Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Backyard Birds

 The house we're renting backs up to a greenbelt so we've been having some fun with the birds. The previous tenants left a bird feeder so I bought some seed and a bracket to put it up with.  It's been fun. 

Except for this dill nugget. He's stealing the seed wholesale. I'm going to have to figure out some way to hang the feeder differently or come up with some other deterrent. Paintball Blowgun?

 There's also this guy. My extensive internet research of the last five minutes tells me this is probably a Steller's Jay. He's kind of a numb nut too. He likes to throw all the small seed on the ground while he digs through it to get the big seeds. Pretty to look at, though.

I'm pretty sure this one has a partner. It looks like they're building a nest in a tree in another part of the yard. I constantly see them carrying twigs and grass up to a spot in this tree covered with ivy. 

I'm really enjoying this house. I'm not on the hook for home maintenance, but it is up to me to keep the yard up. As a result, I'm trying to do some different things with gardening that I've always wanted to try but for whatever reason didn't do at the last house. I just bought a hyacinth last night. I'd also like to get a couple of hostas to plant in some pots that we have. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


I've been thinking I may change the name of this blog to "Night Wrenching". Swing shift seems to work pretty good for me to get some work done on the cars. Do you still call it swing shift if you're working on your own projects?

For a long time I've wanted to add air springs to my Land Cruiser. Two years ago when I bought the van I put them on right away and have been pleased with them ever since. Even before then I had thought it would be great to have them on the truck. This Fall when I bought the travel trailer it became more necessary and I've just been waiting for a chance.

This last week that chance came. We have a trip coming up where we might be taking the trailer so I really wanted to get past this. As luck would have it, I've been assigned my turn to do the night shift at work. This is nice because of how I acclimatize myself to the new schedule. For the two days before my shift I stay up late at night, so basically I end up with some extra time by myself. This is very productive time for me and this time I used it for truck work.

In the picture above you can see the red marshmallow-looking thing inside the spring. This is the airbag. It takes up space that used to be occupied by that black cone-shaped thing in the lower right corner of the picture. That cone is basically a back-up spring for hard bumps.

The trickiest part of this process is getting the spring out. Now, that's really not all that tricky, so I'm not talking about complex surgery here. The instructions state that you have to unbolt the lower end of the shock absorber to let the axle droop farther. I didn't want to do this since the shocks are very old and I didn't want to deal with broken fasteners. I'll let a shop handle that when I decided to put new shocks on (which should be very soon). Anyway, that extra time of monkeying with the shock drew this process out quite a bit.

The next night I put in my new front brake pads that I'd ordered almost five months ago. While I was at it, I tried to install some spring spacers that I bought for the front axle almost two years ago. They didn't fit right so I had to abandon that project for now. Maybe I'll try again in a few weeks.

Now the truck is ready for some action. I might be looking into tires soon. The Toyos that I have are great. They've only got about 45K miles on them and plenty of tread but they're almost 7 years old. The insides look a little rough and I can see more cracking than I like. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Back to the Buckhorn

As I've spent the last few days reflecting and looking through my record, I find that there is a hole. In my last post I made a reference to one of the defining moments in Jake's life with us and I can't find any record of it, even pictures and that is downright surprising. The possibility exists that it's written in one of my older journals which are currently packed for the move, but it's not here, so let's get on with it.

In 2011 Chelsea and I decided to take up backpacking together. Jake was always up for some trail so of course, he would be along. He was about three years old. We started with an easy jaunt to Elkhorn Campground in the Dosewallips and a month or so later we decided to head to one of my favorites, Heather Creek. Heather Creek is accessed via the Upper Dungeness River Trail on the north side of the Buckhorn Wilderness of the Olympic National Forest. Heather Creek offers no stunning vistas, breathtaking waterfalls, or mountain peaks, but it has forest peace to spare and is relatively easy to reach.

The trail follows the Dungeness River and about a mile from the trailhead you cross the Royal Creek where it meets the Dungeness. You can turn right at this junction and head into the Royal Basin, but that takes you into the national park, where dogs are not allowed, so we thumbed our noses and proceeded.

We decided to do a simple overnighter from August 5th to 6th, 2011. It was early afternoon when we hit the trail. I remember it was such a pleasant afternoon. Being close to the river you don't hear much else and the mosses grow and overhang the trail as a reminder that you're in the northwestern rain forest.

Shortly after we crossed the log bridge over Royal Creek we were spread out over the trail a little. Jake had been very nervous on the log bridge and refused to cross it on his own. Jake was off his leash and was about 40 feet in front of Chelsea who was about 60 feet in front of me.

They had both rounded a bend and I couldn't see them. When I came around the bend Chelsea was on the right side of the trail looking frantically up the hillside. When I got to her I could barely make out Jake well up the hillside. We're not even sure what he bolted after. I ran up the hillside to bring him back and followed him as best I could, but he's a lean and nimble beagle and I'm a chunky human so there was little hope for success in that from the beginning. I frantically followed him up the hillside for a few hundred yards then his path bent back along the trail so we were now roughly parallel to the trail but headed back towards the trailhead.

I could hear his classic beagle bay and kept trying to call after him, but as I said, we were right by the river and you couldn't hear much else. Also working against us was Jake's very beagle characteristic of turning off his ears when his nose was on the chase. Chelsea was trying to follow us while staying on the trail. When I couldn't see him anymore I went back to the trail. Chelsea and I were both starting to get earnestly scared.

The area was bounded on the north and east by rivers and on the west by the ridge. There was no way across the Dungeness and we didn't think Jake would try to cross the Royal Creek bridge on his own. Climbing over the ridge would have been a 2500' climb.

We had no idea what to do. We saw where he had gone so we figured we should drop our packs and head up into the brush to try and find him, all the while our stress levels ticked up by the minute. We covered a lot of ground and we found lots of little features on that hillside we wouldn't otherwise have found. About 600' up the hillside there was a little goat path that basically paralleled the trail which we followed for a while.

Then the light began to fail and it began to be surreal. I kept trying to step out of the moment and think so I could come up with the best next step. We were still far from Heather Creek but we didn't want to leave the area. During our search we noticed a campsite near the log bridge over Royal Creek so we made camp in the twilight. We were anxious, disheartened, and exhausted so I decided to make a fire and try to eat something. Neither of us had any sort of appetite but the logical portion of my brain new that we had been hiking around for hours without a bite so we each choked back a protein bar. We were in disbelief.

After resting a little we decided to hike back to the trailhead to put up a sign on the bulletin board. It was only about a mile so we covered it fast.

When we got back to the tent it was well into the night so we laid down to an uneasy sleep. The clock was ticking. We didn't know how to find Jake and we figured this city dog probably couldn't handle himself in deep forest. The olympic forests are known to contain some predators like bear and cougar and we were genuinely afraid for Jake.

In the morning we ate an oatmeal packet each and decided to continue hiking the trail to the south thinking that's the only way he would go due to the natural boundaries. We made it all the way to the Camp Handy shelter without any sign. Our search lasted into the afternoon but soon we had to accept that we might be leaving without him. Now it was starting to feel even more detached from reality.

Eventually we ran out of time and we headed back. It was the longest car ride of my life. 

I have to pause and say I'm having a hard time writing this part. I can't help but second guess my decision to leave without him. I had all sorts of pressing issues. I had bought 60 pounds of fresh tuna from a friend that would be wasted if I didn't go can it that afternoon and I had to go to work the next day. I don't remember why, but it was particularly important for me to be at work that week. These all sound like great reasons to leave but I now reject them.  At the time there was the element of uncertainty that was overpowering but why would I place more importance on tuna than my dog?

Anyway, we headed home and when we got home the silence in the house was deafening. Over the next couple of days we were gripped by grief. I felt like I couldn't go back and look for him but I didn't want to lose him. We were both working at the time and even though we never discussed it, we spent as little time in the house as possible. We would go to dinner and then wander around a store but eventually we would have to come home. It was awful. 

I think it was made worse by that element of uncertainty. We didn't know where he was or if we would see him again.

Tuesday night Chelsea's cousins came to visit. They told us they were going up to the trail the next day. It was extremely generous of them. They also took with them their dog Lexi, who Jake knew well. I made them a map much like the picture above and they were on their way. After a few hours of searching they had come up with nothing so they also came home empty-handed. 

Now it was Wednesday night and Jake had been alone in the wilderness since Saturday night. I was starting to reconcile myself to losing him.Chelsea and I could barely talk to each other about it. She later told me she was praying constantly for his return. I was handling things differently. I refused to pray. I believe in the hand of God in my life, but I also believe that he will do what he thinks is best for me. What if it was time for me to lose Jake? What if I prayed for his return and he did not come back? I didn't think I could handle that so I could not take the risk. Instead, I felt the grief. 

Thursday brought no developments and with the passage of another day Jake's prospect of return grew slimmer. 

Friday was a normal day except for the grief until about 2:00 pm. It was close to the end of the work day when I got a phone call on my cell phone and the caller said he had found Jake. I was elated. He explained that he was camped at the trailhead and in the middle of the night Jake had begun to scratch at the side of his tent. At first he was very scared, thinking it was a wild animal, but then he heard that characteristic wimper. Nobody can scare anybody with a wimper. So he opened his tent and let Jake in. Then he said that as soon as Jake was in the tent he tried to spoon the guy. That's all the proof of identity I needed. 

He said he wasn't able to bring Jake to me because he had to catch a ferry at Kingston, but he had left Jake with an older couple who had just arrived at the trailhead to camp for the weekend. All we had to do was go pick him up. It wasn't time for me to finish my day bu I immediately headed for home. I had biked to work so it took me a little while to get home. I deliberately didn't call Chelsea with the news because I wanted to tell her in person. 

She was surprised to see me when I got home early but I wasted no time explaining myself. Within 10 minutes we were in the car and headed back to the forest. The trailhead is about a two hour drive from our house so we were anxious to get after it. 

Jake was a sight when we got there. Over the days he has lost about five pounds which is saying something when you're only 30 pounds to begin with. He found the trailhead on his sixth night in the wilderness. He was exhausted and even when we got there he just laid on this little blanket that the folks were letting him use. I don't know what he ate during that time. (When we bolted he was wearing a doggy pack that had a couple of days of food in it. We didn't get the pack back so I always assumed he got it off and then made short work of it. Getting the pack off would have been the hard part. He hated that pack.) His hair was dirty and matted, but despite his exhaustion you could see the enthusiasm that was intrinsic in him.

One question was how he made it down to the trailhead. We thought he wouldn't cross the Royal Creek due to his nervousness on the log bridge. I've long believed that it was due to Chelsea's cousins going after him. As I said, they had their dog Lexi with them. Beagles are hounds first and foremost (that's why we were even in this pickle) and I think after a little while he was able to find the trail and follow Lexi's familiar scent back to the trailhead.

We took him home and loved him all the more for this experience. He was never the same again. He became extra clingy in uncomfortable situations like the vet office. We had always gone camping before and he would lay on people's laps around the fire but after this he wanted nothing to do with fire. Around the campfire he would retreat as far into the shadows as his rope would let him and he could find no relaxation. We found that it was always best to put him into the tent after dark. He would burrow into the sleeping bag and rest contented until we came to bed.

I had considered this as one of the locations to leave his remains but ultimately I didn't choose it because I don't know what he experienced there. Why would I leave him in a place of fear where his time was passed alone? More than once we wondered what had happened to him there. Was there danger or just solitude? What were the nights like? You see why I couldn't choose this. The real question is why I even considered it.

It's still a place I like to go but we never went back there with Jake. Now would be a good time for us to do some hiking in the National Park since I won't have to feel guilty about getting some trail without him.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Preparation for Parting

I've been preparing myself for this day for many years. Honestly I thought it would be longer coming but it's rare that you can plan out major life events with precision, especially when you're talking about the departure of a loved one.

It turns out that liver cancer has been sneaking up on my dog Jake for some time. Recently we noticed a few masses under his skin, but we didn't think anything of it. He's had one on his chest for a couple of years that we had checked a while ago. The vet back then pronounced it harmless. There have been a couple of times over the last few months where he did something weird but we just figured he was getting old. Fast forward to Friday morning, I woke up to go to work and found that he had pooped in the bedroom and bathroom. Then I found him curled up in front of my nightstand and he would not move. All day Friday he wouldn't eat and pretty much laid around. Beagles are very much motivated by food and it was strange to see him stepping over bread crusts and disregarding his dish.

This morning it was more of the same. Chelsea had already resolved to take him to the vet and while she was dressing, he drank a lot and promptly threw it up. She had to take him to an emergency vet in Poulsbo because our local vet was full. They wanted to keep him up to 24 hours to do a bunch of tests so Chelsea left him there and did the 40 minute drive home.

Chelsea had only been home for a few minutes when the vet called back. She hadn't even taken her coat off. An ultrasound revealed many irregularities in and around his liver as well as blood collecting in his abdomen.

We packed up the kids and left them with our friends and Chelsea and I returned to Poulsbo to figure out what to do. The vet was very nice when he explained the situation, giving Jake a couple of days at most due to the internal bleeding, and he assured us they would be painful days.

So that was it. After only a few hours, my close friend of the last 9-1/2 years was gone. I'm grateful that it was fast. I'm grateful for the time he was with us.

I'm grateful for my wife during this. I know that she's hurting too. We went through similar feelings when Jake was lost in the Buckhorn Wilderness several years ago but at least this time we know where he is and what has happened to him. Back then we lived a few days coming home to a silent house. It was awful. Now the children are in our lives but the jangle of his tags is already conspicuous by its absence.

We could talk a lot about whether it's healthy to be this attached to a dog but that's not really a useful discussion. I loved him and I will sense his absence keenly.

I would like to withdraw into grief right now. I'd like to pull the shades and turn my living room into a den of self-pity. If I was given to drink I'm sure I would be doing that right now. However, I have people to grieve with. Chelsea lost him too. So did Jerry. (When we were getting ready to go to the vet we told him it was possible Jake would die. He asked if we were going to get a new dog if that happened. I told him probably not right away. Without hesitation he said that if we didn't get another dog then we wouldn't have a dog. I guess he's used to it.) So the pity party will have to wait. I don't get to deal with this by extended introspection.

Right now we're stepping into a very turbulent time that will be characterized by lots of transitions. Losing Jake adds to the stress in some ways, but simplifies things in other ways. We're moving to a rental and now our options are much more open. When we get into a permanent home we'll find a new friend to warm our bed and clean up the kids' bread crusts from the floor. Make no mistake, that will not be a new Jake.

Jake at 10 weeks (Our first weekend together)

As I said, I've been preparing for this basically Jake's whole life. Sometimes when I buried my face in his fur I would know that there would be a day when I couldn't do that anymore. I thought about what to do with his remains and I had resolved that I would be with him at the end, no matter what. I like to think that the last thing he felt was our touch. We don't want to bury him in a yard we're about to sell, but more than that, we thought it would be more fitting to have him cremated and leave him in a nice bit of forest where he loved to go. Before the kids came Jake and I would walk the trails in South Kitsap Regional Park on Sunday mornings. Since the kids came, we've gone whenever we could. Maybe he would like that.

The last picture I took of him, 12/10/2017

As I said, we're heading to a time of transition. You can refer yourself to my previous post for some details on that. Because of that I'm actually happy about the timing of this. The two transitions are closely overlapping. I don't have to live much longer in this house while I'm trying to get used to not seeing Jake's face at the back door or having him accompany me to the kitchen for his cookie early in morning on work days. It will be a new house that Jake was never part of.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Go or Get Off the Pot!

If you follow this blog, you'll know that I've spent a lot of effort thinking about building a new house. It should be clear that I've wanted to do this for a long time. (I would say it dates back to high school when I was in my home-building trade class.) If you do follow this blog then you'll know that a little over a year ago I was turned away from doing an owner-build. Now I'm focusing on building a house with the help of a contractor.

We debated whether it would be better to sell our current house first or begin construction first. It's really a no-brainer, though. We need the liquid equity up-front to buy and develop land and there is no risk of the first house not selling when we need it to. Since we're a foster family, this option was complicated by the need to have a home license for foster care. We soon found out that it wasn't really that big of a deal.

Pretty soon we had one of those "What are we waiting for?" realizations where it occurred to us that the only thing standing in the way was our own reservations. You know what they say, if you're not going to go, then get off the pot.

In early November we met with a realtor that we had met in April. We did a pre-listing walkthrough and set a target listing date. Then it was three weeks of a flurry of activity. We moved a lot of stuff to a storage unit, cleaned up, cleared out, and did repairs that have been on the honey-do list for years. (Literally.)

So we marked November 30 to list and we made it. Just barely. That weekend I took the boys camping in the trailer so we didn't have to keep the house clean. Between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we had eight showings which produced some good offers, one of which we accepted Monday night. Not bad. The camping trip was great. Me and my boys hunkered down in the trailer, eating snacks and watching movies. Good times.

So the deal is progressing and we're likely to be moving out within 2-3 weeks into a rental house. We still don't know where we're going. We're strangely unstressed about it since it seems like we have options. It looks like the rent will be more than we're paying for mortgage, but I'm OK with that since I'll be spending nothing on home improvement. It's been a looooong time since I've spent nothing on home improvement. I'm looking forward to it. This year I bought a roof, exterior paint, raingutters, and lots of random stuff. I hope to put all my eggs into this home-build basket.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I've Always Wanted to Visit Maine

This weekend I went on one of the best trips I've been on in a long time. A few weeks ago I found out I would have the chance to come to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for training. About 30 minutes later I decided I would use this opportunity to check off a bucket list item*, visiting Acadia National Park on the Maine coast.

I've always wanted to visit Maine. It always struck me as a kind of place that would agree with me. Turns out I was right. The tourism trade has called it Vacationland and I find that very fitting.

This weekend I drove 680 miles from Friday night to Sunday night. I stopped at the slightest whim and enjoyed two nights in my tent. I hiked for miles, ate a lobster and a popover, and visited a fort from the mid 1800's. It was great.

Friday I rounded up all my stuff after finishing work and headed for the rental office for my car. Of course, I had forgotten my sweater, so my plan of leaving directly from there went out the window, but it didn't set me to far behind. Originally I had planned to drive up US 1, but it was late evening and I was already on schedule to be at the campground at almost 10 pm, so I decided to stick to the interstate. This turned out to be a good choice, since traveling US 1 in the daytime is much better.

For most of the drive up it rained prodigiously. During the day Friday there was times that made me wonder if I wasn't going to sleep in the car for the first night. Of course, after camping year round with the scouts over the past few years, I've become no stranger to a little wetness, so my rule is that I have to actually see the campsite before I will cancel the trip. And in this case, the weather report was showing rain Friday with some Saturday morning then clearing off Saturday. As it happened, I was able to get a little respite that allowed me to get the tent up dry. Once the tent is up, you're basically home free.

I didn't set an alarm and I fell asleep to that sound of rain on your rain fly. Sometimes I listen to the white noise maker on my phone that will give me the same sound, but it's so much better when you can feel the cool air on your face and the warm sleeping bag on your body.

Saturday the fog was thick. I hadn't brought any cooking gear so I had my breakfast of an apple and protein bar, got dressed, and headed out for the park. First stop was the visitor's center to plan and get my all-important magnet and patch. This was helpful becuase I got a map that showed me the locations of the arched stone bridges that were part of the reason I was there. I got a great map of the carraige roads that showed me where the bridges were. Of course, I couldn't reach them all because I was on foot.

My must-sees were some bridges, a gate house, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. I got them all but the gate house. Also, Jordan Pond House has these particular baked goods called Popovers that I understood to be integral to an Acadia experience, so that was on the table. Literally and figuratively.

So I parked at Jordan Pond House with the intention to make a circuit of the local carriage roads, including a number of the stone bridges. I had a notion of including a side trip out to the Hadlock area to see a particular gate house, but I decided I didn't have the enough time for that. So after reviewing the maps (while munching on a popover and a salad) I was on my way.

This walk ended up being about six miles, mostly on gravel carriage roads. The fog was beginning to lift a little now and I began to think I might see some blue sky. I followed the carriage roads as they snaked away from Jordan Pond to the west.

Eventually the loop brought me back to Jordan Pond and now the fog had lifted and you could actually see "The Bubbles" across the pond.

Now it was on to Cadillac Mountain. I really wanted to climb it rather than drive to the top like the rest of the park goers. I chose to climb the North Ridge Trail becuase according to the trail descriptions this one wasn't too long and it had great views. The views did not disappoint. It offered great panoramic views to the northeast, including Bar Harbor.

This was a rugged trail. It was nearly free of dirt trail portions. Most of it was scrambling over rocks ranging from a few hundred pounds to massive boulders whose fabulous weight you could only guess at. I had opted not to bring my hiking boots because of their weight and my confidence in my Keen shoes. For the most part the shoes did everything I wanted them to, except for the angry blister they left on my right heel. They are very capable shoes. Due to the rocky landscape the trail was marked by the Bates Cairns and blue paint markers.

Normally when you hike to a summit, you earn yourself some solitude, reflection, and a vista that most others will not see. When they build a road to that same summit all you get is a crowd and a shiny glass tour bus touting "Wi-Fi On Board!" To each his own. On the way down I wished for some Clif Bloks because my legs were going all jelly on me. They are in my camelbak that I left in my garage and totally forgot to pack.

When I got back to the car I was earnestly tired. My watch was telling me I had hiked a total of 11.2 miles and had taken 31,000 steps. Since becoming a father I haven't done a hike that has really challenged me. I'm spending most of my time outdoors trying to teach young legs to love the trail, so for now, they have to be tamer trails. It was a good day, but it was time for a rest.

But not before partaking in the Maine sacrament, the lobster. I'm sure that I demonstrated to the people around me the extent of my newb-ness when it comes to lobster. Really, all you need to know is the outside is hard, the inside is soft, and there's lots of butter.

While at dinner I wrote out postcards that I had resolved to send to my family. I've decided to try a new sort of tradition for work trips where I send postcards to each of my family. With each of these I plan to give support, encouragement, and love in a tangible (and today, rare) mailed card. Who knows how the kids will receive it. It will certainly be more lasting than overpriced t-shirts.

After dinner there were a few errands then it was off to bed. This time I didn't sleep that great because there was no rain to drown out the folks next door who were having an enjoyable evening. It's hard to hold it against them, but it was also hard to sleep.

Early Sunday I got up, packed, and took down the tent. I was out before the office opened. I don't even think I saw the campsite during daylight for more than an hour or so.

Sunday was the big driving day. After departing from the campground, my first stop was Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the easternmost point of the US. I've been to Cape Flattery, which is the westernmost point of the continental US, so I thought it would be neat to have the other one too. I can tell you, it is out there. It was only 93 miles from the campground, but it took more than 2-1/2 hours to get there.

Then it was back to Portsmouth, Hew Hampshire. I could choose to get back on I-95 and speed back on a boring strip of straight highway or I could wind my way down Maine's jagged coast on US 1. The choice is obvious. I left Quoddy Head at about 11:00 am and finally pulled into Portsmouth after 8:00 pm. But I made MANY stops.

The first was at Jo's World Famous Snitzel Wagon. I saw this place on the way in and resolved that if they were open on the return trip, I would eat schnitzel. This worked out very well. The woman (clearly, Jo) spoke English well with a characteristic German accent and told she made the schnitzel exactly how she learned to make it in Germany. I got it with onions. It was delicious.

The next stop, I found out, was the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Maine's Fort Knox. These are two places I didn't even know I wanted to stop at until I rounded the bend. First I saw the fort across the river, then the next bend showed me I was about to cross the bridge. I gotta pull over for that.

As I pulled into the state park, the sign said that I could also buy admission to someplace called the observatory, whatever that was. The lady in the booth explained that the observatory was at the top of the western tower of the bri--Shut up and take my money!!

This was all-around cool. The observatory was cool. The bridge was cool. The fort was cool. It was all cool. The bridge was new, finished in 2007, and the fort was old, built between 1844 and 1869. The brochure says they stopped working on it, unfinished. The contrast was great. The new bridge replaced an old bridge that had been removed a few years ago, but whose foundations were left in place in the river. The new bridge is beautiful and clever, showing another step in the art of concrete and steel.

The observatory was great. It was no more than 16 feet square and three stories high. It was a big glass box at 42 stories, towering above the neighborhood.

After that it was time for a thorough exploration of the fort. Having spent lots of time in the emplacements of Puget Sound, I couldn't help but make many contrasts between this fort and those. I'll talk most about Fort Worden in Port Townsend. As I said, Fort Knox is older. It's from mid-1800's while Fort Worden is from about 1900. Fort Knox is brick and granite to Worden's concrete. And then there's the gunnery.

The 50 or so years between them saw many meaningful advances in weapons tech. The Knox cannon were muzzle loaders that shot a large ball or shell while the Worden guns were massive breech loaders that shot enormous shells. Just look at the size difference.

Knox Cannon

Fort Casey Gun

Of course, the Worden guns were built in the age of steel plated steam ship and were therefore designed to penetrate steel hulls, not wooden hulls.

Now I'd like to shift over to the construction of the structures. One thing I always thought was strange about Fort Worden's emplacements was that they had flat ceilings. This seemed like a strange choice for a very heavy structure. In order to keep them flat and not sagging, they would have to make them very thick and FILLED with steel reinforcement. On the other hand, it would make them a little easier to build, shapewise.

It kind of struck me as arrogant. Maybe they thought that with this new material (concrete) they could circumvent the rules about vaulted ceilings that mankind had learned centuries ago. Contrast that to the ceilings of Fort Knox.

The displays at Fort Knox made particular mention of the casemate, which is the formation of the domed ceilings that give it immense strength. Also, those domed ceilings look really cool.

After walking around for while it was time to get back on the road. I still had 170 miles or so left.  The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. Now, I did see a pedestrian suspension bridge which I HAD to get out and see.

Along the way I saw many little towns that would definitely be worth another visit, such as Camden, Rockland, and Ogunquit. I love driving and driving the Maine coast on US 1 is a fantastic road tripping destination.

*Many years ago I had checks with pictures of national parks on them. One of them was Acadia National Park. Prior to that I hadn't heard of it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Christmas Shed & Garage

I actually started writing this post about the first week of January 2017 but for various reasons I have not finished it until now. The first half is original, the second half is what I wrote now to finish it.

As you know, this December, January, and February were unusually busy for me as regards home projects. Those of you that know me personally know that this is saying something since I'm always doing something around the house. In my post about redoing one of the kids' rooms, I talked about the need to move along with my weekend makeover so that I could get into the next domino of home organization, the new shed.

The dominoes were 1. Master Closet (done in October), 2. Front Bedroom (December), 3. Shed (December and January), and 4. The Garage (January and February).

I'm on the last one (the garage) but it's taking a long time. I've sacrificed all my bike rides in January and February so I can work on it, but it's still not done. The time has been characterized by staying up way too late at night, working Saturday afternoons when I would likely be getting much needed exercise otherwise, and spending every opportunity possible to progress the project.

So here's the shed. I probably got about two or three Saturdays worth of stuff to do on it.

This is my Sketchup model of it.

December 27.

December 28.

 January 3.

Now the shed is functionally done it's in that danger zone of procrastination. I still haven't painted it, but it's all primed. This year I should be painting the house so I'll just get it all in on the package. (It's now June, so six months have passed. There's no actual indicator that this will happen any time soon.)

I'm so glad to have it done. I can't believe how nice it has been to get the yard stuff out of the garage so I can use that space for it's intended purpose-working on bikes and cars. Actually, we're actually dangerously close to parking the car in there for real. That will really be something.

Here is a picture to give an idea of what the garage looked like before:

Amazing mess.

Here's what it looks like now:

Complete with new organizational features. There's still plenty of junk, but now it's a lot more useful space. In the bottom left corner you can see that the mill is still on the floor, but that's not true anymore. After only two an a half years, the mill and lathe are actually up on tables. Amazing. The next step on that project is to get the lathe running. The mill is in pretty good shape and I use it occasionally.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this has been coming up will all different types of organizational solutions. I already wrote a post about that in March. Check it out.

The next thing is to paint the house and the Shed. Oh, and get the lathe running. Oh, and..., Oh, and...

You see where I'm going with this. See you soon.