Garage Cabinets 2

In the first installment, I made the simple statement “I bought some lumber.” That is true, but, of course, it’s never that simple. I ordered everything online from Home Depot but never saw any place to say that I want it delivered. I have no vehicle in which I can carry 4×8 sheets of OSB. In the end, I was asked for a shipping address, so I supplied it. It turns out that the two smallest items on my order (the only things I could fit in the Lotus) would be shipped to me, but not the rest.

I called the store to say that I need my order delivered. I got a bit of a run-around. Eventually, they said that when I got a text message saying my order was ready for pick-up, I should call and tell them I want it delivered instead. I got an email, not a text message. And it said my order was only partially ready. I called them anyway.

After some more run-around, the solution was that a clerk there in the store would delete my order and re-enter it, specifying that it’s for delivery. I’d have guessed it would be much easier for them to simply add a line-item for the delivery charge and be done with it, but what makes me think anything should be simple?

They told me to expect delivery on Friday (the 13th). I asked if they could give me an approximate time. “Give us a call on Friday morning and we’ll let you know.” So I called promptly at their opening time. I was told that it might arrive sometime around 12:30. At about nine I see a forklift dropping my lumber in my driveway. I ran out and talked to the guy, hoping there was a way to get it into the back yard. No deal on that. And when I told him the store said he’d be here at 12:30 he just laughed. “They have no idea when I’m going to deliver anything.” Why should I expect anything different?

I managed to get it all moved to the back yard by myself. It was a bit of a struggle with the big sheets of OSB, but I managed.

Here is my lumber, mostly out of the weather on the back deck, along with the carcass of the drawer section of the old workbench. I’ve covered the lumber with a tarp for when it snows, but the tarp is slightly too small and has a few holes in it. So it goes. I’m sure everything will survive.

The critical part of these new cabinets, I think, is the base. The weak base was certainly the Achilles heel of the old cabinets. The challenge here is dealing with the uneven floor. I figured out how to scribe the shape onto the lumber so I could make a reasonable stab at cutting them. I guess I finally get some real-world benefit from watching all those This Old House episodes!

The next issue I had to deal with was how to cut up my OSB. The biggest challenge is to rip two 4×8 sheets into four 2×8 sheets for the walls. Then, for the shelves, I’d need a bunch of sheets two feet by not quite four feet. I’m lucky to cut a 2×4 straight. I decided the way to go was to get the Kreg rip cut guide. Run it along the milled edge and even I can get a nice, straight cut.

I don’t have any sawhorses, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’m capable of doing an eight-foot long rip on them, so I figured the way to go was to get a big sheet of solid foam insulation and do all the cuts on my deck. I can kneel on it, I can walk on it, and it’s two inches thick so there’s no way I’ll accidentally cut all the way through it. This combination worked like a charm. You’ll spot that sheet of foam lurking in many of my pictures.

Rather than putting the cabinets together and then painting them, I figured it would be better to cut all the wood to the proper size and paint it before putting it together. This assumes some skills that I may not actually possess. The good thing is, I’m building garage cabinets instead of kitchen cabinets. Nobody wants me to build kitchen cabinets! If I’m a bit off on my cuts, my mistakes should be well hidden by all the junk I’ll be storing.

The color coat went on easier than the primer, for two reasons. First, I learned from my mistakes on the primer coat. The big pieces of OSB were no problem, but the sticks of 2×2 demanded a proper procedure. By the time I was done with priming those, I came up with what I think is the most efficient methodology. Second, the color coat dried a lot faster than the primer.

Here I am holding up the first assembled side wall. It’s pretty much square, plumb, and level. And I’m reasonably certain I have the hinges in the correct places. The challenge was in getting it secured. It’s not lined up with a stud, so I can’t just screw it to the wall. I need to mount the cleats for the top, bottom, and shelves first, then fasten the wall to the cleats. With Michael’s help, I managed to get the left side cabinet walls put up. And, because everything is easier the second time, I was able to get the right side done on my own when Michael was at work.

Here we are with some shelves in, to make sure everything is still square. In order to get the shelves in, I needed to take off one of the hinge mounts on each cabinet. And, yes, they have a different number of shelves on purpose. This mimics how I had the prior ones set up. Those shelves were adjustable, but I had them set up like this and never moved them in twelve years.

The clever observer will note that the doors are too wide. And they’re not gray, like everything else. It took me a while, but I figured out how to adjust the hinges to get the doors to hang straight. They’re too wide because the cabinets are about an inch narrower than the old ones, and the walls are thicker by an inch and a half. So the hinges are about four inches closer together than they were before. The plan is to rip the doors to size, then sand the faux wood grain laminate finish enough to take paint.

I still have quite a bit of work left to do. The drawers will fit between the left cabinet and the wall and I’ll put a small cabinet above them. And above the pegboard in the center will be a shallower cabinet, sixteen inches rather than twenty-four. Finally, I’ll build a workbench in the center. It’ll be a bit deeper than the one I’m replacing, and stout enough to handle a nice vice.

Before I began, I guessed that I would be able to complete this project in 32 hours, not counting the demolition. Up to the point in that last photograph, I’ve logged 25 hours and I’m maybe halfway done. It should be no surprise that I’m not much better at estimating carpentry projects than software projects.

Snowshoe to the Loch

Friday November 27

Today Ed led me on his off-trail route to the Loch. We met at the Bear Lake parking lot at eight and were on our way by a quarter after. I’ve been to the Loch many times, so I won’t waste a lot of words, but I will say that the weather was nearly perfect, with calm winds, a cloudless, brilliant blue sky, and a surprisingly balmy temperature near thirty. We were at the Loch by noon, and back to the car by two-thirty.

Ed digs a hole in the snow

A bit of explanation may be useful for this one. The snow here was about fifteen inches deep, near the base of a north-facing slope. It was about the average depth we encountered, being quite thin where the wind blew and piled up in other places. Ed is noting the bottom layer of the snow. That first snowfall got melted by the heat still in the earth, then re-frozen. Subsequent snow storms were obvious in the layers.

Critter tracks
A tree with a tree growing out of itself
The Loch
Part of the East Troublesome burn scar

I should have taken a picture of this in the morning, when it was more obvious that the hillside in the center of the photo had burned. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities for a better picture. I will note that there are signs forbidding people from walking in the moraine, but there are two people doing just that in the lower left of the photo.

Mr. Lucky

In my misspent youth, Mr. Lucky’s was a disco in Glendale, a small Denver suburb notorious for its bars and nightclubs. Disco probably isn’t the right term. It featured live music on two floors, often rock on one floor and country on the other. I recall one night there that I shouldn’t have driven home from. Luckily, I didn’t kill myself or anybody else. But this post isn’t about any of that.

Mr. Lucky was a television series developed by Blake Edwards and featuring the music of Henry Mancini. It aired for one season, 1959-60. Given that it overlapped with Peter Gunn, another Edwards/Mancini vehicle, it’s hard to resist comparing and contrasting the two.

Mr. Lucky, whose first name we never learn, was a gambler. We first meet him and his compadre Andamo (who also has but the one name) on an unnamed central American island where they flee authorities after a failed revolution. Returning to America, they set up shop as a casino on a yacht in international waters near an unnamed American city. After several episodes, they convert their operation to a high-end restaurant. (The series sponsor didn’t like the unsavory gaming aspect.) Lucky and Andamo characterize themselves as partners, but Lucky is clearly in charge: he makes the conversion without even telling Andamo about it until it is a fait accompli.

Lucky was played by John Vivyan, who was unknown to me. I felt his visage was familiar, though, in an odd sort of way. I kept thinking I’d seen him in cartoon form, perhaps, with his long face, strong jaw, and prominent dimple. Not quite Dudley Do-Right, but in the same mold.

His compadre (a term I repeat, because they used it for each other every episode) was played by Ross Martin, best known to me as Artemus Gordon, James West’s sidekick on The Wild Wild West. And by that, let me be clear that I refer to the quite enjoyable 1960’s television series rather than the abominable Will Smith movie. Andamo provides most of the comic relief. He has a slight, unspecified, south-of-the-border accent, wears frilly shirts, and chases (but seldom catches) women.

Typical banter between the two, in addition to calling each other “compadre”, includes quoting odds. “Three will get you five it’s a trap!” or “Ten to one he doesn’t have the money.” One of my favorites that shows up every few episodes is “That’s it, and that’s all!” Sometimes one of them says the whole thing, but often they split it, one saying “That’s it” and the other finishing. “That’s It And That’s All” is also the last tune on the soundtrack album.

Plotwise, Mr. Lucky mines very much the same vein as Peter Gunn. Gunn was a private detective for hire to anybody with the dough. Like Gunn, Lucky mostly takes place at night, but the noir elements are not as strong here. Lucky and Andamo don’t engage in their escapades as part of their careers. Trouble generally comes looking for them. Their yacht is used to smuggle aliens, or is hijacked, or they find a stowaway.

Peter Gunn had an ally on the police force. Lt. Jacoby was a pal, even if their dialog didn’t always sound like it. They sometimes took vacations together. On Mr. Lucky, the police were represented by Lt. Rovacs. He was played by Tom Brown, who, in spite of his long filmography, was unknown to me. It’s more of an adversarial relationship. Lucky is honest with him, but not always cooperative.

Lucky and Andamo are confirmed bachelors. Pippa Scott appears in about a quarter of the episodes as Maggie, Lucky’s girlfriend, if that’s not too strong a term for it. These are mostly early episodes, and unlike Pete Gunn, Lucky plays the field a bit. But sex and romance are not much present in the series.

In spite of Mancini’s contributions, music is not as important in Mr. Lucky as it was in Peter Gunn. The cold opens follow the same format: they all feature the same drumbeat with different instrumentation and tune for each show. When the yacht was a casino there was no live band, while one shows up occasionally in the restaurant. But I’m pretty sure the only tune this band plays is the main theme. The part of the main theme we hear over the opening credits doesn’t thrill me, but I find the longer version on the soundtrack more appealing. Oh, and Lucky’s pocket watch plays the first few notes of it when it is opened.

Given that both series were created and produced by Blake Edwards and made in the same studio, the similarities don’t end with plot and music. Many of the episodes were directed by Boris Sagal, Alan Crosland Jr, and Lamont Johnson, who did most of the work in Peter Gunn. Gene Coon, best remembered for his work on the original Star Trek series, wrote only one Gunn episode but was responsible for more than a quarter of Lucky.

And, as the two series used the same studio, it’s natural that we’d see some of the same sets. In The Brain Picker, they had a fist fight in what looks very much like Pete’s apartment.

Guest stars in Lucky were quite a bit more familiar to me. This surprised me, as they were produced at the same time, I’d have expected to see the same guests on both series. Later in the decade, both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were produced by the same studio (Desilu). It was quite common to see guest stars show up in both shows at pretty much the same time. Gavin McLeod shows up twice in Mr. Lucky. One episode had Jack Nicholson and Richard Chamberlain. It was the first time they worked together.

I can’t resist commenting on the cars. As one might expect, automobiles aren’t as common in this series, given that much of the action takes place on a yacht. But when Lucky and Andamo do go ashore, they go in style. Early episodes feature a gorgeous 1960 Imperial Crown 2 door convertible. The steering wheel is similar to that in Peter Gunn’s Fury (that is, not quite round). The Imperial is propelled by a 413 cid v-8 pumping out 350 horsepower and driven by a 3 speed automatic transmission. Only 618 were made. Today they’re going for well in excess of $100k.

1960 Imperial Crown convertible

Perhaps the restaurant wasn’t as lucrative as the casino. In later episodes, the Imperial is replaced by a Chrysler New Yorker. I suspect that this car was the same car we saw many of Peter Gunn’s villains driving. It, too, is a convertible. In these days before seatbelts, they tried all sorts of gimmicks. In the New Yorker, the seats swiveled a bit towards the door to make egress easier.

Mr. Lucky is somewhat less violent than Peter Gunn. Fistfights are still a staple, and it’s not uncommon for a bad guy to get gunned down, but the body count is considerably less here. In Gunn, it was fairly normal to see several people (men, always men) get gunned down in a gun battle. In Lucky, a good number of episodes were death-free, and it was unusual for more than one man to die. In 1960, television was quite violent but never gory.

Overall, I think I preferred Mr. Lucky over Peter Gunn. Perhaps that’s because, with a shorter run, there were fewer weak episodes.

Garage Cabinets 1

When we bought this house I made the decision almost immediately to do some upgrades in the garage. Like most Americans, I have a bunch of junk and I decided that one way to deal with that junk was to store it out of sight in some cabinets in the garage. I also thought it would be a nice upgrade to get some sort of epoxy paint on the garage floor as it would look somewhat nicer and be easier to keep clean.

It has been twelve years since all this work was done. Over the last few years it became clear that there was a problem with the cabinets, as the doors didn’t line up any longer and the door in the corner wouldn’t open. (I managed to take that door off before things got locked in forever.) More recently, it was obvious that the whole thing was coming separated from the wall. And in the last weeks, I was concerned that the center cabinet over the workbench was about to fall off completely. Something needed to be done.

But first, let’s take a look at how we got here.

This is what it looked like when we bought the place. My neighbors tell me that the previous owner did a lot of woodworking in the garage. He certainly didn’t put much effort into shelves or workbench. This stuff is all particle board. Not enough shelving and not very deep. Certainly insufficient to deal with the amount of junk I have.

Here’s the machine they used to prepare my garage floor for the epoxy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the cabinets, but what the heck. They ground a thin layer off the floor to make it smoother and provide a better surface for the paint. Note the cracks the previous owner filled up with … something. I’d forgotten these cracks are there.

This is the best picture I have of the finished product. It’s not quite done: there is no hardware in the doors and they haven’t installed the pegboard above the “workbench”. I’m putting that in quotes now, because it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s not so much a bench for doing work as a tabletop for stacking more junk on.

All this work set me back $2,500. That’s all the cabinets in this photo, the grinding and coating of the garage floor, a somewhat upgraded step into the house, and a set of shelves in the pantry. The previous owner’s pantry shelves were very similar to the shelves in the garage. What we ended up with was a big improvement. I may have a detailed invoice in the archives, but I’m not curious enough to go looking for it. I’ll just guess that the garage cabinets were $1800 and it was $700 for the floor, pantry shelves, and sales tax.

As I said, it has been twelve years. That’s almost to the day between the last picture above and when I started taking them down. So figure the cabinets cost me $150 a year or twelve and a half bucks a month.

I recall being somewhat concerned that I was spending a bunch of money on this project, and I knew it was being built out of particle board and fastened with staples. But I was assured they’d be robust. When it all started coming down, I was sure that it was because of the materials, even though none of the shelves showed any sagging. Not even the ones holding the heavy stuff.

This picture shows most of the issues. Note that the doors on the left cabinet neither line up nor stay closed. The cabinet above the “workbench” is looking quite precarious and if you look closely you will note that the left cabinet has developed a big gap from the wall. The clock is hanging on the pegboard and the face of the trim piece around the pegboard is not quite two inches from the wall, so there’s quite a gap there. The cleat that was holding the top of the center cabinet not only came apart from the cabinet, but about six inches of it broke off each end.

The plan is to have an improved workbench in the middle, under the pegboard. It won’t have any drawers and will be six inches deeper. I have a nice vice that I’ll mount on it. If I’m ambitious, it’ll have a steel top. On each side of that, I’ll have cabinets that are essentially the same size as the ones I took down. I’ll also replace the shallower center cabinet above the bench. I won’t do a cabinet in the corner. Maybe I’ll do a small top cabinet. I salvaged the carcass that held the drawers. That might fit in the corner. This means I’ll be losing 15-20% of my storage space. I’ll have to get rid of some junk. (The cabinets on the side walls will stay.)

I spent an hour and a half each day for three days emptying the cabinets and disassembling them. I now know why the cabinets failed. It wasn’t because they were made from particle board fastened by staples. All the wood stacks up nicely; only a couple of the shelves are slightly bowed. The problem was the foundation.

The garage floor is sort of pan shaped. A careful look at the above picture shows the issue. The foundation that the walls sit on is level. The garage floor is higher in the corner on the left and right than in the center. And it’s higher in the back of the garage than at the doors. This is well done. It’s a garage and there will be water that comes off the cars, and a well-laid floor will allow the water to flow out.

The kickboards on the cabinets aren’t structural. They’re just for show. What’s actually holding the cabinets up (other than the wholly inadequate cleats) are a couple of little 4″x4″ pieces of particle board stapled to the base of the cabinet sides. A couple of these are laying on the floor next to the “workbench” in the picture of the partly assembled cabinets.

I couldn’t know this was the problem until I had everything taken apart, and even if I had known, I don’t think I’m capable of rectifying the problem. I think things were too far gone.

Now that I’ve demolished the old cabinets and all my junk is stacked up on the floor of the garage, there’s no turning back. I made some plans. I bought some lumber and some new tools. I’m about to find out if I can build a better set of garage cabinets.

Peter Gunn

In the autumn of 1958, NBC began airing a half-hour television show about a private eye named Peter Gunn. The series was created by Blake Edwards and featured the music of Henry Mancini. My first experience with those two names was the Pink Panther series of movies. I’ve seen twenty of Edwards’ movies, and I think nineteen of them were comedies. I knew Peter Gunn wasn’t a comedy, but that’s all I knew about it (other than the theme music) when I started watching.

Peter Gunn is a noir. Noirs were shot in black and white, typically featured hard-boiled detectives, and tended to emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. This is a fair description of the series, particularly the first season. Peter Gunn lived in an unnamed and gloomy riverside city that remained unnamed and in a location never mentioned.

Gunn operated out of a jazz club on the river called Mother’s. The club featured live music, cool jazz. The bartender answered a payphone on the wall, and most of the calls were for Pete. The singer was Edie Hart, who was Gunn’s girlfriend. Dialog between Pete and Edie in the first season was racy for the period, with a fair amount of innuendo. By the third season, Edie opened her own place (called Edie’s, naturally) and Pete moved his operation there. Instead of the bartender a payphone, it was the house phone and the maitre d’.

Whether it was Mother’s or Edie’s, the band was pretty much the same. Pete and Edie had some steamy chemistry, but if I’d have been watching this as it was broadcast, I’d have wanted to tell Pete to keep his eye on Emmett, the piano player. He had chemistry with Edie, too. The guy who played the piano player soon married Lola Albright, who played Edie.

Pete’s best friend, if you could call him that, was Lt. Jacoby of the police. Few warm words were spoken by either of them. Jacoby was always complaining that Pete spent so much time in his office but it was obvious he didn’t mean it.

Peter Gunn, as I said, wasn’t a comedy. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a sense of humor. Jacoby was a regular source of subtle comedy. Not so subtle were many of Pete’s network of informers. Several of them could best be described as absurd: the speech coach with a heavy Spanish accent who kept trying to correct his parrot’s pronunciation; an artist who “paints” using sounds; the ballet teacher who doesn’t even watch his student but continuously barks out commands; and so on. Many of them wear pop bottle bottom glasses. I give those actors credit as with those specs on, they probably couldn’t see a thing. Most of these characters show up for a single episode. Billy Barty has a recurring role as Babby the pool shark. He stands on a wooden box which he drags around the table with a rope.

One of my favorite episodes was “Let’s Kill Timothy”. Timothy is a seal. Timothy was fed the gems from a robbery. One of the robbers brings the seal to Mother’s for Pete to take care of. Pete takes the seal everywhere, including Jacoby’s office. Mother sings songs to the staff after closing, and Pete’s informant this time is the artist who paints with sound: “My art is not for sale! Exhibition only!” Very humorous. Top rate Blake Edwards.

One show that didn’t work for me was “Pecos Pete”. Peter gets hired by a Texas rancher. We learn that Pete can saddle and ride a horse. But he looks ridiculous in his spotless western garb and cowboy hat.

Pete often pays his informants for information. The typical currency is a $10 bill. Sometimes the informant is reluctant to talk: “If the bad guy finds out, I’m dead!” “Does this change your mind?” Pete offers the sawbuck. “Okay, I’ll talk!” Ten dollars seems a small reward for risking one’s life. To put somewhat in perspective, ten dollars in 1960 would get you 40 gallons of gasoline or a dozen Reubens sandwiches. Today, it’s more like four or five gallons of gas and somewhere between half and one-and-a-half Reubens.

It’s a very violent show. In the first season, there weren’t too many fist fights. There were regular beatings, but they weren’t fights. I found this realistic. The guy being assaulted (often two on one) never gets a punch in, and is pretty quickly on the ground, motionless. By season two, they fell into the generic television fist fight trope. Our hero gets jumped, often out numbered and without a weapon but prevails in the end, sometimes resulting in every stick of furniture in the room getting destroyed. Mother’s gets remodeled after one of these, and Edie’s gets taken apart on opening night.

Fisticuffs aren’t the only violence. Murder is commonplace in our unnamed river city. Nearly every episode features one before the opening theme. The bad guys always get it in the end, and very few of them survive to see a courtroom. Pete guns down dozens of criminals over the course of the run, and Jacoby isn’t far behind. If an episode has fewer than three deaths, it’s a slow night.

Life is cheap. In “A Bullet In Escrow”, Pete takes a hoodlum to the Downtown Athletic Club, which has hotel rooms. The desk clerk, a chap who goes by the name Specs, asks Pete if he’s going to take the guy up to a room to kill him and makes a couple of offers. “We got a new deal here. Health Plan – room, breakfast and we knock him off. $68.75 and you still got a rub-down coming! … Why don’t you try our introductory offer? Sun lamps, swimming pool, and we lock him in the steam room until he disappears. Only $37.50!”

Life may have been cheap, but Pete wasn’t. He charges a high price for his services: commonly $1000 or $2000 for what ends up being the work of a day or two. One woman notes that he wears a $200 suit and carries a “solid gold” lighter. Median income in the US in 1960 was $5,600, so he was doing quite well.

Music is an essential part of the show. Most everybody is familiar with the main theme. And, as I said, both Mother’s and Edie’s feature cool jazz. We don’t necessarily hear the whole song when Edie is singing, but if a client approaches Pete when she’s singing, he makes them wait until she’s done. Many of the songs she sings were big hits of the day, or at least big enough that many of them were at least vaguely familiar to me.

Then there’s the incidental music. Every episode’s cold open starts with the same simple drum and bass line. After a few bars, it changes up and is unique to the show. Sometimes it’s very short and simple, sometimes it goes on for a while. A piano comes in, or xylophone. It’s specific to the action, coming to a crescendo with the action on screen. I really enjoyed the music

I also got a big kick out of the cars. In the first few episodes, Pete drove Desoto. That didn’t last long; he quickly replaced it with a convertible Plymouth Fury. I don’t think I’ve seen one of these in real life. It took me a while to notice that the steering wheel isn’t round. It’s sort of squared off. Very peculiar.

Most of the cars in the show were Chrysler products, 1960-1962 model years. There were a few nice New Yorkers, a couple of Imperials, and I’m pretty sure all the police cars were Plymouths. There was the occasional Cadillac, of course. The oddest car I saw was a 1950 Nash Airflyte, which looks like an inverted bathtub and features front fender skirts. Pete intentionally totals this car in a roll-over accident. He walks away, but the guy holding a gun on him is killed. The same car (undamaged) shows up in a later episode in a garage. None of these cars had seatbelts, they all ran on bias ply tires and had drum brakes. They were all deathtraps compared to today’s cars and I can’t imagine crashing one on purpose. Walking away from such a crash is, shall we say, not exactly realistic.

As with the other old shows I’ve watched recently, alcohol and cigarettes are a big thing here, too. In the early episodes, sometimes the smoke is so think in Mother’s it’s hard to see the other side of the room. Everybody smokes, and nobody asks permission from anybody else. Pete doesn’t drink as much as Simon Templar or John Drake. Everybody else drinks, though. Often they offer Pete a drink but he declines.

The show was only a half-hour. Accounting for opening and closing credits, we’re down to twenty three minutes or so. Take away a few more for Edie’s songs and the writers only have about twenty minutes to tell the story. That doesn’t leave much time for plot twists, and there are few. Somebody gets killed in the cold open, somebody hire’s Pete, Pete talks to Jacoby for some background, then finds one of his informants. He questions two or three possible suspects. He tricks the bad guy into coming clean and there’s often a shootout where the bad guy is killed.

There’s not much room for character development, either. We never really learn much about Gunn, other than he served in World War II. An old friend once says, “It’s been a long time since Saipan.” Edie’s only function is to wait for Pete. They exchange sweet nothings, Pete is called to the phone or meets a client in the club. Edie complains that he’s always working. And she sings. She doesn’t feature in the plot, except the three times she’s kidnapped in attempts to get at Pete. And I’m pretty sure we never learn Jacoby’s first name.

I got a kick out of it, though. I thought it was well done. Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini made a good combination. The quality was fairly consistent: there weren’t that many outstanding episodes, but there were very few duds. Many of these old television series had some truly cringeworthy moments dealing with race or gender. I’m sure viewers more sensitive than I am may be able to point them out for me, but none come immediately to mind.

Next up is Mr. Lucky. I don’t think I’ve heard of it and am pretty certain I’ve never seen an episode. It’s another Blake Edwards/Henry Mancini vehicle, so I already have certain expectations.

Mount Bierstadt

Last week I took a little spin through the high country with some like-minded folks in the Lotus and Miata car clubs. Near the end of that drive, we crossed Guanella Pass, stopping for a short break at the summit. Here, I couldn’t help but notice, was the trailhead for the hike to the summit of Mount Bierstadt, one of Colorado’s 58 (or 53, depending on how you count) fourteen thousand foot peaks.

Standing in the parking lot it struck me as a sort of no-brainer of a hike. I’ve said many times, and my history proves, that I prefer hiking to alpine lakes over hiking to the tops of mountains. When you’re standing on the top of a mountain, there is a lot of scenery around you, but it’s all miles away. At a lake, listening to the water lap the rocks at your feet, the beauty of the place is much more immediate: up close and personal.

To now, I’ve only done two 14ers: Longs and Quandary. There is a short list of others I’d like to “conquer”, if that’s not too dramatic a word. There are two main considerations. First, I’m not a big fan of exposure, so I’ll only consider routes that are Class 1 or Class 2. Second, for the most part, I’m limited to trailheads that I can reach in the Lotus. Both of these conditions are met here. So, what am I waiting for?

Now a side note: how are Colorado 14er’s counted? There are 58 peaks in the state that top out over 14,000′. But to be “ranked”, a peak must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects it to the nearest 14er peak. There are five such peaks. Mount Bierstadt is the 38th highest of the 53 ranked 14ers. If you ignored the “300 foot saddle” rule, it would be 40th of 58.

Wednesday, October 7

This trail is one of the busiest of the summer 14er routes, so I was a bit concerned with getting a parking spot. On our visit last week, both parking lots were full and most of us parked alongside the road. That was okay for a short break but wouldn’t work at all for a six or seven hour hike. I decided to leave the house at six, arriving at the trailhead by 7:30 or so. If the lower lot was full, the upper lot would most likely still have spots.

There were still several spots in the lower lot when I arrived. One of the advantages of being here on an October weekday.

I put boots on the trail at 7:32. The first order of business is to descend a couple of hundred feet and cross a broad valley (if that word can be properly used in this geography) to reach the point where the trail actually begins the climb to the summit. This broad “valley” features several hundred acres of my hiking nemesis: willow.

Hundreds of acres of willow, extending higher than the highest trees seen here

To be fair, my detestation of willow manifests when I’m off-trail. If there’s no game trail through it, it’s best to go around. If you decide to cross a patch of willow, there’s no telling how much effort will be required to get through it. Here, there’s a nice trail through the stuff. Construction of the trail includes hundreds of yards of boardwalk, and the trail looks to be regularly maintained by trimming the plants that border the trail.

In these days of pandemic, I couldn’t help but notice that this boardwalk is only three feet wide. In the photograph, we can see less than half the length of this section. The hikers in the distance are on it. If you come across oncoming traffic, there’s no way to get six feet from them without jumping off the boardwalk. In places, the walk is a couple of feet off the ground. It’s nice and dry this time of year, but stepping off the boardwalk when things are still green means stepping into a marsh.

And with the willow growing almost six feet high, it’s next to impossible to see other hikers until you’re nearly on top of them.

In the willow where no boardwalk is required, it’s somewhat easier to distance yourself from other hikers. There are lots of short paths that lead away from the trail. These, judging by the amount of toilet paper on the ground here, are latrines. Keeping in mind that this part of the hike is within a mile of the trailhead, I was surprised at the sheer number of people who, evidently, couldn’t make it back to the toilets at the trailhead. (I’m pretty sure it’s not people who just embarked on their hikes.)

After crossing the willow field, the trail starts to climb. After a while, it gets steeper. But that’s just the steep bit before it gets really steep. Then, near the top, the trail disappears about 250′ of elevation below the summit. The route description at 14ers.com calls this bit “the crux of the route” and the reason it’s rated Class 2.

The “crux” of the route. The Meyer-Womble Observatory on Mt. Evans is visible in the distance.

For much of the way, it’s clear from the trail condition that this route gets tons of traffic. Rather than a trail that’s a couple of feet wide, it’s often three or four times that. In quite a few places, it’s evident how much of the current trail is the “original” trail, with people widening it by walking on either side. Some of the steeper bits have had quite a bit of work done to remedy this. There are significant sections where the trail is a staircase of rocks.

Cairn and The Sawtooth

Even with it being an October weekday, and the parking lots not yet full, there was quite a bit of traffic on the trail. I started meeting descending hikers before I had gone halfway. There weren’t that many, and I didn’t keep track. I did keep track, however, of the hikers going my way. A group of three (with a “small” Saint Bernard) passed me in the willows and a solo hiker zipped by me nearer the top. I passed eleven hikers before the “crux”, then four more before I gained the summit. It wasn’t that I was walking any faster than any of them, just that they kept stopping. I paused to take pictures or to drink water, but only stopped for a break once.

At the trailhead, I had estimated that it would take me three hours to reach the summit. I figured I could do the first mile in half an hour, then expected I’d be no faster than a mile an hour after that. Normally, my pace slows considerably when I’m above 11,000′. This whole hike is above that, starting at nearly 11,700′. I made it a point to set a slow pace that I could hopefully maintain. It looks like I succeeded. I beat my target time, making it in two hours and forty minutes.

The weather was fantastic. There wasn’t a cloud in the skies all day, and the wind was calm, even at the summit. I didn’t notice any wind at all until I was about half way back to the trailhead at about 12:30. And that breeze didn’t last. It was cool in the morning – I wore a thermal undershirt, an Aloha shirt, and a hoodie. I didn’t take the hoodie off until halfway down the trail, and ditched the thermal layer when I got back to the car.

I spent about 45 minutes at the summit, eating my picnic lunch and enjoying a beer. There were never fewer than a dozen people up there. I didn’t see a register or a USGS marker. I asked a few people, none of them saw them either.

Frozen Lake, below. Pikes Peak is hidden in the haze.

I met two young nurses. They sat near me. I noticed that as soon as they sat down, they checked their blood oxygen level with a fingertip pulse oximeter. I asked if I could check mine. It read 93%. They were joking that, at the trailhead, one of them measured only 62%. Evidently, these devices don’t work very well in the cold.

Another young woman was asking if anybody was going to do Mt. Evans from here. She was hiking solo and without a map. In researching this hike, I didn’t look into the combination route that would get you to both summits. But judging by the terrain, there isn’t any route I’d be willing to take. She wisely gave up on her goal. She had recently moved to Colorado and was now living near Aspen. She’d started climbing 14ers this summer, and Bierstadt was her ninth. She really wanted to get a tenth before the snows. I suggested she try Quandary. She thought that was a good idea.

Smoke layer to the north

Although the weather was great, the visibility wasn’t. Normally from up at these elevations, you can see great distances. When I was on Quandary, a high school student was pointing out and naming a bunch of 14ers. We could see Pikes Peak, Mt. Evans, Longs Peak, the Maroon Bells, and many others. Today, here on Bierstadt, the only one of these I could see was Mt. Evans, which is, of course, only about a mile away. The haze was fairly uniform, except to the north, where it was thicker, presumably from the Cameron Peak fire.

As is the usual case for me, my hike back to the car wasn’t any faster than my hike up. I stopped several times to take pictures, or to give encouraging words to those on their way to the top. In greeting, people typically ask some variation of “How are you doing?” On a day like today, the answer is “Fantastic!”

Moon setting over Grays and Torreys peaks

This was only my third 14er. Maybe next year I’ll try to get a two-fer: Grays and Torreys.

Leaf Peeper Tour

Wednesday, September 30

Lotus Colorado and the Peak to Peak Miata club got together today to take a drive in the mountains to get a good look at the aspens. At least that was the excuse. It was a nearly perfect day for a drive in the mountains. Being a Wednesday, I wasn’t expecting very many cars to show up, but we started off with 22.

Traffic generally wasn’t bad, but all the overviews and pulloffs and roadside parking spaces were pretty full. I guess lots of people had the same idea as us.

Today’s route was notable for me because it’s my first time over Guanella Pass. It doesn’t cross the Divide, but it’s a high one: 11,669′. It’s narrow, has neither center stripe nor edge lines. It’s a nice road with a smooth surface.

At the first stop
Plaque in Dave’s new Evora 400. One too many letters!
The rare Aubergine
At Guanella Pass. Mount Spalding, the Sawtooth, and Mount Bierstadt

We ended our group tour in Georgetown and were on our own for the return home. I-70 was stop and go starting in Idaho Springs. I followed Greg off I-70, through Central City, and up the Peak to Peak highway. I think the best aspens were around Central City. I parted ways with Greg at Coal Creek Canyon. I had almost no traffic, which surprised me.

I was also surprised when I exited the canyon onto Rocky Flats. The smoke over Boulder looked like a big haboob. I thought it must be from Cameron Peak, but evidently it’s from a different fire, up in Wyoming. I found the stark demarcation between smoke and clear (or relatively clear, anyway) interesting. I wouldn’t expect a smoke cloud that’s gone a hundred miles to have such a distinct edge.

Pine Marten 2

Friday, September 25

We awoke to another beautiful day in the neighborhood. That is, I should say “I awoke” because Gordon had a sleepless night.

Last night when I hit the sack, I plugged my phone into my battery. For some reason, the phone insists on being powered on when it’s charging. It read 46%. A few minutes later, it read 47%. Good, it’s charging. When I woke up, the phone was at 0%. The cable had come undone and the phone just ran down.

This is a bit of a problem. The phone is my only camera. The SLR, which failed on the Renegade trip, was still not back from Canon. I plugged the phone back into the battery and set it on a stable base. It got up to 38% by the time we hit the trail a bit before nine.

This might be the time for peak aspen in the Park, I don’t know. There aren’t many aspens in the valley. It’s all pine, so you might not expect much color. You’d be wrong. In this pine forest, the autumn colors are on the ground. The leaves go from green to green and yellow to yellow to gold then a bright red and finally to a dull brown. Sometimes large areas are all one color, sometimes all the colors show up within a few feet.

In a pine forest, autumn colors are on the ground, not in the trees

I’d said that we’d be to Nokoni in an hour (which is what it took yesterday) and to Nanita an hour after that. As expected, it did take an hour to reach Nokoni, but we made it from Nokoni to Nanita in forty minutes. None of that territory was new to me. I had also said it would take another hour to get to Catherine. That turned out to be quite optimistic.

We made our way across Nanita’s outlet and quickly found a game trail. I thought of yesterday’s ranger calling them “moose trails”. I’m not sure why I found it amusing, but I did. You know you’re on a good game trail when you keep finding poo. Elk pellets and moose patties.

It didn’t take us too long to get out in the open. There are three great cirques between Ptarmigan Mountain and Andrews Peak. To our right we had a nice view of the one closest to Andrews. The ramp we were climbing got pretty steep. I took my time, often checking out the view behind me.

Lake Nanita and Ptarmigan Mountain

The top of the saddle is 600′ above Nanita. Catherine is 800′ below us, but out of sight around the corner. Directly in front of us, about a mile away, is a pass, another saddle. There’s a small pond there, a couple of hundred feet below the top. A century ago, there were plans to make a trail connecting Spirit Lake and ‘Lake Catherine’. Presumably, that is where the trail would have gone.

There at the top Gordon and I parted ways. He wanted to take a more direct, slightly steeper route to Catherine. I opted for the longer, shallower arc, out of the trees. It was nice, easy walking for the most part, generally following game trails. Only as I approached the lake did I need to get back to the edge of the trees to avoid giant boulders.

‘Lake Catherine’ from the southwest

I got to Catherine at 12:30, so three and three-quarters hours. I found Gordon, who said he hadn’t been waiting long. But he is a patient man, so he may have been enjoying the wait. We scouted the northwestern shore for a place to snack and relax in the sun but out of the wind.

We spotted a promising place nearly opposite us, but on closer inspection, the trees there were swaying pretty good in the wind. We continued along the shore. The spot we eventually picked was pleasant enough, a few chill gusts excepted.

‘Lake Catherine’ as seen from the outlet

Gordon couldn’t resist pointing out that he put all this effort into getting to one of the least visited lakes in the Park, only to find me there, too.

After our relaxing picnic, we started our bushwhack. I have a good idea that Foster would call it an “arduous bushwhack”.

One of the great things about hiking at this time of year, other than the fantastic colors on the ground, is that everything is much dryer. All the streams are running quite low and are much easier to cross. The grassy marshes are more grass than marsh now. This would be much more difficult earlier in the season when it’s all wet.

According to the map, it didn’t matter which side of the outlet we descended until we came to a pond two hundred feet below the lake. At this pond, we’d need to go down the right side to avoid some steep terrain. We had good game trails and there wasn’t too much deadfall.

Unnamed pond below ‘Lake Catherine’, looking back the way we came

Below this pond, things got interesting. It was easy going when we had game trails to follow, but we started coming across denser deadfall. We didn’t worry too much about staying close to the stream, all we had to do was go downhill. Maybe half an hour after leaving the pond we came across a stream. I thought, “Ah, a tributary!” But checking the map, we’d arrived at the North Inlet. Although the stream we’d been following from Catherine carries about the same volume of water as the stream that flows from Lake Powell, it’s farther to Lake Powell, so that stream is the North Inlet while the one we’d been paralleling has no name.

We didn’t need to cross the North Inlet so we didn’t. Yet. We followed it for just a few yards before returning to our unnamed stream. This we crossed. After a while, we decided that the “grass was greener” on the other side of the North Inlet, so we crossed it. This we did a few times before we were done.

Once, on the north side of the stream, our game trail petered out in a mass of deadfall. We were working our way slowly through here when we heard an elk bugle. I asked Gordon how far away he thought that was. A few minutes later through the trees he spotted a bull and some cows about a hundred yards ahead of us, crossing our path, headed uphill. The bull stopped and bugled. Given how far the sound travels, I expected it to be much louder. Another bull some ways behind us bugled a response. How close was he?

We worked our way through the deadfall and had easy going for only a short distance. We entered another pile of deadfall. This one, though, was different. Instead of the trees lying in random directions, here they were all facing one way. And the dead trunks weren’t still connected to their roots. The roots were still in the ground, with stumps two or three or four feet tall, splintered. This is an avalanche debris field.

Crossing the North Inlet for the last time, we began searching for Lake Solitude (not to be confused with Solitude Lake, in Glacier Gorge). This is a small forest lake with no inlet or outlet. In the proximity of Solitude, the stream meanders through a large open meadow. We wandered around a bit, backtracked a little, made at least a token search for it, but didn’t stumble upon it.

The rest of the way back to camp, there weren’t any serious obstacles. There weren’t that many game trails, either, but so it goes. Before we knew it, we spotted Gordon’s hammock. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

We left Catherine a few minutes after one and arrived in camp at 4:30, so we managed about a mile an hour. I’ve done worse. My trip to Julian Lake a couple of months ago had some brutal stretches. And up Spruce Canyon with Gordon last year we could only manage half a mile an hour.

To celebrate the completion of our little odyssey we drank the rest of the beer Gordon carted up and had dinner. The skies weren’t quite clear, just some thin, high clouds; a lacy veil that slightly diffused the light of the gibbous moon.

Before dusk, another helicopter flew over. It followed the trail up the mountain towards the Divide. A few minutes later we heard another chopper, but couldn’t spot it. Maybe it was the same one, on its return trip. This was not the cargo helicopter, I think it was the same kind as the one I saw on my Hunters Creek hike – a rescue chopper.

Not long after, Gordon spotted a blinking light on the mountainside across from us. It was random, intermittent. It didn’t take us long to see that it was not one but several lights. We discussed it: we agreed it probably wasn’t aliens, and elk don’t generally carry lights. It had to be people, right? What were they doing up there, wandering around like that? Was it a search party?

Well, I didn’t print a map of that part of the trail. We weren’t going that way, and I didn’t pay particular attention to the layout of the trail. I knew there were a couple of large switchback sections, but thought they were farther up the valley, out of our sight. I was wrong. The first switchbacks, climbing six hundred feet, were directly in front of us. We’d been watching a group of six or eight hikers work their way down the mountain on the trail.

Tonight, Gordon gave up before I did. I wasn’t as cold as I was last night, so wasn’t in as big of a hurry to climb into the warm sleeping bag.

We didn’t see another person all day.

Saturday, September 26

I took my obligatory excursion at one. The thin veil of clouds was gone, the air was calm.

We were packed up and on the trail a bit before nine. It took us four hours to hike in, we should be able to beat that by a bit on the way out. On most backpacking trips, the pack weighs heavily on my back on the hike out, but today I felt pretty good.

We ran into another ranger. This one was hiking in. When we came upon him, he was talking to a woman backpacker on her way out. We chatted a bit. I asked if there was some search operation last night. There wasn’t, so we were seeing hikers. The woman somehow knew that a group had gotten a late start. They didn’t make it to camp (or out? I’m not sure) until 11:00 pm.

We told him we’d been to Catherine. He said, “People used to walk all through these forests twelve or fifteen years ago. Not as much now; there’s too much deadfall from the pine beetle.” He told us he was working “pre-rescue”. He was on the lookout for people “wearing flip-flops and not carrying any water.”

As we got closer to the trailhead, we encountered more and more hikers. At first, I was counting them. Once they started coming in groups of four or six or more, I switched to counting dozens. In the end, I figured it was 8 or 9 dozen. I couldn’t help but wonder where they all parked. I don’t think there’s room for much more than a dozen cars in the lot. (Most of them were parked on the paved road a quarter-mile below the trailhead.)

I did get a bit of a kick from some of the questions people asked me. “Did you make it all the way? All the way to the falls?” The falls are the first point of interest on the trail. Yes, I made it “all the way”. Another one saw my big backpack and asked, “Are you backpacking?”

Back at the trailhead, I was happy to be done.

But, boy, what a satisfying trip! The weather was great, the scenery awesome. I felt great the whole time. We saw an elk bugle, marveled at mysterious lights, and went to one of the least visited lakes in the Park.

Pine Marten 1

My third and final backcountry permit is for the 24th and 25th at Pine Marten, the campsite at the base of the spur trail to Lake Nokoni and Lake Nanita. I’ve been to both of them on day trips. Once to Nanita and once failing to reach Pettingell Lake. This time, the idea is to get to ‘Lake Catherine’, the officially unnamed lake highest in the valley between Andrews Peak and Mount Alice.

The Foster Guide says it’s 12.8 miles from the trailhead with an elevation gain of 1,800′. This is not a fair description. Her route is from Lake Nanita, which has the hiker crossing a ridge at just over 11,000′ and another that reaches nearly 11,400′ to get to a lake at only 10,600′. There is another way to get there without gaining and losing so much elevation: follow the stream.

The Pine Marten campsite is at something like 7.8 miles in, and sits at 9,500′. The route via Nanita, then, is five miles and climbs a total of 2100 feet. The bushwhack is maybe 3.5 miles and gains about 1000 feet. The Nanita route is quite scenic and navigation is trivial. The bushwhack route is through dense forest with few views and constantly challenging route-finding.

After pondering for some time, I decided a loop might be the best way: take the Nanita route to get there and bushwhack on the return trip. As a bonus, it should be easy to pick up Lake Solitude.

Thursday, September 24

Gordon drove; we had our choice of spaces in the small parking lot at the trailhead and were hiking before nine. It was a beautiful morning, with some high, thin, wispy clouds. There was a fair amount of haze when you faced the sun, but a nice, deep blue with the sun to your back. No breeze to speak of.

Just a few minutes after passing the cabin at the Park boundary we heard our first elk bugle.

Not long after that a helicopter flew over. It was a cargo chopper, with counter-rotating blades. It wasn’t carrying anything. A few minutes later, it came back down the valley. This was the first of what ultimately was five round trips. After the empty run, it had what looked like a telephone pole dangling vertically; something as big as the telephone pole, but carried horizontally; a pallet stacked with large crates; and finally two nets full of smaller items.

This last drop we had a sort of front-row seat. Just before reaching the stringer bridge that crosses the North Inlet, we were stopped by a ranger wearing a fluorescent vest: “You have to wait here a minute.” They’re staging the materials to rebuild the bridge. The work won’t get started until next summer, but they said they were lucky to get helicopter time, given the demands of the Cameron Peak fire.

We chatted with them a bit. One gal had worked on the crew doing the big boardwalk project on the Onahu Creek trail. She said they still had three weeks to go. Another ranger said he’d been to Catherine. I asked if he went from Nanita or up the creek. “Up the creek. Not much deadfall.” Gordon heard “Lots of deadfall.” In any event, it confirmed the “Nanita there, bushwhack back” loop was doable.

Cargo drop

We learned that the first, empty, trip of the helicopter was to hit the landing zone with its prop wash, knock anything loose out of the trees. The landing zone wasn’t a natural occurrence: it looks like they cut down a number of trees.

The bridge is looking pretty sad. There are a couple of patches on it, but it looks like a careless horse could break a leg. The materials they dropped looked to be an upgrade from the existing structure. I believe the current bridge is the second one, built in the 1970s.

Our campsite was just a few more yards up the trail. There are two sites here, we took Pine Marten #2, the higher of the two. Google maps has the location of the campsite wrong. I like the actual location over Google’s misinformation. It’s right on the North Inlet. Very easy access to water, and I find the sound of the rushing water quite pleasant.

We made excellent time, averaging a bit less than two miles per hour. It is a fairly mellow trail; when I day hiked it, I managed two and a half miles an hour. This is the longest stretch of trail in the Park that I can maintain that pace. Having arrived so early, we headed up to Nokoni. Then, depending on how I felt, we could possibly visit Pettingell.

They need to send a crew up this trail with a saw and clear the deadfall that blocks the trail in several places. The first, and biggest, was just below the campsite – we had to navigate that with the big packs.

It took us an hour to get to Nokoni. I decided I’d rather lounge about the lake than hike another two hours and climb a steep 500′ slope. Gordon thought the extra hiking was just the thing and headed off up the slope. I found a spot on the opposite shore and followed his progress. He made much better time than I could. Before he left, he told me he’d signal me from the top to tell me whether he’d continue on down to the lake or abandon the quest. I watched him climb most of the way but lost him just before he got to the top, so I don’t know what he signaled.

Lake Nokoni

Ultimately, he was gone for an hour and a half. He put eyes on the lake but didn’t quite get there. I think I made a sound choice. It would have been more like two hours for me. I might think differently had Gordon made it, but I was comfortable with the day’s effort.

On the way back to camp we ran into a solo hiker. He was wondering if he could make it to Nanita. He was staying well below us, back by Ptarmigan Creek, at either Ptarmigan or Porcupine. Given how far he had to go back, I suggested that going to Nanita might put him in the dark before he got back to his camp. He told us he’d bought a permit for Lost Lake, but due to the Cameron Peak fire, they moved him to Porcupine.

Back to camp at 5:15, we chowed down and chatted and had a beer. It had been a nice, warm day all day, calm, very pleasant. The wispy clouds were gone by mid-afternoon. When the sun went down, it started to cool down fast. Before long, I was wearing nearly everything I brought: long underwear, t-shirt, sweats, hoodie, and the rain jacket on top of all that. A few minutes after eight, I called it quits and climbed into the tent and sleeping bag. It took me a while to get warm.

By the time of my inevitable nocturnal excursion, the quarter moon had set and the stars were shining brightly. I didn’t see the Milky Way but I could see the light pollution from Denver.

Thursday Night Lapping

Thursday, September 17

Due to 2020 being generally shitty, this looks to be my only track day of the year. It could be argued that, if I had any sense, I wouldn’t even do this one day. A paranoid person might think that it is tempting fate: why give 2020 additional opportunities for mayhem?

The original plan was that I’d have a guest. For a while it looked like one of my track buddies would attend as well. None of that came to pass: my guest messed up his back last weekend and my track buddy decided to be a responsible parent and attend a parent-teacher conference. So it goes.

I arrived early because I wanted to be relaxed in my preparations. It seems whenever I have any time pressure, I mess something up. Never anything serious, but I prefer to have things go smoothly. So I had a bit of time to kill. If the food truck had been open, I’d have spent some of the time eating. I brought a snack with me, but not a meal.

We are typically split into fast and slow groups. I picked the slow group. When I signed in, I asked if we had enough cars to do this. It seems we did. However, during the drivers’ meeting, we were told that the number of entrants was marginal. We’d do fast/slow groups the first hour and after that, we could run as we pleased. Judging by wristbands at the meeting, I guessed there were more slow cars than fast ones.

I was the only Lotus.

The track’s website listed rules for COVID: only people in your own household could be passengers; social distancing should be maintained; masks are required when not wearing a helmet. It didn’t appear that these rules were being enforced. Few of my paddock neighbors wore masks, and some even attempted to shake my hand when introducing themselves.

The weather was ideal, unless you count the smoke from the forest fires, be they here in Colorado or on the west coast. There was no obvious smoke smell, but the haze was significant. The temperature was pleasant and there was no breeze to speak of.

The slow group was up first; we’d have a half hour, but by the time the meeting was over and I made it out on track it was more like 25 minutes.

This is the first time on track since the engine replacement, lighter flywheel, rear brake pads, and new diffuser. I didn’t notice any particular difference, but it has been nearly a year so it’s not a good side-by-side comparison.

I had some considerable traction issues that I’m blaming on tire pressures. (That said, I didn’t change pressure in any sort of attempt to correct the problem.) The real issue of the evening was my brakes. Midway through that first session, my brake pedal started getting long. Brake fluid level was okay. The problem is most likely old fluid. The brakes cooled down between sessions, so things were okay at the start of each session and I’d have increasing fade lap after lap. None of my sessions was very long, so this was an annoyance and something to be closely monitored rather than a significant problem. I can only think it would have been much worse on a regular summer track day when the ambient temperature is twenty or thirty degrees higher.

When I went out for my second session, the check engine light illuminated. I came back into the pits immediately and checked the codes. I had two: P0463 and P1302. P0463 is “Fuel Level Sensor Circuit High Input” which indicates a fuel level that exceeds the fuel tank’s capacity. I filled up in Byers but didn’t fill more than usual. Certainly, after 17 highway miles and 8 laps, I wouldn’t expect this code. I’ve had the P1302 (misfire) once or twice before. I cleared the codes and went back out. If they returned, I’d call it quits. They never did.

I ran a short third session. I would have liked to have gone longer, but was limited by my brake problem. I called it quits after that, as the sun had dropped below the horizon and I figured that by the time my brakes were sufficiently cooled, it would be too dark to put in any good times.

My best time was in the first session, 2:13.40, which I think is a decent time for the street tires. Not spectacular, and I won’t bother putting that lap up on YouTube. Today’s video is mercifully short. This time of year, the sun sets directly over the highway straight. This would normally be quite bothersome, but with the smoke it’s not an issue at all. The camera doesn’t do the scene justice.

And there are my two errors, both exiting the corkscrew. First, I’m too abrupt when pulling out to pass the M3 and I get quite a wobble. The second time, I hit the curb, unsettling the car and causing me to put two wheels off. (The guy behind me on that last one caught it on his camera, but hasn’t sent me a copy yet.)

My Stig impression

At least my brake pads are quiet now. (These pads handle high heat, work when cold, are relatively dust-free, and quiet. Except when brand new, when they sound like a locomotive horn when coming to a stop. They need a track day to get quiet.)

Considering how few laps I ran, I was surprised at the physical toll. When I got home, I was quite fatigued and the next morning I had a few more aches and pains than I was expecting.