"It's too humid for lightning," Todd said with considerable authority. He walked back in from his balcony.
"Is that really part of the equation?" I asked.
"I don't really know."
"Look, there's more lightning," said Anderson.
"We can't even hear the thunder. It's way off," I pointed out.
"Are you really doing this?" Anderson asked Todd.
And so everyone was onboard. Anderson wasn't really concerned about the weather. He was stalling because one of his three fears was heights and we were about to hop the fence at a construction site and climb a 160 foot crane. And, if possible, walk to the very end of the boom.
The activity falls neatly into my favorite quadrant of life experiences. Morally sound but illegal. It's not that I particularly enjoy breaking the law, although there is some thrill to it, but it's more that they make fun things illegal.
Things that are dangerous enough that someone could get sued, but safe enough that someone with common sense would never get hurt.
The crane hovered over a demolished RV park which yielded to a new condo development that had just broken ground. Every time Todd or I would pass it we'd look up at the crane. It had to be climbed.
Cameras in tow, we walked to the fence. A quick look for witnesses or police in either direction passed, we hopped over the fence, and slid into the shadows of the construction site.
So far, so good. As far as I know, police don't look at cranes to see if anyone is climbing them, so our most likely time to be caught was over.
The actual climbing is boring. Cranes are sectional and each twenty foot section has a ladder that leads to the next section. The view became more magnificent with each section.
I've been up a couple cranes in my day. At the top there are two payoffs. One, sometimes the control cabin is unlocked and you can sit in the chair. It has windows 180 degrees in each direction and tons of controls, so when you sit in the chair you feel like you're piloting a spaceship.
Hey, no one's ever accused me of being too mature.
The second payoff is that sometimes the boom of the crane, the horizontal part at the top, has a walkway inside it so that you can walk to the end.
We hit the jackpot. There was a walkway and the door was unlocked.
We started down the walkway. The first obstacle was a giant reel of steel cable that blocked the passage about halfway through.
Either I could slither under it, or I could move to the outside of the crane and shuffle across the side beam. I chose the latter, mainly because it was scary and seemed more fun. It was both of those things, ten or so steps of watching my feet slide across a four inch beam with the backdrop of the RV park 160 feet below.
My stomach got that roller coaster feeling. This is what life is about, I thought. Let go with my hands and I'm dead. You feel alive by contrast.
After I got past the reel I swung back onto the path in the middle of the boom and kept walking. Any fear of that type of section was totally demolished by climbing on the outside.
Near the end, the path changed again. To cross the last thirty feet, it would be necessary to go back on the outside. This was a lot scarier because we were now so far out that every move sent shockwaves of movement through the whole beam, and because it was at least four times longer than the previous outside section.
I ducked under the railing and went on the outside. Not so bad. I looked down, as if to reinforce that what I was doing was scary. Christmas lights flickered under trees in the RV park. I was high up. I focused on making sure that three appendages were touching the crane at all times.
Could our 450 pounds or so cause the crane to tilt forward? Probably not, but if so, I planned my course of action. I would straddle a vertical beam and hold on for dear life. Further thought made me realize that this crane probably doesn't even have that axis.
Finally we made it out to the end and sat with our feet dangling off the edge. It's the most perfect view of Austin you can have, not impeded on any side.
After half on hour of singing songs, joking around, watching bats fly a few feet away, and taking pictures, we headed back. No one was afraid anymore as we gingerly hopped across the outside.
Anderson recited a good quote:
"There's a difference between living and actually being alive."
I couldn't agree more.
Here are some photos. They're mostly poor quality because it was just moonlight and I have no flash.