November 30, 2009 posted by

Home Improvement

“This is like doing a big wall,” I said to Mike as the clock hit midnight and I just nailed my already bloody thumb with the hammer, again. We were tired, beat up, had an impending goal we couldn’t retreat from and the only way we were going to get there was to keep plugging away, move after move. “That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking for a couple of days,” added Mike.

Sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. A few week’s back I got the call the temporarily changed mine. I’ve been trying to transform our disaster-of-a-garage into a training facility but haven’t been able to find the right contractor for the job. One of the Castle-crew, Mike aka Kid Dynamite, was the guy I wanted but he lived in Oregon. Fortunately, for me, the housing market in Bend is one of the worst in the country and the company he worked for had recently folded. Now he was playing Mr. Mom while his wife brought home the bacon. I offered up some work but there were logistics to sort. In early November he showed up with a truck full of gear and two weeks cleared from the schedule.

When climbing a big wall you never know exactly what you’re getting into when you leave the ground. Mike had his bike and hoped to ride in our state championship cylcocross race. I was training and hoped to send my project on or before my birthday. We began at a civilized pace; me doing my job and helping when I could, Mike working steadily into each evening but leaving a little time for socializing. After a few days he even managed a ride. Then we took a hard look at the schedule and things changed.
5th class painting

“Is this all you got?” screamed Mike towards the torrent of snow that was broadsiding us. It was Mike’s last night and we were in the zone, having been at this from first light to midnight for over a week. But, before he left in the morning, the roof had to go on the carport and we weren’t dealing with light and fluffy Wasatch powder. What began as rain had turned to sleet and then snow. Our footing was icing up but, hell, we’re climbers. We plugged away, frozen fingers manipulating power machinery in the dark. We doubted the unions would approve.

It was my birthday and this was the year’s challenge; to finish the carport (part of the deal for renovating the garage was providing a covered place for Romney to park). My parents were in town and it was a celebration of work. They were cleaning up. Lisa and Scott (my brother-in-law who worked on most of the project) were measuring and cutting boards that I was nailing to the rafters and Mike was cutting supports and adding details to the “White Spider”, Mike’s name for the 40 degree ice field we were creating (comes from the world’s most famous ice field on the north face of the Eiger). With one panel to go we had to call it quits because, if it were placed, we’d have nothing left to hang on to. In the morning we’d rig the roof and finish in safety but, for now, we’d accomplished the goal of getting all the work done that required Mike’s array of tools. We showered until the house ran out of hot water and then had the first lazy and relaxed meal of his trip.

The aftermath sure feels as though I’ve ticked a wall. I’m tired and beat up but have certainly lost specific fitness. But wall climbing does build base fitness, along with heightening your ability to suffer and a sense of accomplishment. I’ve always professed that you should only climb walls with good friends because things will always get ugly at some point and you want to be with people who can laugh with you about the absurd situation you’ve created. This was exactly the case. I’m happy to get back to my life, as I’m sure Mike is, but the little serendipitous epic we created was blast and I look forward to our next adventure.


  • It looks like Josh and I are going to have to bust that window out next time we went to get out onto the balcony. No problem with that.Okay, now how about some pictures that actually show some training facilities. -R

  • That was exactly my thought Reed!I also think the van will look pretty nice under the carport – park that bloody yuppy vehicle on the street where it belongs.-Josh

  • Inside's not finished. Just got the wall up a few minutes ago. Pics forthcoming.

  • Looks great!! Good story, too!

  • Josh, You're right about the van. With the Prius parked there it just looks like another Yuppie's house. The van would let everyone know that they were clearly dealing with someone a lot more interesting.~R

  • If I knew the van was coming down from Montana I would have painted the garage blue and the carport red.

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