In 1993, I was practicing in a large city and had a home on a lake in the suburbs. I had an attractive younger wife and life was good. I bought a new computer and was stopped in traffic on my way home while ahead of me, a backhoe was digging a hole in the street. I was hit from the rear by a truck loaded with pipe fittings. The truck had a sprinkler company sticker on the door, and was driven by a Mexican with no insurance. The impact was so great that my car was slammed into a stopped vehicle in front of me. The impact broke the CRT screen in the new computer monitor when it slammed into the back of my seat. The Mexican disappeared as did the sprinkler company. And the address on his license didn’t exist.
I was badly injured and had to sell my practice. My young wife was advised by her friends that I would be a cripple, and she divorced me. But I had property before we were married that was not included in a divorce settlement, by a premarital agreement. By 1997, I had healed up partially and decided to go south for the winter in my motorhome. I set the thermostat so the house wouldn’t freeze, turned off the water, and I left.
When I returned several months later the electricity was off. I called the power company and they said I didn’t pay the bill. It was set up on an automatic payment from my bank account and the account was closed by the divorce. They turned on the power and I went to take a shower but the gas water heater was off. I went outside and checked the gas meter to see if it was turned off and noticed the meter had been replaced. I called the gas company and they came out and lit the pilot light on the water heater and explained I must have had a defective gas meter because my neighbor with about the same size house used four times as much gas as I did for the past several years. I explained that I had R-30 in the side walls and R-64 in the ceiling and the plastic on the south end of the house was a large solar panel for heat.
I took my shower after the house warmed up and noticed a smell from the refrigerator and freezer. A lot of salmon and steak was rotten. Saying this was a bad day would be a gross understatement! In the mail box I found a letter stating I must keep my grass mowed and shrubs trimmed or the Homeowner’s Association would take legal action. The house was paid for. I was single and didn’t need 7,000+ square feet to pay taxes on. So I sold the house.
On The Road
I sold the old class C motorhome and bought a new Class A diesel motorhome. I also invested $200,000 in gold and silver, to add to my collection. The gold was under $400 at the time. I sold the practice and some other assets and bought more gold and silver. I moved most of the furniture, tools, guns, and other stuff into a rented storage space and started looking for property to build a secure new base of operations where I could store the RV. I drove through several states looking and drove several realtors crazy. They don’t seem to understand about solar electric and solar heat needing sunshine. They located some beautiful property that was restricted from having garage doors large enough for a motorhome. Several properties would have to pipe in sunshine! And several would not allow an underground home, or steel buildings.
I asked a lady to go south with me for the winter and had a Hughes Net satellite dish installed on the roof of the RV. I contacted realtors on the Internet and located several properties. After spending the winter in warmer weather and consuming a lot of amino acids and other nutritional supplements, I was feeling better. I got lots of exercise.
In the spring I bought 11 acres in the middle of nowhere. I had a creek in back and a spring and a couple of acres that wasn’t vertical. I started at the spring and witched the path of water up the hill across the place to build an underground home. I drew plans to fit the property and drove some stakes. There was no building code at that time so I contacted several contractors and started digging.
I had 18,600 lbs of #4 and #5 60,000 psi steel rebar hauled in. I poured a 7″ reinforced slab after digging in sewer and water lines and some electrical conduit. Used 4,000 psi concrete and laid 3/4″ limestone and 1 inch of closed cell foam insulation under the concrete. A 1,000 gallon diesel tank and a 500 gallon water tank were moved on the slab. Perforated 4″ vinyl drain line was covered with a nylon sock and run around the slab to a drain at the East end.
I had several prices for drilling a well and I poured a plastic bucket in the floor slab where I wanted the well. One well driller said I couldn’t drill inside the building and insisted he drill it in the middle of the driveway. A local well driller agreed to put it where I wanted and we agreed on a cash price. The East end was open and the well drilling rig drove on the new slab and drilled the well. Using a 120 volt pump in the well so it could be solar powered gave me water as did the diesel generator in the RV.
Next the 8″ walls were poured using aluminum forms with steel cross ties, and laying rebar on the ties and also using them to tie 10′ and 12’ vertical #4 rebar. The electrical steel masonry boxes were all connected with 3/4″ EMT, filled with paper, and tied to the cross ties. Most of the switches were run straight up above the forms. I used 1/2″ EMT for the phone lines. The structure is 40′ wide and 60′ long. Interior walls were set up to provide for 12′ width on the side rooms with 13’4″ width on the center rooms. I bought 14 steel doors and frames and installed the frames in the walls. There was a 2′ offset 4′ wide for a fireplace and an opening for 6′ sliding glass doors on the East end of the center room. On the east end of both side rooms there is a 2′ x 3′ vinyl casement window. I installed a 4” combustion air vent for the fireplace.
I had two 12″ diameter holes in the generator room for air ducts. This was a mistake, as I later had to cut out 15” holes for larger air ducts. I started with black plastic drain pipe and went to steel culvert. After the forms were removed, I used a roller and coated the inside walls with Dry Lock sealer. I put cardboard on the floor and didn’t worry about getting the ceiling white, because it wasn’t there.
Next I had to build 2×4 supporting walls down the center of the rooms to support the 20 gauge steel decking. The decking was 3′ wide and I had it cut to length to span the rooms and lap on the walls. It had to be screwed together with self-tapping sheet metal screws every 12 inches and notched out for the EMT. Then I had to cut 2×4 pieces to support 2×12 forms around the walls on the outside and around the 6′ square opening for a 5′ steel spiral stairs. This was attached to the top row of cross ties with 1/4 ” lag screws and fender washers and notched for the 2×12 s. Using a hole saw I cut the openings for the ceiling lights in the center of the rooms over the support wall. I also cut openings for 12 6″ PVC heat ducts a little over 12″ long and filled them with cut circles of styrofoam to keep the concrete out.
The next project was to install 2 layers of #5 rebar on 12 inch centers. The first layer was held up by 5″ rod chairs and the next layer was higher. The rebar was tied at every junction to keep it in place. Did I mention it was August and hot! A forty foot stick of #5 rebar is a real pain to get off the pile when the pile is twisted. I used my John Deere garden tractor to pull it out one stick at a time. The 10’ vertical rebar in the walls was bent over using an acetylene torch and tied in to the slab. This was designed strong enough to hold a semi on a bridge!! Next, all the electrical conduit had to be completed, using waterproof connectors. It was still August and it was hot. I installed a 3/4 inch plywood panel board and the electrical panels with a lot of EMT cut through the decking. I also installed two 5 foot pieces of 6″ PVC going up to the shop above for future electrical connections to solar and hot water lines.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2 )