Missouri or Bust

Well, we have been here a month and a half and the time has flown by. I keep thinking there isn't much to report but there are little adventures that may entertain those who have too much time on their hands. So here is my log. Unfortunately I am writing this after the fact so it lacks accuracy and detail. We have probably looked at over 50 properties. Here is a summary of the most interesting ones.
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Aug 30-Sept 1  ::  ON OUR WAY
We expected to take 3 and a half days to get to Missouri. We had already rented a house sight unseen in Columbia. We chose Columbia because it is near Danny's friend Jean, and is relatively central in the state. We liked it the first time we went through. It's big enough without being too big and it is a college town.

We left California on August 30 relatively early in the morning. My car and Danny's truck packed with the left-overs from the house and our necessities. Plus a dog on each front seat. We drove the interstate the whole way. We stopped in Wendover, Utah the first night. About 624 miles for the day. The second night we stopped in Sidney, Nebraska for approx. another 650 miles. The third night we were going to stop in St. Joseph but we waited too long to make a reservation and there was no room at the inn. So we continued on all the way to Columbia. We made close to 800 miles that day. Since the landlord was not expecting us until the next day, we stayed at the Motel 6 that night. Trip was fairly uneventful but very tiring. I learned how useful Redbull can be. The most fun we had was trying to set our cruise control at exactly the same pace as the other.

We moved into the house the next day. It is a duplex just outside the city limits. We can't complain. The owner is very nice. It is on a dead-end street with other duplexes and single-family houses. We've met a few of the neighbors. The gals across the street have a chihuahua named Pancho.

The other side of the duplex had been rented but the people weren't there yet. In the duplex on one side of us lives the landlord in one half and another of his tenants in the other half. She has a pitbull named Blitz who has a gimpy leg. He seems to be friendly but I'm glad his leg slows him down.

On the other side is another duplex with a gal who owns an old golden retriever. We haven't met either of them but the old guy has stolen several of the tennis balls that the dogs leave out there. Next to them are a young couple who have three hunting dogs tied up in the backyard. As far as we can tell they only go out to feed them. Jake broke his chain and got away last week and was gone for a couple days. We were rooting for him to find a better home but he apparently came back. The couple are also party-ers. They and the barking dogs wake us up often.

Our first priority was to set up the computer and TV. Danny got the DirecTV setup first thing. Then he went to the WalMart and bought a couple of lounge chairs so we would have something to sit on while watching TV. The cardboard boxes make fine tables. The phone on the other hand hadn't been turned on. Since it was a three-day weekend, we couldn't do anything about it until Tuesday. This also meant no internet access until then. I felt so out of touch. There is no AT&T available here. We have to use CenturyTel. Although the people I talk to are very nice, the quality of the service is pretty bad. The fact that I have to call them up twice a week should tell you something. They keep neglecting to tell me important little details. It took almost a week to get the DSL to work and I am still having problems. As far as our other furnishings, we used an air mattress for a bed for a couple weeks but decided to buy a new bed before our backs completely gave out. We got a Sleep Number bed. Danny is a 60 and I am a 30. This means he keeps rolling off of his hill into my canyon.

On Wednesday, Danny flew back to drive the truck and trailer here. He stopped at about the same spots as we did on the first trip. He actually made better time and arrived at 1:00 p.m. the third day. The trailer is sitting next to Jean's driveway. It really classes up the joint. Jean and her family have quite a few acres around where she lives. She has a nice set-up with the house set back in the trees and a nice acres pond in view of the house. She has three nice horses and they put up a nice horse barn. She has been very helpful since we have been here and she is a good cook and and we drop in to get fed from time-to-time.

While he was gone I contacted a realtor who drove me around all day. We drove by 6 properties and put on about 200 miles. Since we are looking for acreage, and looking all over the state, we have been putting quite a few miles. None of the properties this poor guy showed me were what I was looking for. I have quite a list of requirements. Every other day I get discouraged that we will never be able to find it. As we look at each property, we hone down the most important points. Number one has been to find a house that is not right next to a road. 99% of what we look at is right on the road. Busy blacktop highway or dusty gravel road. I don't understand it.

The second day, I contacted another realtor who basically gave me the same list as the first guy. He did give me one that looked interesting. It was not far from Columbia, It has an old farmhouse that needed a lot of work. It is on 28 acres, sit back on the property and has a large pond in front of the house. Plus a number of old outbuildings. It was fascinating. But it was right next to the interstate and too pricey. I just sold a house next to the freeway. I don't want another one.

Sept 10   ::  DANNY RETURNS
When Danny had recovered from his trek, we went to look at a 70 acre property we were excited about, that had been used as a Bed & Breakfast. It was owned and operated by the Amish. We liked the land but the house was disappointing. Another thing we have discovered is that a lot of the old farmhouses have low ceilings. Plus the remodeling done around here is pretty cheap. Vinyl replacement window. Vinyl siding, Vinyl tub surrounds. It if comes in vinyl, people put it on the house. This one was no exception. The floor plan was confusing. Lots of little rooms. Not really any original architectural features to speak of.

Around this time we noticed the next door neighbors car--with California license plates! They are from Redding. Living here temporarily while they look for a house.

Although we didn't totally rule it out the Bed & Breakfast, we knew we had to keep looking. We went to see another one that I thought looked great in the listing in Stover. It has 60 acres. The house does sit back on the property and has lots of outbuildings. It looked like the pond was huge in the pictures. In reality it was pretty small. The house was an older ranch with low ceilings and no character. Worst of all was the busy highway running in front of it.

We started seeing a lot of ads for auctions and looked into those. We found one in Excello, that was auctioning 9 acres with a nice log home and outbuildings plus the 95 acre adjoining tract separately. This one was contingent on the approval of the owners so we knew it wouldn't go cheap but we thought it was worth a shot and figured we would learn something from attending the auction.

wedding day
And pigs fly!

We got married! We needed to get it done before the end of the year, so we went and got our license in Columbia. They didn't have an open date until November so we found a Justice of the Peace in Fayette to perform the ceremony. Danny's friend Jean and a friend of hers that was visiting took a trip over there. We had a nice lunch. Giggled through the ceremony, took a couple pictures in front of the courthouse and drove home. We celebrated by drinking beer and watching TV. We've been celebrating the same way every night since (and before, for that matter). The county seats in most counties are set up the same way with a courthouse square and stores surrounding them. Some are in better shape than others. Most of the very smallest towns have become quite dilapidated as people travel to bigger towns for their needs. The way we judge the size of a town is whether or not it has a WalMart. Columbia has three!

Thomas Hill
More than a fixer

While waiting for the Sept 25 auction we found another in Thomas Hill. It had three tracts. One with the house on it and 35 acres, and two other tracts that were land only. The house was an uninteresting older ranch. But it did have a very nice walk-out basement. Most interesting were the old derelict buildings that were on the property. The old home looked like it may have once been cute but it was rapidly deteriorating. I am drawn to such buildings. There are tons of these old homesteads falling apart everywhere we look. Most are too far gone to save but my heart reaches out to save them all.

Danny didn't care for this one. The auction was on Oct 12 but we missed it.


Chillicothe 203 acres
203 acres feels like almost enough. This is only a part of it.

We checked another auction with 203 beautiful acres near Chillicothe (Northwest). This is the first thing we both got really excited about. It had an older ranch house in one corner (on the road), and a double-wide set in front of two huge ponds in the middle of the property. We figured we could keep about 120 acres and sell the rest and then build if we could get it for the right price. Most of the property was in CRP, which is Conservation Reserve Program. The government pays you to not use your land. It gives the land an opportunity to recover after too much crop or animal useage and provides wildlife habitat. We planned to go to the auction.

hinge trim
drain Jameson House
The house in Jameson has great trim but needs work.

Sept 22   ::  WOW!
We found a realtor's website that had several other listings in the same part of the state. We drove by one that really looked interesting in Jameson. It has an old house that looks like it needs some attention. We got someone to come over and show it to us. It is 77.5 acres, has 3 ponds and one large metal garage. It also has a lot of old rusty junk all over the property. Although the house is in very bad condition, it has fantastic mouldings, original wood windows, and great old hardware--just a lot of character.

jameson pond
View of the pond

We have spent most of our free time, since then, determining what it would cost to fix it up and how we would remodel it. The big problem is it is over-priced. For us to afford to fix it we would really have to underbid his asking price.

The town of Jameson is pretty small. It has a post office and a lot of empty storefronts. The county seat of Gallatin is the closest town with any stores. It is too small for a WalMart though.

Sept 24   ::  WEATHER REPORT
Driving home from house hunting, the sky was so dramatic I snapped this photo. The weather has been in the upper 80s since we got here. I don't find it to be too humid but if we had to exert ourselves at all, it would be hell. I've actually been cold because Danny has the air conditioning going full blast in the car and house. I have to get outside just to warm up a little.

Like god peaking through the heavens

The day of the Excello auction started out rainy. It was our first good rain since we got here. We were dressed in shorts and t-shirts. Fortunately there were a lot of overhangs to stand under. While the rain poured down on the items for sale, through the lightning and thunder, the auctioneer started with the antique and household items. Things went very quickly and very cheaply. There was a nice floor lamp that I bid on. I wasn't really prepared to bid on anything and my heart was beating a mile-a-minute. I quit at $100 and it went for $105.

Mirror from auction

I also bid on an old mirror and actually won it for $10. More my budget. I've been trying to figure out if it is worth something ever since. Everyone seemed to know each other--A lot of regular players. When we left the property hadn't sold. People weren't bidding much and I don't think the owner's accepted any of the bids. It was way over our budget. We didn't even try to bid on it.

Sept 26-27   ::  GOING SOUTH
At this point, although we had two good prospects, we still needed to check out the southern part of the state. We had driven through in May and liked what we saw. The most interesting listing the we had seen was sold. It had an old quarry lake on it, plus a pond in view of the house. So we found some other listings and drove down for an overnight trip.

The first day we went to see two properties in the Collins area. The first was another that had what looked like an interesting house in the pictures. In reality, it was another that had no original character remaining. It has been poorly remodeled over the years and the property had not be kept up.

Weaubleu house

The second house was more interesting. It was on 43 acres in Weaubleu (pronounced wablow). Set back on the property. This was an older house that had been nicely remodeled and some of the old character remained. The main house had been attached to an old mill and some remnants remained. Not enough for my taste. It had nice old wood floors and the remodel and well done but I am not looking for something that is already done. There are several things I would have done differently. One more thing people do our here that I don't understand, is acoustic tile ceilings. This one had some of it in the connection between the old house and mill. This property had a nice older but functional barn and nice land and pond. It would be fine if we were looking for something that is already done.

Classic red barn in Weableau

The next day we looked at some listings in the Houston area. Another interesting aspect of Missouri is the number cities I would associate with other states and countries. Aside from Houston, you will find Paris, Mexico,Troy, Warsaw, Salem, Vienna, Gainsville, Buffalo, Stockton, Nevada, West Plains, Lebanon--We were really hoping to find a place in California so we would feel as home. One had a nice view across the road. It had a nice pond and some outbuildings plus the foundation of the old homesite. Biggest problem, it was a manufactured home (double-wide). This is another thing that you find a lot of. Double-wides, ranches and earth-berm homes are very common.

House in Vibirnum

The most interesting that day was in Vibirnum. It was definitely an older home but again poorly remodeled and appeared to have a bad foundation. The spring-fed pond was amazing. It reminded me of dreams I have had about looking into ponds. Plus, it had a nice live water stream going through the property and was nice and secluded. I still think about this one often. After we got home we just killed time waiting for the Oct. 8 auction for the 203 acres.

Sept 28   ::  KILLING TIME
I'm sure we looked at stuff this week but neither of us can recall what. We did go back to drive by the Jameson house again. We stopped in Gallatin, the county seat to see if we could find any historic information about the house or property. We were talking to the librarian about it and she said her mother lived on the other side of the property. Small world! She called her mother for us. Her mother said the house had looked the same since she was a little girl in 1935. She told us a little about the family who lived there then and we found their names in one of the library books.

Sept 30   ::  WEATHER REPORT 2
We had our first good thunderstorm. It started as we were driving home from Jean's. The lightning struck every 20 seconds. Nothing was very close, but when we got home we opened the shades and lay in the dark to watch the show.

patio chair
All I got was this chair

Auction day! I was very excited about the possibility of owning this piece of property but reluctant to let go of the Jameson house. Danny had been hoping for rain on the chance that it would deter potential bidders. He got his wish with the rain and again we were unprepared but this time we bought an umbrella at WalMart on the way. We were in shorts again butthe temperatures droped and I got pretty cold. We brought the dogs who loved running around in the mud. We had to wait while all other junk (and it was mostly junk) sitting out in the rain, was sold off first. I was trying to resist buying anything but ended buying a metal pation chair for $1.50.

The bidding jumped up past our high bid before we even had a change to bid and sold for about $400,000. Certainly the property was worth that and more but it was way beyond our budget. I felt pretty let down but it opened the option to concentrate on the Jameson property.

Farmhouse in Stoutsville

While Danny has been calculating how much it would cost to fix the Jameson house, we have been looking at a few more listings that we found. Everywhere we look we find another realtor with listings we have not seen elsewhere. We found a couple this week that were okay. One is near Mark Twain Lake in the Northeast corner of the state in Stoutsville. Here, Danny would probably have to find work in Illinois. It has 40 acres, an older farmhouse that wasn't in bad shape (for once). It had potential. It is on a secluded road and set back. It had 9 acres in corn this year. It has a great old barn in pretty bad shape but so picturesque.

Another one we looked at that day was in Kirksville which is North of Columbia about 1-1/2 hours. It has an older ranch house that was kinda cute. It had a bunch of outbuildings and two good ponds.

At this point we wanted to take a better look at the Jameson house. We made an appointment for Wednesday. We figured we would probably make a bid on it if the foundation looked as good as we thought it was.

sky1 sky3
sky2 sky4
click on any image for a larger view in a new window. Check out the double rainbow

We went out and visited the Jameson house again. The weather that morning threatened thunderstorms and tornados. The sky was unlike anything I have ever seen in California. It felt like an auspicious omen. I took lots of measurements and pictures. We placed a bid on the house for $180,000, well under the asking price of $250,000. He was pricing it at approx. $2000 per acres. The going price is generally $1300-$1700 per acre for pasture.

Oct 18   ::  THE OFFER
The owner came back with a counter-offer of $240,000. We realized that perhaps he wasn't very motivated to sell. We countered at $200,000 but at this point decided that we weren't going to get the property. We started looking for more listings and found a couple more to look at.

Oct 19   ::  MOVING ON
We went to look at three listings near Macon. The first one in New Cambria was really nice. The house was close to the road but it was a local-traffic blacktop, so it was quiet and not dusty (like a gravel road). It has 80 acreas and two ponds. It has an older pole barn. Most of the property is being leased out for cattle. The house is really "quaint". Built in 1953, it has not been remodeled but has been well-maintained. It also has a full basement and a great view. This is the best deal we have seen yet at $159,900.

We saw another property near Anabel that has 120 acres for 250,000. It has an old house with great architectural details but the house is almost unlivable.

New Cambria
Our humble home in New Cambria

The realtor we chose to put an offer on the Jameson house, wanted to show us a listing near her. It was an older farmhouse on 35 acres in Hale. Similar to the Anabel house, it has some great architetural details but the foundation was in BAD shape. Considering this one would be a ton of work, a long way away for any big city, and only on 35 acres, we decided not to pursue it.

After looking a 50+ listings in a month and a half, we decided the New Cambria house was a great deal and put in a bid for the asking price with no contingencies. They accepted our offer so we will be closing in 30 days and moving in. I'm going to miss looking at farms and old houses but it will be great to get settled. Look to chapter 2 for more about this house and our further adventures in Missouri as they develop.