Diversions: Better, smarter, faster


    Harve Bennett: “Andy Sciarabba, Engineer. A man barely alive.”

    Oscar Goldman: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.”

    If you have no idea what I’m typing about, Google the “Six Million Dollar Man.” If you got it immediately, you remember Steve Austin and one of the best TV series ever! Until he met Jamie Sommers. But that is a topic for a different time.

    In May 2015 my Diversions article was titled “Restoring faith.” The article was a reflection on some awful yet amazing experiences I had two years prior as part of a quest to hike around one of the Finger Lakes in Central New York.

    (Check it out at http://csengineermag.net/article/diversions-restoring-faith.)

    On that hike, I found myself barely alive — figuratively speaking of course. I was attempting an approximately 90-mile trek around Cayuga Lake and was a hiking neophyte. I took a week off work and, on a beautiful May day with temperatures in the 80s, I strapped on my poorly balanced 50-pound pack and headed north. A day and a half, and only 15 miles later, I ended up in a ditch muttering, “She’s breaking up! She’s breaking up!”

    What the article did not reveal was that I eventually completed the hike, albeit in segments, by the end of the year. I was ecstatic. I felt like I conquered Goliath. I vowed that I would hike the rest of the Finger Lakes. All five of them.

    “Finger Lakes.” Five fingers; five lakes…right? Nope. Eleven. Gulp! No way Blister Boy was going to be able to hike all 11 lakes without some serious fine tuning.

    Like any good engineer, I did my homework. I researched the proper footwear, lightweight gear, and ways to dehydrate my own food. I learned how to cook with alcohol instead of drinking it. I watched countless online videos, read numerous books, and spoke with hikers of all ages to learn what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.

    I purchased used gear and factory seconds on eBay. I scoured Craigslist in an effort to protect my son’s college fund. I realized that every item needed to have multiple uses. Trekking poles had to double as tent poles. A “stuffed” sack had to act as a pillow. A certain finger needed to be ready to thank that truck driver for almost hitting you, then, later that day, function as a toothbrush.

    I learned that planning each adventure was critical. Do the hard parts first. End with the easy ones. Increase your odds for success. Reward yourself with a good meal or a comfy bed. Don’t try to be Bear Grylls or Les Stroud. After all, hiking around a populated lake is not like walking deep in the wilderness. I wasn’t forced to eat grubs or build friction fires. There were paved roads, some trails, and many miles of railroad tracks.

    With each hike, I honed my skills. I evaluated the usefulness of my gear. I got my pack weight down to 27 pounds, and roadside ditches became a thing of the past (unless used as refuge from a texting driver).

    Redemption came for my failed Cayuga Lake hike when I made it around the largest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake, in eight days, no stopping.

    So, you see, you can teach old dogs new tricks. Nine lakes down and two to go. Two more chances to get even better, smarter, faster.

    Andy Sciarabba, P.E., is a principal with T.G. Miller, P.C., Engineers and Surveyors in Ithaca, N.Y. T.G. Miller, P.C. (www.tgmillerpc.com) is a consulting civil engineering and surveying firm that serves municipal, commercial, institutional, and private clients throughout central New York. He would like to know how you like “Diversions;” Please send him a note at ajs@tgmillerpc.com.