Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Camp

View from the road up to the camp
In reality, the search started way back in 2000 I believe. We spent a bunch of time up north so started looking for a place up there to use for weekend and vacation. One that was closer to the things that we liked to do, which at the time were MTB and ski. I was very familiar with the North Eastern portion of the state of VT, being from there originally, and so that was the first place that we looked. We took our time and studied the market, the same as I'd done with the previous two real estate purchases that I'd made at that point.

Eventually we found a place that looked to be promising and so we made an offer. It was a big piece of land, 80 acres in fact, with a pair of log cabins in varying states of disrepair. Great projects and a huge tract of land on which to build MTB and nordic ski trails. Alas, it was not to be. Even though we came in with a solid bid we didn't have all of the cash and so the seller went with a competing, lower, cash bid.

View from the down off the deck
That soured us a bit and we stopped looking. Fast forward a year or so and we started to get into downhill mountain biking. We went to Sunday River a couple of times and were introduced a bit to the quaint and charming Bethel Maine area. Around that same time I started riding more with a guy I'd know of for years, who it so happened had a home in the Bethel Maine area and readily extolled its virtues as well as the vast recreational scene including dirt bike trail riding and snowmobiling. We already had the dirt bikes, which were seldom used and I was just waiting for a reason to get sleds.

It wasn't long before Cathy and I started looking in the area. We quickly noticed that even though Betel was a really nice town next to a huge ski area, the real estate prices were very reasonable. For some reason that I too this day do not understand, prices in VT tend to be disproportionately high. There is no industry and there are few amenities to account for this. Blame it on the NY and MA money driving up the prices I guess. The first time out we saw a place that despite having some issues, which we could see past, was head and shoulders above the rest in the same price range. A few days later we made an offer and after some negotiating we settled on a price.

Driveway in, and back, and up
Luckily at that point we had the cash so the closing was quick and easy and then we were in, loving every minute of it. We spent the next year fixing this and that as well as tearing off the horrible shed addition and building a new shed that fit with the home. Soon there after we decided that we needed an addition, a mud room entry way that would also add closet space that the home desperately lacked. I designed it and we spent the next six months of vacation and weekends building it. The finished product is to this day one of our proudest achievements. We got heavily into dirt biking and snowmobiling and had lots of fun doing so and also carried season passes at Sunday River for a number of years. Over the years though we drifted away from the motorized sport and back toward cycling. More over, we got heavily into bicycle racing, which just compounded over time until it became nearly all consuming.

The past couple of years the house in Bethel had gone all but unused. Work played a big part of that. For a couple of years Cathy had a job where five days a week she needed to physically be in an office. That meant no more heading up late Thursday and work a half day on Friday from Maine. When she finally went back to a flexible work from home job, I got stuck in the quagmire of "my job from hell", which didn't lend itself to flexibility.

Fast forward to this past winter.We decided that maybe Maine wasn't right for us. We'd been talking about looking in VT again as that area was close to good biking and good nordic skiing. Maybe it was time for a move. Along the way at about the same time, I decided I'd wasted enough of my time being miserable and quit. After a long hiatus, we started the real estate search in VT again. At first we were unsure of what we wanted and were looking at some nicer places that unfortunately, cost more money. Sure, we had a budget and didn't want to have to deal with a bank so stayed within it. Even at that, there wasn't a whole lot of appealing stuff on the market. Still, we were watching and learning. Not much was moving and the statistics were pretty grim but there were things coming on now and then.

Perched atop the hill
Finally this spring there something new came on. It looked good, had some land, was in an area I knew all too well, being two miles from my parents and the home I grew up in, and was moderately priced. We took a look and decided to make what we felt was a reasonable offer. The owners didn't think it that reasonable but after moving slightly and showing them the statistics of why exactly we thought the offer was legitimate, they reluctantly verbally accepted. However, they needed some time given that they had a baby on the way, due shortly in fact, and had no place in which to move. We agreed and signed the purchase and sale. Time went by and they however did not. The owners backed out on us, choosing to let a cash offer walk away. In hindsight, despite what they think, our offer was too high but we were comfortable paying a little too much for what would be a long term hold, so I'm actually glad that it fell through.

Yes, it is small
Back to looking. All the while we had been spending more time in Maine. What we started to realize is that Bethel is friggin' awesome, for all the reasons that we ended up there in the first place. There is good road riding close by, excellent food choices and amenities and the town is still, very very desirable. Our house just makes us feel good every time we visit, based partially on all of the customizations and personal touches that we have added to it. I also finally had the time to work on a few other projects there, as I've been documenting here all making the place impossible to get rid of. With that we had rethought exactly what we wanted to do in terms of a place in VT. It was clear that we didn't want to swap the place in ME for a place in VT. That said, it would be neat to have a place there for the times we want to hit KT, visit my folks, race in the area or ride dirt roads.

We went back to looking as a background task and only looked at lower end properties. Of course when you are not really looking, something falls into your lap. We noticed a camp show up in Kirby on a route that we have biked and driven for years. It is the back way from my folks to KT, over dirt roads. The price looked good as did the property. We scheduled an appointment to see it that weekend. Just about the same time my mother forwarded the listing to me. Seems the property is on my brother's rural postal route and he though we may be interested.

But the deck is big
The place looked better than we though so after an excellent dirt road ride on the cross bikes, which went right by the property, and a discussion or two, we did some research. Once we had the data a couple of days later, we put in an offer that was very near asking. We felt this was fair and reasonable. Apparently the owner agreed as within a couple of hours he had signed the purchase and sale agreement. About a week and half later, which was exactly a week ago yesterday, we did a walk through and then met our teammate Kyle at KT for a quick ride at KT. Next thing we were scrambling to clean off at get to the lawyer's office for the closing.

The owner was a very nice man from Maine who was reluctant to sell the camp, but had some health issues that forces it. I truly hope that all turns out well for him. We are very glad that we didn't lowball him in his time of need. Fifteen minutes and very few signatures later we are handed the keys and head to the van to call and get insurance squared away on our new piece of heaven. Once that is complete we head back to KT to join Kyle, still in progress, on the MTB ride that turned into an MTB slog in the pouring rain and mud.

Cathy on Ridge Rd
The place isn't much and we need to do a whole bunch of stuff to get it to where we want it. That said, it is way better than camping. We have running water, electricity and septic. It is currently three season but we plan to winterize it. It is situated on an awesome dirt road which is also a stout Strava climb and is a few miles off from RT2. This part of VT is rich with dirt roads and we have countless loops with breathtaking views literally starting out the door. It is also a short ride on those same dirt roads to the Kingdom Trails. Plus every ride will end in a good solid climb regardless of which way we go.

We spent a little time there last week, ditching to help the over abundant water supply drain off and cutting some overgrowth to help get more sun in. We have lots and lots to do but I honestly welcome and look forward to the challenge. However, I need to finish up my current project in Maine before I really tackle the VT projects in earnest. Who knew being unemployed would be so darn busy, or satisfying? I thank my wife and our realistic lifestyle for making it possible.

1 comment:

Chris H said...

Sounds pretty amazing! Every sabatical you take leads to awesome projects and end products. Cant wait to hear more about it.