Big foot RV Park and Cabins!

...And how it all began... "My Adventures as an Entrepreneur in the Great Far North"

or

"I Bought My Husband a Trailer Park for His Birthday."
In hindsight everything seems like a good idea at the time.

I guess Gary and I were suffering from acute burn out. We got in the car and headed up the coast of California when we wandered off the beaten path and ended up in the tiny town of Happy Camp...

...An island jewel set adrift in a sea of green, caressed by the mighty Klamath River.

Happy Camp really was a camp at one point in time. It was the center of the gold mining craze in the 1800's. The town is wild and has always attracted free thinkers, eccentrics and bona fide lunatics. Read on...  You'll figure out where I work into the plot.

So we stopped to buy some cherries in front of the C&R Thrift Store from Claudia and Roger. (No one in Happy Camp has a last name and if they mention one rest assured it's an alias - I kid you not!)

The old folks make pleasant conversation about the weather and what brings the travelers to town. Conversation swings around the local real estate market. About this time Lars Larson (as in the famous Lars Larson of Bigfoot fame) walks up and offers to show us around. By the close of the day a handshake and some notes on a piece of paper seals the deal. We own a two-unit rental property in beautiful downtown Happy Camp for a whopping $30,000.

Happy Camp is truly an equalitarian society. Everyone is a character. Everyone has a place in the community. After years of living in the "let's do lunch" society of Southern California Happy Camp was such a breathe of fresh air. We met people and just clicked. I fit in; I belonged for the first time in a long time. I wanted to be a member of this community. We would leave to go back to the city to work and I found myself homesick for the HC.

Happy Camp is possibly the best kept real estate secret in the state of California. Its recent history is typical of rural mill towns. The mills closed down. People left town looking for work. Neglect sets in and places start to go downhill and they just keep sliding.

To the average investor Happy Camp would seem like a long shot. Everything was in such bad shape. I would look around at the breathtaking scenery and would fall asleep counting cars going by on the Bigfoot Scenic Byway...

...One hundred and four...

If we could just get them to stop... one hundred and five...

I just knew Happy Camp had reached the bottom of the market and had nowhere to go but up... one hundred and six...

So, because I am a compulsive obsessive, I started property shopping and frankly I couldn't help myself. I bought every bargain piece of property I could get my hands on. Family members were beginning to speak in whispered tones at family gatherings.

"Oh, Rita! She's the one with the problem. She has bought all of those run down places in... where is it? Happy Camp? Is that a real place?"

You get the picture. People thought I was over the edge. Or to quote my friend, "Yellin'" Ellen Johnson, "Rita, you aren't right!"

My husband, Gary, and I own a TV production company in Southern CA. The King Clan keeps track of time by the stamps on their passports. In 15 years Gary has been in 60 countries. So it's no wonder my family would eventually wander into Happy Camp, California - we've been everywhere else, why not?

I was born and bred in neighboring Josephine County. Folks love to tell stories about drinking, fighting, wild Indians and wilder women in this fabled place. It was mythical like a hillbilly Shangri-La

I kept shopping. So, by the end of the second summer I was known as "that idiot woman from San Diego that's buying everything in town."

My plan at this stage was get out of the rat race. We were going to build a bed and breakfast and invite our city friends to stay. We were going to live happily ever after...

Well this is the state of things when I get a call from a land developer from "down south". The call went something like this:

"Hello. My name is Greedy Arrogant Developer (or GAD) from the big city." GAD says, "I hear you are buying property in Happy Camp and I want you to send me your financial statements and get four other investors at 150,000 to buy the Big Foot Trailer Park."
 
The Big Foot Trailer Park was notorious. The property was huge. It consisted of a strip mall, two houses, three cabins, a large shop and 40 trailer spaces. The trailer park's cast of characters consisted of the greedy manager, drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, pit bulls, 8 roosters and poor folks with no where else to go.

It was completely falling apart. The locals referred to the property as the "Ghetto". Everybody was yelling, screaming, fussing and fighting. It was just like a Grants Pass family reunion.

It's just the kind of deal you can't pass up. First I don't have $150,000 but no matter, I have to hear the deal.

GAD tells me his plan.

"I am bringing in a crew from the city; these people will show Happy Camp how to get it done! We are going to build low income housing units. Stacked on top of one another with no yards. We are going to squeeze them. Then, we are going to turn around and sell the project for 2 million."

Mr. GAD didn't care about the community. I explain unemployment was very high in the area. He assured me there was no qualified labor force in HC. I told him Happy Camp has people who want jobs and are qualified to work. He told me I didn't know what I was talking about. He, and only he, represented the owner and he would develop the property and that was that. I told him I would think about his offer and, "Have a nice day".

At that same moment, just like something out of the movies my cell phone rang. It was Frank Garcia the owner . He had heard I liked to buy fixer uppers and asked me, "Would you be interested in buying my park?"

I am still pissed at Mr. GAD; I told Frank, "Yes, absolutely!"

Remembering what the Mr. GA Developer told me about his exclusive right to represent the deal I asked, "Mr. Garcia, can you meet with me on Friday and are you mentally competent to sign papers?"

Mr. Garcia snorts, "I am old... I am not senile."

I put the phone on the receiver and smiled. "So, Mr. GA Developer, that's how the hillbillies do it!" My little triumph was short lived; I had no idea how I was going to pull this one off.

Coincidentally, my TV production company had just finished a show with Robert Allen of "How to Buy Real Estate With Nothing Down" fame. I had bought one of the books on Real Estate Purchase Option Agreements and had just finished reading the first chapter. I also had my girlfriend, Frannie, come to the gig and we were all pumped up about Option Agreements. 

Where was that book? I know it's around here somewhere!
 

It was official... I was in over my head!

Did I mention that my husband was out of town?

He was on the road with Benny Hinn, the faith healer. Gary had been Benny's lighting director for years. Anyway, Gary was about to turn the big Five-O. His birthday was in a week. He had always joked he wanted a trailer park so he wouldn't have to do plumbing.

Maybe I could 'kill two birds with one stone", so to speak. I sat thinking. What did I just do? I have $1000.00 in my checking account; how am I going to swing this deal?

I picked up the phone and called Papa Lou, or Louis Tiraterra, Sr. Visualize Marlon Brando's Godfather character in Eddie Bauer at age 85. Lou is the type of guy who has forgotten more than most people ever learn in a lifetime. The very first words out of his mouth were "Are you crazy? Have you even walked the property?"

"No," I laughed nervously because I was actually afraid to walk the property.

"Gary's in Europe working. His birthday's coming up and he'd like a trailer park."

"Rita, are you sure he wants a trailer park?"

"Sure, I'm sure! I'm his wife; I know these things."

"Well it's going to take some money,"

"Oh I have some money. I have $1000.00?"

Silence.

"You have one thousand dollars. Again, are you crazy?"

"Lou, we could do a real estate purchase option agreement. Do you know how to do one?"

"Sure, I know how to do one, do you?"

"Well, I read the first chapter of the book."

"Oh, that's good. Read the rest of the book and we'll do the paperwork. Oh, and you are going to need more money!"

Hanging up I thought, "Who do I know with some cash?"
Back to Frannie.

"Hey remember the real estate seminar we just shot?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you want to buy a trailer park?"

Frannie said, "Sure!"

"We'll need some money. How much do you have?"

Frannie opened her checkbook, "I have one thousand dollars."

I was disappointed. "That it?"

Frannie sighs, "that's it. I just put a new deck on the house."

"Well, all he can say is no. Let's go for it."

~~~~~~~~~~

Frank Garcia was sly old fox. This deal wasn't his first rodeo. That was the problem - he was tired and he didn't have the energy to keep running from all the problems the property was generating.

The first issue was property condemnation. Trailer Space #38's party animals chased Barbara, the State RV Park inspector, down the street and threaten to beat her up.

Twenty five years as a public servant, Barbara had six months until retirement. She contacted Frank. He ignored her. She tried to have him served. He seemed to evade her grasp. Inspector Barbara vowed to make shutting the park down her last official act unless Frank dealt with her. Frank wasn't going to deal with anything. I just happened to get wind of the situation before my meeting with Frank.

Sweet.

Then - The Big Stink - his overdue sewer bill.

To get flush he had to pay the Sanitary District $10,000.00. Frank's ability to send women into a tirade was really something. Jean Smith runs the Happy Camp Sanitary District. She is the kind of woman that doesn't take ...well, any ...poop. She was going to collect on this bill or know the reason why. He flatly refused to pay. He felt it was his God-given right to do what came naturally with out paying for it. Jeannie will tell anybody if you want to poop for free do it in the woods, in town everybody pays. The situation had reached a point of constipation.

I drove to Union City and took Garcia to a Chinese Restaurant. It was real Chinese, the kind without English menus. The food smelled terrible or it could have been Frank he had not bathed in a while.

Over egg rolls, Frank told me his price. I laughed. You're dreaming Frank. We haggled for over an hour. Finally, after two pots of green tea and several trips to the bathroom we settled on a price. I asked him if he would carry paper. He told me with a big down payment. I told him, certainly I had $2000.00 and couldn't make another payment for 6 months. I had to clean it up before we could make any money. Frank Garcia stopped slurping his tea and just looked at me.

"You're crazy."

I laughed. "The property is a mess. Your new best friend, the State inspector, is condemning the place as her parting gift to you and Jean Smith is going to throw the switch and you will be doing the back stroke in stew as it were... "

Frank's eyes narrowed. He smiled on one side of his face.

"I wondered if you'd heard about that."

I smiled back. "I am crazy Frank. I'm not stupid."

Frank snorted and grinned. He reached across the table and shook my hand. "Let's work on the paperwork, missy. You bought yourself a trailer park."

~~~~~~~~~~

Two days later Gary is getting back from a long overseas road trip. I pick him up at the airport and give him a big kiss.

"I have a surprise for you," I grin.

When we get to Happy Camp I pull into the trailer park. I look at him. He doesn't say anything. He isn't breathing. I bounce out of the car.

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you... Honey!"

Gary just stares at the trash, broken down cars, rundown trailers, two tenants over in a corner screaming at each other.

He looked at me and looked at the screaming tenants,

"Oh Honey... you shouldn't have."

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Big Foot RV Park and Cabins
PO Box 454,
63709 Crumpton St.,
Happy Camp, CA 96039
Email Us
Phone: (530) 493-2884   Fax: (530) 493-2885