Truck retrieval on the mountain

Monday afternoon around 4 Zeke, who was out on the front walk, let us know that a young woman had come to our front gate. She was panting from exertion and looked ready to cry. She told us that she, her mother, and her baby sister were stuck in the woods down at the end of Wildlife Trail.

They had been looking for scrap metal to earn money and had decided to drive down the overgrown road that leads into the woods and down to the bottom of the mountain. The girl said they were about a half mile in and that they had driven over a dirt hump and then got stuck on the other side. I was hoping it was not the “dirt hump” where I turn around on the infrequent occasions when I walk the dogs that way, but, of course, it was. I turn around at that point because beyond there, the road becomes so much rockier and steeper that it’s hard even to walk. The truck was truly stuck, probably closer to a quarter of a mile in. When the girl tried to back it up, all it did was spin a tire in a cloud of rubber smoke, even with me on the back bumper.

I thought for a while, and the only plan I could come up with was to see if our neighbor Gary would be willing to use his tractor to pull the truck out. Fortunately, he was at home and was willing to give it a try.

The road close to the truck was too steep for the tractor, so we pooled our chain resources and got sufficient length to stretch from the back bumper of the truck to the back of Gary’s tractor.


The picture doesn’t do justice to the slope here. The younger woman said it was 90 degrees, but in reality, it might have approached 30 degrees. Not vertical, but steep enough.

Gary and I thought if we got the truck up to the dirt hump, the truck would have enough traction to back out by itself. That was not the case. Gary had to drag the truck almost all the way out of the woods. The road was covered with damp pine needles and leaves and even when the slope was not as bad, the truck still couldn’t get enough traction to back up on its own.

truck and tractor

All of us eventually ended up back in civilization. Gary drove his tractor home, the older woman pulled into our driveway, and I followed. I think their truck was running well enough for them to make it back home.

Gary and I had left the young woman and the baby with Leah while the mother (We are unclear about the exact relationship among these three) accompanied us to drive the truck. That gave Leah and the dogs a chance to spend some time with them. She told Leah she thought most people would have told them to go away. The life story of the three was not happy. It involved a double-amputee husband, drug use, jail time, and health problems, along with a lack of money to pay for treatment and not qualifying for Medicaid (probably as a result of our governor’s refusal to accept federal money to expand Medicaid).

The girl told Leah she wanted a job doing something to help children, like being a pediatrician. While they talked, she got a phone call from someone who said that she could borrow money and make a career, all she had to do was first send them some money.

They seemed like nice people who had never had much of a chance, just the kind that vultures like to prey on. I suspect that if they had had to call a tow truck, it would have been a financial catastrophe for them.

The older woman (Leah thought the young woman said the older woman was 39 or so, but she looked older) fell in love with Zeke. She got down on the floor with Zeke and wanted to take him home.

She had already hugged Gary and shaken my hand in thanks. When they left, she asked if she could bring Zeke a bone for Christmas.

Mountain Toad

This fine specimen has been surveying the insect population around the driveway in front of the garage for some time now.


I’m pretty sure it’s a female, and I’m pretty sure it’s an American toad. There is often a smaller toad not far away, which might be a young toad or a male, since, according to this site, the female is larger. That site says its habitat “varies widely from mountain wilderness to urban areas”, so it pretty much covers our area.

The toads have no problems with the cats, who also tend to hang out in the area immediately in front of the garage. They pretty much ignore each other. The dogs sometimes sniff at the toad (the cats, too, for that matter), but the toad couldn’t care less. There are lights that stay on continuously on the garage, so the hunting is probably pretty good for the toads.

There is some dense foliage next to to the paved area which may provide shelter during the day. The Web site says they need water to breed, but I have no idea where they could find that around the house.

Friday Felines

When Smokey and Zoe are inside, Smokey often tries to get as close as he can to Zoe. They were lying down with their heads touching here before we got the camera.

head to head

And then when Smokey gets too close, Zoe eventually bops him and tries to bite him. Poor Smokey. All he wants to say is, “I love you, bro.”

Narrowing down the possibilities

Leah and I have found four potential building sites in this general area. Two are on Lavender Mountain within an easy walk of our current house, one is about a mile and a half away at the bottom of Lavender Mountain in Little Texas Valley, and the fourth is about five miles away in Big Texas Valley. Each of these sites has advantages and disadvantages. We have managed to winnow the choices down.

The first we rejected is the land on Big Texas Valley Road. It looks buildable, but the road it faces is not pedestrian friendly. Is it ridiculous to reject a potential home site because I can’t walk dogs on the road it faces? That’s what we did.

The second we rejected is the land at the bottom of the hill. Its biggest problem is that it slopes gently from each end to the middle, where there is a drainage ditch. We would want the house roughly centered on the lot, but that wouldn’t be possible here. It’s also generally kind of ugly land and it would have no view at all.

That leaves two possibilities. The one we prefer is the closest. It’s roughly square, it has some nice, mature trees, and it might have a view, depending on how high the house site would be compared to some tall trees across the road from the lot. The biggest drawback for this one is that it’s too expensive. We have set a limit on what to spend for the lot, and this one exceeds it by a good margin. We asked the real estate agent, who lives up the street from us and who handled the sale of my mother’s house, to ask the owners if they would consider an offer. We haven’t heard back yet, but we don’t expect good news.

The other issue is that this land slopes enough that a house would have to have a basement. That’s OK with me, but Leah prefers no basement, and, of course, a basement adds to the cost.

That leaves the other lot on the mountain. This one is a close second. It has a good building site and, again, potentially a view if enough trees are cut. This site is actually three lots offered separately or as a group. Any one of them is well within out budget, but the three of them together are slightly over, although that might be negotiable. The building site here is on a rounded hillock that slopes gently away in all directions.

The biggest problem with this site is that my cell signal goes from LTE (Verizon’s 4G), to 3G, to 1X as you approach the site along Fouche Gap Road. That might be a big “so what?” for making voice calls, but we have to use Verizon’s cellular service for our internet access, and 1X is essentially unusable for data. That would mean switching to satellite internet service, because there is no other way to access the internet up on the mountain.

Both of the rejected lots have access to DSL (Verizon’s LTE service is about as fast as the fastest DSL service that AT&T offers, as far as I can tell). Here’s why DSL isn’t available on top of the mountain.

our phone lines

That “Bell cable” lying in the ditch is our telephone line. It’s mostly buried but is right out on the open in other places. The cable was marked to make sure a county crew didn’t cut it when they did their annual weed mowing.

Cable television is, of course, out of the question.

DSL is fairly slow, but as far as I can tell, the data limits for most DSL plans is about 30 times higher than our cell data limit or a reasonably-priced satellite plan (150 G vs 5 G for our current plan).

So right now we are waiting to hear back from the real estate agent, and expect the news to be negative. If it is, we’ll make an offer on the second choice, and I’m pretty sure we can manage one or possibly two of those lots.

Assuming we end up buying a lot, we’ll probably use what’s left from our land budget, if there is any, plus whatever we end up getting after the sale of my mother’s house to start construction. We should be able to get a good bit done. I think we could get the site preparation done, a well drilled, and a septic system installed. Depending on how much we have, I hope we could get at least the foundation completed. At that point, we will need to sell our house. Our current plan is to live in our travel trailer on the building site until the house is done. That might end up being kind of stressful unless I can really expedite the process.

In the meantime, I am doing all the work on the house that convinced me we needed to move in the first place. Once I’m finished with the outside I’ll have to complete the basement by installing floors, bathroom fixtures, doors and trim. I don’t look forward to it, but I’ve done most of that before.

And now for something else. When we took the dogs for a late walk Wednesday night, a state patrol car drove past us up Lavender Trail, and then down Wildlife Trail. When it came back by us, it stopped and the trooper talked to us for a while. It turns out that he recently moved up to Rome from the Atlanta area and was looking for some land for sale on Lavender Mountain. He specifically asked us about the land that is our second and mostly likely choice. We learned that his wife has cancer, and they have a daughter. And we learned that he makes about $35,000 a year. That’s the standard for a state trooper after finishing trooper school. Leah and I both felt sorry for him, and I personally feel a little ashamed that the state of Georgia can’t do better by its employees.

Friday Felines

The front walk is a popular place for the animals to sun themselves. On this day, most of the cats wanted to sun themselves.

four on the walk

This is Rusty, Chloe, Smokey and Dusty.

Usually Zeke is out there. You can see the leash we use for him. When Zeke is out, we also close the gate. All four of these cats can get though, but Smokey catches his stomach on the way out. Zoe won’t even try.