This week has been frustrating on so many levels. We have tried to get Texas drivers licenses. It took three trips totalling over 500 miles. When you look at the office website it tells you it is open from Monday to Friday with no break for lunch. The reality is that this week it was open on Wednesday and Thursday, opening later in the day than it said, closing earlier in the day than it said and with a break for lunch which was not announced anywhere. Next week it will be open, but on different days. That is just a trifle irritating but it is a pattern we are learning to expect. I would like to add that the actual real person that dealt with us was terrific and it was not her fault they were short staffed.
On one of our numerous journeys to get our drivers licenses, we encountered a broken down cement truck. Ouch. Now that guy was having a bad day. On our return to Terlingua later that day we saw a cement truck being towed and a little later we found a load of cement dumped at the side of the road, on the grass verge. We congratulated ourselves as it was not our cement company and our schedule would not be impacted. As fortunate as it was that it was a different company to the one that we are using, our glee was short lived. We got back to La Kiva to find that our cement company had rescheduled because of unnamed problems and then later they rescheduled again. It seems that it got cold enough in Alpine to freeze the water in the trucks as they sat overnight. This had delayed some pours and so we got pushed back. Right now it looks like Tuesday the 25th of November for our first pour. We will have a second pour as soon as we can get ready with new shoring and remove the old shoring. Right now it looks as though we may have floors, walls and roof by Christmas. That would be something but if we had electricity as well. That’s the stuff that dreams are made of. We are planning on Christmas dinner inside La Kiva for just the two of us, even if we have to do it on a camp stove. It may sound silly, but it will be a milestone for us. That should not be taken as a sign that we will be open right after Christmas. There will still be a lot of work to do, but it will be real progress.
The stonework for the pillars to support the roof and the new wall to replace the one that fell down are looking good and add to the ambience, although ambience is not the first word that comes to mind in our present state. Possibly I should reserve that word until we have walls, roof and electricity.
We have approval from our inspector to begin closing the trench which carries water, electricity, sewage and internet. That will begin to tidy things up. Electricity is another problem. We are waiting for Rio Grande Electric Cooperative Inc. who have got the plans for the new service to the office in Alpine. Now they have to draft the easement document, get one more round of approvals and we can be put on the schedule. I am guessing that in three weeks we can have our new service, but who knows. Our end is in good shape, we cleared access for the electrical installation trucks weeks ago and now we wait for RGEC Inc..
Progress is being maintained. Even while I am writing this they have installed the first two vigas or at least lifted them into place ready to install them.
There is much more that happened but this quick outline should let you know that we are still moving forward. The pace is quickening and our crew keep up their unfailing good humor no matter what we throw at them.
Here at La Kiva we had a happy and constructive week. A week which saw the first bitterly cold weather enter the Big Bend. My friends and family in Minnesota and Wisconsin will be laughing at that one. We had low temperatures in the high twenties while their high temperatures were twenty or thirty degrees below our lows. Our snowfall was zero while theirs was up to sixteen inches. I even got some hate mail from my son. He’s just returned to Minnesota from Texas. The contents of the mail are not suitable for polite company, but I gather he’s jealous of our comparatively warm temperatures. He made it very clear, while he was here, which weather he preferred.
After what seemed like never ending rounds of destruction and disassembly we have entered the happy phase. Things are going up again. What only last week looked like it would never end has turned around.
The support columns for the new vigas are almost complete and it is hard to tell which is original and which is new.
This week we are installing the floors for the kitchen, back bar, cold room and dry storage room as well as the booth dining area. This is the biggest pour and will make a huge difference to the look of the place. Suddenly, people will be able to see the progress we have made. Some of the electrics are already laid in, as is some of the plumbing. Outside the services are being laid in. I dug a small trench to lay in a new water line after mine was damaged by overpressure from the water company and then cut (repeatedly) by my very own crew working on the rebuild. We have been without water for a few weeks now. We are waiting for rain (warm kind) and then we can shower on the patio as we understand has happened in the past. Being without water is slightly inconvenient if you are living in a camper. If you have a bar and restaurant it takes on a more serious tenor. We are hoping to fix that very soon. Now back to the small trench. Once people saw the trench they wanted to put things in it. It now contains water, electricity, sewer and will soon have internet and phone added. My “little” trench grew a bit and I suspect it can now be seen from low earth orbit.
I heard from some great people this week. An offer of a superb smoker to help us upgrade our BBQ offerings and a suggestion for a documentary movie amongst them.
We are more content with the way things are going than you could imagine. We can see light at the end of the tunnel and it may not be the train. We are even coming to terms with the things we have been forced to do and have turned them to our advantage.
I hope you all have a great week and providing we don’t have a heavy freeze we are pouring concrete by Friday.
When surveying the shell that was La Kiva, we keep asking ourselves, was it really necessary to pull so much down? Each time the answer is definitely yes. Sure, we could have patched up parts but we couldn’t have lived with the uncertainty of how sound the structure really was and all the while dreading the next rain. The roof design itself was a major part of the problem that made leaks inevitable. It was almost impossible to fix without taking the whole thing down. The extent of the rot and termite damage was worse than expected which was surprising in view of the fact that we were expecting a lot to start with. Parts of the structure were in imminent danger of collapse and much of the damage was hidden from view in the roof members or in the walls behind the planking.
We have stabilized most of the structure, though work remains to be done in the cave room where one of the main beams is rotten and termite eaten to the point where it is in danger of collapse. we are going to do a temporary repair that will ensure that is safe and then leave it until later. We have other work that is more pressing.
I must confess that I reached a point in this project of being intensely sad about what we were having to take down. I resented having decisions taken out of our hands and the final blow came when we had to take down the old rest rooms. The plumbing, which had to be brought up to code before we would be permitted to re-open, proved to be beyond repair. Some of the joints were sealed with old trash bags, some pipes went nowhere, some had to drain uphill, some had access panels cut in them with no way to seal the open pipe. Knowing what we know now, it is clear why the plumbing proved troublesome, though it was not clear until we dug everything up. In excavating to fix the plumbing it was brought home just how bad the walls were. Once the internals were revealed, we were left with no choice. We had to take the walls down, completely. The termites and time had done their work well.
The sadness has passed and the glory of the structure has been revealed. I have passed from sadness to elation. We have been compelled to take down parts of La Kiva that we would never have willingly interfered with, nor even contemplated interfering with. Freed from the shackles of those psychological restraints, I have fallen in love with the new La Kiva. I can see and share the vision that Gilbert had more than thirty years ago. Parts of La Kiva that have been hidden from view by the showers and toilets and other parts of the infrastructure since shortly after Gil first assembled those huge, red rocks, have once again been revealed. We have a gift that Gil and Glenn did not have. We were able to go back and have a redo having known La Kiva for most of its life. With the benefit of hindsight the upgrades and repairs are easier for us than they would have been for Gil and Glen. I think that both of them would approve of what we are doing and I hope you will be pleased. In the rebuilding we are not using any wooden walls. We are using cement block, stucco and rock and we are doing that for a reason. If La Kiva is to survive it will stand a better chance if it is made of more durable materials. Wood is not a good choice in the desert environment and thirty three years had ravaged the parts of La Kiva that were wood.
This update was added later. The vigas have arrived and you can see them in the featured image at the top of the blog. The foundation for the new cooler room and utility room for the kitchen are completed and next week (9th of November) we will probably be pouring concrete. The new stone pillars supporting the vigas have been started and it finally feels as though we are making progress.
I intend to have a good and productive week and I hope you can all say the same thing. Our construction crew continue to be great to work with and they are doing all they can to make it possible to open the doors as quickly as possible.