Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mud continues on the Eastern Front!

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Tuesday, and I was at work by 08:30, and managed to build about 9 feet of road behind the rear tires, downing tools at 16:30, when the rain came in; the radio had mentioned it at breakfast.  Just before then, worried about the coming rain, I decided to attempt to reverse out of the two puddles my front wheels were in and onto the higher bit of roadway behind.  That would get me out of the low spot and make the truck a bit more level than it had been the first night.  I inspected the trackway from all angles; I was worried that the vehicle might slew off the narrow mud-slicked track I had built from each of the front tires to the rear ones and back into the mud to the left and down the center line of the SUV, since I couldn’t really build much that far under the truck itself.  With great trepidation I gritted my teeth and … successfully reversed about 6 feet, as seen in the photos.  A couple hours later, after the same evening meal as the night before, the rain stopped long enough for me to heat up water for the morning and have a cup of hot chocolate, before turning in.

[Sorry … same photos as yesterday; I didn’t take too many during the road construction; too much mud on my hands and daylight was not too plentiful.]

Wonder of wonders was that I was not stiff or sore today from yesterday’s exertions, which surprised me greatly, since my life is relatively sedentary walking back and forth at the easel, and not even that when working from a camp chair.  For whatever reason, I remained limber during construction of the road, and probably also because that after the initial rush of gathering branches and sagebrush, for the failed escape attempt, I determined to maintain a steady sure pace without pushing myself, or inviting injury. 

I, luckily, carry tough work gloves in the vehicle, for emergencies and these came in handy for this job, but the tool that saved me was an iron implement I purchased at the Sandy Mountain Festival back in 2004, my first Summer in Oregon (is it that long ago?!!)  It was at a blacksmith’s stall and I believe it was designed to be used as a meat turner for Bar-B-Qs, but I bought it to be used as a fireplace poker.  It has a little twist in the business end which I thought would aid in turning wood in a fireplace or woodstove, and as such it worked very well.  But for this job it came into its own, and I don’t think I could have completed the road building without it. 

To build the road I would walk out onto the flat, trying as much as possible to stay out of the mud, by stepping from rock to rock or tufts of sagebrush & grass, the flat being covered with all of those, searching for likely looking flattish rocks of a decent size.  When I spotted a likely looking individual, or several, I would push the end of my wonderful poker into the mud along the edge of the suspect, give the poker a twist to set the skewered tip hopefully beneath the rock, and pull it from the sucking mud.  If there were several suspects in the immediate vicinity, I would pry out several, placing them onto larger boulders, and then carry them across the flat singly, or several at a time depending on their size, to emplace them in the growing roadway.  The rocks ranged in weight from a few pounds each to some as much as 75 or 80 lbs.  The latter weight I estimated as to how they compared to the weight of my AGM battery, which with its plywood case is 85 lbs.  Without the poker with its skewered tip, I would not have been able to pull many of these rocks from the sucking mud … it saved my life and my fingertips.  My poker is one of many tools and implements I always carry, and it sure came into its own this time!

At my short lunch break and at the end of the day, I would have to spend the first 5 to 10 minutes cleaning the mud off my hands with my spray bottle of witch hazel and isopropyl alcohol mixture and tough paper shop towels, before I could eat.  When the holes began to appear in the fingertips of my work gloves, as they inevitably would, the cleaning time lengthened, as each finger was cleaned individually.  The end of the day cleaning of the hands was more thorough.  Then I would also take off my muddy shirt, put on my clean sweaters, fold the shirt with the mud inside and place it out of the way in the front window, while I ate supper in the driver’s seat.  The footwell got the muddy, but since the mud on my jeans was on the front of them and mostly the lower part of my legs, the driver’s seat itself remained relatively mud free.  Getting ready for sleep was an exercise in contortion as I had to take my boots off without putting my stocking-feet into the mud, and place them onto the floor of the footwell.  Then still perched on the driver’s seat, and with the door open, I would slowly peel off my jeans one leg at a time, resting my feet out over the mud onto the windowsill of the open driver’s door.  I next retracted my legs inside and crouched on the driver’s seat, while I draped my muddy Carhart work jeans, complete with hammer loop and side pockets for tools, over the steering wheel to dry as much as possible overnight.  Closing the driver’s door, I would then climb over the back of the seat to my sleeping bags behind.  There I have 7½ feet between the driver’s seat and the back of the SUV; I am 6 feet 4 inches so there is room at the foot of my sleeping bags for my duffle bag of clothing.  I managed to keep any mud in the truck in the driver’s footwell … none ever got into the back where I sleep.  In the morning this was all done in reverse. 

Rain was in the forecast, but I was hoping it would bypass me; it might have since the closest area in the forecast was over 60 miles away.  After two evenings of unexciting peanut butter and cracker plus raw vegetables, I determined tomorrow night would be different … it almost wasn’t.

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