Disaster Planning or When City Dwellers Come to Cottage Country!
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Now we are in the grip of winter here in Ontario's cottage country, my mind turned this morning to all the things that could go wrong with my upcoming rentals. Since we installed the hot tub, bookings for out of season breaks took off – we have folks going into the cottage today for a two-night stay; then there's a couple in for Christmas (repeat guests from last year); a small group for New Year, then a bunch of teachers – or should that be a ‘school' of teachers – staying in early January. That's four separate bookings in the next 10 days.
Since Friday's storm dropped 20cm of snow with more forecast this week, and no likelihood of the township ploughing the road till Tuesday, my first thought is getting people in…..then out. We learnt the hard way last year that if we don't state categorically that this is cottage country and the ploughs won't appear like magic within a couple of hours, we'll get a call every half hour asking when they can expect to see one. There's only a couple of year-round properties on the road so it's not a big priority for the township and it could be Christmas Eve before they appear.
Fortunately we live close enough so we were able to drive up and down the cottage road yesterday – me in the SUV and husband in the truck – packing down the snow to create some semblance of road for our guests' arrival today. It was probably futile since the wind will have blown snow over our efforts by now anyway, but hey, at least I've made a groomed cross country ski trail to play on!
While we can do our best to create a way in, we also have to hope our rental guests have a small amount of sense and realize we are serious when we say ‘do not book this cottage in winter if you don't have a 4WD vehicle'. Sadly, that is rarely the case. Take the couple last year who arrived with a packed van, small child and dog, and not even snow tires to help them out. However, there were eternally grateful that we spent an hour transferring all their luggage to our truck and drove them in. They were able to walk the 3kms out a few days later to pick up their van after the plough had been.
Then there's the risk of power outage and the call in the middle of the night to say the hydro is off and they are cold. Mmmm….shame they used all the logs we left for the woodstove on the blazing campfire they had outside the previous night.
In the depths of last winter the hot tub packed up and we ran a fan heater to keep it warm while we waited for a replacement part. Explaining that to the family who said they had only booked their week because of the hot tub and demanded a full refund, was interesting. We have a clause in our Rental Terms and Conditions that offers refunds when breakdown of an essential facility (heating, sewage pump, refrigeration in summer etc) occurs. They claimed that the hot tub was so essential, that losing its use for the last two days of their stay entirely ruined their vacation! I think I might have had some sympathy until I heard that one.
I've just taken another drive down there this morning to prepare for today's guests. We've lit the fire; the Christmas tree lights are on; there's festive music on the stereo, and we left a gaily wrapped bottle of wine, some candles and a pack of hot chocolate sachets in the gift basket. The hot tub is up to temperature and the river is sparkling and surrounded by snow laden trees. It cannot be more beautiful than at this time of year. I think they will have a lovely time, and you know what….nothing will go wrong….and if it does, well, that's winter in cottage country and we'll manage it, just like we do every time.