Monday, June 29, 2009

Almost a Vacation

I love car trips and we've done a lot of them. Today, I enjoyed driving through beautiful scenery so much I often forgot that we don't live in Berkeley anymore. That idea still isn't real to me. I wonder how long before I'll feel that home is someplace other than Berkeley?

Except for the dogs, this trip almost feels like a vacation. We never took the dogs with us before, and they sure do slow things down. You can't leave them in a car when its 108 degrees outside, and you can't take them into a restaurant when you stop for a meal. So at every stop, one of us has to babysit them under whatever shade we can find for them. Thankfully, many motels welcome dogs these days. And one kindly restaurant owner in North Lake Tahoe let them hang out under our patio table for lunch yesterday.

It reached 108 degrees today as we drove from Mono Lake to Las Vegas. Even in the shade, the heat was astonishing. But the scenery amazed us at every turn. Clouds trailed purple shadows across a landscape stretching endlessly in every direction. Pictures would never catch all of it, and we took very few of them.

The economy has not been good here. Whole towns are boarded up, and Mono Lake Tufa Reserve is among the 220 State Parks that Governor Schwartzenegger threatened to close in 2010. One article at suggests that the state parks might be saved by a new tax on car registrations. I hope somebody comes up with a reasonable plan because I can't imagine what the people of Lee Vining will do if the state closes the park at Mono Lake. I worry that some towns would not recover at all if the hard times should persist too long.

Things looked even sadder as we headed east across Nevada. Shuttered motels, barns, and gas stations lined the highway. The weather and the landscape chews up all the empty businesses eventually, but what happens to the people? Have they found a way to keep going or a better place to go? I sincerely hope they're fairing well somewhere.

Tonight, we're in Las Vegas. Maybe this is where the ghost towns sent their people? Sad thought. I volunteered to babysit the dogs while Mick and Leo go exploring the town because I am just not in the mood for 'Sin City' tonight.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hardest on the Dogs

We're all moved out now. The buyers are moving into the house tomorrow.

Little Rock is south and east of Berkeley, but we headed north, to Chico when we left Berkeley yesterday. I needed to spend our last California evening with our dearest friends, Chris and Alicia. Their successful move to Chico several years ago is very encouraging to us, and I needed encouraging.

Moving day was hard. Almost as hard as having a baby, but with nothing as sweet to show for it (except some cash in our bank account). We kept telling ourselves that we could not indulge in self-pity when other people are suffering so much worse in this crazy economy. Still, it was hard to let go of my beautiful home that I loved so well.

But once we got on the road, I realized that the change will be much harder for our aging dogs than it is for me. Chloe is 15 and Tashi is 13. They've lived their whole lives up to now in our Berkeley house. Never experienced hours in a car with 100 degree heat outside. Didn't get to vote about moving to Arkansas. As the day wore on, Chloe became completely disoriented, and Tashi nearly drowned herself in Alicia's swimming pool. Both are anxious beyond consoling.

Leo gently carried Chloe to our upstairs motel rooms last night. I think both dogs slept OK (once I let Tashi join me on the bed). But besides giving them lots of water and long breaks in air-conditioned spaces whenever we can, there is little I can do to relieve their distress. Its heart breaking. Here's Tashi asking me, Can we go home now?

Today, we turned South. Anthony Thomas gave us directions for a scenic route from Chico to our dog-friendly motel in Lee Vining, at the edge of Mono Lake. When we get there, I'll try to get the dogs a ground-floor room.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Contractor Recommendations

I am grateful to these workers, who performed above and beyond the call to help us get the Berkeley house ready for a sale. Maybe you can use them, too.

Painting (inside and out) – Saul Espinosa and his brothers are very conscientious and skillful. Saul’s cell number is 510-599-7336.

Trees – Jeff Blaney prunes our trees. 510-848-9143 is his number.

Floors – refinishing our hardwood floors, Calvin’ Hardwood Floors 510-381-1363.

General Carpentry – Brian Bartsch has a small crew that did several projects for us, such as building a new garage door. Brian’s cell is 510-693-3947.

Roofing – The Collins Brothers and their crew did a quick, clean job of it.

Heating and Water Heater – AARVAK’s 510-848-5010.

John Frick installed Marmoleum bathroom floors, 510-758-2122. He specializes in installing natural floorings.

Windows – Stuart Sungden’s A1 Windows cleaned all the house and studio windows and blinds for the showing. 510-849-2900.

Arkansas Did-You-Know Fact of the week:

The state capitol building in Little Rock is an exact replica of the US Capitol building in Washington. A site called Arkansas Roadside Stories has a charming story about mistakes that were made while the building was being constructed, saying: "Opposition was fierce, the politicking was dirty, corruption was rife, essential technical expertise was missing and the project was canceled and resumed many times over, driving the cost up to 2.5 million dollars spent over sixteen years."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eventually, Enough People Asked Me to Blog. I had to.

The FOR SALE sign went up on May 1st and immediately, all our Berkeley friends started inviting us to dinner. All of these 'last visits' have been wonderful, and over every dinner table, people asked us questions.

I'm amazed at how much they want to know. Not just why we're leaving, or how we are doing it, but what we know about life in Arkansas, and how we expect to be spending our time there.

And everybody asked me to blog.

I don't want to lose my connection with these dear friends in California. If a blog can do that for us, I'm certainly willing to try.

We lived in this Berkeley house for 22 years. Its a great house in a great neighborhood, and I have loved living here. I have also loved Berkeley, warts and all. But while it is heartbreaking to leave all of this behind, Berkeley is just too expensive for me now.

Years ago, we started looking for some place with a lower cost of living. There are websites that help you find them, like and Little Rock kept turning up for me on those sites because of its amenities. And when Katie got married, bought a home, and had a baby in Arkansas, that settled us on Little Rock.

The town has about the same population as Berkeley. There is a University (with medical, law, and journalism schools), a farmers market, and a Whole Foods store. There is not a Buddhist community that I have been able to locate in Web searches, but maybe there are Buddhists who don't have websites? I'll have to look for them. In any case, I do believe that we can be happy in Little Rock.

Will our California friends come and visit us in Arkansas? That's a good question. I get blank stares from them now, when I suggest it. But we'll see. We'll see.

Today, NPR reported that Marshall Islanders are also migrating to Arkansas. Could we have started a trend?