Get Away Land (Part 2, Alternatives to a Cabin)

We had the land.  The next question was how to get a structure on it so we could stay there.

I thought about a camper.  I would only be able to afford an older one.  I knew that it would likely be prone to mouse infestations.  The winds can be high in our area and I don’t think the thin metal of a camper would hold up in the long run.

Then, we discussed a Tuff Shed.  Funny, right?  Have you seen the tiny house movement?  It’s a great idea.  Our original plan was to save for a 10×12 Tuff Shed with a loft and make it into a small cabin.  As we were saving our mo, we started researching county laws and found out that in order to have a shed on your land, you first need a permanent structure of 600 sq. ft., a septic system, and a well.  Crap.

I work for a non-profit and have four kids.  Most days I have lint and pennies in my pocket. The pennies mark a good day.  Realistically, the pennies are actually half-chewed breath mints that my kids put back in my pocket.  Putting that much money into a piece of land so we could stay the night was absolutely cost-prohibitive.  We had to back up and punt.


I started looking into school buses.  Why?  Structurally, school buses are built to roll.  That was idea number one.  They’re built well and rust isn’t much of an issue out here.  Number two?  The county can’t tax you on a mobile structure.  And it’s my right to park my vehicles on my property.  The taxes on the land are currently $75 a year.  I’d like to keep it that way.

I found a group of 1986 GMC Bluebird school buses for sale on craigslist in Elbert, which is a long drive from where we live.  We went and looked at them anyway.  They were all fleet maintained school buses, each with their individual problems, from bald tires to cracked bell housings.  That didn’t matter much to me, as the plan was to get the bus to the land and leave it there.  I gave the guy $2,800 and got behind the wheel of a school bus for the first time.  Mind you, I’m not licensed to drive one.


By the time I hit the town of Parker, I knew there was something wrong with me.  I have lots of food allergies and thought I was having a reaction to something I ate.  My lips, hands and feet were numb.  I pulled over and my wife started giving me water and told me to walk.  In ten minutes, I felt better.  Turns out, the old bus had a biblical-sized exhaust leak.  I opened all of the windows and the slider door and drove home.


The conversion was……fun.  I really can’t say that enough.  I spent about 40 hours and $400 on the conversion.

Next up:  The Conversion.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.



Get Away Land (Part 1, Buying Boonie Land)

I grew up in northern Maine.  It seems that every family has a “camp” or cabin that they can go to there.  My family has two.  B&A’s family has one.  We’re talking shotgun shacks in the middle of nowhere where you can play cards, hunt and read.  There’s really nothing like it.

Photo Credit: Bill Nixon

That doesn’t much happen in Colorado unless you have money.  Then you get a condo in Aspen and pay twice what I paid for my house for a place you can stay once a year.  Yeah, I’m not doing that.  It’s stupid.

My wife and I started looking for get away land in 2010.  We looked all over the central and southern half of Colorado without much luck.  Our budget was for $1,000 an acre, which is unheard of on the front range (near Denver) where we live.  We wanted a place for the kids to run and where we could get out of the craziness of the metro area.

Most of the land we found in that price range was completely flat with no trees in areas with high winds.  That simply would not do.  We suspended our search in the summer of 2012 because of the lack in options.

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We went back at it in 2013.  I found a piece of land on  It was out of our price range.  We drove to it and it was very remote (me likey) and hard to see from the road (me likey even more).  It was three acres.  Instead of $1,000 an acre, it was $15,000 for three acres.

I wanted to make an offer.  My wife, ever the sensible one, noted that we would have to take out a loan on the property and that our agreement was that we would pay cash.  Crestfallen, I relented and the search continued.  On the way home that day, my wife told me that she had found another parcel worth looking at and that we could see it the following weekend.

True to her word, we went.  As we drove to it, she was excited and I was withdrawn.  I wanted the remote land.  When we arrived, she was blown away.  Five acres, areas to build, views, hills and a few trees.  It was amazing.  To boot, it was $8,100.  Still out of our price range.  I got over the remote land and called the realtor.

She met us the following week and talked to us about the history of the property.   She was from the area and very knowledgeable about the local and geographical history of the area.  After sleeping on it that night, the Mrs. and I made an offer.  We offered what we had, which was $6,100 in cash.  We didn’t get our hopes up.

The realtor called us back and explained that the seller wanted $6,500.  I was psyched.  She said that the seller was the widow of a rancher that had bought many parcels of land in the 70s, sight unseen, and that she had never set foot on the property.  She was happy to take our money after hearing what we were going to use it for.  We accepted the counter offer.  We closed on Independence Day, 2013.

The next question?  How could we get a structure on the land so we could stay there?

Next up:  Skirting Building Codes.  Stay tuned.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.