Sweetheart Al was in his 60s when he designed and built our beloved country home. I’ve asked him to write about his various experiences of bringing our dream home to reality. Here’s his first post.
When I began designing our farmhouse, a major question was: "What to put on the outside?" It had to be wood – there’s no such thing as a stucco Victorian, and it needed to have that sort of je ne sais quoi that plywood or pine just lacks.
The answer: shiplap cedar, lovingly installed one plank at a time, two hand-set stainless steel nails every sixteen inches.
And so, down to the lumberyard. When I told them how much I needed, their eyes glazed over in delight. That one sale would give everyone a 10-percent raise and an extra week’s vacation. Bend over and kiss your sweet budget goodbye, Al. So I asked, "Where do you get your cedar?"
"Oregon," they said. "A little mill south of Portland."
I immediately drove home and called the mill. Yep, they had siding, of a better quality than I could get in California, at half California’s price, and no sales tax. Shipping, while possible, was, however, prohibitively expensive.
And then it dawned on me: I had a motorcycle! I could ride to Oregon, rent a truck, put the bike in the truck, load the siding, drive back to California, unload, and ride the bike home. Ta Da! Piece of cake….
A week later, I was off at 7:30 a.m., up Interstate 5, headed north on my Kawasaki. It was later afternoon when I crossed the Oregon border, but I kept going.
At 10 p.m. I made it to my motel in Portland, fell off the bike, hobbled to check-in, and slept the sleep of the just. The next morning I took two aspirin, had breakfast, and went to the truck rental where I rented the biggest thing they had, a mammoth diesel with an eight-speed manual transmission.
In went the bike, and then ‘twas off to the cedar mill, where they loaded enough cedar siding for a house, a garage, and some outbuildings. The load hung five feet out the end of the truck.
"I’ll get a flag," they said. "Make it two, please," I asked.
The journey back home was, in a word, slow. Gas pedal on the floor in 8th gear, going downhill, I could hit almost 60.
It felt like flying; the engine roaring and the load bouncing up and down at every bump. And then, uphill in first, old ladies in electric wheelchairs passing me.
But I got to stop at truck stops and sit with the real truckers and have a gum-chewing blonde waitress pour me coffee and ask "Watcha want hon?" The look I got at the inspection stations was priceless.
It was two days back – two days of fast food and battery-acid coffee and the one-finger salute from drivers stuck behind me.
At the job site at last, my helpers unloaded the cedar.
I took the truck back to the local rental, drove the bike down the truck’s ramp, and went home.
Total saved: nearly $2,000.
Piece of cake. But I’ll never do that one again.