Dog Crate Tip O’ the Day!

Duct tape a large piece of cardboard to the bottom of the plastic tray before installing it in the dog crate (I cut out a piece from the box the crate came in). Having replaced many a broken tray from an excitable dog, I learned simply taping a piece of cardboard to the bottom offers enough cushioning between the bottom of the crate and the plastic tray to keep it from cracking. This can be a huge money saver!

NOTE: I added a few strips of tape between the pieces as well to keep the cardboard flush against the tray

Project Sleeping Platform

A few weeks ago, I read an article in Outside magazine about a company out west that turns vans into campers and rents them at the cost of a basic car rental. This prompted a few Google searches on the topic and landed me on a number of Do-It-Yourself sleeping platform sites.

My inspiration for this project
My inspiration for this project

My 2011 Subaru Outback fit the bill and I thought this would be a great way to get in some outdoor adventures without having to always worry about finding that perfect campsite or popping up a tent in the darkness of the night. Plus, I thought it would make for a quieter and more restful night with my 5-month old Blue Heeler mix and adventure buddy, Norbert.

Having spent countless hours reading other people’s attempts and successes with sleeping platforms, brainstorming with the assistance of my friends Sara, Eleanor, and Tymme, and thinking through elaborate possibilities (e.g. under platform drawers, cut to fit platforms to utilize all the space which would have included some folding pieces, etc), I decided to follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Stupid). Additionally, the more I read, the more I learned that most people were frustrated by the lack of headroom when building up platforms which allow for space underneath for storage of camping supplies, clothing, etc…

When it came down to it, I decided on the following,

  1. Use as few pieces as possible for a more stable and even sleeping surface and less weight in the vehicle
  2. Keep the platform as low as possible to maximize headroom (I don’t tend to pack a lot for camping so I can use the vehicle floor and the space on each side of the wheel wells. If I need more space, I can use my Yakima Rocket roof carrier or get a cargo carrier for the hitch)

I decided on creating the platform with two pieces – one that fit in the back of the Outback with the back seats up, the other that would slide out over the back seats when they are down. The back section of the Subaru is flat so that piece would sit on the frame. The head section would sit on the edge of the frame and I would put a support under it to make it level (with the seats down, the head section is not completely flat).


  • One 3/4″ piece of 4×8′ untreated plywood (birch)
  • One 2x4x12 (I already had some scrap pieces so used those to make three 36″ pieces)
  • 2-1/2″ wood screws
  • Scrap carpet (found a large roll that had some cuts in it at Lowe’s for $9 that would have otherwise cost $80)
  • Can of carpet adhesive (found at automotive parts shop)
  • 9/16″ staples (for the staple gun)
  • Two simple hooks and eyelets
  • Four-pack of surface anchors
Making sure the pieces fit with room to add carpeting around each piece.
Making sure the pieces fit with room to add carpeting around each piece.
Rounded out the edges with a jigsaw
Rounded out the edges with a jigsaw

I cut the 2x4s into three 36″ pieces and the plywood into two pieces – one 35″x42″ (foot piece) and the other 37″ x 42″ (head piece). I also used a jigsaw to round the corners at the foot and head (I did this for the foot end to make the most of my space and to match the curves of the hatchback. I also decided to do the same with the head piece to remove the sharp corners).

Next, I attached the foot piece to the 2x4s with the wood screws.  I left about 1-1/2″ of the 2×4″ sticking out to later hold the head piece in place.

Tapped in four wood screws for each 2x4
Tapped in four wood screws for each 2×4
Marked the screw locations, leaving about 1-1/2
Marked the screw locations, leaving about 1-1/2″ exposed toward the head piece








I cut the carpet into pieces that would more than adequately fit the top of the foot piece and enough to completely cover the head piece (not necessary, but I had enough carpet and having that piece completely covered seemed like a better idea since it will get moved around the most). Using the adhesive spray (followed the directions on the can) and stretching the carpet as much as possible (I used some of the scrap plywood and some clamps to assist), and using a roller pin to get out the air bubbles, I then stapled the carpet along the back sides of each piece and trimmed as needed. I then laid them both face down and let them dry overnight.

Cut a larger piece than needed
Cut a larger piece than needed
Completed foot piece
Completed foot piece
Underside of both pieces
Underside of both pieces

Next, I cut out small areas of the carpet on the bottom of the head piece to align with the jutting portions of the 2x4s on the back piece so that the two pieces would lie flat.

Notched out underside of the head piece to align with foot piece
Notched out underside of the head piece to align with foot piece
2x4s jutting out for base of the head piece
2x4s jutting out for base of the head piece






I attached a hook on each side of the head piece and the eyelet on each side of the foot piece so that when the two pieces were put together they would stay in place.

Added a hook on the head piece
Added a hook on the head piece
Added an eyelet on the foot piece and hooked on each side of platform
Added an eyelet on the foot piece and hooked on each side of platform






I was going to use another piece of 2×4 (any scrap piece of wood should do) to place under the head piece to keep it level (or cut two legs to hold it up from the floor), but as it turns out, the extra carpeting made it perfectly level. I’ll probably still throw something extra in the car in case the seats sag a bit but anything could be used to lift that piece up a bit, if needed.

Both pieces stored in the back with back seats up (just fits!)
Both pieces stored in the back with back seats up (just fits!)
Platform installed in Outback
Platform installed in Outback







I still need to attach the surface anchors to the 2x4s and hook to the four tie downs in the back (just in case I have an accident, I don’t want the platform to become a projectile).

Will install surface anchors to 2x4s and attach to
Will install surface anchors to 2x4s and hook to tie downs

I hope to test it out this weekend or next!

References and thanks:

Pearl Harbor: In the Words of My Mother

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  My mother who was twelve years old at the time and her family were on the island of Lanai during the attack.  Twenty-seven years ago I interviewed my mother for a Women’s History class in college which included asking her about that day and the ensuing days, weeks, and months following the attack.  Below is an excerpt from the paper I wrote for that class. 

Socorro and her family had no knowledge of the bombing when they came home from church that day.  They returned home and her mother turned on the radio, but nobody seemed to notice that there was no broadcast.  The radio stations had been silenced to keep Japanese planes from homing in on the islands.

The local authorities on Lanai rounded up the leaders of the various communities.  Since Socorro’s father was a store owner and thus considered one of the neighborhood leaders, he was asked to attend a special meeting where he was informed of the Japanese invasion.  He returned home and told the family that the U.S. was at war with Japan.  Socorro remembered her reaction to the news:

It was a horrible feeling.  This fear that literally clutches at your stomach…  We didn’t have very much protection on the little island of Lanai…  The few men in the National Guard were whisked off immediately to Honolulu.  And what was left to protect us?  One Sea Scout troop and one Boy Scout troop… They would patrol the streets to make sure the blackout laws were followed.

The Girl Scouts, in which Socorro was involved, also played an important role on the island.  A Junior Scout at the time, Socorro learned and passed the Red Cross First Aid Course and the Home Nursing Course to prepare for invasion.  The Senior Scouts carried messages by foot to huts in the sugarcane fields and made sure no lamps were left burning during blackouts (after sundown, no lights whatsoever were allowed to be seen outdoors in order to prevent being spotted at night by enemy planes flying over the island).  Islanders began community gardens should food shipments be cut off and began stocking up on food should there be a shortage.  Gasoline and food was rationed and ration cards were issued to the residents while storekeepers made sure no one went past their allotted limit.

Family photo (Socorro, back row, on left)
Family photo (Socorro, back row, on left)

All residents of the islands were issued gas masks that were from World War I.  Everyone was required to carry their gas masks everywhere they went.  They also all had to be registered, finger printed, and immunized.  U.S. Government money was withdrawn and special money was printed with “HAWAII” stamped across the bills.  Socorro said the reason for the money switch was that in the event Hawaii was invaded and taken over, the government treasury could disavow the “HAWAII” money.  She believed that the U.S. government was willing to give up the Hawaiian Islands if they were invaded again,

For a very, very long time after Pearl Harbor, there was still the fear and the possible danger of the islands being invaded.  And the islands were written off immediately.  If the Japanese invaded they were to be allowed to fall, because in order to allow the government to retrench along the West Coast, we were to be expendable… It’s really amazing that the Japanese didn’t follow through because if they’d followed through, the islands would have fallen before the end of December, I’m sure, because we didn’t have what was necessary to hold them off.  If their fleet would have come through we would have fallen.  We were expendable.

Government-issued identification (side one)
Government-issued identification (front)

The beaches were barb-wired and for a long time no one was allowed on the beaches.  Many families were distressed by this restriction because they depended on fishing for their food supply.  Almost a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, people were allowed to go on the beach if they had permits.  The beaches were under close surveillance by the military:

One time our family went down to the beach for a Sunday picnic.  And I brought along my drawing pad and my drawing pencils and I was sitting on the beach trying to draw this sand dune; and all of a sudden there was this military reconnaissance plane buzzing the beach!  It came down once!  It came down twice, quite low!  Then all of a sudden my father realized what was happening.  They saw me drawing on the beach.  You know, this great fear of spies.  He was buzzing to try to get close to see what I was doing.  So my father said, “Put that away!”… Then the Signal Corps sends this jeep down the road and my father went and talked with them and brings my drawing pad and says, “No, she’s not a spy, she thinks she’s an artist.”

Government-issued identification (side two)
Government-issued identification (back)

Because of the state of emergency, schools were closed until early January.  While in school, students were required to engage in gas mask drills (“which usually happened after you forgot to clean out the dust from your gas mask”).  Socorro learned about blackouts and memorized facts such as the number of miles away a lit cigarette could be seen in the dark.  The students also dug trenches along the front of the school to go to for protection in case of attack.  Trenches were also dug at all the residents’ homes.

By the time the schools reopened, Socorro had befriended many of the neighborhood children who were Japanese-Americans.  On her first day back in school, Socorro witnessed the newly arisen prejudice against the Japanese students:

I walked into my homeroom and all the Japanese kids were on one side of the room.  And on the other side of the room were the Filipino kids and the Korean kids and the Chinese, except one Filipino boy was sitting with the Japanese boys.  And I walked into the room toward the Japanese girls whom I was close to and a Filipina girl says, “Hey, don’t go with them, you know, they’re Japs! Come over here!”  And I remember, Helen Tamura says, “It’s not our fault.”  And then Jaime, the Filipino boy who was sitting with his friends who were Japanese… he says, “Yes, it’s not their fault.  They didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor!”  And at that point, the class went back to normal.  We mixed and suddenly there wasn’t this empty space in the middle of the classroom.  And to my knowledge throughout all that time, that was the only time that I remember that there was a disparity there.

Although Socorro perceived the prejudice against the Japanese in Hawaii as less severe than that on the mainland, she realized that many Japanese were being arrested on the islands and taken to the mainland.  One was the father of Francis Imura, a close friend of hers.  He was sent to a high security camp in Montana where he stayed until 1946.  While he was incarcerated, his eldest son had volunteered for the U.S. armed forces and was killed in Italy.  He returned to Hawaii a completely changed and broken man.  Socorro remarked that Mr. Imura’s treatment “was the most unjust thing I’ve ever witnessed.”


Tonight I learned of an old friend’s passing.  I hadn’t seen Kathy in about 30 years since we graduated from high school but had reconnected recently via Facebook.  We didn’t interact other than a couple of Likes and Pokes on FB and peeks into each others’ online life, but as I sit here tonight toasting to her I think back to another time.

My first middle school slumber party was in the basement of her house where a gaggle of teenage girls convened and screeched as we watched Psycho (I believe I showered with the bathroom door open for several weeks following).  A few boys from our school stopped by and tapped on the basement windows so we all snuck out and wandered the streets of Hammond in the wee hours, sipping on a warm communal beer that one of the boys took from his house.  At one point we stopped by Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant on Indianapolis Boulevard where Kathy and I stole several rolls of toilet paper that the group later used to “TP” and “For Sale sign” friends’ houses.  We were such rebels!

Another memory was getting on someone’s moped (maybe Jeff Dixon’s?) and riding on the back of it with her at full speed in a park (Baring Parkway?).  We hit two hills in a row, went airborne, and landed sideways.  Though the moped had seen better days, we were both lucky to come out of it without any broken bones or worse.  We had huge cuts, bruises and knots all over from the crash, but the thing I remember most was how after we made sure we were both okay, Kathy turned to me and just laughed and laughed.  We were covered in mud and blood and completely thrilled with ourselves.

Many years have passed and memories of that time are a bit foggy, but my heart is heavy tonight as I say goodbye to someone who knew at such a young age how to truly live in the moment.  RIP, old friend.

Reading comprehension (or How I ran 50 miles under 11 hours)

I am a 46-yr old cyclist who runs.  In my youth I was an athlete – I played softball, basketball, volleyball, and ran track.  My freshman year in high school, my track coach gave me the option to be a miler or learn to hurdle.  I saw what the distance runners had to do for workouts and opted for the knee-cracking hurdles.

Until I took up cycling in my late 30s, I never envisioned myself as an endurance athlete and when I took up trail running, I considered myself a cyclist who runs sometimes.

After a couple of 23K trail runs, followed by two 60K ultras in the last two years, I decide to attempt my first 50-mile ultra at the well-organized and supported Land Between the Lakes trail run in western Kentucky.

Linda, Tracy, Alan, and me pre-race
Linda, Tracy, Alan, and me pre-race

The day starts out well and once the crowds thin out, I find my groove in the second loop when a blonde streak flies past me and another nearby runner.  I recognize Scott and yell out a cheer to him to which he surprises me with a “Thanks, Momi!” and then disappears as quickly as he arrived. The woman running near me incredulously asks, “Who WAS that?!” And with chest-pumping Bloomington pride I respond, “THAT is Scott Breeden.  THAT is the man who is destroying the 60K record today!”  Suddenly, my feet feel lighter and I continue down the path channeling Scott’s mana.

I am by no means fast, but I thought I’d easily arrive well ahead of the cutoff with plenty of time to finish under the 11hr limit.  About halfway through the second loop though, I start having stomach problems which slows me to a walk a number of times for the rest of the loop and a good portion of my third.  In addition, I misstep and take three minor spills in my first three loops which adds to my intestinal distress.  I remember reading an article about Ellie Greenwood getting ill in some of her 100-mile races and that she would just sip water for a while until things settled.  I decide to take her advice and start feeling better with about 3 miles to go in the third loop.  I begin doing the math in my head and realize I am cutting it close.  My right hamstring starts to cramp so I grab an electrolyte tablet from my back pocket and swallow it dry and keep pushing on.  Finally, I arrive at the end of the third loop with 3 minutes to spare.


Tracy is waiting for me at the aid station and sees the panic in my eyes.  She quickly calms me and asks if I want to continue and reminds me I can cut it down to the 60K.  I tell her I’m going and she tells me that I can slow down and relax now in the last loop and then yells out words of encouragement as I disappear back into the woods.

I’m alone on the trail now, going easy, getting my heart rate back down when I start doing the math.  I calculate again and come to the realization that I not only have the 11.3 miles on the trail loop, but also another 3 miles on the road to the finish and I need to keep my pace up in order to make it under 11hrs.

I turn my legs over faster, knowing that the next six miles are fairly flat and I need to gain some time before I hit the hills again.  I start psyching myself up and my brain starts talking to me…

I am a cyclist who runs. I’m a runner! I’m a TRAIL runner!  I am Scott Breeden! I am Chris Vargo! I am Ellie f****** Greenwood!  I AM A M***** F****** TRAIL RUNNER!!!

I stumble over a root and almost do a face plant.

Little steps, little steps, little steps…  get up the hill.


Careful, careful, careful, foot up, foot up, foot up!  Downhill… C’mon, Ford! Go, go, go!!!  Okay, keep going, keep going, c’mon get up here, okay, walk, walk, walk faster.  Get through the stop fast.  Grab water, take a gel.  Damn, shoulda taken a gel! Too late, keep going!

I catch up to a fellow runner at the next stop and ask if he knows how long the out and back is. He says 0.6mi each way and then an additional 1.8 home – so 3 miles on the road.  I head back out for the last couple miles on the trail.

With about a mile left on the last loop, my right hamstring begins to cramp.  Damn, no gel!  I remember I have an electrolyte tablet with me so I down it dry.  Keep going, keep going, you’re okay, c’mon you can do this.  I look at my watch and do the math.  I pick up the pace trying to get on the road with some padding.  Damn, not gonna get to the road fast enough. C’mon, spin the wheels, keep going.  Okay, walk just a little more…

Then I hear my friend Linda call my name and get a glimpse of her through the trees, I start to move again and wind out of the woods with about 37 minutes to do the three miles.

Still smiling during the first loop!
Still smiling during the first loop!

I come out of the greenery to Tracy, Linda, and Alan all cheering me on.  Tracy asks if I want her to run beside me and I nod yes because speaking takes too much energy.  Like a person going into hypothermia whose body functions turn inward for survival, what little energy I have is focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  Tracy tells me to keep going and she will catch up.  I’m already heading up the road in automatic drive. I hear Linda and Alan and others cheering me on and one of the LBL staff directing me up the road for the out and back telling me it’s 0.8 miles to the turn around.  My brain is screaming at him.

0.8 miles?! What do you mean 0.8?!  It was supposed to be 0.6!!!

I do the math.  Shit, I need to go almost another half mile more!  He tells me what I already have calculated – when I get back it’s another 1.8 to the finish so 3.4 total.  I scream some more in my head to the deaf running gods.

3.4?! It was only supposed to be 3 more!!! 

I do more math and any padding I had coming out of the woods is quickly diminishing.  I head up the road.

I hear Tracy’s familiar patter coming up behind me and she settles in providing me with words of encouragement and telling me that it’s just up the road a little bit more.  And then starts to tell me that I need to keep pushing to make it and that I will hate her but that she’s going to make sure I keep going.  I tell her that I don’t hate her and that no matter what I say in the next 3 miles back to her, that I love her more than anything.  I then tell her to stop running ahead of me and get next to me.  She asks me questions and I reply with “You talk! I don’t want to talk! Too much energy to talk!”  She keeps pushing me to keep going.

A runner returning from the turnaround catches my eyes and offers more positive words and notes that the downhill will be sweet.  I look ahead and see the slight incline that looks like a mountain to me at this point.  I utter out to Tracy, “How much further?”  She responds with certainty that it is just around the corner a bit, up a little, then flattens, then up a little more and then we’re home free.  Little did I know that she couldn’t remember at all what it was like and made all of that up.  I then see a sign ahead and ask if that is the turnaround and she confirms it (and is correct).  I get a little more energy and get to the turnaround and start heading back.  I pick up a little bit of speed on the downhill and start heading back toward the forest exit.  Tracy runs ahead to the aid station to get water and a gel ready for me.

After a few sips of water and a dollop of gel, I head back out toward the highway, down a wonderful hill and then start going up over the first of two bridges.  Linda has now joined us and Tracy continues to push me on.  I start to lose it, feeling like I can barely keep going.  I utter out, “Stop talking!”  She reminds me that I will hate her but she is going to keep pushing me on.  I tell her I don’t hate her followed by ordering her to my left side rather than the right where cars are coming. I know I’m about 1.25 to 1.5 miles out still and look at my watch that shows about 17 minutes to get there.  I start to walk just wanting to slow for a couple seconds.  Tracy pushes me to keep going and I snap at her and tell her I have 17 minutes to get there.  She says according to her watch I have 14.  My brain screams, Oh shit! My watch might be off!!!  Crap!  Alan drives past us taking pictures and cheering followed by one of the LBL volunteers driving by cheering.  I start to go again.  A stranger drives by honking and cheering. I see an LBL volunteer down the road who comes out to stop traffic on the highway for me to cross.  I know I’m near. I cross and head down the hill to the finish, stretching out my strides and summoning any fast twitch muscles still awake.  My middle-aged eyes can’t focus on the clock ahead so I push on.  About 100 feet from the finish I see a 10:5x:xx and I know I’m going to make it.

I cross at 10:53:37 with my friends Beth, Jill, and Jean cheering me in.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  When I’ve run LBL in the past, I might try to up my pace a bit, but in general don’t race.  I usually enjoy the run and the people around me, but on this day, in order to make it under 11 hours, I truly raced the clock and pushed myself unlike anything I’ve ever done.  The last six hours of that run took every ounce of physical and mental effort I could muster to make the time.

Yes, it hurt as much as it looks!
Yes, it hurt as much as it looks!

Last night, two days post-race, I look over the finishing times thinking I was the Lanterne Rouge of LBL only to find several runners who came in over the 11-hour time limit, the last ones arriving at the 11:41 mark.  It was then that I re-read the rules that were clearly stated online:

NOTE: Due to time limits, NO COMPETITOR WILL BE ALLOWED TO START A FOURTH LAP UNLESS THEY ARE ON PACE TO FINISH IN 11 HOURS. This means that 60k runners must start their 3rd loop by 1:45, and 50 milers their 4th loop by 2:15 p.m.

Nowhere does it say you have to FINISH in 11 hours, you just have to be on PACE to do so at the end of the 3rd loop!!!

I shake my head realizing that reading comprehension was never my strong suit. My brain yells out,

I am 46 years old and I am a trail runner!

Sweet hardware
Sweet hardware


About this blog…

Why dog hair?  It’s annoying.  Try as you might, you can’t vacuum it all.  It clutches the fabric, mocking you, reminding you that nothing in life stays pure, unmarred, unchanged.  But when you look closely, you might just find relics of love, adventure, friendships, life.  Even the most miniscule remnants are reminders of those who brought us joy, who passed in and out of our lives, who challenged our faith and broken our hearts.  So little in life goes as planned and even less can be controlled.  We can obsess with trying to remove unwanted history that scars the landscape or choose to embrace it like the Velveteen Rabbit that it is and explore the path it blazes, creating our stories, in our own crevice in the couch.