Rebuilding a cottage. Biking around the world. What’s the difference?

cottageLast year I talked about how a cottage on the Connecticut shore landed in our laps. The trouble was that the cottage was a horrible state of disrepair.

This summer, we are attempting to wrangle that beast into a livable space.

I am amazed at how many parallels I see between rebuilding an 80-year-old cottage and riding a bike the length of the Americas. It’s all about forward motion – although sometimes that motion is barely perceptible, it all helps. It’s about plugging away at it every day – the magic is in the doing. And it’s about persisting through the hard times and not giving up.

cottage taking a break

Work toward forward motion

Sometimes it seems like it’s two steps forward and three steps back. Our inexperience is showing big time around here. One day John and Davy spent hours designing and building a support for the toilet as the floor in the bathroom just has a big hole where the toilet will go (the pups are using that hole as their escape hatch right now). Finally, they set the support into position and lowered the toilet on to make sure it all fit… and discovered a major flaw in their design. A MAJOR flaw. They went back to the drawing board, this time with the knowledge of how they messed up the first time.

I guess that’s how it is with any big thing. The learning curve is steep and can only be mastered by actually doing it. Reading and planning only go so far. Real life experience is the best teacher around.

bathroom bare

The old toilet and sink have been removed, leaving only a hole in the floor of the bathroom.


bathroom ready for toilet

It seems like a simple thing, but that basic wooden base for the toilet took hours to design and build (the wood on the floor is old and rotted, so they had to figure out how to support it). And then RE-design and RE-build.

When the road is blocked, find a way around

Although we’ve only been here a couple weeks, we’ve already experienced some serious setbacks. Our plan had been to upgrade the existing sewer system just enough so that we could move into the cottage, and then work on a more permanent solution. That plan was nixed just hours away from completion.

Just like we did in Bolivia when we headed out for a 400-mile detour, we found a way around this setback as well. We hauled in a porta-potty, and are hauling buckets of rainwater into the kitchen rather than having running water. That will buy us enough time to dig out a spot for a holding tank, sink anchor bolts into the bedrock, line the pit with three tons of rock, and get a 450-pound holding tank down the hill and into position.

holding tank cleaning ivy from tree

This tree had to come down to make room for the holding tank. Here, Daryl climbed up to cut out the poison ivy, while Davy worked to remove a fence that had become embedded into the tree.

holding tank mo in tree

The magic is in the doing

It really is true that it’s all about doing. We could spend hours and hours researching and measuring and planning, but if we never started doing, nothing would get done. The cottage would remain without plumbing forever. We’ve taken the leap and have jumped in with both feet. We’ve still got a long way to go – we’re up in Alaska somewhere right about now – but we know we can get there.

This journey toward getting the cottage rebuilt won’t be an easy one. There will be times when the hassles become so great as to be nearly insurmountable. But in the end, I can’t help but feel that the reward will be worth all the hard work. I know the pain of getting from Alaska to Argentina pale in comparison to the rewards. I trust this cottage will be the same.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

Connect with us!

We love to get to know new people. Send us a message!

, ,

2 Responses to Rebuilding a cottage. Biking around the world. What’s the difference?

  1. Daniel Huarhua Patiño September 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Dear Nancy, i am pleased to write to you from Chincha, Peru, where he enjoyed the rich chicha morada in the restaurant of my uncle, who was interviewed in his video and we have recently found by chance in youtube, thank you, for having included in the overview of your trip, success and a very strong hug … Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply