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  • Writer's pictureJim Martin

Debacle or Miracle? You decide.

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

With the tiny house safely stowed in Eric's Driveway (you can read about that here), all we had left to do was... all of the things that normal people have to do when they move out of a normal house.


I flew home and joined Jenna in the frenzy of final packing. We were also in the midst of collecting all the necessary documentation for the closing on the Vermont house. As is often the case with these things, there were some last-minute hiccups and emergencies with some of the paperwork. Jenna came through huge by managing to get us an 11th hour appointment with a local IRS office to secure some paperwork proving we had no outstanding tax bill. That's a long story I will spare you the details of, but the big takeaway for me was... wait, the IRS has local offices?!?


The movers arrived and were amazing. Things had worked out such that our belongings were the only things on the moving truck, and the exact same crew who packed it would drive it to Vermont and unload it for us the following Wednesday when we closed on the new house.


Here we are saying goodbye to our Fredericksburg home on December 11th, 2022:

At this point, a mere seven days after extracting the tiny house from the back yard, the fence is fixed, landscapers have taken care of the World War 1 trench, the movers are done and all our possessions are headed north. It seems clear that all the hard work and challenges are now behind us. All that's left is the adventure of becoming New Englanders again at long last. We were tired, but we were happy, hopeful, expectant.


We had no idea.


We'd decided to spend the intervening days visiting our college friend Judy in Connecticut. Judy is a caterer par excellence. So every time we stay with her I try to weasel some cooking lessons out of her--which, truth be told, is not hard. This time around we roasted a beef tenderloin together. It was soooo good. Then the following day, with the leftovers we made Beef Wellington Bites--an appetizer that she sometimes incorporates into her catering. These were other-worldly. (You can find Judy's business here: Savory Palate Catering)


In the background of all this cooking, on Tuesday night, hours before the closing, our mortgage company sent up a flair saying they (all of a sudden) needed more documentation. In the flurry of emails and phone calls that ensued, the lawyer working with our mortgage broker and realtor casually informed us that the sellers might not be ready to close on Wednesday, but hopefully would be ready by the end of the week.


As the evening wore on, it became clear that the sellers definitely wouldn't be able to close on Wednesday, and it was becoming unclear if they could even be ready by the end of the week.


This announcement created at least three problems simultaneously:

  1. All our stuff was in transit and the clock was ticking. The truck needed to be unloaded somewhere within the next couple of days.

  2. All of our kids were planning to converge on our house to celebrate Christmas. What if we didn't have a house?

  3. And we couldn't stay with Judy indefinitely. The weight gain alone was enough of a reason.

Jenna called the moving company right away. They really were great, but they informed us that they needed to unload the truck by Thursday at the latest because, of course, they had another job to get to.


This led to a rapid-fire series of setbacks:


We called the moving company back: Any way you can just store our stuff for us until we are ready? The very kind woman managing our account said, "Well, yes. We can do that. But you really, really, really don't want us to. We have to charge exceptionally high fees to do that." She quoted some numbers. We gulped and immediately started searching for other solutions.


We called the realtor and lawyer: Any way we can lock in a closing for Thursday? No. We can't. Sellers will not be ready.


Any way we can contract to rent the house at market value and move in before the closing? No. Sellers are not comfortable with that.


Any way we can rent just the two-car garage and unload our stuff there without entering the house? No. Sellers are not comfortable with that.


So, the truck is going to have to be unloaded somewhere, which is really bad news. Moving all your stuff once is hard enough. Who wants to move it all twice?!?


Somewhere in the midst of all the frustration and disappointment, it dawned on me that unloading the truck into another truck might be a solution. What if we rented a 26 foot U-Haul and had the movers transfer all our stuff from their truck to the U-Haul?!? Then the U-Haul would serve as a mobile storage unit and give us a little more flexibility to wait out the closing date. Brilliant.


Jenna called the moving company, who now understood our plight.


Jenna: Do you think all our stuff will fit in a 26 foot U-Haul?


Driver: It's gonna be tight!!


In the end, they agreed to the plan. We would meet on Thursday, December 15th in Springfield, Massachusetts. The moving team would transfer all our belongings into the U-Haul. Here's what that process looked like:

Note the gray sky... there is also a Nor'easter brewing that is promising to drop at least six inches of snow. So, as the wonderful crew is transferring all the stuff and trying to get it to fit into a significantly smaller truck, I'm frantically calling around looking for a place we can park the U-Haul for a few days to wait out the storm--and the closing.


I finally find a place in Claremont, New Hampshire, about 30 minutes from what we are still hoping will be our new Vermont home. It's another U-Haul place with a decent sized lot. The guy says I can park it there for a few days as long as I eventually return the truck to him when it's finally empty.


While I was doing all this, Jenna was hatching a plan of her own. She'd realized we'd need a place to stay once we had the truck parked safely in New Hampshire. And if we couldn't stay in our new house, she thought that at the very least we should stay somewhere in Vermont. So she did some internet research and booked us a room at a place called the Green River Bridge Inn.


We drove the truck up to Claremont, New Hampshire following GPS direction all the way (as one does). But for some reason, the GPS couldn't locate the actual address accurately. At one point, I pulled over and called the guy.


Jim: Hey, I'm the guy dropping off the truck with all my stuff in it. I just pulled over in the Baptist Church parking lot. Where exactly are you?


Guy: You've gone too far. There's a big sign out front that says Ed's Power Sports, you can't miss it.


Jenna has been following me in her car. We turn our little convoy around. It's dark and I'm not enjoying myself at this point. We head back in the other direction. About ten minutes later I feel like we've gone too far again.


Jim: I'm at the Home Depot


Guy: You've gone too far. There's a big sign out front, you can miss it.


Jim: You keep saying that but...


We turn the convoy around one more time and finally find the place. I check in with the guy who points out the area he wants me to squeeze the truck into. Doing my best Romie impression, I back the 26 footer right into where it needs to be. I lock the thing up and jump in the car with Jenna. We are exhausted. We head for the Green River Bridge Inn.


By the time we arrive, it's late. And you can feel that the snow is immanent. We unload into the our room and fall into bed. Spent.


The next morning we wake to beautiful snow falling on this gem of an Inn nestled against the green river with one of those iconic New England covered bridges. It is gorgeous.


But this was Friday, and both of us needed to work. We logged on to the WiFi and got to it.


At one point in the morning, there was a knock on the door. It was Bob and Lee, the innkeepers. Lee offered us some fresh scones she'd just made, and Bob let us know that with all the snow, there was a possibility that the power might go out. He was working to fix the generator just in case. They both wanted us to know that if we ended up without power, we should come upstairs to the parlor and sit by the woodstove to keep warm. They seemed great, and we got back to work.


Of course the power did go out. And what ensued was magical. We had such a wonderful time, that when it was over, I wrote a review for the Inn's website. I'm going to include it here because it tells the story. But please, do yourself a favor, go to their website and book yourself a stay at this wonderful inn.


Two surprisingly unforgettable nights

The Green River Bridge Inn was, for us, the most welcome port in a storm. The storm wasn’t the Nor’easter that was dropping six inches of snow outside (creating the perfect Vermont setting for an evening of wine and charcuterie). The real storm was the botched closing on our new Vermont home that left us unexpectedly out in the cold.


The Inn boasts a near endless list of amenities including quintessentially and wonderfully appointed rooms, cozy places to sit on the main floor, a lovely new bar in the parlor, and absolutely unparalleled views of the Green River, the bridge, and the falls from every room. But my very favorite part of our stay had to do with the things the Inn didn’t have, namely a fuel valve solenoid, or electricity.


Because we arrived later in the evening of our first night, most excellent innkeepers Lee and Bob waited until the following morning to introduce themselves. Lee offered us some freshly made scones—which were delightful. And Bob launched into an equally delightful soliloquy about the Inn’s generator he was working to fix just in case the power went out. They both assured us that if the power did go out, we should join them around the wood stove on the main floor.


Sure enough, by mid-afternoon the power did go out during my last Zoom meeting of the day. As the sun went down, we were eventually drawn to the parlor room by the heat of the wood stove and the warmth of the conversation and laughter. Lee explained that Bob was still working on the generator, but that we should sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. About the time the charcuterie appeared, so did Bob. He explained that the generator refused to run because the fuel valve solenoid was bad. He’d located a new part some two hours away, but all of us were doubtful that a trek to retrieve this part on a Friday night in the middle of a Nor’easter was not the best use of anyone’s time. Besides, there was charcuterie.


What ensued was one of the most enjoyable evenings we’ve had in a long, long time. We sat for hours around the woodstove swapping stories and laughing. I was reminded of my childhood in New England where power outages were fairly common and almost always conjured some kind of magic that would lead to games, conversations, and memories far better than any other “normal” night.


How else would we have learned that Lee is an inveterate marathoner and has run marathons in more countries than I can remember? How else would I know that Lee has relatives in just about every place I have ever lived—or would ever want to live? How else would we have learned that Bob, a hockey fanatic, is having a fantastic “third period” playing goalie three nights a week for his local club team. (Bob insists, by the way, that his remarkable success stems from the fact that his old-school lack of the “butterfly style” mystifies all the younger shooters—while his throwback “Jason” mask just scares the crap out of all comers.)


All that to say, you should book a stay at the Green River Bridge Inn right now—if you can find a vacancy. I can’t promise you the power will be out. Bob may have indeed located a fuel valve solenoid by now, but I kind of hope not. And I can’t promise you that we will still be there, but I sure hope so. At this point if the closing on our new house falls through entirely, we may just become permanent residents of this extraordinary inn.


Sincerely,

Bart and Lorna


Okay, the Bart and Lorna thing was a joke that materialized somewhere in the magic of the night. I don't remember how, but somehow Jenna ended up as Lorna, and I became Bart.


There was one more remarkable thing happened that night that didn't end up in my review. As we sat and talked I mentioned one of my brothers in Massachusetts.


Bob: Where does your brother live?


Bart: He lives in Holliston.


Bob: I grew up in Holliston! What part of town is he in?


Bart: He live son Marked Tree Rd.


Bob: I GREW UP ON MARKED TREE ROAD!


A Google maps session ensued in which we established that Bob grew up a few hundred yards from where my brother now lives--but that he'd moved out of town before my brother had moved in.


Bob looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, "You know, I wouldn't ever wish this on you, but we still own a house in Holliston, and it's currently empty. If the closing falls through you'd be welcome to stay there for as long as you need."


[Bless you Bob and Lee]


The fact that the power was out and that we had no cell reception was actually a welcome respite. We were able to forget all the house-closing drama. We were able to forget the truck with all our worldly possessions now snowed in up in New Hampshire. We just enjoyed the lovely stay at this wonderful inn with our new friends.


But come Monday morning, we would have to gather our real estate team together and make some decisions.


Coming next: Home for Christmas?


A quick note about how this blog is organized: There are two different threads you can peruse on the blog. The main tread is the ongoing story of building of the tiny house. That saga starts here: Sourcing a Trailer. Or if you want to peruse all the posts about the tiny house just click the Tiny House menu button at the top of the screen.


The second thread is called Tinkering and it's just a bunch of stories mostly having to do with the broken down cars I owned and tried to keep running--and the life lessons that ensued. A couple of my favorites are this one in which I learn to start my car with a screwdriver, and this one which contains a rendering of the fairly infamous outhouse story.


Happy reading!



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