Friday, March 24, 2017

The Winter of Our Discontent

The decision to leave Flying Cloud for four months and return to Seattle for knee surgery was a very difficult one. With no prior knowledge of what was involved in this type of surgery and the long recovery time, I now would have probably delayed it until we were living in the US again where recovery and rehab would have been much easier. That said, we did the best with a difficult situation and are soldiering on.

Our son Brad was kind enough to haul my old leather reclining chair from a friend's house over to the BnB so I could comfortably sit and work with my knee elevated.
With over 20 inches of snow at our son's house, things got cold when the power went out for several days.
Meryl spent lots of time playing games with our two grandson's Brody and Bennett. This was prior to the storm.

Since we had only booked our AirBnb in Bellevue (in Bridle Trails) for a month, and realized we needed more recovery/physical therapy time, we had to move to our son’s house for week (since the AirBnB was already booked by someone else) before we could return a week later.  The week at our son’s house was difficult given the 18 inches of snow that fell, accompanied by no power for about three days. So with limited heat, no power, no Internet, and the fact our cell phones didn’t work at that location, we made the best of a difficult situation. We did throughly enjoy our time with the grandkids, with Meryl taking over most of the game playing, cooking, and other activities with me sitting on the sidelines.

Back at the BnB my faithful physical therapist Sanny put me through the paces twice a week. She was extremely good but it still hurt when she tried to bend my leg into shapes it didn't want to be in.

Back at the Bridle Trails AirBnb we were very fortunate to have a great physical therapist, Sanny Wong, who visited us twice a week and helped Meryl and I learn about the PT exercises and stretches. Peter from upstairs brought us fresh blueberry muffins and provided moral support, as well as delivery of the constant stream of Amazon packages for the boat.

On February 14th we departed early for Bend, Oregon in the morning to avoid calamity at the often closed Snoqualmie Pass, but cruised through marveling at the huge walls of snow towering along the road. The rest of the six-hour drive to Bend was beautiful as we drove through the snow-covered wheat fields of Eastern Washington and saw Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood looming in the distance.

We stayed in a nice basement AirBnb in Bend run by a real estate developer and his wife. It was near town and right across from the river, a great location for walking to town, but with all the snow and ice covered streets it was like a minefield for me. 

The purpose of our trip south was to check out various areas as future homes for when we sell the boat next year. Bend, with it’s great winter skiing and summer hiking has always been one of our favorite vacation spots, but unfortunately migrating Californians with pockets full of equity have been driving house prices skyward. 

We spent a short week with two different real estate agents exploring various neighborhoods in Bend, eventually finding a couple  of areas that met our needs, but were on the very edge of our budget. If we do decide to move to Bend, we’ll most likely have to rent a house (and the rental market is almost non existent) and be prepared to make an offer the minute a house of interest comes on the market. Not an ideal situation, given the fact when we sold our house in North Bend ours was one of few house’s to sell in a three-month period. Oh what a difference timing makes in the real estate market.

We had debated leaving the car in Bend and flying to Arizona, but since it was President’s Weekend we’d have to have already purchased our airline tickets with no chance of getting a stand-by seat on the airlines at this point, so we decided to drive. I was also still struggling with my knee and the thought of carrying our heavy bags through airports also wasn’t appealing. 

Outside of the fact it was around 20 degrees and a huge front was approaching California, the drive south was pleasant. You could see 100 miles ahead on the road and it was arrow straight all the way to Las Vegas. I love big wide open spaces and this area of the US offers the best unobstructed vistas anywhere. We cruised by Area 51 looking for aliens along the road and pulled into Las Vegas about 8:00 pm, tired and hungry. The big front from California actually flooded some areas of town earlier in the day, but things were back to normal by the time we pulled into the La Quinta hotel. 

We were able to sleep in a bit the next morning and then continued our journey past Hoover Dam through Arizona to Phoenix. Amazing to see huge vistas covered with Saguaro and Prickly Pear Cactus. Seems like we’d finally arrived at the southern deserts.

We were fortunate that our friends Jim and Mary Ann Sander’s invited us to stay at their winter house at Sun City Grand, just northwest of Phoenix. They gave us the grand tour of the over-55 planned community with its swimming pools, recreation centers, tennis and pickle ball courts and other amenities. Jim was especially proud to show us the community wood shop full of state-of-the-art woodworking equipment. By the greetings from other shop members, we could see Jim was a regular at the facility. Last winter he made a beautiful king-sized bed, two end tables, bureau, entry and living area tables, and even pine valances over the windows. And this was very high quality furniture, the type you’d see for sale at a designer store. Jim and Mary Ann also did a lot of work remodeling their house three years ago with new tile, new countertops, media center and more. When they asked us what house we liked best so far, we just said “We want your house!”

We had a great day attending the Seattle Mariners Spring Training in Peoria. 
Meryl and Mary Ann enjoying the game.
Jim and Mary Ann both volunteer at the Mariner’s Spring Training camp and were nice enough to invite us to join them to watch the Mariners play the Oakland A’s. We were amazed at how modern the spring training facilities were, and the large crowds that gather for the daily baseball games. Great fun.

We then moved to a AirBnb condo in central Phoenix that was freshly remodeled and new on the market. The owner, a real estate agent, did a great job with the project and even featured an art deco type of decor that was perfect. Everything we needed was included, even some food items. It was a a huge 600-condo development in mid town Phoenix, and therefore central to everywhere you’d want to go. It even had a small, but well equipped gym where Walter could do a modified workout for his knee rehab. Afterwards we’d jump in the pool and then the hot tub, enjoying the 76 degree Phoenix winter heat (yes we know it gets way hotter in the summer).

Robert, our relentless real estate person, showed us a variety of homes in the Phoenix area. We liked just about everything we saw.
We spent the next two weeks exploring various Phoenix neighborhoods trying to get a handle on what type of area would appeal to us. We meet up with Paulette and Gene who lived in the trendy Scottsdale area for breakfast one day. Paulette is the mother of one of Christa’s close high school buddies, Jeff Miller (now an exec with Uber). She and Gene gave us a full day tour of the northeast side of Phoenix (Scottsdale and environs) and we enjoyed a great lunch in the eclectic Cave Creek area. What a wonderful day.

We also met up with a former Pam Am flight attendant friend of Meryl’s, Liz Knowles and her husband Bob, to see their town home in a gated community in Scottsdale. They had done a great job redecorating it in an antique Old World style. Liz was very helpful and came up with some neighborhoods we should check out with our realtor. And to top it all off we had dinner in Vistancia with my cousin Dana and her husband Tim at their beautiful winter home, complete with infinity pool and hot tub. Tim and Dana, as usual, outdid themselves with huge New York cut steaks, Idaho baked potatoes the size of basketballs (almost), and for desert caramel ice cream over chocolate caramel brownies.  I almost passed out in a glycemic coma driving home. Thanks for the great visit, guys.

Frank Lloyd Wright's home, called Taliesin, just north of Scottsdale.
Frank Lloyd Wright hosted parties every Saturday night for his staff and clients. He designed all the furniture you see in this photo, believing that form and function could easily co-exist.
A bust of Frank Lloyd Wright sculpted by one of his students.
We took a day off from house hunting and visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s impressive home and school at Taliesin, just east of Scottsdale. A docent led an hour long tour of the facility, which also includes a school for graduate architects. The stories about Frank Lloyd Wright are legendary, and mostly true, detailing the life of an incredibly talented man with no desire to compromise. He even tried to get the state to reroute power lines several miles away that were (in his mind) blocking his pristine view of the desert. He loved to entertain and every Saturday hosted a cocktail party with up to 30 guests that was mandatory for his students to attend. He felt that learning the social skills to deal with high flying clients was an important skill for young architects.
The red rock mesas and rock formations surrounding Sedona give it a very mystical aura.
On March 6th we departed Phoenix for the long drive back to Seattle. We took a more easterly route through the spectacular red rock canyons of Sedona, up to Flagstaff, then across parts of Utah (including some 9,000 ft. elevation passes that were still covered with snow) dropping down into Ely, Nevada where we spend the night at the eclectic Prospector Casino. 

The next day was a “straight-as-an-arrow” road up to Twin Falls where we caught I80 for the long drive to historic Baker City where we spent the night. I guess we were lucky again as we passed over Snoqualmie Pass with backups of only 90 minutes. The next day the pass was closed again, always a gamble as we almost went along the Columbia River to bypass the problem!  Another day and we were back in Seattle for the final meeting with my orthopedic surgeon (he says I’ll live) and some other lose ends. Jim and Chris Berry were nice enough to host us for a few days and we throughly enjoyed our time with them. We always enjoy our time with them and got a chance to just sit by the fire with a glass of wine catching up on each other’s lives. 

Up bright and early we headed off towards Boise, but ventured a little further on to Sun Valley to visit with friends Georgia McRae and Patsy & Steve Larson from the Seattle-Tacoma area. For years we had joined a large group of skiers from Tacoma for a fun packed week skiing in Sun Valley. With Walter’s new knee, however, this year meant just a little walking around. We were a little road weary when we pulled in but managed to make it just in time for happy hour down at Georgia’s hot-tub around 5 pm. 

The intrepid Sun Valley ski group: From center left to right: Dave Lindhow, Bill and Lisa Lincoln, Walter & Meryl, Steve and Patsy Larson, Kim and George Howe, and our hostess, Georgia McRae. This guys (all in their late 60s to early 70s) are all great skiers and can give any twenty year old a run for his/her money.

We spent the next few days exploring Sun Valley and Ketchum (and tentatively looking at houses) while our friends skied, then met down at hot tub for drinks. On our final day we met with a large group for dinner at Knob Hill to partake of their famous prime rib sandwiches, which definitely lived up to their reputation. It was great to see George and Kim Howe, Lisa and Bill Lincoln, and Dave Lindhow again after almost five years since our last visit. What a fun group of people.

We then drove back to Boise to drop the car off, saying ‘hi” to our cruising friends from What If, Dean and Kris, and enjoying a great dinner at the Tavern at Bown Crossing with old Catalina 36 sailing friends Mike and Lynda McCann who had just sold their Bainbridge Island home and were in the process of building a beautiful new home in Eagle, just outside Boise.

The next day, at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am we took a cab to the airport with our normal 200+ lbs. of luggage and got in the big silver bird to Denver, then on to Los Angeles. After a 12-hour layover, most of it spent spacing out in UAL’s Red Carpet Club (how many cheese and crackers can you eat?) we finally departed LAX at 00:25 the next morning for the overnight flight to Papeete. I have to say we slept (kind of) most of the way, ignoring the 50+ movies in their system. Immigration was relatively easy and customs was non-existent (for tourists) and we even got on an earlier 7:30 am flight to Raiatea. We ran into cruising friends Kim and Dave from Maluhia and they urged us to check our excess baggage at the Air Tahiti Freight Counter about 100 yards around the corner from the gate. That saved us at least $150 and the luggage went on the next flight out. 

We landed at Raiatea about 10:30 am and schlepped all our baggage out to a cab for the short ride to the Raiatea Carenage. Back at the boat by 11:00 we were pleased to find everything just as we’d left it and began the long process of getting the boat ready (new bottom paint, polish the hulls, etc.) for launch in about two weeks. As we mentioned to many friends, this is not a process we look forward to. Living on the boat in the boatyard (twenty feet up in the air) is no picnic since our refrigeration and heads don’t work out of the water and there’s very little airflow in the marina, meaning the boat is around 93 degrees most of the day. On top of everything else our domestic water pump was on the fritz meaning we had no running water in the boat.

If you look carefully Flying Cloud is somewhere in the center of all this. Now you can see why we love living in boatyards.
As we unpack all our bags the boat morphs into a state of total disarray, since there is nowhere to immediately put all the new junk we’ve brought back. It’s an understatement to say that Meryl doesn’t deal with the stage very well. For Walter it’s a humbling experience learning to move around all the mess while protecting his healing left leg from damage. But eventually you get all the stuff put away, you fix the water pump (defective pressure switch and we actually had a spare!), and you precariously balance on a narrow scaffolding 10 ft in the air while you clean and polish the sides of the hull.

Every other day Meryl hitchhikes the five miles to town to buy $17 worth of cubed ice (no block ice in Tahiti) and gets either a cab or hitches back to the boat. This barely keeps our food cold in the ice box, but does afford us our one luxury of the day:  a cold iced drink. We hired the yard to sand and paint the bottom (too much for Walter with the bad leg) and we’re now ready to go in the water, except for the fact we’ve had torrential downpours everyday for the last four days and will now have to stay in the yard over the weekend and splash on Monday. It’s important to note that Meryl has been my bedrock during these days of rehabilitation, taking on way more responsibilities than normal and helping out in a million different ways. Thanks so much, honey.

The good news is when the rain clears we can see romantic Bora Bora beckoning in the distance, the sunlight glistening off the azure blue tropical waters, and the fact that nobody is going to freeze to death in the 83 degree weather.  Such is life.