Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Zippity Doo-Dah

Among all the other wonderful things that Lauren got for her birthday, most of which still await thank-you notes, was a zip line.

This summer we went out east for to have Good Times and visit with Friends And Family, and eventually that part of the summer will get its own entry here (oh, yes it will). But our second stop on the trip was in Pittsburgh, there to catch up with our friends Lannie and Pat and their horde of children ("we have our own volleyball team," Lannie said). Since it was the middle of a weekday we didn't get to see everyone - not even Pat, who has gone on from being a mere graduate student like the rest of us to Great Heights Of Political Influence and had to be at work that day. But we had a grand time with Lannie and a chunk of the team.

Lannie and Pat are the sorts of people who would buy a large but somewhat needy house and then fix it up to look wonderful, and indeed they have done so. Still a work in progress, as are most houses, but really cool just the same. And as far as the girls were concerned, the most miraculous thing that they had installed was the zip line that ran from one side of the back yard to the other. It was a masterpiece of child-energy consumption, and they had a grand time.

So the idea developed that perhaps we could do that. And by "we," somehow this devolved down to "me." Now, I understand the reasoning behind this, me being home and all, but as noted before projects are just not my strong point. But I agreed to give it a try, and Kim ordered one from Amazon, which truly does sell everything these days - even books.

After staring at the packaging for a week or so, just to make sure it wasn't rabid or potentially explosive, it was time to put it up. So we went to our local Home Project Store - the kind of establishment that makes me itch just walking in the door - and purchased a 10' wooden beam and some post cement. We borrowed a post-hole digger from a neighbor, and I set to work. Eventually there was a hole 20" deep, into which I poured both beam and cement. A couple of days later - time for the line itself. Except that the piece for the other end was too short to go around the tree, so we had to wait for a longer piece to arrive. But then it was time for the line itself. I got it up with a minimum of bloodshed and obscenity, and decided to take a test run - according to the specs it could hold me, and I wanted to be the one on it if it should turn out like most of my efforts. And it did, alas. The concrete crumbled, the beam sagged and the line fell. So back to the drawing board.

I discovered that the manufacturer recommends a hollow steel post instead of a wooden beam, but trying to find one of those in our town was a lost cause. Who needs hollow steel posts? Apparently people who need them in 21' lengths and can afford to spend squadrillions of dollars. Not wanting to dig an 11' hole to put one of these things in, I instead girded my loins and went back to the Home Project Store to buy a 12' wooden beam (and dug the hole 3' deep this time), and some stronger cement. This seemed to work. After rather more bloodshed and obscenity than the first time, the line went up.

And so did the girls.

They have had a grand time zipping back and forth through the yard these days. They squeel, they laugh, and they come back tired but happy - and that is what it's all about. Eventually I ended up using the first wooden beam to make a brace for the second, which has made it rather sturdier and less worrisomely flexible that it was originally. I am the King of Suburbia. Or at least I snuck one by the goalie when he wasn't looking. I'll take it.

Happy Birthday, Lauren. It was a long time coming, but here you go.

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