Downtown or bust

The last six months have been spent weighing the pros and cons of various living situations.

*Do we give up the best time zone in the US and proximity to family for the foodie, hippie, public transit rich, most-bike-friendly-city of Portland

*New York provides opportunities to expose our kids to so many experiences and diverse environments that will teach them tolerance and understanding. And Brooklyn appears to be a great fit for us. With the best transit system in the US, we could live car-free. But, what if the city is too much for us? What if it chews us up and spits us out like an alternate plot line of Kimmy Schmidt

*Then there is downtown Greenville. With the Swamp Rabbit TrailFalls Park and a picture-perfect Main Street, it’s the city that we fell in love with, moved 1,000 miles for, then settled for the suburbs. Could the life we want be right up I-385?

For the next year at least, option #3 is the winner. We found a great condo to rent (different one from last update) that is short walk from downtown and an even shorter walk to the kid’s school. The back yard is N. Main Park and it is within walking or biking distance to everything we like to do downtown. It is smaller than our current house which is going to give us a great opportunity to downsize and live with less. This is something that we both want, but is much easier to preach than to practice. I suppose this also means my non-kid friendly t-shirt signed by Jimmie’s Chicken Shack is going to have to meet an awful end, but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Leaving is always bittersweet and it seems particularly hard this time because we have grown so fond of our neighbors. As I type this, our kids are playing “chess” with our neighbor’s kids. This is after they all got married, had kids, defeated dragons and rescued queens. Our kids play and fight with them as if they were siblings and our weekends will be sadly much quieter.

Click here to read previous posts in the Southern Expat series.

Southern Expat update: PDX or maybe not an expat at all

I mentioned in my original post that I’d like to document this process and provide updates so here is a quick rundown of recent events.

We are leaning more towards Portland for several reasons. Spring has sprung and with it, pollen is in the air. This season is always really rough on our youngest son (more about that here) and wouldn’t ya know it, PDX ranks pretty consistently as one of the best cities for pollen sufferers. Additionally, over the last four or five months, I have followed many people on Twitter that are from Brooklyn and Portland. I need to write an entire blog post on this experiment of adapting a new hometown online, but the overall takeaway is that Portlanders are generally just happier (hypothesis here).

In other news, we found a place here that might just be perfect. The location is right downtown and is within walking distance of one of the better elementary schools in the district and is a beautiful 10 minute bike ride from my coworking location. This house is also a little cheaper than some of the places in PDX and BK that we are looking at. We wouldn’t be able to live car-free, but we could have a low-car lifestyle. We would have to buckle down to prepare and sell our house in the next 7 weeks. Financially and timeline wise it would be tight, but accomplishable in a vacuum of catastrophes.

Nashville run

One of my favorite ways to explore a city is by running through it. Either by finding a bike path, or weaving through downtown sidewalks, running is a great way to see a new city as well as break up a long day of driving. It also justifies that afternoon stop at Dairy Queen but let’s be honest, justification for DQ isn’t that hard to find.

One of my favorite skyscrapers. It is really called the AT&T Building, but around my house we call it the Batman Building.

Cool graffiti along the Music City Bikeway.

It’s great to see dedicated greenspace in downtown and the Biceentennial Capitol Mall is an outdoor historical museum with landscape views of the Tenneesee State Capitol and downtown Nashville.

Looking east on downtown from John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland River.

Tales of a future Southern Expat

I was biking my first-grade son to school the other day, something we do quite often when the weather is nice. He is too big to ride in my bike seat anymore, so we take a combination of sidewalks, side streets and rumble-strip protected shoulders to get there. At a red light, we crossed into the left turning lane when a middle-aged white guy driving an SUV yelled “what are you doing?” at us. I turned to look and while I didn’t catch his every word, the message was clear. He wanted to know why we were biking, presumably ignoring our own impending peril.

As I waited at the red light, I considered if I had enough time to retort that I was teaching my son valuable life lessons about car independence that would serve him greatly in the years to come because people don’t realize the damage caused by a driving culture. I figured that even if I did have the time, it wouldn’t have landed on fertile soil, so instead I logged it with all the other negative driver interactions I have had while biking, walking or running in The South.

We have lived in South Carolina for two and a half years. It is by far the most beautiful place I have ever lived. Many of the trees are evergreen making for a cheery winter, the mountains are a gorgeous backdrop and the wind rarely blows. Every day I look up and marvel at the wonderful cherry-on-top that South Carolina is to these United States.

While they say beauty is only skin deep, in South Carolina’s case, beauty is only tree deep. Racist, misogynic and classist behavior is hand-waved away. Preachers spew political rhetoric from the pulpit, eliciting cheers and jeers from the pews. Confederate flags wave high in the face of a population that is 27% African American.

When we first saw Greenville, over Thanksgiving of 2012, we thought we had found our home. We saw a booming downtown, vibrant with art and bike trails and an appreciation for life. What we didn’t know is that doesn’t permeate outside of city center and the rest of Greenville is car-dependent with more parking lots than sidewalks and drive-thrus as far as the eye can see.

So now what? Do we pack up and move all over again? We just did that. It’s a lot of work. Or do we try to find a spot downtown? When we decided to leave Kansas City, Portland was high on the list because of it’s bike and transit infrastructure. NYC is another place that while it does have a high price tag, it also has so much to offer. Since my wife and I both have jobs with portability, we can have these conversations and we feel so lucky that we can even consider moving where ever we want.

Leaving would be tough. We have great friends, our kids have great friends and we really have grown to love our school. The first 18 months were really lonely here and I’m not sure if we want to go through that again.

So, I really have no idea where we will end up, but hope to be writing about the process. I’ve created a new category so all the posts will end up here.

Leaderboard v2.4.1

A new version of Leaderboard – the better Fitbit friends list was released today. It is mostly bug fixes, but there are two neat little features snuck in there. The first is smarting syncing between devices when adding new friends and the second is, as seen below, the option to add a little Leaderboard badge to your friends that are also using Leaderboard because we got a great little community of users here! 

This feature is turned off by default; to activate click Settings, then toggle “Show other Leaderboarders” to see the badge.

Here are the release notes:

Did you know you can add friends? Click on somebody in your challenge that you are not friends with and see the option to add them as a friend. It’s always been there, but now it is just a little smarter. It also syncs between your devices so if you add a friend on one device, you’ll see the pending status on your other device.

There is a new option to add a cute little Leaderboard badge to your friends if they are also awesome people and use this app.

Lots of bug fixes, especially a really annoying one that happened if you clicked around too quickly after loading the app for the first time.

The update can be downloaded here –

I am now charging for this app. I was trying to see if giving it away for free and letting ads support development and server costs. The revenue was much less from ads and I’d really like to work on this app for a long time. So back to $1.99 it goes. Please support small developers. We don’t want to live in a world where all our apps are developed by Facebook and Google. 

8 year wedding anniversary

March 8, 2008 we woke in a beautiful beach house. This house was incredible. It had an elevator, ping-pong table, pool and was located in the much fancier-than-us city of Isle of Palm, SC. The house was big enough to hold 30+ of our closest friends and family and they had all congregated for our wedding on the beach that afternoon. High winds forced a hasty relocation of our ceremony as mouthfuls of sand make for less than romantic memories. Luckily for us, we had our reception planned at Post House Inn which additionally had an outdoor courtyard with plenty of wind protection. Everybody pitched in and the ceremony went off without a hitch. It was the best day of my life and kickstarted a life adventure that leaves us occasionally gasping for air but always wanting more.