The Pass of Caradhras: This Little Thing.

Welcome! I”m glad you stopped by again. I hope everything is going well in your part of Middle earth. Yes, the Pass of Caradhras. Do you remember that scene from the Fellowship of the Ring?  We’ll talk about that a bit later. Apologies for the delay of this post as well. I worked all day Saturday and part of Sunday on the  foundation.  I started the post sunday but then this site crashed and I’ve been busy at my day job ever since. This Saturday my wife and I and our two oldest sons went to look at colleges. So I’ve been “delayed” as Gandalf would say. (Having trouble adding  pictures for this post as well. Will add them as soon as possible)

So here we are about to start digging the foundation. I had a carting company drop off a 20 yard container to put the slab concrete into and rented a Komatsu Pc 138 excavator with a hydralic hammer. Here’s a picture of the site before I got started.

Breaking ground: Hydraulic hammer to break up concrete slab
Breaking ground: Hydraulic hammer to break up concrete slab

I had the rental company put the hammer on first so when I got there on Friday night I would be able to chop up the slab while it was still light out. This worked out great.I think I was pretty much done in about one hour.  I’m thinking this is going to be a home run. All I have to do is take off the hammer and put the bucket back on and I’m going to be good to go! The guy from the rental company said that the PC 138 is equipped with a “coupler”.  And I quote ” The coupler makes it easier to switch out the attachments”. Did you ever notice when someone says something like that  it never seems to work out the way they describe it. Well this is one of those times. I even You Tubed a video on changing  a bucket with a coupler Friday night after I got home. They just showed a guy hooking one up though with no nuts and bolts explaination so I knew that wasn’t going to help.

Saturday morning  6:30 AM I begin the dismantling of the hydraulic hammer. I’ve never used a hydraulic hammer before let  alone dismantled one. I go to the operators manual. I’m not kidding  this thing is 800 pages long. Frustration  level,  mild. It’s 6:50. Chapter 3 page 179. Dismantaling attachments. Funny thing about this chapter… it doesn’t show removal with a coupler. Oh boy, here we go. The coupler has two hands, if you will, that grab the two pins of whatever you are attaching. The hands spread apart to grab the two pins and retract when you have to remove the attachment. Like the hydraulic hammer shown here.

Hydraulic hammer
Hydraulic hammer

So I’m looking at this thing saying to myself there has got to be a simple way to get this thing off. I try a couple of things. I see this little thing. A square bolt that is attached to the coupler.

This little thing, the square bolt shown here,nearly drove me to the brink of insanity for about three hours
This little thing, the square bolt shown here,nearly drove me to the brink of insanity for about three hours

I turn it one way a few turns and it stops. I turn it the other way (counterclockwise???? ) and it stops. I know this little thing is the key to getting the hammer off. It’s 7:45. Frustration level mounting rapidly. I cant believe I’m paying for this aggravation. I pick up the phone and call the rental company. They don’t open till eight but they have a 24 hour emergency service number. I call and leave a desperate message. Then my phone runs out of juice. Is this really happening on my day off? I go to my car and plug in my phone. What is it denial, rage, acceptance. I think for me it was rage,denial, rage, acceptance, rage one more time and throw a rock at the excavator. I realize I cannot work on this while my phone is charging so I go to the deli. I get two eggs on a roll with bacon. Sorry, but it’s not an egg on a roll without the bacon. Apologies to all pig lovers. (You’re not going to believe this but the emergency service guy calls me Monday morning at 8:30 and asks if I’m having trouble with the machine. This is like right out of the movies.) I’m really going to try and keep this a clean family friendly blog so I won’t print what I was thinking when this guy called me two days later.

8:20 AM. I call the rental company back. I get Joe. I think I woke him up. I explain to him my situation. I tell him I think I have to remove a pin in order for the hands to retract. He tells me no you shouldn’t have to remove anything. I know he’s wrong. I don’t tell him this though. We actually had a pretty good conversation. I think I just needed a little moral support. I finally figure it out. Pull the pin turn the little thing clockwise, junp into the excavator and disconnect the attachment put the new one on. Joe was right about the coupler though it was pretty easy to change the attachments once you get the hang of it. Here’s the machine with the bucket attached. By the time all was said and done it was 10:00AM before I started loading the concrete into the 20 yarder.

Hammer off, coupler about to grab the bucket.
Hammer off, coupler about to grab the bucket.

As all of this was happening (Over the course of four hours)there was this tingling of fear and doubt about what I was doing.  I’m saying to myself did I make a mistake trying to do this? What if I can’t get it to work? What if I don’t have time to finish this weekend and have to rent it for another weekend? What if I damage the machine trying to take this thing off? What about the money I spent on this damn thing? And about a million other what ifs?

It was only later that I looked back and thought about the “Pass of Caradhras”. For those of you who don’t remember . The Fellowship has taken to walking over the mountain Caradhras after being seen by spies of Saruman. As they are walking over the snow covered peak Frodo “the ring bearer” falls and rolls down the hill a bit.When he gets up he realizes that the ring is not where it was. Boromir has picked it up. He holds it up to his eyes and says “Tis a strange fate that we must suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing…this little thing.” I really did suffer a bit of fear and doubt over that small thing.

Now I’m an expert at changing attachments. The rest of the day was spent digging the foundation and moving dirt. The footings for the Hoobbit house are called “Frost protected shallow foundations”. What this allows us to do is dig a shallower footing that is insulated to protect the footing from frost heave during the winter months. I thought this would yield less dirt(which it did) and I would have plenty of space to store the soil that I was excavating. Wrong again Jim. All of a sudden I realized I really don’t have that much room and I really don’t have great access around the site either. In fact I have access on only the front side of the site and that’s it. I get this crazy brain storm to build a ramp with the soil and pile it up so I can stockpile it up on the eastern slope of the site and out of the way. ( This way when I backfill the Hobbit house later I will just use this material). I build the ramp but when I drive up to the top of it I realize yet again that I’m making a mistake. This material has to be hauled out of here. There’s just no other way.  I have to make some phone calls.

This is going to be some adventure! See you soon.

Jim

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