A Year in the Bay

Exactly one year ago, I set foot into my new 90 SF apartment that I rented for a month off of AirBnB after an incredible road trip from Texas.  My address was 524 8th Street in the neighborhood known as Old Oakland, which was only a 6 block walk to my new office. I paid $1200 for my first month there, which was fine because I didn’t have to pay for a deposit or sign a lease.  My apartment wasn’t much to look at, but it fit all of my things and I had a place to shower, sleep, and plug in my crockpot. I started living there without a fridge, forcing myself to live off of takeout, crockpot meals, or whatever dry foods I could store in my small pantry.  Downtown Oakland doesn’t have a lot of options for fresh produce, so most of my meals were sandwiches and a combination of Clif Bars and various other dry foods. Due to the high cost of parking, the State of California reimburses employees for parking expenses in urban settings.  That allowed me to keep my Subaru Forester (Raj) in the parking garage of my office, which was just a short walk away. I had big plans that I needed to execute within that first month of living in a new state, starting a new job, and not to mention a few trips back to Texas.

Within those plans, I wanted to buy and liveaboard a sailboat.  It’s been my dream for a while to live in small spaces and I thought what better way to do it than to live on the water as well.  I had researched a few marinas before my relocation and found that Alameda had reasonable slip fees and seemed like a nice area. I searched night and day to find the perfect boat, and after a few viewings, I thought I had I found the right one, which was a Cal 39.  It needed work, but it looked like something I could live in. I called and emailed a few marinas and thought I had found a liveboard slip (only 10% of marina slips can be designated as liveaboards and most are filled up). I only had a few days left of the month I gave myself at the AirBnb so I was being extra aggressive.  I had scheduled to go to see the boat Wednesday evening, in the dark, on a sketchy dock in Richmond. I was fully prepared to buy it that evening, but the owner gave me a call before I left and told me he couldn’t find the title. I postponed the viewing and got unfortunate news the next day when I found out my liveaboard spot didn’t exist at the marina and I was given incorrect information.  

I felt pretty defeated at this point, but within a few hours I had developed a new game plan.  I reached out to my AirBnB host and asked if I could sign a lease and extend my stay. Luckily, they were able to transition the room into a month-to-month lease for $925 a month which would allow me some flexibility on next steps.  In the meantime, I had revised my boat search for something smaller that was turn-key. I settled on a 1974 27’ Ericson named “Balaton” that had a rebuilt motor and good electronics. I bought the boat a few days later and sailed her halfway home (see previous blog post).  A few weeks later, I sailed Balaton about 12 miles across San Francisco Bay to her new home in Alameda.

A week later, I ran my second marathon in Santa Rosa, CA.  My friend Carrie Kulp had decided a few months before that she wanted to try and qualify for Boston and I obliged to train with her during my last few months in Texas and host her in my new home.  Carrie didn’t qualify for Boston that weekend, but it was weekend of ‘wow’ as I showed her the coast of California and my new sailboat. I PR’d the marathon at 3:29:02.

The following few months were jammed pack as well.  I sold my car on September 6, 2017, which crossed another thing off the bucket list.  I now relied on getting around only by public transportation, biking, airplanes, or the occasional Lyft.  I went back to Texas twice in October, and managed to squeeze in a trip to Portland, Oregon, to drink wine with my friend Cailin and see what the city had to offer in regards to bike infrastructure.  Cailin introduced me to her mom and stepdad and they took me in to their home and we drank a boatload of wine near the small town of Carlton. On Sunday, I rode 42 miles throughout Portland, snapping pictures of bike infrastructure along the way and I even biked across the Columbia River to Washington State.  

October was also a very busy time for work.  I was pulling consistent late evening hours to get my first complete streets project done.  I was conceptually designing 7 miles of a corridor for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and recommendations ranged from better bikeways, separated bike paths, and intersection geometry modifications to better accommodate multimodal transportation uses.  I was truly living for the weekend during that month.

Things started to calm down in November 2017.  My parents came out to visit me for my birthday and I showed them the beautiful California coast and sailed across the San Francisco Bay to Pier 39 (Fisherman’s Wharf).  We could hear the seals barking and one even popped up in the Bay as we were underway. They were true troopers as we spent the night on my boat too. Towards the end of November, I started training for my third marathon.  I didn’t fly home for Thanksgiving, which led to a pretty depressing Thanksgiving day. I ran the SF Turkey Trot and then meandered throughout the City by myself.

Around December, I was getting tired of not having a functional kitchen to cook food and started to look for other places to live.  Through an ultimate pick-up group on Facebook, I met a guy who was looking to sublet his place in Oakland for about six-months. Seeing as it was fully furnished and I didn’t own any furniture (nor do I plan to in the near future), I jumped at the opportunity for $1400 a month.  We ended up having a mutual friend, Marty Martinez, whom he had met at his time at Vanderbilt and whom I had gone to high school with. The place instantly increased my happiness, since I was now able to cook full meals for myself again.

I moved into that new spot after I flew back from going home for Christmas.  I used a carshare company called Gig which has a few Prius’s throughout the East Bay that you can return anywhere just by parking it in a safe location.  My car required three carloads to move all of it and I did it all by myself.

January 2018 held more adventures.  I started the year off by biking 18 miles down to Lake Chabot and ran a half marathon on New Year’s Day.  A few weeks later, I embarked on a 600 mile, 6-day bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego. My company’s yearly regional kickoff meeting was in San Diego and I just happened to stumble across a 3-day organized ride called the Coast Ride that would get me to Santa Barbara with full support.  My coworker Brendan joined for the ride and we spent the following three days riding down the coast together, fully geared up with backpacks on. The third weekend in January is becoming a tradition for #BikesOut where Angga and I explore new cities via bikes together. This year happened to fall on the weekend after riding to San Diego, so we spent the next two days exploring what it had to offer.  We found good beer, food, and friends. I ended up getting the flu after almost 8 days of straight biking.

February continued the adventurous trend as Matt Lissak and I had our first #TheLostBoys weekend, which is essentially us just exploring new parts of California together.  We made our way to Shelter Cove, California, for some trail running and surfing. Humboldt County actually has the second highest shark attacks within the state, but we managed to come out freezing with all of our appendages.  We ran 11 miles of trail before surfing and I was absolutely wiped once Saturday night came around. March also included my first visit to Lake Tahoe, a few sailing days, and two trail races in Marin County as part of marathon training.  

Since November, I had been training for the Rome Marathon.  In April, Matt Ondek and travelled to Italy and I completed my third marathon and he completed his first.  I was pretty jealous of the fact of having that as his first one, but I quickly got over it. I didn’t PR the race as I had hoped, but it was incredible to run through a foreign city and was super proud of Matt for sticking through a crazy training schedule.  After seeing the sites of Rome and quick day trip through Tuscany, we traveled to Naples and saw Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Rome is very much a tourist place, but Naples was a little dirtier and off the grid, which was alright by me. We communicated with our AirBnb host via Google translate which allowed us to speak our native language and translate it to the foreign one.  Afterwards, we took the ferry to Sorrento and bused to Positano. Our home for the following days overlooked the main beach and all of the beautiful hillside homes. We took a day trip to the island of Capri and had a boat tour around the island with a stop at the Blue Grotto along the way. Once back on land, we toured the island and drank a boatload of wine. We ferried back to Sorrento and bused back to Positano that night, but honestly I’m still not totally sure how we made it back that night.  It was a miracle that we had all our belongings the next day. We decided to relax a bit at this point in the trip, and we sat on the beach and were served tequila sunrises. We threw the frisbee together and then made it to Chez Black, one of the town’s oldest restaurants. We finally found some oysters and the rest of the food was to die for. The bill reflected that but it was totally worth it. Through some Googling, we found a bar that inside a cave and we were determined to make it there that night.  After some strategically timed Redbulls, we made our way down to the club to only find it was closed for the night. The following day, we traveled back to Rome and tried to work off our vacation with one final run through the city.

The weekend after I got home from Rome, I traveled to Dallas for my frisbee team’s annual crawfish boil.  It was great to see old friends and continue the tradition. At the end of April, the Lissaks were nice enough to invite me to their family vacation in Big Sur.  Matt’s sister, Carly, was running the marathon and they were base camped in Carmel by the Sea. We spent the weekend sightseeing and freaking out about how cute the small town is.  

I’d like to say that things started to calm day after that, but in May I found myself frantically trying to find time to study for my two additional California specific tests to become a licensed Professional Engineer.  One weekend, I blew off studying and managed to visit Yosemite National Park for the first time, attend David Giacomin’s wedding in Sacramento, and move completely onto my boat all over the course of 2 days. As I mentioned earlier, I was subletting my second residence in Oakland, and my frisbee friend was coming back from his East Coast stint on May 15.  I was working on a new living situation with roommates but they didn’t want to start a new lease until June 1. I ended up reaching out to my marina and was able to get a “transient” month pass to get me through the gap in lease. Life on the boat was simple. I resorted back to living how I did at my first place in Oakland. I didn’t a have refrigerator, microwave, or really any appliances.  I ate sandwiches and kept leftovers on ice for a few days. The only running water I had was a water faucet outside my boat. The only modern comfort my boat really has is electricity. My commute to work was a 15-minute bike ride through the tunnel that connects Alameda and Oakland. It’s a terrible commute, as the bike path through the tunnel is only about 3.5’ wide and the exhaust fumes from the cars fill up the tunnel during rush hour.  There were multiple times where I felt like my life expectancy was steadily decreasing. I took the first of my two additional tests, surveying, and didn’t end up passing it. I’m scheduled to retake it in the fall, so fingers crossed for round 2.

I finally did feel that things started to calm down in June, which was fortunate as I was studying for the second test, seismic.  I moved to San Francisco on June 10 to join my new roommates who were moving over from Texas. We live in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath apartment in Haight-Ashbury and pay $4,000 per month.  My room is more like a closet and I found that I could fit a twin-sized bed in the actual closet to leave the main space available to bikes, skateboards, and even a couch. I skipped my first running race, which was supposed to be a 50K on Saturday, June 23, but I downgraded to a half marathon since I couldn’t find the time to train with all of the studying.  On race day, I ended up sleeping in and studying instead, which was probably appropriate since my test was on Monday. At the end of June, I traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to celebrate my friends Caitlin and Alex’s wedding and caught up with some old friends.

And now we’ve made it to July 10, my one year anniversary in the Bay Area.  I’ve accomplished quite a few things that I’ve always wanted to do within that time frame, but there are still things left undone.  

Spiritually, I started to attend a non-denominational church in Oakland and even got brave enough to host a ‘life group’ on my boat which is where we discussed the message from the past Sunday.  However, studying and life got in the way and my attendance has fallen off lately.

Emotionally, I’ve been single for quite some time now and I’m okay with that most days.  I’ve been pretty focused on myself so far out here in California, but I do feel like that is changing lately.

Friend-wise, I’ve made most of my friends through a running group called East Bay Beer Runners. They meet up at a bar every week, go for a 3 or 5 mile run, then grab a few drinks together afterwards. Matt Lissak and I hang out the most and it’s been a blessing having him out here as well. My good friends in Texas still provide a ton of support with my California adventures. Shoutout to Angga, Reid, and Tim.

Advice for myself going forward and anyone who’s made it this far is to be yourself, but to also be true to who you determine that to be.  Tell the truth and speak truth to bullshit. Don’t be afraid to hold back. Chase your dreams, whatever they may be, and remember that you should catch them at some point.

My life is designed to meet some other goals of mine. Living in a tiny closet helps me save on rent and owning fewer things allows me to move around the Bay Area without issues.  If you counted, I’ve lived in four different places already and I don’t mind moving since I don’t have to move that much stuff. Not owning a car limits my weekend options, but there’s so much to do in the area that I don’t worry about that. Be adaptable, find ways to be happy in your current environment. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not doing it now, you won’t do it if you move to a new place. Live the life you want, regardless of where you live.

And last but not least, I’m sure you’re wondering what’s next on the adventure list, and all I can say at the moment is that there are great things planned.  Be sure to stay tuned. #MoveBetter #CarFree #LiveFree #OUI

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