This is chores week—time to work on the Jolly Swag’s To Do List.
I put off projects that don’t cause immediate discomfort because everything involves something new, an unknown process, and some steps that are guaranteed to be frustrating.
The anticipation of frustration is the real reason. Some tiny thing that seems impossible will work its mischief on me: one screw that is hidden behind wires and pipes, one nut that requires some metric socket I don’t have, or something that can be reached only by crawling under the coach and settling into a place where something sharp will be poking my shoulder blade.
Some jobs require one arm to be four feet long and have three elbow joints, some three-handed jobs are in a space where only one hand will fit, somewhere you can get the wrench on the nut with no space to turn it. And no one told me I would become expert at holding a flashlight steady with my teeth.
From the beginning I treated this adventure as though I were sailing to the edge of the earth—out into the area on the charts where the cartographers sketched sea monsters and wrote: “here be dragons.”
Habits learned as an offshore sailor imprinted on my DNA lead me to invest in lots of tools, to study the operators’ manuals, and record the phone number of everyone knowledgeable about Safari Treks of my early 90s vintage. There is no road service at sea. Whatever breaks, you must fix with the tools and parts you have on board.
I have had masts fall down around my ears, rudders break off, and engines quit on lee shores. I have sailed into areas that had 10-degree compass anomalies, and powered into six-knot currents with engines capable of six point one knots. Well I know the poltergeists that accompany the adventure traveler.
I used to believe that nothing could happen on the road to a prudent driver that could be as catastrophic as what could happen at sea. I still believe that, although not so absolutely.
What I like about doing my own maintenance is the learning process. Everything I do teaches me a little more, helps me diagnose future symptoms, permits me to service a piece of equipment that hasn’t had a lick since it left the factory, and replace things that are nearing failure.
I figure that every task earns me $20-40/hour. Not super big money, but better than anyone else is paying me. Shop rates were $135/hr in California and over $100 everywhere else. It may take me five hours to do a chore that a shop does in an hour and change—for which they bill me for two hours. When finished, I have skinned knuckles, blood somewhere from an unknown cause, and a reduced store of ancient biblical curses. But I do get that feel-good moment when the workspace is tidy and the tools are returned to their boxes and stowed. It occurs to me that it is too bad I don’t enjoy alcohol. I don’t get to have an après job beer or glass of wine.
In the end, my sense of self-sufficiency ratchets up a notch, and that is as satisfying as the smoothest merlot that has ever crossed my lips.