Welcome to the Boat Garage

With the addition to our family of a cute little 26′ Nordic Tug, Wigeon, comes the necessity of a warm, dry place to keep it. Not in the bay water, where critters and slime can proliferate along the vessel’s bottom, but out of the water, on its own trailer, on dry land.

Hmm…that doesn’t preclude moisture from rain then, does it?

So Larry discovered he could buy and erect a large shelter for Wigeon at the nearby Hilton Marine Yard. The shelter will hold our boat, and the guys at the boat yard will hoist it on a sling into the water whenever we are ready to go. They sling it out of the water for the return, too.

Early in the day

Rod (r) and Charley (c) look at the third assembled rib as Bob looks on.

Today, Larry assembled a group of great guys to help assemble Wigeon’s own parking garage. If watching old guys on ladders makes you nervous, you might want to skip this post. Tomorrow, the “skin,” a super strong polyethylene covering, goes over it for the finishing touch.

Team of 5

Guys are well along, just a few more ribs to erect.

Team of 2 vs Team of 5

Steve and Bob, Team of Two, race along one side!

old men on ladders

Old guys on ladders…this make anyone nervous?

mostly up

It’s mostly up now!


The Victory Lap!

I hold my nose (at the spilled hydraulic fluid on the garage floor, which smells like carrion). I hold my ears (at the sound of the roto-hammer shrieking into 500-pound test concrete). I cover my eyes (as Larry steps a rung too high on the 12-foot ladder, installing an electrical box in the groj ceiling).

I grouse. I whine. I complain. Oh, okay, I bitch.

Then a day like today comes along, and I get to be just a little blown away. One doubts at one’s peril Larry’s sheer will and vision. His Will be Done, by golly. After two days of stringing cables, installing a motor, and assembling all the sundry parts, the lift is finished. There was one bit of drama, but we have recovered. Let me digress.

When I was a girl in our little house in Burbank, California, my dad was also a do-it-yourselfer. Nothing much scared him. He was a very patient guy. But the one thing that would send Dad into Mr. Hyde territory, and send us kids scrambling  for cover, was a plumbing backup that required him to go down into the crawl space under the house. Usually, roots had invaded the clay pipes, causing showers, toilets, oh, just everything, to back up, including the kitchen sink. Dad had to slink under the house on his back with pipe wrenches and you-name-it into the dark, dank, spider-infested space, where effluent often resided, and things never seemed destined to go well. We kids always found a reason to be somewhere else at those times. The arrival of the Roto Rooter man signaled the all clear.

There was just one such moment during the lift installation that rivaled the crawl space/plumbing job. That would be the attic space/electrical job. No effluent, but plenty of sticky insulation up there, and stifling darkness that required that Larry use a headlamp.

Larry had already installed a little junction box in the ceiling of the groj, very nice looking, well done. Then he went into the attic, crab-walked over to where he thought the box was…now where was that box? He had the 220 wire in hand, but with all the insulation in the dark like that, he could not see where the box was. He couldn’t figure out where to snake the wire down.

As a safety precaution, he and I were connected by phone during it all, and he asked me if I would do him a favor.

For the record, a favor is handing you a kleenex or answering your phone if you are in the shower. To Larry, favors are much heftier and more tangible. This favor involved my climbing the 12-foot ladder out in the groj (the one that wasn’t quite tall enough), and sticking a wire up through the junction box so he could see where to feed the wire down.

I just couldn’t do it. Something bad would have happened. I told him I felt unsafe: That one hits a pilot where he lives.

So Larry crabbed his way back out of the attic and did the whole thing himself. When he finally got it all installed, it looked quite nice and worked quite well. My contribution was to be on the other end of the phone, the better to call 911 if he fell through the ceiling.

Oh, the moment of truth! Larry took my car–the 15-year-old Honda and the least of these, my brethren–and used it for the test run. Couple of things to notice, like the sopping wet towels around the bases of the lift. Yeah. They’re sopping wet towels. Remember the 28 days to cure the concrete? I guess the compromise is sopping wet towels to continue curing the concrete until that landmark passes. Gish.

Anyway, it works. Yaay Larry!

And here’s what victory looks like. Within about 10 minutes, it looked like a Chop Shop out there, with Larry rotating the wheels and checking the brakes on our humble little Honda. At this rate, he will keep it running yet another 100,000 miles, setting my dream of a shiny new Prius back another several years–and saving us a whole bunch of money, he reminds me. Almost as much money as, say, a lift.

Larry wasted no time rotating my wheels and checking my brakes.

Red Letter Day!

Okay, I know what you are thinking: Larry poured the super-strength concrete into the holes in the garage floor just a little over a week ago. The “by the book” explanation holds that the concrete isn’t finished curing for 28 days.
So, exactly what is he doing installing the lift just 8 days into it?
While it is true that Larry can be patient when patience is demanded, if he isn’t 100% certain about patience being demanded, he gets on the phone. Phone call recipients may shudder, but the man Gets Answers.
So he called the makers of the concrete, and prattled on until (30 minutes and 4 people later), he got the chief engineer. Larry told him the weight of the lift, how long the concrete had been down, and BINGO! He got a much more satisfying answer. Concrete, he was told, cures very quickly in the first week. From then on, it cures very slowly. So after the first week it’s almost as strong as it’s going to get.
The compromise solution was to go ahead and place the lift in the garage, drill holes in the concrete and bolt it down—BUT! Only tighten the bolts enough to hold it in place. In another three weeks, he will finish tightening the bolts down into the concrete.
During the past 8 days, Larry has gone over the instructions every day, highlighting the important parts. Of course, the very first instruction presumes that you already have the posts upright. Big assumption. Kind of reminds me of the old Volkswagen maintenance manuals where, with just about any repair, the first instruction was “Remove engine.” Yikes.
How fortunate we are to have Pat, our favorite shirttail relative, and a former oil field roughneck who ain’t afraid of nothin’ and knows what’s what. Take a look at how they did it:

Yes, they did remove the Corvette from the garage for that trick! With Ferris Buehler-like stealth, they rolled it out onto the garage apron (and I was at the wheel, trembling lest I steer it into something…)
Next trick, plumbing the “goal posts.” Hey, at least there were instructions for this part!

And finally, to make sure nobody accidentally knocked one of these down, Larry secured them with bolts. Later on, they’ll get tightened more, but for now this will do. He rented a really big rotohammer for this part of the job. The dust, the dust…

Fabulous result. Now we Ferris the Corvette silently back into the garage and call it a day. For now.

Concrete in! Let the wait begin!

Testosterone reigned once more in Larry’s Groj today. They may look like empty 4-foot squares in the Groj floor, but they’re oh-so-much more. This step involved refilling those selfsame squares with concrete that was Altius, Fortius, Citius. The new concrete is 5,000-pound test, and will be 6 inches deep instead of the measly 4 inches of the garage floor. Olympic concrete, if you will. The lift demands nothing less!

The Concrete Brothers never did call back, nor did the other concrete guys we called. Finally, Josh returned Larry’s call, texted that he was on his way, and just generally stayed in touch. He’s worth his weight in gold.

As predicted, Larry did devise a safe and practical way to mix the concrete: rent a little mixer and mix up batches from bags. Pat and Larry and Josh started at 8:30 this morning, and I’m told all went well.

I wouldn’t know…because I was engaged in a sanity-preserving venture: hiking over at Margo’s place. She’s a hiking friend with acreage that rivals a state park, and a bunch of us had a lovely morning, including coffee and cookies. It was so civilized.

Paul, Margo's husband, gallantly helps us "little old ladies" across the stream.

The lovely little trillium were everywhere!

So when I returned, except for the presence of three trucks, two trailers, two cars, and a cement mixer, the house was relatively serene. Men friends seem to find a reason to stop by and check on the progress. Male pheromones, I believe.

Anyway, by the time I got home from my hike, the concrete had been mixed and poured, and now all that mattered was Josh’s talent for finishing it.

Josh called back, showed up (on time, even), and did a great job at a fair price. I'd call that a home run!

Now all that needs to pass is time. Textbook answer is that it will take 28 days for the concrete to cure enough for Larry to install the lift. However, he is all over the Internet trying to find out how soon it will REALLY cure, how hot it has to be, what the humidity has to be. He wants the REAL answers!! For now, I understand he has to wet the squares every day to make sure the concrete dries hard and strong.

Strong enough to support a 1600-pound lift and any vehicle he can put on it. Yikes.

Some have speculated that Larry could open his Groj as a business to help defray the costs here. Couple of problems with that line of thinking. While Larry is an exceptional mechanic, it’s not something he loves. It’s just something he’s good at. Furthermore, I’m sure the Homeowners’ Association would frown on the comings and goings of random cars and trucks to our  self-described “tony” neighborhood. Up our awesome (as in “fear-inducing”) driveway.

More likely, our neighbors will view our new Groj addition as something “tonier,” like, say, a car elevator. Those Romneys will have nothing on us!

Mixing ze concrete

“What’s that noise?” I asked.

“Huh?” said Larry, looking up from his iPad (formerly my iPad, now appropriated for a higher purpose, I am assured.)

An Armageddon-like rumble emanated from the iPad’s tinny speaker, the sound of a cement mixer. Over the unbearable, grinding noise of the mixer was a thin, barely audible, German-accented narrative.

“Now ve add ze bag of pre-mixed concrete. Jusst pour it in like ziss!”

It was a YouTube video of a fellow of apparently German descent who was demonstrating how to empty bags of concrete mix and water into a small cement mixer, in the right proportions to make good, strong concrete.

This was a victory of sorts.

Remember how I said that Larry would figure out a way to get 2/3 of a yard of concrete up the fear-inducing driveway practically and safely? Well, rather than have the big cement mixer truck show up tomorrow morning at some appointed hour, and shuttle the wet concrete up the driveway one trailer-load or one excavator-bucket at a time, Larry made a different decision. He decided to rent a cement mixer and install it at the top of the driveway, close to the point of work in the garage, and mix small batches as needed.

Oh, it solves so many problems, not the least of which is manpower. He had scheduled a work day today with concrete contractors, two brothers, but then his helper, our shirttail relative Pat, couldn’t come. Larry had to cancel with the Concrete Brothers and reschedule for tomorrow (Saturday). Alas, in the absence of a return phone call from the Concrete Brothers, we have no idea whether they received the message, and whether they will show up at the appointed time tomorrow. Or any time at all. Reliable people in the building trades are as rare as a sunny weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

If Larry had ordered a concrete truck full of wet concrete, ready to pour and finish? Well, imagine the stress of not being 100% sure that concrete finishers would actually, truly, honestly be here!

So Larry decided to rent a cement mixer and purchase thirty-five 80-pound bags of concrete mix. I think it hurts his pride a bit. If he had it his way, he would go the to the quarry and procure the aggregate himself, using his micrometer on the occasional pebble to ensure its optimal diameter. If he had his way, he would rappel down the white cliffs of Dover to chip off just the right amount of limestone.

“Did you know that concrete goes back to Roman times?” he asks me every time the job involves concrete.

In this case, I’m sure he feels he is really casting his fate to the wind, relying on the pre-mixed bags of stuff you can buy at Home Depot. The indignity.

But then again, merely ferrying thirty-five 80-pound bags of pre-mix up the driveway involved some derring-do. Larry used Pat’s heavy-duty trailer and friend Bob’s truck to load it all up and bring it up the driveway. Then things got interesting because once again, it started to rain earnestly. Getting the bags wet would have been disastrous.

Larry had to squeeze both Pat’s trailer and Bob’s truck into the garage (which already holds the lift and the Corvette, remember). You can see from the picture that it’s a tight fit. But no problem. It just meant that our two family cars had to spend the night outside.

So now Larry is listening to Dieter on the iPad instruct him on how to mix ze concrete. Pat will show up tomorrow. We hope the Concrete Brothers do as well. If they do, Larry will be busy in the Groj all day. If they don’t, then we will actually get to enjoy the predicted sunny weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

The Lift Has Landed!

It wasn’t enough that it was pouring rain. Or that the delivery guy showed early, and off-loaded the 1600-pound lift at the BOTTOM of our awesome (as in “fear-inspiring”) driveway. Look closely and you can see the excavator and Pat’s truck and trailer rig waaaaay down at the bottom of the driveway. To take this picture, I wasn’t even standing at the tippy-top of the driveway, but about 10 feet down. (Yes, we hear a lot about our steep driveway. But the bocce ball court, there on the left? Just for the record, that’s flat as a pancake.)

Intrepid friend, Pat, was there with his major truck and trailer. Using the excavator to gingerly pick up the whole package, Larry positioned the lift in the back of  Pat’s rig. And just like that…thar she blows!

Here is a shot of the lift safely inside the garage, nestled next to the Corvette, with which it will soon be well acquainted.

The next challenge will be to get the thicker concrete pads poured into the holes that Larry has punched, with the radiant floor heat hoses he has repaired, and which he has so exquisitely rebarred. To me, the rebar looks more like sculpture…too bad to cover it with goup. So look quick. It’ll soon be gone!

Glad I got a shot of Michelangelo sculpting his rebar (above), and a shot of the result (below).

So the holes are ready for the concrete, that’s true. Later in the week Larry and Pat and the concrete guy will figure out how to transport 2/3 of a yard of concrete up the driveway. Many options “on the table,” except NOT bringing a big concrete truck up the driveway. We’re looking for an option that is both feasible and safe. Stay tuned.

Once the concrete is in…then will come the hard part for Larry. You can tell the man’s excited when he takes a photograph of the instruction manual for the lift. Right?

Well, sad to say, the concrete must cure for 28 days before the lift can be installed. That’s 28 days. Same length as one entire menstrual cycle. But I must say, I’m trying to remain in a better mood than THAT!

Meanwhile, Larry must be patient, hard as that is. He will have to WAIT to install his lift. It will be about as much fun as watching concrete cure.

The Guy who Swallowed a Fly

You remember the nursery song where there was an old lady who swallowed a fly? Thought she might die? She then swallows all manner of things to take care of that initial problem, until, in the last verse:

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat…
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog…
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat…
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird …
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she’ll die.

Let me see. I have a version.

There was an old guy who wanted a boat.
I dunno why he wanted a boat!
He sold a Corvette to get a boat…
He fixed the Corvette in a major way …
He needed a bigass Garage Lift to fix the Corvette…
He cut up the garage floor to install the bigass Lift …
He reinforced a huge patch to pour the concrete…
He used the excavator to drag the bigass Lift up the ridiculously steep driveway…
All in the service of selling the car…to get a boat…
I still dunno why he wanted a boat
Perhaps he’ll float.

Hurry back from the healthcare forum! The garage needs work!

Larry attended my big healthcare conference in Las Vegas! He did get a lot out of the program, because the ideas for safety in healthcare (my field) are totally congruent with safety in aviation (his field). He was interested, but very antsy to get back home because he had received important news: the Rotary Lift was actually en route.

He quickly said goodbye to Las Vegas and swung into action preparing the garage floor. “Preparing” is a euphemism, however, for demolition! He rented a big, walk-behind diamond-bladed saw and cut two 8-foot squares in the floor, which by itself isn’t thick enough to support the lift.

Getting rid of the broken up concrete entailed digging a hole with the excavator and burying it. (It also entailed a bit of work on the excavator to get it running again.) Pat came over to help and, if Larry is any indication, he went home very sore.

Larry rented a walk-behind concrete saw to make the holes in the garage floor. He and Pat worked all day.

Now the holes will have to be extended, dug out beneath the floor on all sides, so that when they pour new, thicker concrete, it will flow beneath the existing floor all around the hole, “keying” the new patch for strength. Sounds like physics. I listen patiently, even if this isn’t exactly my thing.

Ah, but here it is–the first complication! When the garage was built, Larry had radiant floor heat hoses run through the concrete. He tried to account for the future installation of the lift, and tried to make sure the hoses went AROUND the possible holes. He almost made it.

Radiant floor heat hose needed repair. It was more of a project than it seemed, but guess what? Larry figured it out.

Alas! In each hole, he severed one hose. Today, the retrofit begins.

As I start Spring cleaning inside the house today, the concrete job in the garage ensures a steady supply of new white dirt and dust that promises to permeate everything. I never thought I’d look forward to a concrete pour, but at least that will put an end to the dust.

To make sure the concrete pad for the lift is locked into place forever, the new concrete pour will be deeper, and needs to extend under the floor around the edges. Here Larry removes styrofoam in wedges, so the concrete will create this "key."

Yes, he removes his boots at the door...and yet that white concrete powder permeates everything! Who ever thought I'd be GLAD for a concrete pour??

Welcome to Larry’s Groj

This blog will document the Big Journey of the 1966 Corvette we purchased from a family member back in 1974. Larry is getting ready to rejuvenate (NOT restore) it and prepare it for sale. As Larry’s wife, I’ve been part of this little drama for the past 40 years, so I’ve decided to document this chapter of The Corvette Story.

About Larry

Larry is an accomplished mechanic, even holds Airframe and Powerplant certificates and worked for awhile as an aircraft mechanic. That particular qualification set him apart from the others when he was first hired as an airline pilot. Now that he has retired from US Airways and we are living in the Pacific Northwest, he has decided that the pleasure vehicle for him now–at this age, living in this region–is a boat.

Some have asked, Gee, since you’ve held on to the Corvette all this time, why sell now? That leads to the bigger question: How does a retired airline pilot raise enough money for a boat?

Aha! Sell one toy, buy another.

About the Corvette

Back in 1974, Larry and I had recently returned from a year in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Larry got his first year of experience in the cockpit, as a Flight Engineer in an L-100 Hercules. Now he was a First Officer for a nonscheduled airline in Oakland, California, we a job that allowed us to move back to our native California.

Cousin Tom, a recent USC Dental School grad, was raising funds to open a practice. Reluctantly, he put his Corvette up for sale. Tom had been the third owner, had all the paperwork and so on. When Larry bought the car, it made the parting just a little easier on Tom.

Larry’s first order of business was to convert the traditional carburetion system in order to circumvent the increasingly stringent air quality requirements in California. So he purchased a beautiful 1963 fuel injection unit, which, when installed, would create clean enough emissions for the car to pass.

We took delivery of the car in Burbank, California, where Larry drove it right over to my parents’ house. Dad, a terrific mechanic himself, (and an old barnstorming pilot, too), had a whimsical sign over his garage door that read: Jim’s Groj. The two of them worked a full week reconfiguring the car to get the fuel injection system working, but it did work, flawlessly. Of course, Larry saved all the original parts.

Fast Forward

Okay, so life has a way of intervening. By 1976 we had one baby and by 1979, we had another one. The Corvette became a garage fixture, a sort of objet d’art. As a result, of course, every house we had after that required a three car garage–two bays for the jalopies Larry ingeniously kept running (and running and running)…and one capacious bay for the custom-tarped Crown Jewel.

Larry became a pilot with US Airways, which in 1991 necessitated a cross-country move to Pennsylvania. And yet another three-car garage.

The last outing of the Corvette took place in Pittsburgh when our son, Craig, (the 1979 baby), begged his dad to get it running so he could take it to his Senior Prom. It was glorious! That was 1997.

Now it’s 2012 and we have moved again across the country. Larry’s retired and we live in the Pacific Northwest. Larry doesn’t want an airplane (thank God!), but he does miss the navigation, weather, and intrigue of going places.

I prefer a boat to an airplane. I’m not that Granny who could figure out how to land the airplane if the old boy slumped over the yoke mid-flight. But I could certainly float in a boat and wait for the Coast Guard.

But wait, there’s more!

Seems simple, then. Fix the Corvette. Market it. Sell it. Pass the Kleenex. Buy a boat.

Alas, four decades have passed since Dad and Larry put the fuel injector unit on the car. Dad is gone these 20 years. In one unexpected plot twist, the fuel injector unit has positively skyrocketed in value and is worth lots more OFF the car than ON it. So although Larry was hoping to avoid “restoring” the car, he will have to put the original carburetor system back on, then fix up and sell the injector unit separately. (It’s that important.)

If it took Dad and him a week to install the fuel injector 40 years ago, how long will it take Larry to reverse the process now? He’s older than Dad was when they did the job together. It’s a fearsome amount of work.

The very first thing that held Larry back was the idea of being on his back on a garage creeper under a low-clearance sports car. Extremely un-fun, possibly injurious.

I agreed.

So what’s the answer? If you know Larry, (and if you don’t know him, you soon will), you know that there will be no half-measures. He decided he needs a garage lift, just like the commercial one at the auto alignment shop he frequents.

When we designed and built our “retirement home” here in the Pacific Northwest, Larry made sure that its mandatory three-car garage would be ample. ‘Cause you just never know, right?

Somehow this garage morphed to 1000 square feet, (about the size of the house in Burbank where I grew up). Except this garage has a ceiling is 13-1/2 feet tall, (a feature which, I assure you, the Burbank house never had). Before ordering the lift, Larry measured exactly where things would go, dropped weighted strings from the ceiling, mocked up the configuration on the floor, and even borrowed a friend’s pickup truck to make sure it would fit.

Truck? Where did the truck come in? Well, what are we going to haul the boat with?

At last, after a couple of years of deliberation, thinking about, then dismissing, less expensive alternatives, Larry took the plunge. He ordered a Rotary Lift for the garage. It will be here about the third week of April.

We invite you to follow the shenanigans

This should get interesting right off the bat. Larry will have to poke two big holes in the concrete of the garage floor to put in concrete pilings capable of holding the lift. That will probably necessitate repairing some of the radiant floor heat tubes that run throughout the concrete out there. Oh Lordy…here we go!