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July 7, 2003
And the winner is -- oops

A composite panorama from our property, showing 180 of the southern view

During our July 4th camping weekend up on the mountain, everything changed.

The weekend itself was great.  We had beautiful weather.  Although it reached more than 100 degrees in the Central Valley, there is always a breeze up on the mountain, making it a good ten degrees cooler.  For the long weekend, we were joined by Gail's sister Debbie and her family, as well as by Gail's mother.

We have developed quite an infrastructure on the property.  With a wooden shed now installed, we can store tables, chairs, and all of our camping equipment.  We set up a gazebo for shade during the hot middle of the day.  We even installed a zip line between two trees.

On one particularly hot day we made a day trip to the local reservoir, where the kids played on air mattresses.  On one particularly star-studded night, we set up Gail's telescope.  The night of July 4th was a special treat.   From our perch, we could see numerous fireworks displays off in the distance across the valley.

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Celebrating the Fourth of July in our camping gazebo

All in all, we are enjoying the property immensely.  As Debbie stated off-handedly, "It's almost a shame to build a house here.  The property's perfect just the way it is."

And that was the problem.

Russell in particular spent a lot of time soul-searching, walking around the mountain top and trying to figure out what he really wanted to do with this property.

From the central and highest knoll -- the flat building site -- we get an almost 360-degree panoramic view.  To the west, there is the Central Valley and sunsets to die for.  To the south, there is a pristine valley of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  To the east, there is a peek at the distant snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.  By standing in the center of the knoll, you can literally turn and marvel in every direction.

Our proposed house -- the Viceroy Graystone -- would offer large, panoramic windows, and rooms that overlook each of these perspectives.  But there would be no room that would overlook all of them.

This was Russell's dilemma.  We had fallen in love with -- and paid a premium for -- this property specifically because of the 360-degree panorama.  Building a house on the middle of the mountain top would destroy that quality.  We could never again stand in a single spot and enjoy this view unless we tore down the house someday.  There was something fundamentally wrong with that.

In the end, Russell made a decision, with Gail's full support.  We would not build the Viceroy Graystone, as beautiful as it was.  Russell toyed again with the idea of never building on the site, instead camping indefinitely.  Gail reiterated again that she wanted a house for both the convenience and the weather.

Of all of the houses we looked at, there is only one that permits an unobstructed view in all directions.  The Topsider, because of its proprietary post-and-beam construction, can be designed and built with no interior walls.

Gail was secretly pleased, because the Topsider had been her preference all along.  Russell was openly scared, because the Topsider still costs more than twice what we can afford.

On the Monday that we returned from the mountain, Gail called Bob Hammell at Viceroy and gave him the bad news.  Then, she called Steve Hill at Topsider and told him that we hadn't ruled him out yet, after all.

In the meantime, Russell has been looking at our meager (and dwindling) finances one more time, trying to figure out what we're going to do.

Here is a sketch of our building pad.  Click on one of the red numbers to see what the view is like, looking towards that direction from the center of the pad.


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