Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Working Vacation

I got off the all-night shift last Thursday morning and came home for a couple hours of sleep before heading out with Tammy, Rachel, and Josh to Babbitt to paint Tammy's parent's home. I hadn't ever looked at the exterior of their home with a critical eye to recall what sort of shape the trim was in but I recalled that the siding looked to be good. Should the trim need a lot of prep work I wasn't sure we'd have enough time to get the job done. I'd know soon enough.

We avoided buying too many of our supplies in the cities and opted for spending our money at the hardware store in Babbitt to help their local economy in our small way. It's the same when we refuel our cars on trips up north. The stations in Babbitt always get our business even if it costs us a bit more.

We got to Babbitt around 3:30 in the afternoon and wasted no time getting busy power-washing the house. The trim was much worse than I imagined it would be and would need to be scraped down to the wood. I'd like to have had more time and tools to replace a few areas where the trim was showing signs of rotting but with our limited time and resources, we'd have to make compromises. That's not the way I like to do things.

We worked in a steady rain the first afternoon but as messy as the work was the rain didn't seem to matter. We'd get most of the scraping done before calling it quits several hours later.

Sometime during the first night we were there, Charlie discovered he could jump up on the furniture without our help. This could get interesting back home as jumping up on the furniture is how Toby and Allie escape the pestering of the little guy.

We spent most of the first half of the next day applying primer and going over that with white paint saving the body of the house for last. I think our approach may have been a bit backward but it worked for us. The trim was tedious work and we wanted to make sure we didn't leave ourselves too little time to get it done.

We bought a couple PaintSticks for painting the siding. They're a huge time saver. Not as quick as spraying the paint on but much faster than an ordinary roller and paint pan. The paint is drawn (like a hypodermic needle) into the handle of the paint-stick then squeezed out through perforations in the roller pad onto the house. They work great. Josh was a huge help with that phase of the project. There's no way we'd have finished the job in the limited time we had without him.

This is as close as I'll ever get to being a supervisor of any sort. How do I look?

We suffered our only causality when Tammy fell off a ladder trying to transition from it to the front steps. She slipped and came down hard between the ladder and the cement steps but like a trooper, she shook it off and continued on. She's got some major bruising on an elbow and upper thigh a few days later as I write this.

Rachel was our detail person going over all the trim on the windows (when she wasn't painting our faces) and getting it just right. For much of the time there were six of us each working together to finish the job. The only thing we lacked was an additional ladder or two.

Day three saw us futzing with the finer details. I figured we'd have the job done by mid-morning but we didn't wrap things up until after 3:00, about 48 hours from when we first arrived. We were all happy to have the job done and with how it turned out, especially Tammy's mom, Elaine.

We left for home late Saturday afternoon in time to stop and see Tammy's father at his retirement home in Virginia. What was a mild case of Alzheimer's a little over a year ago has become full-blown. He appears to recognize me but I'm no longer Kevin, I'm John. Tammy was able to spend some time talking with the nurses who provide his care. She clipped his nails while he told us his stories. He leads the way in our conversations as you never know what direction they'll take.

I've got the rest of the week off before returning to work on Sunday. I have a bunch of projects centered around finishing the inside of our garage that I'm slowly chipping away at and aiming to have them all completed sometime this fall.

My bike sat idle much of the past week but I did manage a nice ride yesterday out in the hills of western Wisconsin along highway 35. I don't know that there's any better riding around here than what that area has to offer especially with respect to hills. There are miles of 10%+ grades for the taking off the main highway and I was in a taking mood yesterday.

I began the ride not feeling all that sure that I had much fight in me and for a time considered cutting the ride short to go work on stuff in my garage. As I made my way into Hastings I had a decision to make...head for home or head for the hills. The hills won out. The further I got into the ride the more psyched to continue I became. It was a vacation day for me with a temp in the mid 70s and light winds. How could I not stay out?

My cellphone camera couldn't do this shot justice. When I came around the bend and saw this climb I had to stop to get a photo of it. It was 7/10 of a mile long at a grade of 11%. This sort of stuff gets my heart racing. There was one stretch where I went at least 5 miles without seeing another car or motorcycle. Total solitude along the winding, rolling hills of western Wisconsin among the farmhouses and cattle that dotted the countryside.

Climbing out of Redwing on highway 61 there's a climb nearly 3 miles long at a grade of 3%. No matter how tired I may be I always look forward to this climb. I'd like to have something of that length just a bit steeper around here but I'll take what I can get.

I ended the day with 110 miles ridden, 5153 feet climbed and a feeling of having accomplished quite a bit in the last few days.

Time to publish this and get moving. I've got a vacation to work on.

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