Why “Better” Matters

Especially When it Comes to Creating Memories

Abandoned after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1981, our Randle home sat empty for a decade before we rescued it in 1991. It was a falling-down wreck when we bought it—so decrepit it wasn’t even included in the valuation of the property.

The house as we found it

The porches had fallen down, the foundation had slipped, and only the moss kept the roof intact.

Despite that, our family and friends enjoyed long weekends in this idyllic getaway two hours from Seattle. Some of our best times were when it was still just a “stationary tent,” with no doors, windows, electricity, running water or indoor plumbing.

Porch columns and door on the floor

Looking toward the fireplace; new window; porch supports & door on the floor.

Drilling the well

We hauled water until we hired a water witcher and ended up drilling a 165-foot-deep well.

We cooked on the campfire, used Coleman lanterns, hauled in 5-gallon containers of water, and slept on the floor in sleeping bags. It felt like going to summer camp.

Kids at the rope swing

Our kids with a group of their buddies, gathered at the rope swing.

Horsfalls around the campfire

A family gathering to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. Cooking on an open fire was delicious. Or maybe it was because we were so hungry?

Jaguar at Randle

Crazy, but our only cars were David’s Jaguar and my BMW. Not the greatest cars for camping adventures, but the Jag was a great cruise-mobile. Newly graded land in the background.

The property had a two-hole outhouse built in 1940, which we resurrected and used. Because few things are more “fun” than going outside in the middle of the night, carrying a flashlight, to use a spooky old outhouse! 

The outhouse

Erin and Wendy near the fire pit, with our two-hole outhouse in the distance

We had many adventures, like a death-defying trip to Burley Mountain lookout where, in one sweeping vista, we could see three magnificent mountains—Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. One time we rescued our kids and a friend as they crossed a field unaware of a bull grazing nearby. We spent long days hanging out at Yellow Jacket Ponds, fishing for trout, playing in the water, then coming back to the house to fry fresh fish for dinner.

Burley Mountain lookout

The lookout at Burley Mountain allowed unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and forests—important for spotting fires. Christina and Charley rest in the shade.

View from Burley Mountain

Andrew and Erin goofing around, with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

Boys Fish Randle

Andrew, Max, Stuart and Charley with the day’s catch; Rusty in the corner.

We captured rubber boas*, and watched bats descend at dusk to feast on insects. We caught frogs, lizards, garter snakes and crickets that occupied our “guest aquarium” until they were released before heading back to Seattle. And we foraged for wild berries, fruit and nuts growing on our land. It was the complete antithesis of life in the city.

Rubber boa

This is the second rubber boa we caught— much smaller than the first. They’re beautiful snakes. 

We spent two decades restoring the house, and eventually furnished it with hand-me-downs from our Seattle home, plus artifacts lovingly collected over the years. It felt very familiar and homey to us. However by 2013, with both boys grown and gone, we weren’t spending as much time at our country home. So I decided to try listing it on AirBNB — and quickly learned we weren’t really prepared.

Randle outside

After righting the foundation, rebuilding the porches and chimney, roofing and painting.

We loved Randle “as is.” We viewed it through the lens of our own memories and experiences—and not through the eyes of strangers.

Our first guest gave us a forgiving review. The next was brutal, and though I was upset by it, she was right: the house wasn’t ready for prime time. Thus began my quest to revamp it to create the “best guest experience” we could offer.

Randle living room

This is the same view as the second image from the top—looking toward the fireplace. We gathered the rocks and had a local stone mason set them. “The Orr House” oar is an homage to “Mrs. Orr,” former occupant and whom we believe to be a benevolent spirit at the house.

I began by replacing the bedding and linens, and expanded from there, doing what we could to make people feel welcomed and help ensure a pleasant stay. I worked hard, along with David and our property manager, Cathy Kane, to achieve “super host” status! It’s an accomplishment that requires continued hard work to retain.

Super host 2

Super-host status is fleeting. You have to work hard to hang on to it!

People naturally shop around for the best deals, and we think they recognize the value in staying in our home. There are nearby rentals that are more or less expensive, but none offer quite the same spaces and experiences. Pet owners love that their dogs can safely romp on 22 acres of land, pretending they are their wild ancestors on the hunt. And looking out across the Big Bottom Valley in the morning to see a herd of elk is an amazing treat.

In terms of recognizing value—we’re grateful to Verizon for being the only proven carrier in Randle. I routinely remind our guests to bring lots of quarters for the pay phone in town if they have AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.  We put a positive spin on the lack of cell service by positioning it as a “digital detox” experience, but the truth is, we love that Verizon sees value in serving areas like Randle, where none of the other major carriers are to be found. We regard it as our lifeline to the civilized world.

It’s been a 25-year journey so far. For us, we’ve found #BetterMatters—especially when it comes to memories. And chorus frogs singing you to sleep.

Christina on the rope swing

Christina insisted on wearing her velvet dress and patent-leather shoes on the rope swing—even at night!


*Rubber boas are the only North American boa snakes. They have prehensile tails and are very, very cool!

All Photos © Terri Nakamura 1991 through 2016

We’ve been Verizon customers since 2002 when Andrew began as a cadet at West Point. As part of an awesome group of Verizon influencers, I’m grateful to Verizon for giving me the opportunity to use and test some of their awesome devices and tech. No additional compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

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24 thoughts on “Why “Better” Matters

    • Dear Diana,
      Thanks for reading and for the comment.!
      it’s truly bizarre that Randle appears to be in a cellular “black hole.” We feel so lucky we have Verizon service out there, and really feel sorry for the people who stay there who are using other carriers.
      It took a long time to go through boxes and boxes of photos. In so many of them, Andrew was just a peanut!
      Lots of love!

  1. What a fantastic post! It brought back so many memories, one of which was helping Rich tear off the old wallpaper years ago. Hard work and memories have added so much value to this beautiful get-away retreat. I do remember that Ryan was the only one in our family that had Verizon when we were there. We all do now! Looking forward to visiting soon!

    • Dear Vickie,
      Warm ((HUGS)) and thanks for reading and for your comment.
      We’re glad we have a Verizon family plan because it brings down the cost for each phone. Do you guys do that, too? Even if you don’t, I’m glad Ryan had Verizon and that the rest of the fam is now on board!
      Come back to Randle! If you know you’re coming, we will block out some time!
      Lotsa love, Terri

    • Stuart, thanks for reading and the comment. The photo of you and Max is one of our all-time favorites. Not sure if you’ve gone to any of the parties at the house in recent years, but it’s come a long way.
      ((HUGS)) Terri

    • Dear David,
      Thanks for reading, and for your suggestions and the feedback!
      It’s really true—each picture has a great story to go with it. There are only a thousand more photos of those days!
      It was like the wild west back when the house was a wreck. Now it’s so cozy and sweet, but we still have a ton of great memories!
      Love ya, me

  2. So fun to see all the old photos of the house, land and the kids, and what happened along the way. You guys did an incredible job restoring the Randall house. What a gift you’ve given your family. Bravo, bravo, Terri and David!

    • Dear Paula,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It’s been a while since you guys visited Randle. After decades of slow progress, it finally turned into a pretty cool place.

      It’s great to hear from guests who book it through AirBNB. There’s a guest book at the house, and it’s really fun to read the notes they’ve written for us. By doing so, they’ve become part of its ongoing journey.

      Paula, thanks so much for telling me about AirBNB. If you hadn’t had so many positive experiences, I think it could have been much longer before I would have pursued it!

      Love ya! Terri

  3. What a wonderful story — thanks for the amazing photos allowing us to see the metamorphosis! Very special to see Rich and Rusty, and Andrew and Charley as little boys – can’t believe it now. Cheers to Verizon for making service available out there. I just finished up a super fun 3 week loan of a Wi-Fi hotspot from Seattle Public Library, and Verizon was the carrier, very cool that they are a part of that (thanks of course to Google and Seattle Public Library Foundation).

    • Dear Melissa,

      Thank you so much for reading this somewhat long trip down memory lane. Had lots of happy and sad feelings as I went through thousands of actual printed family photos, digital photos, and ephemera!

      How cool that Verizon is part of the Seattle Library Hotspot service! Reading that made me feel vicarious pride. It dovetails perfectly with their altruistic efforts, that also include nurturing startups (http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/03/verizon-innovation-center-incubation-lte-future/) as well as connecting domestic violence victims with phones and resources (http://www.verizon.com/about/responsibility/hopeline).

      I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and friends. Life has been a great adventure so far!

      Thank you again for telling me about the Seattle Public Library program! I’m proud of Verizon for their involvement in initiatives that help people.

      Love ya, Tink

  4. What a love story, I didn’t want it to end. How much of the original house, if anything, were you able to save? Wonderful that you have Verizon coverage. It was the same for us in Montana. Great story, Terri!

    • Dear Jennifer,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. We saved the entire house but had some parts (like the porches) rebuilt. The house itself is solid and amazing—even better than our home in Seattle.

      I didn’t realize you guys went through the same process with your Montana place. What a magnificent obsession to get wrapped up in projects like this—and it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t gone through it!

      Cheers to us both for achieving “Super Host” AirBNB status! Not surprising given our personalities! I’m so glad we have had each other for support as we’ve learned to become good “innkeepers.” It’s been a fun, new chapter in our lives!

      Lots of love, Terri

  5. Hi Terri:
    I loved how you brought together so many wonderful memories and lovely images of your family in this post. It’s great to see the “disconnected ” moments recapped so vividly, and yet, condensed. That part couldn’t have been easy! But you’ve presented it so well.
    I mentioned previously how stunning your AirBnB home is now. Bringing in the backstory cements it as a home loved, adored and absolutely brought up to standards of high quality. Hugs and best wishes always !
    ~Adriana

    • Dear Adriana,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. It was definitely a flashback putting this post together. I guess the main takeaway could be, don’t give up on your dreams. It can take a very long time to bring something to fruition, but tenacity can win in the end.

      One hundred percent of guests who book the house have almost no idea of the house’s journey, save for a few photos and a bit of backstory in the house handbook. I wonder if they’d feel differently if they understood how it came to be?

      Again, thank you for your kindness and generosity in reading and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment. I hope you are enjoying your weekend

      Warm regards, Terri

      • It’s a sincere pleasure Terri! I believe as guests, we do appreciate some of the amazing background that went into your space- particularly, all the love and hard work put into it. That journey is one to always be proud of. Thanks to you, as well. Have a great week!
        ~Adriana

  6. Oh Terri. This post came at such a lovely time. I have just relocated to a small, dusty Australian farm town far away from Melbourne — and even further away from Washington. Having made the commitment to spend the foreseeable future in Australia, I was feeling more removed from familiarity than ever.
    Although I have now travelled and lived away from Seattle, and the USA for most of my adult life, I can genuinely say that Randle — your home — is my happy place. I have been to Europe and Asia, the UK and back but I have never felt more comfort and peace than I did at that small house. The defining moments of my childhood and my first experience of the feeling of euphoria transpired on this property.
    I have a confession: when I first read that you had listed the house on AirBNB, I sat behind my computer screen and felt overwhelming jealousy. After all, wasn’t Randle “mine?” Of course it belongs to me no more than any other guest you have hosted there, but it does hold a very, very special fascination in my heart.
    Reading this post, in an odd way, gave me a feeling of closure. When I saw the joy that Randle was giving to other people, I felt such feeling of relief. I felt like it was OK to share my special place.
    Everyone deserves to experience the feeling that Randle gave me as a child and if one there person catches that spark of magic by visiting, sharing it would all be worth it.

    Thank you for my childhood.
    -Christina
    “Miss Blue Velvet Dress”

    • Dear Christina of the Blue Velvet Dress—

      First of all, what a wonderful feeling I had, finding your comment here. Thank you so much for the thought and love that went into writing it.

      You and your family spent more time there than any of our friends, and the memories from those days will always be special because of it.

      You were at the center of some classic moments (notably the Burley Mountain brush with death; and the quintessential rose swing photo), and now, in this post, your place in Randle history has been extended even further.

      I was sad to learn you don’t have plans to come back to Seattle to live. You’re incredibly adventurous, so I’m not completely surprised. David and I have missed having you in “our car” for the annual Christmas tree hunt. But like your closure with Randle, we now know Christmas will never be quite the same without you.

      I’m glad to read you’ve reached a point where you are willing to share Randle with others. Coincidentally, I received a reservation request today from Mrs. Orr’s niece in N. Carolina. Yes, Christina, our time at Randle is merely a small window of time in the history of the house. Mrs. Orr’s niece and her family are staying at Randle this summer. It’s a home where she has many fond memories from her childhood—and they happened long before you or I ever set foot there.

      It was a magical time for all of us. I’m so glad you will forever be part of it.

      Lots of love, and best wishes in your new home,

      Terri

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