Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Thursday, March 23, 2017

03/20/2017 Demolition!

Current Location: Back to the apartments, Klamath Falls Oregon

There is an overlap going on, but it is only a partial one.  Many of my blogging friends and followers are also on Facebook.  Many are not.  Many of my Facebook friends never bother to look at the blog. Then, of course, there are those friends who do neither.  Lately it seems that category is dwindling, with most friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances choosing to plug into one form or the other of digital connection.  No, I don’t do Twitter, and yes, I have an Instagram account but haven’t put more than half a dozen photos on there in a year.  No time.  I have to pick and choose my personal version of internet communication.

I did a long blog post for the private blog I have been keeping about our “transitions”, sending the link to the few people who are close enough to care about the finer details of what is going on, but most of the time that one isn’t for public consumption.  Now and then I have copied a post from the “transitions” blog to this one, but a comment on Facebook made me realize that maybe I needed to try a bit harder to keep this blog a bit more updated. 

Bob McLean, of The Caretaker Chronicles, has been an internet friend for several years, not as up close as some others, and I have never met him, but he once kindly invited Melody and I to visit him and his TC at their home in Vienna when we were traveling Eastern Europe.  We have sorta followed each other along leap frog style since then, as our lives have shifted and changed.  Bob is a kick, with a great dry witty sense of humor that never fails to entertain me.  Bob blogs a bit more consistently than I do, but he isn’t a daily guy either.

Back to the Facebook comment.  When I posted a photo of our little cottage one day, saying it was the “last day”, nothing was mentioned.  Then the next day I posted the photo of the demolition of the little cottage and Bob showed up on Facebook, exclaiming (and I paraphrase)…”What did I miss?”

This is our crazy RV shed storage/getaway space for the few months of the build, we will sleep, cook, and shower in the MoHo

So I cruised back through the blog thinking, “Surely I have talked about this at least a little bit”, and to my surprise discovered that, no, I hadn’t really talked about it much.  A few comments here and there, lots of photos of the Cottage when we were in Grants Pass, but not much mention of the actual process of tearing it down.  Lots of detailed explanations on the “transitions” blog, and more than a few references to the moving process on Facebook, but who in the heck can manage to keep track of your own life much less someone else’s life?!

Which is why I haven’t blogged about it much.  This is a travel blog, mostly RV travel with some other kinds of travels thrown in, and of course, now and then, other pieces of life get in the mix.  After all, we are not full time RV’rs, and I find that when we are on the move I assume that what I have to say might be more interesting for someone to read.  I also usually don’t have to go back to the blog to figure out what we were doing when we are at home, but I surely use it a LOT for when we are on the move.

This is the google photo of the cottage before we bought it in 2012, with no RV shed, a bunch of chicken coops, old sheds and shelters, and the old pallet fence.

So, again, and a repeat for those up close friends who already know the drill.  We bought the .87 acre in Grants Pass in 2012, so we would have a place to store the MoHo in winter.  Mo wanted a big RV shed, and county regulations require that a dwelling be already on the property in order to add another building.  The acre was perfect, the cost was close to the cost of the land without a dwelling, so we always laughed and said the little 700 square foot cottage was basically free.

This might be the last time I put a photo of the Rocky Point house in the blog.  Ya’ll remember it I am sure

At the time we lived in Rocky Point.  Most longer term readers remember that lovely home in the forest, and possibly remember that we sold that property last year.  Reason for selling?  Time to leave the deep, heavy snows of winter and the 35 mile one way drive to the grocery store for life on the west side of the Cascades.  It took a bit for us to make that decision, and the first couple of years at the Cottage, we thought of improving it (which we did), adding to it, (which we decided wasn’t practical), or building a new home from scratch.  Which we are now doing.

So, Bob, to make a long story a bit shorter, that is where we are now.  We just had to wait for spring for the appropriate development and building permits, and the scheduling of the demolition of the little cottage to make way for the new house.

Yup, we tore it down.  The Cottage wasn’t fancy, but it had 90 years of history, and we managed to make it cute and livable for the times when we were in Grants Pass.  We knew there wouldn’t be much to salvage.  A few old beams weren’t really even paint grade.  The new bathtub that we put in 3 years ago was impossible to get back out without a ton of work. 

Daughter Deborah came the week before the scheduled demolition and helped us get all the furniture (mostly things from Mo’s cabin at the Rocky Point house) out of the cottage and into the big RV shed.  We moved the MoHo outside, where she will reside for the next few months during the build, and created a bit of living space inside the RV shed with our bits and pieces of furniture, a couple of comfy chairs, and the TV.  It will be a bit of a place to get away from the smaller space of the MoHo while we hang around during the house build.  Of course, we have spent months at a time in the MoHo, but it is a bit different when traveling than it will be sitting still in one place.

There goes the bathtub

We then removed a few antique doors, and Deborah took down the kitchen cupboard doors she had so carefully sanded and painted to hopefully create something wonderful with them.

By the end of the week, all the required permits came together at the right time, the gas company capped the gas line at the street and took away the gas meter.  The power company disconnected the existing power and immediately connected to the newly installed power pole and meter box. 

The new power pole gets power from the main pole across the street, but will deliver power to the house underground

We only spent one night without power, and on Saturday morning the electrician showed up at 8am to connect the power line that connected the shop and RV shed to the main pole, and to install a distribution box with a 30 amp plug for our RV and for the builders to use for power equipment during the build.

I had thought it might be an emotional thing to see the Cottage go, and it was, but only for a moment.  When that first wall went down, and the sunny little kitchen with the blue and yellow and white shelves were exposed to the world, I felt a bit of sadness, and tears popped up.  It only lasted a moment, though, and the fascination of watching a house disappear with a few bites of a monstrous machine made up for any sense of loss.

Early in the process, with the demolition of the first exterior wall, suddenly everything came to a screeching halt.  Ralph, the demo guy, thought he saw something that looked like it could contain asbestos.  Gary, the builder foreman, had removed and tested materials from several areas of the house and we were determined to be asbestos free, except for some old tiles in the kitchen.

Homeowners can remove the tiles and dispose of the asbestos, but a contractor is require to jump through myriad and expensive hoops to handle asbestos abatement.  Mo and I had dutifully removed the tiles the previous week, but this material was some sort of crazy composition siding that was completely hidden by other layers of siding sandwiched on the thin walls.

Terror.  I can’t even begin to explain the fear in that moment for all of us, especially Mo and Gary 

Asbestos would stop the job, and could cost so much to remove that we would have to completely abandon our house building plans because it would be so far outside the budget.  Time stood still, and with some sort of contractor magic, Gary managed to get a sample to a testing company in Medford, the sample was tested within an hour, and thank God it came up negative.  Within two hours the machine was backup and running. We all took a collective sigh of relief on that one.

The demolition continued for the rest of the afternoon, even in the rain, and by early evening, most of the cottage was lying in a small heap of sticks and twigs.  It was an old house, built from scratch from whatever materials were available at the time.  The pipes under the floors were wrapped in newspapers and roofing paper.  I hunted for dates, and discovered, January 29, 1949.  I couldn’t read much of the paper, because it was so stained.  It was truly amazing to see that such a simply built house, without even any framing of any kind, could actually stand for 91 years. 

On Tuesday morning the crew returned to finish the job of crunching up all the debris and hauling it away in the two huge dump trucks that they quickly filled.  Ralph also took down the three trees that were in the way of the new house footprint, using his giant bucket to simply push those trees right out of the ground, stumps and all.  It was fascinating to watch. 

On Wednesday morning, almost everything was down and hauled away, except for the last big tree that Ralph thought he should take down with the help of an arborist.  They took that last beautiful madrone down without a hitch, landing it right in between the big trees we wanted to keep uninjured, and the old cherry tree on the lower end of the property.  Gorgeous work, and by the way, gorgeous men as well, all of them.  What IS it about those construction guys with tool belts anyway?!?!

Gary and his helper Levi then started the process of staking out the footprint of the new house.  The final staking will come after the excavation is completed in the first week of April, but this one was basically for making sure the house was set exactly as we wanted it.  I spent much of the time gleefully dancing around the defined space, stepping through the “front door”, looking out the great room “windows”, and standing in my “big oval soaking tub: looking out the big window in the master bathroom.

It is an exciting process, and a slow one.  A custom home doesn’t go up quickly, and our schedule is six or seven months before completion.  We are really hoping that 7 months will get us actually moved in before winter snows once again take over the Klamath Basin. 

Erythronium hendersonii the precious trout lilies growing down in the lower pasture were unconcerned.

We won’t be traveling much this year, as it is important to be around to make decisions.  Our contractor is a great guy, with a wonderful reputation for building homes in Grants Pass for 3 decades, but we still wouldn't want to leave all those choices up to someone else, so we need to be around.  The plan is a week at the “cottage”…and a week back at the apartments where we will officially reside until we move into the new house. 

I gotta figure out what to call our place in Grants Pass now that the “cottage “ is no longer there.  The new house isn’t huge, but it is definitely NOT a cottage.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

03/12/2017 March Forward “The Big Week”

Current Location: Old Fort Road in Klamath Falls and the sun is shining!!!

I look at our calendar, I look at our life, I look at what is coming up, and I say to Mo, “Somehow I have to try to write about this!”  But I am not really sure how to go about it.  I finally decided that all the things I want to write about aren’t really for public consumption.  Stuff no one but our close friends care about anyway.  The Cottage, The Build, and of course, THE EPA PROJECT!

(March 25 Even though I decided to post this on the transitions blog, I thought that maybe it could still go up on the “main blog”, but dated far enough back that it won’t make it to all the blog rolls and such.  And of course, I don’t need to post it to facebook or plus it on google.  I am just putting it here so everything is in one place and I can find it again as we move forward.)

The Old Fort Road apartments  on a late fall day 2016

Old Fort Road apartments today, after EPA project beginning

I am not even sure if I have alluded to this part of our life anywhere previously.  It is an ongoing issue, something that Mo has been dealing with since the year 2000 or maybe it was 2002.  Mo’s apartment building was once part of the historic Marine Barracks from 1944 to 1946, a place where servicemen could rehabilitate from malaria. The property was later sold to Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), then later passed on through different developers until it became a rather nice development called North Ridge Estates.  What no one knew at the time, (and wasn’t known when Mo bought the apartments in the late 90’s), was that the developers simply buried the old asbestos materials that they found on the site.  As years passed, frost heave brought some of the asbestos to the surface, and that is when everything changed.

All the trees are gone now, the ones on our property on this side of the road and the ones across the street

Here is a bit of history:  (Don’t get discouraged if the site takes a long time to load, you know how things are going with the EPA at the moment)

North Ridge Estates Superfund Site

“The North Ridge Estates Superfund Site is a residential subdivision located approximately three miles north of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The site is contaminated with asbestos as a result of the improper demolition of approximately eighty 1940s-era military barracks buildings. North Ridge Estates was added to the National Priorities List in 2011 after annual efforts to remove contamination were not effective for long-term protection of human health. Asbestos-containing materials and soil will be removed from the old military barracks site during three seasons of cleanup”.

To be fair, the actual contamination here on Mo’s property is minimal, but the EPA is being very aggressive about the cleanup.  A few years ago, there was a smaller effort at soil cleanup where the soil was removed on the hill just west of the apartment building, but the trees were left standing.

Since that time, the entire site was declared an EPA Superfund Site, and listed for cleanup.  We are in the midst of that process right now.  Prior to the major excavation work, the EPA determined that all our huge pines had to come down.  They couldn’t be saved because of the steepness of the slope and the possibility that the asbestos has incorporated into the roots and lower bark of the trees.  They left us three legacy trees, but the rest are gone.  This is not all bad.  The old pines made a huge mess, and were a danger to the apartment building in high winds.  They will be replaced…with 6 foot trees. 

They took out the old apple, apricot, elm, and cherry trees that were in the front yard of Apartment A, and the place now looks incredibly naked.  We have worked with the landscape architect that is designing the replacement landscaping, and are convinced that things will look really nice once the project is completed, and we were given lots of choice in how we want plants replaced. 

The soil will be removed down to 2 feet, and if asbestos is discovered anywhere, it will be excavated to 4 feet and a protective barrier placed. During the the three month process, all the apartment dwellers will be relocated to local furnished rentals, for now that has been determined to be nice townhouses and condos at the Running Y Resort.  The dwellings are fully furnished, down to coffee pots and bedding, and we only have to take what we can’t do without for three months.  Think about that for a minute.  What would you take if you knew you couldn’t go back to your house for three months.  It is a bit like when we went on our three month MoHo excursion to Florida.

We will need the computers of course, important papers and documents, I want my sewing machine and some fabric, and enough clothes for summer and fall weather.  What about our food?  We will have to empty the fridge and the cupboards and hopefully whatever cookware is at the condo will suffice.

For daughter Melody and grandson Xavier, this is especially confusing, since in order to get the free relocation, renters are required to maintain their lease.  Xavier graduates high school in mid June, and the family decision is to move north to Eugene where we are hoping he will be accepted as a student at the University of Oregon.  Still not sure how all that is going to work. Melody won’t be ready to go in June, but hopefully can get relocated before September.

In the mean time, Mo and I will be right in the middle of the Grants Pass house build.  The cottage will be long gone, and our domicile in Grants Pass for the alternate weeks that we plan to be there will be the MoHo, so that we can keep an eye on the building process and be close by when needed for questions and decisions. (I think I am most excited about choosing our granite slab, whenever that happens.)

We are really looking forward to the alternate weeks at the Running Y.  There are beautiful bike trails and a nice private boat launch area on the lake.  We are looking forward to getting the kayaks out a lot more this summer, and hope to actually kayak to Bare Island, something we always said we wanted to do and never managed.  In fact, last summer, Melody and Robert actually paddled 21 miles round trip from Rocky Point to Bare Island!  It won’t be nearly as far from the Running Y, Melody.  Also, there is a beautiful piece of untouched land at the resort, a peninsula that juts out into the lake, called the Skillet Handle, famous as an excellent site for birding.

We are definitely seeing the silver lining of the 3 month vacation at the Running Y and looking forward to some down time, play time while we are there.

Back to the title of this post, however.  This is the week.  Today Mo and I are packing for the next 10 days in Grants Pass.  This is the final week for the little cottage, our home away from home for the last 4 1/2 years.  Tomorrow we will move the MoHo out of her big shed for the rest of the summer, and start moving the few things that are in the cottage into the shed for the duration of the build. 

The utilities will go down toward the end of this coming week.  Daughter Deborah is coming over for two days to help us with this project, especially with heavier things like the fridge.  Our big job tomorrow is to think about how we want to use the space in the RV shed.  We are hoping to set up the kitchen table, chairs, and our two rockers toward the front of the shed.  We will pull out the kayaks and the bikes, the mowers and store them where we now store the baby car in the temporary shelter.  Maybe the kayaks will end up on top of the baby car permanently as we travel back and forth between the condo and the cottage.  Oops….guess we are going to have to come up with a new name.  Can we still call it The Cottage if the cottage is gone?

The new house will be a much larger footprint where the cottage is now.  I can only try to imagine how it will look and feel when it is done. 

Tomorrow we meet again with the builder to view the final engineering drawings.  Still little things to worry about, of course.  The Development Permit holds up the Green Tag on the new Power Pole, and unless all that gets handled in the next few days, when the power goes off, it won’t go back on immediately.  If that is the case, we will be boondocking without power or water until the electricity for the build is restored.  We might just bail next weekend and head for hookups at the Valley of the Rogue State Park, just a few miles south.

I guess you can see why this was hard to write about.  It feels just about as discombobulated as I feel right now, waiting for all this to happen.  We have known this week was coming, we have been preparing for it, and I hope we are ready for the next big step forward. 

OK  I wrote it.  Time to go find some of the photos I have been taking as all this was happening.