Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grayland, WA

We arrived in Grayland well after nightfall. It was actually a beautiful drive, cruising along the coast of Washington, the ocean audible beyond the lush greenery, the rain drizzling down, with beams from the lighthouse cutting through the sky.

When we reached Grayland, naturally, the first thing we did was scope out the reason we'd come, the Sea Spray Motel,* and from what little we could see in the dark, we liked.

As this trip was being performed on the cheap, we didn't have any lodging lined out, planning to sleep in Strontium, like we had on a previous trip to the coast. Sleeping in the back of a Honda Element is amazingly comfortable, after some trial and error on our first trip. I'm around 6'2" and have the proportions of a yeti, and my wife is just over 5' and quite small, but we've created a pretty nice little setup for sleeping in the rig. We have an inflatable twin mattress that runs on a little battery pump, and we leave it laid out in the bottom of the Element. Then, layered on top of that is a full size pillowtop mattress cover, plenty of blankets, and around 6 pillows. Then we just pile our luggage and cooler on top of that. When it comes time to bed down, all we have to do is slide the seats forward, stack our luggage in the driver's and passenger's seats, inflate the mattress, and tuck the pillows into the odd crevices around the doors. I was shocked how comfortable this was the first time we did it, and it's incerdibly nice to be able to just pull to a dark place, inflate, and sleep. We've slept behind Safeways, in isolated campsites, construction zones, on the sides of roads and hotel parking lots, all with little to no problem. The first time we used Strontium like this, we made neat little cardboard and cloth window covers, which were nice, but a huge pain. For this trip, we just went bare windowed, and hoped no one wanted to peek in. Eventually, I plan to come up with some sort of clever window covering system, but for now it seems like we do a pretty good job of fogging up the windows by sleeping in it!

Anyway... we drove around the area for a while looking for somewhere to sleep, and were shocked to discover the campground, which had well over a hundred spots, full up! Eventually, we just found a dark, semi-private road, and parked on the side for the night.

Camping, Element-Style!

The next morning, we headed to the beach, desperate to see the ocean, and walk off some of the nervous energy we had. The first thing we noticed, was something we'd forgotten, that you can drive on Washington beaches. This is something we are not fans of. Lindsay and I are usually the people giving you dirty looks as you cruise past us on your four wheelers and dirtbikes on the trails of Idaho, and we figured that the beaches of Washington would be no different.
Luckily, even with tire tracks, the beach was gorgeous. Grayland is part of the Cranberry Coast, and they have 18 miles of beach. The beaches in Washington are a different breed, very cool and stromy, they definetly have a different feel to them than beaches in Oregon and California. More of an untamed, rebellious ocean. We loved it.
An old stump on the beach in Grayland, WA

After wandering on the beach for a while, we ate some decadently greasy chicken fried steak at the Local Bar, and drove around Grayland, finding it intriguing how many vacation houses were for sale, and how many other houses seemed to be slowly melting into the land. The cranberry bogs were also very unique, and we've sworn to eventually find out more about them, and hit a harvest, because they're very odd, and cool.

Eventually, it was time to meet Mabel, and take a tour of the motel... A place we were really hoping would become ours, especially after the charming morning we'd spent in Grayland!

The Sea Spray Motel* (Not it's real name)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Movin' Right Along...

We left for Grayland, WA early on August 8th. We planned to enjoy this trip, even if it didn't pan out. It was the first time we'd ever been to the coast in Washington, and we were really looking forward to it! We ate a brief breakfast in Baker City, OR in an unremarkable cafe, (We had hoped to eat at the Prospector's Chocolate Co. but they weren't open yet) and continued on, pushing our way deeper into the gorgeous world of Washington. The winding roads of Washington made driving slow, and we stopped a lot to enjoy ourselves, eating at an awesome little dive bar that may or may not have been called the River Rat in a city whose name I forget.

The Mystery City

After dinner, full of greasy fish and chips, we wound our way up the Washington coast in increasingly dark and stormy conditions until we cruised into Grayland, fairly late in the evening.

Waiting for the other shoe...

Supposedly, for the last 3 days, Pocatello was to be in the grip of a winter storm so frightening in it's magnitude that the city could grind to a halt, civilization would begin to degrade, and only those with snowshoes and sled dogs would prevail.

Thus far, all we've received is lots of wind. Which, as all Pocatellans and Chubbuckians learn in grade school, is because Idaho Falls sucks, and Utah blows. In fact, walking to my car, Strontium after work tonight, the winter air seemed downright balmy!

That said, it wouldn't faze me one bit to wake up and see 2 feet of new snow and 20 foot drifts in the morning. In fact, being off work for the next two days, I'd welcome the chance to curl up with a blanket and some coffee and try to finish slogging through the Clive Cussler book I picked up at the thrift store last week...

Friday, December 26, 2008

More storms on Christmas day here, we got roughly another foot, with a lot more drifting this time...

Here's our little garden owl before Christmas...

and after... He is to the left of the lizard.

Clearly, the Oregon Rain Man sculpture we have despises winter in Idaho...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter In Idaho

I really love snow. I know some people don't, but for some reason, whenever we get a storm, especially one like today, where it was primarily just nice drifting flakes, I love it.
Even when it involves shoveling a foot of snow off of the walks....

It's just so pretty. That said, it would be a lot easier if I didn't have to drive in it, and could just spend the whole day curled up with a blanket, a good book, some hot cocoa and the new Ray Lamontagne CD....

Movie Review - The Thing (1982)

I had planned to watch and review a Christmas movie here tonight. I had a few hours of downtime that I was going to use to dig through some old magazines in the hopes of condensing some boxes, and watch a good old fashioned holiday film... Apparently, I'm still in Scrooge mode, 'cause John Carpenter's The Thing grabbed at me from the shelf with a long, flailing, tentacle and wouldn't let go. Maybe it's the foot of snow that we've received in the last 24 hours, or something, but I suddenly found myself in the mood for a good old fashioned claustrophobic horror film instead!

The Thing is possibly one of the best horror flicks ever made. It stars a bearded Kurt Russel in angry bearded man mode, as part of a crew of researchers in a remote antarctic base. They've been there for a while, and it seems like they've all fallen into a comfortable, if slightly burnt out and annoyed groove. Then out of the stormy sky, a helicopter appears, chasing and shooting at a dog. Flying in close and fast, the bird touches down, a masked and desperate man shooting at the dog as the inhabitants of the base come out to watch. Even as one man fumbles a grenade and blows the chopper, the other starts shooting and chasing the dog, desperate to kill it, and speaking a foreign language. After winging one of the men in the base, the foreigner is shot and killed. Then things get creepy.

The crew discover that the helicopter and men belong to a base of Norwegians, based a distance away, and they go to investigate the base. MacReady (Russel) and the doctor find the base in ruins, the entire crew dead, and a mass of charred multi-limbed flesh in a pile. They quickly gather up some of the papers and videos, along with the remains, and hightail it back to their base. Soon enough, the men discover that the Norweigans had found and exhumed an alien space ship, buried for thousands of years, and that with it, they'd unleashed an alien. A horrible, shape shifting monster that can take the form of any creature, man or beast.

In any other movie, this would spell a certain sequence of events; Men get taken over, lots of shooting, one of 'em gets deformed and evil and starts killing everyone, a girl takes her shirt off for no reason, explosions increase at the same speed as ludicrous plot development until finally the marines arrive with a hero that saves everyone.

Instead, in this movie, it gets tighter and claustrophobic. None of the crew know who is and who isn't infected, they don't know who to trust. Stranded in a huge storm in freezing temperatures with no radio contact and no escape, the men of the base begin to break down, distrust runs rampant, and slowly, the creature begins to take their places.

Filmed before digital effects, the creature in The Thing is both amazing and disgusting, an animatronic configuration of limbs, slime, insect parts, bones, teeth, tentacles and whatever form the creature took over. It's amazing, quite frankly, and something that, if done today, would be shoddily animated and lose a lot of the horror you feel as it moves on the screen. Yet somehow, as effective and disgusting as the creature is, the real horror in the movie comes from the humans themselves as they break down under the pressure, distrusting and fighting each other, surrounded by miles of sub-zero temperatures, with no escape in sight.

The Thing is an amazing film, and I dare anyone to watch it at night with the lights off, the snow piling up outside, and not get a bit creeped out. Or a lot. Especially if you have pets that like to jump on you without warning for no reason.... Highly recommended.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Meet Savannah!

She seems to be adjusting well to life at my mom's. Bella loves her, and Scout tolerates her with indifference... Which is kind of high praise for her!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A new Kitten!

Tonight, my wife and I gave my mom a new kitten for Christmas. She lost her previous cat, Silk a couple of years ago and had recently asked us to look into a new one, and we decided to go in with some family and get her a new one. We adopted her from the Pocatello Animal Shelter a couple of nights ago, and began acclimating her to our dogs, in the hope that it will translate to hers, which are less than half the size. So far, she loves Ludo.

Mom loves her, and we plan to drop the as-yet-unnamed kitten off at her new home tomorrow morning!

It's finally kind of starting to feel like Christmas for me! (I've been a bit of a scrooge this year...)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Preparation

A week passed. On Mabel's end, no news. The family was hard to get a hold of, the Listing Realtor, it seemed, had inherited the listing, and knew virtually nothing about it, the manager was very uncooperative, and our Realtor was seemingly unwilling to push any of them to get the info we needed.

On our end, we began investigating the property heavily, using any and all online sources available to us. Starting with a google search for images, and going so far as to emailing the Chamber of Commerce, and the Cranberry museum in Grayland, WA. The Motel had virtually no presence online, the homepage was a simple page, with one link to events in the area, and one link to a few more pictures of the cabins, they didn't even have any online ordering, just an address and a phone number. Outside of what we could find there, the information we found was intriguing though. While it was listed as being 11 cabins with ocean frontage, from what we could find in pictures, it was actually 8 separate cabins, one duplex, and the owners house/shop/office. It was on 1.2 acres, and from Google earth's vantage appeared to be the closest building to the ocean, but certainly not ocean front. We started conversations with the Chamber of Commerce and the Cranberry Museum there, primarily trying to find out people's opinions of the Motel, and then try and delve into the history of the place. We're both big history fans, Lindsay is a History Major from the University Of Montana, and I have a lot of interest as well, and we had plans to decorate one of the cabins with the history of the motel in mind.

Surprisingly, we learned that most of the residents of Grayland were imports, and the Chamber had no idea who we would even begin to talk to in order to learn more about the history or to find old photographs. For the time being, we just kind of filed it away, something to look into deeper after we got the place. The people we connected with were very friendly however, and we chatted off and on while we prepped for our visit. One thing we did learn was that the Motel was considered poorly run. That actually gave us hope, but in retrospect, should have made us nervous as well...

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Headlong Leap.

Deciding to take a chance, we contacted our Realtor here in Pocatello, Jared, who found us a Realtor out in the area, contacted her and let her know we were interested. The first thing we were surprised to discover, is that a lot of Realtors move at a glacial pace. Jared, and everyone we'd dealt with previously at our local business have been energetic, friendly, up with the latest tech, and just absolutely amazing to work with, and we'd assumed the same would be the case in Washington. Apparently, email is something fairly foreign there. If we wanted to get ahold of our new Realtor, Mabel (Name changed) we found ourselves needing to call, and usually leave a message a couple of times, and the listing agent for the Motel was even worse, often deleting emails unread. It seemed odd to us that a tool like the internet and email would be so quickly discounted out of hand by these Realtors!

At any rate, we dove in, asking to see occupancy data, and asking the usual questions; days on market, date built, why the owners were selling, etc... Some of the information came back quickly, and the rest would never really be answered...

It turned out, the owner who had the same name as our Realtor, Mabel, was very ill, and that was why they were selling, and had been trying to sell for almost 2 years. They has bought it for her to run, and shortly thereafter, she fell ill and they hired a manager to live in, and run the place. This made us excited, adding fuel to the fire. They seemed desperate to sell, no longer ran the place, and had been trying to sell for quite some time! They were also willing to carry the loan, something very favorable to us, while we have good credit, we didn't have any real money for a down payment. Somehow, in the excitement, we kind of overlooked the lack of any occupancy data, income numbers, or any real effort on the part of the Realtors or owners. We realized that we had a few days off together in a few weeks, and asked Mabel to get us the data while we planned to come out and visit the property...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Diving In

Okay, back on track...

When Lindsay got home that night, I prefaced showing her the property. "Don't get excited, I just thought it looked intriguing, that's all." I then showed her a property listing for a 10 cabin motel with owner's house on 1.2 acres roughly 2 blocks from the ocean, in Grayland WA. Withing 5 minutes, we were in love and wanted to try for it, all of our careful plans be damned!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Card Outtakes II

Clearly, Our cats are no easier to photograph than the dogs... Especially with the dogs in the same room!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Card Outtakes

Being semi-responsible adults, Lindsay and I have decided to do Christmas Cards this year, primarily as a way to keep in touch with our families that are slowly drifting further afield. As part of that idea, I was left to take a photo of the dogs for the card while she was at work tonight.

This turned out to be much easier said than done, as both boys were very rambunctious and obnoxious. It did, however result in some great outtakes!

Needless to say, the photo of the cats is going to wait until she gets home!

Electronic Billboards

In Pocatello, the hot new advertising product seems to be color electronic billboards. There's a few around town, in varying sizes and quality, one of the nicest being by the new Costco, and typically advertising a realty company featuring a lady with a lion-like mane of hair, the local college football team- the Bengals, and the Lingerie shop in town. (Lions, Tigers & Bare - Oh My!) Most of these are kind of decent, with cheesy animations and generic billboard ads.

However, on the drive home after working in Idaho Falls this evening, there were 2 new electronic billboards running, and if I hadn't been in a hurry, I would have found a big rock to throw. All of the boards in town are in fairly populated areas, plenty of ambient lights around, but these new ones are in the middle of nowhere in fields along the sides of the interstate. For these billboards to function in the daylight, they have a fairly high light output, and at night, while in a populated area, they still look decent. However, on the side of the road, with no other lights around these new ones are like a half dozen semis bearing down on you, high beams on, somehow coordinating them to form a dancing animated Santa Claus that proceeds to tap dance into your retinas, permanently scarring them. They really need to install some sort of Day/Night modes on these where they drop the light output at night. I watched 6 cars swerve madly as the picture on the billboard changed and their eyes were unable to deal with the spotlight beam. They flashed a number to call to advertise with them, but my eyes were watering too badly to read it.

Sometimes I despise technology.

This concludes my rant. Off to swaddle my eyeballs in bandages.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Search

It turns out, that unlike searching for houses, finding commercial properties on the internet is fairly difficult. There are a lot of sites out there that sell it, but on each one they require you to open an account, or pay for access, or sign over your first born son, or accept email offers to view their listings. If you're looking for a resort or large hotel to buy, your options are almost limitless, there are amazing amounts of properties in the 1.5-6 million dollar range out there.

For our needs, I was able to find a few sites that were mostly effective. As far as bang for your buck, easily has the largest selection of listings, but to see the basic ones, you have to sign up, and a large portion of the listings are hidden even then unless you pay. Craigslist also has a pretty good selection of businesses listed, but you have to slog through a lot of other stuff cluttering up the listings to find them. Hint - When searching Craigslist, make sure you go into the separate categories, then use the search function. Searching on the main page for the area will rarely bring you any accurate results. Also, say you are looking for a place in mideastern Oregon, make sure to search the more metropolitan areas listings too, a lot of sellers will put their listing there, hoping for more exposure.

I spent 3 nights surfing the internet, just compiling likely search pages, and teaching myself the tricks to finding properties, as well as learning the lingo. On the third night, I started actually looking for a property that we could afford, that had everything we were looking for.

The thirty-third property in, I found a place that got us so excited, we forgot a lot of the promises we'd made to ourselves about the search, one that would ultimately guide us in the right direction, and teach us a lot of things along the way, especially about disappointment, cynicism, & never letting hope die....