Posted by: Kiersten | December 29, 2009

Like a House of Cards on Fire

Some pretty significant developments in the past week: 

We learned that according to Kat’s self-employment program that she can not be “perceived to be in business” before joining the program, i.e. we can not sign any contracts, leases or loan agreements until after Kat’s appointment with them on Jan 20th.

Meanwhile I’m beginning to get the distinct feeling that our friendly lenders at Women’s Enterprise are blowing a bit of smoke.  I got my third self-contradictory instruction from them last week.   After I’d explained about Kat’s position in the SE program and how she would have to own 51% of the business to meet the provincial requirements for the program,WEC told us we could proceed with me as the primary applicant and Kat as co-applicant, and that we could incorporate and work out the shares in January.  Well this didn’t make sense to me – we should set up the company once and do it right, not set it up once for one lender and then rearrange it a month later for another lender.

On the next phone call, WEC told we must “be honest” with Community Futures – well for heaven’s sake we never intended to be dishonest!  It was  *not* our idea to manipulate the paperwork, we were not comfortable with it and we had not agreed on proceeding!  The fact is it’s notoriously difficult to qualify for a WEC loan, and our friendly rep is doing everything she can to help us get funding through them, but they have very strict and inflexible requirements.  We must bring in 20% equity (cash we can put in) and have 30% collateral.  This collateral can be things which we used the loan money to purchase.

Which brings us to the car.

We knew we would need to buy a vehicle out here – we’ll need a local delivery vehicle anyway.  The vehicle became the key domino in our loan application with WEC – it wouldn’t go through without it.  We needed a vehicle for them to be assured we had “adequate mobility” and the vehicle would cover the few thousand gap in collateral that we required for the loan. 

And it all looked very good.  We talked around, a dealer was recommended to us by several people, the dealer was happy to help up get financing to cover the gap between cash we could put down and the full purchase price.  But there was a hitch – I’m not employed.  I need to be employed locally for three months before I qualify for a car loan.

With that, it all came tumbling down like a house of cards.  No vehicle, no WEC loan. 

This last “No” sparked a long talk between Kat & I.  It seems in the past two months we’ve gotten so much further away from doing what we actually want to do – roast and sell coffee.  Our financials have changed so much through the WEC loan application process.  We keep thinking we’re just a step away from getting the funding, but they keep coming back to us with another hitch, or problem, or suggestion with no end in sight.  It’s a treadmill.

While we’re not writing off WEC as a possibility, we’re taking a step back and starting from scratch with other lenders.  We got a few names from the lovely Ashley at the Credit Union and we’ll be contacting them soon with our revised business plan. 

And we’ll be buying a beater.  Cue the banjos!

There are all manner of beautiful beaters here on Vancouver Island.  When you gotta pay cash, you gotta take what you can get. 

Really, it’ll help us fit in with the Ukee crowd.  People here just keep their trucks running forever.  I’ve seen several cars around that are older than I am.  There’s an original VW Beatle puttering around, there’s a couple of 1967 powder blue Ford trucks, and there’s another truck that is visibly made up of parts of other trucks!  It’s more than a vehicle, it’s a rolling work of art.  It’s not a cruddy car, it’s an investment in a lawn ornament of the future!

Here are some lawn ornaments of the present:

Notice how the lawn is growing *into* the tires and the bush is taking over the bed in the back?  That’s the sign on a true lawn-truck ornament.

We could get something with a door that’s a different colour from the rest of the body – or maybe a home paint job!  Maybe the speedometer will be broken and we’ll have to estimate our speed by counting the seconds between telephone polls.  Or maybe the gas gauge won’t work and we’ll keep track of our kilometers on scrap receipts so we’ll know when to fill up.  Hey – maybe that propane truck with the awesome fishing rope is still available!

Maybe I only *thought* I needed four wheel drive to get through the mountain pass.  I see beaters on that pass all the time.  We’d need to learn to use our momentum from the downward slopes to get us over the icy inclines.  We won’t be able to pull over to pee though, just in case the engine stalls and we can’t get it started again.  We’ll have to make sure we don’t park facing up a hill though, especially if it’s a rear wheel drive.  Or maybe we’ll just stop on a hill so we can roll down it and get the engine to start. 

Kat has driven her share of quirky vehicles.  When she was in high school, she had a car with an ignition so worn that you would put the key in and you could just spin it freely.  Her brother rigged it up with a roller skate key.  After that she had to be careful not to lock her keys in the car – she only used the keys to open the door and not to start the car, so it was easy to forget them inside. 

Then there was the van that belonged her roommate in Toronto – he got pulled over on the 401 and had his license suspended, so Kat had to get a ride out there and drive his truck back into the downtown core for him.  It had a bench seat that was rusted in place so she couldn’t move it forward and could barely reach the pedals.  It ran on bio-diesel and had a broken speedometer – and you really need your speedometer when you’re driving on the craziest highway in the province.

Maybe we’ll get something with a wooden bench seat made out of driftwood and bolted to the floor!  Maybe there will be a hole in the floor – if that happens, we will not be able to wear flip-flops in the car.  Bummer. 

Maybe the passenger door will be stuck and I will have to climb into the passenger seat from the driver’s seat.  Maybe one of the windows will be taped shut – or composed ENTIRELY of packing tape!  I’ve seen those around.  They probably leak when it rains.

Maybe it will have an 8-track player – we could get a bunch of adapters to feed the 8-track into a cassette player into a cd player into an mp3 player so we could hook up the ipod!  (Heh, just kidding.  We don’t have an ipod.)

The *really* nice thing about having a beater is that your insurance is so much cheaper.  There’s no point in getting collision insurance since your car is just an oil change from the junkyard anyway.  You only need enough insurance to cover the car that you hit when your brakes fail.  You really save a lot of money with beaters in the long run. 

Beaters are probably better for the environment in the long run too – you don’t want to wear it out too quickly, so you just don’t drive if you can help it.  Today we found this notice posted on the bulletin board of the co-op:

How much do you want to bet she drives a beater?  No wonder she needs her bike back, she has to save her car for when she *really* needs it.

Our downstairs neighbours have a really neat bright yellow 1968 VW bus.  I’ve noticed that Chris had to start plugging it in when the temperature dropped below 10˚C.  (In North Bay we didn’t have to plug in the car until it went below -15˚C at least.)  It can take him ten minutes to get that big yellow beast’s engine to crank.  One time we were pretty sure he wouldn’t be going into work that day, but then – he got it!  Kat & I cheered as the bus lurched down the drive. 

Go beaters! 

Dearest Readers – have you ever had or driven a beater?  How was it quirky?  Did you love it or hate it?



  1. when I lived in roberts creek I noticed alot of people have older cars that you wont find in ontario. I think its because the lack of salt on the road and less harsh climate, my first car was made the same year I was born, a 1976 chrysler cordoba, it was a miracle if it would even start some days, and I eventualy traded it for a plane ticket to china.

    • I’ve heard that about the absence of road salt before – we were advised to wait until we were in BC before buying a vehicle because we’d get a better car out here for less.

  2. The truck in photo #1 is *awesome*. Love how the bed is made of surfboard-shaped pieces of plywood. Like it’s *only* for strapping down surfboards and not for taking anything else anywhere — anything else would roll off the bed or fall between the spaces between the planks. But the truck’s not going anywhere with no front wheel. There will be no catching of any gnarly waves in that thing — bummer, dude.

    It reminds me of the truck with no wheels that was parked outside of my old workplace in Etobicoke. The undercarriage was resting on the gravel shoulder and it was fully stuffed with garbage. Stuffed! Even the cab. Even so I have never seen so many trucks that don’t run as I have since I moved to Ucluelet.

    • I was thinking of doing an entry like “Ode to the Dead Trucks of Ukee”

      Somehow I don’t feel qualified to write it until I’ve owned, driven, loved and mourned the death of a Ukee truck myself.

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