Sunday, May 19, 2013

Idaho Again - Part 1

One weekend last month my Mountain Boy, my travel-loving pup Jamie and I took one more whirlwind trip over to Idaho on a house hunting trip.
I had found a couple of (what appeared to be) viable options - homes that were located in an area that we liked very much, and homes that were in the price range that we could afford.
One of them was half way between Blackfoot and Arco in a tiny community of only 24 people.
When we talked to two real estate agents about it, all they could tell us was that it was in the desert and that there was nothing there.
A couple of other homes were in the town of Arco, and a couple were 15 miles further into the Big Lost River Valley in Moore.
We had actually put a bid on a home that was in foreclosure after our first trip.  We put in a offer for the full asking price, and were certain that we would get it.
Surprisingly the finance company that is now overseeing the property told us that they were sending us a counter offer.
A counter offer?  How could they give us a counter offer when we offered their full asking price?
They wanted to dictate the closing date.  They wanted to penalize us $100 a day for every day beyond that closing date.  
Once our offer was in the finance company's hands - and then our banks' hands - it was effectively out of our hands when all the paperwork would be finalized.  
We pushed hard to get the closing date stipulation waived.  They said no.  We said forget it.
It is still on the market.
Before this second trip I found two for sale by owner homes, and emailed back and forth extensively with the owners.
The one in Arco was supposed to be in excellent shape - an older home that had "all new" - new floors, new roof, new wiring, new plumbing, new windows.
The one in Moore was a nice older home on a very small lot.
We also wanted to check out a couple of small pieces of land, a couple of mobile homes that were being sold cheaply as part of a clean-up effort on someone's property, and we wanted to pay a visit to someone we had found through a website while looking for campgrounds in the area.
It was going to be a very busy couple of days.
The pictures above and immediately below were taken from the interstate in Montana as we made our way to Idaho................
The mountain ranges of the Big Lost River and Little Lost River Valleys off in the distance.
At this point in our trip we were still 40 miles or more from Arco, and as I looked at the terrain around me I was again reminded that this area leading up to the valley reminds me very much of Wyoming.
Mountains in the far distance in all directions.
Vast expanses of wide open terrain.
Few trees and endless sage brush.
Yes.......very much like Wyoming............
After checking into the same small motel that we stayed in during our last trip, LC and I left James napping comfortably on the bed in the room, while we hungrily went in search of an open restaurant.
We were staying just on the outskirts of this small and mostly depressed little town, and as I looked over to my left I asked LC to pull the truck over to the side of the road so that I could take this picture.
We had had a long day of driving, but the day had been warm and beautiful.
It had been an uneventful trip, we were both tired, and we were both wound far too tight.
As LC waited for me in the truck, I climbed out and stood looking at the snow covered mountains heading into the valley.
I liked this area.  It was quiet, open, isolated, peaceful, very pretty.
After snapping this picture I climbed back into the truck and we headed towards Pickle's Place.............
Arco has a population of just over 900 people and is located about 20 miles from Craters of the Moon:
The town has been losing industry (and consequently losing people) for many years, and these days this little town contains many old homes that are for sale and many businesses that are boarded up and also for sale.
Not surprisingly, there are few restaurant choices in Arco.
We stopped briefly at a mom and pop subway/soup restaurant, saw that they wanted $13 for a foot long and decided that yes.....Pickles Place was definitely where we were headed.
The Pickle (as it is known locally) should be one of those places filled with local charm, but in truth it is nothing more than two rooms filled with generic round tables and generic padded chairs.
It has acceptable food at acceptable prices, and the most interesting thing about the place is the bright green paint, the whimsical sign  and the huge over sized rocking chair outside.
Because Arco's claim to fame is that it was the first town lighted by atomic power (for all of about 45 seconds) Pickles is home to the over sized Atomic Burger.............
Arco is at the base of the Big Lost River Valley.
From Arco the trip through the valley takes you through increasingly impressive mountains and progressively more river, pine trees and extreme beauty as you pass through one isolated town after another - Moore, Mackay, Challis, Salmon, and other tiny communities whose names I don't remember.
Home prices increase with each of these.  You pay for mountains.  For river. 
After a quick breakfast the next morning we headed away from the base of the valley and into what Idahoans think of as desert.
When we arrived at the tiny speck of homes in the desert we were a little surprised.
By Wyoming standards we weren't in the desert.
There were trees in the tiny community.  Grass growing.  Mostly flat land surrounded by thousands of acres of INL land on one side of the highway:
And thousands of acres of BLM land on the opposite side of the highway.
Large buttes dotted the landscape and the mountains of the Big Lost River Valley were clearly visible in the distance.
The house was huge.  It was run down but structurally sound.  It contained three bedrooms and two bathrooms, an attached two car garage, an attached workshop, an attached green house, and a detached one car garage on 1/2 acre.
We saw no people during the hour we were there, we met the elderly couple who desperately wanted to sell, we liked the place very much, the price was excellent, and as LC and I headed back towards Arco we both looked at each and were puzzled.
This place was not what we had pictured in our heads when we imagined buying a home.  Not at all.  But it had some features that were extremely compelling.
It wasn't what we had pictured, but the last time we had visited the area we had seen many small and older homes, located on tiny lots with too-close neighbors, and wondered if our budget would ultimately mean that we would have to settle for one of these little, closed in places.
If we couldn't afford space maybe we would have to settle for access to space.
Big house in tiny community in desert.
Pictures taken on a side road just outside of Arco..............
Between a visit to our desert house and a visit to a home in Arco that was supposed to be (according to the ad we had found) CUTE CUTE CUTE (and had all-new-everything) we drove up to Moore (about 20 miles north of Arco) to look at land and mobile homes.
No and hell no.
While still in Moore we found a couple of homes we had seen (and were curious about) on line. 
No and hell no.
After eating dinner at the Pickle the night before, LC and I had done a drive by of the CUTE CUTE CUTE house.
We slowly drove by and then slowly turned around and drove back, eventually deciding to park the truck and walk around the outside of the empty house.
There was a hole beside the concrete front steps, indicating that something was living under the steps (or the house).
The roof had new shingles.  The roof covered with very cheap shingles was buckling.  And shingles had blown off the roof and were laying on the ground beside the concrete front steps.
The facer boards surrounding the entire house were a combination of new boards, old rotted boards, boards pulling away from the house, and holes large enough to allow birds or small animals to enter.
I was disappointed.  LC was angry.  We had been lied to by a overly friendly, overly effusive woman both on the phone and in emails. 
After seeing our house in the desert and then seeing a whole lot of dead-ends in Moore, we finally made our way back to the CUTE CUTE CUTE house, because that was the home we had been most interested in seeing during this particular trip.
Maybe it wasn't quite so bad inside.
When we arrived at the house at the appointed time we were greeted by the sight on the contractor leaning up against his truck looking at us warily and distrustfully. 
And the site of the CUTE CUTE CUTE woman smiling her too big smile, and greeting us in her overly effusive way.
We shook hands and greeted her politely.  She smiled big.  We shook hands with the contractor.  He worked very hard to smile at us, but didn't quite succeed.
We silently walked around the outside of the house while the contractor warily watched us, while still leaning not-so-non-chalantly against his truck.
The hole by the front steps had been filled in.  The blown off shingles had been replaced.
We saw.  He saw that we saw.  LC knows construction.  I didn't know construction but it didn't take a rocket scientist to recognize shoddy work.
We walked inside.  The floors had new laminate flooring and looked very nice.  As I walked around the house I felt the soft spots underneath the shiny new laminate floor.
The cabinets in the kitchen looked like pretty Barbie doll-house cabinets.  Cheap and pretty.  Pretty and cheap. 
There was new wood surrounding all the internal doors and apparently the contractor didn't know what a 90 degree angle was.
And so it went.
One of the buttes close to the desert-home 30 miles away..............
Taken in back of the motel at the end of a long day...........
My tired Mountain Boy checking under my truck for the source of a rattling sound.
He never did find the source of the rattle, but with the 1 mile of increasingly wash-board dirt road we have to drive to reach the house we are renting in Cody, there's no doubt that something somewhere has worked itself loose...........
Painted on the large external wall of a downtown building.............
By the end of the day we had seen an intriguing home in the desert that by Wyoming standards wasn't really desert, a mobile home in too much disrepair to have any potential to make into a home, a CUTE CUTE CUTE home that turned out to be a home with many problems that were carefully hidden under cheap upgrades, a piece of land that would not work, another piece of land that had already been sold, a house that looked nice but was on a lot that was way too small, and we had driven by a couple of other homes that we had seen online that looked better online than in person.
As we drove to the grocery store at the end of the day to pick up some food to take back to the hotel we stopped frequently to take random pictures of random sites in town.
A beautiful stone church in downtown Arco............
The main strip in Arco with Number Hill in the background:
LC asked me to take this picture, smiling and telling me that he had not seen an S&H Green Stamps sign in many years.
I had never heard of them............
When I saw these I asked LC to stop one more time.
The first spring flowers I had seen.
Before we stopped at the grocery store we (on the spur of the moment) decided to go in search of someone we had found online.................

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