Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Adventures in Moving, Part I

And there's fire on the mountain, lightnin' in the air
Gold in them hills and it's waitin' for me there
Fire on the mountain, lightnin' in the air
Gold in them hills and it's waitin' for me there
Waitin' for me there

--Marshall Tucker Band

The Clark Fork at 9 Mile
Missoula County, Montana
Taken 7/10/08

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and you all can be excused for thinking that I dropped off the face of the earth. The fact is that I’ve been preoccupied with trying to empty and sell the house in California. Hence the title of this post, Adventures in Moving.

I’ve now made two trips to California in the past three weeks and frankly, I’m tired. I put the house on the market back in April (or maybe it was March), and on May 22nd I signed papers agreeing to sell the house for considerably less than I had originally hoped. I had two conditions on accepting such a low-ball offer: 1) the house would be sold “as is” with me not making any further improvements on the property; and 2) the deal had to close ASAP, but no later than 30 days after the buy-sell agreement was signed. The buyer agreed to both conditions.

Now understand, I have never sold a piece of real estate before. Those of you who know me well will probably agree that I’ve never sold anything. Period. But I’ve always been a good student, and I read the documents before signing them. They mentioned certain things that I had to have done within seven days. It should have been my first warning when my realtor told me to not worry about the deadline.

After several calls to my realtor, I received, via fax, a set of documents I had to fill out, sign and fax back. These included such things as verifying that the house had a smoke detector, and that there were no problems with the neighbors. Things like that.

I got the forms back to California before my deadline and waited for the buyer to get all their financing in place. This was complicated by the fact that the buyer spoke no English and everything had to be translated into Spanish. You’d think that in California all this boilerplate documentation would be available in Spanish, but apparently that’s not the case.

Around the middle of June, I called the realtor to ensure that the deal would close on Monday, June 23rd. Despite the signed agreement, the realtor seemed surprised that I would expect such a thing to happen. It was going to take at least two more weeks, she informed me. Thinking positively, I headed down to California with the intent of renting a U-Haul truck and emptying the house.

Kevin and I spent a week in California, meeting with the folk at the Title Company, and getting everything ready at my end. As it turns out, a U-Haul 17 foot truck isn’t really 17 feet long, and we filled the truck without emptying the house. Oh well, it was just a matter of a few days and the deal would close. Kevin and I left the house with stuff piled in almost every room and returned to Montana.

Once back in Montana I kept in touch with the title folk, asking for a firm date for closing. It seems the lender had all the funds in hand, but wanted those funds to “season,” whatever that means. After a week of daily talks with the title company, I was told that the loan documents would be ready by Monday, July 7th. On that Monday, I received a call from my realtor saying that she feared the buyer was getting “cold feet.”

The realtor met with the buyers Monday evening, and called me late that night to say that everything was fine, and that they would be requesting the lending documents on Tuesday. Wednesday, July 9th, she called to tell me that the buyer had backed out completely. She wanted to start showing the house again, but we had left it unshowable.


I had been counting on the house sale closing to catch up on paying some bills—including the Missoula mortgage—and was not sure just what I was going to do next. Fortunately, I had a CD that I could turn in prematurely, which is what I did. That allowed me to buy a 16’ cargo trailer and catch up on some bills. It gave me some breathing room, but did not solve the financial crisis I was facing.

In another post I’ll write about the joys of trying to deposit a cashier’s check. Suffice it to say that Kevin and I spent a full day driving from bank to bank, trying to get the money into a working account.

Thursday, July 10th, around 4:30 in the afternoon, Kevin and I pulled out of Missoula driving his Ford Expedition and pulling the new trailer. California here we come!

Looking West from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Taken 7/10/08, 5:30 p.m.

As we neared Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the oldies Spokane radio station Kevin likes started telling us what we were seeing on the left side of our screen. Seeing? We were listening to the radio. Eventually it dawned on me that we were listening to a television live broadcast. Perhaps the fact that we were no longer hearing any music tipped me off.

The plume of smoke was visible as we climbed the hill on the east side of Coeur d’Alene, and the reports of the fire in suburban Spokane become more and more alarming. In the twenty minutes or so it took us to cross the Spokane valley, the estimates of the fire’s size jumped from 500 acres to 1200 acres to 1500 acres. A mandatory evacuation order was in place for a good bit of the Dishman hills area of Spokane.

Spokane's Burning
(Taken from a moving car)

We also heard about the 40 or so wildfires in the Colville Washington area which had closed portions of US 395. Colville is north of Spokane, and we were heading south on 395, so I wasn’t overly worried, but still. As we drove south of Ritzville on 395, the sunset was spectacular due largely to wildfires burning in the Wenatchee Washington area.

Sunset on the Prairie
Ritzville, Washington
Taken 7/10/08

If you think that high gas prices have cut down on travel, I suggest you try finding a motel room some evening without a reservation. The EconoLodge where I normally stay in Kennewick had no rooms and the desk clerk assured me that there were no rooms anywhere in town. This on a Thursday evening.

While I dozed in the passenger seat, Kevin drove us through to The Dalles, Oregon, where we got the last room at Motel 6. Yes they left the light on for us, but they put up a “Sorry, No Vacancy” sign after I checked in. When I asked why the place was filled, the desk clerk told me “It’s summer.”

The Dalles, Oregon
Taken 7/11/08

Well, The Dalles is about three hours closer to California than Kennewick, so Friday morning found us back on the road taking the most direct route to Smith River. While we debated crossing over to the coast on Oregon 42, in the end we decided to stay on the Interstate as far as Grants Pass then cross the Siskiyou Mountains on US 199.

Some governmental agency has put up a sign at Cave Junction, Oregon, warning you that when the lights flash, US 199 is closed in California. The lights weren’t flashing, so we proceeded full steam ahead knowing that we were only two hours from “home.” As we crossed the California state line, a reader board at the “bug station” warned us that 199 was closed due to a wildfire at Gasquet.

Well, the two signs weren’t in agreement, and as Gasquet is only twenty miles from Smith River, we decided to proceed. Any other option would have entailed turning around to retrace our route for two hours to catch Oregon 42.

Once in Gasquet, we stopped briefly to visit friends, then tried to talk our way past the guys guarding the barricades. It didn’t work, and I’ll tell you more about our wild ride through the back country tomorrow. In the end, we drove back to our friends’ place and spent the night in their guest room.

To Be Continued.

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