Carl Perkins and his two-man crew, assembling the city's new gondola ride in Riverfront Park, were like kids who didn't want to stop and go to bed when they were almost finished with a new Lego creation.
Only for Perkins, Erik Roslund and Gary Rockholt, the new toy was part of a $2.5 million set. The pieces were galvanized steel -- shiny with zinc -- that came loaded onto pallets, needed a heavy-duty forklift to move, and were stacked in neat piles at a fenced-off worksite across Post Street from City Hall.
For nearly 30 years, the old gondola, a remnant of the 1974 World's Fair, carried people under the bridge and over the falls. It was shut down nearly three years ago at the start of the Monroe Street Bridge repair project, and now is simply gone.
"Everything's new. We even had to jackhammer some of the old tower footings out," Roslund says.
Much of that work was done in the comfort of mobile, hydraulic jackhammer rigs, but it was a different story at the end-of-run turnaround on the north bank of the river.
"We couldn't get any equipment there, so we had to dig everything by hand," Rockholt says. The experience led to special T-shirts with a skull and crossed shovels proclaiming: Torture Island/Spokanistan '05.
The work of the three guys with Doppelmayr/CTEC (perhaps the world's leading ski lift and gondola maker) has transformed the dumpy little ticket station and turnaround with a tower-mounted control station that - if it had mechanical legs or a giant turret - wouldn't look out of place in a Star Wars movie.
But the real plum came when the cabin hangers -- the crew has been waiting two weeks for these -- arrived Tuesday afternoon.
"We're going to have to go get Gondola No. 1. We can fit it on the truck," Perkins told the others.
And as the hot afternoon crawled along and quitting time came and went, the three men connected the cabin hanger to the hanger arm. The hanger arm connected to the rocker arms. The rocker arms connected to the stems. The stems connected to the grips. And then the big forklift set the whole works onto the cable.
"It looks cool to see one now," Roslund marvels, stepping back.
"It looks like a plum hanging there," Rockholt says, noting the shiny lilac paint job.
"The cabin is pretty sweet. It's six-passenger, lilac, has smoked glass windows -- or, well, smoked Lexan," Perkins says. "They say 'Riverfront Park.' They're a lot nicer than what you used to have."
By the end of the day, Cabin No. 1 was left hanging in the shelter of the drive station. They placed their lucky stuffed chicken up on the roof, ready for a test ride sometime soon.
The new gondola, set to open in the next few weeks, is scheduled for daily operation March-October (weekends and holidays in February and November). Prices are set at $6; $5 teens, elderly and military; $4 kids 3-12. Sun.-Thurs., 11 am-8 pm; Fri.-Sat., 11 am-10 pm. Call 456-4FUN.