Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The two words I don't want to ever hear again

We have lived in the same house for 32 years, and have made some improvements along the way. A particular door in the kitchen has bugged Paula for a long time, and for the last, I dunno, ten years she has suggested replacing it with a sliding pocket door to get it out of the way.
Not suspecting a thing, in March my brother-in-law and I took the wall apart during his visit, and quickly realized that a load-bearing post had been jury-rigged into it during some work 27 years ago.
OK, so we'd have to put in a 'header' above to take the load. After considering a steel beam, or putting the wall back together and bailing on the project, we settled on a double-thick 11-inch laminated beam to take the load. The guy at the lumber yard that helped me put it on top of the Odyssey kind of sneered when he said, "Kinda heavy for that kinda car, huh?" I muttered under my breath as I got back in the pilot's seat, "Real men drive minivans, buddy."
I jacked up the ceiling, a friend helped me cut and place the beam, and we got to wield sledge hammers and other real-guy tools.
However, with the load of the upstairs hallway now distributed differently, the minimal sag in the floor on either side looked a little more pronounced, so...
After two days in the 30" crawl space with a hand trowel, about 50 buckets of dirt dragged out and 40 buckets of wet cement and rebar dragged in,
 I had made four good footings,
on to which were then placed four beefy house jacks.
I then got the local steel supply space to cut me two seven-foot lengths of five-inch steel I-beam, which my beautiful assistant and I dragged under the house ("One, two, three, lift!").
and finally hoisted up on the jacks.
After a month to cure the concrete to maximum strength, I jacked the floor level,
and could finally hang the pocket door hardware, and then the door itself, a big ol' 36-inch solid core thing, which weirdly had been made in Chile.
A man's got to know his limitations, so Edgar The Sheet Rock Guy came over and did the honors.
After that, it was a couple days of trim and paint and thresholds, and then insetting the pulls.
So, after only four months, untold blood, sweat and tears, and I-don't-really-want-to-know-how-much-money, the project was finally done.
I now have authority to advise any and all that if your wife utters the words, "pocket door," it's time to feign sudden deafness, break your own arm, or call a good divorce lawyer.
I hope that your home-improvement projects are less complicated and of shorter torture duration.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A stroll in the woods. Not!

For several hundred years, according to some, the 14-18 year-old young men of our church congregation with their leaders and dads have backpacked for six days on the Appalachian Trail just after the end of the school year.  This year was no exception.
The hearty, foolish (foolhardy?) group set off from just north of Front Royal, Virginia with smiles and high hopes.  The pale, uneasy-looking older gentleman in blue is me.
"Well, that wasn't so bad!" remarked several in the group as they completed a mere five miles the first day, arriving at the shelter and campsite.  "And look!  A horseshoe pit!"
Indeed, and so the first annual Jim and Molly Denton Shelter World Cup of Horseshoes began.  No one could remember the real rules, so Denton Shelter rules were enforced after they were made up.  In the end, youth and talent were no match for age and cunning, and the Old Guys ruled.
"What a pleasant start," said several of the youth naively as they shouldered their packs the next morning.  One could almost hear the chuckle of the hills ahead...
We lost one adult leader the second day, due to bad glucose control.
The next adult leader succumbed the next day to 95-degree temps and some extreme trail. He was lucky to leave before...
THE ROLLER COASTER!!  AAAGGHHH!!  It turned out to be the worst day's hike I've ever done, and I've been on some bad hikes.  I'll attribute it to the heat and absurd inclinations of the trail, but there were numerous times when my fried brain could not remember "roller coaster;" I found myself trying to recall; "cotton candy? uh, no. Ferris wheel? nope." etc. Everyone was wasted.
Luckily, a couple of OK days followed with lower temperatures and less steep trails.
We ended just short of Harper's Ferry, and reunited with the now-refreshed adult leaders.
To finish off the trip, we visited the Gettysburg National Battlefield, an interesting but somber place.
I don't know if Wendy's Corporation is aware of it, but all Scout/Young Men expeditions by tradition end at one of their establishments.  The record is $20 of food bought and consumed by a single youth.  It probably cost Wendy's more than that to de-stinkify the restaurant.
All in all, one of those great activities that are a lot better in retrospect.
We hope that your hikes are pleasant, and your roller coasters more fun.