Italian Vacation Diary: Prologue

After a successful Outer Banks trip in 2016, Natalie, Paul, Stephanie and I tossed around the idea of the four of us doing an Italy trip together. The next year both of us couples bought houses and Natalie and Paul were unable to attend the follow up OBX trip so our Italy plans had become unknown. After settling in our new homes we had a chance to talk and we were all in favor of keeping the Italian dream alive. The planning commenced.

We decided that the next spring would be the target time and spreading it over Memorial Day would give us an extra day of vacation to play with. Word soon spread that we were going to Italy so it was expected that we would have some envious outsiders. Paul, Natalie, and myself work at the same company so we had a lot of time to think up ideas at work. Our coworker Mike quickly got word that we were planning this Euro-trip and expressed how he and his wife talked about going to Italy for a honeymoonesque getaway. We accepted Mike and his wife Alaina (who coincidentally works with my mother) into our travel group and began planning the serious details.

One late summer evening the six of us gathered at Paul and Natalie’s house and had a whiteboarding sessions of what and where we wanted to see. I was very ambitious with all the cities and landmarks I wanted to visit since this may be my only visit to Italy. We soon devised a plan to start in the north and work our way south. This was going to take a lot of driving and a lot of time.

As the autumn leaves began to fall our anticipation rose. It was still too soon to act on anything as flights were not available. By the end of the year we had pretty much solidified our plan as follows: Fly to Venice, travel south to Rome, maybe hit Pompeii before making the trek to Sicily. Easy enough right?

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2017… we booked our long and expensive transcontinental flight. We were leaving from Pittsburgh, stopping by Atlanta, and landing in Venice the next morning. It was going to be more than 9 hours on a plane, which was about 5 hours more than my longest flight ever. While I was nervous about the flight the once in a lifetime trip excitement conquered all.

After the flights were booked we set our sites on accommodations. We were going to stay in AirBnBs throughout the country as sleeping six in a house was much more affordable than hotels. Mike and Alaina decided that they would parts ways shortly after Rome and spend some time alone before heading back to the states. This was just another cog in our elaborate machine with shuffling of rental cars, hotels, and AirBnBs.

Paul and Natalie are Italy veterans. Not in the sense that they served in the Italian armed forces, but that they’ve vacationed in Italy a few times. They even made the trip all the way to Italy to get married. Paul is the ultimate Italian tour guide as he fluently speaks Italian and has family members living in the country.

We met one last time in March to go over final details and talk about logistics. You could see the excitement building the more we talked. By this time we had all the rooms, cars, and flights booked and I was pretty far into my Italian language app. The only thing we had left to do was pack. Packing for a 15 day trip is very challenging the subject may come up again later.

I want to write down my experience as well as share it with the world as I feel this was a vacation that may not ever be beat. Lots of adventure and great memories to share. Stay tuned.

Read Chapter 1 >

 

First Home Owner Diaries Volume Four: Plumber’s Putty

It all started with a backed up bathtub…

Slow drain or slow brain?

Over the last six months since we’ve moved into our new home, our main bathtub drain has been getting slower and slower. This is not a new thing if you live with long-haired females. Recently, I was able to take a normal 10 minute shower and have the water rise past my ankles. This was the proverbial last straw.

Original Pipes

At our last house we had the same issue semi-annually and I invested in my very own drain snake. Previously, I would go through the tub drain or through the trap cleanout and snake it until I couldn’t snake it anymore. This would usually yield a large mass of hair-soap-scum nastiness that would leave the drain flowing like the Hoover Dam.

My previous successes gave me the confidence to charm my snake once again on this backed up drain. After a few attempts on what seemed too easy to be effective, I tested the drain. Immediately I noticed there was no change and threw down my champion snake in disgust. I retreated to the garage where I knew there was an access panel in the ceiling to the tub drain. As I was removing the access panel that the previous owner screwed AND glued, water began to drip. At this point I was fearing the worst… 

Old house | Old pipes

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Holy Pipe

To my surprise, under the access panel was an array of old corroded copper piping. Normally this would be fine as most mid-century homes in western PA have this infrastructure, but one of my pipes was missing a chunk. I concluded that my overzealous snaking caused this hole, but when I put my hands on the broken pipe, it almost caved under my grip. This was a ticking time bomb that was accelerated by my prodding. We have another shower in the house, but I decided this needed to be fixed, now. 

“I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.”

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No drips

I called my home warranty company (AHS) and they assigned me a plumber whom I didn’t hear from for a day or two. After talking to the plumber’s office and not wanting to pay the service fee, I decided I could do this myself… mostly. 

When it’s cold and rainy, there’s nothing better than plumbing

On a cold, rainy, and boring Saturday my dad and I set out to get this problem fixed. It looks like an easy job, just replace the existing pipes and we’re done! Not so fast… the old plumbing had a vintage drum-style trap, infamous for getting clogged, which also needed to be removed. Our first trip to my local home improvement center yielded a bunch of stuff that might do the job. After careful planning, cutting, dry-fitting, hypothesizing, trimming, and thoughtful staring, we had a configuration that would work.

Cutting out the old piping was easy. A cut here, loosen screws there, and it all came crashing down. We put in a new drain system in the tub accompanied by an overflow down to a new trap and piping. After gluing the first part together we did a water test. No drips, success! The last thing we had to do was vent the pipes through the roof.

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Plumbing complete

Venting the trap and drain to the existing roof vent would require another trip to my local home improvement store, and food. After dinner we assembled the remaining parts our masterpiece of amateur engineering. Another successful leak test and we were done.

Another job well done

The only part that remains is patching the ceiling in the garage where the access panel was. After a few weeks to make sure there are no leaks, I’ll patch this with some removable drywall. Hopefully I’ll never have to open that panel again as long as I live in this house (knock-on-wood).

Plumbing isn’t the easiest task to undertake, but it’s easy to understand. You have to get water from point A to point B, end of story. It’s more of a puzzle than a labor intensive job, you have to assemble the right pieces to get water to flow properly, and away from your house.

I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.

More of my DIY posts!