LAFAYETTE -- At the Lafayette Community Foundation's inaugural Garage Tour last Sunday, you could visit Gary Fulcher's Moraga Boulevard garage -- you could even spin the Lazy Susan-mounted ladder and clamber up into the loft -- but you couldn't call it a "man cave."
"Never liked the term," Fulcher said as the tour was in progress. "To me, that's a dark, dingy hole."
Fulcher's 45-by-20-foot space is a far cry from dark and dingy, as were the four other garages on the tour.
The tour started at Blodgett's Flooring, where there were maps, wristband tickets and jumbo Chicago dogs from the Street Dog food truck visiting from Concord. From there, the self-guided tour included four residential and one commercial garage.
It allowed neighbors, friends and total strangers into the pristine sanctums that swept aside any thought of oil stains, outdated appliances and casual clutter.
Fulcher's improbable garage story is a little like "The House That Jack Built," with each element linked to the next. Several years ago, he rented a powerboat with a skiff that "looked like a thing you make cement in." He decided he could make a better-looking rowboat, then switched to making a canoe because he lives where there are more streams than lakes, and canoes are lighter to lift. He has a home in Orinda, which is why he built a garage in Lafayette.
"I live on one of Orinda's steep, steep hills and I was trying to make a canoe in a windy carport," he said.
He built a woodworker's dream -- a level, light-filled oasis with bathroom, loft, kitchen (including well-stocked liquor cabinet) and meticulous closets with pullout panels lined with Irwin Quick-Grip pliers, winches and yellow containers full of screws, nails and the like. Fire-engine-red reels hold air and electrical extension cords that reach like an undersea creature to provide power or blasts of air to every corner of the garage.
Five years after the garage was completed, there are about 15 canoes, including a stunning slip made of Rosewood that is more for show than it is practical. But everything else about his garage is intensely purposeful.
"I'm a member of Lamorinda Sunrise Rotary," Fulcher says. "We built a canoe that made us a $13,000 profit when it was raffled off. That goes right back into the community." (Those proceeds partly underwrote the Lafayette Reservoir's outdoor stage.)
It's a good deed, but also a good time, according to Fulcher. "We get the B.S. of 15 guys, bourbon, beer -- and end up with a boat."
Setting off from Blodgett's, Bob Cummins of Danville joined the tour in style.
"That's mine, parked in the red zone" he said, pointing to a sleek tan and white 1956 Chevy. The vanity plate, "4EVRKDZ," said it all.
"I drove a '54 in high school; a car is an extension of yourself," he said.
Orinda resident Whitney Haist showed off his 1939 Chevy pickup. He said he owns a half dozen vintage gas pumps, plus a 1911 Cadillac he left at home.
"When you get into this hobby, cars just fall into your lap," he said. "This tour is the male version of the women's home and garden tour."
Haist's buddies, Eric Frugé of Larkspur and Rick Carter of Moraga, were simply curious. "This is the first garage tour I've ever heard of," Frugé said. "I had to go. I can't wait to see some weird anomalies."
The "weirdest" sight may well have been the two garages on a quiet cul-de-sac just off Pleasant Hill Road. Spic and span, you could imagine eating off the floor -- if you weren't drooling over the silver 1961 Lancia Flaminia Sport or the 3-wheeler Morgan sports car built in 2012, but based on the 1920s model and still imported into the United States as a motorcycle.
The Mechanic Lafayette offered an up-close look at a professional racing car team, and a fourth residential garage featured large farm equipment and tools. Tour organizer Teresa Gerringer said more than 200 people attended the tour, which raised $5,000 to support the LCC's Excellence Grants program.