Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Homer's Roost Has a Roof

As you can see, the RV port has a slab and a roof. The forms are set for the RV driveway, but the weather has been too cold to pour more concrete. While the exterior seems to have slowed down, lots of things are going on inside. The plumber and A/C subs have completed their rough-in, and the audio/TV/phone guy has run his wires. The electrician is just starting his rough-in, but we've slowed him down because we're kinda fanatical about lighting, and we are going to make sure we have enough. We've found that the wattage needed increases exponentially with the age of the eyes.

The brick arrived today, and I gave the bricklayers a few grand for their first draw. Today was a tough day for the checkbook; besides the bricklayer, I had to give money for draws from the A/C guy and the electrician. Seems like everyone had his hand out.

One of the unfortunate things about living in an urban area is that city dwellers are more susceptible to crime. I had been worried that the empty house, containing an increasing amount of valuable construction materials, was going to be a tempting target for thieves. As a countermeasure, I purchased a couple of battery-powered motion-sensing alarms. Thurman (the next door neighbor) and I set the alarms after sundown Saturday evening and left them attached to the studs in the living room and family room of the house. Sure enough, around 11:00 p.m., Thurman heard the front alarm sounding and called the police, who sent two squad cars fairly quickly. However, the intruders were long gone, probably frightened out of their wits by the shrieking alarm. They still managed to take four bundles of roof shingles, however. I tell you, the sorry state of our nation's moral compass really depresses me! It sickens me to think that I am not at all surprised at the thievery--that I even anticipated it, as was amply evident by the fact that I bought the alarms. It's very sad, what we've come to. Sometimes I think we should use some proven methods of dealing with thieves: Maybe we should adopt the middle eastern practice of cutting off their hands or Singapore's public floggings. Either would get my vote!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Homer's New Home

Here's another view of Homer's side of the house. As you can see, they're getting ready to pour the 40-foot RV slab and the driveway that connects it to the street. You can also see the RV sewer drain sticking up as an extension of the PVC pipe that will be cut off at slab level after the concrete is poured.

People continue to assume this is a two-story house, but it definitely isn't! Lots of tall ceilings inside, though, will make the small house seem spacious.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Shaping Up!

Well, it's looking more like a house. Once the carpenters began, it only took three days to have the whole house framed. Amazing! Sandy had her usual misconceptions about the house size when she saw it in the pre-foundation phase. When only the foundation forms were visible outlining the area of the house, she was convinced there had been a terrible mistake, because the house couldn't possibly be as large as the plans indicated. However, once the framing was up and the layout of the rooms was discernible, she could tell that it was okay. Stubbornly refusing to concede her misperception, she told me that it was lucky for Richard that he decided to expand the forms to the correct dimensions before pouring the slab! I nodded, having learned long ago that a husband's head should move only in two directions--up and down.

This Saturday was busy, because I had to meet Richard in Kennedale to buy roofing shingles, then afterward, I drove Sandy to a Christmas decorations warehouse, where she had to keep reminding herself that we cannot decorate the new house until it is finished--and that will be after Christmas! God smiled on me, as she somehow failed to buy anything.

After this close call, we made our yearly pilgrimage to the Cacharel Restaurant in Arlington, where we met our beloved friends, John and Myrna Fields. We always gather here around Thanksgiving to swap stories and enjoy the pumpkin souffle', a magnificent masterpiece of the art of dessertmaking that is available here only at this time of year. The rest of the food is also wonderful, but the pumpkin souffle' is almost too good to believe.

Sandy, John and Myrna Outside Cacharel

Thursday, November 22, 2007

An RV Port Outside an RV Community--How Will It Go Over?

On November 17, we had a slab. On November 21, we had wood in the air! Things are going much more quickly once the city inspectors had their fill of blood and left behind a green tag on the foundation. Richard Teske, the builder, and other experienced house construction types said this was the mother of all foundations. Unknown to me, my architect had specified a foundation design with far greater depth and reinforcement than is customary. I guess that's why it took ten concrete trucks to pour an 1800 square foot slab. One thing is for sure--it's probably not going to give me any problems with cracks in the future.

We have a slab!

Wood in the air!

So far, I haven't heard a single adverse comment or even seen a raised eyebrow when I talk with neighbors-to-be about the fact the house is being designed as an RV port. My guess is they are still in a bit of a shock, as no one has built a new house in this neighborhood for fifty years! Thurman and Amy Clay, who live next door to the south, seem genuinely thrilled that we are going to be their neighbors. Thurman is a very nice guy, in his mid-seventies, who is a retired carpenter. He seems to know a lot about building a house, and he's always close by watching the construction. If Richard doesn't happen to be on site, Thurman often calls him when a delivery arrives or when subcontractors show up. He also adjusted one of the floodlights on the side of his house to illuminate our property. I'm very glad he's close by, and we're looking forward to knowing Thurman and Amy better.

Dennis and Marilyn Leonard, who live around the corner, are very friendly and are sort of in the same stage of life as Sandy and I--empty nesters who decided to downsize. They bought one of the existing homes on a beautiful treed lot and have done a lot of work to make it very appealing. They didn't blink, either, when I told them what we were building. We think they will be very good neighbors, too.

June Graves, the widow next door who sold us the property, is said to be a bit depressed that the lovely treed lot her husband tended for so long is now covered up with a house. I'm not too worried about that, though. By the time Sandy gets through charming her, she'll forget all about her depression. Nobody doesn't like the irrepressibly friendly Sandy Mills!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Part Timing vs. Full Timing - The Great Dilemma

Well, we have moved into a nearby apartment while the new stick house is being built. I must say, we are pleased that the sale of the big house went so smoothly and amicably and that we got what we wanted for it. With the state of the national housing market as it is, we consider ourselves very fortunate.

We're also pleased that we were successful in selling it as a FSBO. It was nice not to have to pay the extra twenty thousand bucks in a realtor's commission. Lucky again, I guess.

Now if Mindy were out of college and I had reached social security age (another year away), we might not be building this new house, but moving into Homer and hitting the road. But, the time is not right for that, as mentioned before. When the time does come to retire, at least we will be able to make a judgment about whether we want to keep the new smaller house and do part-time RVing or to chuck the new house and really fulltime it. I must say, I truly can't imagine what we will decide, ergo, the dilemma. In the last year or so, I have become almost obsessive in my quest to get rid of the incredible constellation of detritus--as I am calling possessions-- that seems to have crept ever larger into our lives and is, well, smothering.

One unknown is the fact that the house is designed so as to incorporate a real RV garage, unlike a house with an RV port tacked onto it. Because of this, it will always look like an RV house, as it cannot be remodeled economically. I do have a concern, therefore, that its uniqueness in the neighborhood may diminish its potential for resale. On the other hand, an RVer would just love it! Just think of it...a home designed for an RVer, right in the heart of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex! This is almost impossible to find unless you look far out in unincorporated areas to avoid the zoning restrictions that thwart keeping an RV in most metropolitan areas. Furthermore, we have noticed that RVs are kept at several other houses in the neighborhood, but none of the other houses were designed to incorporate an RV garage as part of the design. I've always made money on my real estate investments, but this one...well, I'm not so sure. I've just decided not to worry about it and build what I want.

We bought the lot in midsummer, and progress has been pretty slow up to this point. We couldn't commission the architect to design a house until we knew the dimensions of the lot, so he didn't start drawing the plans until after we purchased the property. That took a couple of months, and the city of Hurst has been maddeningly picky about every little thing they inspect, and they seem to inspect EVERYTHING. You'd think we were building in downtown Manhattan, for goodness sake!

Since Hurst is a city that has had all its available land largely built out, I'm convinced there's just not that much for the inspectors to do, so they come out and give us a hard time. I'm convinced that some of the hoops we've had to jump through are based solely on the inspectors' whim or opinion rather than on bona fide building code requirements. So, we've had to decide whether it's better to accede to their petty requests or make an issue of it and risk even more problems through retaliation. So far, we've just chosen to go along with them. It has cost us at least a month's extra time and untold frustration, but at least we got a green tag today that will enable us to pour the foundation.

October '07 Foundation and Plumbing Rough-In

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Big House is History!

Well, quite a lot has happened since I wrote the "Sidelined" post several months ago. Sandy spent the better part of a week in the hospital with some more health issues and has been on chemotherapy for a while. Meanwhile, we listed the house as a FSBO and sold it to our next-door neighbor, who had secretly admired the place and had designs on it for years. Meanwhile, the retirement place is under construction, so we've got to move to an apartment for a few months until it is finished.

We found it impossible to find what we wanted in a retirement home among existing housing, namely, a place in the DFW mid-cities area where zoning would allow an RV to be kept. Having looked for months for an existing house, we gave up and began to look for a lot on which to build. We found only two that were reasonably priced--these being in older, well-established neighborhoods that were built out before RVs became popular and, therefore, were not RV-restricted by zoning restrictions. The first lot was sold out from under us before we could make an offer, and we bought the second one on the same day the realtor's sign went up. Vacant lots are really sought after here in the mid-cities area; to get one, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. We felt really lucky to purchase this lot for what we thought was a bargain.

We have sold or given away an incredible amount of household stuff, but even so, we have filled a 10x30 rented storage unit with things we moved out of the house to make it look more spacious to prospective buyers. Now mind you, we haven't moved ANY furniture out of the house yet! This means we're going to have to rent a second storage unit! It is just ridiculous how much unnecessary junk we have collected. This constitutes a type of bondage that bothers me more and more the older I get. I'm hoping that a lot of this excess will be jettisoned during the two moves (big house to apartment and apartment to new house)that are coming up.

The lot we bought is relatively small, but the architect skillfully squeezed every square foot of house possible onto the lot, allowing for a 40x13 RV port alongside the north side elevation. And, because I detest yard work, this had the very desirable effect of reducing the yard area to a minimum. I'll have to scout around for some neighborhood kid to mow it, I guess, because I'm sure not going to do it.

I'm still dreaming of getting rid of the bondage that even this smaller house is going to pose. When Mindy gets out of college, I'm going to put the full court press on Sandy to try at least part-timing for a while. Who knows? Maybe she'll like it enough that we could pull the plug at some point.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The frustrations are ramping up as we cannot seem to get traction for any trips. We made a brief journey over Thanksgiving to Nacogdoches, Texas, my ancestral homeland, but that was it! We were so looking forward to our planned trip back to Corpus Christi last January, but the weather was horrible at the time. Our window of opportunity then closed, with work demands and Sandy's health challenges. She has suffered for months with knee problems and finally had surgery on March 29. Her knee is now remarkably better, but now she has been beset with a return of another very painful problem involving kidney function for which she had a difficult surgery in 2005. We are dreading the prospect of yet more surgery. So, Homer sits forlornly in his berth in Keller and the Hornet has probably grown moldy from underuse.

The doctor's prognosis for Sandy's knees has amounted to this: Avoid stairs or you will be back for more repair, and sooner rather than later. That pretty well cinches it--the big two-story house has to go. We didn't really need that unpleasant prognosis to convince us that a move is in order. Our only child, Mindy, has grown up and abandoned us for college, and for some time, Sandy and I have lamented the fact that we are roaming around in a 3300 sq. ft. house with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Makes no sense whatsoever.

So, we're preparing this monster house for a sale. We've bought a smallish lot in a nearby area that will accept RV parking. Construction on our retirement stick house will begin in a couple of months. The new place will be single-story and about half the size of the monster. If I had my way, I think I will chuck it all and go to full-timing in the RV, but Sandy doesn't think she could bear not having some roots somewhere. She doesn't really mind traveling for long periods of time, but she cannot comprehend the "homeless" lifestyle of a fulltimer. For me, it would be a blessing. I truly detest the upkeep of a house and yard, and when Mindy gets out of college, I'm hoping to convince Sandy that fulltiming is the way to go...or, at most, to maintain only a minimalist stick house--such as the one we're going to build in a few months.

With the medical problems facing Sandy and the demands of getting rid of one house and building another, I think our travels will be a bit sparse this season. But stay tuned, as we'll will hopefully be shoehorning something in before long.