New Toy – Husqvarna TXC310

After the original 2011 Husqvarna TE310 that I bought used from the dealer had a reoccurring oil leak the stand-up dealer (PJ’s motorcycle) offered to buy back the bike for full credit and instead sell me a new 2012 model.

Originally I was set on buying another TE310 but after it turns out that Husqvarna changed the rear sprocket size to a 40 tooth (geared to tall for desert and trail riding) and I would have to invest another $200 for a new chain and rear sprocket I decided to go the TXC310 route which already had a 50 tooth sprocket and upgraded components. Only drawback is it’s not street legal … yet.

The parts (headlight, brake light, brake switch and mirror) are on order so hopefully by the end of next weekend I’ll be able to take public roads to connect trails. In the mean time here are some pictures of the bike, straight from the dealer before I took it to the desert and got it dirty :-).

Pet rescue and fostering

We have lived in Albuquerque for two month now and have settled in more or less. We are still exploring different parts of the city and trying different routes. One of the things we decided to do differently was to become more engaged in the community that we live in. So far we have attended two neighborhood meetings (sadly it’s to set up a ‘neighborhood watch’ program since there have been some break-ins) and our builder’s celebration for being the national leader in number of green homes built. So what, you may ask does that have to do with pet rescue? I’m getting there…. 🙂

First some background. Diane has been following the San Francisco Shiba cam since the beginning – keeping track of the litters and the various dogs (there’s a discussion board as well). Naturally, we have had discussions about getting a dog for some time now. Never having had a dog (fishes were the closest I ever had to a pet) I was weary and reluctant (‘stubborn’ if you ask Diane ;-)). Part of this was due to the fact that getting a dog is a long term commitment and thus not something to be entered into lightly. So, what if  I/we didn’t like having a dog after all? I wanted to ‘try before you buy’ – hence we are fostering rescue dogs.

The dog rescue organization is called ‘Pet-A-Bulls’ – rescuing mostly American Pitbull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and mixes involving those two breeds.  The organizations director (Mary) lives in Santa Fe and can only accomodate so many dogs that she brings down for the weekly adoption event at the PetSmart store.  By placing dogs with foster parents it allows her to rescue more dogs from shelters.

After Diane read about the organization and followed it on facebook for a while we went down to the PetSmart a couple of weeks ago to check it out. I/we eased into this slowly, at first only filling out a foster application but not taking a dog home yet. Pet-A-Bulls makes fostering attractive since all veterinarian costs are covered, they provide food as well as a crate. The foster parents responsibility is to provide a loving home for the pet and drop it off Saturday mid-morning at the PetSmart location for the adoption event.

After the initial exploratory visit we went back the next Saturday to see what dogs needed fostering. We found one that we liked size and temperament wise but she was adopted later in the day. That’s OK since that’s the whole purpose of the exercise. We had more luck the next weekend when we brought home ‘Wrinkles’ …

In Albuquerque for our closing

The house is done! We have our house walk through scheduled for Monday morning the 6th and the actual closing, when we take possession,  on the 8th. This gives the builder (Paul Allen Homes) time to remedy any items that we may identify during our walk-through.

Since we want to complete several items in the house like getting the garage floor finished with an epoxy coating, completing the home network wiring, thorough cleaning etc. we decided to drive up and spend the week in Albuquerque. Taking turns driving, we can make the drive from Austin to Albuquerque in one day. Today it took us 11.5 hours to drive 707 miles (1131 km). A long day but thankfully large stretches of the route have very little to almost no traffic so it’s not that stressful.

We are both excited and cannot wait to see the house tomorrow morning! Expect an extensive set of  high quality (if I get it right) pictures later in the week.

Why Albuquerque?

We are asked that question a lot when we tell friends and family where we are building a house. My initial snarky response is ‘Why not?’ ;-). As I have previously mentioned, I/we like the Southwest (climate, landscape, wide open spaces) so we started looking at cities in the Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico tri-state area. The cities we looked at (Las Vegas, Tucson & Albuquerque) had to meet certain criteria:

  • Proximity to an airport – I travel extensively so living out in the country was not an option.
  • Food – No, not restaurants (we rarely go out to eat) but rather grocery stores. Since we are vegetarians a good source of fresh (preferably organic) produce, vegetables and fruit is very important to us.
  • Livability – That’s a very personal and subjective term but for us that meant not too crowded, some micro breweries, easy access to roads and trails for motorcycle riding. We’re easy ;-).
  • Housing – A builder that wasn’t stuck in a 1970’s time warp with regard to energy efficiency and design.

Tucson – We  visited multiple times, starting in 2005 when we were moving from Park City, UT. It was the first city we evaluated but eventually passed on. At this point I don’t remember all the reasons anymore but the main one was the high priced housing market. We saw houses that had appreciated by $50k over a six month period – same house, same builder, same features but now it was listed at a much higher price. Given my frugal/penny pincher nature this didn’t sit well with me and sent up too many red flags. I’m glad we listened to our instincts because in retrospect we were right at the height of the housing bubble. In comparison, Austin in 2005 was much more reasonable and the main reason we ended up moving there.
We had a stop over in August of 2009 when we went back a second time. Things that stood out in my mind were the immense driving distances and massive East-West boulevards that seemingly go on forever. Some of them felt like never ending strip malls. Not very enjoyable or memorable. Likewise, the main organic grocery market (Whole Foods) felt small and cramped, not to mention old and a little dirty. In short, we just didn’t get a good ‘vibe’ – not sure how else to explain it.

Las Vegas – We combined an exploratory trip of the city with SAP TechEd in 2010; spending four days driving around, checking out various parts of the city. The airport is hard to beat since all the major airlines have many flights from and to Las Vegas. Even the grocery stores were OK but what turned us off in the end was the housing market. Some background. Las Vegas is surrounded by federal land under the control by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so space for new construction is very limited. This premium for land is reflected in the lot sizes which are tiny – even small houses (<1800 sqft) will often be built as two-story homes. We wanted a single story home which made our selection pretty small. Plus, given the small lots, the houses weren’t set very far back from the street which gave streets a ‘tight’ and claustrophobic feeling. There were unincorporated pockets of land in the city but that was truly the ‘wild west’ in terms of houses. Too much on the other extreme of the spectrum. We took LV off the list.

Albuquerque – The first time we visited ABQ was also in 2005 on our tour of cities under consideration to move to.  The city felt ‘sleepy’ with a nice central area around the university and northeast side which was all built out. The western part (west of IH-25) felt cut off and underdeveloped from a business infrastructure perspective. Plus, we didn’t see any houses or builders that we liked. Again, hard to describe and recollect after so many years but nothing stood out that told us to move there.

So, by now we (actually mostly me :-)) had ruled out all the potential cities (Metropolitan Phoenix was never really an option — too much like L.A., i.e. crowded) and thus we were back at square one.  In early 2011 we decided to restart our search for another city to live in. Albuquerque came back up in our discussions after identifying a couple of builders whose focus on energy efficiency was appealing so we made plans to revisit, which we did in June. But that’s another post …

On the move again

Hard to believe but we have lived in Austin for over six years (08/2005) and in our current home sine April 2006. We were both ready for a change of scenery and eager to build a smaller and more energy efficient home so we started looking towards the West. I like the southwest climate and landscape so we explored Tucson and Albuquerque over the years and finally picked Albuquerque. For now, here’s the link to the albums. More posts with details will follow…