The Search Begins

A.H. Trimble HomesteadThis is a multi-part series on our search for a bugout location that turned into a retirement home project. But it is still a bugout location and a semi-vacation home. We will be moving there when we retire but in the meantime it is a great way to invest money and time.

There is point I was trying to make…why not make your bugout location the place where you will retire. And, if you aren’t using it as a bugout location before retirement…why not use it as a vacation home in the meantime.

Yeah, sounds real simple and obvious…but what we were doing didn’t make much sense to us until we actually verbalized it…then it sounded as if it made more sense. And yes, it helped clarify our priorities for our efforts and money.

So there I was…

About 2008 I really started thinking seriously about acquiring a BOL (Bug Out Location) for my wife & I, and a small group of friends that had formed a little camping group (so to speak). I felt like the time was approaching that a BOL would be the smart thing to do. I had completed the rough draft writing for a fictional book My Journal book series and it included a BOL.

Back then I really wanted to have a BOL and there was a sense of urgency to it because I thought it would be needed shortly. Within a couple of years that changed…the sense of urgency went up, way up. But, I had a dilemma…the cost to buy a property vs. the money we had available.

If you have ever shopped for, land you know it can get pretty expensive quickly. As the saying goes, “I have Champagne taste on a beer budget.” Where did the Champagne taste come from? Reading too many technical articles by so-called experts on bugout location requirements. Even worse were the more fanciful articles written for surviving full-blow, serious TEOTWAWKI…end of days kind of stuff.

I digested all the advice from having three separate redundant water supplies, to the natural defensive position of a hilltop overlooking your own valley, to a specific minimum number of miles away from big cities and Interstates. Then there was advice on the particular demographics you wanted for the area as well as political make-up of the county your future property might be located in. Then there was advice on elevation, location in proximity to nuclear facilities, and overall climate considerations. All of this advice went on and on and on. While it seemed all logical and appropriately needed…it didn’t feel overwhelming at that point…my search was on!

The first place I started was naturally doing online research. I began looking at different areas of the country for available land. I had spent time in most western states as a wildland firefighter so I had somewhat of an idea of different areas.

Yes, that means anything east of Texas was completely out of the question. I was pretty drawn to Idaho, its beautiful and pretty conservative. Unfortunately Colorado was completely out of the question. Beautiful as it may be, it is overrun by whackjob liberals that were restricting guns and all sorts of other freedoms. I wanted no part of that. Kalifornia was completely out of the question from the very beginning. It is, without any question or debate, a socialist state unto itself. I want no part of a totalitarian state run by socialist extremists.

I like Oregon quite a bit, but it falls just slightly short of Kalifornia. Yes, I know that eastern Oregon is pretty normal, but it is attached to western Oregon that is contaminated with liberals and enviro-nazis. Oregon, another non-starter from the very beginning. Then comes the state of Washington…very similar to Oregon but run by insane hippies that are very liberal, environmental idiots, and a strange flavor of anarchists. And not near far enough away from Kalifornia.

Wyoming was in the run…a little bit. It gets way, WAY cold there! SO it was towards the bottom of the list. Nevada was out due to liberal population and Las Vegas. Now there is a golden horde waiting to happen. Utah…well, I was in Salt Lake a few years back and it was nothing less than a freak show. I mean “freaks” in every sense of the word. No, not the Mormons…the freaks of every flavor…especially the gender benders. Montana is absolutely beautiful with great people…and way too cold and too long of winter weather.

Finally, although my wife hadn’t, I had personally ruled out New Mexico for a number of reasons; 1) overrun with illegals, 2) a long unprotected and very dangerous border with Mexico, 3) significant gang presence, 4) very large meth use and production presence, 5) very bad “vibe” to the state from a SHTF perspective, 6) large underground La Rasa following.

So it was down to Idaho and Arizona.

So, I was doing my searching for properties in the few remaining states that were still under consideration I was seeing wonderful properties for sale. About 90% of which were far, far outside of any budget capabilities on my part. So, I figured I better figure out what was important to me and what wasn’t. The cost of which was the primary driving factor…or so I thought.

But, I screwed-up all that searching wandering around online for about a year before I figured that I better “get real” in what to look for. And, about that time my dear wife chimes in and talks about not wanting to be too far from home so we can use the place before retirement as a vacation home before SHTF events. Now we were down to a very narrow selection of states and she was convinced that we could find something in New Mexico. Yeah, she didn’t get my memo on that option. And the price of properties ruled out Idaho…and the distance nailed that coffin shut. Arizona it had to be!

Kinda of inadvertently we started seeing a whole lot of land in Arizona available that appeared to be reasonably priced. Or so we thought. About 2012 we did a multi-day trip there to look around. We had lined up an agent and had about six properties on our short list. I doubt that we could have been more disappointed with the land options or our agent. It was pretty much a waste of time. However, it was an excellent eye-opening experience. Remember, that was 2012.

Somewhere shortly after that I started thinking even more realistic. It was while I was refining my “threats and risk” matrix where I rank all real threats and risks in terms of severity and probability that I really got serious. To make a long story short –

  1. We know we have a 100% chance of retirement and when it will likely happen.
  2. We know a grid-down event will happen but we have no true idea on the timing.
  3. We don’t know for sureif we will ever have a SHTF Zombie Apocalypse event, let alone in our lifetime.
  4. We know we wanted to be able to enjoy 3 – 7 day vacations…without flying or driving for a long period of time.

What all that means is we needed to look at this more for retirement than SHTF BOL. And if we did it right, the SHTF requirements should be all, or mostly, covered as we buy for retirement.

Now let me explain just a little something for you…WE AIN’T YOUR AVERAGE RETIREMENT COUPLE.

We want to live out of town, way out of town. We don’t want a neighbor around us that we can see…or even hear them if they shout. For the right picture of that let me describe it this way so you get a real clear idea of what I am talking about, as I explained it to my wife…I want to pee off the deck and not worry about anyone seeing me. We also want to be close enough to a…wait a second…maybe I better hold off on this and turn it into a list at the appropriate time.

Back to the debacle of a trip in 2012, I came back depressed. What I thought we were looking for turned out to be a complete bust on so many levels it just made me almost want to give up looking. Over the next couple of years my wife and I kept searching online and refining what we really wanted…what we really, really wanted. So let me outline that for you now –

  1. Away from town, no more than about a 30 – 45 minute drive.
  2. “Town” would be 20,000 people or less but had to have a decent hospital and sufficient stores, restaurants, etc.
  3. We wanted to be decently close to other members of our church. That aspect of our life is important to us and we wanted to be close to a “fold” of religiously like-minded people.
  4. We wanted to be within 30 – 45 minutes of a golf course. Yes, we like playing golf. No, I didn’t say I was any good at it, I said I like playing it.
  5. We didn’t care about having any electric to the property. We want to go off-grid solar.
  6. We wanted water, meaning a well. But, that was running the price of land up by $10k – $20k. We figured out how to do rain catchment, but that would be a seriously tough way to go. A river or even a creek in most areas pushes the price of a piece of property through the stratosphere.
  7. We wanted enough trees and other greenery to make sure we knew we weren’t living in any desert. Also, a bonus would be enough trees to produce our firewood.
  8. Some nice topography would be cool, maybe some mountains, or at least decent hills.
  9. We didn’t want to have a mortgage on it after we retired.

Does that sound like some post-apocalyptic self-defense compound? Nope! At least not to us. It sounded exactly like the place we wanted to retire to, and maybe enjoy it a bunch until then. So the search continued with our new and improved list of “needs & wants.” Yes, we put the BOL stuff on the back burner for now…more on that later.

Let me digress for just a minute. When we did our infamous trip to Arizona we stayed in a town called Show Low. No special reason, it was the closest available centrally-located hotel room. We didn’t get to look around Show Low much due to appointments to see land, etc. but it had a great “feel” to it. The price of property in Show Low pretty much made it out of the question for our budget, but we liked it.

As we looked online night after night for a year we realized that we kept gravitating towards the Show Low area. But, the land there is very expensive…like $50k for a ¼ acre building lot. That is nothing like what we were looking for or able to afford. However, the Show Low area had a certain draw to it…hard to explain. And, a great thing happened during this same time-frame…my dear wife came to the same conclusion about New Mexico that I had. New Mexico was now a total non-starter, a liberal and illegal alien nightmare.

Finally about a year later we narrowed it down to the Show Low area; and then we confirmed that with prayer. All that remained was finding the right piece of property in that basic surrounding location. No, that wasn’t an easy task at all. I am telling you we looked at hundreds and hundreds of reality listings online. Some we ruled out, some we considered, some we felt had some real merit to them. It was time for another road trip!

This time, 2016, the dogs were going with us, we hit the road on a family trip. During our searching online we hooked up with this realtor that seemed to be a decent guy, appeared to be knowledgeable of the area, and wasn’t an obnoxious car salesman kind of agent. We decided to work with him and he lined up about four properties that we had expressed interest in or that he thought we might be interested in. That list grew to six by the time we showed up in Show Low in June of 2016.

We spent the first day very frustrated and disappointed. One property after another was crossed off the list. Too far out, too ugly, roads way too rough, etc. We were getting very, very disappointed again…and that was just the first day. Late the first afternoon we had a “come to Jesus meeting” with our agent and explained to him our revised-revised list of needs and wants. The list having been refined as we were driving around that day looking at properties. He promised to work on finding more properties that night. We went to a great little BBQ place called Grumpy Jakes, plus toured Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside area for a couple hours. We knew this was where we wanted to be, we knew it, and we were home! Sadly, Grumpy Jakes has gone hill a bit since 2016. It’s still decent BBQ but nothing like it was the first time or two we went there. The dogs still love it though.

The following morning started real early, we were off to look at more properties. And, we suffered more disappointments. We finally gave the agent an even more refined list of “musts” that included no 4wd roads that took an hour to drive on while getting to the property. He was still positive and encouraging, “I have just the place for you!”

He described a 10a parcel, only about 30 minutes off a paved road, with a well, fenced, and trees. OK, trees in this area where we were looking, and can afford, are Pinon, Juniper, and mostly cedar trees, and maybe as tall as twelve feet or so. But, they are tress and that is good enough for us. We headed off in that direction following his Chevy four-wheel drive pick-up. Yeah, he didn’t even have a Ford…go figure!

We drove into this junkyard of a property…well, it was more like a junkyard and garbage dump combined. The manufactured home that was bragged about in the listing was a condemned haven for every disease and rodent known to mankind. The numerous outbuildings turned out to be falling apart, barely standing, cobbled together sheds. But, it did come with a car and an ambulance. Both of which were at least twenty-five years old and probably hadn’t had wheels on them for the last fifteen years. But, the well was there and the property had a view. The price was $30k which I thought was high but it had a well. And, I have to admit, the property had potential once the Bubonic Plague generator (manufactured home) was removed.

We were trying to talk ourselves into it and then we heard the banging. I thought to myself that someone might be imprisoned in one of the buildings and this was about to turn into some nightmare situation in a country horror flick with chain saws and banjos. So what did I do? Of course…I went looking for the sound and found a neighbor’s metal building about 100 yards away with a guy trying to fix some kind of trailer…banging away.

I talked about it with my wife and the agent, the agent decided to go talk to him for a minute. And, that is when life started to change for the better and we didn’t even know it at the time.

About twenty minutes later our agent was back and he was excited about some additional information he found out about the parcel. Our agent shared that that the neighbor mentioned in passing that he thought that the same people selling this 10a parcel might be listing the adjoining 40a parcel sometime in the near future. My ears perked right up. According to the pricing on the 10a that means the 40a would be way expensive and I said as much. But our agent stopped me and told me they might be asking the same price for the 40a as they were for the 10a and the 40a also had a well on it. I walked a hundred yards or so looking at this larger parcel from the road. It was beautiful land, a full-blown crappy single-wide mobile home on it, but chain link fence that was worth more than the trailer. It had plenty of trees, some grass, and intriguing topography which included a very decent sized hill behind it. But, we only looked at it from the road. After all, it wasn’t for sale so it would technically be trespassing if we crossed the fence.

He made a phone call or two while I was looking at the property…hearing a small voice in my head telling me “this is your property.” We were encouraged and I would be lying if I told you we weren’t just a little bit excited. He drove up to meet me and shared with me that the property wasn’t currently for sale but might come available and told me the price they had told him if/when it came up for sale. I told him we were interested and to make a full price, all cash, offer if/when it came available.

We looked at one more property that day and then called it quits. We had to leave the next morning and we wanted to get a little exercise in with the dogs and get to bed early. We wanted to leave early the next morning. And, I gotta tell you…we were leaving having pretty much given up on the whole retirement property thing. I say “pretty much”, there was a little flicker inside of me that kept telling me to hang on. But nothing more than a faint flicker. It was frustrating and I was feeling it.

Contact me with your questions/comments…


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