Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter 6 - Let's Get Down to Business

The Tires Won’t Jump Into the Dumpster on their Own.

When Chip came up the first time in June, he talked to a scrap metal company that also happened to take tires for free. That was an excellent deal because we had a lot of tires and propane tanks to get rid of.

When we came back in August, now they told us that it would cost $2.00 per tire. Still a deal at $2.00, we had them drop a few dumpsters off for us to start filling. It took them several days to finally get the dumpsters there, and it was a constant struggle always with some excuse: the driver lost our address, the driver dropped the dumpster somewhere else (??). This really should have been our first clue to run away from this company. Mistake #1.

They took two dumpsters of tires away and two dumpsters of scrap metal in early September. We still had two scrap metal dumpsters that were ready to be picked up. Scrap metal = a credit, tires = a debit. We got a bill before the last two scrap metal dumpsters were credited. This bill over-charged us for twice as many tires as they took away and charged us a higher price per tire than what they quoted. We knew we still had credit for two more scrap metal dumpsters coming, so we were waiting for a final tally. Mistake #2.

We chugged along, completing the other trash removal, painting, and roof installation, finishing up in late October. Chip, Dennis, and Kyle (Dennis’s son) came home to FL a few weeks after seeing the first snowfall of the season.

The tire saga continues in the next post.

Chapter 5 - When the Going Gets Tough and the Tough Can't Go

It All Comes Back to #2.

Power? Check.

Water? Check.

Operational Septic System? Not so much.

We’re a hardy group. We can tough out limited power and water supply, but when the septic system started to act up (which we knew it eventually would), that was the last straw. After working hard all day, you need some basic comforts. You know what I mean.

That’s when we decided that it would be better to just rent a house until the big cabin was ready to live in. We called the realtor we bought the property from and told him we needed a house to rent…now. No, really, now. Not next week, tomorrow at the very latest. I don’t think you understand. Can we drop by your office and use your bathroom? That was probably what did it...well, that and relentless phone calls.

We stayed the night at a motel down the road and moved into the rental the next day. It had two lovely, beautiful, perfectly functional bathrooms. I think we all cried a little bit. During this tense time, we discovered that when you can't go, all conversations eventually end up circling back to nature's call. As we are now fond of saying "It all comes back to poop." We can laugh about it now, but at that time, laughing was not recommended.

For the record, nothing has gone according to plan so far.

Chapter 4 - It's Officially Official

Now what?

Now that we closed and it’s officially ours, we’re ready for Trip Three. We’re going to work on it until we’ve exhausted ourselves and our funds. We’ve got a project plan. Plan the work, work the plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail and all that motivational jazz. Rah! Rah! Go Team!

Our convoy trucked up to New York, armed with power tools and a gung-ho attitude. We got to the property and the first items on the agenda are to get power and water. Easy right? We could see that the well pump is cracked from freezing, we’ll just replace that. And we’ll just call the power company and get them to come out and turn the power on. Flip a switch, turn on the juice. But no. Because the power had been off for more than a year, we needed a safety inspection first.

With a 4 year old phone book and no internet connection, finding an inspector proved to be more challenging than we thought. About a week into the project (well off the timeline, I might add), finally we got an appointment with an inspector that actually showed up. He told us we needed about $1000 worth of work before he’d approve us. So, we gave him his $80 inspection fee and sent him on his merry way.

Then along came Don, our neighbor from a few houses down. He offered us a well pump and tank for a heck of a deal and he hooked us up with an electrical inspector that was a few towns away. Although it turned out that we needed to have a new well point driven, the pump and tank worked like a charm. But the electrical inspector, Tony Morette, turned out to be the true gem. He showed up on time and told us to correct a few minor things and gave us an approval quickly. The power company showed up at 9pm that night to hook us up. Finally!

We had the new well point driven a few days later, at twice the cost that was quoted. Gotta love it. At this point, we can only go with the flow and take everything as it comes.

Plan? What plan?

Chapter 3 - Initial Clean Up/Bail Out

Please don't let the "stuff" crush us.

At one point the accumulation of “stuff” on the property got to be so great it started to encroach on the edge of the road. The town cited the previous owner frequently, and after he left, they cited the bank that took it over. Before the bank put it on the market, they removed at least 30 cars from the property. Even so, the town wanted the inside of the property cleaned out, as well.

Because we saw so much value in the contents, we offered to clean it up before we closed on the property under the condition that we could keep anything we removed. Everyone was in agreement, so in June 2009, Chip and his helper drove up to NY and started sifting through it all, separating the good from the bad. It was a two week process just to get it to the point where you could walk from room to room without fear of an avalanche.

After they returned, saving excellent treasures from certain death, we closed on the property in early August and clean-up began in earnest on Trip Two.

Chapter 2 - Definitely Crazy.

The Scouting Trip (alternate title--Cramped and Cranky)

Must hurry, must hurry, must HURRY! DH was afraid to let this opportunity slip through our fingers, although we have 60 of them. Fingers, that is.

Because the price was good and the location was good, we needed to get up there now, or risk losing out. So, we decide that driving up was the only reasonably economical option. It’s a 24 hour drive if you don’t stop to pee or eat. We chose to do both, therefore the trip was extended to about 30 hours.

The “we” that went was me, my DH (dearest husband), my DM (dearest mother) and my DBG (dearest brother’s girlfriend). My DM lives about 2 hours north of us, so we picked her up on our way.

And there we were, piled into the trusty Element at 9pm on a Friday night, all gung ho to get there. Little did we know just how much harder that drive would be starting it after a full day of work. We were just starting out at about the time that we should have been going to bed. It would also become painfully clear that the backseat of the Element is hard as a rock. Being the owner, I don’t spend a lot of time back there, but I did on this trip and it wasn’t pleasant. Let this be my plea to Honda to do something about it.

After a few stops at Cracker Barrel and KFC to soothe the backseat beast, we arrived in Lake George at around 10:30pm on Saturday night, looking for something to eat. A pizzeria was still lit up on the main drag and it was delicious. Don’t remember the name, I was too tired.

We had reservations at some cottages in Schroon Lake to get us through the night, the rooms were fine. It was a place to sleep, which we needed desperately. A good night’s sleep did us a world of good and we woke up on Sunday morning refreshed. Got some breakfast and headed to the property just a few short miles away.

The property was unmistakable. We had pictures, and unfortunately, the pictures didn’t lie. We went into the first cabin, the biggest one, and it wasn’t so bad. There was garbage in there, and it was clear that it had been raided for scrap metal, but not really bad. It went downhill from there. In some cabins, the “stuff” was stacked over our heads. I can’t say it was garbage, it was just lots and lots of stuff. Chairs, tables, Chinese checkers…

And there were tires and propane tanks by the hundreds. I think they multiplied like rabbits. At any rate, we still saw potential in the property and there was some interesting, saleable items among the piles. We didn’t really need to deliberate much, so we picked up the phone and made an offer. And we waited for the realtor to call back, setting a deadline of about 6pm, because we needed to start the long drive back.

At 5:59, the phone rings and the realtor is happy to take a verbal offer over the phone, which we did. We didn’t hear back on the offer for what seemed like months, but in reality it was only days. In the end, they accepted our offer with a little bit of a bump up, and we were on our way!

Scared to death and a little nauseous.

To be continued…

Chapter 1 - Crazy?

Our family’s mission is to create good food and not freeze to death. The End.

When the stock market started its death spiral and took half of our retirement fund with it, we decided that things needed to change. Sure, we could plug along working for the big, corporate machine for limited return, but isn’t there something better out there? Why, yes there is, Billy…self-employment with little or no job security. Now, doesn’t that sound grand? And so, here we are, just a few months later, saying “Why let a stranger gamble away our future when we can do a fine job of it ourselves?”

After making the decision to strike out on our own, there were many stops and starts. But what it boiled down to was finding a business in upstate New York that could sustain our family. At this point I should mention that although most of us were born, and in some cases raised in the Northeast, we have lived in Florida for a very long time. This is where the concern about freezing to death comes in.

Day after day, DH looked for business opportunities and we even thought we found a good opportunity in Wilmington, NY. We spent several months developing a business plan only to come to the conclusion that it was too big for our britches. It couldn’t be done without hiring staff and a huge mortgage. It just seemed like we were getting in way over our heads.

We abandoned that ship and started investigating camp grounds. A lot less staff required, something definitely manageable by a small family, usually owner financed. Yahoo! Sounded like this was it! I was excited and came home one day with big plans for this campground, big, big plans. No sooner did I get the word “campground” out of my mouth and DH says, “No campground, I’ve moved on to something else.” Good golly, I can’t keep up!

He had found this property in North Hudson, and it was a steal. A complete disaster, but a steal…

To be continued...