Jill Frazier on Trajectory Towards Transformat… Suzanne Vignaud on Trajectory Towards Transformat… Allison on Visions of James Darsey N… Jill Frazier on Trajectory Towards Transformat… Suzanne on Unforgettable
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- March 2011
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- Casa Dexter
- G.M.C. Massey
- Instructional design
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- Memorial Day
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Wrapping up this tale of our Trajectory Towards Transformation…
We planned to end our month of moving in successive waves with our plans for the final, Big One: hiring a moving company to haul the furniture (and any remaining boxes we needed to send) to Colorado, with us hauling the cats in their carrier crates in the car. Simple enough plan…
Then the harsh reality set in that we still had way too much stuff to take. Despite feeling we had become ruthless in casting off unwanted stuff, we had far more than we could load into boxes for the moving company. So: we used the “release valve” of storing some of our leftover stuff at a neighbor’s across the street. We had already started storing some seasonal stuff (Christmas decorations) that we felt we could return and retrieve later. Now, that plan went from storing a little there to storing a LOT there.
We accelerated our giving things away, including one of our biggies we knew would not make the journey with us: the piano I had grown up with and then inherited. I only occasional play it these days, and the expense of moving hardly seemed justified with electronic keyboards so plentiful and cheap. By asking around on social media, we were able to gift that to a friend of a friend who sent a moving crew to pick it up. Knowing it went to a “good home” felt excellent.
Finally, we did indeed leave the property “as is,” including a slowly rotting backyard shed with about half of its contents, several pieces of unwanted furniture inside, and various items stored in the attic that we had not even accessed in over 20 years, including my pro video equipment fro the 80s and some of my elementary school papers.
The movers arrived on the appointed day and loaded up our furniture (including the disassembled waterbed frame) and boxes, and, amid a flurry of papers and payment, took off. We waved good-bye and held our breath as our belongings disappeared from sight.
Our main worry all along for this leg had been traveling with our cats, especially with an overnight stop on the way. We decided to ask our vet, Dr. Mike Mullen, for advice on moving them.
“Earplugs,” he quickly responded.
He explained his opposition to sedating them for the journey with stories of owners accidentally giving too much to the cat when initial doses did not work and ending up in the animal ER with near comatose pets — and then blaming him despite his warnings. He recommended just packing them in carriers in the car and driving on despite any loud objections. “Really good earplugs,” he repeated.
Sara got the joyful duty of capturing them to put them in the crates to load them into the car. Neither Scamp nor Hussy was pleased with this situation, but Hussy steamed silently after an initial round of yowls. Scamp, on the other hand, let off a long series of low, protracted meows as we took off, only slowly falling silently the miles rolled under our wheels. That first day, he would only wake enough to yowl again if we left the highway to stop, then protest briefly before giving up again.
We stayed overnight at a La Quinta in Lubbock, they being truly pet-friendly — not just dog-friendly. We arrived and shuttled the cats up to the room and released them first into the bathroom where we’d set up a litter box.
That was way too late for Hussy, who had thoroughly pissed the bedding in her crate.
Once released from her carrier, she immediately hid in the farthest corner of the bathroom, totally ignoring the litter box as well as the food and water we set down. Fine — she could pout but could not get out.
Scamp, still on high alert and slowly yowling at first, then settled into an exploratory routine, checking out every corner and surface he could reach, finally making himself comfortable on the bed.
We were halfway home.
Though Hussy was not happy in the morning getting re-crated with her slightly washed and plastic-wrapped bedding, she was not our real problem in the morning. No, it was Scamp who suddenly and quite inexplicably, disappeared. Now, hotel rooms are made these days with few hidden nooks & crannies, so it took a several maddening minutes — including a frantic look up and down the hallway in case he’d somehow slipped out— before Sara found him wedged between the bed mattress and frame.
Our second day of cats-in-car travel went smoother, with Scamp quickly quieting down now that he understood the routine. It was just another day of long highways under endless skies as we neared Cañon City and a late afternoon arrival.
Lots of folks had warned us that the cats would not adjust quickly to a new environment and would likely freak out and hide for days. Quite the opposite happened with our cats. They took to their new home immediately.
I figure they must have felt relieved to sniff so many familiar items from our Austin home already there — as well as to get out of the chaos that the prior house had slowly become for them over the many months prior to moving.
Now, all we needed was our furniture, which we expected the following Wednesday afternoon, which we confirmed with a morning phone call. Except that confirmation was an error, and our expectations collided full force with the realities of furniture delivery. See, while we expected delivery on Wednesday, that was actually the first possible day that the furniture might arrive. The person confirming delivery was new and had totally mis-read the wrong information, raising our hopes.
Instead, we were told the furniture might arrive as soon as Friday, or the following week, but that actually, the paperwork we signed gave them up to TWENTY-EIGHT days to complete delivery, with an additional week to resolve any complaints. We understandably freaked out at the possibility of not getting our furniture back for another month.
After some phone fireworks (second company spokesperson displayed arrogant customer relations skills), followed by some secondary calls from another spokesperson more skilled in customer relations, we found out we would keep tabs on the furniture by touching base directly with the dispatcher. Though it was still another few days before the furniture would arrive, at least we felt like things might be getting back on track.
Sure enough, a truck arrived the following week with our furniture, and the crew started filling our house with something more than the boxes we had spread throughout. This was also when we discovered that our wonderfully cute staircase prevented either desk or the futon from being moved upstairs. Suddenly, we had to figure out where downstairs they could go instead, as well as what to use upstairs in their places.
Yeah, we’re still working out those improvisations. We’ve been living here in our house now full-time for 6 weeks, and a number of things are still getting sorted out as we settle in. Some repairs are underway and we’re enjoying the process of making this new old house our home.
We continue our transformation.
Continuing our Trajectory Towards Transformation…
Between the trips back & forth to Colorado, there was the Packing, of course. That was mainly Sara’s gig: fetching a never-ending supply of empty boxes, loading them up, and taping them shut. She’d been doing this for months now, making steady progress in “containerizing” much of our accumulated, um, stuff. We held a yard sale, which was mildly successful, both in selling and helping us determine what to simply dump. Me, I hit a rhythm of running loads over to the Goodwill, Half-Price Books (nicknamed 1/10th-Price Books by Sara & Lucas for their low-low-low buyback prices), and anywhere else we could off-load anything.
We experienced a high level of anticipatory dread about driving a rental truck. Sure, when we met, we drove a huge rental truck (24 foot, I think) towing Sara’s car behind us all the way from the Bay Area down to Houston — with 3 cats in carriers in the cab with us. But that was 27 years ago. This time, simply thinking about the size of the smallest trucks gave us pause. We went to the rental lot and took a look, and while a 10′ truck seemed huge from the outside, it didn’t look so big on the inside — would we need a bigger truck? We worried about not only the height and width and weight of this monster, but also about depending on mirrors only for visibility. What had we signed ourselves up for?
We discovered that despite our worries, the truck was well-powered for its size, handled easily, and the mirrors worked wonders once you learned to use both flat and convex mirrors on both sides to check lanes before moving. And we avoided backing up as much as possible — and it’s almost always possible.
As to general clunkiness and concerns about other drivers: we joked that rental truckers of all kinds ought to come with the large warning; “AMATEUR DRIVER — I do not usually drive anything this large.” Most other drivers tended to cut us quite a bit of slack.
No, the main problem was simply the road. With a thousand miles to drive, much of it across featureless plains under an endless sky, the road gets wearisome. And while the truck was well-powered and handled well, it still proved more tiring to drive than a standard vehicle.
That first day, we made a “chip shot” drive to Sweetwater, happy to find decent food there at our hotel. Not having to drive the Ark (as Sara dubbed it) any more that day was a blessing indeed.
Day 2 found us making our long, slow way across the Texas panhandle, then north to Lamar, Colorado to stop for the night at a marvelous old-style motor court hotel, the Blue Spruce. Imagine our delight when we found a Chinese restaurant that would deliver our food to our door, once again removing the need to drive the Ark further that night.
The following morning, we had about a 3-hour drive before pulling up in front of our new home. As we started unloading, a teenaged boy rode up on his bicycle to see if we needed help. “You’re hired!” Sara responded, and we put Cody to work. Within 2 hours, we’d emptied the truck entirely and were ready to unpack for the first night in Our House (cue Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: “Our house is a very, very, fine house…”).
We took a day off from driving before having to turn the truck in at Denver. Driving the empty truck to Denver was certainly faster and better on gas, but it felt bouncy on the highway, eventually requiring us to drive a little slower. We dropped the truck off with little fanfare, got a ride to the airport ad caught our afternoon flight back to Austin — to prep for the next run in a couple of weeks.
Round 2 proved to be simply more of the same. and I do mean more of the same. When you start recognizing abandoned homesteads in the country, you know you’ve seen that road a few times.
We got a slightly larger truck the second time which Sara nicknamed “The Queen Mary”, but it felt much the same once loaded and rolling. You hit a pace — the rhythm of the road — and it’s easy enough to handle, but it’s still tiring.
We wrapped up our rental-truck-run #2, and rested another day before another drive to Denver and flight home, feeling very much like we had just one more run in us, the Big One.
To be continued…
Continuing the Trajectory to Transformation…
We used our free lease-back months to take a more gradual approach to moving from Texas to Colorado, rather than trying to make it in “one fell swoop.” For one thing, we had so much to cast off rather than pack up. . Not everything would be coming with us, that was for sure. We’d owned 1701 Dexter for over 26 years, and for most of those years, we had a one-way front door: many things, large and small, would come in, but only rarely would anything leave. When you add in the inherited furniture and keepsakes from both families (and other relatives as well), we had mountains of treasures, plain old stuff, and just plain crap all piled in together, more or less. It felt like we were peeling back layers of accumulated possessions
We decided on a 3-phase move. First, we would take the car and whatever small items we could cram into a car-top carrier when we closed on the house at the end of March to “establish a beachhead” in the house itself. Phase 2 would be driving a rental truck one-way there ourselves to take most of our non-furniture items, then flying back from Denver, maybe more than once. For the final phase, we would hire a moving company to handle all the furniture while we packed up our car-top carrier, stuff the cats into crates, and drove to our new home.
No, most people would not do it that way. We are not “most people.” This approach fit us much better.
We also needed to check out a flatter approach to our new home nestled up near the mountains. Raton Pass is spectacularly beautiful — and daunting enough in an overloaded car, much less an over-stuffed rental truck. So, for our first run, we headed straight north from the Texas panhandle across the Oklahoma panhandle to enter eastern Colorado and turned left at the Arkansas River. Though we made the same elevation eventually, the climb was much longer and significantly less severe.
The morning after we arrived I Cañon City, we got a rude awakening with a phone call from Austin: someone had broken into 1701 Dexter that morning. Our next-door neighbor saw someone pull into our driveway just before dawn, run up to the porch and then heard the door kicked in. She called the cops at that point. The thieves were inside only about 5 minutes before she saw someone running out with a drawstring grab-bag. Mostly, they were confronted by rooms piled full with boxes. They did grab a few things — a Playstation 2, some watches, and a jar of change — but missed other more valuable items nearby.
From 1,000 miles away, there really wasn’t much we could do. A neighbor nailed the door jamb back together so the front door could close at least, and took a few of the overlooked valuables over to her house. Our biggest concern was our cats, but they hid out unharmed the whole time. If they hadn’t been freaked out about all the packing activity before this, they sure were now.
Mostly, it felt like Austin kicking us out the door.
Back in Colorado, we had a day of dealing with details in preparation for the closing itself the following day. If you’ve never been through the process of “closing” on a house — or even if you have — that whole process can be quite confusing, and seems to consist almost entirely of signing multiple copies of many papers, most of which you understand — but not all. Then at the end, everyone smiles, shakes hands, they hand the keys, and you own a house.
We drove over to our soon-to-be home. Empty now, its rooms loomed larger. The bold paint jobs upstairs now stood out even more. We pulled out the folding chairs we’d brought and enjoyed a celebratory bottle of champagne while gazing at the mountains from our front porch. With no bed to sleep in in our new house yet, we returned reluctantly to our hotel room that night.
The next day was full of the many mundane details of “setting up house”: establishing utility accounts, unloading the car, and shopping for a few staple items, like toilet paper and trash bags — and coffee, of course. In between, we would simply stroll around inside our House of Many Colors, marveling at the wonderful funkiness, even as we discovered multiple minor flaws, small oddities, and a couple of odd scrawled messages.
The next day, we set out for Austin to prep for the next phase. At least, that was the plan when we started out. But by the time we stopped for gas in Pueblo, a cold wind had whipped in, making it difficult to stand outside while pumping the gas. We hit I-25 and started southward, noting the first few snowflakes drifting down. Like before, we just kept going, but this time, the snow was different. Large wet flakes drifted thickly down, accumulating on the roadside, slowing us down a bit, along with every one else. Soon, the traffic was slowing and jamming up — and then we stopped entirely.
By now, there was about a foot of snow along the roadside. We realized they had just closed I-25 and were detouring all traffic into the nearby town of Walsenberg. We wanted to find somewhere to pull off and try to wait out the storm, but with the roadside now deep in slush, we did not feel confident with our little sedan with no snow tires, and simply stayed in the slow-moving lane of traffic.
Finally, we saw a convenience store where we could park in only a few inches of snow, and I ran in to check it out, only to find all the power was gone there, in town, and in fact, in the whole region. I-25 was shut down both south and north. Seeing a hotel across the road, we decided to seek shelter there even though it was just barely noon.
We snagged one of the few rooms not taken and just hunkered down there for the duration, despite their lack of power,. That kicked back on a few hours later, and we feasted on all the snacks we had saved for the trip and took the day off, figuring conditions would probably improve by morning. Sure enough, when we got up, it was clear, temperature was rising up into the mid-30s already, snow was starting to melt, and people — including us — were up and on the move again.
Now, some might consider that sudden snowstorm delay a harsh welcome to our new state. I saw it as quite the opposite — Colorado was insisting we stay.
Sorry, not just yet — we still had a 2-day drive ahead of us before the next round of moving.
To be continued…
Continuing our Trajectory Towards Transformation…
We broke all the rules of relocation, starting with the most basic of them all:
Never relocate to an unfamiliar region/state/city.
The number one nightmare many people report is moving somewhere on a whim without spending much time there first, only to discover within a season or two, they hate the place. At this point, we had spent approximately 2 days total in Cañon City.
If you do move somewhere new, rent before you buy.
We considered this but between the timing and the expense, we rejected it. To truly test the difficult season — winter — we would have to rent for a year at a minimum. Not only were rental availabilities rare, but the cost would have impacted our purchasing power.
And above all:
Never, ever fall in love with a particular house, especially before actually seeing it…
We knew this one from personal experience. Our prior house had originally been a second choice. We’d seen a wonderful house in the fall there in Cañon City, complete with friendly neighbors — but that one was gone before we were anywhere near ready. Turns out Cañon City had a brisk house market.
Still, I had to line up possibilities so I kept up my late night online searching. And that’s when it happened: I saw the listing for 1008 Macon Avenue. Well within our price range, plenty of space, excellent location within walking distance of the historic downtown district…
It was late that night, so at first, I thought to simply mark that one and wait till the morning before showing it to Sara. Still, there was just something about the house…
I walked into the bedroom where she was reading in the recliner.
“I know we’re not supposed to fall in love with a house, but…I have to show you this one.”
Sara looked up from her book as I handed her the open laptop. She adjusted the angle and squinted a bit to get a good look — and then gasped and looked up at me. We were goners already — we both loved the house. Or at least, the look of the house.
Of course, this meant breaking all our own rules for about buying our new home:
- We said we wanted a smaller house — this house has 5 bedrooms, 3 baths.
- We said no stairs — it’s a 2-story house.
- We said no ongoing major maintenance or repair needs (why sell a fixer-upper to buy a fixer-upper?) — but it’s 99 years old! It’s nothing but ongoing maintenance/repair needs held together by hope & love.
We had to head off to Cañon City to see if this really was the one, knowing we needed to find something soon in any case. We closed the sale of our Austin home on Tuesday, then flew to Denver on Thursday, picked up a rental car, and drove down to Cañon City — in lightly drifting snow. It was, after all, the beginning of February.
We had hoped to meet with our realtor, Sherri (recommended by a Facebook friend in Penrose, Jill), and possibly even look at The House when we arrived, but the snow and our later arrival meant we would have to wait till the next day. Upon our arrival, we only managed to drive slowly down Macon Avenue and look longingly at the house. It looked just as we’d seen it online, but now literally “as large as life.”
People were still living in the house, so we had to wait till noon the next day before we could get a look inside. We also had some other listings to check as back-up just in case this one did not pass muster for whatever reason. Once again though, it felt more like we were doing “due diligence” rather than really searching for other possibilities. As we went to each new address Friday morning, Sherri would watch us, Sara in particular, then smile, shake her head and say, “I don’t know — I’m not seeing that Macon Avenue look.”
One reason to never fall in love with a particular house is, of course, that love can easily cause you to downplay or overlook flaws, both minor and major, in favor of an admitted infatuation. Linda, the seller, seemed genuinely pleased by our delight in her old house, not to mention our willingness to look right past several potential problems. Many rooms had no door and many doors did not close and latch. We counted one and a half closets in the entire house. Two bathrooms offered pocket showers while the master bathroom (contiguous with the master bedroom but without a door to separate the spaces) had a lovely claw-foot tub with no shower attachment — meaning we would rarely use it.
Once we went upstairs, our enchantment deepened, between the funky stairway with its “mezzanine” platform, the sloping ceilings in every room, and the wonderfully whimsical paint jobs. In our delight and excitement, we basically forgot every question we should ask and neglected to test all the little things (flush the toilets, open windows) a prudent buyer should.
What can I say? We were in love.
We had to wait till Sunday to get a return visit and look at it again. Linda, the seller, acknowledged a broken floor joist in explaining some of the “roller coaster” feel to the floors, and offered to have that repaired. I think she was just ecstatic we weren’t freaked out over the unfinished kitchen/dining room floor, the funky backyard with garage-turned-shed, or the general condition (aged, worn, but loved).
We talked it over with Sherri, drew up a reasonable bid and sent it over with our fingers crossed.
Of course we were on pins & needles as we drove back to Denver on Monday for a flight back to Austin. When I called Sherri as we started the 2-hour drive, she reported Linda’s agent had received the bid and presented it to Linda for consideration, but we had no response just yet. She indicated we might not hear back till we had gotten back to Austin.
Meanwhile, we fretted. Had our bid (slightly lower than asking price) caused her to hesitate? Was there someone else who expressed interest at the last minute? Had she changed her mind about selling?
10 minutes before we boarded the plane, Sherri called to congratulate us — they accepted the bid! Breathing deep sighs of relief, we climbed aboard and enjoyed a relaxing nonstop flight back to Austin, our near-future-former-hometown.
To be continued…
“Have you listed your house yet?”
People we knew had been peppering us with that question for months, starting as soon as we would mention possibly selling and moving.
“No…” I would start to say, and then patiently explain that selling it would be a breeze. Zilker neighborhood properties sold so quickly that once we were on the market, we knew we would find a buyer quickly, so we wanted to wait until we were ready to deal with that. We’d been receiving unsolicited inquiries in the mail almost weekly for 2-3 years. Some even made concrete cash offers.
One sunny morning last December, I strolled over to the nearby office of Kaleido Realty to talk to the fellow who sold us our house, Peach Reynolds. As I walked in, I greeted him, saying, “You sold us our house 26 years and now we want you to help us sell it.”
He squinted a bit before responding, “That’s funny–you don’t look familiar…”
But once I told him the address, he did remember the house, and selling it to us back in 1990. He agreed to come over to the house the next day to talk with us about selling it.
We discussed the particulars we had in mind: an “as-is” sale with no repairs and no clean-up commitment. Peach indicated that should be no problem in selling to a builder, which is the route we expected. He boosted our price expectations a little, but also corrected our misconception about selling before the property taxes came due. Whereas we thought we could to sell before they were due at the end of January, those were retroactive for the prior year, so we would still have to pay the nearly $10K owed out of our proceeds from the sale. We asked about possibly taking some time, say a month or two, to move completely out. Peach described “lease-back” arrangements sometimes made as part of the sale, especially in sales to builders, “They won’t be able to start building on day 1 anyway. He indicated he knew some builders who might be interested and would call them directly before listing the property openly.
The next day, I got a call back from Peach: he already had a buyer lined up! Though there was a slightly lower counter-offer, we would get 3 months free lease-back as part of the sale. We also saved on the commission: by using Peach as the sole agent, that dropped from 6% to 4.5%. The bottom line difference to us was barely $5, 000 — easily made up by the free lease-back.
Even more fun was the identity of our buyer: a neighbor from a half-block down the street. David had built 2 side-by-side houses on our block just a year or so before to sell. While building them, though, he fell in love with the neighborhood, so he & his wife moved into and were now living in one of those houses. Buying our property would give them a larger lot and let them design a house more specifically suited to their wants and needs.
We accepted David’s offer and by Friday afternoon, he strolled up the street for handshakes — and hugs. It’s that kind of a neighborhood.
The whole sale took 28 hours. Well, closing would take awhile longer, but the deal was set.
To be continued…
In truth, the second scouting trip seemed more like “due diligence,” rather than a real reconnoitering for a relocation spot. We were already leaning heavily to Colorado, but felt like we needed to at least look somewhere else. After all, when Lucas was looking to change colleges, he was heavily sold on one in Colorado — until we went to Asheville.
So, Brevard, about 50 miles from Asheville caught my eye when I saw it on a list of “best retirement places.” The climate looked to be moderate, there was a college in town and several more nearby, recreation galore up in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, and, again, great proximity to Asheville.
We startled Lucas by telling him we’d be flying to Atlanta and then driving. “I figured you guys would be driving the whole way — you’re such road warriors.” Not sure how he got that impression — maybe it was all those trips out to Big Bend, New Mexico, and Colorado. Or maybe it was that time we drove to Alaska and back…But, this time, we were already a bit road-weary and in a bit more of a hurry, so we opted for the flight + 170-mile drive travel combo to get us there.
The drive took us on winding roads climbing through wooded hills as we wandered northeastward out of Georgia. The closer we got to getting there, the closer the trees and hills hugged the road, enveloping us in fading colors of fall. Sara commented how the roads were reminding her of New England country roads.
We hit Brevard and found a charming little downtown area. We were arriving the week after Halloween, a major holiday there in Transylvania County, and many ghouls and ghosts still decorated the street corners and shops. We’d booked a room in The Inn at Brevard, in a historic old mansion walking distance from downtown, so we settled in and strolled around to see the sights.
We were quite enchanted but not quite convinced. From the start of the visit, the whole town had more of the feeling of a retreat or resort town rather than where we would want to live permanently, a feeling reminiscent of Paonia, but on a larger scale.
I’d also noted a sharp divide in the houses in our price range I found on line: specifically between gated communities and regular housing. Several houses looked to be well-appointed and quite gorgeous, surrounded by woods but still part of a vibrant community, as evidenced by the many amenities listed…followed by the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) fees, a whopping $245 per MONTH. Even putting aside the fact that I despise the concept of gated communities, those HOA fees alone meant we would essentially be paying rent to live in our own house — um, no, thank you!
So we decided to check out the handful of houses in our price range not in a gated community. There were some that looked mildly promising, and were only a mile or two from downtown, which would be plus for us — if that mile or two had been more pedestrian or bicycle-friendly. But between the major highway feeding into town and the winding, narrow 2-lane country roads, they looked less than inviting for anything other than automotive traffic.
And the houses we spotted looked a little funky. Not outlandishly funky, mind you, but not really what we were expecting either. And then there was the last one we looked out, a little further out a winding road. As the GPS indicated we were approaching the address, we spotted a driveway merging with the road at a reverse oblique angle. We had to make 2 cuts to make the turn and then we saw it: the 50-yard straight driveway climbing the hillside at about a 20° angle, looking for all intents and purposes like a ski slope. We ascended the slope slowly, shaking our heads as we reached the house at the top. “No no no no,” Sara said. “Can you imagine trying to go up — or come down — that driveway in icy conditions? and then make the turn onto the road? Oh nononononono…”
See, Sara’s reactions about the roads reminding her of New England was not a nostalgic yearning. Not at all. Having lived in Texas for 27 years, she’s grown used to having a big sky visible most of the time, and when the trees and hills and roads are so tight together, they blot out the sky. Again, our son, Lucas, had kinda predicted this ahead of time. “I know you guys, and you’ve got more of that western vibe, like Colorado, than the eastern vibe, like here.”
We decided to enjoy the rest of our time in Brevard but it no longer figured in contention.
To be continued…