Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where I left off....

I think I left off telling everyone about our unaffordable apartment that we love.  After we decided we wanted this place and signed the lease the world was our oyster.  It took me a second application and lots of white out to complete the application since I hadn't eaten and was done like a turkey on Thanksgiving.  It was really quite embarassing and Andy was no help because he was even worse off than me and he doesn't know my ssn.  It was just easier since at least I knew both of ours for the application. 

We drove to a delicious Greek restaurant that had a Salvadorian section on the menu called Dehlia's.  Did I mention yet that the food choices here are unbelieveable?  We had a great lunch and called back in with the leasing agent before officially leaving town to make sure that everything was on the up and up.  I was a little nervous with the mortgage still on our credit and if other stuff hadn't registered as being paid off yet since the auction that our debt/income ratio would be bad.  We got confirmation that we got the place and hit the road. 

Our general idea was to go south and head to Richmond and go west from there.  It looked like more of a straight shot that way through all of the mountains.  We got stuck in traffic almost instantly and had a sort of head start only because of the carpool lanes for 10 miles of it.  I think it took us 2 hours to go 20 miles, seriously.  We made it through Richmond and then it started getting dark.  Those of you that really know me, know how paranoid I am about driving at night or being a passenger in a car at night.  We were doing great until we were on the 2 lane highways that were up and down and curvy.  All I could think about was huge deer.  About 4 hours into our drive we pulled off at a town called Farmville.  No joke.  We found a sleezy motel and got one of the last rooms since it happened to be a college town (who'd of thunk) and it was homecoming. 

We tried to plan the next day and since Andy bought a book at that fly fishing store a couple of days before, guess what we did?  Found a place to fish or really I should say for him to fish.  After driving on the BlueRidge Parkway for a while and enjoying the scenery, we got to where we were going.  We drove to the cute little town of Buchanan and found where we could camp at the North Creek Recreation Area and did a little hike.  Hiking in VA reminded me of some of the places we would bikeride in Southern Illinois with a lot more up and down.  It was really pretty and there happened to be an Adventure Race of some sort going on.  I had just started hearing about this kind of thing.  They involve 3 events and are usually done in teams from what I can tell.  It was neat to see all these people, some of them families, mountain biking after orienteering their way to their bikes.

Camping was the usual fun except it was cold.  I am such a wimp when it comes to cold.  It got down to 42 and I have a not so insulated bag, so I really wasn't warm until Andy went fishing in the morning and I put myself and my bad inside of Andy's and the sun was out.

We got going that day and went to get directions from anyone that would offer them at the local gas station/Burger King.  I literally got the "you're not from around here are you?"  What do you think goofball that I am and just need to know how to get out of here.  I really wasn't offended because it was a sweet old man that asked me this and gave me great directions that I had to decipher once I got back in front of our map and could makes heads or tails of what words he was saying.  On the way to our next stop, we stopped and ate a cute little restaurant in a small Virginia mountain town.  Ma and Pa's:

We drove north and enjoyed the scenery and decided to stop in another town for the day and fish.  This time we got a hotel room and cleaned up before heading out to fish (I actually just read mostly, while Andy fished).  Andy fished at a spot on the Jackson River called Petticoat Junction!  The town we stayed at this night was Covington, Va and boy the town was stinky. I don't know if it was just where our hotel was, but it stunk.  I have a feeling there was a paper processing plant around. 

From Covington, we decided we should probably get back to our kids and we drove the rest of the 6 hours to Indiana and were grateful that they were in such good hands while we were gone.  During this part of the drive, Andy managed to rip the handle off the drivers side back sliding door, which has yet to get fixed.  The kids were happy to see us and we had a great time staying and visiting in Indiana for a few more days.  It was nice to not drive anywhere.  Next time:  Chicago.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Lease on Life (and an apartment)!

Has it really been a month and a half since I last posted??? 

My friend Lori asked if I was still doing the blog and it jogged my memory, "oh yeah, I was going to do this blog to keep people up to date more and to have a sort of diary of our new adventures."  We are settled in very nicely into a two bedroom apartment in an area of Alexandria, VA called Kingstowne.  Andy and I dropped our kids off with his wonderful parents in Indiana while we came out here together to find a new place.  The drive here was more mountainous than I was expecting and we went a different route home to avoid all the up and down on our poor little Nissan Quest.  If you ever drive here from Louisville, I recommend coming the more southern route that is more straightforward. 

We arrived after a 10 or so hour ride and got here just in time for D.C. traffic with no exact plans for a place to crash for the night.  Did I mention the traffic yet?  I have been in some rush hour stuff in Chicago and St. Louis but this was unreal.  Later we would meet people that described their rides as, "My ride in is only 45 minutes, but my ride home is 3 hours."  We knew moving out here we would only have one car, and since we sold the other one at our auction and are not rolling in the dough, but sheesh 3 hours??

Our criteria was simple for our future home:
  • safe
  • close enough to a metro station so we could walk/bike to the metro
  • in a ridiculously low price range for around here 1600 max
  • 2 bedrooms, but 3 would be nice
We got an expensive cheap hotel room at the Econolodge in Falls Church that first night and then found a local bar to chill out after our drive.  Dogwood Tavern was just what the doctor ordered.  They had a large variety of microbrews that I had never heard of and heavenly food.  After making our way back to the hotel we continued our search online and with our Apartment Guide courtesy of the Washington Post that my friend Paula had gotten for me.   We picked out a few that looked good, mostly by price and size and we were kind of sticking to the Falls Church area since I thought that was where a lot of homeschool activities were going on. 

First place we looked at the first day the price was right, it was a bit far from the metro so that meant a bus ride of some sort and it was just so congested in the area.  We got a tour of a model, which I would later find was the way it goes.  They show you a model that looked pretty, clean, odor-free and then you had to go on blind faith that the one you signed your lease for was close to the same condition.  I did not like this and made it known that if you can't show me the inside I at least want to know what unit it will be so I know if I am next to the trash compactor or sewage plant or whatever.  When I did this at the first one, I felt Andy look at me like "what are you doing, you are being a little pushy".  Pushiness pays off because we were shown a model on the "garden level" also known as a basement.  The garden level apartment model we looked at was on the main floor and walked right out to the grass when you went out the sliding doors.  The unit that we would be getting when we went to look at it, was a stinkin' basement.  First one we looked at was the last on my list already.

We saw about 4 or 5 that day and most were either "garden" basements and one was too expensive and didn't really seem very kid-friendly, more college/grad student/bachelorish--but it was hardly a block from the metro.  This one was the top of the list that day.  We regrouped--Andy went to a fly fishing store he spotted and I went to TJ Max and bought some clothes that I am wearing now nearly every day (two shirts and a pair of boots) that's my wardrobe.   I have some jeans that I alternate with to really get 5 different outfits.  You know I am joking right?, but not really.  While I was at the Max, Andy got online at Panera and got a deal on a room at a Hyatt or Hilton but we had to pay for internet there.  Crazy, right?  Several adult sodas later, we mapped out a new list that included an apartment complex that had some townhouses in our price range, but had this review on  "It is a great place to live as long as you don't mind living in a retirement community".  When we took the tour that about summed it up, plus too far from a metro and guess what?  We would again be offered a garden apartment with one of the townhomes we originally wanted above it.  I guess you have to wait until someone dies to get one of those. 

The second place we went to, Andy had aparently said a secret prayer before we went to.  We were going into territories unknown about 7 miles east in Springfield, VA.  We were done with the Falls Church area.  It was too pricey, and so congested with construction still going on everywhere.  So, on to Springfield with no lunch or breakfast and coming off yet another lame tour.  I was just going along with Andy, I was out of ideas.  He said, "I know this is going to be the one".  "Sure, whatever", was my attitude.  I thought we were way to far out to be near a metro. We showed up at lunch and only one rental agent was there and she was just signing a lease with someone so we had to wait.  We ate the offerings of cookies and coffee gratefully since we were starving and this was going to take longer than we thought.  Finally our turn arrives and we got the schpeel and toured a 2 bedroom that would be the actual one we could move into that day.  We loved it.  Then we started talkig about a model one she had just shown us that had a sunroom (sort of) in it and asked her the price of that one.  She said that if we were considering that one we should spend about 20 bucks more a month and do the 2 bedroom with a loft and extra bathroom.  We mulled it over looked at the floorplan on paper since one would not be available for a month, which was when we wanted to move in anyways.  Then she told us how her husband rides his bike to the metro that is only a mile away and takes the metro to work in D.C.  And, she tells us that there is a bus stop that is only a 5 minute ride to the metro if you don't want to walk or bike.  I don't know if it was the hunger pains, the continuous circle of crappy apartments with one that was nice and met our criteria, or the prayer--but we signed a lease that day. 

The apartment is over our price range, but the $1600 one was over our price range to begin with considering we still are paying our mortgage in that farm we still own back in Missouri.  Eh-what's another couple hundred when you can't afford the first 16?  I know it is bad Emily Post manners to share financial information, but I wanted to share with you and remind myself later how much it costs to live modestly in the D.C. area.

So, we went back and retrieved our kids.  I will fill in those blanks in the near future.

Day 3 of looking   

We arrived after