Abode hunting….a new sport

Looking back at our time in Illinois, I believe we were spoiled to have lived in only two homes over the course of 29 years. Moving last September to the rental duplex in Batavia  and now trying to find our next rental in Denver, it is becoming more of a reality that it just isn’t as much fun as house hunting when you want to own a home.

Rentals.com and MyNewPlace.com have been helpful websites. When we were at the car wash the other day getting our mini-van washed, we picked up two booklets on apartments for rent. Another technique that we used on Saturday and then for 6.5 hours today, was to just drive up and down one street after another looking for “For Rent” signs, which all seem to be red signs with white letters for the most part. Craigslist has also been helpful.

Over the weekend, we synthesized our lists and priorities so that we have more of a focus. We’ve decided that it makes good sense for us at this point to rent something within the University of Denver (DU) neighborhood, so roughly a mile from campus. Steve doesn’t register for classes until new student orientation the first week of September. We want to make it easy for him to get to and from campus should he have classes at various times of the day or evening. Biking and walking are the preferred methods so that we do not have to rely on a vehicle. With the light rail system and bus routes within an easy walk, it would make those attractive commuting options for me as I look for employment down the road. We could also jump on them for a 15 minute ride to Downtown Denver for Colorado Rockies games, theater productions, etc.

For now, we have two options at this point in the hunt. Option#1 has 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with a fireplace, a 2 car detached garage, and a covered patio that is attached to the detached garage. Good sized master & guest rooms. Office space. Utility room. Plaster walls are a drawback since they don’t want anything hung on the walls. There is a good backyard space for bocce ball or ladder ball, but the flowerbeds are actually weed-beds. Give us a lawn mower and we’ll gladly mow the lawn, but all of those weeds? Please? We weren’t planning on the type of flower gardening that we once enjoyed.

Option#2 was built in 1892 with many updates over the past few years. It’s a charming, 1.5 story Victorian. It has a small footprint: 24′ X 24 ‘. The yard: 25 ‘ wide X 75’ wide deep. 2 car detached garage with a finished loft studio above garage. Ladder to a teeny-tiny loft in the house. Washer & dryer in the main bathroom on the 2nd level. Beautiful Mexican tile floor, cherry & glass cabinets, and Viking gas range are in the kitchen. The postage stamp size front yard would take less than 5 minutes to mow. Vines, ground cover, a dying apple tree, and flagstone patio make up the backyard.  Our furniture could be challenged. The landlord claims that the queen-sized box springs would fit through the upstairs windows since they won’t go up the narrow, winding staircase. A few blocks from the Pearl Street shops, coffee-houses, and restaurants. Pricier than option #1.

We did have a bit of a reality check today around mile #60 in our labyrinth-drive of the neighborhoods (or so it seemed), we located a beautiful house, which looked like fairly new construction. It was on one of the many blocks within a mile of the University where small older 2-3 bedroom ranch homes seem more like little “hiccups” squeezed in between the newer homes that loom next door to them. It seems that one by one these small homes are being purchased, torn down, and a larger home built on the property. Naively, we called on that beautiful house since it sported a “For Rent” sign. Within the hour, we received a reply from the agent. Are you seated for the news folks? The home was renting for $4,900 per month!! “Egads and little fishes” (as my Mom used to say when she was aghast). Staggering? Yes. Affordable? No. We’ve been looking at places that are in the range of $1350-1695 per month and having a fit over those prices.

Ah yes, abode hunting. It is a fun sport. We will hope that sometime this week, the place which we’ll call “Home” will become more evident. Any suggestions? Please pass them along.




We arrived in Denver yesterday afternoon around 3:15. The traffic along I-25 from Ft. Collins south was heavy. It was such a contrast to the open landscape and congested-free two weeks from the Chicago-Wisconsin-Minnesota-South Dakota-Wyoming-Montana-Wyoming route. Mom has graciously opened her home to us. She emptied dresser drawers in our guest room so we don’t need to live out of the van or suitcases. She provided desk space in the basement where we can set up our computers and paperwork. And, her garage became a little more filled with the addition of our bikes and camping gear. It is time for us to shift some of the extraneous “stuff” to the little space that is left in the storage unit along with the rest of our household belongings that await a move into our next abode.

Now for an update since my last posting. On Tuesday afternoon Steve, John, Karen, and I bicycled from their rural Bozeman home to the city of Bozeman, 7 miles away. The many times I’ve driven that 7 mile stretch, I thought it was more level than what I discovered on the bike ride. Weee….it was pretty much downhill with very relaxed pedaling! Our turn-around spot was Sola, a little coffeehouse-bistro. We took a 30 minute break for cold beverages before getting back in the saddle. Whoa….there was a grade! I definitely pedaled with more effort on the 7 mile return to their home. The weather reminded us of a September day in Illinois with a bright blue sky, few clouds, breeze, and lower humidity. Where John and Karen live, there are gorgeous views of the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. As they live in a valley, agriculture and ranching is evident. Irrigation systems help to keep broad swatches lush and green. At night they seem to have a million more stars in the sky.

Tuesday evening Karen fixed a pasta dinner for us, Laurie, Tom, Allan, and Sean. Again we soaked up another evening together and appreciated John and Karen’s hospitality. Wednesday morning John and Steve hiked Kirk Hill, just down the road from their home. Karen and I opted for a more leisurely morning plus I needed to pack. Laurie came out for a cup of coffee with us. We said our “see ya laters” to John and Karen. Then Laurie led Steve and I to Tom’s shop for our goodbye with him. We will sure miss these two families as we were privileged to five fine days between their two households.

Under the encouragement of our Montana families, Steve and I embarked on a scenic route towards a Wednesday night stay in Wyoming. We drove up Paradise Valley out of Livingston, Montana and through the northern part of Yellowstone. We saw elk, a black bear, and bison along our drive. Unlike past trips to Yellowstone, we basically drove through it rather than making stops. Tom told us about the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. So out of Cooke City we intersected with this route and followed it for about 2.5 hours. This route followed portions of the original trek that Chief Joseph used in 1877 as he led a group of Nez Perce Native Americans out of Yellowstone and up to what is now Montana in a strategic effort to flee to Canada from a U.S. Calvary. Sadly, the 2,000 soldier Calvary captured them. The route was one of the most picturesque we’ve driven. We went through the pass of the jagged Beartooth Mountain Range, wound through the Shoshone National Forest, across a portion of Sunlight Basin, and over the Sunlight Creek Bridge, which spans across sheer cliffs above Sunlight Creek. Several vista points provided awesome views of the mountain ranges, plateaus, basin, gorge, and our winding switchback road. The clouds cast deep shadows and the sunlight added distinct highlights. Yes, a very spectacular drive.

As we left the byway, we decided our goal for the day was Thermopolis, Wyoming, home of the largest natural hot springs. We arrived just prior to sunset feeling like a confident cowboy and cowgirl after a hard day’s ride in the saddle ready for a cozy night’s stay in town. (A little like Clint Eastwood, aren’t we?) Actually, within 30 minutes we received a rude awakening as we were jerked back to reality stripping the cowboy theme from our imaginations. There were NO VACANCY signs posted and motel clerks telling us to “try down the street”. All of the “no-tell motels” and chain-hotels were completely booked. Even the RV campground with their pull-through spots had RVs packed like sardines and sported red neon NO VACANCY signs. We felt like we were being chased out of town by sunset…er…night. At a Welcome to Wyoming stop last week, I picked up a guide to Wyoming. Fortunately there were long lists of motel/hotel/campground options for communities along our route. Bright idea!! I decided to place a few calls. (Smile here.) 20 calls later, I located a room at a Motel 6. Argh! Frustratingly, it would be another 136 miles to Casper. Steve bravely agreed to drive. Bravely, because it seems like all of the nocturnal creatures decide to head to the road at night on suicide missions! Elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, and rabbits all joined in their demise effort. Sadly, one bunny decided it was his time. Fortunately, all large game animals leaped back into the ditches as we approached. An observance that we noted, more drivers than not, do not dim their brights in Wyoming. Hmmm…maybe we missed the sign? I should mention that while it was a white-knuckle drive in that way, it was quite beautiful with the 3/4 moon casting its light on the Wind River Canyon walls and the winding river. The moonlight did help add extra lighting too, so for that we were grateful.

We arrived at Motel 6 at 12:30 a.m. It was an interesting experience, suffice it to say. Yes, it was non-smoking, had two comfortable double-beds, and was very clean. However, it likely had another life as a smoking room since the floral air-freshener greeted us like a 10 ton brick at the door. We believe there was a special filter in the vent that wafted the scent. There was no way to escape it. Then we discovered that the water from the sink faucet either came out scalding hot or hot. There was no warm or cold, despite turning the knob to cold. Alas, Steve gallantly obtained a glass of cold water for me from the shower, which fortunately had a functioning knob. Despite those couple of annoyances, we slept soundly after a challenging night’s drive.

Yes, we’re back in Denver. It is hard to believe that this is where we’ll be living for the next two years as Steve goes to graduate school at the University of Denver. We will begin this next chapter of our lives by obtaining a detailed street map of Denver. The next step will be venturing out to the streets and neighborhoods along the bus lines, bike paths, and light-rail routes.

Alrighty…time to stop this madness and resume the day. Let us know how your summer is going as we’d love to stay in touch. Email is the best way!


Diane (and Steve)

Time got away from us!

Goodness, it is already Tuesday, July 20! Guess that time got away from us! After Murdo, SD last Wednesday night (July 14) we drove to the Rafter J Bar Resort near Hill City, SD where we were fortunate to score a tent camping site for the staggering price of $30. (It was a resort though, so we had great amenities). We kept tabs with John and Karen throughout the morning as to their whereabouts since ironically we were only 70 miles apart longitudinally the night before. Steve and I set up camp and were eating our usual PB&J sandwich lunch when we saw John and Karen pulling into the resort. Within an hour the four of us were on our bikes on the Mickelson Bike Trail. The Resort’s entrances intersect with the trail so there was no need to calculate an involved plan for getting there. We all rode together until the 5.2 mile spot when Karen and I decided that the grade of the old rails-to-trails was taxing our legs for the day. So the gals managed a 10.4 ride whereas the guys managed closer to a 13 mile ride. Our efforts made the dip in the resort’s pool and hot tub a great way to end the afternoon.

John and Karen invited us to dinner at their campsite: hotdogs, baked beans, and tossed salad. Later we roasted marshmallows for s’mores while watching the crescent moon descend over the Black Hills and the night’s canvas of stars take form. The evening cooled off nicely making for a perfect night’s sleep in our little tent. The next morning John treated us to the pancake breakfast that the resort has each morning. It was a delicious way to begin our day.

On Friday morning Steve and I took off for Montana City, MT, about 6 miles outside of Helena. It ended up being around 600 miles and 11 hours of driving. My sister Laurie and brother-in-law Tom recently moved to rural Montana City from Bozeman. The temperatures that day hovered around 95 and with the “dry” heat, the day was a scorcher. We knew that the Midwest and East Coast were suffering from the heat, too, and with the high humidity, they dealt with a dangerously high heat index and warnings.

We spent two wonderful days and nights with Laurie and Tom. Laurie grilled some chicken breasts and asparagus to a “tee”, making for a lovely dinner out on their deck. On Saturday we went into Helena, ate a fish taco lunch at Taco del Sol before climbing aboard The Last Chance “train”. This is actually a truck chassis fitted with a train engine for the body, and it pulled several train cars. It resembled the trams that we’ve taken at Brookfield Zoo. The conductor was our tour guide and she drove us around Helena, providing an introduction to the city’s rich history and its current status as a university town, the Montana State capital, and ease of exploring the lands beyond for recreation. During the day we heard about the Symphony under the Stars being featured that night.

With images of a previous Ravinia Park outing in Highland Park, IL on my mind, I couldn’t help but imagine us dining on a picnic while listening to wonderful music. So Laurie and I shopped for a finger-food type of picnic. The event was held at Carroll College in Helena with the Helena Symphony playing a delightful repertoire of “Spanish Nights” for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect as the heat gave way to the cool mountain air while the sunset evolved into a beautiful evening sky. As an encore, a fireworks display went off in tandem with the symphony’s last piece. On Sunday we drove to Gates at the Mountains Recreation Area, which was carefully journaled by Meriwether Lewis as he explored the Missouri River during his expedition. We opted to take the Sacajawea Tour Boat. Since no vehicles are allowed in the protected lands surrounding this area, it was the only way to see the Gates. It was intriguing to listen to the guide tell stories of Lewis’ account, to learn about the geology of the limestone cliffs, to appreciate the Native American history (including pictographs that can still be seen), and to see some wildlife.

Sunday afternoon we headed off to Bozeman to spend several days with John and Karen since they arrived back home earlier in the day. During our stay with them we’ve enjoyed a dinner at the Ale Works, a hike at Drinking Horse Mountain, a dinner gathering at their home with Laurie, Tom, and our nephew, Sean. Last night our nephew, Allan, arrived in Bozeman from Wichita Falls, TX for a 10 day vacation from his air force training. It was wonderful to be at the Bozeman airport last night to provide a warm welcome home to him. He leaves next for Okinawa, Japan for 24 months. Today has been low-key. We grabbed a cup of coffee with all of them in Bozeman and visited. We appreciate the time to get reacquainted with Sean and Allan, since we do not see them often. They are awesome young men and we are so proud of them.

Steve and I are truly blessed to have family and friends who along the trek these last two weeks have been so gracious with their hospitality. Tomorrow we’ll leave towards Denver and hope to stumble across either a reasonably priced motel or tent site. It is our hope to be in Denver at Mom’s by sometime on Thursday. We are ready to begin looking for our next abode in Denver. Next week should be an adventure in itself as we negotiate the light-rail and bus systems to see where potential housing options might lie along those routes. Stay tuned!

May you enjoy the remainder of your July. It seems like the summer is flying.

Happy trails!