Sunday, May 29, 2016

Volunteers, Week II

Every year, someone installs flags on the walkbridge over I-691 in Hubbard Park. They usually appear around Memorial Day and this year was no exception. This reminds me of the never identified person who would annually leave 3 roses and an unfinished bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. The flags typically last until the 4th of July, by which time, at least one of the two flags is stolen or vandalized. I'll keep an eye on them.

Visit #1016, Saturday 28 May 16, 9:30AM-12:10PM, 6.0 miles.
Temps in the high 80's; sunny, unseasonably warm and humid.

Last week I had the pleasure of being assisted by my occasional co-conspirator Paul Bernier, and a spontaneous volunteer and Meriden activist, Sharon Milano. This week Paul joined me again, and we had well... read along and find out.

On a recent bike ride over the north end of Merimere Reservoir, I discovered someone had left a U-lock secured to the guardrail. Cheap, petty vandalism in my book, and unsightly. This week's plan was to remove it. I expected this to be a tough nut to crack but I had a plan.

Paul and I parked outside the north end of Hubbard Park, walked in, and began picking up trash enroute to the lock.

I had previously read that bicycle thieves in New York City will use a car jack to break a U-lock. If it works for them it should work for me, so I grabbed my car jack and threw it in my backpack along with my usual tools. Setup was easy and Paul began to crank the jack and spread the lock apart.

Everything worked fine, until it DIDN'T. The jack bent and the screw broke. Ooops; party's over! Or was it...

It was while Paul was cranking on the jack that a Meriden resident and cyclist who regularly rides up to Castle Craig and West Peak, and who recognized Paul as a "park regular", stopped by to see what we were doing. Tim Pepin was his name and seeing what we were up to and that the jack had failed, offered his assistance. Tim and I agreed to meet later in the day for Round 2 with the U-lock.

We parted ways, and Paul and I walked the road toward West Peak, cleaning up both sides of the road. Near reaching the parking lot I came upon my Find of the Week.

Someone broke open this safe, emptied it, and tossed it into the woods. With the car jack in my backpack, I had no way to conveniently carry the safe, so I bagged it for later pickup and left it there.

Paul and I cleaned up the West Peak parking lot, then followed the Blue Trail down and over I-691 and back to the park. For the second consecutive week I found more evidence that the Season of the Missing Glove® appears to never end. This is #14.

We reached the parking lot and dropped off two bags of trash.

Then Paul and I walked the road north past Merimere Reservoir and picked up one more bag of trash to finish our day.

I returned to Hubbard Park at roughly 3PM to meet Tim Pepin and address that pesky U-lock. Well, let me tell you, Tim arrived ready for bear. With a dually pickup truck and 5kW generator in the back to power his 4" die grinder, I actually began to feel pity on the U-lock. But the presence of big, manly, destructive tools and the smell of testosterone quickly brought me back to my senses.

The soon to be deceased U-lock.

The executioner.

And the fun part.

Roughly two minutes along with more testosterone and some manly sparks, and it was done.

In case I didn't have the luck of Tim happening along today, I had a Plan B. When I arrived home I decided to test it on the lock remnants.

Plan B consisted of a Dremel tool with cutoff wheels, and a 300W inverter which I plugged into my car's cigarette lighter. Not as fast and clearly missing all the raging testosterone fueled manliness of a dually pickup truck with a 5kW generator and 4" die grinder, it still got the job done, albeit more in a "liberal college hipster with a safe zone and a fixie bicycle" fashion.

My thanks to this week's volunteer, Tim Pepin. Clearly people such as Tim who use the park regularly have a sense of ownership about Hubbard Park.

After Tim vanquished the U-lock, we drove up to West Peak and I retrieved the safe.

So what were my plans for it? Well, I handled it with gloves so my fingerprints wouldn't be on it, and put it into a plastic bag. The safe had a serial number on it. If the owner had ANY common sense, AND reported the safe stolen, then perhaps the police could find the owner, dust the safe for fingerprints, and we would all live happily ever after.

I brought the safe down to the Meriden Police Department and presented it to Ofc. Welles, Badge #412. Officer Welles told me most people don't record the serial number of their safe but he ran it on the computer anyway-no luck. I asked him if he wanted me to just toss the safe away but he said it was "too late"; since I brought it in he'd have to file a report so he had to keep the safe.

P.S. As far as my broken car jack is concerned, I thought it would be expensive to replace. Ebay to the rescue! I found a brand new jack for $31, shipping included.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

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