Building a New Home for My Surly LHT

When we moved into our house in West Palm Beach in 1976, my wife said, “You’re not going to unpack all those boxes of books until we’re sure we’re staying here.”

After renting a storage unit for several months, I built a 10′ x 20′ shed in the back yard, mostly from leftover materials from my dad’s construction company.

Half of it was storage for the books, prints and other stuff I had accumulated, plus the growing fleet of bikes. 10′ x 6′ was a workshop and place to put tools and manly things. The remaining 4′ x 10′ space was for a sprinkling system water pump (so we could water our sand) and garden tools.

It’s 2009 and the books are still boxed

Instead of book worms enjoying my collection of books, we found that the shed had been infested by termites this summer. We paid to have the building tented to kill the bugs and we brought in Brother-in-Law John to fix the place up, make it bug and waterproof and to install an air conditioner to keep the temperature and humidity down.

Life, Look and Saturday Evening Posts

The renovation was relatively simply, particularly when you have someone like John doing the job. PREPARING for the renovation is another matter. Remember those boxes of books? Oh, I forgot to mention the Life magazines going back to the early 60s. I’ve got ’em all. The assassinations, the moon landing, The Beatles, all of it.

I gave most of the magazines to former coworker Jan Norris this summer. She may try to do something with them. I don’t care. At least I’m not going to be the one putting them in the dumpster.

THEN I found six more boxes. Niece Laurie of antique fame said she wants them. Do you have any idea what it costs to send something like that back to Missouri? Trust me, it’s pretty close to the stimulus package.

My yard looked like my shed had thrown up

Every time I’d move one box, I’d find something else. A box that I thought contained only bug-eaten paperback books was half-filled with old prints going back to my high school days and newspaper clippings from Ohio and North Carolina.

It’s amazing how many things I’ve seen, photographed, written about and I can’t remember a single detail about them today.

A newspaper photographer’s day is so fragmented that the same roll of film may contain a cute kid picture, a professional sporting event and a tragedy that has changed someone’s life forever. To the guy covering history on horseback, it’s just another day on the job.

A window that’s “affordable” and “hurricane resistant”

I’ve had plywood over the Plexiglas window I put in the original shed for at least seven hurricanes. My wife and Bro-in-Law John suggested replacing it with a hurricane proof one. They came home from a big box store with a frosted window (so folks can’t see all my tools) with a sticker attached that proclaimed it to be “affordable” and “hurricane resistant.”

I hope their definition of “hurricane resistant” is more accurate than their definition of “affordable.” Maybe it was affordable in the pre-Bernie Madoff days….

Space for the LHT, two Treks and a no-name

When it’s done – and I’m not sure I’ll ever live to see it finished – I’ll have more space for my Surly Long Haul Trucker and the three other family bikes.

My old prints and negatives will have proper storage and I’ll get started digitzing almost 50 years of photographs. (Closer to 100 years of photos if I count one taken by my grandparents.)

That’s my excuse for being behind in my blog

Give me another week and I’ll be out on the road, not wading in roach pellets.

14 Replies to “Building a New Home for My Surly LHT”

  1. I would know that construction butt anywhere, even from all the way in po- dunk Missouri….go John!! And here I thought that you weren’t working and just getting ready to go fishing on Sunday….my how wrong I was! Much love to the Florida bunch including the transplant from missouri that I call my husband! Dee

  2. He’s doing a great job. Staying on the diet and making his normal magic. Our next door neighbor, who works maintenance at Glacier National Park, is helping him out. That’s making it a lot easier on him and me.

    You noticed, of course, that there’s no plumber’s crack showing. He’s on his best behavior.

  3. In case you are wondering why he wasn’t allowed to unpack “all those boxes of books”… from June of 1969 until June of 1975, we packed and unpacked boxes seven times, moving from:

    #1) Athens, Ohio – in 1969, from my room in the International House (10 female students from a number of countries) and from a 2-guy apartment (his) into…
    #2) Athens, Ohio – in 1969, an apartment over a garage for three months to…
    #3) Athens, Ohio – in 1969-70, a basement apartment for a little over a year to…
    #4) Dallas, NC – in 1970, a 2-story apartment for about 6 months…
    #5) Gastonia, NC – in 1971-72, 9-room house for a year to…
    #6) West Palm Beach, FL – in 1973-76, a 2-story house for 2.5 years…
    #7) West Palm Beach, FL – our current home purchased in June of 1976

    We began storing boxes, instead of unpacking them by the time we got to our fifth move to Gastonia. We didn’t even unpack our good China until we had been in our current home for more than a year.

  4. By the way, exactly how many bikes do you have in that shed now? I’m doing a bit of math in my head and I’m pretty sure you have more that Keefer even if we add motorcycles to his total.


  5. Matt,

    There was a reason you and your brother never saw the Good China: you and your brother.

    You’re right about the number of bikes in the shed. I left off your uncle’s Sears Spyder. That would make five. Keefer is still way ahead. He has six.

  6. Great, you’re getting a newer-bigger-spiffier shed. Don’t let that get in the way of your blogging.

    Don’t forget to include photos of any emergency room trips that you might make in the course of “remodeling” your new Man Room.

    Oh yeah, don’t get crazy with the screw gun and fasten my Sears Spyder to the wall, it’s coming back home to St. Louis sometime.

  7. It’s the same old shed, just made more bug, possum and wind proof. The inside is insulated and covered with water resistant green board. The nice thing is that blood doesn’t show as readily on green board as it does on white board.

    Bro-in-law John will do anything to stay in Florida a few days. I heard him paging the deity at one point and discovered that he had tried to nail his finger to the wall. Seems like that’s an everyday occurrence, so he didn’t seem too concerned.

    I was a little concerned when I returned from a trip to pick up supplies when I saw Wife Lila’s van was gone and the two workers were nowhere to be found. Since I didn’t see any pools of blood, I assumed that all was OK.

    That’s when they showed up turning the corner with a sheet of plywood.

    Your Spyder will wing its way home the next trip unless you want me to have Wayne give you a firm price for restoration.

  8. Hmm I was told by John tonight that he was going out to the “climax” with Carlee and Adam….and then I heard Adam yell in the back ground the “clematis”…my how us Missourians get our slang crossed or only hear what we want to hear! Hope Marty made it there safe and sound….helllooooo from all the Missouri troups freezing our !!@#**^ butts off…have a good one! Looking forward to more progress pictures! And by the way Ken the deity is called everyday twice a day or more at our home….wouldn’t worry bout it! Hugs Dee

  9. Dee,

    Clematis is the name of a major downtown street in West Palm Beach. Old age and marriage has slowed Adam’s partying down, so I think John will be safe.

    He picked a great week to come down, except there is a cold front moving through tonight that’ll drop temps down in the low 50s tonight.

    Sunday temps will be in the 70s, with light winds, so the ocean fishing trip should be great.

    Marty should be flying in tonight to do the Lake Worth Street Painting thing.

  10. Well all the Perry people have a wonderful time! You all deserve it! With that thrown up yard and all!

  11. Oh my god Life magazines! Jan, if you end up putting them in the dumpster, I’ll have them! And show them love!

    Ken when you come over to my apartment you’ll see, among my vast collection of photojournalism books, a tribute to Life magazine – in French! Something that belonged to my grandfather somehow – I took home with me after my grandmother died two years ago.

  12. I have to agree with you about pack and unpacking all those boxes. I guess now it’s time to open them up and find the antique time capsules like those horrible clothes from the 70s

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