Big Progress

It has been a long time since I posted an update.  I was bored of saying that we were about to put the roof on and then it didn’t happen.  The electricity is being installed and then it didn’t happen.  We are laying concrete floors and then it didn’t happen so I decided to break the pattern.  Just as I was about to post I had to take a trip to Salt Lake City (that caused me to delay by another week) to collect the new barbecue pit and then snowmageddon ensued and it looked like we would be trapped in Salt lake City until they dug us out around June.

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A Monadnock Near Shiprock, New Mexico

As I have some slight skill at looking at weather reports I looked at the forecast and at the radar and then at the IR satellite and it appeared to me that there was a sliver of countryside stretching from SLC to Las Vegas that was snow free and would remain that way long enough for us to beat a hasty retreat.  We left Salt Lake City in heavy fog with it alternately snowing and raining, blowing a gale and the temperature plummeting.  By detouring to Las Vegas we got home just half a day later than we had planned, in good weather all the way and with a smile on our faces, whereas we would have been delayed for days and would certainly not have been smiling if we had tried to retrace our steps.

The new barbecue pit is huge and will be perfect.  It is wood fired with no gas or electric assist.  It is built like a tank and has a reputation for being the absolutely best commercial barbeque pit of all time.  The fire pit is outside the kitchen while the food is inside, which keeps the logs and ash where they belong and the food is in an environment that the health inspector will approve of.  It can cook 1,000 pound of brisket at one time or it can cook a totally ridiculous number of chickens or ribs.

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A J&R 700 Oyler Barbeque Pit. The trailer will be repurposed after the pit is installed.

 

Here is a quick status report of the rebuilding effort:

Electricity.  Installed and working and the old power lines have been removed.  The electricians have provided a temporary supply to my two RV’s and to the crew working on La Kiva and they have made a good start on installing things like the emergency generator automatic start, the supply changeover box and the breaker boxes .

Water.  I now have city water to my RV and also to La Kiva.  YeeHaw.  I no longer have to haul water.  That is huge.

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The big trench is finally closed and I now have a way of getting a well drillers rig close enough for them to pull the pump from the long defunct water well and get that refurbished.  A well to water the vegetation!  We may once more see grapes growing at La Kiva and cotton woods in the parking lot.

Many of the viga’s are now in place and are being cemented into the structure.  They smell divine and look pretty substantial.

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Work is well advanced in getting the foundations and plumbing for the rest rooms built.  The forms for the concrete rest room pad, the dry storage room and the Oyler smoker are nearing completion and with luck we will get them poured next week.

We have acquired a new chef.  His name is Elton Foster and he is working with us designing a new menu for La Kiva.  We are keeping much of what was in the original menu but there are some expansions that we feel sure will be welcome.  We have a lot of work ahead testing out every dish on the new menu and making sure we have a reliable source of supply for the ingredients.

This coming week should see us doing the last pour of concrete, putting up a few more vigas and starting putting the roof on.  Exciting times.  Oh yes.  How could I forget?  We will be doing our first test cook on the new barbecue pit towards the end of the week.  Now that will be fun.  Stay well and stay happy.

 

 

You Want Fries With That?

Last night we had a thunderstorm.  This morning we took a drive down the river road to Presidio and saw some of the years first blue bonnets.  We also saw numerous two foot tall flowers on the  yucca as well as these gems clinging to a cliff face.  These are all signs that spring is not far away, well,  for us it isn’t as we have already had days in the mid seventies.  For those of you who live in cooler climes come and visit.  Work on your tan and take in the sights.

Spring Flowers  on FM 170, Terlingua
Spring Flowers on FM 170, Terlingua

Last week we made good progress by starting the excavation for the new septic system, the huge pile of accumulated building debris was cleared and the walls were receiving castellations to position the vigas securely.  The new wall (that replaces the one that fell down) is within inches of completion and to crown the weeks achievements, I heard from RGEC that they will be here Monday to set the new poles for the upgraded electrical service.  That’s at least two week sooner than they promised so we are well pleased.

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The Tent Campground Rises From the Rubble

The photograph above does not do justice to the work that has been done by William in recreating the original tent campground, but at least you can see that it is a work in progress and already looks vastly improved.  I was in conversation with William and reminded him that the area he was working was reputed to have been an Indian campground.  I had just finished by admitting I had seen no artefacts of any kind when my eyes lighted on a grinding stone or metate of typical Mayan design.  Wow.  I have a real artefact, dug from the campground at La Kiva.  I was quite perky for the rest of the day.

This week we are starting  equipping the kitchen, or at least ordering the equipment that goes in the kitchen.  We have got 90% of the kitchen walls done and so now we have to think about the big equipment.

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Kitchen Walls Near Completion

First, we need to decide on  the menu and what we can anticipate for the future, by way of new menu items.  In recent years the American food scene has changed.  Gluten has become a big deal and more and more people are learning that the IBS they have, is exacerbated by gluten.  Thyroid failure can be caused by gluten exacerbating Hashimotos thyroiditis.  The list goes on and on.  We are planning to be a restaurant that can provide low gluten options.  Promising to be gluten free would require that no items containing gluten be permitted in the kitchen, but that may be a step too far.  We can certainly dedicate one of our fryers for gluten free and absolutely forbid the frying of breaded items in it.  One of our pizza ovens will  be dedicated as gluten free and we intend to provide a gluten free crust as well as gluten free breads as options.  In fact most of our menu items could have gluten free options.  The new kitchen will be large enough to make it possible to have a separate preparation area for gluten free thus reducing the risk of  cross contamination and, of course. we will provide EXTENSIVE staff training on the problems of gluten intolerance.  I have family members who are seriously gluten intolerant and we were caught out by an omelet at a well known pancake house.  The omelet contained pancake mix to make it fluffier but that meant it also contained gluten.  Who would have thought that an omelet would contain gluten?  Not me for one.  We plan having low gluten meals served on a different color plate than the other food.  If we decide that it will be red, you order a gluten free meal and it comes out of the kitchen on a plate of any other color, then it is not gluten free, so send it back. With just a little thought and care we could make all our BBQ offerings gluten free.  If you or someone close to you is gluten intolerant please share the problems that you have and let us know how you have been caught out in the past.  Suggestions for gluten free menu items will be appreciated.  If you have never commented before, then now is the time.  We will take all comments very seriously and your feedback will help us structure the kitchen to provide food that you can have confidence in.

Kitchener needs you to comment

It will not end with gluten free, we plan to have offerings for a number of diet plans such as low carb. and vegetarian.  I doubt if we will be offering much for vegans initially, but if you are vegan, then please let us know what we could do to satisfy your needs.  We are even looking at FODMAPS.  Yes, not long ago I had to look it up as well. If you are a Vogon then you are totally out of luck so why don’t you go and read some poetry, quietly, to yourself.

In coming weeks and months we will be looking at various menu items and options.  I have already talked about gluten but that is just one tiny part of what is ahead.  As we deal with each class of menu item I will be asking for comments from you.  Let’s kick this off with a relatively new item to the La Kiva menu but non the less important.

My partner for twenty years was the founder of Tombstone Pizza.

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One of the lead investors in my first company in America was Rose Totino of Totinos Pizza.  Despite her diminutive stature she was a force to be reckoned with and she loved to entertain.  I have had a long association with pizza makers.

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I would love to be able to say that they taught me a lot about pizzas but they didn’t.  They became successful  by making frozen pizzas for a mass market but I never saw either of them put a frozen pizza on the table in their own homes.  We are planning to make good pizzas available on the menu (not frozen).  I did learn from both of the pizza empire founders that if you want good pizza you had better start with good ingredients or you are wasting your time.

Pizza slice La Kiva
Just a Dream But Soon It Will Be A Reality

We are installing new Pizza ovens with much larger capacity so we will be able to turn around pizzas at a much more rapid rate.  We would like to offer more than just Margherita pizza and brisket calzone.  What would you like to see? Six inch Margherita personal pizzas or sixteen inch super supreme with everything on it, eat in or to go, what tickles your fancy?  Small, medium or large and what toppings?  Do you want a white pizza (no tomato sauce).  Thin, crispy crust or deep dish?  Vegetarian?  What about a dessert pizza in the desert?  Apple, cherry, pineapple, pecan, lemon meringue.  That could be fun.  After what I said earlier you had better believe that we will be offering a gluten free option and test cooking has already started.  I have had some really good gluten free pizzas where it was difficult to tell the difference from non gluten free so I am excited to see where we end up.  It should be good.

We need lots of feedback on the menu items, so please don’t be shy.  We want to hear from you.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Great Ice Storm

I would like to wish you, one and all, a very happy New Year. It is starting out as a doozy for us.  Between 6:30 and 7:00 on the 6th of January 2015, we got power back after five days without. For those that were in the high Chisos mountains, the storm that started all this began last Wednesday, New Years eve. Freezing rain blew in making travel up and down the mountain to the Basin, hazardous and resulting in the closure of the roads and the application of much grit. For the rest of this area it did not get serious until Friday. The ice accumulation was so great that it made the power lines sag. In one place they sagged enough that a passing truck hooked one and proceeded to pull down six poles. In another event 22 poles were pulled down simply by the weight of the accumulating ice. Those two events led to a huge area of West Texas experiencing an extended power outage. ( I wrote the above based on the information I had at the time.  It seems that it was much worse and there were hundreds of poles down.  See the Alpine Avalanche for more details.  http://www.alpineavalanche.com/news/article_e1c541e0-96cd-11e4-b5e7-abac3ae3d916.html ) With the roads covered in ice and power being out, it did not take much too push it over the edge and make it a memorable event. The time between Christmas and the New Year is popular with tourists in the Big Bend. Many stay on after the New Year begins. This time of year is delightful. I have Bougainvillea flowering in profusion and on the 7th, it reached seventy fahrenheit ( 21 C)  on the patio at La Kiva.

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By comparison, my family in Minnesota was “enjoying” -15 F (-10 C) . It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you can afford the time, the Big Bend is the place to be at this time of year. While that is true most years, this year was different. The ice storm blew in and made driving hazardous and within a couple of days, gas supplies ran out.  Still, not a disaster.  We are used to power outages stretching into a second day, so no big deal.  It becomes a big deal when the generators start running out of fuel, the tanks at the local water company start to head precipitously close to empty, gas stations have no supplies and restaurants close their doors.  So what happens next? All the tourists with enough gas to leave, leave. Some left because they had been kicked out by the hotels, some left because they had been living in a tent, up a mountain and some left because the offerings from restaurants became more sparse as time went on . It reached the point that when it got dark everything closed, well almost everything.  Just a handful of places managed to keep up some sort of service but with everyone either leaving or conserving gasoline there were not many takers.

Josie and I had expected to spend Christmas at La Kiva but when we learned that our construction crew were taking two weeks off and heading to Mexico, we took the opportunity to head North, for the holidays. We had a great time with our children, three grand children, dogs, great food and surprisingly mild weather. We returned on Saturday after numerous gate changes and delays and we finally found ourselves in Midland, almost three hours later than our schedule. It looked like we would be home by 1:00 am. We received a call from a friend. “No gas, no electricity, not much food and no telephones. Stay in a hotel if you can find one.” We elected to head straight home anyway, largely because all the hotels were full or closed.  Normal service was resumed between 6:30 and 7:00 on the sixth. I can not be more certain because the power was flickering for about half an hour and at 7:00 the cell phone burst into life and let me know that I had 145 emails in my in box.

I think I need to make a T shirt. I SURVIVED THE GREAT ICE STORM OF 2015 AT LA KIVA Although in truth it was almost half done when we got home.

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Some Of The Crew Christmas 2014

Our crew is all back and working. We got our first delivery of 2015.  It was supplies of mortery, cementy stuff and lots and lots of cement blocks and a few other necessary things for doing manly feats with walls and steps and stuff. It’s rather exciting.  Looking at all the pallets of cement blocks it’s as though we got a giant Lego for Christmas and all we have to do is to assemble it as La Kiva. We seem to have run out of things that need taking down and we are consistently building up and that is a good feeling.  Ooops.  I spoke too soon.  The site foreman called me to check out the patio door lintel.  I blanched.  How can I check out the lintel when it is under the viga’s and a rock wall some eighteen inches high?  The answer came quickly.  It used to be under the rock wall and vigas. The rock wall had already gone.  I reviewed the lintel, gave my blessing and was about to move on when I was taken to another area of the rebuilding.  The cold room door was the issue this time.  They explained what they planned to do and I explained why they couldn’t.  Fortunately the frame for the door had arrived just hours before so I was able to explain the way I had designed it and demonstrate with an actual door frame.  Smiles and nods all around and then it was the turn of the kitchen door.  I marked out the exact location and got more smiles and nods of approval.  At this point I paused and surveyed the scene.  There are walls going up all around and it is happening fairly quickly.  We still have some rock walls to build and they will take more time, but even so, we expect to be finished with the wall building and ready to put a roof on in seven weeks.

The new bar is looking good, though when Gumby, La Kiva’s long time bar man, called in to check on progress, he declared the bar to be too low. I grinned inwardly as I knew something he didn’t. What ensued was some frenetic activity in which a piece of bar top material of correct thickness, texture and width was procured to ensure that the test was performed on a finished height bar.

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A regulation height bar stool was located and positioned close to the traditional location of the bar vulture and cheap beer was produced from my secret stash. Gumby instantly objected and summarily dismissed my selection of cheap beer, substituting instead his own choice of cheap beer, from his own stash. He then proceeded to test the new bar by leaning, slumping and draping himself in a variety of poses and from both sides of the bar. After long and careful consideration, Gumby pronounced the bar as being at a suitable and proper height and probably no more than a few millimeters different than the height of the original bar. While this may come as a surprise to many, Gumby being one of them, it was no surprise to me. You see, I had measured the height of the original bar so I didn’t need to lean, slump and drape to know that this was as good as it got for authenticity. Now I suppose that Gumby is going to read this, or one of you will tell him and then he will know that it was not just a happy chance that the new bar ended up being close to the height of the old bar. I planned it that way from the beginning and in addition he will now know that I can read a tape measure and the new bar is EXACTLY the same height as the old bar.  OK.  That’s enough ragging on Gumby.  Fun as it may be, payback is a b***h.

One final update.  We have started work on rehabilitating the old campground.  While we were off enjoying ourselves in the arctic tundra, William was doing sterling work in the tent campground.  He has cleaned up most of the old parking places and has started on the actual camping spots.

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Despite what you see, don’t all rush on down with your tents.  We have a lot of work to do before we can declare the campground fit for visitors but at least we have made a start.

Concrete Progress At Last

This week has been filled with activity.  I managed to break my Jeep.  Funny noises followed by the oil pressure light!!!  Archie confirms a new engine is needed.   I am glad it happened when it did because two days later I would have been heading to Midland to pick up Josie after her thanksgiving visit to see our children and, of course, the grandchildren.  Thank you to the two very kind Double Diamond ladies who gave me a ride back to Terlingua and whom I owe a nice dinner and a good bottle of wine for their kindness.

Moving right along, Josie was back from the frozen north in time to see the first concrete pour.  Our crew laid almost 32 yards of concrete in one day and it looks great.  We had four cement trucks deliver concrete and we used three and a half of them.  We are looking at doing another pour next week when we will need another two trucks.

While delivering the concrete the very first truck had to back up to the kitchen wall.  While still five or six feet away, an ominous crack was heard and the entire wall moved.   Heavy as the truck was, if it was able to damage the wall from that distance then the wall was severely suspect to start with.

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Oh dear!  (That is not what I  said in reality.  I leave the actual words to your imagination.)  The wall in question was well constructed using good concrete and reinforced with heavy rebar.  The one slight problem was that the ends of the wall were not tied into anything, they were just floating.  This is one of those circumstances where you just shrug and move on.  No one was at fault, not the concrete truck driver or our construction crew.  We never dreamed that the ends were not tied in but there is nothing we can do now.   I am unprepared for a wall weighing around 7,000 lbs falling on an employee and diners tend not to enjoy brick and concrete dust in their dinner.  The wall had to go.  The problem was that it also held up the Pizza oven and the entry door.  Ouch.  We have now disassembled the pizza oven and put the components into storage.  It should make a valuable addition to the new BBQ kitchen as a pizza and bread oven.

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While we have now been compelled to remove the old kitchen wall we are viewing it as an opportunity.  This now enables us to expand the kitchen, which should in turn mean that we will be able to turn food around a little more briskly than was the case in the past.  We are also going to rebuild the main entry because that has been hit by termite damage and needs fixing so we are tying the two projects together.  At the end of the day we end up with an enlarged kitchen, an upgraded entry, a bug and rodent proof airlock door behind the iconic “mine door” and safe walls in the kitchen.  What’s to complain about?

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The New Floors Being Poured

We are planning on having another pour of concrete next week and that will mean that we will have laid almost all of the new concrete floors.  The balance will probably be done by hand.  We are rapidly approaching the point where we can move on from the floors and complete the walls.   The weather is simply delightful and we are enjoying working outdoors but soon we could see some cold weather and it would be nice to have the walls completed by then and at least part of the roof on.  The next two weeks should remain nice with lows in the mid 40’s and highs around  the 70 mark.  Near perfect conditions.

I have been ready to criticize the concrete company in the past for the poor scheduling.  On Tuesday they did arrive.  They were prompt and efficient.  They did a great job and were courteous and obliging.  They had great equipment and mixing on site is clearly the way to go.  Despite our earlier problems I am delighted with the results.  As an aside, the first truck to pour concrete was operated by a driver called Glenn.  Somehow that seemed very appropriate.

Another Delay

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.

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The Maestro at work.

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.

New viga 2

 

New vigas

 

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.

Stay well and stay happy.

The Phoenix Rises

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.

Josie in front of an April snow pile.  Grocery store in Minnesota.
Josie in front of an April snow pile. Grocery store in Minnesota.

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.

Stage wall before
The Stage Wall
Stage Wall One Week Later
Stage Wall One Week Later

The support columns for the new vigas are almost complete and it is hard to tell which is original and which is new.

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New Support Columns

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.

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“The Trench” with water, sewer and electric already in, phone and internet soon to be added.

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.

Waiting for Vigas

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.

Rotten Stage Wall
Rotten Stage Wall
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An Old Viga Rotten Through
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The Cracked Urinal.  Trying To Tell The Health Inspector This Is Easily Cleanable Is Tricky
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That Was Supporting What?

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.DSC_1518

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.DSC_1527

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.DSC_1526

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.

 

 

The Rebuilding Begins

Here are some recent pictures of the progress at La Kiva.  Last Friday represented the low (or high, depending on how you look at it) point of the demolition efforts.  Now things start to take shape from the bottom up.

View of the front door

As you can see, a lot of the structure around the old kitchen/cold room has been removed.  The front door itself remains intact, but will need some reinforcement in key areas to be servicable for the next 30-plus years.  To the left you can see the Pizza oven.

View of the bar

Here you can see the remaining walls of the old kitchen area, the bar area, and most of the rest of the inside.

Plumbing!

The plumbing system is being redone to meet code.

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Mesh is laid for the new floors.  Some of the old vigas that will remain can be seen above.  New vigas are scheduled for delivery soon.

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About half the reinforcement for the floors is down already.   The rest is waiting on the plumbing to be finished and buried.

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These guys watch over the rebuilding efforts and remind us to be careful.

The La Kiva Time Capsule

This has been a busy two weeks for La Kiva.  The roof has gone from the area that we are going to re-roof but I am shocked, I tell you, shocked, that so many of you thought I meant “that” kind of topless.    😉  I meant without a roof kind of topless.

Gil's Krugerrand?
Gil’s Krugerrand?
Gils Kruger 2
Gil’s Krugerrand?

Last time I posted I mentioned the possibility of finding the sack of Krugerrands alleged to have been buried by Gil.  Imagine my joy when I discovered this, hiding under the bar.  A numismatist was immediately consulted and he assured me that this was actually genuine, but because of the unique nature of the piece and the dubious provenance, he would be unable to put a firm price on it.  You saw it here first folks.  A genuine gold tone artefact of dubious provenance.  WOW.  That’s way better than I could have hoped for.  I am putting it up for sale to the highest bidder.  All monies raised by the sale of this piece will go the the reconstruction of the bar.  By the way, what does dubious mean?

Check out the Terlingua Moon.  A proposal was made to place a time capsule beneath the new La Kiva concrete floor.   I think that it is a great idea and items such as Laphroaig single malt whiskey would be very appropriate (http://www.laphroaig.com/) and will receive my personal attention.  Other items such as mementos, written histories, favorite memories of La Kiva, humorous stories, a photograph of you and a short biography (anything beyond 300 pages will be severely edited), items of artwork, artefacts, C.D’s or messages to the people of the future.   Be creative and put a little bit of you into the capsule, (PLEASE NO BIOLOGICAL SAMPLES) so that the people of the future will get a glimpse of who you are, what you did and why La Kiva is important to the community.  Any photos or memorabilia  of Gil and Glen would be ideal and please write your stories out. The capsule will be clearly marked that it is not to be opened before the year 2114.  I am going to try to get something fabricated in stainless steel to ensure that it does not rot away and ruin the contents.  Get your contributions to me ASAP for inclusion in the time capsule.  I will have an engraved plaque embedded in the floor so that it won’t be lost.  Mail your items for inclusion to La Kiva, PO Box 146, 23220 FM 170, Terlingua, TX 79852.  Laphroaig single malt whiskey should be sent next day air and marked for the attention of John Holroyd, 23220 FM 170, Terlingua, TX 79852.  Personal:— to be opened by recipient only.

On the subject of the Moon.  I am told it is a reliable publication and that if anything appears in it you can take it to the bank.  It now being past the 16th, I can look back on the opening ceremonies with a certain satisfaction.  By some miracle I was apparently open for business on the 16th despite the fact that I had no license, no roof, no floor, no water, no propane, no electricity, no cook, no kitchen, no food and no stock.  I can say with some satisfaction that I served  everyone that turned up.  Clearly the attractions at Gareth Park were simply too great to ignore so the total customer count for the night was zero.  This weeks photo documentation consists of two panoramas of what is happening.  They may not be the greatest but this is the first time I have tried to embed them in a web page so be kind.  I will try and get better ones as the building progresses.

La Kiva panorama
Click to Embiggen (Opens in a new window. Please be patient, it’s a big file)
La Kiva Patio Panorama
Click to Embiggen. Don’t argue, just click it. (Opens in a new window. Please be patient, it’s a big file)

The destruction of La Kiva has slowed in the way that a supertanker slows and today it ground to a final halt.  Apart from a few holes in the ground there was no demolition going on.  In fact, there were signs that rebuilding was beginning.  There were people doing clever things with lasers and colored string and things that beeped.  Pegs were driven into the ground and there were many serious discussions going on.  Industrious looking people were moving sand from one place to another and smoothing and levelling.  It got quite exciting.

A very good night to you one and all and thank you for your patience.

Follow along as we describe the rebirth of La Kiva, the iconic restaurant and bar in Terlingua, Texas.

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