When I got back to 11732 W. Tamarack Franz had just arrived from Santa Cruz. After introductions, we all sat down for a light lunch and talked about our trip down to Reno. Franz interjected with, “We’ll fade into the evening”, an obvious California buzz phrase meaning, “Let’s play it by ear.” Bill and Lynn wanted to catch the popular Classic Car Auction Show at the Reno Convention Center, so they took off with plans to meet us at the grassy knoll in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel and Casino.
I had already been to several auctions with Blaine Botkin when we would rendezvous at Donner Lake back in the mid-90s, so I opted to hang out with Franz. We spent part of the afternoon visiting his friend Kirk Short whom he had known in Santa Cruz and now lived in Truckee. We found his house on a mountainside overlooking the town and had a pleasant reunion of sorts. Kirk remembered me as “that architect from Texas who designed the Helbig house in Bonny Doon (on a mountain site just north of Santa Cruz) back in 1989.” In jest, I commended him on his excellent memory.
We sallied forth down I-80 to meet the Botkins at our appointed site. Luckily, we found a close-by parking space and meandered through the casino and into the adjacent parking lot where proud owners were showcasing their classic autos. It was a walk down memory lane. My jaw almost dropped to the ground when I sighted far down one row the unmistakable front grille of a 1954 Oldsmobile. My pulse was pounding and my knees were knocking as I approached the magnificent machine – a two-tone blue, two-door hardtop Super 88. I couldn’t wait to talk to the owner, saying, “I know this might sound trite, but this beauty is an exact replica of my second car (after the 1940 Buick) when I was a junior in college in 1958, I mean, right down to the Baltic and Powder Blue finish.” I had to ask, “How long have you had this car?” He replied, “All its’ natural life.” All I could say was, “That’s incredible! Many times I wished I still had that old Olds.”
Franz and I eventually hooked up with the Botkins at the grassy berm to relax on the turf and take in the Grand Finale of “Hot August Nights” as the classics paraded down Virginia Street, sometimes slipping into neutral, revving up their engines to flaunt how loud an exhaust they had. It was a special treat to see all those classics actually motoring along in contrast to gawking at them in a static parking lot. As we viewed the parade, I was taken aback by Franz’s overt enthusiasm, never knowing him for being an auto aficionado. Maybe he wasn’t a purist in the automotive sense, but I was so glad to see him enjoy all the pageantry.
We finally adjourned from our advantageous perch as the last of the belch fires roared through. We pulled a few slots on the way back through the casino and then climbed into the Taurus for what I considered a wild ride back up I-80 – Franz loved putting the pedal to the metal with the needle on the speedometer sometimes matching the interstate number. During the thrill ride, we talked about what a grand time it had been in Reno with Franz thanking me for inviting him to such a memorable event. I had to say, “Hey Bro’, I’m really glad you could be a part of this. And wasn’t that incredible finding that ’54 Olds?
That particular model is so rare compared to the plethora of ’55, ’56, and’57 Chevys that we saw all over the place. That was definitely the highlight of the night.” He added, “Yeah, I can remember that beautiful car when you were hustling coeds at Tech.” Franz dropped me off at W. Tamarack and scooted over to Truckee to spend the night in Kirk’s guest bedroom. I retired to Ol’ Blue feeling like it had been one of the best days of my life. A sprinkling of stars filtered down through the overhead pine – I was back in paradise.
After breakfast, Bill wanted to show me the “big blunder” of West Tamarack. We went downstairs and stood in the driveway while Bill pointed up to the steep-sloping roof and said, “When we come up here in the winter, there must be a foot or more of heavy snow piled up there. After the house heats up, some of that “California Cement” breaks off and an avalanche from 30 feet above comes crashing down on the driveway. You can imagine what bodily harm that would do to someone walking under all that.” I said jokingly, “Well, if anything, you’d come out of it about 24 inches shorter.” He squinted his eyes as if to say, “I was hoping you’d get serious about this problem.”
I grasped the situation, saying, “I have a feeling you need a protective shed extending out from the garage, right?” He agreed, as I continued, “What I propose is a super sturdy structure with as much roof slope as possible (in keeping with the character of the house, of course) to withstand the weighty psi (pounds per square inch) of cascading snow.” Seduced by the prevalent overkill of lumber, I recommended using 2 x 12 roof joists resting on 6 x 14 cross beams supported by 12 X 12 columns. It may have been excessive, but I figured if he can frame exterior openings with 2 X 6s, he could surely afford my design suggestions. I said to him in fun, “Have T-square, will travel. Seriously, I have all the tools with me to produce a set of working drawings for your shelter. I’ll do it free-of-charge in compensation for all the meals and hospitality you’ve afforded me over the years.” We solidified our gentleman’s contract with a firm handshake.
The Botkins eventually departed to their home base in Sebastopol leaving me with a key to the front door. Before diving into my new project, I took another bike ride around the idyllic neighborhood, never seeming to get jaded of panning all the diversified domiciles. When I got back, I took some on-site measurements, and then transferred my “tools of trade” (a 22 by 26 inch drafting board, an architectural supply case, and a roll of drafting paper) from the van to the upstairs where I set up office on the dining room table overlooking the driveway. It was a perfect arrangement. After doing a few preliminary sketches, I concluded that the peak of the shed’s roof could die into the existing wall just below the dining room windowsill ensuring a steep enough 6 to 12 slope to sufficiently withstand the avalanche’s vertical fall which was now cut in half to just 15 feet.