|Big foot RV Park and Cabins!
...And how it all began...
"My Adventures as an Entrepreneur in the Great Far North"
"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
...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
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
||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
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
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
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
"Oh I have some money. I
"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,
"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
Hanging up I thought, "Who
do I know with some cash?"
Back to Frannie.
"Hey remember the real estate
seminar we just shot?"
"Do you want to buy a trailer
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
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.
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
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
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,"
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