Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Summer Adventure: The Idaho Building Project, Part II -- Two guys and a Bobcat

This blog entry is way overdue. Here it is December and I'm only now writing about this past summer's adventure. For shame. My delay can be blamed on the time it took me to recover from all that work. Yeah, that's it.

In the summer of 2012, Dad and I undertook an ambitious project to build a large shop in Idaho. At the time, we thought we could finish the job that summer. We were wrong. By the end of the summer of 2012, the two of us, with some help from family and friends, had managed to make good progress, but we were far from done. We hoped to finish the job in 2013.

Um. Well. Ah. We didn't quite get there. We made good progress though. And I'm pretty sure we'll finish 'er up next year. Yeah. That's it. Next year! I'm pretty sure....

This entry chronicles the progress, adventure and good time we had this past summer. There is nothing quite like two guys and a bobcat working, side by side, day after day, for a month in the baking hot sun -- especially when one of those guys is your dad. I absolutely treasured the time with him. Mom and Cathie were there too -- providing support, encouragement and wonderfully good food. It was truly a terrific summer.

Here is how the project looked when I left Idaho in August of 2012.

The partially completed building as of August 2012.
By then, we'd managed to build the foundation, the walls and a few roof trusses. We also had managed to install most of the wall sheathing.  The blog entry for our summer 2012 adventure can be found here.

Before winter set in, Dad added house wrap where he could and buttoned things up for the year. When I arrived in July 2013, I was glad to see the building still standing. It looked like this.

The building, when I arrived, in mid-July 2013

Upon inspecting the building, we discovered a large hornet's nest. I sprayed the nest with a couple cans of poison, it didn't have much effect, except to piss them off.  Then, Dad fashioned a flame thrower out of a propane tank and some kind of "flame-thrower" fitting he had recently bought -- from God know where! He toasted the poor little suckers. We felt a little bad, but sucked it up. We simply couldn't work with that giant nest in our work-space.

It turns out the nest was just the beginning of our bee problems. Over the course of the next week or so, we found a good dozen nests (little ones) lodged at various places throughout the bobcat -- under the seat, in the roll-cage, behind the ignition switch, in the bucket. If there was a nook or a cranny, or a corner, there was a nest. All day long for days, Dad would contend with yellow-jackets buzzing around him...following him to a fro. He only got stung once.

Later in the summer, the yellow-jackets got down-right prolific. Eating lunch or dinner outside became an exercise in food-protection. At one point while eating a chicken dinner, we amused ourselves by watching the yellow-jackets land on our plates, bite off a big chunk of chicken, then attempt to fly off to their nest. They were often so heavily laden, they could barely fly. It was an amusing form of dinner entertainment.

But that wasn't the end of our bee troubles. We also had a bald-faced hornets nest embedded somewhere in our out-house. I can tell you, it isn't pleasant seeing and hearing bald-faced hornets buzzing around when you're trying to use the privy. Worse, it's down-right annoying when they fly up through the hole, while your sitting on it. To fix the problem, I tipped up the outhouse chair and sprayed the hole and all around, but nothing helped. They persistent. Eventually, we just got used to them. We learned that they settled down late at night and early in the morning, so we planned accordingly.

In the end, I was only stung once all summer. It was a bald-faced hornet. I got hit three times. They stung me when I stepped on their nest, while raising corrugated steel roofing up to dad on the roof. Overall, the bees, wasps, and hornets were annoying, but relatively reasonable neighbors.

The hornet's nest found inside the building.

In the Spring, while I was back in Boston, Dad had managed to build a half dozen trusses on his own. When I arrived, they were neatly stacked against a brace he built. He had cleverly used the Bobcat to move these big 56-foot trusses around all by himself.

Dad's spring built trusses, waiting to be installed.
We installed Dad's previously built trusses, then got down to building more. I cut all the lumber last summer, so it was a matter of putting the pieces together. The trusses took time to build. On our best day, I think we managed to build 4 or 5 of them. The truss joints were joined with steal plates, nailed onto the wood. Each truss was comprised of 16 boards, 30 plates and around 200 nails.

Trusses were built one at a time, on top of our master template.
After a year off, it took me a while to find my swing. Once I got consistent with the hammer, I could hit my thumb in the same spot over and over again.

If you look closely, you can see a blood blister on a blood blister -- caused by hitting myself in the same spot again and again.  
Over the course of the winter, the Carpenter Ants found our lumber pile. They did some lovely, but serious, damage. We tried to save as much lumber as we could, but had to discard some of it.

Our lumber was infested with Carpenter Ants. There were thousands of eggs. 

The damage done by the Carpenter Ants was serious. They ate the soft part of the wood, leaving the hard part behind. The result was lovely -- a smooth, intricate, grain-aligned pattern of channels.
Once we had a few trusses built, we got busy putting them up. We used our bobcat, augmented with our homemade boom-winch to lift and move the trusses.

Step 1: Use the bobcat to position the truss in front of the building

Step 2: Raise the truss above the building walls. With Dad controlling the boom-winch, I used a rope to level the truss.

Step 3: Gently drive the bobcat, with the raised truss, into place.

Step 4. Wrestle one end of the truss into place -- aligning both the inter-truss spacing and the overhang.


Step 5. Tack the truss into place with a few nails and a pre-installed anchor bracket.

Step 6. Do the same on the other side. The trusses were heavy, weighing about 750 lbs. So, muscling them around wasn't easy. 

We had to work fast, since the bobcat's hydraulics had a small leak, which caused the boom to sag onto the building after a minute or two.  

Step 7. Space and secure the rafter at the joint.

Step 8. Space and secure the wall studs, then unchain the truss from the boom and back the bobcat out.
After we got about half the trusses up, we decided to take a break from truss-building and do some sheathing.

We used the bobcat to lift the sheathing up to the roof-line. Then I'd pull the sheets up one at a time.

Getting the first layer of sheathing down straight and square was critical and the hardest part.

Over the course of the winter, some of our trusses warped. We straightened out the trusses as we put the sheathing on.

We used a long rope, tied to a tree, to pull the first trusses into their proper position. From there, we nailed the sheathing on, to lock things in place. This step actually took a while. But in the end, we got everything pretty well squared up.

We kept at it, straightening the trusses as we went. Initially, we only tacked the sheathing into place. Then, once half the roof was done, we went back and completely nailed 'er down.
After two weeks of work, we had trusses up and sheathing on for half the roof. 

After two weeks, we had half the roof done -- not including the roofing! We had a long way to go and only two more weeks of work/vacation left. We'd been working hard, 8-14 hour days, but we also took some time to enjoy ourselves.

We took time to enjoy the scenery ...


Morning dew on a grape leaf in the garden.

... and Mother Nature's bounty.

Fresh produce from the garden.

The Raspberries were abundant and delicious ...

... and so were the Currants.


We took a day to go Huckleberry picking. There is nothing like fresh Huckleberries with cream and sugar. Yum!

Mom also made a couple of her famous pies. Delicious! 

And of course, we swam in the river... pretty much every day. Our routine was to take a break during the heat of the day (roughly 2-4 pm), walk to the river, swim, cool off, walk back and take a short siesta before heading back to work for the evening.

The swimming hole.

We kept working, and before long, we were almost done with the trusses.

Making progress on the trusses for the front half of the building.

Almost done with the trusses.

It seems that nothing is ever easy. And, unfortunately, our 2000 lb winch gave up the ghost just as we tried to lift our last truss into place. We tore it apart to figure out why it stopped lifting. We futzed with it and futzed with it and futzed with it. The bearings supporting the spool's drive axle had become damaged over time and were adding an extra drag on the motor.  I called the local Harbor Freight store in Spokane to find a replacement. Sheesh. We'd already spent a day messing with the thing, now it looked like we'd have to buy a replacement.

We tore apart the winch trying to figure out why it would no longer lift the trusses. 

But Dad didn't give up so easily. He took our batteries over to Aunt Eva's house, charged 'em to the max, and greased the hell out of the winch. Then we tried one more time.  Slowly, slowly, slowly it inched up. Final, it cleared the walls.

Putting the final nail in the last truss.

Finishing the trusses was a major milestone. I was happy.

Glad to be done with the trusses! Yeah!

Oh shoot! I forgot about the front fascia board. Not done yet. Sigh.

Installing the front fascia board. 

To hang the fascia board, we temporarily top-nailed it to a pair of 2x4 supports. We then slid the board out over the permanent supports, letting it drop down into place. While one of us held the temporary supports, the other nailed the fascia board into its permanent position. It was a little awkward, and scary up at the ridge, but it worked.
Dad holds the temporary fascia board supports, while I nail it into place.

It felt great to have the trusses completely done. Finally, we could see the shape of the full building.

A view of the shop with all the trusses installed.

Overall, it looked pretty good. 

After a brief celebration, it was back to work. There was sheathing to be laid.

Sheathing the front half of the building.

This project used a lot of nails -- about 20,000 by my estimate. Given a swing accuracy rate of 99.9%, I calculated that I should hit my thumb about 10 times over the course of the project. That ended up being about right.

Loading up with nails while sheathing.

As we approached the front end of the building we had to tweak our sheathing a bit. Our outside walls weren't 100% parallel; Nor were they absolutely identical in length. The root cause of the difficulty was traced back to the foundation. Oops.

We had some minor issues with the final pieces of sheathing. Nothing too serious though.
With a little bit of final futzing, we managed to get all the sheathing down. Overall, it looked pretty good.

Another milestone reached. Finish roof sheathing -- check!

We also took time to cross-brace everything and put up the final row of sheathing on the walls.

finish up the wall sheathing -- check!

Cathie helped with the house-wrap.

Cathie re-stapling the house-wrap onto the walls after nailing up the top row of sheathing.

Time was running out now. So we quickly got started on the roof. First came the tar paper.

Laying tar paper on the roof.

Murphy was our ever present companion. One night after papering half the roof, it rained and the wind blew. Murphy shredded our tar paper. So we did it again.

The rain caused the tar paper to shrink up and pull away from the nails. The wind did the rest.

We papered half the roof, then got busy installing corrugated steel.  Cathie and I pre-drilled the holes, then lifted the sheets up to Dad. While I held them in place, he screwed 'em down.

Lifting a sheet of roofing up to Dad.


Installing the steel roof.

We were really running out of time now. It was our last day on the job. We did our best and managed to get about 1/3rd  of the roof on. But Cathie and I had a flight to catch.  We had to go.

By the time we had to leave, we'd only managed to get steel on 1/3 of the roof.

Dad, being Dad, kept at it. And with a little help from Aunt Eva, he not only managed to finish the roof, he also installed additional house-wrap and sided the north and south walls. By November the building was ready for another winter.

The first snows of winter.

Nope. We didn't finish the building in 2013. But we made very good progress. Not bad for two guys and a bobcat. What's left? The end-walls, the cement floor, the bay doors, electrical, plumbing, interior work.... Will we finish in 2014?  Maybe. But if not, we're sure to make progress and enjoy ourselves along the way. Dad wants to move his shop over from Seattle next fall. We'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and looking forward to my 2014 Summer Adventure: Idaho Building Project, Part III.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Waimano Tunnels and Ridge Trail -- a perfect adventure for kids


Checking out the hike with an eye for fun:

I recently tried out the Waimano Tunnels hike to see if it would be appropriate for my 9 year old daughter. I'll be back on Oahu with her this summer and I want to take her on some hikes. Based on my experience, this should be an excellent adventure for her.

The hike traces the path of an old irrigation system that consists of ditches, flumes and tunnels. It's cool that the tunnels are old and have historical significance. There are 10 or so tunnels along the trail -- each one, its own mini adventure. Be sure to bring a flash light though, as some of the tunnels are rather long and windy. They're tough to navigate without a light. Not too small and not too big either. Perfect for kids.

The hike is just over about 5 miles long -- round trip (for the tunnel section of the trail). This 'tunnel' part of the trail corresponds to the beginning section of the longer Waimano Ridge Trail. If you don't turn around at the right spot, you'll happily continue past the last tunnel, up the ridge trail. In fact, we did this during our hike. In the end, we hiked a good hour beyond the last tunnel up onto the ridge, heading toward the Ko'olau ridge line. The hike and views were lovely, but more than we planned for. In the end, our 5 mile hike turned into a solid 8 miler -- taking about 4.5 hours, with time for tunnel scrambling and lunch.

If you stick to the beginning section of the trail and take time to explore the tunnels, you can probably finish the hike in about 3 hours. The trail itself is mostly flat with a slight uphill ascent -- just what you'd expect from a trail alongside an irrigation duct. Just right for kids. We did have to hike for a while before we finally came to our first tunnel.

Where to turn around:

So how do you know when to turn around? It's easy, if you know the trick. Just look for these landmarks and follow these directions.

At some point along the trail (about 2 miles in; after a good number of tunnels), the trail crosses Waimano stream. Immediately after that you'll see an odd kind of trail sign with two arrows -- one points to the left, one points to the right. You can't miss it. It's right in front of you. (Sorry no picture).

Follow the path to the left. This will immediately take you through two more tunnels. These are the best tunnels on the hike. Continue on the path through both tunnels. After that second tunnel, you'll pop back out of the ditch and up onto the trail. If you continue on the trail up and to your right, you'll continue up the ridge trail toward the Ko'olau ridge line. If you follow the trail to your left, you'll end up circling back around and over the tunnel you just came through to a picnic area. Continue on the trail from the picnic area. This takes you back to that 'dual-arrow' junction you encountered just after crossing the stream. From here, just follow the trail back to the trail head. That's pretty much all there is to it.  

Of course, the tunnels are main attraction for this hike, but it's also loaded with goodies that should appeal to kids. In one spot, the trail is a little sketchy with a slight drop off. It's equipped with a rope to help the hiker feel safe as they scramble across a somewhat narrow, rocky ledge. Compared to many hikes on Oahu, this is pretty tame. However, it adds to the adventure for kids.

Also, the natural beauty is terrific. There are thickets of Hau trees that make excellent jungle gyms; and plenty of tropical plants some of which yield tasty fruit. We enjoyed a Liliko'i (Passion fruit) we found along the way, and the Java Plum were also abundant -- if you can handle the pucker.

Overall, this is a terrific day hike, especially for kids.

 How to get there from Honolulu:

Getting there from Honolulu is super easy. Just take H1 West toward Pearl City. (Note: once on H1 you can either stay on it the entire way or take the H201 short-cut and rejoin H1 later). Then take Exit 10 off H1 to Pearl City. Follow the exit, keeping to the right, and merge onto Moanalua Road. Follow Moanalua Road about 0.7 miles and take a right onto Waimano Home Road. Follow Waimano Home Road, up the hill about 2.5 miles until it ends (at a gate/restricted area). Park on the left side of the street. The trail head is just along the fence on the left side of the road.

Getting Started:

At the trail head there are two paths, the 'upper' path and the 'lower' path. The upper path (rightmost) follows along the fence for a while then joins up with the tunnel system. The lower-path heads down to the stream, then works its way along the stream until it joins up with the upper path later. On my trip, I stayed on the upper path.

Some pics:

Here are some pictures of the hike. 

The trail head.

The Java Plum were bursting with fruit.

A thicket of Hau branches. They scream to be climbed on.

A blossom from a Hau tree.

The entrance to a tunnel.

Hanging out under a fan palm.

The nasty thorns on the frond of a fan palm.

The entrance to another tunnel. Kind of scary looking. 

Cathie inside a tunnel. Her shoes reflecting my camera flash.  Sometimes the tunnels were damp, but this one was dry.

Cathie emerging from a tunnel.

A nice orchid we saw along the way.


A nice Lantana.

Me emerging from one of the tunnels.

The seeds/nuts of a palm tree.

A closeup of the funky seed/nut holders on a palm tree.

Looking up the Waimano Valley toward the Ko'olau Ridge. 

A Liliko'i (passion fruit) we picked up along the trail. It was tart, but good.