Friday, July 28, 2017

Bella Terra: Framing The Casita

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley Alabama          Framing of the casita began on Friday, July 7th, four days after the concrete pour. We signed the casita building contract with David two days earlier, July 5th. The contract was drawn and approved way back on June 16 -- before my angry outburst described in gruesome detail on an earlier post. I guess everyone was afraid of me -- with good reason. Nevertheless, we are all legally bound to proceed with this endeavor now.

After a great deal of urging from me, David reduced the fourteen week construction period to twelve... though I know that deadline really is not likely to be met.

The final "all horizontal" view of our lot as first material delivery happened Thursday, July 6th.
There's no power to the pedestal yet so the framing crew uses a generator. Bet the neighbor loves that.
The framing contractor, Steve, seems a likable and dependable fellow. 

Then on Friday, July 7, we built a wall!
The framing crew is much too small for my liking -- a mere 3 guys the first few days. 

Saturday, July 8th -- three walls!

July 10th -- the garage framing is added (right side). There's David in blue shirt and ever present flip flops.
 I worry ... don't want him to be injured. (Might cause construction delays.)

July 11th - Wayne's standing in the golf cart garage.
We will have space for shelves and washer and dryer too. 

July 11th - Hard to see but the boards in the middle are porch support posts.
Three or four are needed to support the 12' forward section and 8' sides of the porch. 

From the rear. 

Lexie and Ozzie enjoy exploring their new place.
Can you see them there on the right... 

The area in front of where Ozzie is standing will be laid in circular patterned pavers -- it's the fire pit area.
Lexie is standing on the raised pad where the screened gazebo will be built.
The concrete will be stained once construction is complete. 

The power pedestal wiring was inspected on Wednesday, July 12th and we established the first utilities account we've had in seven years. (Insert icky face here)

Porch framing started - July 12th

On Saturday, July 15th, the roof was started. Gee, it looks big now.
Our typical pattern for watching the construction process is to take a ride over in the golf cart after dinner every evening, after the workers are gone. As I do love seeing construction, this is sometimes difficult for me...

The front porch roof decking was started on  Wednesday, July 19th. Steve found a few more framers, though some of these had to be fired. Seems he is able to keep a few going all the time though. I like Steve so far. 
We were "weather lucky" through the first two weeks of framing. Fast moving showers come almost daily but we didn't have any complete wash-out days until Monday, July 24 when a long train of thunderstorms lasted from before dawn until lunchtime. In early afternoon, some clearing came and progress continued.

July 20th. Standing in the doorway, the full bathroom is on the left.
Kitchenette is on the right with a pocket door into the golf cart garage where we'll have laundry space too. 

July 20th. The golf cart garage and laundry. There will be a double door here. 

By July 24th, the roof decking was coming along nicely and it's easier to see the porch area.
Still a couple of posts to be installed. 

July 27th from the vacant lot beside ours. 

July 27th. Our neighbors are gone now and this angle gives a good look at the comparative size of our casita alongside theirs. The porch and garage make the pitch of the roof higher. Our screened gazebo will be placed similarly to the neighbors and the paint colors will be the same. Our concrete stain will be darker than theirs. 

July 27th from another angle. 
July 27th David, the contractor. No, he hasn't been to the beach.
He continues to impress me with his positive attitude, attentiveness and courtesy.  
Steve on the roof and one of his carpenter helpers, below. It bothers me that they work in the oppressive heat.
They are finishing the roof decking and making way for the roof to be installed in the next few days. 

Steve's girlfriend comes along some days. It's cool on the porch and they have a radio blaring. 

David continues to feel the project is moving along at a good pace and despite the daily showers, we aren't being washed out.  This concludes the casita framing post. Next, we'll watch the metal roof, doors and windows go in.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Going Topless

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama      The neighbors beside us here in the temporary RV site have a Mustang convertible that they keep under a canvas cover when they aren't here.  Richard, the neighbor, calls it his "fun" car.

I didn't realize it but the Wayner was developing a secret desire to have a "fun" car too and seeing Richard's Mustang intensified it. He confessed to me a couple weeks ago when he saw a red Mustang convertible with a "For Sale" sign in the window out on Highway 59 in Foley. He stopped. He looked... but the red Mustang didn't meet his stringent standards......

So.... we began looking for pre-owned convertible makes and models online. I helped him with research of convertibles. We looked at everything from TrueCar to Carfax to Car Trader to dealer sites to Craigslist. He broadened, then narrowed his convertible car choices to Ford Mustang, BMW, Lexus and Mercedez Benz. He prepared a list of pre-owned convertibles for sale in the area. Last Monday we drove to Mobile to see a Benz, Lexus and Mustang. Tuesday we drove to Destin to see a BMW. Wednesday was Pensacola Day where he checked another Mustang, another Lexus another Mercedez Benz and another BMW. It was hot and tiring work, but we kept going, Lexie and Ozzie in tow every mile.

Thursday was a day of rest from the physical car search, but not from the mental one. He doubled down on his research and made more phone calls.  By Friday evening, he had decided on the BMW he saw in Destin. Of course, that would be the car.... the farthest distance but it was a good price, with low miles and in fine condition. It's a 328i hardtop convertible. He bought it from a widow from Birmingham, now living in Destin. Strike up yet another Craigslist success story for us.

Here we are, about to go topless.

A couple more pictures....

Ready for an early evening ride in Pop's new car. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A "New To Us" Golf Cart

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley Alabama    

We bought a golf cart last week. It's used. Craft Farms golf course was rotating their fleet. We are not members, but a local friend is and he arranged to have this one offered to us ahead of some other members for just $1,750.

The cart seems to be in good operating condition -- a 2 person, 2008 Club Car with all new 48 volt batteries, charger and tires. It's not equipped for city driving but we plan to only use it within the confines of the resort.

Our friend, Frank, and one of the golf pros at Craft Farms even delivered the cart to us here at Bella Terra! That's service, friends.

We removed the golf club cover wedge from the back and I ordered a rain enclosure, rainproof cart cover, rear view mirror and extra keys (came with just one). We gave her a good washing, waxing and wiped the black plastic with one of those rejuvinating products to bring the color back. We're feeling pretty smug now, wheeling around with the pups between us -- and it sure beats pedaling a bicycle.

A second seat can be installed for about $300 and we are giving that some thought, but for now, we'll settle for a simple, inexpensive ride for just us and the dogs. In time, Wayne might decide he wants a newer one. We will see.

Lexie and Ozzie enjoy the evening ride.
Another late thunderstorm is heading our way!
That's a laundry/shower house in the background with more available Phase III lots all around.

So now we take "after dinner" golf cart rides to check the lot's building progress and tour the neighborhood.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lucky Seven!

From Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, Alabama     July 4th marked the end of our seventh year as full-time RV'ers. Year seven RV travel totaled 4,977 miles over ten states: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida with a passenger vehicle trip through Idaho into the eastern edge of Washington State. Total miles driven this year is 5,187. Total RV miles since retirement total 59,435.

Major personal, non RV events of the seventh year included the many aspects of Lexie's illness, attending my 45th high school reunion, a record five month stay in Port Charlotte, learning to play pickleball and to line dance.  Of course, the purchase of our RV lot and the resulting commencement of construction is the greatest highlight though.

It goes without saying that our RV lifestyle is changing. While we still love living in the coach, the pace is slowing, destinations are more definitive and campground selection is narrowing. With the completion of our RV lot, we expect to park ourselves for several months in spring and fall with travel to warmer places in the coldest winter months and cooler trips in summer.

So with this, we welcome the next 12 months by declaring, "Eight Isn't Enough"...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bella Terra: The Concrete Phase

From Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, Alabama     We arrived Friday, April 7th and toured Bella Terra the very next morning. We knew before we arrived that we were likely lot buyers if we liked what we saw. We selected a site during the next three days, signed a contract to purchase it on Thursday, April 13 and closed on the following Friday, April 21. The lot we chose is one of about 30 in the final phase of the development. It's what they call a "Terraced" lot that's adjacent to a heavily wooded area recently designated an Alabama Preserve. 

April 13, 2017
Lot 35-464 Portofino Loop, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores. The ground is dry. It's been weeks since rain has fallen.
Ours is one of just two remaining Phase III Terrace lots along the south side which adjoins this wooded preserve.

By the following Tuesday, I had drawn a first draft of what we wanted built. Measuring  50' x 90', our site is large enough to built any of the available coach house plans. Wayne and I decided on a small Rizzo model with full bathroom and kitchenette. A 12' porch and outside kitchen/bar area will extend from the front door of the casita. A screened gazebo will be built in front of the porch and a campfire area will be near the street with tall privacy foliage in front of it.

Several modifications would be made to this first pencil draft. 
Despite the best efforts of Courtney and the staff at Bella Terra, drawing of the architectural plans became a distasteful experience. Robby Miller, the draftsman, took six weeks to produce this small project on paper. It's a two day project at best.

Two and a half weeks would pass before any lot improvement would commence but here is a picture of the first soil scrape. An "ah ha" moment for sure. David Thompson, the builder, sensed my desperate need to see something....

The ground is broken!  May 10, 2017 
May 15, 2017
Starting the construction footprint.
May 26, 2017
But the thrill from the first scrape of dirt was short lived as something surely angered Mother Nature. In the last half of May she unleashed weeks of rain onto south Alabama. The first two weeks weren't terrible -- rain fell all around but seldom directly onto us.  In early June though, the daily rains began and wouldn't stop. Four rainy weeks came and went. Each morning we watched local weather... most days carried a 40% to 70% chance of rain.

June 2, 2017
Concrete framing begins, but then.... rain delays the progress.
The architects plans were finally completed on June 5 and the construction permit was issued Friday June 16th. David (the builder) is hopeful to get concrete poured the next week.

Yep. Flood zone. 

On Monday, June 19th, Tropical Storm Cindy developed in the Gulf of Mexico and had the Alabama coastline in her crosshairs.  Hours before the rain began, though, plumbers were on site and got the stubbing done. Within a couple hours, the first of Cindy's countless hours of rain began.

June 19th. Rough plumbing complete and ready for inspection.
Rain thwarted inspection which was now delayed until June 29th. 
The deluge Cindy dumped reminded us of our personal Murphy's Law: If it can happen, it will happen. It did happen. One five day period of dry weather followed the rain but construction stood still. I don't know why. I stopped walking and biking in the resort. Construction on our site was being watched and discussed by the summer resident/owners. I was stopped often and questioned as to why we can't move as fast as another site also under construction. I grew frustrated. I got mad. Wayne's spirits were no better and we began to rethink our plan. We gave serious though to selling the lot without going into the casita building phase. Life is too short to worry with construction. Word of a single rant to a neighbor spread quickly to management who carefully waded into my angry world. They only made matters worse with lengthy email timelines and useless lectures about the perils of construction, south Alabama weather and the importance of being a good follower. Ick. Enraged, I fired a scathing email right back and heard no more. I was satisfied but still in favor of aborting the plan.

June 30th. Casita foundation is prepared and forming continues in the mud. 

By June 29th David was finishing the concrete forms for concrete. He asked if I wanted to show him where to lay out the freestyle landscape islands I had planned. I bristled but rode my bicycle to the site to tell him we were not going to move forward beyond where we were legally bound. We would sell the lot. I told him as much. He asked why. I told him. He didn't argue but asked more questions. We talked on and on, reversing the timeline all the way back to the delay caused by the draftsman. It felt good to have someone specific to blame for my frustration. I reassigned my anger.

June 30th. Look closely to see standing muddy water halfway up the lot. It's almost a foot deep on the front slope.
On June 30, our lot was a giant mud hole. David said he would pump it out and he did. Rain came sporadically. The plumbing passed inspection. So did the soil compaction test and the foundation test. David planned to pour concrete on Monday, July 3. His talk reinvigorated my enthusiasm. I rode my bicycle home and told Wayne. Bless his heart. He's happy when I'm happy.  And when I'm unhappy.... well... he is too. Lord, how I love that man.

Our version of "Draining the swamp". Pumping nearly complete. 
Monday, July 3, concrete trucks began rolling into the resort and the beautiful grey liquid poured into the forms. David invited me to oversee placement of the landscape islands he had formed. I stayed and watched the concrete work all day. My spirits soared. The rain seemed to have subsided -- for today anyway.

First truck load of concrete.

A total of five concrete trucks

The casita, golf cart garage and slab for the gazebo are poured first.
David is in the red shirt. He's forming the landscape islands.

Two ramps were built by hand. They are needed to get the golf cart into the garage.

On concrete pouring day, Wayne came by to check on the progress but didn't stay long.
He just wants to see the end result.

Almost finished. Rumor has it these are among the best concrete crews in the county.
Landscape islands can be seen in the middle. One is kidney shape -- the other is round.
Trees will be planted to add character and shade to the concrete pad. 

The concrete crew was great. Finished by mid afternoon.The guy on the right apologetically popped a beer.

Exhausted but still smiling. 

David. Flip-flop wearing Auburn University Alum with Masters Degree with undergraduate degrees in Biology and Finance. Age 27. Unrelenting optimist.  
And that concludes the first part of construction on July 3rd.  Construction of casita comes next. Still a long way to go.... firepit area, gazebo, porch, outside kitchen, landscaping and lighting. It will last all summer and fall, I fear, though the contract completion date is Sept 28th.