Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life on an island

I realize I haven't been here long, so I am by no means an authority on what living on Wheeling Island is like, but I have made some observations about life on an island.

First, the one that makes me think flooding is a real possibility: all the houses, pretty much without exception begin about eight feet above the ground.  That is the first eight feet is comprised of some sort of block construction surrounding what I am assuming is a "basement" area.  Then the first floor is atop that, generally with wood frame construction.  Almost every house I've seen, including the one that contains my apartment, has at least ten steps to get from yard to first floor entrance.  Seeing as I live quite close to the water, I hope this does not become an issue.  On a positive note, all the water damage I've found in my apartment is on the ceiling, not the floor, suggesting it comes from the upstairs unit, not the river.

Also, it is quite strange for me to feel so constrained geographically.  I have already pretty much explored all of the island I am comfortable with on foot.  To get to a post office, I have to cross over into Ohio or mainland West Virgina; the same is true to get to a library or a supermarket.  I am able to get to Ohio by bike, so it is my inclination to go that direction.  To get to the other part of Wheeling, I have not yet found a route that does not require time on the interstate, so driving is necessary to get there.  In Madison, even if it took awhile, I could--and did--get pretty much everywhere I wanted by hopping on my bike.  Here I foresee having to drive a lot more than I am used to. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Moving from Wisconsin to West Virginia

Well, to say that moving didn't go as smoothly as I might have hoped would be an understatement.  

It started out easily enough.  I got going late (not a huge surprise), and almost forgot my bike.  Fortunately I saw it as I was backing out of the driveway and put the bike rack on the back of my car.  Unfortunately, I had packed my trunk pretty much as full as it would go and it was a challenge getting it shut without the added obstacle of a bike rack.  Getting the trunk to re-latch once all the bike rack straps were in place involved my climbing on top of the car and jumping onto the trunk.  Repeatedly.

The drive out was actually fairly pleasant.  The weather was good, my new I-Pass allowed me to sail through all the Illinois tolls, my car was filled with the music from my recently acquired Period/Roomie Mix.  The only items I realized I forgot were my juice I had purchased for the drive, and my pesto, which was a gift from one of my former employers.  All in all, not bad.

It ended up taking me about 11 hours to get from Madison to Wheeling, so it was around 9PM here.  The dog and I made our way into the apartment only to find that the water was not yet on, and neither was the gas (I had been led to believe both would be turned on a week prior).  After a day of driving, this was more upsetting to me than it probably should have been, and when my building manager proved to be less than helpful the following morning, I was almost ready to just head back home.  

As it turns out, out here, they turn off all the utilities between tenants because apparently there is not much worry of pipes and lines freezing the way there is in Wisconsin.  So I went in to the water department, paid my deposit, and scheduled a time for someone to come turn it on for me.  Two days without water is apparently two days too many for me--I can't imagine having to go for longer than that.  Once I was able to take a shower, and use the toilet in my apartment, I found myself in much better spirits.  

The next morning, I learned that I have gas (rather than electric) heat.  Fifty-ish degrees outside is not too bad; 50ish degrees in the apartment upon waking feels freezing.  Coming from a place where a functional heating system is pretty much a necessity, I was quite put off by the gas company telling me they would contact me in 7-10 days to set up a time to get out here and turn the gas on.  I had another moment where I strongly considered heading back to Wisconsin.  I even pulled up the job listings for the state to see what I might be able to come back to.  Luckily for me, my mom was able to talk me into staying long enough to see if my classes make up for the difficulties I've been having with the apartment, also luckily for me, she suggested a space heater.  Once I was able to get the place heated to 65, I again found my good spirits.

It's kind of amazing what I have always taken for granted.  Running water, heat, consistent electricity--and really it isn't even that bad here, I was just uncomfortable for awhile.  I thought it was difficult taking care of an entire house, but apparently the house I was working with was in fairly good functional condition.  I have never before this felt so frustrated by having to work so hard to get what I have always considered background and basic comforts.