Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road Trip: Northern California

September 19, 2012
We're on day 4 of our road trip through northern California. We drove north from San Francisco on rt 1 (the coastal route) and we've been camping each night, at Bodega Dunes, Russian Gulch, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park last night. We're driving east on rt 36 now toward Lassen Volcanic National Park. We'll hike there for a few hours, probably camp there, and tomorrow do the tour at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. The roads are all mountain switchbacks and we're wishing we were on a motorcycle. Every day starts out cloudy, then the sky appears mid-day and the scenery turns beautiful. We're pretty high up now and it's 84 degrees (F).
Yesterday we happened upon three motorcycles flying Argentine flags. They stopped at a pullout and we stopped too to say hi in Spanish. They were 3 couples from Buenos Aires and have Harleys there, but oddly (because there are only a few dozen Harleys in Argentina) did not know the guy we rented Harleys from last year.
My Whisperlite International liquid-fuel camping stove, which broke in Patagonia but then got replacement parts, finally gave out on our first night of camping. The pump was leaking gas, then as I took it apart, it cracked. So we cooked dinner and made morning coffee over campfires for three days and then bought a new PocketRocket gas stove yesterday in Fort Bragg. It has very few moving parts, doesn't need priming, doesn't have to cool before re-lighting, and fits into a tiny case. Basically, I should have gotten one a long time ago.
We're moving into our new place on Friday and our stuff is getting delivered on Saturday. Then I start work on Monday! We're looking forward to many weekend trips back to these mountains in the future.
- Ben
Photos: Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge; our full size sedan (we requested economy); camping at Russian Gulch

We've got an apartment!

September 15, 2012
We spent the last week hunting for an apartment. The rental market here in San Francisco is fierce. We showed up for open houses at 1-bedroom apartments in a good neighborhood going for $2500/month, and 20 people were already there early. Everyone has a printed packet with their credit score, proof of employment, and landlord references. (It's a very good thing I got a job before we arrived, I don't know how we would have done this otherwise.)

We looked far and wide: in a dozen SF neighborhoods; in Oakland (we liked the Rockridge area but couldn't find any rentals there); and in Berkeley (similar to Oakland). Like everyone else, we wanted the perfect combination of location, size, layout, ambient light, weather (the western third of the city is foggy most of the time), and MUNI (bus) access. Bonus points for a porch or yard (to grow some plants and have a BBQ), parking (we're considering buying a motorcycle), laundry, and a dishwasher.

We eventually found three places we liked and had a decent shot of getting. The first was in Ashbury Heights, near Cole Valley (with a very nice stretch of small shops). It was high up, with a great view over the whole city, and a huge yard. Problem was, the ceilings were 6' high, and the unit was illegal (they divided a 2-floor into 2 units). We seriously considered taking it anyway - we're not tall people - but then changed our minds, and someone else got it anyway.

The second place we liked was in Upper Market. The apartment was very nice, and the price wasn't bad (relative to everything else). But while it was a 15 minute walk to Castro, Noe Valley (the "hipster dads with strollers" neighborhood, as a friend put it), and Cole Valley, it wasn't actually close to anything.

The third was bigger, in Cole Valley, with a yard. But behind the unit was an ugly gray building that cut off 2/3 of the sunlight, so even on a sunny day it didn't feel bright.

We ended up taking the second place, in Upper Market. We decided to take it after walking from there to Noe Valley and liking the walk (in good weather). It has a walkscore of 78, good enough for people like us who like to walk. By bicycle or motorcycle we wouldn't be too far from groceries to make last-minute dinner runs. We also haggled the price down $150 from the first price we saw (which was $100 lower than its first-listed price - history available thanks to WalkScore.com).

Our stuff (shipped via the DoorToDoor "pod" service) arrives on Friday 9/21 at the earliest, so we signed a lease yesterday to move in that day. (There's a good chance we'll be in sleeping bags for the first few days, but we have all our camping gear.) I start work on Monday 9/24.

The lease signing was anti-climactic: After all the crowded open houses and absurd prices, we got a place that wasn't pushed aggressively, we set the terms on price and move-in date, and signed without any fanfare. (It's managed and possibly also owned by a company that probably handles much more expensive properties, so we surmise that it's just low-priority for them.)

Hooray! Today we're catching up on some work and "administrative" stuff, and then tomorrow morning we're going to rent a car and go on a road trip through Northern California for the rest of the week.

- Ben

San Francisco Day 1

September 8, 2012
We're in San Francisco!

We flew Virgin America, the flight was nice and uneventful. Their shtick is pay-as-you-go, no free food, but they sell food during the flight (as well as movies, wifi, etc), and the roast beef wrap we bought was actually pretty good.

Our first view of San Francisco, coming out of the BART station

From SFO we took the BART into the city. We purchased Clipper Cards for BART and MUNI transport (the equivalent of Charlie Cards in Boston or SUBE card in Buenos Aires). A crowded bus ride later, we arrived at the neighborhood where we're staying for the next ten days, at a room we found via AirBnB.

Our temporary neighborhood

Our primary goal for the next two weeks is finding a place to live starting in October. So with our luggage set down, and after a delicious hamburger lunch, we started exploring neighborhoods. We did a six mile loop through NoPa, Haight, Noe Valley, Castro, and the Mission, including some very steep hills. We got a sense for what the neighborhoods feel like, where there's public transportation, where there are nearby shops and restaurants, where it felt sketchy.

The city is beautiful (obviously). The views from some of the summits were amazing. The weather today was perfect for walking, mid-60s and sunny.

A really big San Francisco hill.
At least the hills are worth it. View of the bay.

On the way back, we bought groceries and a bottle of California Pinot Noir. In a little while we'll cook some dinner and start scouring Craigslist for apartment listings.

- Ben

We're off to San Francisco!

Alex enjoying Cape Cod

After three weeks of visiting my family, eating good food and enjoying summer, we're off to San Francisco. More blog posts soon as we find an apartment and explore the city.

- Steph

Goodbye stuff / on our way to California!

September 6, 2012

That is a 4.5' x 6.5' x 7.5' box of all our belongings. It gets picked up today to head to California, and we leave on Saturday via plane.

I don't want to speak too soon, but so far moving our stuff across the country hasn't been too expensive or too much of a nightmare. We were a little worried when companies started quoting us $4000+ simply to move a container, with us doing all the packing and loading. The only companies with reasonable prices had horrible reviews and supposedly keep your stuff hostage. Finally we found Door to Door which runs a PODS-like service. Based out of Washington state, they've been around for 17 years, offered a reasonable price structure and had good customer service (compared with UHaul which lied to us about the cost about their competing UBox service).

Our stuff has been in an 8' x 9' x 6' storage unit all year. The challenge was to fit the stuff from the unit, plus everything we had with us in Argentina, into a 5' x 7' x 8' moving container. We could have used two containers, but that would have almost doubled the price, so we decided to cut down if necessary. When we packed up our stuff a year ago, Ben used Sketchup (the free 3D/CAD tool, recently spun off from Google) to determine what sized storage unit we needed. I had hoped to recruit my dad and his masterful packing skills to help us fit everything this time, but he had to work, so we sketched out the plan with him beforehand.

Unfortunately, the actual dimensions of the container were smaller than Door to Door had told us, so we ditched our boxspring in the interest of fitting everything else. The TV took the boxspring's spot in the diagram, throw in a lot of boxes, two bikes, and skis, and we were all set. (Luckily the forecasted downpours had passed and we recruited my sister to help, or we might still be packing.)

Now we just have to get there too! We leave Saturday (we were pleasantly surprised at the price of airline tickets) and are staying in an AirBnB apartment north of the Panhandle in San Francisco for the first week and a half. We'll get to know the neighborhoods and look for an apartment, and if all goes well, have time to take a road trip before Ben starts work on Sept. 24. We're hoping to move into an apartment on Oct. 1 and then it's time to unpack!

- Steph