The result was that Dad bought what had been a rental fishing cabin in nearby Long Beach. I remember that the interior was covered with risque placards, renters adding to the collection had apparently been the custom. (Mom got rid of most of them, but we kept a few of the tamer ones.) This was in 1968 or 1969, IIRC. (And I might not RC.) The cabin was not particularly expensive, as real estate goes. Not there, not then.
Instead of a sandy moist canvas tent, with a Tilley heater and a Coleman gas mantle lamp as the only comforts, we had rooms! Beds, a bathroom, electric lights, a kitchen with refrigerator, wood heater...
It was marvelous.
Usually we'd spend a week or two at a time there, or a long weekend, several times a year. I spent most of one summer down there, I think I was 14. Dad had gone into partnership with another teacher, they'd built a 32-foot fishing boat and were running it as a salmon charter in summers. They'd go out fishing, early, and during the day I'd knock around the cabin, the beach, and town. When they got back I'd ride my bicycle down to Ilwaco and clean the boat. They'd be relaxing at the bar swapping fish stories and I'd be earning cash; everybody was happy. Afterwards we'd throw my bike into the truck and drive back to the cabin. Dad later sold out to his partner, I think the boat cut into the necessary farm duties a bit too much. That, and the salmon fishery collapsed. Dad didn't fish much after that, but we kept the cabin.
The extended family and friends would often gather there when I was younger, many's the time I remember the cabin being absolutely packed with people. Beds and couches all full, kids on the floor in sleeping bags, RV's and tents in the yard and on the street. Fun times. In later years, when I was off on my own and then with my own family, I'd still try to get down there once a year to enjoy it. (It didn't always happen.) The last big gathering I'm aware of was a few months before Daniel was born, so Jill did get to see one of those.
In these later years Mom and Dad were slowly remodeling the cabin. The bathroom was first, it went from the nastiest room to the nicest. They remodeled the two bedrooms next, and those turned out pretty nicely as well. Then Mom passed, and the remodeling stopped.
The cabin had originally been built, so I'm told, by somebody who worked at the school where Dad was employed. A custodian? He'd slowly gather surplus building materials, and whenever he had enough he'd go down and add on to the cabin again; we believe it had been built in at least five stages. Fairly crude construction, it's up on blocks instead of a foundation and is uninsulated. The lack of insulation is actually a positive for a building that is uninhabited most of the time, as it allows the moisture to escape when it is heated. Every 10–20 years it'd have to be jacked up again, as the blocks slowly sank into the sand. The same schedule usually applied to replacing the (perpetually leaky) roof.
At some point thieves started breaking into the cabin periodically, in spite of the fact that nothing valuable was ever stored there. (Just like in The Brave Little Toaster, it was the place where old furniture and appliances went to die.) The thieves would depart with their load of booty, things like pillows and batteries from the tube television remote, leaving broken doors, windows, and locks in their wake. The repairs always cost far more than the crap they stole. (The worst loss was some of Mom's still-life oil paintings [another of her hobbies that had come and gone] that she'd put down there. Zero commercial value, but plenty of sentimental value.) Dad finally seemed to solve the problem by leaving a sheltered shutter permanently off, making it easy to look inside to see the kind of things for which you were risking jail.
Cooking in the kitchen was always a bit of an ordeal. There was only the wood-fired cookstove, which in my memory was only used a few times for cooking. (Temperature control is a bit tricky.) Mostly it is used for disposing of paper waste, and for putting a quick flash of heat into the kitchen while the main heat was still getting going, and as a work table. We'd often bring in a Coleman stove for cooking, and there was a hot plate, and later also a microwave.
Dad had gotten tired of taking firewood down to the cabin, only to find it all used up the next time he went down, so he replaced the wood heater (a particular kind of enclosed wood stove that was getting burned-out anyway) with a pellet stove. The new rule was that you supplied your own pellets when using the cabin. This was largely a success, except that the stove could get 'clogged' with damp pellets if it wasn't cleaned out thoroughly when leaving.
When Dad died he left the cabin to me. In theory this was my reward for the executorship, or so he'd said once in passing. Perhaps a bit like the traditional White Elephant, though, a gift that is no gift, as this is a high-maintenance bit of real estate—the coastal weather is hard on buildings. Also, of his heirs I live by far the furthest away from the cabin. It usually takes us a good 10 hours to get there traveling as a family. (Traveling alone I think it still takes a good 7.5 hours best-case.) So, reward? Punishment? It's not all that clear.
Because I work from home, most of the time I can work from the cabin just as well, so long as I have internet access. Once Daniel is out of the house, we could spend a lot more time down here. Jill's busy schedule would actually be the limiting factor.
Or we could turn it back into a rental unit, which might defray its operating and maintenance costs. Maybe. It'd probably take a lot of work to upgrade it sufficiently to where it would be an attractive rental. And: 1) people aren't very nice to rental units, so maintenance costs would go up; 2) you'd have to schedule your own uses in well ahead of time. Kind of unattractive, as it's not like you'd actually be making money. If you have to schedule your own time anyway, why not just sell the place and simply rent whenever you wanted to be down there? Much less headache.
Still, some upgrades would be nice. Chief among them at this point would be getting some laundry facilities, we have always keenly felt their lack. I think that putting a washer/drier back in the low corner of the kids' playroom would be a good use of that nearly unusable space. I'm not sure you can slope a drain line sufficiently from there, though, and you'd have to upgrade the electrical service. Upgrading the 60A fuse (literally) box would not be all that hard to do: just pull the meter and peel off the wall board and replace the fuse box with a breaker panel. Run a couple of extra circuits while you are there. Include 50A and 30A RV plugs on the outside wall while you're at it.
Mom had planned to remodel the kitchen, I know she had some ideas and had laid in some supplies. I remember that I supplied a length of 8ga copper wire for getting power to an electric range. She thought that putting in a range/oven by the refrigerator, in a table/work surface that spanned that wall, was a good idea. She thought that a shortie water heater could go under there, instead of the tall one that's occupying the corner of the kitchen. I'm not sure if we'd want to go with this plan or not.
Another option would be to put in gas, but I'm not a big fan of the big white tank out front look. Yes, operating costs are usually a bit less than electricity, but the installation costs are higher, and the actual use of the cabin's services tends to be on the low side anyway.
The big trees are dying, I think they have to come down. I think only four of them are on our property, though. Another expense, this isn't really DIY territory. (It could be: I know how it's done and Dad had the lineman's gear, which Steve found in the garage, but if you ask me it just looks like an easy way to die.)
This is the Rod Run weekend, the place is an absolute zoo. Unreal.
It was still fairly warm, we didn't bother with the pellet stove. I'd brought down a couple of modest-power space heaters, which did the job. (The cabin's electrical service is very limited.)
One ugly discovery was that T-Mobile is crap, I had zero service at the cabin. Not even text messages were usable, though I did manage to get one or two. A few months earlier I had been able to work very well via AT&T, on the very same iPhone 4S.
I went for a long walk, and scoped out Dr. Roof, a business for which Jill had scraped up a recommendation. They looked substantial. I also got a recommendation for Lighthouse Realty, and in turn their recommendation for (Rowland) Bliss Construction. All this from a fellow property owner on Idaho Street.
I also left a message at Bliss Construction.
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