Who'll stop the rain?
April 14, 2006
The Great Fence Project of 2006 is done. Well, mostly.
When we left you last month, Glenn had just begun work on the panel fence that separates our yard from that of our neighbor to the northwest. It was a day-by-day slog along uneven terrain and through uncooperative weather that at times made us wonder if we shouldn't be building an ark instead. But after just a week into the job we were halfway done, and it appeared that another week of steady progress would get us to our goal of having a brand new redwood panel fence in place before we scurried away for a few days of fun in southern California. Of course, we all know the saying about best laid plans...
A rain storm that came to call the end of February decided to stick around a bit. Soon it became a series of two storms, then three, then four. Day after day we woke up to gray skies, and week after week the weather forecasters called for more of the same: rain, rain and still more rain. We received record rainfall for the month of March. Our rivers and reservoirs are swollen, our ground saturated, and still the rain comes. People are growing depressed, wondering if we've somehow been spirited away to Seattle and no one bothered to tell us. There are discussions in the grocery store about the Great Flood and myriad references to Noah. People watch the news nervously, wondering when a levee will fail or the San Joaquin River will overrun its banks and leave us inundated. Sports leagues that have been forced to delay opening days for two months are canceling entire seasons. Yet somehow, through all of this, we kept at our fence building with the steely tenacity of a Rottweiler chomping on a T-bone.
Undeterred by the gloomy weather, Glenn dedicated a few hours each day before leaving for work to digging post holes, pouring concrete and maneuvering panels into place with the help of Roni or our neighbor Gustavo. The fence progressed, usually at a rate of eight feet a day, sometimes more or less. It became a running joke that Glenn was causing the rain, for whenever he donned his work clothes and picked up his hammer or electric drill, the rain was soon to follow. The closer he got to the end of the line the slower the work went. Plans to devote all of Sunday, March 12, to the fence had to be shelved when a relentless rain began falling late in the morning. More delays occurred when holes for new posts had to be dug in the exact location of old posts, necessitating the removal of 200-pound concrete stumps. Thick roots from trees and well established shrubs resulted in lost time while they were painstakingly removed with a hacksaw.
Our old fence had been down for nearly two weeks and our backyard exposed to vagrant dogs and other would-be trespassers, when on March 17 it became apparent that the job would not be complete in time for our vacation the next day. Somehow Glenn had managed to install everything except the gate, and by nightfall that day he was ready to admit defeat. So doing the expedient thing, he took the old gate and screwed it over the hole. Job done, let's hit the road.
Saturday morning, not so bright or early, we piled into Glenn's car and departed our soggy environs for what we hoped would be better weather down south. Glenn had just started a week-plus vacation from the newspaper and Ben was in the middle of his spring break at school, so we had planned a visit to Hemet to see Glenn's grandparents and then a jog across the Mojave Desert to Sin City. Our fantasies of sun-drenched skies quickly faded, however, as we cruised along I-5 and watched the storm clouds rolling in from the coast. After hearing about CHP escorts through the snow-covered Grapevine, we decided to avoid a trip through Los Angeles in favor of less congested Highway 58 over Tehachapi, a route to Hemet we thought would be more direct. Boy were we wrong.
Although we never saw any falling snow, the clouds over the Tehachapis threatened it the entire drive. Night had descended long before we reached our destination, and we found ourselves traveling far into the darkened San Bernardino Mountains through driving rain and fog on a near-empty gas tank in search of I-15. We finally had to stop for gas at an overpriced Shell station in Colton, about 20 miles from our Days Inn in Moreno Valley.
The rain held off just long enough not to spoil our Sunday visit with Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson. We went for an early lunch at Mr. T's Restaurant, where we were treated like visiting royalty by the wait crew. Glenn's grandparents are regulars in the place, and you can see the respect that Grandpa Bernie commands as a favored patron. We enjoyed our meals and a chance to reminisce. Ben made short work of the ice cream sundae he ordered to wash it all down. Back at the house, we grabbed a handful of plastic grocery sacks and loaded them up with fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits that grow in abundance in our grandparents' yard. We hadn't planned on picking so much fruit. The trunk of the car received enough citruses to keep us supplied for several weeks. We enjoyed several pitchers of lemonade and fresh squeezed orange juice once we returned home.
After spending the night in Hemet and watching a torrential rainfall from our second floor hotel room, we headed to Las Vegas on Monday morning. There was no reason on earth we had to go there, except the sneak peek we got of the Strip during our New Mexico vacation last September left us wanting to see more. We arrived late afternoon with no hotel reservations, and our first attempt to book a room at Circus Circus failed. There were rooms available, but even the clerk at the reservation desk recommended against them, so we took her advice and pressed on. We ultimately found a Comfort Inn about a mile east of the Strip, directly across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and next door to what appeared to be a strip club. Classy digs.
Ben didn't warm to Vegas immediately, concerned about the abundance of advertising for gambling and adult entertainment that appeared on most street corners. Jerry Falwell couldn't have been as pious. But he was impressed by the dazzling light displays of the mega resorts that we took in on a night drive down Las Vegas Boulevard our first night in town. He enjoyed the lights so much that he made us promise to take him back the following evening so he could provide a running narrative on audio tape.
On Tuesday, March 21, we parked the car at the Barbary Coast Casino's garage and set out on foot to see as much as time and stamina would allow. Most of the day was spent just looking at the excess, although there was a fair amount of time devoted to shopping at the souvenir stands and standing at the buffet line. We went inside M&M's World and checked out its four levels of merchandise, pausing long enough to see a 3D movie in the museum's theater and to have our photos taken next to Elliott Sadler's #38 Ford NASCAR racer, which was on display on the top floor.
By the time we were done at M&M's World the storm clouds had caught up with us, and they didn't look friendly. We walked a bit more, taking in the MGM Grand and the 9/11 tribute outside New York, New York before being lured inside the Excalibur for a buffet lunch. When we emerged about an hour later, the skies had opened up and everyone was seeking shelter. Good thing we'd brought our umbrella... er, wait a minute, we left that back at the car. All we had was our jackets. So we ducked inside the New York, New York and found a conveniently placed clothing store where Roni and Ben bought hats. This activity consumed enough time that by the time we were done and returned to the street, the storm had passed. Sigh. But at least we had some wearable Vegas souvenirs.
The rain stopped after that, although everything was thoroughly drenched. But it's impossible to deter gamblers, or determined tourists such as ourselves. We continued our walk past the dancing fountains at the Bellagio which performed a stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" and some Celine Dion number, then admired the Romanesque architecture and statues at Caesar's Palace. We passed the Mirage en route to the Venitian, which Glenn wanted to see because of its legendary canals and gondolas. Finally, we arrived at Harrah's so we could check out Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill. Roni, being a big country music fan, was eager to have her photo taken outside the place and to pick up a souvenir T-shirt from Toby's gift shop. Toby, alas, was not on hand. By now it was getting dark and we were fairly bushed, having walked something like three or four miles in a huge loop that brought us back to where we had parked the car. In some strange twist of fate we managed not to spend a penny at the slot machines, although we'd plugged enough cash at the gift shops to more than make up for the savings. Roni is certain that our millions are still there somewhere in safe keeping for the next trip. But we'll probably wait until Ben's a bit older like 21 for another trip to the gambling Mecca of the Southwest.
Our little getaway finished, it was time to head back home and to our pending projects. The rain clouds hadn't gone anywhere during our absence. In fact, judging from the deep pools of water on the plastic sheeting covering our pallet of fence post concrete, there had been plenty of rainfall over those five days. In planning for construction of the new gate in our side yard we had run across a photo of someone else's gate that we fell in love with because it included an arbor. Glenn designed the new gate posts thicker and taller than the others so that we, too, could add an arbor. Following the photo as a guide, he spanned the posts with redwood 2x4's and topped it off with 2x2 rungs. With luck, in a few years our honeysuckle will find its way up there and take over. It took another day to frame the gate and attach it to its hinges. We cut a decorative arc in the top that seems to work well with the arbor (while also distracting from the fact that the arbor is a bit cockeyed. But you live and learn.)
We scarcely had time to appreciate our completed side yard fence and gate before the rain drove us indoors again for several more days. There was still the fifth and final bay of our back fence to replace, the supplies for which had been sitting on the deck of our gazebo exposed to the elements for more than a month. We'd extended an offer to our eastern neighbors to fix their portion of the fence when we replaced our part, and they eagerly agreed for the small cost of materials. We'd cashed the check long ago and were anxious to show that we hadn't just blown their money on a nice trip to Vegas.
After a couple more rainy weekends, we thought we would catch a break in the weather the weekend of April 8-9. Glenn has this fence-building thing down to a science after two months of practice, but it still takes a good 12 hours of work to complete a 24-foot bay, and this one contained a couple of twists that would be sure to slow his progress. The first twist was that the section to be replaced was attached to the side fence separating our two properties the one we still refer to with gritted teeth as the "Mary Fence." We had to be careful not to destroy the good fence in the process of taking down the bad one. The second twist was that we planned to install a gate on our side to make it easier on the occasions we wanted to take a quick walk to the grocery store. As it had been for as long as we've lived here, such a walk first meant about a half mile up the block, around the corner, then down the side street to bring us back to where we could have been if we'd only had a gate.
The third twist the one we hadn't planned on was that Mother Nature wasn't finished with her deluge. Glenn managed only to demolish the old bay and set the first two posts on Saturday before it got too dark to work. On Sunday, he was able to complete the planks on the neighbor's side before the rain started up and drove him indoors. But fortunately this storm was short-lived and there was enough "dry" time left in the day to finish the rest of the fence, construct the gate, and plug up all the holes before nightfall and the return of the rain. It was almost as if someone upstairs had timed the respite to allow us to finish the bulk of the project.
Installing the gate proved to be the most satisfying task. Once the rain lifted long enough to work, Glenn installed the hinges, latches and return spring, and after a bit of trial and error got it all working comfortably. Unless you knew what you were looking for, you would never recognize the entrance from the street. It is so well concealed, in fact, that Glenn himself had trouble finding his way back in while he was testing it out.
So our fence-building days are now largely behind us. There is some detail work left to be done on the side yard fence, including the installation of post caps and helping our neighbor Gustavo with the one remaining panel that will close off his side yard. Then we will slap a few gallons of Thompson's Water Seal on the redwood if the weather holds up long enough for the required drying time. And there is still the matter of what to do with all the old wood, which is piled to the sky beneath our evergreen ash tree. More to come on that, no doubt.
There is not a lot else to share this month. The rain has seen to that. Most of our outdoor endeavors have either been rained on or rained out, and as we head into Easter weekend it appears we're in for more of the same. But the weather gurus tell us that all this rotten weather should soon be at an end, and that familiar golden orb we long to see will return to the heavens any day now. We can hardly wait. Hopefully the weather where you are has been more favorable. Until next month...
Glenn, Roni and Ben