Saturday, August 18, 2012

Home Away From Home

Back in 2010 we sold our house in Alameda and moved on the boat to prepare for the voyage south.  We tried to sell the previous year but the the market crash of 2008 made the transaction much more difficult and painful than expected.  As anyone who's been through it will tell you, it's tough to be a seller in this market.  So, soon after closing the deal we decided to take advantage of the downturn and become buyers instead.

Central Oregon has seen a rapid growth spurt over the past decade but has since been hit hard by the housing crash with a large inventory of foreclosures around the time we sold our home. 

My brother, Denny, lives in Bend and suggested I take a look at some of the properties in the area.  The rental market seemed to be gaining momentum and Denny offered to manage the property while we're out of the country.  It seemed like a good idea.

And, Bend is a great area for outdoor activities with a real Lake Tahoe feel to the place.  We liked the idea of owning a home there.  Also, it would be comforting to know we have a place waiting for us if we happen to, God forbid, sink our current home.

So, we made a road trip to Bend in the summer of 2010 and did a little house hunting.  We soon found a 4-bedroom 2-bath fixer-upper in a nice neighborhood about a half-mile from the downtown area -- an older house with a large quarter-acre lot and mature maple and pine trees.  We decided to put an offer down and to our delight it was accepted.  We were homeowners once again. 

The house was built in the 1940's and hasn't been updated much since.  Fortunately, I have a family with a background in construction.  I quickly recruited help.  We went to work in the fall of 2010 to get the house ready for renters -- building a gabled front porch, pouring concrete patios, replacing siding, installing flooring, tiling a shower, updating lights, fixing various plumbing and electrical issues, and painting everything inside and out.  After a couple months of hard work, the house was looking great.

During the remodeling effort, we met two guys who lived across the street.  They worked as firefighters and landscapers, and were looking for a new place to rent soon as their current rental was another one of the foreclosures going on the market.  Over the next few weeks we got to know those guys well and even hired them to do some interior painting.  A month later they moved in.

Jake and Eric turned out to be great renters but after two years they decided it was time for a change.  So, last week they finished packing up and we moved in.  The transition didn't take long, considering we've been living out of duffel bags for months now. 

It was an unexpected event, though.  We planned to stay in Bend with Denny for a little while but when the guys gave us a 30-day notice in July we adjusted the plan.  The timing could not have been better.  Millie and Colin get to enjoy a little down time in our own home and I can work on a few maintenance projects around the house and build the fence I've been wanting around the property.  That should keep me busy until it's time to go sailing again.

So, we're dirt dwellers once again -- in a hip little mountain town far from the ocean.  Central Oregon has some of the best camping, fishing, and mountain biking in the country, with seven micro-breweries in Bend.  Not a terrible way to spend the summer.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Willamette Wine Tasting

Last week Millie and I celebrated our three-year anniversary.  Wow, that was quick.  The past year, in particular, was an especially busy one filled with adventure and drama but, admittedly, little romance.  So, in an effort to show my wife that I actually remember the date of our marriage and am capable of enjoying activities that do not involve boats, I booked a bed and breakfast in the Willamette Valley for a little romantic excursion and wine tasting road trip.

The Willamette Valley, stretching south from Portland to Eugene, is a fertile basin of rolling hills which holds the majority of Oregon's population and in recent decades has become a major wine producer.  The valley's cool climate is known for producing some of the best pinot noir in the world.  I was introduced to Oregon pinot a few years ago by our close friends in Oakland and have been a big fan of the wines since.  Fortunately, we're spending the summer in central Oregon -- only a few hours away by car -- offering a great opportunity to sample more Willamette wines.

And, what better way to enjoy wine country with your spouse than a bed and breakfast tucked away in the scenic vineyards.  It had the potential of a great romantic escape except for one small detail -- we were travelling with a 15-month-old child.

Not surprisingly, it's a little difficult to book a room at a bed and breakfast when you have a small child -- most are not willing or prepared to accommodate the excessive noise and mess that a toddler can produce.  This fact was a little frustrating although completely understandable.

However, with a little effort and a phone call to the proprietor, I managed to secure two nights at a little farm house in Aurora.  The Feller House hosts two guest rooms and since we booked mid-week and were the only guests at that time they were willing to accommodate Colin.  We hoped they wouldn't later regret the decision.

So, on Tuesday afternoon we departed Bend for a scenic drive west through the mountains.  We passed the quaint little town of Sisters and made a brief stop at beautiful Detroit Lake to walk along the dam and stretch our legs before finding our way to Aurora.

Barb and Arnie, the owners of the Feller Farm House greeted us as we turned up the driveway and gave us a tour of the house and the farm.  They opened a section of their property for neighbors to share in cooperative gardening and were hosting a weekly potluck that evening.  And, even though we had nothing to bring, we were invited to join them for dinner.  It was a nice introduction to the area, especially for Millie as this was her first stay at a bed and breakfast.  We found them to be very gracious and attentive hosts who made us feel at home as soon as we arrived.

And, soon it was time for breakfast -- Millie's favorite meal of the day.  We feasted on hazelnut waffles with fresh berries and real maple syrup.  It was a big hit.

I studied the wine country guides as I sipped the last of my coffee and we tried to come up with a general itinerary for the day.  We didn't really have a clue where to go so decided to just drive into Newberg and check out one of the local tasting rooms.  It turned out to be an unimpressive building in the downtown area so we changed course for the nearest winery with mid-week tasting hours.  This took us just out of town to Rex Hill winery.  They have a beautiful vineyard and tasting room with friendly staff who poured us a few of their pinots and then directed us to other wineries around Newberg. 

We made our way through rolling green vineyards to Vidon winery where Colin played on the pallet jack as we sampled pinots and talked grapes.  Then we found Arbor Brook winery where Colin rolled on the floor with toy trucks as we tasted a few more local pinots.  Mid-week seems the best time to go wine tasting.  We had each place all to ourselves and the people were friendly and attentive.  We had a great time and bought a few bottles to take back with us.

And, soon it was time for breakfast -- again.  Barb served us fresh fruit parfaits, egg souffle, and homemade blueberry scones.  Millie was impressed.  We both gave it a big thumbs up.

Overall, I would consider our little road trip to be a complete success.  We needed to get out of the house for a while and exploring Oregon's wine country turned out to be a great way to celebrate our anniversary.  I think I may be off the hook.  Until the holiday season, anyway.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Oregon Images

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