Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Former Californian

As stated in my earliest posts, my wife Kathy and I came to the Triangle Region of North Carolina from California, specifically the Bay Area, more specifically the San Jose region, and even MORE specifically, Morgan Hill. Morgan Hill is a quaint little town just south of San Jose and just up the road from Gilroy, the self-proclaimed Garlic Capital of the World.

We originally moved to San Jose in December of 1988, having tired after two decades of the snow and ice in the northeast, specifically Pennsylvania. We rented an apartment in that massive city for a year while we scoped out the area to find a house. During that year in the big city, we had our car broken into, which cost me a radio and a tool chest, and we had our bicycles stolen from our second floor deck. It was time to leave.

In 1989, we moved to a rental house on the lake in Morgan Hill - quite a departure from that apartment in the city. 1989 was the year of great earthquake that caused massive devastation in the San Francisco Bay Area. We experienced many quakes during the ten year tenure California had on us.

But it wasn't earthquakes that shook us to want to leave the state - it was the ridiculous cost of living. Granted the weather was fantastic, but the housing costs were astronomical, and the longer we waited to build enough equity to afford a down payment, the higher the costs to take the plunge became. We were literally priced right out of the market.

Finally we decided that if we were to have the chance to own our own home at all, we'd have to leave the state. Home prices, taxes and the cost of living in general is much better here, and in 2000 we bought our first house in over twenty years. We may have lost a decade of nest egg growth, but in the several years we've been here, we've already amassed a bit of an egg just from being in the right place at the right time.

Those considering moving to the Triangle Area had better do so quickly. Real estate prices are climbing, and they're probably not going down any time soon.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

A good night's sleep

About two years ago, NC's Triangle city Raleigh got a bad ice storm that clogged traffic for hours as motorists struggled to navigate slippery roads that city workers couldn't effectively clear.

More about that in a bit, but first, let's talk about one of my favorite pastimes: sleeping.

I need at least six things to get a good night's sleep:

The bedding needs to be (1) warm, (2) soft, and (3) not too short for my body, and the environment needs to be (4) dark, (5) quiet, and (6) safe.

I CAN sleep with less than that, of course - after all, I have slept at relatives' houses with one or two missing. But if I want to get a REALLY good night's rest, it's most helpful if I can have all of the six ingredients. I didn't get that one night in the winter of '05 when a freak ice storm hit Raleigh and the surrounding areas.

Weather services were calling for "a chance of light snow," but what came in its place was an ice adventure residents would not forget any time soon. All roads were covered in a thin sheet of ice that made driving nearly impossible. Southerners are not used to driving on slippery roads as they are in the northern states, so there were quite a lot of accidents and near accidents that day.

Eight hours?

The media would report that it took some motorists 8 hours or more to travel just a few miles to get home from work or school that day. Traffic barely crawled. I left my office at 1:30 that afternoon and at 7:00 that evening I had only traveled five miles. I still had another five miles left. The later in the day it got, the slower traffic would become.

The last straw was when I had gotten to one of the main roads in the city. It took 45 minutes to make the left turn onto the road - (I think I counted about 7-10 traffic lights I sat through trying to make that turn.) Then I sat on that road for three hours, traveling only 2/10 mile. Two tenths of a mile. That's a bit over a thousand FEET. I called my wife three times in the three hours and told her I was still trying to pass a certain automobile dealership.

Finally, I got sick of waiting and cut down a side street that took me to a local shopping mall. I figured if I crashed there for the night, I could try to tackle perhaps a clearer road in the morning. After sitting in my car for eight and a half hours, I was exhausted and hungry. I called my wife and told her I'd be there in the morning. It was ten o'clock.

As luck would have it, the local sports bar took pity on me and served me a chicken platter five minutes after the kitchen had closed, so at least I finally got a good hot meal that evening. I checked traffic after my dinner, but found it was still backed up, so I returned inside the mall to try to get some sleep.


Getting that sleep, on the other hand, proved to be elusive. At first I sprawled out on one of the sofas the mall has strewn about within the interior hallways. But I wasn't there five minutes when security informed me that all stranded motorists were asked to stay in the food court area if they intended to spend the night. There were many mothers and kids there with blankets they had in their minivans, but otherwise there were no really good places to lay down to try to get some rest.

All I had in my car was an additional heavy jacket, so that was to become my bed, or half-bed as it were. The food court floor was hard and cold. The area was somewhat well-lit and still quite noisy with mothers tending to kids and people walking about. It didn't feel too safe for sleeping, either.

But sleep I did get, for at about 2:00 I awoke and realized I had indeed fallen asleep. I got up, "refreshed" myself in the men's room and returned to my "bed." I tried to sleep again, but then I had a thought. It occurred to me that unlike when I entered the mall, now I was well fed, and somewhat rested. Why not give it a go and hit the road again?

Sure enough traffic had cleared by then. In fact, in the remaining five miles to my home, I think I saw only about three other cars on the road. (I did see, however, many cars OFF the road and abandoned - victims of the bad icy conditions.) It took the usual 15 minutes or so to travel from the mall to my house.

I walked in the door at about 2:30 in the morning, thirteen hours after I had left the office.

Back to sleep

It was later it occurred to me the things I truly desire in order to get a good night's sleep, because that night, I had none of them. Unlike having bedding that's warm, soft, and long enough for my body, and an environment that's dark, quiet, and safe, my bed was cold, hard, and too short, in a place that was bright, noisy, and potentially unsafe. But for the remainder of THAT night, I had everything I needed. I can't recall the last time I felt so comfortable in a bed.

I also don't think I'll ever forget that night.

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