Backroad Ramblings: The Acrobatic Carport

December 28, 2011
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

Storage Wars: The Amazing Acrobatic Carport

In my corner of suburbia, my ability to get out and enjoy the good things in life (ie: motorcycling, ATV riding, mountain biking, snowmobiling and so on) is constantly hindered by issues of storage. I am not proud of this strange reality and often find myself thinking, sometimes aloud, what it must look like to my neighbors as they observe my antics through their picture windows, mug of hot tea in hand: “There goes Giacchino again, constructing some half-assed excuse for a shelter that’s only going to collapse during the first real storm of the winter. We really should make sure the video camera is charged this year.”

After dusting off a few mold spores the Outlaw only had flat tires and a dead battery  but otherwise it was good to go.
Jason’s outdoor toys go homeless as their shelter is destroyed by the crazy East Coast winter weather.

And never one to let down my adoring fans, this past week witnessed precisely such a catastrophic structural failure, sending my poor wife and I out on a Friday morning at frigid sunrise to collect pieces of bent and battered aluminum from all over the yard while simultaneously scrambling to find shelter for such items as our Husqvarna riding mower, my Honda 200X, Polaris Outlaw 450MXR and our Craftsman push mower. Suffice to say, there are certainly better reasons to cash-in a sick day come late December.

The structure in question was just a tad over three months old, and in fact one that I hoped would last, well, at least until spring so everyone I know would quit saying, “I told you not to buy that thing.” Technically it began life as an aluminum carport, one of those kit jobs you usually see advertised for some ridiculously affordable price; oftentimes fully assembled in the lot of a business you would never expect to deal in carports. As August was dwindling down, my wife and I began the task of carport shopping and quickly came to the conclusion that ordering factory direct and assembling the thing ourselves would knock a few bucks off the MSRP. Just how many bucks you wonder? Well enough to allow us to upgrade the goodie-checklist to include options such as canvas walls on three of the sides and a full zipper canvas door on the fourth side.

The kit arrived via a flatbed a few days later after our credit card digits were processed and the reality that building a carport was a bit more work than the brochure depicting the perfect-family, smiling toward the camera with such simple tools as a ratchet and screwdriver in hand suggested. However, thanks to some favors cashed in with some of our friends in the neighborhood, we were able to get the unit assembled in an awe-inspiring 15 hours start-to-finish. Estimated time in the instruction manual, which may or may not have been written by a roomful of monkeys with typewriters: 6 hours. What’s nine wasted hours when compared to years of cheap, reliable storage? At least that’s how we justified it at the time.

Supporting this aluminum and canvas masterpiece were four (two-foot) steel spiral ground stakes, one at each of the four corners. The instructions stated that areas known for turbulent air like Chicago could opt for special 4-foot long anchors. Considering the blistered skin and swearing that resulted from my having to screw the two-footers into my rooty grass, I began wondering if those cheap plastic three-inch spikes that came with my old pup tent would have sufficed.

They dont build them like they used to..
They sure don’t build carports like they used to! Back in the day you could get at least 50 flip-overs before it’d break!

Things went well for about a month and a half; those final couple grass-cutting sessions of the season having been flawlessly orchestrated from the wide zipper hatch at the rear of the carport. Basking in my apparent brilliance for having located the ultimate loophole in affordable storage, it was with blatant overconfidence that I watched television unfettered the night the first real storm of fall came crashing down from Canada.

With some creaking, a little groaning and a giant crash, my carport, muddy steel stakes still a-dangling, had managed to flip completely over onto its roof. Stunned by this apparent miscalculation in nature’s fury, I waited till the storm had faded to an obnoxious cold drizzle the following day to recruit the help of the neighborhood in flipping her back onto her legs.

“Maybe the four-foot stakes aren’t such a bad idea after all,” my buddy Shawn suggested, clearly less than thrilled to have been volunteering to help with this carport the second time in as many months.

“Agreed,” I said without hesitation. “Tomorrow when the hardware store opens, we’ll buy the largest stakes they have in stock.”

In what can only be described as inconceivable weather phenomenon, or perhaps just Western NY weather in autumn, the same storm looped back upon itself and decided to give us one more taste of its fury before heading off to die somewhere over the Atlantic. As the hardware store hadn’t even opened yet from the night before, yet again we were caught unprepared and the carport found itself teetering on its roof for the second time within 24 hours.

A bit dented, some shreds in the canvas here and there, it was with a whole new respect for Mother Nature that my impromptu construction crew once again helped me get the acrobatic carport righted. No time for taking chances! The 4-foot stakes were purchased and driven in to the ground at the four corners of the structure immediately and for extra protection, the original two-footers included with the kit were then fastened to each of the center beams where they contacted the ground. A total of eight stakes now anchored the carport in place!

“I’d like to see that storm come back and try that again,” I muttered triumphantly upon getting the final stake secured in place. Just then a thunderclap rumbled and I scurried into the house, leaving a trail of tools across the yard in my haste.

This was once the location of a fine shed  destroyed much too soon.
Here once stood a fine carport… struck down too soon. RIP mail order carport…

That storm would not in fact come back and for another month and a half, it appeared my plethora of stakes was holding its own in the harsh world that is Western NY winter. Leaves changed all around, breezes shook the canvas walls, snow accumulated on the pitched roof; all the while my equipment rested peacefully within. Then, just last week, the next major storm pushed its way through the area. Aluminum frame groaning, canvas flapping, I left for work a little nervous but hopeful that 24-combined feet of spirally steel twisted into the earth and several hundred pounds worth of aluminum would endure. Early the next morning, I would discover that it would not.

The third flip would prove to be the carport’s last as the impact of landing upside down had finally managed to shear bolts, snap aluminum junctions and shred canvas. Amazingly, three of the stakes yet held their position this time, only now they held onto only jagged spikes of severed aluminum frame spar.

It was cold and ugly as we collected up all of those pieces of the once-proud carport and found winter hibernation spots for all of our now-exposed equipment in family’s barns and garages. All the while I kept wondering what my neighbors must have been thinking as they watched this all unfold from the warmth behind their picture windows wondering whether or not the batteries in their camcorders had been charged.