Monday, July 6, 2020

Special Edition - House Sitting vs Coronavirus - July 6, 2020

irony [ahy-ruh-nee] - an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
So, I ended my last post in March with this... "Besides, how long can a pandemic last? I mean come on."

Uh... ya. Allow me to update what we've been up to since then.

When I wrote that post I mentioned that 3 of our house sits had already cancelled, but it didn't take long until the remaining U.S. sits cancelled as well. And after Canada closed its borders indefinitely our hopes of staying in Victoria Island and Vancouver were over. But what really stung was that we also had to cancel our vacation plans to Banff, especially after getting so lucky with our 1-in-4500 chance of securing our campsite. But hey, losing out on a little R&R when 130,000 people have died kind of puts your problems in perspective. Sure we would have to make other plans, but there's always next year. God I hope there's next year.

So what happened after we lost our entire calendar of house sits for the next 5 months? Nothing short of a miracle actually.

Shortly after that last post, a couple from Punta Gorda, FL listed an ad for a 4-month house sit that started less than 3 weeks after our current house in CA. Yeah, it was during the blistering hot summer but we didn't care. It was a house to live in and it was for 4 months! So apply we did and accepted we got. Yay!

Then, when it came time to leave, we rented an Airbnb for a few weeks in Phoenix so we could spend time with our son and his wife before we headed over to FL. Because when you only get to see your kids a few times a year, opportunities like this are a dream come true!

From there we pointed our car eastward and headed to Florida. But in these times you don't just come barging across the border, you now have to stop and promise the folks at the reception center that you'll be good and stay inside for 2 weeks. THEN you can go out and get infected by the locals. Fair enough.
Do you promise not to spread the virus?
Ok, we've got your information. Now go to your room!
On April 24th we arrived at our new "home" and settled in quickly. The bottom line is that we absolutely love it here. The Gulf coast is ripe with "old Florida" landscape, rivers and mangrove forests, all teaming with wildlife and beautiful flora. And because this house sits right on the Peace River, Charli and I bought inflatable kayaks right away. This has allowed us to immerse ourselves in the area and experience incredible encounters with animals of all types, from sweet, playful dolphins to scary looking alligators and sharks, who just want to be left alone.

Navigating the mangrove tunnels in Ted Sperling Park

Flipper flipped me out!

See ya later...

Grand Ole Osprey
Ibis Elba

My next post will be a photo journal of our time here in Florida, which will not be easy, seeing as how I've already posted 350 pictures to our Google Photo album for this house sit alone. But that is a good problem to have. And don't worry, I'm not going to make you look at all of them.

Two hundred at the most. I promise.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Special Edition - House Sitting vs Coronavirus - March 26, 2020

House sitting can be a complicated proposal... a perpetual roll of the dice if you will. In order to secure a solid schedule in close proximity with minimal gaps between sits, several things have to happen. For example, consider the fact that every house sit has a specific start and end date and geographic location. This means if you have a house booked on June 1st for 30 days, the only house sit you can apply for next has to be after July 1. From there you have to consider how far away the next house is and how long it will last.

That's why, coming into 2020, Charli and I were pretty happy with our upcoming year. Not only had we secured a reservation to Banff National Park of Canada in September, but we had successfully managed to lock down the entire 8 months ahead of it with a string of house sits that gradually moved us up the west coast, ending in Vancouver just one week before.

It was a beautiful thing. In the house sitting world this was a near perfect lineup...
CA - Orange, Santa Cruz, Vallejo
WA - Camano Island, Bellingham, Everett
Canada - Victoria Island, Vancouver, Banff

... one sit after another slowly leading us up to Canada over 9 months, with nary a gap in between, until the big payoff of a full week of vacation at a place we'd only dreamed about until now.

Deemed by many as one of the most beautiful places on earth, we had been trying to squeeze a trip to Banff into our schedule for the last 2 years, but the wild cards of house sit bookings never allowed it to happen.

But then last year we decided to do it differently. Instead of letting the available house sits steer our Prius around the country, we decided to commit to a date in September and then figure out how to fill our stays to lead us to Banff. And with a little bit of luck and a lot of careful planning we did just that! Everything was all set.


December 31, 2019: The first symptoms of 2019-nCoV appeared in Wuhan, China. 

January 19, 2020: The first case of COVID-19 showed up in Washington state.

January 24, 2020: Charli and I successfully secured our campsite reservation at Lake O'Hara in Banff National Park of Canada.

You see, there are only 30 campsites available at Lake O'Hara and they are only available between June 19 through October 3rd. The only way to reserve one is to log onto their web site at 8 a.m. on January 24 and pray to the great grizzly bear above that you are lucky enough to get through and secure one. And if you don't get one within 5 minutes the entire season will be booked and you will not be camping at Lake O'Hara this year. HOWEVER... as low as the odds were, I was one of the lucky 4500 people who got through and our fate was sealed. We would be camping at Lake O'Hara in September! It was a glorious morning.

Now fast forward to February 26 as Charli and I send our home owners off on their 6 week adventure while we take over their house and care of their sweet dog Jax. The "Coronavirus" was now in full swing as dozens of countries around the world were reporting infections and cruise ships were in quarantine. It definitely was starting to get serious "over there" but because there were only a few reported cases in North America we still didn't see any major reason for concern. Surely it would wind down soon.

This, of course, leads us to today - March 26. As I write this all international travel has been put on hold, 22 states are under a mandatory "shelter in place" quarantine and the National Guard has been deployed to help assist. Needless to say, our future house sits are no longer secure. In fact, 1/3 of them have already cancelled.

Fortunately, when it comes to being flexible, Charli and I are in the best position possible. We have everything we need in our car, and driving 1000 miles in any direction is just another day for us. In the meantime we still have a sit booked in mid April... at least for now. But even if that falls through, we will still be fine. We have lots of friends and family who have offered us shelter, and Airbnb is always an option in a pinch. Besides, how long can a pandemic last? I mean come on.

Because they don't last forever, right? Especially until like September... right?


Please don't leave me!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Chapter 30 - Pets of 2018 and 2019

Every year-end we publish a "Pets of..." summary of all the animals we cared for over the year. It's a nice way for us to see all our little furry friends in one place and reflect on our visits. This last 18 months has been extra special for us because not only did we care for several dogs and cats, but we added chickens, bunnies, turkeys and steers to our resume! So with that in mind, say hello to our pets (and livestock) from 2018 and 2019.


Penny and Paco
Oakland Chickens
Oakland Bunnies
Barney and Zoe

Petey and Bucky
Columbia Chickens
Columbia Turkeys
Columbia Steers

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chapter 27 - Summer in New England 2019

Charli and I love the New England area and have spent quite a bit of time there over the last 5 years. And even though we've visited a lot of sights in the past, we focused on seeing new places this summer. So at the risk of being *that* relative who forces everyone to sit down and watch their vacation slide show, we would like to feature a few of our favorite moments from our amazing summer in Boston, Providence and Cape Cod.


There's nothing quite like celebrating the birthday of our country's independence in the birthplace of the American Revolution! Here are some highlights from July 4, 2019.

Ready to go in Boston Harbor

Middlesex County Marching Band

In Boston you ARE the parade!

Concert at Hatch Memorial Shell - featuring the Boston Pops, Arlo Guthrie and Queen Latifah!

Sunset over the Charles River - settled in for fireworks!

Fireworks over the Charles
Emerald Necklace 

If you're looking for a really cool way to get to know Boston, consider walking the Emerald Necklace. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same person who designed Central Park) this "trail" takes you on a 32 mile journey through the city via 7 different parks. And... you can download this walking map that gives you 46 historical points to stop at along the way.

Click the picture to download the map
We split the walk over 2 weekends and did 16 miles each half, but it was worth every step. Here are a few things you will find along the walk.

The 99 Steps / Ellicott Arch

Scarboro Pond

George Washington himself

Sneak peak of Boston from the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden

Home of the Sox

Of course nothing ends a long day of hiking like a cold brewski at Cheers!
Oddly enough, nobody knew our name
Sitting in none other than Norm's spot!

In addition to exploring Boston proper, we also took a few amazing day trips to various seaside towns, including Rockport, Gloucester, and Halibut Point State Park

Rockpoint Harbor
Rockpoint Harbor

Gloucester Lighthouse

Halibut Point State Park
Halibut Point State Park
Halibut Point State Park

Providence, RI

This was a very special summer for me and Charli in that it was our 30th anniversary in August. I  don't actually remember taking the vow to promise to "sell everything I own and live out of a Prius," but I'm glad it worked out that way.

The Oldly-weds

Anyway, after doing some research on where we should spend our special night, we landed on Providence, RI, and here's why:

Providence is a beautiful city and has a spectacular event every summer called WaterFire. This is where they light nearly 100 wood-filled "lanterns" mounted in the city's canals. It's unlike anything we've seen before and stimulates all your senses in an exquisite artistic display. Here's a panorama shot taken from their website of the main gathering area. The caldrons are also lit all the way down the canals for about a mile. It's quite spectacular.

Crowds gathering for the big event, lanterns waiting for nightfall!

Staking our claim on the canal

Eeek! So excited!

Providence also has this interesting art display they refer to as "Textured Gear."

It's very cool, but they're not fooling anyone. I'm pretty sure this is really another stargate portal in disguise. After all, is it just a coincidence that this is sitting alongside the water in Vancouver? I think not!

Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard

And finally, Cape Cod. I know, the kids are starting to get restless, but hang in there for a few more slides.

You simply can't go to the Boston area without taking time to stop at the Cape. We've been there several times now and it's always a beautiful and fun place to be. Well, except for the deadly GREAT WHITE sharks that is. There are signs everywhere that literally say, "People have been seriously injured or killed by white sharks along this coastline." It's a good thing sharks can't read.

But other than that it is really quite charming. Take these lighthouses for example...



And with just a short ferry ride you can zip over to Martha's Vineyard and see their adorable gingerbread houses.

OR... you can enjoy the sunset from one of the many restaurants located along the water.

As seen from our table... not too shabby

And there you have it... how we spent our summer. We have to stop now because the bulb in the projector just burned out, but I hope you enjoyed the show. Please come back next time when we look at how we spent our fall. Plus, we'll have cookies!