July 21, 2013

City Slickers

For those of you keeping score, here’s a recap of what our life has looked like over the past 20 months:

January 2012 – put 90% of our belongings into a storage unit in San Diego. Stuffed the other 10% into our cars and sent them to Colorado with our parents. Spent the year traveling around the world with nothing but two 35-pound backpacks.

January 2013 – moved to Colorado and reunited with 10% of our stuff. Spent the next 4 months living with our parents…although somehow I only slept 50% of the nights in their house. Constantly on the go.

May 2013 – unexpectedly moved to San Diego with no plan and 10% of our stuff in tow. Spent 1 week living out of suitcases at our friends’ house. Offered to pay off the tenants living in our condo so they would early terminate their lease, which runs through the end of September. They wouldn’t even entertain our offer. Moved into a studio apartment for 2 weeks while we looked for a place to live. 

Moved to a condo downtown and signed a whopping 4-month lease through the end of September.

June 2013 – The Day of Reckoning. After 16 months of being nearly possession-free, we were scheduled to go into the storage unit to pull out the remaining 90% of our stuff…

I would describe our emotions the night before the big move as: fear and dread. Oh dear God, what am I going to do with all of this stuff? Where will it go? Will it make me depressed? There was palpable apprehension in the air…until about 11:00pm. That’s when we realized that the key to our storage unit was safely tucked inside Steve’s car…in Las Vegas…with Rashid.

We turned into full-on panic mode as we mentally tallied up how much money we’d lose to our movers and HOA if we couldn’t even get into our own storage unit. Luckily we were able to secure a shady locksmith who was willing to drill into the corrugated metal door at 8:00am the next morning. In a furry of relief, I forgot to clean up his metal shavings laying on the floor. The storage company totally called me out on it during our final inspection, but whatever. There were bigger worries…like how we were going to fit 30 pieces of furniture and 100 boxes worth of stuff into a 1,300 square foot condo. In the end it nearly all fit, which brought a much needed sense of success and relief. 

There was even some fun mixed in as we rediscovered a lot of basic belongings. I finally hung up my trusty travel washcloth and switched backed to a loofah…which I couldn’t even remember how to use. And the first time I plugged in a regular hairdryer after storing away my travel hairdryer, I thought I was going to blast off to the moon.

But when we combine a week of unpacking boxes, a long summer vacation, and then another week to pack it all back up, we realized that we’d only be living in this condo for 2.5 months!

Back in 2011 when we decided to go on our RTW trip, we were signing ourselves up for 11 months of nomadic living. Not 20!! When we returned home, life was supposed to be about settling down. It just hasn’t worked out like that. And so we’re taking it in stride and dealing with it the best way we know how…by having some fun.

We have loved living in downtown San Diego. Our condo is right in the heart of the Gaslamp District. There’s a farmers market on our block every Sunday, the Padres’ baseball stadium is 3 blocks away, and we’re within steps of countless restaurants. We figured that if we restrict ourselves to 3 new restaurants per week, we could try as many as 50 new places by the time we leave downtown. What a fun goal! At the time of publication, we’re up to 29 and counting.

It feels natural to live in a bustling downtown after coming back from our trip. There’s plenty of stimulus to keep us happy. We brush off restaurant hawkers like pros. At dinner we turn down offers for roses or mariachi serenades without the slightest hint of a guilty conscience. We’re expert walkers. We’re also good at taking sly photos of weirdos. Like the guy who walks the streets every single day sporting only black pants, a Mexican wrestling mask, and his Shake Weight.

Or the sign spinner who hawks massages at the corner of 5th & Market. His go-to sales pitch: “I don’t give ‘em, I just sell ‘em”.

But perhaps the best is watching this little puppy cruise his way down 5th Avenue in a motorized convertible every few days. He has a consistent posse of amateur paparazzi that trail behind.

The annual culmination of downtown San Diego’s social scene is undoubtedly Comic Con. Officially, Comic Con is a “celebration of the popular arts”…whatever that means. In reality, it’s a huge convention for huge geeks who are really into science fiction, comics, gaming, fantasy, music and film. It’s basically like Halloween in July…except that dressing up like Indiana Jones or Captain Kirk isn’t good enough for these people. They have to be Indiana Jones’ father or a Star Trek zombie. Their standards are way high. 

It’s been a busy summer of park concerts, tri club events, baseball games, and happy hours. Our social calendar has never been so full! We’re very much enjoying the carefree time we’re getting to spend together and with our friends. 

We have loved living downtown so much that in an ironic turn of events we have just recently worked out a lease extension with our tenants. This will allow us to stay put a few extra months and, dare I say, get to 75 new restaurants? I promise we’ll settle down…
next year.

July 1, 2013

It Pays To Be #93

51 Days. That’s how long Steve’s car was stranded in Las Vegas.

Our move from Colorado to San Diego started out great. We powered through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada in one day. As a prize to ourselves, we spent the night in Las Vegas.

The next morning had all the potential to be a fabulous fresh start. We packed up the cars and were pulling out of the hotel parking lot headed for our new life in San Diego. Optimism was at an all-time high. 

And then Steve’s car stopped in its tracks…literally in the hotel’s driveway.

It was 10:00am on Mother’s Day. Can you guess how many tow truck drivers and mechanics were working at that time? We were sitting ducks until my phone rang. It was Rashid…a mechanic who had been buried in one of my 50 or so unrequited Yelp inquiries. I hadn’t even bothered to leave a message on his answering machine because the odds of him calling me back were zero. Or were they?

Rashid had saved the day and luck was back on our side. We found a tow truck driver and Steve headed off to Rashid’s shop for what was meant to be a minor serpentine belt repair that should “only take an hour”.

But here’s the thing…the serpentine belt not only snapped, but in a fluke disaster, its shrapnel flew into the car’s timing chamber and destroyed the timing belt. We’re talking deep into the engine. By the time we figured this out, it was 4:00, Rashid’s shop was closing for the day and we had to find a rental car to get us back to San Diego. Steve was supposed to start his new job the next morning, and my car was so stuffed full of our crap, that Steve couldn’t even sit in the passenger seat.

By the time we got the rental car – which I must mention, involved me hurdling a Las Vegas highway barrier in 110 degree heat – the shop had officially closed, and our most valuable belongings were held captive in Steve’s car under Rashid’s watch.

We did a mental check of the car’s belongings. Two 60” flatscreen TVs. An entire entertainment system. All of our artwork. We kept telling ourselves, it’s no big deal. They’re just material items. We had just come off a year of learning that these sorts of things didn’t really matter anyway.

We made it to San Diego at midnight, slept at our friends’ house, and tried to put that nightmare of a day behind us.

The next morning we woke up realizing that we had forgotten about the car’s most important belonging: our filing cabinet full of our life’s paperwork. Rashid was in possession of our passports, social security cards, birth certificates, bank statements, you name it.

Now Rashid is known on Yelp for being an honest guy. He had pretty positive reviews (all 13 of them). And hey, he called us back on Mother’s Day. That’s a good sign, right?

It only took us about a week to realize that Rashid’s personality flaw is that he’s overly optimistic. What started out as a fix that was “only supposed to take an hour” turned into 2 days, then 1 week, then 3 weeks, then 5 weeks. After $1,000 in rental car charges, we eventually had to make a superfluous trip back to Las Vegas just to return said rental car. At least we got to stop by Rashid’s shop to pick up our filing cabinet (which had not been touched, by the way) and see the parts that were being replaced. And by “parts” I mean the entire engine.

Finally after 51 days, Steve flew to Las Vegas to pick up his injured automobile and his injured spirit.

80 miles into the drive home, the check engine light came on. One week later, Rashid’s verbal promise of a 1-year parts and labor warranty somehow mysteriously changed to 6-months of parts only.

On the bright side, at least the car is now safely back in San Diego and our identities haven’t been stolen.

So here’s to Rashid at Liberty Tech & Tire. Our Mother’s Day loss was your gain. It pays to be #93 on Yelp.