern Wisconsin is actually a beautiful place, full of hills, valleys, trees and very interesting old barns, or as Laura said: “A barn-anza!”. After transecting the rest of the state, we crossed the Mississippi river into Dubuque, Iowa. Here are a few pictures along the way.

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Southern Wisconsin

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Barns in Iowa

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A little ray of sunshine after the storm.

The drive across Iowa was long, but not boring. The sights along the way kept us engaged and alert – especially the storms we drove through.

As a way to maximize the number of states we cross, we made a pit stop in South Sioux City right before getting to the hotel to get fuel in Nebraska. That makes three states on this road trip that I can add to my list.

Road Trip: Day 2 – Cleveland to Kenosha

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After arriving so late the night before, we decided that we needed a smidge of sleep before heading out for another day on the road. We slept in, had a wonderful free breakfast (it’s good to still be a Hilton Diamond member) and then headed out towards Chicago around lunch time.

Going through Ohio was a great drive – the terrain was wonderful. Rolling hills, trees and farms with some excellent old barns dotted the countryside. Indiana, however, was much more boring – not rolling hills, just small ground swells and the trees were fewer and far between. I suspect that we have more of that coming in Iowa and South Dakota.

Along the way, Laura discovered a store call the Pickle Factory – where they had all things pickle related, even when they were pickles at all. Here are some pictures.

We stopped in Chicago for dinner after getting gouged by the toll bridge to cross into Chicago.

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Traversing Chicago turned out to be fraught with potholes, traffic and getting lost (my fault – I had punched in the wrong address for the restaurant). We stopped in to Goose Island Brew Pub for my favorite Stilton Burger.

After that, we left Illinois and entered Wisconsin, thereby adding a new state to my list. 🙂

End of Day 2.

Road Trip: Day 1

Today, we got a late start. There was so much to do at home (soon to be “not home” I suppose) that it took many hours to both clean out the house and arrange and pack the remaining stuff into the U-Haul trailer. Yes, the company paid for a full “pack and move” package, but there’s always something they won’t do. And I don’t trust them with my computers. And, man, did we stuff that trailer full!

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For the first leg, I chose Cleveland as our overnight stop. It was a good choice, since we left around 5pm or a little after and were able to arrive a little after midnight. I chose a close first stop since I wasn’t sure how towing the trailer would be. Turns out, that’s not too bad. What was bad was how much stuff we had left over of what they wouldn’t take. We were able to cram in all of our stuff in the smallest covered U-Haul trailer, which works very well since it’s just as wide as our car – not wider. I don’t have to worry about the back wheels going over the lane lines before the X3 wheels do. The only difficult part was navigating the Pennsylvania Turnpike – that road just needs to be ripped and replaced with something straighter and wider.

On our way out of the Northern Virginia area, we stopped in a local chain place to eat called Cava Mezze and had some great food. Those of you back in NoVa should try it if you already haven’t – it’s good and also cheap.

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Late at night, we finally arrived in Cleveland – too dark to see anything, but we safely made it to the hotel… only to find it PACKED with people. There were apparently not only Memorial day travelers, but entire youth soccer teams. Parking was simply not available in the lot, so we made our own spot on the end of a row. With a trailer, parking is becoming quite a critical logistics issue, and apparently must be accounted for.

Once in the hotel, we collapsed.

Day 1: done.

The Job

For the last 21 years give or take a few months, I’ve been a “field” consultant. That means that in all that time, I’ve done IT consulting for customers, traveling the world or locally to their offices to help them implement solutions that work for them, the first 10 as IBM, the last 11 at Microsoft. It also means that in all that time, I’ve never had a dedicated full-time permanent position to make IT work for one specific company. And it also means that I’ve never had a real office.

Until now.

Now, I’ve taken a new position at Microsoft at headquarters in Redmond in the IT department helping to make their networks more secure. This means that travel is all but gone – no more business trips, no more leaving on someone else terms. It also means a relocation to the Redmond area. I have already started the position last month and we are in the process of working out the details for selling the Virginia house and moving all of our stuff out West.

Now, I’ll get to experience the rainy Pacific Northwest in all of its glory.