Monthly Archives: May 2012

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.