But – it was a rough area. We were concerned for our safety, and especially the safety of our daughters. After two drive-by shootings, one next door and one across the street, we decided to run. My decision point was always that if I had to bring out my guns from Michigan because of safety concerns, it was time to go.
We decided to look to the east. The community of Ramona lies in the foothills, about 40 miles away. At the time, land was still reasonable and the community was still small. The 40-mile commute was not a concern. It took me 45 minutes to drive 20 miles to work in San Diego’s heavy traffic, so an additional 15 minutes drive time out of traffic was more than offset by the opportunity to build our own house and the peace and quiet of the country.
There were other benefits. Most of the housing going in then and today were developed with maximum sized houses on the smallest sized lots. The houses are boxes wedged in next to each other, with no character other than the names assigned by the developers, such as “King Arthur’s Courtyard”, or other fanciful tags with no basis in reality. It seems to me that living in one of those boxes is like living in an apartment. I wanted enough land to buffer us from the neighbors, and enough room on that land to plant a garden and fruit trees.
We started our search with a realtor from Ramona named “JC”, a former Buffalo Bills football player who specialized in selling raw land. Our first contact with a builder brought out the eye-opening fact that the cost to build new was about the same as buying an existing home. From that perspective, there is no reason not to build, particularly since our desire was to buy the maximum amount of land for the money and to build a small house, with the idea of adding square footage if needed. Small houses are easier on the upkeep and maintenance, and the land costs were only going to go up.
Kate and I (mostly Kate) kept a log on the building process, so from here on in, the log will appear, annotated with additional information.