Damn the torpedos

Coming back into Denver from our Canyon Country trip last May, we became stuck in stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate as we tried to make it through Denver.  My lovely wife studied the situation and announced in no uncertain terms, “That’s it.  We’re moving to Grand Junction!”

[Dianne insists that she merely “suggested” we move to Grand Junction, but after 40 years of marriage, I know it’s best to take her suggestions as commands.]

Grand Junction is a place we’ve long longed to live.  We checked it out years ago when Dianne was still working as a nurse, and I was still shooting photos on film.  She’d have to start at a new hospital, and I’d have to find a suitable photo lab.  I’d also have to get from the Junction to Denver to fly anywhere.  We chose not to do it at that time.

A week after Dianne’s edict/suggestion, we went for a hike in Staunton State Park, which lies in the foothills west of Denver.  There, we chatted with a volunteer couple who lived in a patio home nearby and loved it.  With everything taken care of by the homeowners’ association, they could leave anytime they wanted and be gone as long as they wanted.  The patio home idea sounded perfect.

The next day, I Googled “patio homes” in Grand Junction.  Mixed in with all the conventional homes for sale that had patios, I found a link to a patio home community for folks over 55.  A few days later, we drove over the hill to check it out.  The quiet, cleanliness and friendliness of the community impressed us, so put our names on the wait list for a future home.  It was a long wait list, we were told.

Maybe next year we’ll get the call, we hoped as we planned our summer travels.

Two weeks later, we got an email asking if we would be interested in one of the units currently under construction.  We drove back over the hill to check it out.  These patio homes are front and rear duplexes, with a pair of duplexes sharing a common driveway.  Ours would be a rear unit at the edge of what will be a grassy cul-de-sac.  We agreed to buy it.

Even though our new home would not be done for months (only the foundation had been poured), we decided to take advantage of a hot sellers’ market in Denver and immediately put our house up for sale.  We contacted a few realtors, chose Pamela Meyer, whom we had contacted a decade or two ago when we first thought about moving to Grand Junction, and signed all the necessary forms. 

Our summer trip to the Left Coast would have to wait.  Paraphrasing Admiral Farragut, it was “damn the deadlines, full speed ahead” time. 

We had a few weeks to box up and remove 37-years of accumulated belongings from our house.  Friends gave us some boxes to use, and we bought many, many more.  We visited Lowe’s so often, they gave us our own reserved parking spot.

To hold everything before we could move into the new place, we rented a 10×15-foot, climate-controlled storage unit.  We figured that would be more than enough room to store our belongings.  Eleventy-seven truckloads later, it was filled wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling.  We rented another. 

We rented a third storage unit, this one 10×20-feet, for just our furniture and hired a five-man moving crew to haul everything out there, including our 300-pound log table.  With the furniture gone, we spent a week sleeping atop a leaky air mattress on the bedroom floor.  It was like camping, but without any of the pleasures of camping.

Deadlines approached.  We had a cleaning crew scheduled for September 1st and needed to get everything out of the house so they could do their thing.  We moved into our trailer and began camping out on our driveway. 

On September 2nd, the staging furniture arrived, turning our now empty house into something resembling a model home.  It looked so pretty, we considered rebuying the house from ourselves and moving back in.

On September 3rd, the photographer was scheduled to shoot a portfolio of images for the online listing.  Before he arrived, we hooked up the trailer, drove over the hill and bunked down in a state park campground in the Grand Junction area.  Finally, we were really camping.

We had two offers for the house even before it officially went up for sale on the 7th.  A slew of showings were scheduled over the weekend.  By Monday morning, we had more offers, one of which we accepted.  Pamela was able to get us $36,000 over our asking price, more than enough to cover all of the commissions and title fees. It was time to sign more forms and wait for the closing date to arrive, hoping nothing happened to derail the sale.

Having a house built

One of the exciting things about buying a brand-new house is the ability to have it customized just the way we want.  We spent countless hours on Google researching flooring, countertops, water heaters and the like.  We made a room-by-room list of modifications we wanted.  Then the work began.

Instead of just going through a catalog of options, customizing our house meant physically visiting individual vendors.  The first was the cabinet vendor who would be building the kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and full-wall entertainment center. 

“Anything but oak,” the cabinet lady said as we arrived.

Dianne poured over the non-oak wood and stain samples, finally deciding on what she liked.  She ordered the pull-out shelves and optional spice rack she wanted.  I got to redesign the entertainment center to include a wine cooler, stereo cabinet and pull-out drawers for our CD collection.

Two hours later, we made our way to the countertop vendor.  Rather than granite which needs to be periodically sealed, we opted to go with quartz.  Dianne wanted something that would show dirt, so she picked out a nice, light-colored, dull plain pattern.  That only took an hour.  We took a sample with us so we could make sure it worked well with everything else.

Next stop was the flooring vendor.  I was hoping to go with real hardwood, but the flooring guy advised against that.  Something to do with the climate and care, I think.  Instead, we chose a high-quality laminate.  We needed to make sure the flooring and countertops would look good with the cabinets, so we took flooring samples and our countertop sample and headed back to the cabinet lady.

“Ughh,” she said.  The countertop choice was an abomination. 

She pulled out a sample of granite and it looked far better.  Although the pattern in the rock would hide dirt, Dianne agreed to go with it. 

We went back to the countertop guy, found a similar slab of granite and ordered that for our countertops.  He assured us that his products could be coated with a no-care, 10-year sealant, and unlike quartz, we could set hot pans directly atop the granite, although he didn’t recommend it.

Then it was back to the flooring guy to pick out tile for the bathroom floors, showers, entryway and kitchen backsplash.  I think we were there for over four hours, the final hour of which was spent with Dianne laboring over the grout color.

Back with the developer, we went over electric and plumbing issues, planning the lighting, ceiling fans, plug configurations, water heater style (gas on demand) and laundry area configuration (stacked washer and electric dryer).

With all that done, it was finally time to head onward.  We still had some camping to do.

Off to New Mexico

With the house under contract, we could finally relax and enjoy one final fling into the mountains.  The A-Liner Owner’s Club (we still belong even though we no longer own an A-frame trailer) was having a rally in the mountains outside Santa Fe.  It would be a good chance to see old friends and once again answer the New Mexico state question – “red or green” (chili).

We planned a leisurely, three-day trip to get there from Grand Junction.  Instead of going through the San Juan Mountains, we took the slickrock route through Gateway and Dolores. 

Our first night was spent at Mancos State Park, one of our favorite places to camp.  The state spent a few bucks on park improvements since we were last there including water spigots at the dump station.  Dianne no longer had to cart five-gallon jerry cans from a faucet 50 yards away.

Our second night was spent at Trinidad State Park, a place we’d never visited before.  While the campground was nice, it was a bit of a chore winding through town to get there.  Complicating matters was the need to refuel the truck.  Finding an in-town gas station suitable for a truck pulling a trailer proved to be challenging.

From Trinidad, we headed down the interstate to the Santa Fe KOA, which is located ten miles east of town.  It lies along the highway, so the noise level was high, and there was no Verizon cell coverage.  Other than that, it was a typical RV park.

We spent three nights at the KOA, enjoying the opportunity to rest, relax and not have to fill, tape, label and lift boxes.  On the single day we spent in the city, we mostly just ate, drank margaritas, walked the streets and shot a few photos.

From the KOA, we pulled the trailer through Santa Fe and up to the Black Canyon Campground, which lies along the road to the Ski Santa Fe ski area.  It’s a Forest Service site tucked in the trees.  The campsites are wide, and many display CCC-like rockwork along their perimeters.  Dianne loved the peace and quiet of the place.  We’ll be back.

We visited with our old friends and met some new ones at the rally.  With the exception of a short, 2½-mile hike out of the campground, we mostly just hung around camp enjoying the tranquility while moving the solar panels from spots of sunlight to spots of sunlight. 

On our last full day there, we joined two other couples for a drive to Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River and Taos.  Dianne and I detoured to Taos Ski Village.  I hadn’t been there since the Blake’s sold the place and Dianne had never been there.  We became so impressed with the new layout (the skiing’s not bad either), we decided to put it on our 2022-2023 ski destination list.

The Black Canyon campground does not have a dump station, so we booked a full-hookup night at a KOA located 60 miles to the north in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  I didn’t want to carry 400 pounds of wastewater over Raton Pass and into Colorado.  Like its Santa Fe cousin, this KOA lies right along the freeway, so we were treated to the night-long din of truck traffic.

All that noise got us prepared for our next stop at the KOA Denver East Strasburg, which is located next to I-70 on the plains, 35-miles east of Denver.  We’ll be here for 41 days before we move on for a four-month stay in an RV park near our under-construction home in the Grand Junction area.

At least, that park is a mile off the freeway, so it should be quieter.