And the Color is…

Leelanau County – July 26, 2019Written by Jim

As we were finishing up the barn last year, we started picking out colors for this year’s cabin project. We had always intended to tie the two buildings together by accenting them both with the Wicker shakes in the gable ends and the wide white PVC trim, but we wanted each to have an independent field color. We had settled on a horizontal taupe, and even painted the shed doors to match.

Well, the pandemic-affected supply chain had other ideas…

It turns out that taupe pigment was not available to make our siding, so we had to come up with a Plan B. Time to get creative! Our supplier actually suggested the Certainteed brand of siding for availability, which Menards just happened to also carry at a much cheaper price. Lop another 11% off of that with their summer-long rebate sale and they practically gave us the siding! So what color did we choose?

Pacific Blue!

We are happy with the way it looks with the barn. One side done, three to go!

This past week has been a mix of working on the siding and other projects that have to be buttoned up before the insulation and drywall crews arrive. Two of the four insulation crews have come and gone, along with the electrician. The electrical inspector approved the rough electrical and the building inspector approved the rough framing. We are good to go!

Down in the crawl space, I was able to put the top 9” of foam board up along with the silver seam tape. Once the HVAC, plumbing and electric finish work is completed in this area, we will put a reinforced white liner on the floor. The foam board, liner and rim joist insulation are what make up a ‘conditioned’ crawl space, which is required by Michigan building code.

As much pre-planning as we did, some things came up that required some quick thinking. Placing backing to mount the vanity lights and mirrors were one thing we hadn’t considered. A rainy day trip to Menards to pick out the mirror and lights gave us the measurements we needed to mount the backing board.

While we were there, we decided on our porch ceiling, as that needs to be done before we can put the siding up on that wall. I’m on the upper level of the wood storage rack getting ready to hand down 32 pieces of wood to Diana in this photo. We chose 1 x 6 pine carsiding that we will finish with a clear spar urethane. Stay tuned to see how that comes out.

We also realized that building a shower niche requires knowing the measurements of the tile that will surround it. After picking out our tile, we decided on the size and placement of the niches in our bathrooms.

Here is the one in our main bathroom. I have to wait until the outside wall is insulated before I can put up the rest of the cement board in this room.

Our master shower cement board is nearly complete, as these are all inside walls. I will trim out the niches in both baths when the drywall behind them is installed.

This past weekend, we bid a Leelanau farewell to our friends Rod and Mary, as they sold their cottage here and will be living full time in their Florida home.

Patti and Lane arranged an evening at The Ridge at Verterra Winery and then dinner at Nittolo’s in Lake Leelanau. From right to left: Mary & Rod, Paul & JoAnn, Lane & Patti and the two of us. We all met at Wild Cherry Resort back in 2015. We sure are going to miss having Rod and Mary here, as well as their dog Gracie. Fortunately, we will catch up with them in Florida!

Our friends Terry and Diane also stopped by with their grandson on their way north to the Upper Peninsula to go fishing. It was good to see them again!

Stay tuned for our next post where we will hopefully have insulation and drywall installed, as well as more siding. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Seeing What is Not Normally Seen

Leelanau County, MI – July 16, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure such as our cabin, there is a unique opportunity to go through and inventory what is within the walls. There is a short period of time between when all of the plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are installed and when the insulation and drywall go up to take photos of what is between the studs. We’ve never done that with past houses, and were left wondering if there was a wire or pipe where we wanted to put a screw in the wall. For us, that inventory takes place this coming weekend.

There is a lot going on in these walls! We are happy to report that we have our rough plumbing and mechanical inspections complete and the rough electrical and framing inspections happen on Monday.

Here is our crawl space during the plumbing and mechanical work. Once all of the contractors are done with their final connections, we will install the floor liner.

While all that was going on, we were able to get the fireplace framed.

In this photo, I am holding two small maple logs from our property that will act as supports for our mantle. The two small squares in the framing is where those will go. The small square boards in the back of those spaces are pieces from a board that Diana’s dad had a vice mounted to. When I mounted that vice to my bench, I kept the board. I cut the squares so that each contained a hole that Bud drilled to mount the vice. I will put a screw through them to help hold the logs. So in essence, his work lives on in our cabin. We know that he would’ve loved to have helped with this project.

Above the fireplace is where the TV will be. Until we are able to get HGTV on the screen, you will have to settle for my mug. 😊

Our other project over the past week was to get started on the siding. We want to get the one end of the building completed so the mechanical team can install the outside air conditioning unit. Since that side involved a very tall gable, the scaffolding was called into action.

After doing the first section, I realized how many times I would have to set up and tear down the scaffold to complete the project. I had to come up with a plan. When the roof trusses were delivered, they had a 40 foot long I-joist underneath one side to help secure the load. When the trusses were rolled off, the I-joist came off with them, ending up on the bottom of the pile. Since it was essentially scrap, I just tossed it aside on the edge of our driveway to cut up at a later date. Well I am glad I saved it.

I cut it in half and made a set of skis for my scaffold! Good thing I did this, as I had to move the structure many times in both directions.

It slid along nicely using the tractor and a tow strap.

Working at these heights, I secured the scaffolding to the wall with those large deck screws I showed you in our last post.

After a week (including two rain days), I installed the last piece yesterday! With all of the climbing up and down, I will be very happy when the other gable is completed. I’ll do the lower sectional this side this weekend in a different color. That will be revealed in our next post.

On the social side of things, we were treated to the music of Mulebone, a group we spoke of in past years. This blues/roots duo hails from New York City and is a pleasure to listen to. We also had a get together with our friends John and Julie. John was a suite mate of mine in college and they also own a home in Leelanau County. On top of that, we got together with several couples at George and Grace’s new place farther north on the Leelanau peninsula.

Stay tuned for our next post to see how much further we get on our project! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Zig-zagging with the Subs

July 5, 2021 – Leelanau County – Written by Jim

One thing we’ve found on the cabin build this year is the fact that things don’t always move in a straight line. Just about the time that we will think we have our day planned, one of the subcontractors will have a need that requires our immediate attention. It’s all good, as problems and solutions are forward progress! With that being said, excuse us if this post zigs and zags a bit, as it is representative as to how the past few weeks have played out.

Since we last posted, our build has been dominated by the HVAC (heating/vent/air conditioning) team and the plumber. Wanting to stay out of their way, I went to work installing the deck posts and bracing on the large deck. As I was framing, “hey Jim…can you come here for a minute?” would ring out from inside. So far, every issue has had an adaptation`. 🙂

The twelve posts around the deck perimeter are installed, as is most of the blocking in between the floor joists. The unusual blocking at the outside of the deck is needed for the triple picture framing method we are planning for this particular deck. More on that in a future blog post when we install the deck boards. In order to secure the deck posts, we had two products available for us to use. Both were made by a company by the name of Simpson Strong-tie. As the inspector was looking over our place during the deck footing inspection, he had noticed some splitting in a few roof trusses, caused by the screws we used to tie them to the walls. He said “Simpson makes a screw that doesn’t do that”, so we decided right then and there that we would use Simpson products from then on.

The brown screws with the big heads on them are what we chose as our fastening method. The chart we used to determine the length called for 5” and 8” screws, but since our deck has double beams extending out from the cabin, we needed to use 10” screws to go through those.

That is one formidable fastener! No pre-drilling required and, true to what the inspector said, they did not split the wood. At a dollar each, we would hope that they wouldn’t!

Meanwhile, the plumber and HVAC guys were busy drilling holes in the walls and floor.

This photo is taken with my back to our wall of windows on the one end. All of our rooms have vaulted ceilings and each of our closets are capped at 8 feet high. That allowed us to open up the area above the closets to give the hallway a more open feel. The closet on the right (you are seeing the back of it) is where the first issue arose. The washer, dryer and utility sink live in there. As you can imagine, the water, sewer, electric and dryer vent all have to go through the back wall. The problem arose when it was discovered that a I-truss floor joist was directly below that wall. That meant all of those utilities would have to jog around the I-joist. The closet isn’t deep enough to scoot the washer and dryer further from wall, so our only solution was to build a platform for them. That allowed the piping to jog around the truss under the platform and go back into the wall.

Now we won’t have to bend over as far to get into the front-load machines!

Next up was the bathtub. While the framers made sure the drain didn’t land on an I-joist, they forgot to take into account that the tub had an overflow drain that hung below floor level. You guessed it….it ran right through the top of an I-joist. Our only choices were to either raise the tub and put molding on the front edge where it meets the floor, or notch the joist. Not wanting a molding on the front of our tub, we chose the latter. That involved an engineered repair from the I-joist company.

After several emails back and forth with Menards corporate, we had an engineer stamped document in our possession that detailed the fix. I immediately went to work on that. A little side note: when hammering boards into place between floor joists, be sure to wear hearing protection. The first whack of the hammer cranked up my tinnitus threefold, and it took a few days for it to return to baseline!

By the time I finished that, we met with the electrician to discuss switch and lighting placement. That was an exciting process to discuss where our lighting would go! One situation cropped up in the main bath had me tearing apart a doorway and moving it over 4 inches to make room for switches. By this time, I decided the deck would have to wait and that I needed to concentrate on the interior walls. That’s when Kris from HVAC requested blocking on the exterior of the house to allow the piping to exit.

In order to do that, we needed to first install our skirt board, the white decorative band that separates our siding from our foundation. That required a phone call with our inspector, as we are not supposed to side the building before the rough framing is approved. That comes after the rough plumbing, HVAC and electrical. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with our building inspector, as he knows we like to do things right. Once I had permission, I zig-zagged to that installation. The plumber jumped in and requested blocking for the outside faucets, so I took care of those at the same time.

About the time I finished that, Kris informed me that he could set the outside air conditioning condenser if I finished the siding on that end of the house. Another call to the inspector confirmed that we indeed could side the ends before the rough framing inspection, just not the front and back. I quickly called the siding supplier to get the shakes for the gables (same as what’s on the barn), only to find out that they were out of stock. Surprisingly, this was one of the few Covid-related stock issues we’ve had, as the supply chains are still out of whack on siding. Not to worry, as their Grand Rapids location had plenty for us to pick up. So we made the six-hour round trip to GR on my birthday to get material! It was a gorgeous day for a drive. 🙂

Before I could take the scaffold down from the inside of the cabin, I needed to finish installing the jambs on the trapezoid windows.

I can almost see Traverse City from up there! I finished that and all of the interior blocking for towel rods, cabinets and grab bars…as we aren’t getting any younger. I am going to frame the fireplace today and move on to exterior siding from there.

Jumping back to the space above the closets, our master and guest closets are back to back and sit directly below the peak of the cabin. Not wanting to lose that space, we came up with a plan:

We built a solid floor directly above both closets which is open to the master bedroom side. Our closets have two-panel mission style doors, with one panel being larger than the other. We made the opening the size of the larger panel, and we will cut a set of bifold doors to fill that space. They will line up directly above the ones below. We’ll access that area with a step ladder and put long term items in tubs up there. Our attic access hole is also up there.

On the social side of things, we celebrated the return of Music in the Park in Northport! This weekly event was cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

Patti, Lane, Rob, Diana and I chilled to the reggae group Soul Patch on the shore of Grand Traverse Bay. It was wonderful to be able to enjoy live music again! We also enjoyed a great afternoon on Independence Day with Diana’s cousin Jerry.

Stay tuned for our next post, when we should hopefully have our rough permits approved. Once that happens, we can get the insulation and drywall started. Our plan is to finish the siding and decks while all that is happening. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

All Dried In

June 20, 2021 – Leelanau County, MI – Written by Jim

It’s been a whirlwind the past few weeks, and I’m happy to report that our cabin is dried in! When we last wrote, we had the roof deck on our trusses.

Once that was done, the framers moved inside to frame the interior walls. Having vaulted ceilings throughout complicated matters, but the trade-off was that 2/5 of the house is wide open. Richard and Paul did this while Ryan worked outside.

Meanwhile, I dug out the trunks of a few of our trees that were buried during excavation. I had to build a rock retaining wall to keep the hill in place. All rocks were unearthed during the crawl space dig. I left a gap for the propane line to be run from the tank.

Ryan put on the roof underlayment and then framed the smaller decks on the north side. Following that, he and Paul put in the windows and doors.

Ryan then shingled the roof, while Paul, Richard and I dug holes for the main deck. Paul is even more of a rock sleuth than I am, and he was in all his glory on our hill. He knew the scientific name for each boulder or rock we exhumed. He even found a piece of pyrite, otherwise known as fools gold. The straw you are seeing in the above photo is on the steep hill that I had to reseed after the excavator tore it up. There was only one way for him to backfill that side and it involved making a mess of my landscaping work from last fall. I’ll reseed the rest of the lawn as I find time.

Here is the front of the cabin, all dried in!

And here is the back. With that, we bid our framing crew farewell. It is difficult to comprehend that we have only been back in Michigan for two months and we have accomplished this much. We feel very fortunate and are extremely grateful!

One thing we found out during framing was that we would not be able to work on siding until we received approval on our rough framing. That doesn’t happen until the rough mechanical, rough electrical and rough plumbing are approved. Wanting to keep the ball rolling while those trades did their work, we scheduled an extra inspection for our deck posts. Those were subsequently approved, so that allowed us to fill the holes around the posts and start finishing the decks.

Since I could still poke my head between the joists, I figured this was the best time to put landscape fabric and rock underneath to keep the weeds to a minimum. I used larger rocks found on the property along the bottom edge to keep the gravel from sliding down the hill. That is 2 tons of gravel that I picked up on Friday, the most I was willing to put on our utility trailer. I’ll get more this next week.

On the social side of things, we went to see George and Grace’s home they just purchased elsewhere on the peninsula. We met them at Wild Cherry Resort in 2015 and they have also volunteered at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You may recall that we visited them at their winter home in Rockport, Texas, six months before Hurricane Harvey came ashore at the end of their street. While their house survived, the town around it was devastated. They have since moved their winter home base to Austin. We also had Rod and Mary over to our place to see the progress, as well as our neighbors Jeff and Renate.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we will hopefully show some progress on the decks and the interior of our cabin. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

To Top it Off…

June 6, 2019 – Leelanau County, MI – Written by Jim

What a difference a week makes! When we last wrote, our framer had the front and back wall of our cabin in place, and had one of the end walls ready to go. They started in earnest on Tuesday morning and by the end of the day, had the other two walls standing!

They even put the upper trapezoid windows in place before standing up the last wall. We did run into a glitch, as the company that Menard’s used to do the takeoffs from the prints made the outer windows an inch too short. The team at the Traverse City store put in an immediate reorder, so we will just pop them in when they come. We left the old ones in place in order to keep the building dry in the meantime.

The crane to install the trusses arrived on Thursday.

Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars!

Seeing that 80 feet worth of crane against a waning crescent moon was pretty exciting!

Once the first truss was set…

…the rest just went right into place. Ryan and his nephew Tyler did the high work, while Paul fed supplies from the ground. Richard manned the truss lifting hook and the rope to guide the trusses into place.

In a little over an hour, the last truss was set into position.

Talk about a spider web of lumber! It was fun to see what our ceiling height was going to look like.

By the end of the day, the guys had the roof sheathing on the main portion of the cabin.

This will pretty much be our view from the kitchen and living room. Over time, we will do some selective tree trimming to open up our long view across the valley. All of our lower windows open, so we will get a nice breeze through the home.

On Friday, Ryan and Paul finished up the entryway. They first set the posts…

…and then put on the roof sheathing. With that, they called it a week.

Besides our building project, we found time for family and friends! We started out on Memorial Day with Diana’s cousins coming for a visit.

Reed, Nancy, David and Jerry and us went to a local pizzeria that opened up this year. If you find yourself in the town of Lake Leelanau, we recommend checking out Nittolo’s. It was very good. We also had our friends Lane and Patti over to see our place, along with our friends George and Grace.

On Saturday, we headed south to the Detroit area to attend a viewing for my Aunt Pat, the last family member from that generation. It was good to see my cousins again. From there, we headed 10 miles south to our great-nephew’s first birthday party.

Miles wanted that cake that his dad is holding…

…and he sure had fun with it once he got ahold of it! A great time was had by all. As a good friend said to me, it was definitely a circle of life day for us.

Stay tuned for next week’s progress as the framers tackle the interior walls, windows, deck framing and the roof. That will be a huge week, should they succeed in getting all of that done! Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Up it goes!

Leelanau County, Michigan – Saturday, May 29 – Written by Jim

Our cabin has begun rising from the foundation!

©️2009 Disney/Pixar

Well, not quite like that, but we do have progress to report! Our framers showed up this week and went at it in earnest. Prior to their arrival, I took the opportunity to insulate the lower four feet of the crawl space.

Getting this much done while standing straight up made life a lot easier. The insulation is two pieces of 1-1/2” thick polyiso board. Putting it up was a fairly simple process:

Drill a hole with a 5” long masonry bit.
Insert the 4-1/2” masonry fastener.
Tap it with a rubber mallet until it is tight.

The top part of the insulation will be finished once the floor joists are mounted to the top of the crawl space wall. I will also use aluminum tape to seal the joints in the foam board. Time for me to stand back and watch the framers build!

Ryan, Paul and Richard dove right into it. First thing they did was to assemble the center beam and support it with posts. Then came the treated wood sill plate on top of the foundation walls, along with a foam strip of sill sealer between them. The sill plate is attached to the block wall below with anchor bolts that the mason set into concrete. Follow that with the I-joists that span the entire width of the cabin and the rim joist around the outside.

It was then time for me to get back in the action. With us getting our material weeks earlier, I stored all of that high-priced OSB flooring in the barn. We purchased pallet forks for the front of our tractor last year and I was able to bring out several sheets at a time. They mentioned how it really helped them speed things up. Speaking of high priced lumber: This time last year, a sheet of 3/4” subfloor like this was in the $17 range. We purchased it in March at Menard’s for less that $30 a sheet. We thought that was crazy. Well, it is a good thing we bought it when we did, as we had to purchase two additional sheets to finish the floor. The price? A whopping $72 a sheet!

The crawl space is getting dark down there. Other than whatever comes through the hatch in the center of the cabin, that space hopefully won’t see daylight for a long time! By noon the next day, the floor was complete.

As the framers started building the walls, Adam from Peninsula Excavating started backfilling. He worked all afternoon and an hour the next morning to level things out. We had some steep areas below the cabin that were difficult to mow, so he used the extra dirt to soften them. It really came out nice.

By the end of the day, we had a wall!

The next day, they assembled the opposite wall in two sections. Here is a video of one of those going up. They use an electric wall jack to raise it. You can also see these clamp-on forks on my tractor bucket.

They had me push the button on the second half, as Ryan had to be by the wall joint to finesse the two together. That was fun!

Once they completed that, they framed an end wall until the end of the day and called it a week. They will be back on Tuesday.

Even the beams for our covered entry are in place! They can be seen extending out from the wall on the left side of the photo.

This morning, we had to go to Lowe’s to pick up our flooring. As we were getting in the truck, we heard a roar through the trees:

A hot air balloon! Looks like our cabin isn’t the only thing going up in Leelanau County. 😊

That’s our update for now. Stay tuned to see how much the framers get done next week. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Making the Grade

Leelanau County, Michigan – May 24, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure, one has to take into consideration the surrounding grade of the land. The last thing anyone wants is for the top of their foundation to be below grade and have water pour over the top in a downpour.The code book here in Michigan requires one 8” block showing above grade and that the surrounding soil slopes away from the building.

While our cabin site itself had only a moderate grade to it, the surrounding land varies in elevation quite a bit. We determined the high corner at the time of excavation and let that decide how deep to dig. Our plan was to have a 6 course deep layer of concrete block make up our crawl space, which would bring us up 48” from the top of the footing. After the footing was poured, we decided we wanted a bit more comfort to ensure we had sufficient runoff. We had the mason figure in an additional course of 8” block, bringing us up to 56” above the footing.

This past Wednesday was block day! Jim Ricketts and his crew showed up before 8 AM and immediately went to work laying out the foundation.

Measuring from corner to corner insures squareness. Prior to him arriving, I drove my tractor into the center of the footings and smoothed out the floor and removed the larger rocks. I will explain the reason for that later in the post.

Soon after the lines were chalked, the block truck showed up.

Of all of the varied soil on our property, that truck is parked over a vein of the softest and purest beach sand you could ever imagine. The driver took it all in stride and hung the tail of the truck right over the edge.

Before too long, the crew had the block spread out and the first courses were laid.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, the four of them had three walls complete!

Look at that smile! Diana is very happy to see walls rising. Also, in the process of adding a course of block, we discovered another benefit:

Our crawl space is now tall enough so I don’t have to crawl in it!

On Thursday, Jim and his son Chris returned to finish the last wall.

They were finished by noon. Jim and I then took a chalk line and held it to predetermined marks while Diana snapped it to mark the lines. That set the top level for the waterproofer. As Jim and Chris were cleaning up, the waterproofer rolled in and went to work.

That hot tar will hopefully keep the water out. As you can see, our finished grade will vary quite a bit! Within a half hour of the waterproofer finishing up, the inspector rolled in and approved the foundation. His words “Let the fun continue” were music to our ears!

Part of the mortar-making process involved having coarse sand on hand to mix with the cement. The block supplier brought two huge containers of it and dumped it outside the perimeter of the foundation. There was quite a bit left when the job was complete, so I had a plan for it. To help explain, here is a photo of a conditioned crawl space:

The walls get 3” of foil-faced foam board applied to them and the dirt floor is covered with a thick plastic membrane. This completely seals out any moisture or radon coming up from below.

The edge of our footing is a little wider than 3”, so our friend Rod suggested piling dirt against it to soften that sharp corner. A sharp edge could tear the plastic membrane. That left over sand was just what I needed. I scooped it up with our tractor and dumped it inside. I then used my dad’s favorite shovel (he preferred using it to shovel snow) to spread it around the edge. I still had quite a bit left over, so I spread it out over the smaller rocks on the floor.

In addition to all of this, we’ve found time to play a little. One day, we took off and visited several of our favorite places in the area. One of those was Suttons Bay Ciders.

In addition to enjoying a flight of cider on their deck that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay, we purchased a bottle of their maple syrup. Some of the maple sap from this syrup comes from our friends John and Julie’s property. We’ve also had a harvest of our own up here on our hill:

It’s Morel mushroom season! We are blessed with a decent sized crop of them.

We’ve also enjoyed the daffodils, tulips, iris that Diana planted last year, along with the peony that her mom and dad gave us quite a few years ago. It was planted at our first house in 1990 as a housewarming present and has moved with us. During our time on the road, my sister Judy cared for it at her home. She also kept some of Diana’s aunt’s lily of the valley for us. And our friend Mary gave us some forget-me-not and some rhubarb, both of which are doing well. This is all in addition to the explosion of wildflowers in our woods. Leelanau doesn’t have an overpopulation of deer, so we have a LOT of trillium!

With all of that, we are ready for the framers! We will wait to backfill the outside until after the main floor is constructed. That will brace the block walls from the external pressure exerted on it by the soil piled against them. Stay tuned for our next post as our cabin rises up from our property. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Let’s Build a Cabin!

May 13, 2021 – Leelanau County, Michigan – Written by Jim.

When we last wrote, we had hopes of exploring a few new spots to us on our way back to Michigan. The weather had other plans, as we had a large snowstorm headed in from the west that threatened to block our path. We picked up the pace and left the southern Michigan storm in our rear view mirrors.

Once we were on our property, we hit the ground running. Our goal this summer is to get as much done as we can on our new cabin! We have been in touch with our subcontractors all winter, and it wasn’t long before Vince and his crew from Peninsula Excavating broke ground.

This is the last photo taken before that took place, about 5 minutes before he showed up. When he walked what we had staked out, he was concerned that the slope on the east side was a bit too close for the walkway we had planned on that side of the house. While he and I were scratching our heads, Diana headed to the other side of the house and eyed the copse of trees that was mostly leaning toward the building site. We quickly decided to get rid of them. Vince pushed one over with his loader and left the rest of them for us to deal with. That allowed us to move the house west 3 feet.

Within a few hours, we had ourselves a big sandbox! Most of it was a sand and gravel mixture with a couple pockets of football-sized glacial rocks.

We even found a large Charlevoix stone! This is actually coral from when Michigan was covered by a shallow sea. This rock is between 250 million and 450 million years old! We think it deserves a place of prominence in our cabin.

Once Vince headed out, we started cutting those trees. There were 11 of them of various sizes, and my intention was to fell them onto the driveway.

Since they were leaning away from the driveway and the wind was blowing from the wrong direction, 10 of the 11 ended up in what will be our bedroom! As the tallest of them was a diseased ash tree, it was a wise move to get rid of them.

Next up was our mason, Jim Ricketts. Here he has our footings formed up and ready. The inspector came first of the following week and approved the open footings, so we were ready for concrete…

…which is now complete. The next step will be for Jim to lay 7 course of block on top of these footings, which we are hoping will take place early next week.

The other thing we’ve been doing is bringing in our materials.

With the price of lumber being so high, we debated painting BRINKS on the sides of our truck! There were several loads like this. We did have the doors and windows delivered, along with the floor I-joists and framing lumber.

It sure is handy having forks for the bucket of our tractor! Those I-joists are 34 feet long and fill our barn from back to front. They just clear the overhead door’s safety beam.

The best story of the start of our build was when we received a call that our cabinets were being delivered. They weren’t supposed to come for another month, so we had to scramble. With the way the supply chain is so hit and miss, we felt it was wise to get them ASAP. They are RTA (ready to assemble) from Lily Ann Cabinets, in Adrian, Michigan. They actually had a showroom in Clearwater, Florida that we visited this past winter. When the rep from the trucking company called, he thought we could easily transfer them from their truck to our trailer. (The trucking company typically delivers curbside, as they are full sized semis). When the actual driver called, he was a bit worried about that idea. Doing that at the end of our driveway was not an option, as our road is on a hill. So we looked for a parking lot. We ended up at Leelanau Fruit Company, a local fruit processing plant. A gentleman walked out with a puzzled look on his face and I explained what we were needing to do and asked permission to use his parking lot. Just then, the truck driver pulled in. The man then ended up talking to the driver, and it was decided between the two of them that he would instead unload them at the dock with a forklift. Once that was completed, he used the forklift to put them on my trailer. These were three pallets of heavy cabinets!

How cool is that? And who was that man? None other than Glenn LaCross, President of Leelanau Fruit Company. Another gentleman who worked there also helped out, and he just happens to live just around the corner from us. Both men have family ties that date back to the mid 1800’s in Leelanau county. We offered to pay him for his time and efforts, but he refused. We made it a point to purchase some products in their online store instead. If you are in the mood for some delicious dark chocolate covered cherries, check out Leelanau Fruit’s website here. They are pretty darned good!

And last but not least, we received our trusses! You may recall last year when we built the barn, the driver wouldn’t attempt to come up our driveway, so she slid them off by the side of the road. We brought them up one at a time with our tractor, as shown in the photo below.

Those were 30 feet long. Well this year, our scissor trusses are a full seven feet longer! Kudos to Barb, the driver from this year, for walking the driveway with me. She really wanted to attempt getting them up the hill with her semi, but she realized she couldn’t make it when she saw the curves in our drive. So, we rigged up the tractor and went at it. Here is a little video of how we started out:

The little John Deere that could! The process of standing the trusses up onto the tractor was everything the two of us could handle (and a tad dangerous), so we came up with Plan B.

I built a 2×4 rack and screwed it to the front of our trailer. That made it so the trusses could clear the back of my truck. Definitely much easier and safer!

I was able to drag them on and off quite easily.

Hopefully we will be able to show some cement block and lumber going up in our next post, so be sure to stay tuned for that! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Things Go Better With Quincy, Florida!

Quincy, Florida – April 11, 2021 – Written by Jim

Quincy, Florida is like many small towns in America; tidy, tree-lined streets named after our nation’s founding fathers, with homes surrounding a central business district. Quincy is a supplier of goods for the farms in this section of Florida’s Panhandle, as US-90 runs right through the middle of it. Other than the over abundance of grand houses in town, you would be hard-pressed to find anything unusual here. Looks can be deceiving…

During the Great Depression, the local banker made a keen observation that changed the course of Quincy’s fortunes forever.

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That banker’s name was Mark Welch (Pat) Munroe. He noticed that people were spending their last nickel to buy an ice-cold Coca-Cola. He knew by that fact that the company most likely had staying power. He also realized that Coke’s stock was undervalued, as they had been experiencing issues with their sugar suppliers. What had started out as a $40 a share stock in 1919, Coca-Cola was selling at $19 in the early 1930’s. The smart investor he was, Mr. Munroe bought stock in Coke. The wise businessman he was, he also told his customers to do the same, offering loans to help them do so. His advice to them was to hold onto the stock and use only the dividends.

It turns out that he was correct. Coca-Cola stock consistantly rose, making Quincy, Florida the wealthiest town (per-capita) in the nation.

The Quincy State Bank also did very well for itself, never closing it’s doors during the Great Depression. Munroe family lore states that when federal agents came to arrest Mr. Munroe for keeping the bank open during a federally-imposed bank holiday, they were unable to find the Pat Munroe that was listed on the arrest warrant. Remember…that was only a nickname. 🙂 The bank is now part of Capital City Bank.

As a result of Mr. Munroe’s observations, Quincy eventually was home to sixty-seven Coca-Cola millionaires. Many of their descendants are still reaping the benefits of his foresight. The town not only weathered the Great Depression, but every recession and crop loss since.

Mark Welch Munroe and his wife lived at this stately home on US-90 in Quincy. It was donated by the family to the City of Quincy and is now called Quincy Garden Center, a local wedding and events center.

We located where he is buried on Find-a-Grave and visited his final resting place. The inscription on his stone is fitting and true. It reads: The influence of his personality was so great and his advice so widely sought, that he seemed an institution in the community. Hardly subject to removal by death. Who could ask for a finer legacy than that?

So next time you buzz by Quincy, Florida on I-10, turn in for a bit and have a Coke. It is the ‘pause that refreshes’, after all. The people of Quincy will thank you.

As you can probably tell, the exploRVistas caravan is on the move! Stay tuned as we uncover more of America’s cool stories. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Launches Galore

February 2021 – Melbourne Beach, Florida

Written by Jim

If you’ve assumed that we have rocketed off of the face of the Earth, you can rest assured that we have not. We have been hanging out in our winter hideout on the Space Coast of Florida in what can only be described as the oddest winter yet. Several of our neighbors decided to remain home this year, due to the continuing pandemic. The park has a different feel, as a result. We sure do miss seeing our friends! And even though Florida is pretty much ‘open for business’, many of the activities we would normally do (Bingo, weekly lunches, meat shoot at the Moose Lodge, etc.) aren’t happening. We choose not to go into restaurants or indoor venues right now, and our grocery trips are stealth…early and fast.

With that being said, this season has been anything but a bust. SpaceX and ULA (United Launch Alliance) have been busy providing us plenty of free entertainment, and we’ve taken a few drives to see what’s happening in the area. One of those drives was to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Kennedy Space Center. As is usually the case for us, the wildlife provided us a few new gems.

This gator was showing off his two-step shuffle for us.

This Great Egret found a nice shady spot to hang out.

These Roseate Spoonbills were tempting fate hanging out with this large gator. There were quite a few spoonbills, alligators, herons ducks, and a Bald Eagle to be seen that day. We even saw an armadillo, but couldn’t get a photo of it. Always worth the hour drive up there.

As we mentioned, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have been busy! Most of the activity has been centered around SpaceX. They have two launch pads at their disposal, and they keep them hopping.

We’ve seen eleven SpaceX missions launched since we’ve arrived on November 1. One of them had four astronauts on board, which adds a whole different dynamic to watching it. We feel the night launches are the prettiest, although the one shown above was pretty cool. It was a polar launch that flew almost directly over our heads! One of the launches landed its booster back at the Cape (which we could see) and it produced two loud sonic booms as it came back in.

In addition to the SpaceX launches, we saw two ULA missions. One was a Delta IV Heavy, which is three boosters strapped together.

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That one was not only bright, but very loud.

This particular ULA launch occurred at sunset. It used a single liquid-fueled booster with several solid rocket boosters attached to it that leave a long contrail. The setting sun (out of the picture to the left) really added to the colors of this one.

One day, while running errands, we spotted a SpaceX booster in Port Canaveral when crossing the Cocoa Causeway. We detoured up to the port to check it out.

To the right, the sooty cylinder with the legs on the bottom is Falcon 9 booster #1060.5. The “.5” means it has flown 5 missions. In the foreground is the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which is basically a large barge that the booster lands on in the Atlantic Ocean. “Large” is a relative term, considering the fact that SpaceX parks it off of the coast of North Carolina, launches the rocket 120 miles into space and lands the first stage booster on it. Kind of like looking for a grain of sand in a roomful of thick carpet. Most times the landings are successful, saving the company millions of dollars. Some of the launches don’t require as much fuel to be used, so they are able to reverse the direction on those boosters and land them back at the Cape. Simply amazing.

As most of you know, we are planning on building a cabin on our property in Michigan this summer. That project has been the main focus for us this winter.

It won’t be long before a structure appears on the bare spot of land in the above photo. Having built the barn last summer, we know the drill, as far as permitting and securing our subcontractors goes. As of this point, everything is on schedule. The biggest hurdle has been the tremendous increase in lumber prices. The housing market is booming. As a result, those lumber prices aren’t going down anytime soon…so we bite the bullet and keep moving.

We’ve also been getting ideas watching home improvement shows on HGTV. One of our favorites is Home Town, which is set in Laurel, Mississippi.

Copyright 2021 – HGTV

Ben and Erin Napier take on a different run-down house in their hometown of Laurel and restore it for the new homeowners during each episode. Their ability as craftspeople to create something from nothing is really fun to watch. We have picked up a few ideas from them to incorporate into our place, also with some new ways to refer to things we already had planned. We already were going to use vinyl plank flooring, but learned that the correct term is LVT…or as they say in Mississippi, “Luxury VAHHHnl TAAAAHhll”. 🙂 Watching these two is much more entertaining than most of the other programming choices these days! Check them out, if you haven’t already done so.

So until next time, here’s to staying healthy and well. Stay tuned for updates on our cabin and, as always…safe and happy travels to all!

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