Unclaimed Baggage (and Huntsville)

Last weekend we headed across the big water, into the wild west, the tremendous neighboring state of Alabama.  When I say “the big water,” I’m referring to the Chattahoochee which stands between us, and it’s kind of wide.  There are some bad things about Alabama–such as 8% sales tax and central time, which always confuses Jenia much more than it should, but in general, it’s very much like Georgia.  Northeastern Alabama is hilly and quite pretty.  Nearing the end of our 5 hour journey from Cuthbert to Scottsboro, home of our destination, Unclaimed Baggage, we stopped at a little park overlooking the Tennessee River and snapped a few photos.

The sprawling Tennessee River.

Jenia gazes out at the Tennessee River valley.

From there, it didn’t take too long to cross the marshes and find Scottsboro.  It was about 1 o’clock when we arrived, and the parking lot was crammed full of automobiles from all over.  There were license plates from several different states.  The place is really a shopping destination.  We spent about four hours inside, and didn’t take any pictures while in there, although some of the oddities hung on the walls were probably photo worthy (there was a huge model airplane, Danish wooden shoes, a stuffed goose, some Russian instrument, and other things of that ilk; they even have a Hoggle puppet from the movie The Labyrinthon display in the lobby).  For the most part, though, it’s kind of like a large upscale second-hand store, and that, truly, isn’t particularly memorable.

UB had a sale on Amazon Kindles, so we picked up one ($69 for a 3G in like-new condition with a case–not bad), and gathered a few other things.  The prevailing wisdom is, by the way, to grab anything you’re even thinking about purchasing and carrying it around until you’re certain.  That item probably won’t be there when you come back for it. Despite knowing this, Jenia didn’t grab a bottle of DKNY perfume she later decided she wanted.  When we went back for it, it was already gone.

Is UB worth a trip to Scottsboro?  Well, maybe.  If you’re looking for good buys on electronics, then you might find something, like we did.  But then again, you might not.  We are in the market for a used Apple laptop, and what they had wasn’t priced exceptionally well at all.  In fact, they were kind of high.  Their iPads were only fair, in terms of pricing.  There were some good prices on used Windows laptops.  If you’re in the market for a used smart phone, you might find a good deal.  They had an array of iPhone 4s (not 4S, mind you) on sale for $300-350, which seems very reasonable.  They’re not unlocked, however, which kept us from buying one.  Used baggage itself ran the gamut from downright expensive (even if the bags themselves bore names like London Fog) to reasonable.  I picked up semi-hard duffle with wheels for $26.

One downside to UB is that it closes kind of early.  We left in search of food around 5 o’clock.  We found a cool Indian place called the Bombay Grill next to McDonald’s.  It’s only been open since Father’s Day. The restaurant wasn’t busy at all, and as a result, the Indian couple who run the place lavished attention upon us.  They were thrilled when they found out that we know a little about Indian food.  We were given free stuff–which is always fun, and makes the dining experience that much better.

I bought the spicy/salty Kashmira drink, and the owner gave us a Marinda for free.

A little after 6, we swung back by UB to snap some photos–and the place was closed up as tight as a drum.  The parking lot was deserted.  Everything else in the vicinity, including a generously sized Goodwill, closed at 6, too.

Closed at 6pm, the parking lot was empty when we drove back through town.

Not a car left in the parking lot, and not much after 6 o’clock. Count on getting your shopping done relatively early if you’re going here.

Since Huntsville is close to Scottsboro, we hopped on the 4-lane and headed that way.  We spied a rangy coyote along the way.  A bit of Pricelining found us a hotel room for $60 right next to the US Space and Rocket Center.  On Saturday, we spent several hours there.  Who knew the history of rocketry would be interesting?  Besides the museum indoors and rocket park outside, there’s a Saturn 5 moon-landing rocket on display in its own dedicated building.  We learned a bunch.  One of the volunteers in the Saturn 5 building is a retiree who used to work with Werner von Braun, the scientist who was behind the German V2 rockets and eventually the moon rocket.  A fellow visitor asked him about the Saturn 5 engine testing that took place in a quarry nearby.  “Windows broke in downtown Huntsville,” he said.  “There were lawsuits.” Asked if they could hear the engines being fired in Birmingham, 2 hours away, he nodded and said, “They knew.”

Some of the rockets in Rocket Park, and a mock moon lander, complete with crater.

I know that the Space and Rocket Center doesn’t have much to do with going to the UAE, but after we left there, we made a stop by the Apple store in Huntsville, and I bought a new iPhone 4S.  It’s unlocked, so it should work easily in the UAE.  One more thing to do checked off the list.

Thursday Post: The Progress List (and a photo!)

When I look around, with all three dogs still in the yard, both cars and the bike’s insurance bills on the table, pictures still on the walls, and clothes still in the closets, it is hard to believe we’ve made any progress. But we have. Here’s proof.

Necessary things purchased:
1. New router to take with us to set up VPN. Anyone wants our 1-year-old wireless Belkin, by the way?

2. A Kindle Wi-Fi and 3G (for a total of $69 with the case! Looks new, feels new. Yay for Unclaimed Baggage Store Shon will write about one day). I was tempted to buy two, but in all truth, one is enough. Now you can give us Amazon giftcards for holidays!

3. An iPhone for Shon – the first smartphone in the house. And yes, a phone with GPS really is a necessity in the UAE, due to their peculiar address system. Mine will have to wait until September, I think.

4. A suitcase for Shon. Once again, thanks, Unclaimed Baggage!

5. A new lens. Ok, a nicer one than truly necessary, but between my amazing win, accumulated rewards points from Regions, and the unused vacation time $$, it only cost me $40.

Things accomplished:

6. All of my clothes have gone through preliminary sorting.

7. No-foreign-transaction-fee cards are in our wallets.

8. All holiday-related decorations packed and moved to Bowman.

9. Most of the books packed and moved to Bowman.

10. 4 (!) small tables moved to Bowman. Mind you, all of these “packed and moved” things were moved in the Jaguar in one sitting. Yes, I am that good at packing!

11. I have successfully left the College and am now working from home only. Shon’s last actual working day is tomorrow, but he will have to miss it, because

My Hogwarts Letter

12. I passed my naturalization interview on Tuesday, and will leave for Atlanta before 5am tomorrow to be sworn in as an American citizen.

I say, we’ve done pretty well, all things considered.

And here’s a bonus shortened list of things we still need to purchase/do:
1. Subscribe to VPN
2. Buy a second laptop (I have to have one here to work on, and Shon will need one there)
3. Buy a phone for me
4. Sell both cars
5. Finish moving
6. Drive to Maine for the family reunion
7. Buy a suitcase for me
8. Get a US passport.

FAQ About Flying and Stuff

Lots of folks ask what we’re doing with our stuff. When flying, it’s impractical to take much with us, so we’re giving some things away, yard saling other stuff, and storing other things.

As for flying, what can we take with us? After all, that little Nike backpack won’t hold that much.

No irony because of the Union Jack is intended.

Well, that’s easily quantified. We can take two pieces of checked luggage on Etihad, and they can weigh no more than 50 lbs each. Dimensionally, those pieces of luggage can measure no more than a total of 138cm. Here’s the link to their website: Etihad Luggage Policies. And if we go over those limitations? Well, we pay a fee, and it can be quite costly.

So what will you carry in two bags? Well, remember, we can have two carry-ons, so that expands the possibilities a bit. The only things I really want to take with me are clothes anyway. Besides that, we’ll be carrying electronics, since they’re cheaper to purchase here. That’s pretty much it.

Speaking of those bags, we’re making a trip to the famous Unclaimed Baggage store in northern Alabama on Friday to see if we can acquire some good luggage at a good price. Maybe we’ll luck into some other stuff, too. Seems like a future post, doesn’t it?