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Off the Wall

Back in 2006 (I think that was the year) I had the unfortunate experience of forgetting to set the parking brake AND put our Pathfinder in gear when I got home from work. This happened not once but three times in a matter of months. Did I mention that our driveway at the time was a hill? The first time the Pathfinder rolled down the driveway and into our fence. The second time didn't do much damage to the pathfinder, but it did push the fence over. The third time the Pathfinder rolled down the driveway, over the now downed fence and into a tree. Daniel discovered the tree incident and was not very happy. He didn't let me live down the Pathfinder mishaps for YEARS.

As of two weeks ago, he can no longer give me a hard time about my "record" with cars (on a side note I have never had a wreck)...

On Daniel's first day to go back to work (after a 3-week paternity leave), I was woken up by Daniel anxiously asking if he could take my car for the day. Something about his car going off our driveway and being stuck on the retaining wall.

In my half-asleep state I told him he could take the car and that I didn't think I would manage to go anywhere with a 3-year-old and infant on my first day home alone.

Several hours later when both boys were up and fed, I looked out the window to see what Daniel meant by his car was stuck on the retaining wall. From the house, it didn't look great, but it was kind of hard to tell through all of the trees.

Later that day Daniel called and asked me to take pictures of the vehicle to see what kind of damage there was and how stuck it actually was. This would give him time to think about the best way to get it off the wall, and allow him to stop at Lowe's on the way home to pick up the materials he needed to get it unstuck.

While Isaac napped, Jack and I ventured down to the back driveway and onto the path below the retaining wall. As I got closer, I asked Jack to stay back. From what I could tell, the car had knocked off a section of curb on the retaining wall and the car was lodged on the wall. 

Daniel was lucky that it didn't go over completely. Especially when he later told me that he had not yet buckled up... 

Had the car gone over, there is a good chance it would have flipped backward onto its roof. As it was, it was perched rather precariously and I'm thankful Daniel was able to climb out unharmed.

So how does one drive off a driveway? Well over the weekend we had had a crowd of 16 people in our house to celebrate the arrival of baby Isaac and Mothers' Day. During this time, Daniel had spent some time replacing the rotors and pads brakes of his car. Every time he finishes a brake job, he immediately gets in, pumps the brakes enough to set the new pads against the rotors, and then drives the car to make sure everything is fine. 

When he finished this brake job it was 10:30 at night, and he needed to close up the garage so guests downstairs could go to bed. He had planned on test driving the car (and pumping the brakes enough to set the pads against the rotors) sometime in the next several days before going back to work the following week.

Several days came and went, and besides being tired, Daniel was distracted with numerous other things (taking Jack to the ER in the middle of the night, dealing with an A/C unit that stopped working while the house was full of people, etc.) Suffice it to say he got distracted and never took that important drive. 

Early the next Tuesday morning Daniel was in a hurry when he left to go back to work, and had forgotten about the recently completed brake job on his car (that he had yet to pump the brakes for or driven). 

He backed out of the garage towards the wall like he normally does, and the brake pedal went to the floor when he tried to stop backing up. He had time to pump it a second full pump before the car rolled into the curb at the top of the wall, broke out a huge chunk of the curb, then rolled over/through where the curb had been. (If anyone is wondering, it takes about 3 pumps to set the pads against the rotors.)

Daniel has worked on cars since high school and he has never made this kind of mistake – chalk it up to 3 weeks of sleep deprivation with a newborn and a lot of distractions. At 6am Tuesday morning, he was exhausted and not thinking about the brakes as he backed out of the garage and onto the turn around spot that is on top of a retaining wall.

Thankfully the car didn't go over all the way over, and the wall held. That night Daniel came home and went straight to work on getting his car unstuck. First he secured the front of the car to a tree to ensure it couldn't go any further backwards, and if the wall collapsed the car couldn't fall far. He then leveled a spot on the side of the hill under the car and built a foundation out of plywood and concrete blocks to support his air-over-hydraulic-ram that he would use to jack up the rear end of the car.  

Once the foundation was in place, he ran the air hoses for the ram and placed the control for the ram where he could reach it without being under the car while it was being lifted. He inserted wooden blocks as cribbing under the car as it was raised higher, so that if it fell for any reason it would only have a short distance to fall before landing on the wood.

After the back end of the car was a couple of feet above the retaining wall (and about 8 or 9 feet above the ground below where the foundation was), Daniel put long 4x4s underneath the rocker panels on each side of the car that extended all the way from the front tires to underneath the rear wheels. The 4x4s would serve as makeshift ramps to pull the car back over the top of the curb and onto the top of the wall where it belonged.

Using a come-a-long (basically a winch that you crank with your hand), he was able to use the hand crank to pull the car slowly off of the wall and back onto the driveway. It took him until 10 that night to get the car unstuck. Amazingly the car was driveable and only has a little bit of cosmetic damage to one plastic panel. It was an exciting first day back to work to say the least.

So my first day flying solo with the boys lasted until 10pm that night. I got to experience the full deal – an entire day, plus evening activities including dinner and bedtime flying solo. We don't like to do things the easy way around here!


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