Sometimes you just need to get away. It's been a long while since my wife and I packed a couple of bags and got the heck out of Dodge for a few days. It's been too long a while. A getaway is a great way of refreshing one's attitude. It reengages the mind. It casts off the shackles of everyday care and woe. And it is easier said than done.
Back in early summer I planned an autumn driving trip with my wife. I knew the change of season and scene would do us good. We'd been hanging around the house for far too long, and we had spent a good part of the year getting beat up by the unhappy little surprises of life. Life as a homeowner, that is.
The first little surprise happened at the very beginning of the year when I received a notice from our homeowner's insurance company that our house had been visited by one of their inspectors who had determined our roof would have to be replaced by March 1st or we'd get a rate increase in premium or possible cancellation of coverage. This gave me less than 4 weeks to take care of it.
The woman I spoke with at the insurance agency, who was clearly a graduate of CAC (College of Attitude and Condescension), unsympathetically informed me that my roof, which hadn't caused us any problems up until now, had to go. We settled on a roofer, recommended by a family friend, who informed us that due to new environmental codes that had just gone into effect, we would be spending considerably more for a new roof than we would have 6 months ago.
$18,000 later we had a new roof. You see, there was all kinds of problems with the way the "old" roof was built and those problems had to be corrected before the "new" one could be installed. Don't ask. After the roofers were finished came the re-painting of exposed wood that had to be done. That was another $700.
The next "little surprise" was visited on us in June when the hot water heater went out. The new one cost $1200 and once again, environmental requirements drove the cost up. Thank you, environmental activists! Adding icing to the grief cake, the new water heater doesn't quite "fit" into the little outside closet that was designed for the old one. I'll need a carpenter to fix it.
It was about this time that I knew we had to plan some sort of getaway from the money pit for a while. As I said, sometimes you just need to get away. So after the 4th of July we began thinking of where and how long we'd like to get away for.
We made the obligatory trip to the Auto Club for maps and guides. We investigated places on the Internet sites. We charted a route. We were all set. Or were we? No, not quite, as it turned out. There were a few more little surprises yet to be unwrapped. Like for instance our refrigerator stopped refrigerating. We called in a repairman and he was able to fix it, fortunately. We lost some frozen food, but that was nothing compared to the next little surprise.
It was August, during one of those lovely heat wave/high humidity periods, when our air conditioner began acting up. We called in an a/c guy who told us that our unit was way over its life expectancy and we need to think about replacing it. "How much would that be?" I ignorantly inquired. "Oh, around $10,000 to $15,000," the fellow replied without blinking. I called in another guy.
This new guy played around with it, changing parts, going up in the attic, checking things out. That cost $550. The thing still didn't work, we called him back. When he returned he told us that it's leaking somewhere but in order to find out where, he'd have to do a nitrogen test for about $800. And even after that, there was no guarantee that the leak could be fixed. "So?" says I. "So," says the guy, you might as well replace the whole unitfor around $13,000.
I was in the middle of getting bids for this when the next shoe dropped. Last week our plumbing crapped out. It began with a clogged kitchen sink and by the time the crew of 4 to 5 plumbers were through digging under the house three days later, it cost me take a guess? That's right $13,000.
Sometimes you just need to get away before anything else happens like a nervous breakdown. And remember, we still have three months to go in the year.