Sunday, March 25, 2018

3/25/18 Projects

First of the day's projects. I've been meaning to hook up an Anderson power pole adapter to my portable solar panels so I could charge my Goal Zero Yeti 1000 power bank without using my rig's inverter. It's super inefficient to do it that way, 17 volts or so comes into the solar charge controller, which charges the batteries, which supplies the inverter with 12 volt power, which it converts to 120 volt power, which then supplies the Goal Zero AC charger, which turns 120 volts into 17 volts to charge the unit. Super inefficient and a lot of wasted power in all those conversions. And the AC charger only supplies 63 Watts. Plugging my external panels directly into the built-in charge controller is charging it twice as fast. And I could add another two or three panels if I had them, and up the charge rate even more. The biggest problem with charging from my onboard inverter was the fact that I had to be there. I couldn't start that process and then leave, because if it clouded up or something that inverter would then draw my batteries down. Anyway, to make a long story short, everything is charging like gangbusters and I'm parked in the shade. That's awesome. 

Second project today. It's hard to see, but that's a garage door screen that I installed in the doorway of my little storage building. Not an earth-shattering thing, but it will keep the carpenter bees out while I'm trying to do things in there. And hopefully the mosquitoes too.

It's definitely helping that the weather is just about perfect right now.  Next up, taking some of the crap in there to the flea market and getting rid of it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It's a cold night here, just south of Savannah, and with much trepidation I'm trying out the Little Buddy heater I got to replace my overlarge Mr. Buddy that I never liked or trusted. So far, so lit easily and isn't hissing and spitting like the MB did. And it hasn't caught fire. Always a plus.

I was fuming a bit ago......I had *just* cracked open a beer, something I seldom do when overnighting in a parking lot, when some goober comes in, parks next to me, and fires up their jackhammer -I mean generator. Seriously, I could see the ripples in my beer, it was that loud. After about half an hour I gave up and put on my shoes to go walk and see if I could move. Well, it turns out everyone else is running generators (seriously, am I the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD who has batteries and propane??) but no one else's is as loud and stinky. So I'm stomping around and found a spot that sounded and smelled better and went stomping back to the rig to get the keys. Cursing all the while that it sounded like a f*cking truck stop. (Another pet peeve.....if you're gonna make that kind of noise, go to a truck stop or gas station. Don't park next to a hotel, run your loud generator and then wonder why businesses ban overnight parking. Because if I was in that hotel room 20 feet away I guarantee I'd be complaining.) Just as I was climbing into the drivers seat the noise stopped. Glad I didn't have to move but I'm fairly sure I'll be treated to a 6am wake up by them. :-(

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Homebuying Adventures, Part 2... Septic Failed Inspection

TL:DR The deal's off....the septic is toast.

It's been a roller coaster for sure. I got the septic inspection for the place on No Name Rd on Monday. The guy opened the lid, took one look at it, and told me (First words out of his mouth) "The tank is failed."  It was one big, cracked, rooted mess. On top of that, the tank is right next to the property line. This may have been ok when it was put in in the 70's (septic guy's guess) but it's not ok now.  Now it has to be 5' away from the line. Not to mention other distances from the foundation, potable water lines, etc. It would be highly, highly unlikely they would issue a repair permit for it where it is, a new system would have to be installed somewhere else. And the only spot that would comply with all the setback requirements (canal, lake, their well, adjacent wells, property lines, potable water lines) would be......under the existing structure.  So, the choices are, A. limp along with the current one and be very careful with water use, etc. B. Rip out the structures and put in a new tank.  Rip out and relocate the well pump, water lines and palm tree and put it there and I'm not even sure that would comply.  Hard to know for sure without the survey and thankfully I hadn't already shelled out the $700 for that.  But the septic guy said "If you could move it five feet from the property line you'd be ok, but then it's too close to the house.  C. Try to get a variance and easement to replace it in the current spot. This would cost thousands and take years if happened at all. They're not exactly consumer friendly in this county. If you're not a big developer they're not interested in helping.  D. Try to get someone to do the work without a permit. I have no idea how feasible that would be but then when I go to sell the first question is, hey, where's the permit for this new system?  Any way you look at it, there would be significant money, time and headaches involved.

Anyway, when I got that report I advised the realtor that I was cancelling the contract. Thank god I had the inspection contingencies.  Within hours, the sellers advised me they were willing to make a significant price concession if I would accept the property as-is. Well, I gave it some thought. I wasn't planning to build on the property any time soon, if ever. (Since the whole lot is in a flood zone any new structure has to be at an 8 foot elevation so that's a whole 'nother can of worms....)  I currently have a composting toilet in the RV and I could put one in the house. I'm good at managing that and graywater so I could do it in the house too. Though one reason for BUYING something with a house on it was so I could take a shower without worry, just flush my toilet like a normal person, not have to throw my TP in the trash, and wash clothes without using a laundromat. I suspect that's why there's no W/D in it now. The current owners never lived there but the ones before them did. I bet they were babying that tank too. Why else would you not have a washer and dryer??  Anyway, after weighing it for a bit, I decided that I did love the place and I could live with the composting toilet option.  I told the sellers I would take their offer.

I went back to the property yesterday to double check a few things, measure the fences, etc. Turns out the fence between them and the rear neighbor IS on the property line so the tank is too close. What I didn't expect to find is that the fence between them and the neighbor across the road is way OUTSIDE the property line. It's a dead end street but the street right-of-way goes all the way to the water's edge. It belongs to the county. Nobody may be using it but you still can't just fence it in and use it. Once permit. The well may even be in that right of way, it's certainly close. Once again, it would take a survey to know for sure. I learned a few more things that concerned one ever went through the process to de-title the trailer and convert it to real property. (permits, fees and taxes involved there) AND the sellers never got title to it. :-( You have to do one or the other.  Sigh.......the person that sold it to them is dead so now there's more headaches involved, as the title insurance company won't insure without that. I heard that directly from the title insurance company. I guess when they bought it, they bought it from a sick close friend for a pittance and never did any of that. No title insurance, simple quitclaim deed, no survey, etc. Maybe trying to save $$, I don't know.  That may come back to bite them now.

While I was at the property I looked more closely at the construction of the addition. Pressing my hand to the wall I was astonished to find that what I thought was beadboard paneling over drywall turned out to be plastic panels over plain, unbacked styrofoam. I don't know how that would react in a fire but I don't think it would be good. The uncovered styro I could see in the bathroom where the back of the vanity had disintegrated had no markings to indicate it was fire resistant or anything other than the plain styro you get at Hobby Lobby. I also noticed that the skirting in the back was the trailer had subsided a bit. Also, a tree had fallen on the roof and punched one hole I could see and put a big dent on the roof. Now that I knew the panels were plastic and wouldn't show signs of water damage I was a little more worried about that.

In any event, I had measured the appliances that needed to be replaced so I went back home to wait for the sellers to sign the paperwork. And wait. And wait. I was wondering what was taking so long since they were the ones who made the offer to me. I woke up the next morning and nothing. An hour or two later I got the news I had been expecting....the sellers were backing out of the deal. Sigh. I guess I was expected to counter, but I was frankly done. I had told the realtor that I absolutely wasn't paying a penny more, and I meant what I said. It's a shame, it's a pretty lot, but the fact that it's in the 8' flood zone with a failed septic means that anyone trying to build on it will incur thousands in extra costs and extreme difficulty in getting homeowners insurance. Since I didn't plan to build it wasn't as big a deal for me, but it would have made it a struggle to sell down the road.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Homebuying Adventures, Part 1

I wasn't too keen on the idea of spending thousands to build on my lot as I didn't think I'd recoup the value upon selling. So I started looking at other options. I found a cool-sounding property on NoName Road in Youngstown FL listed at $67,999. It was an old (1994) RV trailer roofed over with an addition that had a sunroom, bedroom and bathroom. It had water frontage on two sides on canals of Deer Point Lake. It seemed a little pricey for an almost 25 year old RV with an addition of undetermined age and quality, but I decided to go look at it.  When I got there with the realtor I found it wasn't in nearly as good shape as the pictures appeared. First thing I noticed was a tree had fallen on the roof and put a huge dent and a hole. While the place had been vacant for years, it was obvious they knew about it as they tried to tie some of the siding in place with some wire. Which was very rusted so it had been damaged for a while.

The second thing I noticed was that the well house was all distorted, either from subsidence or from just being poorly built. I was hoping the same guy didn't build the addition. (That's supposed to be a flat roof.) The well wasn't in there, just the pressure tank.

The water filtration system was in pieces, with one tank leaning up against the trailer.

The air conditioner looked awful too. The lack of maintenance was obvious. Plus the skirting was buckled in some places, leading me to wonder if the trailer had settled and might settle some more. I never did get to look underneath and see if, god forbid, it was still sitting on tires. Or how well it was blocked if they had taken the tires off.

We found the septic tank by following the exposed pipe to the mostly exposed tank.  Which was right next to the fence/property line. That may have been ok decades ago, but not now. The tank has to be 5' from the property line. Plus other setbacks from the foundation, potable water lines and 100' from the water.  I was pretty sure this would be a problem as the county here is not exactly consumer friendly and I doubted they'd approve a permit to repair or replace it where it was, and it was hard to see where I could put it and comply with all the other setbacks without ripping out the structures.  I thought the lid was cracked, it turned out it was just ancient. The septic guy told me they stopped using 3 piece lids in the 70's. (It did fail the septic inspection, by the way. Quite spectacularly. He pulled up one piece of the lid, took one look and walked away. But that's a story for another day.)

When I took these pics I had never seen a septic tank like this so I thought it was broken. Turns out it's just how they did it almost 50 years ago. :-( 

One of the storage sheds was in poor shape, with the floor all rotted out.

The hot water heater was outside, under a kinda weird cover that didn't seem very weatherproof. Unsurprisingly, though the breaker appeared to be on, there was no hot water.

The shed with carport, while mostly in good shape (though FULL of mud dauber wasp nests and surrounded by fire ants) but it was weirdly placed. It was jammed up against the corner of the addition and they cut a section out of the carport roof to make it fit. Just odd. 

The view was not quite as nice as the pics either, they must have been taken after a lot of rain. There wasn't nearly as much water when I looked, and the annual lake drawdown wasn't starting until the 20th of November. 

The other canal was full of lily pads and seemed like skeeter central. :-(

We went inside and then the real fun started.  Pretty much the first thing I noticed was the largest spider I've ever seen anywhere. Ever. Eeeeee......  The second thing I noticed was the gaping hole where they yanked out the fridge, tearing up the vinyl floor and leaving a piece of rotten, water damaged plywood exposed, along with a hole in the wall. This was kinda fortuitous as it exposed how haphazard the wiring was, and the fact that they just stuck a piece of plastic over the hole where the old RV fridge had been vented to the outside. The opening is only 24" wide so there aren't many options in fridges that will fit. 

The pic is blurry since most of the lights in the camper didn't work. The built-in ones are 12v and the 12v system wasn't functioning. There are lots of reasons that could be, my guess was a failed converter.  I never found a breaker box or panel inside the rv to check.

The addition looked great, on the surface.  When you looked more closely at it, problems appeared.  I didn't realize it at first, but the walls in the addition were not wooden beadboard like I thought, but plastic panels made to look like it.  I'd never seen that before. So much for my idea of painting it. :-(  When I looked under the vanity in the bathroom I had a couple more surprises.....first of all, the back of the vanity had disintegrated. Like the fridge, this was kinda fortuitous as it revealed some poor workmanship in the form of another hole in the wall. It also revealed that the walls were a styrofoam sandwich! Plastic panel, plain, uncovered styrofoam, and another plastic panel. No drywall, no foil or other covering on the styrofoam, nothing. I had to wonder how that would fare in a fire. I really wonder what the home inspector would have said about that, though I never got to that point.

The floor in the bath was pretty badly stained too. 

I found the VIN plate showing the year and model of the RV trailer, it still had a license plate on it. I wondered in passing how that worked....was there a title for the RV and a deed for the land or how that worked. I figured that was something for the seller to take care of. (It turned out that I was right to wonder about that......they did need to transfer the title of the RV to me.....and they never got one. I guess when they bought it they didn't do title insurance or a survey or anything and didn't know to get the RV title. And the lady they bought it from had died. This could have been a real headache.)

Even after seeing all these problems, I thought the lot had potential.  I felt that I could use the structures as they were until maybe some day I wanted to build something better.  It would have been nice to kayak around and watch the sunset. I didn't realize the drawdown was going to make the kayaking impossible.

(I did go back after the first drawdown and the water was pretty hard to see from the house. The 'boat ramp' (if you can call it that) was already unusable. When the lake is fully drawn down in December it's probably just a mud flat out there until March. Since I'd only be here in the winter......that was a big negative.)  

I went home and started researching. I found that the sellers paid $25,500 for the property in 2012 and all the improvements had already been done before they bought it. (I was never able to find a single permit for anything.)  I also found that the entire lot was in a flood zone, AE elevation 8 feet. In other words, if I ever wanted to build or put in another manufactured home it would have to be above 8' elevation. In fact, it sounded like if you even wanted to add another room it had to be 8' up. Most of the other lots on the street had a bit of land out of the flood zone where people had built but this lot didn't. So that was a negative about the lot.  After giving it some thought I offered $40,000. I felt that was a fair offer with all the problems, giving the sellers a $15,000 (almost 60%!) profit. Plus I was a cash buyer, so there was no uncertainty about someone getting a mortgage. Though I doubt any bank would finance something like this anyway. So now I just had to wait.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Catching up.

I've been in Florida for a while, and since sitting in Mom's house/yard is not ideal, I've been trying to work out a better solution. I've been getting quotes on building on my lot and also shopping for other property.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

One of my beginning efforts in learning to record my flutes and create videos. I created the music using GarageBand for IPad & Audacity. The high flute is one of mine, a B flat PVC. The low flute is by Pat Haran, a low B flat in flamed boxelder. It's a gorgeous flute.  This composition is not that great and everything needs a lot of work. It only gets better from here.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

3/2/2016 Mesquite to Virgin

My stay at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite was uneventful. It was quieter than I expected, although a fair amount of people started rolling in between 5 and 6 AM, some making an inordinate amount of noise.Of course I had parked facing the wrong direction the night before, so the sun was shining on the south side of the rig. It's better for it to shine on the north side due to the orientation of the solar panels. Plus it really helps to not have it beating down on the fridge and the door. I thought about just leaving it, but decided there was no reason to waste the sunshine so pulled up the jacks and turned around the other way. It turned out to be a good thing I did. I wandered in and got some Starbucks, and considered breakfast but didn't see much that appealed to me. Especially not after gorging myself at the buffet the night before. I took my coffee back to the rig because it was not pleasant to sit at the Starbucks due to the cigarette smoke from the casino.

When I got back out to the rig, I was happy I had went through the trouble of moving it. It was getting warm, and having the entry door in the shade meant I could leave it open and enjoy the breeze. There was not a huge difference in the amperage coming into the panels from switching it from one side to the other so it's good to know that it's not required for that reason alone. Once I finished my coffee I headed down the road. 

Driving into St. George I saw a Pilot gas station and decided it might be a good idea to get gas where I knew it would be cheap. I stopped at another Starbucks, because I was trying to get some of these stars built up before the program changed. I'm not sure why. But anyway..... It turned out there were quite a few interesting stores in that area. I went to Dick's Sporting Goods, and Petsmart since I needed some more material for the composting toilet, and then spotted a Redstone olive oil store. What a place that turned out to be! I spent at least an hour in there and probably drank a half a gallon of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, as I tested just about everything in the store. Lots of fun. They had some amazing combos and best of all, they had very small bottles of everything. I don't have the room for giant bottles of balsamic and olive oil. These little bottles, while they may not be the best value, can fit in the drawer. I got coconut vinegar, Persian lime oil, maple vinegar, Kalamata oil, all kinds of stuff. It will be fun to make dressings and whatnot out of those. I did some other walking around bought a cheap sweater, a piece of chocolate with cashews, and a frying pan. Yeah, I know...random.  Then finally headed to Starbucks for coffee and Wi-Fi. By this point it was late enough that I was considering spending the night in St. George, but it didn't look like there were a lot of good options. I decided to shoot for the red Cliffs BLM campground near Leeds Utah. It looked gorgeous. 

The drive there was pretty interesting. I knew there were two low tunnels under the freeway that you had to go through. They said they were 11'6 clearance and I'm 10 feet high so I knew it would work. What I didn't expect was how narrow they were! I wasn't sure I would fit. I'm sure I had more clearance than I did, but criminy it looked close. As I was approaching the recreation area I had some jackass in a car on my tail. After coming to the entrance gate I pulled over and let him by. This turned out to be a tactical error. When I got to the campground, that car was pulling into a campsite. It turned out that that was the last open one. Lesson learned. No good deed goes unpunished.  I'll never do that again.  Next option was Quail run State Park, which looked interesting, on the shore of a little reservoir. It was gorgeous. It was also full. Sigh..... 

At that point I decided to head for some other BLM land that I had read about in the Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking. It was kind of getting down to the wire at that point, it was getting close to sunset. I found the turn off okay, and the dirt road wasn't too bad, but all the turnoffs to the dispersed sites had me driving into the sun and I couldn't see what I was getting into. That's not optimal. I did find one that was not too far off the road at an angle where I could see where I was going and that's where I ended up. It's a nice spot. Beautiful views around, and very little noise. I've seen quite a few cars go by, but no other RVs and I don't see anyone else camped anywhere. It got really cold really quickly when the sun went down, and I headed inside shortly thereafter.  I was a little skeptical of these guides but some of the sites, like this one, aren't in any of the other resources I use. So they're definitely valuable. (I do get a commission if you use the link above.)

Later I got an email from the flute school with a 320 page flute textbook. What a great book. I read about 100 pages and played for at least an hour. The nice thing about being in such a remote area, no one can hear me play. Otherwise, there is no way I'd be playing the flute until 11 o'clock at night. Even inside the rig, I would worry that I was disturbing someone because sound does carry. 

I'm going to head to the park tomorrow, hoping to get a site in either one of the campgrounds. I would like to see a little bit of Zion, and after I looked at the flute schedule again I won't be doing any sightseeing during the school. So tomorrow and Friday will really be it for sightseeing. If I don't get a site there, I guess I can always come back here. I think it's about 15 or 18 miles. I went a bit crazy shopping online the past few days between Amazon and Ebay.......I got two new flutes, a case, a new laptop, a tent and some other assorted stuff all coming to the school hotel. They're gonna love me. :-)