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| Travel |

Canoe Chronicles: A Permanent Home

This only required one trip to the home improvement store and no trips to the hospital.EXPAND
This only required one trip to the home improvement store and no trips to the hospital.
Photo by Jeff Balke

This is part two of an ongoing series of posts about my purchase of a canoe during the pandemic.

In my first installment, I left off with a new-used canoe strapped to the roof of my SUV in north Texas. What came next was a certain level of disappointment, the kind you get when you get something really cool delivered to you only to find out "some assembly required" means hours of time dissecting instructions in barely legible English punctuated by at least half a dozen trips to the home improvement store and hours online watching instructional videos.

Fortunately, my ride back to Houston was uneventful. The speeding ticket I acquired on the way to Denton felt almost like a fair toll to pay for something I had worked so hard to find.

I was certainly more careful returning, knowing there was a large foreign object on my roof that jutted out a couple feet from the back and was in my line of sight in the front. Lashing it down using new tie downs I barely understood how to use and recently-installed (by me) rails on the roof of my Subaru Forester (yes, please do laugh at that statement) didn't lend a lot of confidence, but there I was rolling down Interstate 45 headed for home.

My first sign that I was doing the right thing was a guy at the gas station who pointed at the canoe and gave me a thumbs up. That and the numerous other canoes and kayaks I saw in the backs of trucks, on trailers and tied to other cars. Either there were suddenly loads of new paddling enthusiasts like myself or I had just never noticed them before.

When I did get home, I decided I would get the 80-pound polythylene watercraft off of my car alone. No need to bother my wife, who was already side-eyeing my purchase. Not surprisingly, this was a bad idea. Fortunately, there is grass next to my driveway as my canoe hit the ground with a notable thud. I looked around to see if my neighbors witnessed anything. Coast was clear. No harm, no foul, I thought.

After dragging it into the garage, it was then I realized there would be an issue. It was large. Like really large. And sitting on the floor of my garage. Um, what am I supposed to do with this?

Half of our garage is storage. It's fairly organized with shelves along one wall filled with overflow kitchen appliances, boxes of gardening stuff, extra paper towels and grill gear. My bike hangs neatly upside down next to a large metal ladder and there is a row of garden tools hanging on the wall. The other side remains mostly empty to leave space for a car when needed, which is rarely.

Even when it does get a little cluttered, it isn't long before we clean it out. Neither my wife nor I are overly sentimental about stuff and tend to Marie Kondo the hell out of it every so often. You don't bring joy, you rusted old fire pit. Off to heavy trash you go! So, a big ass red canoe on the floor of the garage wasn't going to hold water for either of us.

With no room outside — my suggestion for hanging it on the side of the house on a mounted rack was immediately and sensibly rejected — I set to find a way to get it off the floor, a rather complex task considering working garage doors, ceiling lights and somewhat limited space.

And it needed to be able to be managed by one person without needed much if any help. I'm not an expert in physics. In fact, I barely made it through that class in high school. So, whatever it was I needed, it was clearly out of my league.

I did find some helpful recommendations online, particularly on paddling.com, which appears to be perhaps the most helpful website in the history of things that float on water. And I settled on a pulley system that had good ratings on Amazon. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that expensive. Maybe that was because I had to install it.

I'm not without some skill in terms of putting things together. Now, don't ask me to do a wood carving of the Statue of Liberty or fix the transmission in your car, but using a drill or a hammer was not completely off the table. Hanging an 80-pound boat from the ceiling of my garage, however, was daunting. And I really wanted to get it right, mainly because I had a deep and abiding desire to not be crushed to death by a canoe in my garage.

At this point, I sought the advice of my wife, an incredibly thorough and pragmatic human who chooses wisely to read the instructions first, something her husband tends to be somewhat averse to despite his many past failings — have I mentioned the shelves in the garage that were assembled upside down so I just set them in place very carefully and don't use them for anything heavy? I knew she would thwart any foolishness on my part before it began.

Despite her attention to detail and multiple degrees, she was as flummoxed by the directions as I was. I mean, it wasn't like Ikea entertainment center instructions difficult, but it also didn't come with a free allen wrench. This is where YouTube, once again, came to the rescue. It didn't make the task easier, but it at least shed some light on what was quickly becoming a very dark episode in our marriage.

I should note that strong relationships are a key in life struggles like this one. In the "do not attempt" section of the instruction, they should include "if you and your partner are already on shaky ground."

First off, I had to hang a two-by-four on the ceiling attached to the joists so the pulley system could be mounted to it. There just wasn't another way to do it and the manufacturer recommended it. Did they provide a two-by-four or the lag bolts (whatever the hell those are) they said were also needed? I'm sensing you can guess the answer to that question.

That required a trip to the home improvement store including approximately 47 minutes staring at a wall of loose nuts and washers trying to decide what I actually needed followed by another 20 minutes at the register complete with scowls from fellow customers because I forgot to record the part numbers for the loose screws I got. My polite apologies fell on deaf ears as I retreated to the somewhat safer confines of my garage.

Once installed, the new wood beam could support the weight of roughly 10 sumo wrestlers. Don't ask me how I know that. It was then my wife and I began to study the rope that was provided to install into the pulley system.

What kind of crazy person sends a bag of rope and tells you to cut it "for the length you need." How the hell do I know what length I need? You are supposed to tell me. That's the point of instructions.

It was at this point that my wife and I began to have those moments married couples have when two pieces of paper covered in gibberish frustrates them simultaneously. There may have been accusations and recriminations, perhaps even a moment or two of panic and finally resignation, yet we soldiered on.

Between the M.C. Escher-like drawing, a couple more YouTube videos and at least one aborted attempt, we got the crazy thing installed and the canoe safely hanging in the garage. No, it isn't high enough for me to get under it without ducking, but it certainly looks less cluttered. And my wife and I both survived without a trip to the hospital or the divorce attorney.

To her credit, she was indeed a massive help. Had I done this alone, I am certain the canoe would now be dangling precariously by a single string while I proudly surveyed it as if everything were just dandy (Narrator voiceover: It would not be just dandy). I also probably would have been bleeding. I am my father's son, and as my step sisters have noted about my dad's ability to injure himself, particularly when attempting to assemble things around the holidays, "It isn't Christmas unless George is bleeding."

Instead, the canoe is secure and stowed away nicely. The only thing left to do was admire our work...oh, and put the damn thing in the water.

To be continued...

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