Huntington "Lake" / by Brian Beck

You know that feeling you get sometimes when you need a vacation from your "vacation"?  Well, after the blitzkrieg of Paris, Hawaii, Man vs. Machine III and the party planning, I was wiped.  After I returned the party rentals at the end of September and took down the lights, the forward momentum stalled out and what took its place was a combination of homework, school drop-offs/pick-ups and housework.  It's not exciting stuff, certainly not compared to the whirlwind that was the summer.  Not exactly blog-worthy either, so I took a break and turned my attention to some of the domestic tasks that I had been neglecting.

Never one to be without a project, I noticed that the pergola that sits behind our guest room had rotted to the point that I could stick a screwdriver through the 2x6's that held it up, and in an ill-considered moment while cleaning up from the party, I decided to give it a shove to see if it was still structurally sound.  What followed was a sound not unlike breaking styrofoam and then the entire structure twisted its way to the ground in a heap of rotten, mouldering wood.  I wasn't totally surprised that it came down, but I confess that I wasn't really looking forward to tackling this particular project first.  Nevertheless, you do what's in front of you and so I took some measurements and then retrieved my circular saw from the garage and began cutting firewood.

I have a bad reputation at 570 E. Glenarm for underestimating the time these little home improvement projects will take.  It's a combination of hubris and a failure to account for the sinkhole of time involved in just running the inevitable errands that these little projects require.  You need wood screws?  One trip to the hardware store has a way of eating half your day.  You know what I'm talking about.  When combined with the relatively small window of time (it seems) that lives between the school drop-off and pick-up, days have a way of turning into weeks.  And so a project that I estimated would take a week turned into almost three, but I'm pleased to report that it's nearly done, and tomorrow I'll drive the last screws and sweep the sawdust out of my driveway.  I'll do some work on the kitchen next, but I'm vowing to try being more realistic this time.

During all the sawing and painting, Samantha turned 10.  She usually has a party, but this time when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday she didn't skip a beat.  "I want to go camping," she said.  Notwithstanding the fact that she SAID she was having a good time on our road trip this summer, I had to wonder whether she was really enjoying it or was simply "managing upwards."  Let's face it--4300 miles in a vintage car, sleeping on the ground and eating road food that can test even the most ferrous of intestinal constitutions is not everyone's cup of tea.  And yet, when offered an open ended wish list of gifts or activities, the fact that she chose more of the same brought a smile to my face.  I made a reservation at a campground in the high Sierras near Huntington Lake and asked one final question: "Should we take the Pontiac?"  She considered it for a moment and then raised her eyebrows, "Well, we could... but air conditioning would be pretty nice."  She's 10 and already has more common sense than her dad.

So last weekend, we hit the road again.  You've no doubt heard about the drought we've been having in California.  For those of you living elsewhere, I can assure you it's serious.  It's been several years now with precipitation far below the average.  Farmers in the Central Valley, where much of this country's fresh produce is grown, have been drilling deeper and deeper wells to access water.  This spring I drove by Folsom lake south of San Francisco and was amazed to see the level far below the usual water mark.  I knew it was bad, but upon arriving at Huntington Lake, a man-made reservoir covering 1,441 acres, I was shocked to see a barren moonscape containing nothing but hundred-year old tree stumps normally covered by fifty feet of water.  It was a sobering reminder that if it doesn't rain this winter, or more specifically, if it doesn't snow enough in the Sierras to provide snow melt to feed California's water needs next summer, 2016 is going to be pretty interesting.

Huntington "Lake".  Somewhere out there, I suspect still covered in the deepest part of what remains of this "lake", is said to be a B-24 that crashed shortly after World War II.  If there was ever a good time to recover it, I suspect it's now.  About a quarter of the way in from the righthand side, where the sand meets the treeline, you can see what used to be the marina, the boat slips now lying deflated.  iPhone 6.

Late afternoon sun streams through the pine trees at Rancheria Campground, on the shores of Huntington Lake, Sierra Nevada, California.  iPhone 6.

My pergola project is nearly complete.  Lifting a 20' 2x6 over my head was worth a month at the gym.  iPhone 6.