Could it be? A building on our place at Howard Mesa?

Our soon-to-be cabin was finally delivered to Howard Mesa.

If you’ve been reading these blogs for a while, you may know that Mike and I own 40 acres of “ranch land” at the top of Howard Mesa, about 40 miles south of the Grand Canyon. The place got a lot of coverage in last year’s blog entries because I lived in our travel trailer there while I worked at the Grand Canyon. During those months, I grew to hate the confined space of the horse trailer with living quarters and dream of a more permanent structure that we could go to at any time, without a lot of preparation, to get away from home.

Yes, I’m talking about trading life at the edge of nowhere for life in the middle of nowhere.

A vacation cabin. After all, that’s why we bought the place five or six years ago. As a place we could go in the summertime, to escape the heat. But also, as a place to get away to when we needed to get away. And I need to get away a lot more than the average person does.

The trouble with the trailer is its cramped space — half of its 35 feet is set aside for horse transportation — and the difficulty in getting it up there. Our last trip up there, in April, was difficult (to say the least) and cost me about $200 in repairs. As Mike attempted to drive up the unmaintained road to the place, the trailer’s left wheels dropped into a ditch, smashing the gray water release and the holding tank valve. Thank heaven the black water (sewer) tank’s valve or pipe weren’t affected! Then the right wheels dropped into a different ditch, smashing the drop-down step. Sheesh. Mike had his share of expenses that weekend when he skidded off another road at Howard Mesa and had to pay a tow truck operator $250 to get it out. I was my at my bitchy New Yorker best at the association meeting the next day, demanding that the roads be properly maintained. I must have scared them, because they have since made the road we use most of the time better than it has ever been. You know what they say about the squeaky wheel. And I really do know how to squeak when I have to.

After much debate on different options — including a single-wide trailer (yuck), a double-wide trailer (double-yuck), a “park model” trailer, and a custom cabin, we settled on a compromise: a portable building that could be fixed up as living space. We ordered a custom shed, with a loft, to be delivered right to Howard Mesa.

I won’t go into details about how the deliver was screwed up twice. I may have already griped about that in these blogs. If not, you’re not missing anything. Let’s just say that we drove up to Howard Mesa twice — a distance of about 150 miles from Wickenburg — to receive the shed and both deliveries were cancelled.

But third time’s the charm, right?

This latest delivery date was set for Saturday morning. The delivery guy (who sold us the thing), said he was going to leave Wickenburg at 4:30 AM to meet us at Howard Mesa at 9:00 AM.

My problem was a scheduling conflict: I had to be in Chandler, AZ at 1:30 PM to do an Apple Store appearance. Chandler is 140 miles south (as the crow flies, mind you) from Howard Mesa. By car, it’s about a 4-hour drive.

You can probably figure out what the solution was. We took Zero-Mike-Lima to Howard Mesa with the idea of flying directly to Chandler afterwards.

We left Wickenburg at 7:15 AM. It was a nice flight — smooth, cool, and uneventful. We were at Howard Mesa by 8:20 AM. But David — the person we were supposed to meet, wasn’t there yet.

We decided to fly to nearby Valle Airport for fuel. While the guy was fueling us, Mike called David. He hadn’t even made it to Flagstaff yet. (He was taking I-17 to avoid the twisty roads near Yarnell and Prescott.) I seriously doubt that he left at 4:30 AM. So Mike and I took the airport courtesy car (which evidently does not have a reverse gear) and went to breakfast in Valle. At 9:15 AM, just as I was spinning up, David called. He’d just turned onto route 64, just 15 miles south of our rendezvous point. Perfect timing. We passed the rendezvous point before David got there and found him about five miles down the road. He was hard to miss. The building was huge on the trailer behind his truck. It’s 12 x 24 with a tall, barn-style roof. I circled around him and raced back to the turnoff for Howard Mesa. I circled my landing zone near the road once to check for wires and wind, then set down. Mike got out and I took off again, before anyone could wonder what I was doing there.

Zero Mike Lima at Howard MesaI flew over Larry Fox’s place with the idea of offering him a ride, but didn’t see his truck outside. I think his wife was working in the garden. So I just kept going, up to our place on top of the mesa. I was there in less than 4 minutes. It would take Mike and Dave and the soon-to-be cabin considerably longer. I landed on the far edge of the gravel helipad we’d made the previous season and shut down. Then I made some trips to and from the helicopter to unload the supplies we’d brought: primer, paint, paint rollers, curtain rods, wood patch, etc. I opened the trailer and immediately smelled something nasty. A quick glance in the fridge gave me the bad news: I’d forgotten to take home that leftover prime rib from dinner the weekend before. Oops. It had become a science project. I brought it outside and went back into open some windows. Then I turned on the stereo and brought out a book with the idea of reading.

Instead, I took a few pictures and went down to open the gate. I came back and adjusted the pink ribbon we’d used to mark out the area where the building was supposed to go. It was a beautiful day: clear, calm, and cool. The three Cs. (Beats the 3 Hs anytime.) I was excited about the arrival of the building. And I really didn’t want to go to Chandler. I was prepared to spend the weekend. But that was not an option.

Shed on ApproachAfter a while, I heard the sound of a laboring engine. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of the road up the mesa. I remembered how the road grader had been parked partially in the road and wondered whether they were having trouble getting around it. But there was nothing I could do so I just waited. Then I saw it: the building! It was moving past the big metal tank about a half-mile from our place. It was about a three quarters of a mile drive from that point. Then I saw it again, further along the road. Then at the “four corners” intersection. Then it was coming up the road!They turned the corner into our driveway without falling into the ditch at the end of our culvert. Then they squeezed through the gate — I guess it was a 16-foot wide gate after all. Then they were on their way up the driveway to our living area at the top.

David looked thrilled to be up there. He immediately got out of the truck and lit a cigarette. So did his companion. Then they got to work, with Mike’s help.

I noticed an SUV at my neighbor’s house. The only people to build near us put in a gawd-awful looking doublewide (double-yuck) right across the road from our place. Then the husband and wife decided to get a divorce and put the place up for sale. If I won the lottery (which I now play quite faithfully), I’d buy the damn place and donate the house to a charity just to get it out of my sight. The SUV was likely to be a Realtor’s with customers. As I watched, they pulled out of the driveway, came up the road, and pulled into ours.

Damn. Look what happens when you leave the gate open.

“Get rid of them,” Mike told me.

No problem. I began psyching myself up to deliver a New York style, rude reminder that the no trespassing sign meant what it said. The car drove up to me and I bent over to look into the passenger window. A nasty “Can I help you with something?” was in my throat, ready to emerge. But the SUV contained our friends, Matt and Elizabeth, who now live year-round on the other side of the mesa. Heck, they were certainly welcome! It was the first time they’d visited us. I swallowed to clear my throat and greeted them enthusiastically.

Delivering ShedThey joined me to watch Mike, David, and David’s Spanish-speaking helper as they positioned the trailer over the spot where the building was supposed to go. It was a nice spot — the same spot I’d parked the trailer the summer before — with views out to the west and easy access to the fire pit we’d built the first year we came to Howard Mesa. Then they tilted the bed of the trailer and started to move the truck forward, gently sliding the building down. A short while later, the building was sitting on top of the cinderblocks we’d bought to keep if off the ground.

David and his helper took the protective netting off the roof and remove the screws that were making sure the door stayed closed. And then Elizabeth stepped inside, becoming the first official visitor to our soon-to-be cabin.

Howard Mesa from AirOf course, the building still needed to be leveled. And it was about 11:30 AM, a full 30 minutes after the time we’d promised to start our trip to Chandler. David promised to level it and close the gate behind him when he left. Matt and Elizabeth left. Mike and I locked up the trailer, hopped in Zero-Mike-Lima, started up, warmed up, and took off. Mike got this great picture of the site as we were leaving. We’ll be moving the trailer closer to the soon-to-be cabin next time we bring Mike’s truck up there. It’ll probably go perpendicular to the building, facing south, so they can both access the same septic system pipe and water line. The idea is to live in the trailer while fixing up the building to add amenities like a tiny bathroom, kitchen area, and solar powered electricity. (Howard Mesa is “off the grid.”) By the end of the season, the soon-to-be cabin should be a cabin and the trailer won’t be necessary. At that point, we’ll probably sell it or exchange it for a smaller pull trailer that trades horse space for living space. I’m thinking of a 18-foot model with a slide out or pop-out bed.

At this moment, my plans are to return to Howard Mesa with the horses, Alex the Bird, and maybe Jack the Dog at month-end, after revising a book for Osborne, and spending the summer as a carpenter/plumber/electrician. Keep checking in to see how I do.

What do you think?