As a kid who grew up in the dusty oil patch of Odessa, Texas, my greatest dream was to have a boat and live on a lake.
Going to the lake was one of the only vacations we could afford when I was growing up, and being by the water always had such a peaceful, yet rejuvenating effect on me. A few nights in a fishy cabin was the epitome of luxury in my young mind.
I moved to Florida for college, and while I was there I got married and we bought a teeny house just a short drive from a lake. I was living the dream. The house was 884 square feet, but it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It was strategically located behind a strip club, a Waffle House and an old motel that was used as housing for recently released prison inmates. Again — living the dream.
As a newlywed still in college, we couldn’t afford lavish vacations. But I truly felt like Forbes would call at any minute when my husband bought a junky old green jon boat for us to take out to the lake.
He bought the boat using money he had earned fixing up old Jeeps and motorcycles. It had a little motor on the back that barely got us moving faster than we could paddle. But going out on that thing was the highlight of my college days.
We’d cut out of class and head down to Newnan’s Lake to fish for whatever would bite. I burned my thighs more than once on the hot metal bench seats, but I also caught the most fish of my life in that boat.
The pinnacle of my luxurious boat life was when we took the thigh scorcher out scalloping near Horseshoe Beach. Scalloping is like an amazing underwater Easter egg hunt. We’d tow the boat down to the coast in our ’85 Chevy Blazer that had holes in the floorboard and no A/C.
Outfitted with our flippers and snorkel masks, and we’d slowly motor out into the clear waters of the bay. The trick is to take a zippered mesh laundry sack to hold your haul as you dive down into the shallow waters looking through the grasses for those small black clam cousins.
I won’t go into the terror that I felt when I realized they’ll actually swim at you if they feel threatened. It’s the equivalent of a little black Pac-Man the size of a White Castle burger coming for you, but I’m not the strongest swimmer. I may or may not have sucked saltwater into my snorkel and almost drown myself trying to get away.
Those Florida boat days eventually turned into Indiana camping and hiking days when my husband got his first job out of school. In fact, my boat dreams were on hold until years later when we moved back to Texas just a half an hour from Medina Lake.
The first time I went to Medina I was completely blown away. I had no idea that lakes could be blue in Texas. I’d always swam and fished in the muddy waters of Lake LBJ. So Medina’s limestone filtered waters made me feel like I was back in the Sunshine State.
About a year ago, I told my husband he needed to find a place to store all his projects since our front yard had turned into a bit of a chop shop. He’s a mechanical engineer, and after a long day of spreadsheets, meetings and bureaucracy, he likes to blow off steam by tinkering.
He buys broken boats, trucks, cars and motorcycles, diagnoses their problems, fixes them and resells them. And those little projects have funded our vacations for years.
But even our very loosey-goosey HOA was starting to take note of the stockpile of boats in the cul-de-sac. So we looked for some land to store them.
A friend of ours lived at Medina Lake, and she mentioned that property was fairly cheap. We did the math, and it would be cheaper to buy a small piece of land and pay taxes on it than it would be to pay rent for a place on a storage lot.
Then after a few more calculations, and a basically free deal from a contractor friend of ours, we figured out that it might also be cheaper to build a teeny house and turn it into a vacation rental. My husband worked on more boats, trucks and motorcycles over the next year, and I took extra writing gigs to help fund our project.
A few weeks ago we moved furniture we bought off Facebook into a 900-squarefoot house near the lake. I can stand on my front porch, look down the street and see the water. And behind the house are two boats that are actually mine.
We listed the house for rent last weekend, and already we have two bookings from people who share our appreciation for lakeside getaways.
People define success differently, but for me it was taking my coffee last Sunday on the front porch of my own little house by the water. I’ve never felt so grateful.