When Will You Open?

The most common question we hear is “When will you open.”  Up until now the answer has been “We don’t really know.  We can’t even guess.”  The reason is that La Kiva was like a giant onion.


We kept peeling away the layers.  We knew we wanted to keep as much as possible, as original as possible and that got in the way of lots of decisions we should have made earlier.  Sadly we kept struggling to keep a totally unrealistic plan in place.  The septic system was a “no brainer”.  We knew  before we purchased it, from our own experience and also the seller declared quite openly that we had to fix the septic system with a new one.  I did underestimate how extensive that would be and so did everyone else.  In exploring the septic system we discovered that much of it had degraded to the point that it was not possible to use nor rehabilitate it and it needed to be dug up and new plumbing installed from end to end.  That led to us lifting parts of the concrete floor simply to find out how bad the sewage system was. In addition we had to create a drain field and add settling tanks and a pair of massive grease traps.  In the end we decided to lift all the concrete floors in the main part of La Kiva, which needed replacing anyway, and install new plumbing throughout and fix the floors at the same time.  As we were new owners, we lost all the “grandfathering” the previous owner had enjoyed so we also had to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  That meant new toilets in a new location.  We gulped because we had naively hoped we could retain the old urinal and the graffiti laden doors and walls.  (My favorite is “Lighten Up Gumby”.)  We took a deep breath and designed a new toilet block that fixed the plumbing problems, did not intrude on the interior and fixed the rest room access  problems for the ADA.

We also knew that the roof needed work and a little inspection showed us that almost the entire roof needed repairing.


This was way beyond nailing a few sheets of tin on top, slapping some black sticky stuff on and being good to go.  When we started work on the roof we found more and more that needed to be done and eventually I just threw up my hands and said “Replace the lot.”  As we dug deeper into the project we found many of the large roof timbers, the vigas, were rotten, degraded or simply not strong enough to be used.  Parts of the roof (as well as some of the walls) were in imminent danger of collapse, seriously.  To fix the roof we first had to remove the old roof.  Ouch.  That revealed no less than three major roofing efforts had been undertaken in the past.  Customers told us that it had always leaked and as we removed it, we could see why.  The basic design was, itself, flawed and could NEVER be made to work.  No matter what we did the roof would continue to leak, unless we redesigned it, and that is what we did.

Roof versions

In the weeks and months that followed, we refined the design and Jack Sullivan and his crew at Porter Construction kept on questioning different aspects until they were comfortable that they had all the bases covered.   Despite this, there was one thing that was irritating them.  We had to replace a lot of the vigas, we had already purchased them and they were on hand.  The old and still sound vigas were going to be re-used because we were striving to keep as much of the “old” La Kiva as we could.

The Vigas Arrive
The Vigas Arrive


This did not sit well with the crew.  They sent a delegation to see me suggesting that I replace ALL the vigas so that it would look good and new from one end to the other.  I don’t speak Spanish and they all do, but over the years I have learned a little.  I can say huevos rancheros and mucho dinero.  In this case I thought that “You can’t make huevos rancheros without breaking eggs didn’t quite work so I went with the other phrase I had learned. “Mucho dinero.”  I waved my arms in dramatic fashion while shouting “mucho dinero”.) from my office door to the delight of the crew.  That was the end of that.  Well, I thought it was and for a little while it worked.   Jacks foreman, Juan, could not leave it alone.  He was in here at the weekend measuring and calculating and on Monday morning that recently sealed can of worms was re-opened.  He had figured out a way to use new vigas throughout by buying only seven additional vigas, in addition to the ones we had on hand.  Not only that, but it would make the roofing easier, quicker and more cost efficient.  Stunned and delighted, I immediately said yes and the additional vigas were ordered.   Thanks were offered and there were smiles all round.  For just a little more money we end up with a much better job and I had managed to satisfy my crew who are trying to do an exceptional job in every way.

temple roof
As I imagine the new roof at La Kiva


I seem to be rambling but there is a point to all this.  The project has grown to be way more than was originally envisioned.  The scope of the project kept on expanding as we peeled each layer of onion.  We now have reached the point where we are fairly certain that the only thing ahead is building.  No more tearing down and the design is now such that the Penisaurus is better protected than it has ever been.  It will be backed by a substantial cement block wall and it will be covered by a roof that does not leak  and that will resist a fairly serious windstorm.  The scope varied week by week and sometimes even day by day.  That was an environment in which nobody was comfortable in forecasting an end date.  We still have problems in that the electricity company is so tied by its own bureaucracy that  it is barely able to function.   A simple request to provide a feeder line that is capable of handling our anticipated electrical load and that requires them to install a new transformer, two electrical poles and 150 feet of new wire has taken them weeks and weeks  (around 14 weeks so far) and to date they have made one site visit to confirm what we had already told them.  In that time I have made three trips to the office in Alpine to make certain that it was never me that was holding up the proceedings.  Right now we are waiting for them to approve the easement, which they prepared in the first place and I signed, and that has taken them five weeks.  They would not use the easement that I prepared prior to that because it was not prepared by them.  It wasn’t wrong in any way but they had to prepare their own. I am told that when the “approved” easement does arrive that I can be placed on the waiting list for the installation, so that will be another 2 weeks (estimated) before I get my power.

I’ll probably look like this by the time the new electric service is installed.

It is crazy.  It took me 14 weeks before I could even get on the waiting list.  We don’t live in the tribal region of Pakistan but you would think so.  To add insult to injury, this is a “co-operative” so I am one of the owners.  This added later.  I have just returned from Alpine where the local office for the electric company is located.  They told me that all the paperwork is in their hands and that I am at the top of the list to be worked on, however (don’t you hate the “however”?) because of the ice storm, work is delayed while they replace 111 downed power poles and clear up the mess  and they can not even look at my project until mid February.  Back to the point.  We have now reached a state where people are willing to give me estimates of how long it will take to finish the walls.  That was put at seven weeks when I heard it.  Today that is six weeks.  After that it has been estimated that it will be another one week to complete the roof.  I don’t believe the one week estimate so let’s call it two weeks.  If I am understanding things correctly, that makes it 8 weeks from today before the major building work will be completed and we can start putting the insides back together again.  So then we can install all the new kitchen equipment, coolers, bar equipment and furniture while the electricians do their magic.  At that point we can begin training, testing the new menu and the new equipment and generally start putting together a smoothly working team to provide you with great food at reasonable prices as well as cold, liquid refreshment.  So the bad news is that we will miss spring break by a month at least.

Tentative date for opening is April the 23rd.  That means that we will open on April the 23rd this year (2015) providing there are no earthquakes, tornadoes, sinkholes nor do we have ISIS come streaming  over the southern border and we do not declare war on, or have war declared on us by Mexico.  All the vendors must deliver on schedule and all the equipment must be undamaged and work. We would like to have ONE and only ONE heavy rain to test the new roof, no lightening strikes and no power outages lasting more than 12 hours and all this is subject to us being granted a liquor license.  That should about cover it.  See you all on St Georges day.

Saint George and the Dragon
St. George, the patron saint of England slays the dragon.

Well.  It’s better than being a Don Quixote and pitching at windmills although I think our windmills are a little larger than the ones Don Quixote battled.

29 thoughts on “When Will You Open?”

  1. Whew! Good luck. Sorry about missing Spring Break. I’m still waiting on La Kiva to reopen before heading back down. Can’t wait!

  2. Will you be bringing back the fryer?!! It was a question that Glen knew would be coming to him when I walked through the door!! Lol.

    1. I am trying to find someone I really hate and then I will give them the old fryer. So far I can’t think of anyone I hate that much.

  3. Can’t wait! Love your updates and your dedication. It will be worth the drive to visit the new joint. Looking forward to meeting ya’all !!

  4. Trying to get my electricity upgraded on Terlingua Ranch. Feel your pain.
    Many hoops many months. All is in place. Please go first, we still have our old system. Need you open.

  5. I truly hope you are retaining this diary of a phoenix rising again! You certainly could write an interesting book about your journey…The Little Cave That Could! Nonetheless you folks are truly amazing and I know La Kiva is in the right hands! Keep chugging away – YOU CAN! and oh yea…are you bringing the fryer back?

    1. Yes we are bringing back the fryer, just not the bomb that Glenn used to terrorise his cooks. That device was evil. If you see someone round here with no eyebrows it is likely they once worked as a cook here.

  6. There’s an old saying around here, and I’m not going to give credit for it because there’s still an argument about who said it first, but goes like this:
    1. Show up.
    2. Pay attention.
    3. Keep your sense of humor.

    You have done all three and more! Thanks!

  7. When I read your original estimate for re-opening, I actually laughed out loud. You’re getting more realistic now, but I still wouldn’t rule out any of the potential events you mentioned in the last paragraph above. Keep going strong. The result will be well worth all of this.

  8. Being a professor, I will have to miss your opening. However, you can be sure we will be there a couple of times this summer. Hope to catch a night Laird is playing!

  9. I’m well aware of the excitement of lighting the fryer!!! And the thrill of cleaning it!!! Very excited to hear you will be modernizing the cooking of fried foods because let’s face it what isn’t good fried!??

  10. I’m sorry that it’s been such a long hard road. The original La Kiva was not likely to be reincarnated, in kind. Certainly the new La Kiva will form it’s own legend. Know that there are 400-500 mountain bikers that are really bummed you won’t be firing up that fryer in mid-February :-( We’ll be back next year (and some before)…

    Best of luck with the rest of the journey! Your efforts and persistence are appreciated!

  11. Me thinks you are gonna raise the bar for food quality and service in the area. That alone will be appreciated. Please some dishes that honor the vegetable.

  12. Appreciate your concern for Penisaurus erectis, Please name his mate Vaginasaurus receptis, as is fitting. Reeda and I will return when you re-open this iconic establishment. Keep up the good work

  13. Thanks so much for the colorful updates! Looking so forward to the eventual grand opening of the new, improved La Kiva!

  14. Sure glad you are getting close to reopening. I have been coming to Big Bend/Terlingua for over 25 years and was horrified last year when I arrived in the spring and heard of the terrible happenings re La Kiva. Will arrive again in about 3 weeks and would have loved to see your accomplishments and was hoping you to be open. God speed on your endeavors. Will return again in October and eagerly await your reopening.

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