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Plotting and Scheming

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Recently, I sat down to decide a starting point for my Hobby Complex, the Car Lot.

Technically, the starting point already began when I thought about it years and years and years ago, but that was just a fuzzy fever dream. More recently I started putting some serious thought, research, design, and engineering into what to build and how to go about building it. That would be the first substantial efforts I've made on what I now call the Car Lot. However, if we're talking about the first hands-on, grubby work, that will have to be plotting the layout of the complex on actual terra firma. That's the first real step and that is what Project: Plotting and Scheming is all about.


Decades ago when my fascination with cars began, my hobby was pretty simple: buy car, drive car — oh shit, fix car.

I can still remember the first time I had to rip apart the engine in the Original 351 to replace the head gaskets. It took months — because I couldn't afford the Fel-Pro gasket set and associated accoutrement. The car sat in the driveway until I could finally afford to do it, then, it sat while I wrenched for several weeks — trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. When I finally got it done, I had worked through the cold, rain, darkness, and blazing sun.

Not fun.

That would be a refrain that went on for years until I finally got access to a dark, cramped, disaster of a garage to work in — and it was still freezing cold or blazing hot, even if it wasn't wet, snowy, or like working in direct summer sun.

Again, not fun.

Humans have heating and cooling in their homes for a reason — we like it and thrive in it. We work better in a controlled environment.

After years of working in less-than-ideal conditions, making little-to-no progress (cuz, shitty situation), I lost my less-than-ideal conditions.

Now, I sit bereft of space to work on my hobby, unable to do anything but pine for my collection of battered iron.

That is, until I can build my Hobby Complex and, again, tear into my beloved babies.

That's where Project: Plotting and Scheming begins.


This project is pretty simple.

I need to find out where the property lines are, probably argue with neighbors about them, and use some stakes and mason line to make an outline of the fence, drives, walkways, and building foundations.

Once I get that taken care of, it'll be time to get the utilities laid, which will involve contractors. Then I'll need to level the complex.

Since I don't have the property, I don't know if leveling the Car Lot will require clearing the land, filling in depressions and holes, or leveling hills and removing boulders. Or all of the above.

Regardless of the potential exercise benefits, I have absolutely no desire to exhaust myself pushing cars around rolling driveways or moving heavy equipment and parts on hilly sidewalks.

I'll just exercise, thanks.


Obviously, working on my Car Projects is a dominant reason for Project: Plotting and Scheming, however, there are others:

  • Easing access to the buildings, both by vehicle and on foot.
  • Reducing fatigue and strain when moving cars and equipment around the Hobby Complex. Let's face it, there's going to be lots of sweat work, and it doesn't need to be excessive. That's just stubborn unwillingness to spend money — even wisely — and that's born of ignorance.

I want to accomplish my hobby goals, not waste time fighting for mobility on my property. Quite frankly, exhaustion will curtail progress on my Car Projects and that isn't acceptable.


There are several goals for this project and unlike many — if not all — of the other projects I do, the goals for this one defy a simple umbrella explanation. So, while the project itself is simple, here are the disparate goals:

  • In order to begin construction on the buildings, I need the Hobby Complex laid out. Due to space constraints, cost, and functionality, the buildings can't just be put up randomly. Not only must they all be there, they have to function as efficiently and effectively as possible — together, not just individually. And they have to be able to do it on a footprint no larger than necessary since I have to be cost-conscious about the amount of land I can afford to buy.
  • The next goal is to lay the utilities in. I'll need to employ a contractor — or contractors as the case may be — to plan the layout of the utilities and run them.
  • As I've already mentioned, I have no desire to fight with hills and valleys in the Hobby Complex, so leveling the complex will be critical. This probably also means removing foliage and large rocks. Just how much will depend on what kind of property I can find during house hunting — I'm not just going to sit on my hands and wait for a perfect property while the market skyrockets out of my reach.
  • The goals for this project aren't limited to physical results, I also need to keep a careful eye on cost. I am by no means a money bags, so, while I have requirements that have to be met and can't be compromised, they need to be done as pocketbook-friendly as possible.
  • Functionality is key for my hobby. The Car Lot needs to be both effective and efficient to allow me to get as much done as possible in the minimum amount of time necessary. That means making sure the buildings are well laid out and that access is quick and easy — even if it means I'm forced to spend more to achieve it.
  • I'm not getting any younger and I have shit to get done, that means Project: Plotting and Scheming needs to go quickly and smoothly. It's not that I won't immerse myself in it, or that I won't enjoy it, but, my hobby is my cars, not building construction or landscaping.

Ultimately, like most every project in the world, the costs need to be kept down, it needs to be done quickly, but I can't afford to compromise functionality or quality — at least, not any more than is already inherent in my design.

Shocker, I know.


Part of what makes this project simple, is that the scope is limited — it only includes laying out the complex, putting in the utilities, and leveling the land.

It doesn't include putting up the buildings, laying the walkways and drives, putting up the privacy fence, or any finished landscaping.

The negative side of the scope is that it almost assuredly means heavy equipment, which isn't cheap; lots of sweat equity, which isn't easy; and bringing in contractors, which means complications.

I consider working with other people more complicated than handling challenging tasks by myself — I struggle with humans.


Guess what?

I've never done this kind of work before.

Not a lick.

I've seen it done. I've researched it. I've done work far more complex and physically demanding, but I've never done this work.

That means not only will there be the time involved necessary to do the work, but extra time spent on a learning curve as I do it.

Now for this project's timeframe. I'm going to estimate 12 months to get it done. In an ideal world, I don't see it taking that long, but I have a sneaking suspicion that although this project is the simplest in terms of the goals I'm trying to reach and managing the moving parts, it's also the one with the most pitfalls. Maybe it's just an unfounded feeling of unease based solely on the fact that it looks so straightforward, but maybe it's my intuition giving me some solid feedback. Only time will tell.

Below is a breakdown of the amount of time I plan to spend personally working on this project. Like the other projects, I know what kind of time I have to apply to any extracurricular activity and that is about five hours of actual work a day, two days a week.

Per: Day Week Year Totals
Hours 5 10 360 360
Days 2 72 72
Weeks 36 36
Years 1


I've done my research, but I haven't contacted anyone, yet. That means I have a very rough estimate for this project and I hope I can get it done for under $93,000.

I'm planning for a worst-case scenario in which I have to remove an entire lot of trees, remove large rocks, and grade the entire thing, as well as run the utilities.

Quite frankly, I think I may be underestimating this one, and that has me concerned, because it looks like it could derail all of my hopes and dreams. This is the most expensive project in the entire complex — and that’s without any unexpected costs popping up. The worst part is that it's also the barrier to entry for everything — which includes putting the project cars on the property, and that's an unbendable requirement for me to afford the house in the first place.

All that said, understanding that issue is critical for everything going forward, so finding it out now is as much a blessing as a curse.

I've taken that budgeted amount and created a scheduled budget by evenly distributing it over the 36 weeks of work I plan to put into Project: Plotting and Scheming. Since I haven't put together a detailed plan for this project, yet, I don't have any way of budgeting based on work types and/or milestones.

Week: 1 2 3
Initial Financing $75,000 $0 $0
Scheduled Financing $500 $500 $500
Scheduled Cost -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
TOTAL $72,917 $70,834 $68,751
4 5 6 7 8
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$66,668 $64,585 $62,502 $60,419 $58,336
9 10 11 12 13
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$56,253 $54,170 $52,087 $50,004 $47,921
14 15 16 17 18
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$45,838 $43,755 $41,672 $39,589 $37,506
19 20 21 22 23
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$35,423 $33,340 $31,257 $29,174 $27,091
24 25 26 27 28
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$25,008 $22,925 $20,842 $18,759 $16,676
29 30 31 32 33
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$500 $500 $500 $500 $500
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583
$14,593 $12,510 $10,427 $8,344 $6,261
34 35 36 Totals
$0 $0 $0 $75,000
$500 $500 $500 $18,000
-$2,583 -$2,583 -$2,583 -$92,988
$4,178 $2,095 $12


Just like all of the other Garage Projects, the location for this project is my future backyard.

Work Requirements

For the requirements, I've broken down the work by type:


  • Layout outline of complex
  • Foliage clearing
  • Tree clearing
  • Tree stump removal
  • Remove large rocks
  • Grade complex area

Complex Layout

  • Layout fence outline (if necessary)
  • Layout building/foundation outlines
  • Layout Drive outlines
  • Layout Walkway outlines


  • Design utility service grid
  • Layout water outline
  • Layout sewer outline
  • Layout electrical outline
  • Trench utility grid
  • Install water lines
  • Install sewer lines
  • Install electrical conduit


This is a preliminary look at the major milestones needed to complete Project: Plotting and Scheming. As far as I can tell, they're in sequence — but I'll have a better idea once I'm able to assess the actual site, consult the contractors, and sit down to work out a detailed plan.

Assessment, Feasibility and Go/No Go

As the title states, this section is about assessing the site of the Car Lot, sussing out its feasibility, and initiating or kiboshing project launch.

Assessing the site requires that I have the site, as do the other two. Since I don't have the property, I have to buy it. Buying it requires money, and I'm all fresh outta that — or never had it to begin with, as the case may be.

I'm not even sure if or when getting the property will happen, so, this project — like all the others — is on hold until that point.


I don't need a plan to tell me most of this project will be done by contractors. We're talking earthmoving, here. Most of this project is about dealing with large equipment I don't have, don't know how to operate, and can't afford. Even renting it is a waste of time because it's going to require an entire team of people with that equipment to get this project done.

Like planning every other project, I will need to engage with the contractors to finalize the details of the plan and get the sequence of events hammered out. Then I'll be ready to move forward.


Once everything is planned and coordinated, shit gets real.

First and foremost I'll need to stake an outline of the Hobby Complex. I don't mean a detailed outline of the many elements that make up the complex, just the fence perimeter and the access to it. It's within that boundary that the land will need to be cleared and graded.

Second, it'll be time to clear the land which will probably involve some work on my part — such as prep and clean-up — and some work by the contractors which include clearing foliage, cutting down trees, and removing stumps.

I expect this milestone to take the lion's share of the year I've estimated for Project: Plotting and Scheming.

I can just see this going sideways somehow.

Complex Layout

At this point, the plot will be graded and ready for me to go in and layout the building foundations, drives, and walkways — I'm hoping the fence outline remains intact, but, if not, I'll re-do that, too.

That's all there is, this milestone's pretty simple.


This objective is going to require a bit more cooperation between the contractor(s) and I.

I'm going to need to sit down with my site plan and the contractor(s), and work out the best layout for each of the utility services that need to be run.

Once that's handled, it'll likely be a matter of me getting out of the way to let the professionals make my vision a reality.

And with that, the principle work is complete.

Close Out

This is going to be one of the most important close outs of all the Garage Projects because understanding where everything sits is going to be critical for every building going up and the hardscaping that comes after.

So, I'll be carefully pouring over the successes, failures, and lessons learned, and applying that to all of the current Garage Projects.


Project: Plotting and Scheming is all about preparing the plot of land the Car Lot will occupy so that I can successfully complete the rest of my Garage Projects. It includes clearing and grading the land, laying out the complex on the actual site, and running the utility services needed to make my Hobby Complex a reality.


I have no terra firma.

Terra firma is expensive and I have no money.

That means the project is currently on hold, but check back. As soon as I'm able to launch into this project, I will.

Project: Plotting and Scheming will be where all my projects begin.

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