Monday, July 14, 2014

The Quest for Comma (and other mishaps along the way)

Remember that one time I read Bob Welch's book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and then I decided I needed to go explore my backyard a bit more. In his book, Welch writes about his own quest to find a little lake near another lake, and I made it a goal this summer to find that same lake.

After a serious failure of an attempt to find Comma lake last month, I set out early yesterday morning for the second attempt to find the lake. With the taste of defeat still in my mouth, my hopes were high that I'd come out with a few less scrapes and bruises and much more satisfaction at having accomplished the goal. 

And then, not two minutes after putting the car in park at the trail head, I managed to lock my keys in the car. With my pack. And my cell phone. I can't even make this stuff up. My first instinct was to forget the pack and just go hiking and find the lake so the day wouldn't be a complete waste. I'd deal with the car situation when I returned. But knowing that wasn't the wisest choice given the difficulty I had in finding the lake last time, I marched to the site manager to see if he had any tools that might help with the job. He gave me a flimsy wire and not a lot of encouragement.

Heading back to the car, I cut back through an empty campsite where there happened to be a much sturdier wire hotdog roaster. Not even 100 yards from where I was parked. It seemed the best option. One guy after asking the year of my Camry suggested with great enthusiasm that the job would be a cinch. He did not, however, offer to help. And it turned out not to be as easy a job as he suggested. In fact, his method was an utter failure. 

I borrowed a phone to call my dad to see if my insurance would cover the cost of a broken window, but Dad's phone went straight to voicemail. By this point I was willing to pay for the repair myself. But one more method was attempted. Prying the corner of the door open with a borrowed Leatherman tool, and slipping the wire inside was the next best option. When it was not strong enough to push the unlock button, it was time to hook the end of the wire and slipped it around the door handle. It took a few tries, but finally, FINALLY, the door unlocked. The relief was real, people. The whole ordeal lasted an hour and 15 minutes, with minimal vehicular damage, and a slight headache of my own making.

So almost two and a half hours after leaving the house, I was finally on the trail, with pack and keys, ready to find Comma Lake. After further study of maps, and knowing what went wrong on the last attempt, confidence was high that this hike would be faster and more successful. 

There is no trail to Comma Lake, which is why she's so difficult to find. An hour later, on and then off the trail, find her I did.


Shortly after hiking around to the other side of the lake, a thunder storm rolled in, and I was forced to seek shelter under a tree. 


It passed quickly enough, and the sun came out again. There is nothing quite like getting to enjoy a lake all to one's self. If you don't count the birds, bugs, and frogs. I saw more than one Stellar's Jay hanging about, and may have heard a woodpecker or two.

The day was successful in all sorts of ways. I just hope next time doesn't necessitate the breaking in of my vehicle. But in the off chance it does, there may or may not be a hotdog roaster shoved into the undercarriage of my car. And I might be looking at the purchase of my very own Leatherman. I'm just saying maybe it might be a good idea. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Hillbilly Makeover

I know you all have to be dying to figure out what happened with that grill. Right? Well, let me just say it's been a bit of a slow process. Mostly due to the fact that my to-do list is never ending, especially when I spend weeks at a time living in other people's homes watching their animals. So one day here and another day there, and a month later, and I can say that the hillbilly grill is very nearly complete.

I didn't take photos of the cleaning process. Sorry. It mostly involved various de-greasing products, scrub brushes, paint scrappers, sand paper, and lots of washing. Try as I might, that chalky green paint refused to come off. Oh sure, it bleed off the grill into a puddle on the carport any time I washed it. I could sand it to a fine powder, or chip off small sections. But try as I might, none of these things made any real noticeable difference. The paint still rubbed off at the slightest touch.

Sunday, I decided to throw in the towel on making this grill look like anything other than a free grill I found on the side of the road. I bought a can of high-heat grill spray paint and got to work. I then finished disassembling the grill.

My grandpa likes to tell me that my dad was once the master of taking things apart, only to not be able to put them together again. Or maybe he just lost interest in the putting things back together. I'm not sure which. So when I was staring all the individual pieces of my grill, all I could hear was Grandpa's stories about Dad. It was then that I took this picture, in case I had to tell Grandpa I'm more than just a spitting image of my dad.


Here's the one that shows I gave up on the green beast:  


One can of spray paint later. A little more cleaning. And it was reassembly time. The hillbilly is still a hillbilly, but he cleans up pretty good. Don't you think? 


Up next is to pick up a propane tank. Then the real test will be on to find out if that sign was telling the truth. Does he work? 

Whether it works or not, I can at least tell Grandpa that perhaps I inherited a few mechanical genes after all. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Hillbilly Grill

Sundays are adventure days around here. Since I started driving the Cycle Pub, it's often the only day I don't work during the summer months. And one Sunday last month, I logged an adventure for the record books. 

My good friend deserves all the credit here. We'd been talking for a month about how I need a grill now that I have a yard. So when we saw one for free on the side of the road, we obviously had to stop. 

I was skeptical. Sure it was free, but did we even believe that it worked? My friend was much more optimistic, and insisted we load the sucker into my Camry. Especially, after a guy in a truck whipped around the corner. We'd barely beaten him to the find. 

Now don't get me wrong. I often extol the hauling capabilities of my little ol' Camry. But even she has her limits. And this green grill, I was certain was it. 

"Maybe I stay here, and you go get a truck," I told my friend. 

Unfortunately, all the tools I usually carry in my trunk were removed during the move and hadn't yet found their way back to the car for moments like these. But if I am stubborn, my friend is even more so. I think sheer willpower got the thing wedged into the trunk.



Then came the task to secure it. You will not believe what became "rope" in our quest to tie this barbecue down. 

Jumper cables? Check. 


Plastic grocery bag? Check. Check. 


Again, let me state clearly, I do not deserve the credit for any of this. Both my friend and I have hillbilly backgrounds, but I stood by in shock and awe and watched MacGyver take over. Then I gave my friend the keys to the car and said, "OK, you drive!" 


And somehow we made it home without incident. Well, unless you count the stares from everyone wondering what the heck we were doing. And the rash I got on my arm from touching the thing. That green paint rubs off like chalk on a blackboard. But that's the story of how I got a free grill.

Now the cleaning and restoring of the grill is another story for another day.