Kathies Krazy Kowgirl Kafe

Herding Cats

Let me preface this weeks blog with a great big thank you to all the contractors, consultants and other experts we are working with.  They have been responsive and patient and taken huge amounts of trouble to help us get what we need in a timely manner.  What follows is intended to be a humorous look at our problems.

First.  We need a new septic system.  No complaints there.  We knew in advance  that we would have to do that, it was pointed out repeatedly and I think I even had to sign a paper to that effect prior to completing the purchase.  Second, we have a restaurant, although it’s more of a theoretical restaurant at present.  No problem there as we knew that going in.  Third, we need a grease trap.  No problem.  I will pick one up at McCoys next time I’m in Alpine.  Our expert sighed upon hearing this and said.  “You don’t understand.  I mean a thousand gallon, concrete grease trap that will have to come from El Paso or Odessa, probably on a dedicated truck.  Or, we could do two, five hundred gallon, spherical, plastic ones.  They would be lighter and cheaper. ”  I inwardly groaned, but after a moment’s reflection I brightened.  We could paint the spheres as baseballs and turn La Kiva into a sports bar.  Before I could share that brilliant idea it was brutally crushed.  My septic expert went on.  “If the levels work out we can bury them right in front, to the left of the front door and we won’t have to add another lift station.”  Yes.  I know.  The bait presentation was immaculate and now all he had to do was set the hook.  I took the bait.  “What’s a lift station?”  Oh.  That is one question I wished I hadn’t asked because that led to the revelation that I will need two as well as a pair of macerators.  Trust me on this one.  Don’t ask what a macerator is.  I did and the image will live with me for a long time.

After we arrived at La Kiva, when the purchase was completed, I tried to set up office inside.  The swamp cooler in the greenhouse wasn’t working and neither was the one on the roof and with temperatures into the hundred plus range we needed a little cooling.  Up I went and trod warily across the very wibbly roof.  Afraid I would fall through, I wished for a  few dozen, large, helium filled balloons  to tie to my belt, but I made it without them.  After we got the swamp coolers working, I made a note to myself to take a serious look at the roof.  And then it rained!  The cascade coming off the roof was spectacular but even more spectacular was the cascade inside.  It became hard to find a dry spot.  I rapidly came to the conclusion that I did not need an expert to tell me how to repair the roof, I needed a new roof.

It did not need a genius to figure out that despite various upgrades to the electrical system, over the years, it was past its sell by date.  The electrics embedded in the walls had degraded to the point that almost all of them had failed.  Doubtless, this had been accelerated by the sporadic moistening it got from the roof leaks which pushes concrete to become alkaline with a pH of 12 or 13.  Over time that works on the insulation of wiring and it stops being insulation (that’s bad and depending on what you are holding when you discover this it can range from “Oh.  Better check the wiring.”  To.  “Ouch.  That’ll leave a mark.  Shoulda checked the wiring before I did that.) .  My able and highly qualified electrician did a survey.  The results:-Well, only about 10% of the wiring and fixtures are capable of being rehabilitated to NEC standards (that is the National Electrical Code).  What’s even worse is that the entire system is working without any functional grounding.  In “wet” areas, restrooms, showers, kitchens you are required to have GFCI’s or Ground Fault Current Interrupts.   These handy little devices protect you if there is a dangerous fault condition, except that you need a ground for them to work safely.  The bottom line is that we need to replace all the electrics in La Kiva and put in a grounding system that works in a desert environment during a drought.  That can be a bit tricky but La Kiva is next to Terlingua Creek so there must be damp earth somewhere.

Terlingua Creek

Continuing that thought, I worked out the electrical loads for the new kitchen, new beer coolers, fridges, freezers, air conditioners and heaters.  My electrical expert looked over my numbers and declared.  “You don’t have enough power coming into the building.  Better call Rio Grande Electric and get an electrical survey done.”  Sounds easy, right.  I called and asked for an engineering survey and was told that I needed to talk to the manager who approved such request and he wasn’t in the office.  He did call me back and the conclusion was that I needed to have an engineering survey done so talk to the receptionist who I had talked to in the first place and  she would send me the forms.  The forms arrived as promised but contain a list of county judges and contact information for them, an application for new membership and a list of requirements for new construction.  I am already a member, I don’t know why I need the judges numbers and this is a modification not new construction.  Well I screwed that one up.   Three out of three ain’t bad.  Try again on Monday.

If you have been following this blog you will remember that Josie and I got into an argument about the floors.  She wanted to skim the bad parts with concrete and I wanted to tile over everything.  The argument became academic when the floors were examined more closely.  Some of the concrete is superb and adjacent slabs must have been made when there was an acute shortage of Portland cement.  There is almost nothing holding the sand together.

Escaping Using a Spoon
Concrete made without the use of cement is not very strong.

I guess you can all see where this is going.  We have to cut concrete to lay in the new sewer and drain lines but that can’t even start until we have received the plans.  Then and only then can we start by ordering the materials we need.  We have to remove large parts of the concrete to fix the floors. We have to remove the roof iron to fix the rot and install a new metal roof and we have to replace the existing electrics.  Each item this has to be interfaced with a new kitchen, new beer cooler and a new heating and air conditioning system.  All of these disparate items have to arrive here in a timely manner, all of the equipment to perform the various jobs and all of the contractors have to arrive and remain flexible as they each work around the others.  If you think that is enough to be going on with, we have still to resolve the barbecue situation though I am working with two experts in the field, as well as promises of support from the excellent people at “Come and Take It” barbecue in Fort Davis.

So finally we have reached the “Herding Cats” part of this weeks blog.  I anticipate that much of the next few weeks will be spent herding cats.  But seriously, what could go wrong?

I hope you are all having as much fun as I am.  Despite the obvious problems and the crushing workload, I am having fun.  I am looking forward to when this is just a dot in the rear view mirror and we can finally open the doors and invite you all in for a critical look at what we have done to make sure La Kiva is good for another thirty three years.

5 thoughts on “Herding Cats”

  1. I’m glad you’re still having fun! Thank you for your transparency with all of this. Good luck getting it all together – we really appreciate you!!

  2. I had a house like this once…sigh… but seriously this will all be worth it. Someday you will write a book about the Phoenix rising of La Kiva and make all that money back. Thank you for making a huge effort to save a special part of terlingua.

  3. Dear John and Josie,
    I’m sure there have been times over the past couple of months when the two of you have wondered what in the world you have gotten yourselves into. If so, consider this encouragement! I was thrilled when I learned that La Kiva had been sold with the intent of re-opening. Some of the most memorable events of my twenties took place at that bar in the 80’s. Over the years I have returned many times, but none have been as special or as magical, as when Gil was alive– until now. It is clear from your blog John, that bringing La Kiva back to life is a labor of love for the two of you. I wish you nothing but success and I look forward to meeting you in person one day soon. P.S. If you see my friend Rick Page around Terlingua tell him “Marv” from Big Bend sends her love. I had the pleasure of working with him at the Park back in the day :).

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