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Terlingua Time

It gets hot in the desert

It was no accident that we scheduled three weeks here to get out tasks accomplished.   There is no hurried pace or crowded
appointment calendars.  Hell, most people don’t even wear a watch.  The only thing I misjudged was our length of stay at The Longhorn Ranch Motel. I had thought we could stay on our property and run the generator a few hours in the evening to cool the RV down enough to sleep.  We have been at the motel for 14 days and the A/C  units have been working overtime.   I could not even imagine the amount of propane we would have consumed had we been forced to boondock and run the generator full time over the last 2 weeks.

We had two main items on our agenda this trip.  Electricity and Septic.  I would venture a guess that neither of these items are in the majority here on the 200,000 acres that comprise Terlingua Ranch.  At this later stage in our lives, Miss K and I are both loathe to give up all of the amenities  to which we have become accustomed.  We may be venturing to a wild frontier environment but I want cold air and Miss K wants a porcelain toilet.  End of story.

We started making calls a week in advance of our departure — and that was a good thing.  Rio Grande Electric Co-Op services the area and due to the nature of their customers, they have some rather unusual requirements.  You have to join the co-op -$25 per year- and then pay a $250 engineer’s consultation fee before they will even talk to you. I guess that weeds out the tire kickers and the wannabes. They are the only game in town so you have to pay to play for sure.  We managed to get an appointment with the engineer on-site only seven days after our arrival.  The engineer was waiting on us at the property when we arrived.   We purposely bought a parcel that has electric service that actually crosses the property.  Even so, his estimate of installation costs is $4500 to set 2 poles that will run 150′ into the 20 acres and provide a 200 amp service panel.  We will still have to hire a local electricion to wire the service properly with outlets sufficient for 2 recreational vehicles.  The $4500 is payable in advance and if it doesn’t cost that much, the overpay will be refunded.  Yeah, I am holding my breath on that one.  It was quickly decided that pursuing the electrical installation was out of our reach at this time and we should pursue the septic system installation.

Miss K checks driveway placement

We called Porter Construction last fall for an estimate on a septic install and he quoted us somewhere in the neighborhood of $4000 to do the septic system start to finish.   With all of the septic systems my Bro and I have installed over the years, I figured I knew enough to beat that  price.  It took some phone calls and some persistence because septic system installs are a funny thing and I knew that.  The local suppliers do not really like to sell septic tanks to just the average Joe off the street.  They would rather refer you to the local system installer who buys
the tanks and supplies from them and then charges you a marked up price to do the whole shebang.  I can understand all of that  — it is just the local good ole boy network taking care of its’ own.  Once we located the 500 gallon septic tank and the diffusor panels, we called Fred at Porter Construction to see if he would be amenable to clearing the drive way, about 3 acres of brush and doing the excavation for the septic tank and drain field.  He said he was absolutely OK with that and the following week was totally open for him.  Well, Tuesday turned into Wednesday and then Friday before he was finally able to show up.  Remember, we are on ‘Terlingua Time’ and you either accept it or go insane.  Just so everyone knows – we are not installing an outlaw septic system.  County building codes here are very relaxed.  Any property 10 acres or under must have an approved septic system installed by a licensed installer.  We have 20 acres and are thus exempt from any inspections or licensing requirements.  Even so, we put in an adequately engineered system.

Digging the desert dirt

Fred showed up as scheduled on Friday with a Caterpillar 416C 4X4 backhoe.  He made quick work of the driveway and land clearing and
after lunch we started on the septic system.  It was 112 degrees and Fred was billing me $110 per hour.  Maybe I am getting too old but crawling in and out of that trench was just about all I could do in this heat. By the end of the day, the septic system was completely installed with 2 separate RV hookups and the total cost was just a shade under $2000  — and that included land clearing and a driveway.

I gotta tell you it felt pretty damned good to pull into the driveway of the property and drive the Suburban right on in.  I made 2 round trips between the Motel and the property in order to dump 65 gallons of water from my nurse tank in the back of the Suburban into the empty septic tank each trip.  Empty septic tanks have a habit of floating right up out of the ground if you get a rain and I had no intention of letting that happen.


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