On Friday morning we got in the car and drove to Shaun's folks' house outside of Portland. As Shaun put it, "the boys were just like they always are." To him this was perfectly satisfactory. To me this was a wretched way to spend a day. But they truly did very well.
On Saturday morning we left the boys out at the tree farm (under the excellent care of their grandmother) and we ventured into Vancouver, WA, for the first time. I was armed with a small pile of rental possibilities gleaned from craigslist, so we set out to see those, stopping at various "for sale" and "for rent" signs along the way.
By the end of the day we hadn't found a house that we actually felt like moving into, but I was more encouraged than discouraged, because I felt like I would actually be happy to live in Vancouver. The Uptown Village neighborhood is similar in age and feel to our neighborhood here in Boise, and is more affordable than comparably nice neighborhoods in Portland.
We also liked the very small town of Camas, 12 miles east of downtown Vancouver. It's known for its good schools, and it reminded me very much of a miniature Bellingham, WA, where I visited my dad a lot growing up. It's very very green, of course, and the whole town is built on a slope down to the river, resulting in spectacular views. On the day we visited the sun was shining and the community was out watching a little league game in the park. It was ridiculously picturesque. Really. Like snort-eliciting picturesque.
All of this wonderfulness resulted in a whole mess of conflicting goods which rendered me out-of-sorts and very emotional. Even the farther out suburbs of Vancouver were more pleasant than I expected. Big comfortable house in the suburbs? Quaint smaller house in the downtown area closer to Portland attractions and grandparents, not to mention year-round farmer's market? Ultra small-town living with good schools and lots of charm? Aaaaaack. And I was all the while feeling grateful but guilty that I was viewing having so many GOOD things to choose from as a problem.
After striking out with craigslist, we bought a newspaper on Saturday evening and checked out the classifieds. We made a list of properties to check out the following day. One of the factors complicating our search (and the reason we didn't just rent in a complex to save money) is that we didn't want to be tied to a year-long lease. This eliminated a lot of properties.
Sunday we spent driving around and viewing our prospects. On Monday we found out that one of our top choices was already taken, so we went to see this house:
It was the cheapest of everything we looked at, and we soon found out why. Though it had a few nice features, like hardwood floors and a stone fireplace, it also had a very dungeon-like basement with extremely unsafe steps. Seriously creepy. It was in an "up and coming" neighborhood which still had a way to go, but was close to downtown.
Next we looked at a very nice house that I found it very hard to get excited about. That probably had something to do with the neighborhood (totally fine, but very uniform and packed in) and the wallpaper fruit border in the kitchen. It had a beautiful (though small) and meticulously landscaped backyard...the kind which would have required much policing to keep the boys from destroying. This house was in the suburb of Hazel Dell, a short freeway drive north of the city center.
So, we were done looking at houses for the day, and, as far as we knew, for the trip. I was morose. The house we most wanted to see wouldn't be empty until Thursday, and we were planning to leave on Tuesday morning. The management company said that the tenant had refused to show the house before, but they would try. Late that afternoon we got a call. Would we like to see the house tomorrow at noon? Would we! We still didn't know for sure if they'd let us rent it for less than a year when we met an agent to see it:
The tenant had decided to let us in to see it and turned out to be a very friendly fellow, giving us tips on how to get our furniture upstairs and filling us in on the neighbors (police!)
You'd be forgiven for thinking this is the house we currently live in from this photo. Except the rental has PICTURE RAILS! Hooray!
The yard is huge and park-like, in the German unkempt park sort of way. This photo is of a camellia tree that's as big as the house. I didn't even know they grew that big. We also have an entire planting of peonies, my very favorite flower.
Here's the neglected garden area. We heard a lot from the tenant about the buckets of grapes he harvested last year. That's the Columbia River in the background, with access at the end of our street.
This house is in a really unusual spot. 164th Ave is a main drag at the eastern edge of Vancouver that resembles nothing so much as Orange County. New housing developments, strip malls with upscale chain stores. But take the street all the way south across the freeway, and you're in a different world. The Evergreen Highway is a beautiful old road, and there are a few grand old homes mixed in with the new mansions that have gone up along the river. There is a very old, small cemetery a block from the house, and a fish hatchery down the road. The railroad tracks also run very close, and the house is very close to the Portland airport, so you see lots of planes flying low over the Columbia. To some people these things would be drawbacks, but to a family with two little boys, they're a bonus!
We filled out an application on the spot, (they didn't require a lease) and were told we would hear the next day or so. We got a late start on our drive home but figured it had been well worth it. It was something of a miracle that we'd gotten in to see the house when we did. We were a few hours into our drive home when we got a call from Natalie, the agent. She had done the paperwork unexpectedly early and we were approved. She actually said, "I'm so excited!" In the middle of the call there was a huge bump, thud, and shudder. We had hit some sort of large game bird, like a grouse or a pheasant. If I hadn't been on the phone, Shaun might have had the presence of mind to go back and get it for dinner ("who's going to pluck it?" I wanted to know), but he didn't think of that until later.
So, there you go. The unnecessarily long story of how we found a place to live. We won't be saving money like we'd hoped, but we will be having an adventure. Please come and visit and have an adventure with us. We have room. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the kitchen has five gas burners and two ovens! All newish. So we can cook for you, too. Or, Hillary, you can cook for us.
And, yes, with the drive to Oregon from Boise and back, and into town every day from Shaun's parents' house, we put 1,451 miles on the car. And Shaun drove every one of 'em.