Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 4, 2012

Opting Out of the Mayhem – My Summer Stay-cation – a truth from Mitchell Kyd

It’s the midst of beach-goer season and this July Fourth holiday, 300,000 vehicles are expected to cross the Bay Bridge to reach the shore spots of Maryland and Delaware. Picture it now: more than a quarter million cars, trucks, vans and SUVs all jockeying for position to accelerate onto a five-lane ribbon of steel and concrete quivering above the Chesapeake Bay.

Every second car includes either a screaming toddler, an anxious in-law or someone who slept through the last rest stop but who has been awakened to be inspired by the water below and has now issued an urgent warning that she needs to pee. These images are clear to me because we’ve done it – and I once took pictures.

This year, we have opted out of driving four hours and dropping two grand on a beach vacation that’s bound to leave us burnt and with grit in our britches. Instead of slathering on the sunscreen, we’re retreating to the shade to enjoy a summer stay-cation in our cabin.

In all fairness, our little slice of paradise has been closed for a very long time and I knew we would have to revisit some of the basics . The first step was getting the electric checked and a few things brought up to code. Initial visit: $68. All work completed? $637.

Unlike opening the door on a freshly cleaned hotel room (with daily maid service), I did realize from the start that we would have some clean-up to do. (“We”?? Who was I kidding!) I’ve picked up after a husband, two kids, and a small zoo for more than two decades; how bad could it be? A little Pledge, some Murphy’s Oil Soap and a bottle of Windex were at the top of my shopping list that first day to the tune of about $23. I quickly realized we needed ant traps and maybe a little mouse poison but that was only a small addition to the budget. Multiple shopping trips ensued. Two mops, three bags of rags and 18 rolls of paper towels later, we felt safe dining in.

Our work had begun in earnest during that damp and rainy period in May and it occurred to me that there might be things living in our chimney after all that time so a professional fireplace cleaning was added to the list: $175. Another pressing issue that was immediately apparent was that we no longer had working appliances. But hey! I’ve camped; I know how to pack a cooler and use an electric skillet. And we did –for almost a month. As things progressed we bought a used stove and fridge for $375.

In the meantime, we had been carrying water from home each time we had a work day. It seems the long hiatus between flushings had caused a lot of things to dry up, rot out, rust tight or otherwise go bad. The camp potty and box of Double Dootie bags was only $54. I have since grown into a first name basis with my plumbers and have them on speed dial. Even after we got the water flowing again, the shower didn’t work. We’re quick learners at my house and we figured out promptly just how long a jug of water filled at the kitchen sink will stay warm so you can comfortably pour it over your head while standing in the tub. We are still washing dishes in plastic basins because the sink drain is really more of a sink dribble. The next plumbing step is replacing all our drain pipes, an estimate only but a relative pittance compared to other liquid expenses at $427.

Of course the few rugs and upholstered pieces needed cleaning. I’ve been to auction lately; I should have bought some new old stuff rather than pay for professional steam cleaning for our old stuff. But like other reminders of previous stay-cations, our cabin furniture is broken in, loved up and totally us.

The third visit from the electrician repaired the switches that were shorting out from the water leak running in from the roof. That prompted a contractor visit to repair the roof and he came right on time, just in advance of monsoon season when no arsenal of fans or dehumidifiers could adequately do battle in a little log house.

But we made it; July Fourth is upon us and we’re officially on stay-cation. The electric and the plumbing work (mostly). We have enough extension cords to keep us cool and a roof that doesn’t (currently) leak. I’ve only removed one saucer-sized spider from the bedroom and the blacksnake that lives around the back porch appears to be an excellent mouser. Life is good! And remarkably, it barely took the cost of four beach vacations to relax and enjoy the work of staying at home!

Copyright 2012. Mitchell Kyd. All Rights Reserved.


  1. We are staying home too. In our regular house……we had a major water leak in the basement on June 12th, The finished part was totaled and we are working through the mess and rehab. Thank goodness our home owner’s insurance covered everything. I had scheduled vacation months ago which happened to fall into the time frame of the contractors being here at 7 a.m. Needless to say, I didn’t get to relax much, but the upside is we will have the work done eventually. Somewhere here in Franklin County, all of our belongings from the basement are waiting to come home from a storage unit. It’s a work in progress and I’m hoping it will be soon.

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