Shangri La

Shangri La

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Fever

Lured by the Saxtons River Inn's 2-for-1 offer through March 31, we packed up the car and headed for Shangri-La this last weekend. Me, the LSW and The Boy were joined by The Niece (who has been crashing at our place over the last year while attending a local college) and the LSW's sister, who was looking for an excuse to spend a few days exploring a new place and sleeping late. My goal was to meet with 3 excavating and concrete contractors to get the ball rolling on The Dream.

But first things first: The food.

Dinner at the Saxtons River Inn is still outstanding - especially the crispy onion rings, fish and fries. The LSW and her sister were united on the virtues of the pulled pork and the burger, respectively, but The Niece apparently prefers soggy french fries to crispy ones, so she was less enthused.

Unfortunately, the Inn falls short in the breakfast category - providing only coffee, apple juice, store danish, apples and oranges. Luckily, The Golden Egg is only a block away and offers the second-best breakfast in New England (the first being King's in Newtown, CT). I recommend the Vermonter Skillet if you're going, or perhaps the blueberry crepes. The breakfast sandwich was also good, but the fact that they don't offer it with Vermont cheddar is almost unforgivable.

On Saturday evening, we descended upon the Putney Diner to sample their pies on the recommendation of Mr and Mrs Chops. In the spirit of adventure, I ordered a Reuben for the first time in my life. Good choice, that; I've got a new favorite sandwich. The cole slaw was fresh and the pickles agreeably sour, but the fries were soggy, to my dismay and The Niece's delight. The 4 of us split 3 slices of pie at the end of the meal - Apple, Chocolate Cream and Maple Walnut. The verdict: The apple wasn't as good as the LSW's, but the Maple Walnut and Chocolate Cream were worth the trip.

The LSW will be reporting on the handmade chocolates she tracked down in Walpole, NH here. Ye gods, they are good! And then there was 'Smokin' Bowls' on 123 between Bellows Falls and Chester:

Does this look good or what? We ordered the 'Brownie of the day'; tasty but - unfortunately - strictly legal.

Now, down to business:

As I noted, the reason for the trip was to get land clearing, excavating, and foundation estimates. To that end, I spent all of Friday afternoon and part of Saturday morning on site, taking time to walk the property and clearing some of the underbrush between appointments. The weather was in the mid-50's and the sun shining, and I spent most of the day in a T-shirt. Nice.

I started by locating the engineer's markers, which was a little challenging as a fallen pine took out the well marker. Once I found it, I was able to triangulate the planned position of the cabin and mark it with orange poles. The slope of the land seemed to lend itself to a walk-out basement, and before I knew it I was getting estimates on one at 28 x 32 in addition to my less ambitious 16 x 28 crawl space.

I talked with 6 contractors in total. Some things I learned:

  • When the land it cleared the excavator will expect to take away any salvageable wood. If you choose to keep it, the cost of the work will go up.

  • The cost of land-clearing will go down if the stumps can be buried on the property. Brush will be burned if weather conditions permit, or chipped if not.

  • Excavation will include digging the holes for the footings, leveling and prepping the floor for the rat slab, laying the drainage pipe, and back-filling and grading when the work is done.

  • The excavator can also be expected to rough-in the septic pipe and a 4" PVC conduit for the well. He/She should also run both pipes 10' beyond the foundation to make sure you're not trying to dig into the stone that will be laid down over the drainage pipes.

  • Well-drilling rigs require a roughly level surface and wide access to the well site.

  • The driveway should only be roughed-in until the foundation is done. After that, it should be at least sub-surfaced until all of the work on the site is finished.

  • Excavation and Land-Clearing estimates can vary significantly. Mine ran from a low of $4,000 to a high of $9,000.

  • Pouring the foundation will need to wait until at least mid-May, when the prohibition against heavy trucks on most unpaved roads during 'mud season' is lifted.

  • It will take 3 days to pour the foundation, and about a week for it to cure. Once it is in, the building needs to go up before winter to protect it.

  • Foundation estimates seem to vary less than excavating. For a 16 x 28 frost-wall foundation including a rat slab, I'm apparently looking at between $5,000 - 6,000.
(A 'rat slab, by the way, is 4" of concrete poured inside the foundation to keep out the critters and make working under the house more tolerable.)

The 'official' estimates are all expected before the end of this week, so I anticipate we'll be underway within a month. The first step will be land clearing, which is expected to take about 2-days, as most of the trees on the site are relatively small.

Here's a shot of the building site:

The view behind the future cabin:

In this shot the two large boulders mark the future driveway:

Incidentally, the major lesson learned on this trip was that a Hyundai Sonata is not the best vehicle with which to sample dirt-surfaced mountain passes during mud season. I see a Subaru in the LSW's future...


blue note said...

you got to enjoy the last weekend at the sr inn under the ownership of jim and gary. it was sold yesterday to some former owners, actually. would love to hear more about the cabin plans.

CabinFever said...

The sale was the talk of the inn while we were there. I understand that the new owners ran the place a few years back. We hope they don't change it too much.

I'll be doing a detailed post about the cabin plans soon - they are starting to gel now that specific costs are coming in.