Jacksonville - this week.



My boy Chase was keeping and eye on me and my dad while we were working in the crawl space. He doesn't like to be alone!
Our other helper was found under the lid to the water meter. The black blob you see along the lid is a black widow spider or Latrodectus mactans. I decided to put it in a jar so I could show it to Brandi. She and my dad wanted me to kill it, but I decided to do the right thing and release her in the woods.

A load of CRAP!

Well now, it all started with good intentions. For months now I have planned on replacing my cast iron sewer line with a schedule 40 PVC line. I planned this because we were advised by Roto-Rooter that we had roots growing through the pipe as well as a "belly" or a dip in the pipe that was holding water. So, as standard procedure, I asked my dad (pictured below in the flouro green), a retired pipe fitter, to drive 543 miles south and help me save a few thousand dollars. And as always, he complained about it but did what a loving father would do and he made the trip. He also brought along a few supplies.
Prior to my dad's arrival, I got the appropriate permits and scheduled a back-hoe operator to dig up the line. As with many of our projects on this 60 year old house, it only took about 15 minutes to hit our first snag. You can see in the picture above that the back-hoe operator uncovered a septic tank that we didn't even know we had. This is right about the time my dad said that he is never coming south again to help me.
So, now I have a septic tank that has apparently been in operation since 1951. I thought I was on the city sewer system but now I know why my grass in the front yard is always green. Time to call Stanley Environmental - to pump out the septic tank so I can then cave it in and cover it up. The nice men pictured above spent some quality time pumping over 1500 gallons of raw sewage from the tank.
The photo above shows them hitting the "solids" section of the tank. They've got a long way to go at this point. When I took this picture I thought the tank was only about 4 feet by 8 feet long. You can see below that I was WAY off. This tank was 12 to 15 feet long and basically full of crap. Oh, and it's only about 6 feet deep. Good thing I didn't fall in... I would have drowned.
So here is the empty tank. Our trusty back-hoe operator came back later and caved the side walls in and filled it with dirt and the broken pieces of my walkway. So what we've learned since is that the bathroom that Brandi and I use was on the septic system and the rest of the house was on the main sewer line to the city sewer system. My dad and I also discovered some shotty workmanship under the house - an uncapped broken line and leaky joints in the main line. In order to get everything on the main line, dad and I spent about 5 hours under the house running a new PVC line from the bathroom to the main line and replacing the connections that were leaky. That was four days ago and my dad claims he is still sore! Suck it up dad!
At the end of the day everything worked out. We left everything better than we found it and the inspection from the County passed. Who knows what surprises await us on our next project.


Going West

Our pleasure travel has finally come to an end. Now we start our journey home which will likely be full of dis-pleasure.

Travis' itinerary is as follows:
1. Budapest to Zurich (Swiss Air)
1a. A likely missed connection to London Heathrow due to the short connection time
2. Zurich to London (Swiss Air)
3. Piccadilly Line (tube) from Heathrow to Victoria station
4. Gatwick Express from Victoria to Gatwick Airport
5. Taxi to the Best Western Gatwick Hotel
6. Hotel shuttle to Gatwick Airport
7. Gatwick to Charlotte (USAirways)
8. Wait for Brandi's flight from Munich (1. 5 hours waiting)
9. Parking Shuttle to Lot Long Term 2
10. Car Ride Home

Brandi's Itinerary is as follows:
1. Budapest to Munich (Lufthansa)
2. Hotel shuttle to Marriott Hotel
3. Hotel Shuttle to Munich Airport
4. Munich to Charlotte (Lufthansa)
5. Parking Shuttle to Lot Long Term 2
6. Car Ride Home

Travis' journey seems a lot worse right?


I started the day alone as Brandi continued to sleep off her sickness. I started out on the Castle Hill near our hotel walking on streets that weren't all paved the same.

I walked for close to 2 hours around the castle, down the hill and across the Danube. The photo above is taken from the Chain Bridge looking up the Danube at the Parliment Building.

I eventually made it back to the hotel just as Brandi was waking up and readying herself for a day of site-seeing. On our walk to the other side of the Danube, I snapped this photo above of Parliment through the trees as we were descending Castle Hill.

As we were walking through the streets of Budapest we came across a bunch of street performers. This guy was playing water glasses; each glass filled with a different amount of water to give it a unique tone. He was good - therefore I threw some Forints his way.

And since our walk walk was long and Brandi was sick, we decided to take the tram back up the Castle hill.
Another day of site-seeing is planned today!


Vienna and Schonbrunn

So here we are in Vienna (Wien as the locals call it). And actually I'm posting this from Budapest 'cause I had to pay for the internet connection in our Marriott Hotel in Vienna. Our first day in Vienna was a wash out - not from rain, but from Brandi's cold. We essentially left the hotel for lunch and went right back to bed - although I did read a good portion of my book (The Angel of Grozny).
On our second day we did the whirlwind tour; Schonbrunn Estate during the earlier part of the day, and the Old City the rest of the day. Our pedometer read 21,000 steps after the day ended. Vienna proved to be a very accessable and friendly city with lots to see. We timed it right because the weather was outstanding - high seventies, low eighties.
Oh, one thing I nearly forgot to mention. Schonbrunn Palace is a great place to go jogging. This morning, prior to catching the train to Budapest, I went for a jog around the estate. It was perfect - the gardens open before the palace, so I was able to jog free of any tourists. I appears that most of the locals go to run here as well. There were hundreds of joggers on the grounds while I was there. After 45 minutues of jogging, including two hill climbs, I was spent. Shower, Underground, Train, Budapest. I'm now searching for a good run here!.

This is our Underground Stop. The public transportation in Vienna was outstanding! Clean, safe, efficient. And the iPhone app with the subway network was worth the dollar that I spent on it.


Prague Clock

Apparently this astrological clock has been working for four hundred years - not bad. Every hour this thing does a little song and dance and hundreds of people stand in front of the clock looking up like idiots. I was one of them.

Prague is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities, but I haven't been overwhelmed like I thought I would. I guess my own hype got in the way. Regardless, we're on our way to Vienna tomorrow via the 12:30 train. Oh, and Brandi is starting to get sick - I might be doing a lot of site-seeing on my own in Vienna - which sucks 'cause I've already been to Vienna. (Tennis event - 1997)



A view of the castle. I also enjoyed a nice 40 minute run along the
river. Half of the run was in the pouring rain. Off to Prague we go!


Lots of people (stumbling) and lots of good food. A site to see!