My “vacation”

Friday 11pm, red-eye flight to Pennsylvania, two-hour layover in Cincinnati. I sleep soundly, but my back is killing me the rest of the week.

Saturday 9:10am, arrive in Harrisburg a little early. I call Dawn only to find she is running late and so stressed that she is crying. I assure her we have plenty of time, and then silently hope she hurries up.

Dawn gets me back to the farm just in time for the 11am tour, and I am surprisingly coherent. We have seven people — 3 from the Lancaster County Historical Society, 3 from the Lebanon County Historical Society, and 2 who are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. Checking out a construction site is not my idea of a romantic vacation, but I may feel differently in another 21 years. 🙂

At 2pm, the alarm guy arrives, and we review the options. I want something as unobtrusive as possible which, of course, is much more expensive than just installing door and window contacts everywhere. (I’d give you more details, but then it wouldn’t be much of a security system, would it?)

He is also installing the fire alarm system, and I bite my tongue as he shows us where the bright-red fire pulls go. He does compromise on the alarm keypads — normally they go by the front door, but ours will go in the kitchen. I still can’t believe we’re being made to do this to our historic home.

Dawn and I spend the rest of the evening discussing interior colors. Someone realized that the radiators need to be installed by November, which means that we need to paint the wall behind the radiators before November, which means we need to choose colors now. We’re looking at the Sherwin-Williams “Victorian” line because they are really Colonial colors. (Their “Colonial” line is really “Colonial Revival.”)

Sunday 1pm, we drive to Mechanicsburg to meet a minister (www.openheartministries.org). She wants to know all the details of the ceremony, and we are clueless — we have a date and a location, and that is about it. Dawn and I argue over whether guests will be seated or standing, if we will “recede” after the ceremony, even what time the ceremony will be! I suddenly remember why we’ve avoided this for so long. We finally agree that the ceremony will be at 1pm, casual dress, BBQ reception, Dawn will make the wedding cake, and the photographer will double as the chef. We still don’t know if the guests will be seated.

Monday, 10am: We finally visit Tulpehocken Manor. In a word, wow. Geoff and Jason give us the full tour, including the 7-hole outhouse. Originally a colonial stone house, it had been converted into a 7,500-square foot Victorian mansion, with gingerbread trim in every nook and cranny. Neglected for 18 years, the two brothers and their families spent a year restoring it before they could move in. That they did almost all of the work themselves is just amazing.

The rest of the day is spent at the Long’s Park Art Festival. I expect a small group selling carved corn cobs or something, but there are hundreds of vendors from all over the country selling very expensive clothing and artwork. One of the locals makes hand-carved wooden toys — golf carts with removable golf bags and individual clubs, and train sets six or seven cars long! We take his card and if we have any money left at the end of this project, we’ll definitely give him a call.

Tuesday, 9am: We go to the county courthouse to get our marriage license. I want to stop by St James Episcopal church because someone told me Robert Coleman and Ann Old are buried there, but we are already running late. It is going to be a long day.

11am, we meet with Adam Moyer, who is handling the plumbing, heating, and cooling. (He also bid on the electric and septic, too, but we didn’t want all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak.) Every restoration book cautions you against making any change orders once the work has started, but we completely ignore that: We want all of the thermostats in the kitchen, plus remote sensors in the return ducts; we want radiant floor heat in the kitchen and one of the bathrooms; we’ve rearranged all of the radiators around the house; we want a new type of exhaust fan in the bathrooms; and we need everything done by November 1st so we can keep the house warm during the winter. Adam looks around, thinks for a bit, and agrees without changing the cost. This is why we like Adam so much.

1pm, Gary Geiselman of Olde York Homes comes by. We go over the schedule and we’re not going to make an April opening, but May looks good. I’ll still leave the “Open Spring 2006” message until we have an exact date. I’d like to be able to offer rooms as they are ready, but we can’t get our occupancy permit until everything is done. (We will, however, have friends over to serve as guinea pigs before we open.)

There is some bad news: The roof of the summer kitchen is shot, and needs to be replaced. Gary was hoping to preserve the standing-seam metal with a special rubberized coating, but it had gone unpainted for too long and is now paper thin. Dawn is getting a bid from Lantz roofing since they did such a fantastic job on the mansion. (We also found out they did Tulpehocken Manor, as well.)

3pm, Tony Haldeman is here to discuss the new septic system. Apparently in constructing a sand mound (which isn’t sand but stone dust), you have to build a “berm” of dirt to contain it. Since our sand mound is the size of a football field, he needs 70 truck-loads of dirt! (If our septic system was ready, I’d donate it to New Orleans–I’m sure it could handle 50,000 people.) Anyway, it just so happens we need to move a lot of dirt on the side of the mansion because it is directing rainfall into the basement. So if we move the dirt to the septic field, we kill two birds with one stone, right?

Of course it’s not that simple: First, there are trees by the mansion that would not appreciate the dirt being removed, and Dawn does not appreciate the trees being removed; and second, the same township that won’t let me put a roof on the shed without doing stormwater detention is not going to appreciate us moving a small hill. We call David Christian, who handled all of the permit issues, and also happens to do landscape planning. He’ll be out on Friday.

4pm, channel 11 news arrives. This is the local cable station news, but I’m happy for all the coverage I can get. Or, at least, I thought I was until they pointed the camera at me! I was exhausted, hoarse, and completely unprepared. The reporter and cameraman were so friendly, and I’m sure I came off as some shifty-eyed psychopath. Sigh.

Well, that was my Labor Day vacation. Tomorrow at 6am I’ll be flying back to LA, leaving Dawn to deal with all the issues I created. But she’s used to that.