Monday, July 9, 2007

independence day part II

I'm calling Thursday, July 5th my personal independence day. I generally don't consider myself an independent person. I tend to want to do things in groups and rarely strike out solo for any adventure. One of the 10 guiding principles of Burning Man is "Radical Self-reliance" and I've somehow found myself getting pushed and pulled into this new area of self-development. It's not a bad thing but it is kind of scary.

By Thursday the 5th I'd managed to re-assemble the tower and gin pole with what I was hoping would be the final structural changes - the tower was ready for another raising attempt. So without much notice, I tried to gather a few friends and campmates to help with the task. Nearly everyone had prior commitments and I found myself alone at 7 p.m. waiting for the one person who was able to help. 7 turned into 7:30 and finally at 8 o'clock I realized I was on my own for this one.

I was torn - I really needed to find out if the modifications I'd made were going to work. I was leaving for a weekend on Orcas Island the next morning. Raising the tower is probably the most nerve-racking part of the process. The tower is under a severe amount of stress and having a few hands available to guide it up really helps. The new gin pole design incorporated a block and tackle that makes it physically possible for one person to raise the tower - but I would be risking a disaster if things started going sideways.

I decided to raise the tower just a little and see how it responded. With the end about seven feet off the ground I tied off the rope and walked around the tower giving it a thorough examination. The tower was pulling slightly to the right - but I wasn't able to find any loose connections - it just seemed to be a function of the tower's flexibility and the slight sloping angle of the base connection. There was no popping or cracking and besides the slight rightward bending everything seemed solid and stable. So I untied the rope and hoisted away. At a certain point the tower became very light and balanced and I was able to gently set it into its full upright position.

I stood there looking at the tower, my heart hammering in my chest, trying to detect any buckling or swaying - there was none. The tower was stable without the guy wires even in the light breeze of the evening. Eventually, as I became more confident that it wasn't going to come crashing down, I was able to get my camera out and take a few pictures.

When I went to attach the guy wires to their rebar stakes I discovered they were about three feet to long - I'd made the mistake of calculating their length from the 3d model. I hadn't planned on leaving the tower up while I was out of town anyway so with a little more calmness than during the raising I began to lower the tower back down. Immediately as I began, the gin pole base popped out of its pivot. After getting it back into place I lashed the gin pole feet to the pivot bolts and began again. This time the poles stayed in place and the tower lowered gently and silently back to the ground.

So the tower is now resting on its side in the back yard, awaiting the guy wire modifications and the next raising. I'm happy I was able to manage by myself - overcoming my fears of failure and disaster, being independent and self-reliant and all that - and I hope I don't have to do it that way again.

1 comment:

elija said...

great job, glenn! sometimes, you just have to go it alone. i can't wait to see this on the playa!