Friday before heading to Highland Ridge Campground we used one of Kathryn’s vacation days and took a day trip to Appleton WI, where MODS International is located. It’s only a two hour drive from Milwaukee and because there aren’t a lot of companies who are experienced in modifying shipping containers for use as homes I thought this was a good chance to see whether this might be a future solution for us. At the end of the day we’re sure it’s not only not going to be our endgame, we’re also sure that this particular supplier would not be our choice.
We arrived right on time for our appointment. Only to find that the man we were to see no longer works for the company. He made the appointment on Monday for a Friday visit. Wednesday he was no longer with the firm. On the Monday the appointment was made, another person — the owner of the company — took off on vacation to Italy. All of that seemed a bit odd. After that explanation, when I asked what had happened we were told that it was a situation of two Alpha males not getting along together. An interesting comment I thought.
We ended up getting a tour with a project manager who it appears has been with the company through several iterations. We were told they used to erect cellphone towers. However, it seems that they had two accidents in which workers were hurt and that pretty much put them out of the tower erection business. That was all the tour guide said, but my own experience of companies that have serious on the job injuries has pointed over and over again to the fact that if a company cuts corners on worker safety they are also likely to cut corners elsewhere… That is not something that would make me feel comfortable dealing with them on a project as large as our future home. Before the tour got off the ground we were already leery about what we might see.
What we saw were three cars in the office parking lot (for the three employees we saw, receptionist, book keeper and project manager). There were 4 identical completed 40’ containers on the lot and a 4 bay fabrication shop. We saw no work being done and no projects in process. We were told there’s another fab shop 30 miles down the road but talk is cheap and we saw no evidence of activity at this their corporate headquarters. In fact, the office building was easily large enough for 30-50 employees and the office was dead quiet when we walked in. Not a comforting sign.
As to the product — the containers we saw were finished in a workmanlike manner. I was not happy about the finish in the residential units — just little details about the choices they’d made for what I took to be stock units. Perhaps they were economy models. That would be a good explanation.
For Peg and I the biggest problem with the idea of a container home lay in the reality of seeing one in person. The containers are 8’ wide. With 6” of insulation that means that the interior dimension is less than 7’ as there is gypsum board on top of the insulation. That makes pretty much any container about 1 foot narrower at it’s widest than any point in our coach — and the coach gains an additional nearly 3 feet because of the lounge and kitchen slides.
Seeing the container in person really brought to life that living in a container would be more like living in a converted school bus than living in a Class A or 5th wheel trailer. If it had been something to look into I had been willing to consider a 2 container structure — thinking that 1 40 footer would be kitchen, bath, and living room and another 20 footer would be 2 bedrooms. In real life I realize it simply would not work for us.
So, we took a 100 mile drive, met a nice guy, stopped for lunch along the way, had a few hours with our daughter and learned something that we choose not to pursue. All in all an inexpensive way of striking one option off our list of possibilities.
Tomorrow we leave Milwaukee for a short 250 mile drive to Highland Ridge. I can’t wait.
Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow to chat. Why not stop by?