Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Altoona, IA - On the Move

Back in 2001 we helped Cathy and Tom move to their new home, the one that was to be their last home. But it was a corner lot with lots of trees and took lots of mowing, shoveling, raking and maintenance. It was time for a townhome and we got a text message in mid-March with a picture of their home with a SOLD sign in front. And, the closing is 4/14. Hmmm - 3 weeks to go. And, they have no place to go. Not yet. They looked at lots of townhomes and lots of apartments since they might have to rent for a while.

On 3/17, they had found a new house and their offer had been accepted but with a closing date of 4/14 on both houses. The pressure is on. They told us that getting up at 4 am and starting to pack was not unusual.

We got back here on 4/4, took a day off to relax, a day to do errands and asked what we could do. We had our Jeep and they had two SUV’s that were just perfect for taking loads over to their new home. We helped them take apart Tom’s workbench.


We packed, loaded and moved everything in this room but the furniture.


We took load after load of boxes and plastic tubs over to their new home (I think we’re making grooves in the road.) Some loads were lighter. Here I am with Tom’s stuffed pheasant.


The current owner said they could use the third garage and one of the lower level bedrooms to pile their stuff in.


Boy, did we fill that third garage.


These are the only pictures of the move that we have since we were all so busy. I helped Cathy take some stuff to the Salvation Army and to Habitat for Humanity and make some other errands. We also got an Invisi-brake from Tom from the RV he sold several years ago and we gave them a queen sized Mission style bed. Even trade but Tom had an easier time putting his bed together than Gary had putting the brake together. We have most of the parts but still need a new car kit and another part. Probably best to get it installed in Mesa.

Our Even Brake is still good - if it’s above 49 degrees but below that it needs to get warmed up to start. Not a good brake. And much bigger than the Invisi-brake. A good trade for all.


Finally, they closed, were in and we visited them in their new home.


Gary celebrated by tossing a rubber hammer into the air and catching it.


Meanwhile, during all this, Gary, Cathy and I attended a funeral and put the spring flowers on Cathy’s and Gary’s parents’ graves. It’s in a country cemetery and we have never been there when the wind wasn’t howling around.


You can see in back of them where their aunt Marian is going to be buried.

Funerals are such sad affairs but we do get to meet lots of Gary’s cousins that we might otherwise not get to see.


Gary also fought the good fight against a bird that had built a nest in our slide cover. We looked up one day and noticed little bits of straw and dried grass sticking out. Hmmm. Not the wind. Must be a bird. Gary got out the ladder and moved before there were any eggs in the nest.


The next morning we heard lots of little cheeping around. Sure enough, the original nest builders had brought in a full construction crew and they had not only remade the original nest but had made it into an apartment house. Then they sat out side our window chirping their defiance.

On the other hand, even though we had cool weather for the move, we also had some cold weather and some heavy rains. Note that the ‘feels like’ temperature is 29 degrees. And, even though the forecast was for 39 degrees, it was only 35. Wind was at 15 mph. The next few days don’t look much better.


In our memories, April in Iowa was sunny, warm with flowers and trees all budding and leafing out. So much for our old memories.


Note that in all the pictures above that there is not even a hint of sunshine.

‘You’ll feel better when it quits hurting.’


Monday, May 1, 2017

Altoona, IA - Cars, Trucks and Amps

And, now it’s May 1, May Day, and I’m writing the first blog entry I’ve written since we got back to Iowa. I’m so far behind. In fact, one of the entries I wrote today was about a hike we took on March 27th. What gives? Have I been sleeping this whole time? Eating at Panera? No, we’ve been busy. These two old retired people have been busier than we were when we had jobs. But, that’s the story I hear from every retired person. The difference is that we’re not getting paid to be busy now.

One of the reasons we came back was because the closing on our new home was June 1 and we wanted time to make some changes in it before the fall came and we had some guests. (Oh, boy, summer in Mesa, AZ) Another was that Gary’s sister and brother-in-law, Cathy and Tom, were moving in early April and we thought we could help them. Then, we wanted to help my brother, Jack, buy a new truck and change his electrical system from fuses to breakers. It’s always easier to have someone else’s opinions on big purchases like those. (Not that he listens to us much but we thought we’d give our opinions.) Finally, we had to empty our storage unit so that we could take what we still wanted down to our new home in Mesa.

I’ve got some pictures of what we’ve been doing. First, here’s my brother’s electrical system. The house was build sometime in the 1940’s and it still had fuses. My brother took some pictures to show us his system. (He loves to take pictures with his new iPad.) Here’s one box.
And, here’s the box that was installed for his dryer later.
Do these look old or do they look old? But the problem is that the wires in the house are 20 Amp and my brother has installed all 30 Amp fuses. Well, he wanted to avoid having to replace them when he had his TV on while he was drying his clothes, running the AC and heating some coffee in the microwave while the refrigerator was on and he was running on his treadmill. You see the problem here. 30 Amp fuses on 20 Amp wires just tends to burn and melt the insulation on the wires and cause fires. No big problem, right?

Time to update. And, update he did. Shiny, new, up-to-date. BUT - the house still has 20Amp wires.
He found himself running downstairs when the breaker tripped. ‘No problem’ says Jack. I will just put in 30 Amp breakers. But now, you’ve got 30 Amp breakers on 20 Amp wires. Hmmm. Gary worked with him to track which fuses matched which switches and made a slight change. But that still did not work so it looks as if Jack and Gary need to look at it a bit more. But - maybe Jack can’t run everything at once like he wants. We can’t run two small electric heaters, the Keurig and my hairdryer while the refrigerator and the hot water heater are going. Something has to give. Welcome to the real world, Jack.

Then a new truck. His old truck is a 1997 model and needs rust work every spring. Still runs well but the rust is keeping him busy. Well, how about a new truck? Maybe not new - but how about a 2014 model?

Sure, he says. He found 2 in Fort Dodge, IA where he lives. And, since he seldom drives out side the city limits, he probably should buy local. And, he found one he liked. Since he had telegraphed to everyone and his brother that he wanted this one at Shimkat Motors, it made the negotiations a bit harder but we got the price down and got a bed liner to boot. Jack then maneuvered to get two caps not just one.

Funny - when we were with the ‘negotiator’ he told me that I looked like my mother who worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics back in the 80’s and come into the dealership every month to check prices. Meanwhile Gary was talking with a guy who was in the Men’s Civic Glee Club with several of Gary’s uncles and had a picture on his office wall of them all in the Glee Club. Small town.

And, here’s Jack with his old truck. We’ve heard that Shimkat is asking $7000 for it - more than he paid many years and many miles ago. But, not how shiny and waxed he kept it.
and with his new one. Note the new RAM hat.

Speaking of vehicles. Gary looked out our front window one morning and saw this. Leaking so fast that, even after we moved it, we’ve got a new drip within 5 minutes.
Oops. Cripes this is the problem we dealt with last year - leaking water pump.
So we took it in and found that last year we had leaking seals and this time we have a leaking pump. Of course. Check the two rusty sections above.

Poorer by a bunch. Maybe we won’t eat out for the next month. Nah, not eating out won’t come close to the cost of the water pump.

And, that’s part of what we’ve been doing. Now to Cathy’s and Tom’s big move.

‘You generally learn the value of money from the lack of it.’

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Altoona, IA - Back to Iowa

And, finally our abbreviated winter trip is over and we’re on our way back to Iowa for April and May, only to return to Mesa in late May for the June 1 closing on the park model we bought.

Lots of billboards along I10 in southern AZ advertising for ‘THE THING.’ We’ve seen them many times, have we ever stopped? Nope. Never. Not once. Where’s Lady Bird when we need her? And, boy, does that comment, age me.
We’re more interested in the wonderful views that we see all along the road.
But, then there’s another trading post with its billboards. How many ‘styles’ of t-shirts are there? Do t-shirts have ‘styles?’
But, we’re driving straight through and our next stop is in New Mexico.
Is this the biggest pistachio in the world?
OMG. Look, it’s snow. I didn’t think we had driven this far north. But it was an awesome drive weaving through the rolling hills not knowing what spectacular view awaited us around the next curve and over the next hill.
Beautiful views on every side. Green hills set off by the craggy stone peaks in the background.
Interesting art.
But nature paints its own beauty.
These mountains form the backdrop for Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’ll bet there’s some cool hiking around here.
In Las Cruces we veered northeast, heading towards Kansas City. It’s a shorter route than taking I10 and I20 across New Mexico and south through Texas to I35 (we want to go north, not south) and heading north there. But, when we turned off, most stayed right on I10, even those with Iowa and Minnesota plates. Much of the route we take is 4-lane but we do get onto several 2-lane roads this way. Most of these are good to drive and we don’t meet many others on them. Lots easier to drive than the Interstates.

We cross the panhandle of Texas and stay at a campground in Dalhart, TX.
Texas has lots of windmills, almost as many as Iowa. Well, I don’t know the actual numbers but I’ll bet that Iowa has more.
Lots of agriculture through here. You can see the green irrigated circles but you can also see several brown patches. Guess what those are. Hamburgers and steaks. Ha, ha.
These feed lots are huge and take quite a while to drive by.
Snow yesterday and see the temps today on the weather chart for Dalhart, TX below. 39 degrees and it feels like 33 with the wind. Why, oh, why, are we heading north so soon? Note that Dalhart, where we stayed overnight is expecting rain all day on Tuesday with a temperature low of 30 degrees.

Sounds like snow to me - we’d better be moving on. We had through of staying an extra day here but saw the weather and decided to move on, ahead of the storm that’s moving across the plains.
Next we cross the panhandle of Oklahoma. While rte 54 is 2 lanes in Texas and Kansas, it’s a nice smooth 4-lane divided highway through Oklahoma. I guess they want us tourists to enjoy the ride.
Then into Kansas where we’ll stop for the night north of Wichita.
They use the old Native American technique of burning the prairie grasses every year. Here’s a swath that is still smoldering. Kansas is hazy from the smoke in the early spring. In some places we could actually see flames.
Hmmm, must be lunch time in the rest area. I think we’re not the only ones headed north.
We were passed by this RV along the road. Notice anything wrong? I made a sign on a piece of paper that said in big bold letters: ‘ANTENNA’ so that if we could pass it, we could tell him that he has a problem. He was really moving along and we could never catch up. I hope he doesn't meet a short bridge.
We checked the weather forecast and the radar and knew we’d better get up and on the road early in the morning to avoid this little storm that is going to slide across rte 35 between Kansas City, MO and Wichita, KS. We clipped the northwest corner of Missouri, around Kansas City and headed further north towards Iowa.
If you look closely at the blue dot above Kansas City you can see that we made it through the city but the storm is nipping at our heels as it moves north and we kept on keeping on.
And, then we saw this sign. Oh, wow. Des Moines, we’re almost home.
Lots of flashing red lights, cars backed up. Looks like a traffic jam and some problems on the road.
And this is what we saw as we passed it. The cab door is open and we hope the driver got out.
And, here’s a real welcoming sign.
Only an hour left before we hit Altoona, IA outside of Des Moines and the campsite that is waiting for us.

‘Remember, half the people you meet are below average.’

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tucson, AZ - Last Hike

Ummm - on Sunday we head back to Iowa. Today we’d better get our last hike in. There’s not much hiking in Iowa. A new hike, one we haven’t done before. Hutch’s Pools, which ends at some deep blue pools hemmed in by rock walls and shaded by large oak trees. And, here’s the cool part, we can get to the trail head from the parking lot using a tram. And, here’s the second cool part, we can get back to our car using the same tram. Great!!! Oh shucks, we still have to hike from the trailhead to the pools and back. I knew there was a catch.

We wanted to take the first tram at 9:00 so got there about 8:30. While we were waiting we met a local who told us that the trail to Hutch’s Pools was rocky, really rocky. Yeah. Well, it’s a trail, isn’t it? Aren’t trails usually rocky?

Cool little tram. It winds up the Sabino Canyon gorge over several narrow bridges, often covered in water from the stream below, for about 3 miles with a narration about the canyon, its history, its flora and fauna and the attempts to build a road through it. The views are spectacular. The sheer rock cliff in this picture is actually 40’ tall. Between the road which we are on and the cliff is a trail called the Telephone Trail which we have taken several times. It’s right below the cliff face so is we hike in the shade of the rock face in the morning - great trail to take in the summer. Nice trail and we would have taken it to the trailhead instead of the tram if we were in better ‘hike a mountain trail’ shape than the ‘walk the beach in San Diego’ shape we are in now. Taking the tram would save us 6 miles of a 15 mile hike. Oh, yeah.

You can see how much rain we’ve had here by all the greenery that marches up the canyon walls.


Note the abundance of saguaros as the march up the south side of the canyon.
We got off the tram, put our packs on and began our climb up the hill. Must have been at least a million switchbacks to get to the top of the hill. Well, not quite that many, but maybe a hundred. Uh, probably about 8 or so. But, they went straight up the hill. At the top, the trail leveled off and we could look down on the tram turnaround, the small paved circle between the two saguaros center left in the picture below.
Once, when we were younger and in better shape, we took the right turn at this sign and hiked a cool 18 miles back to our car. We’ve learned our lesson.
Gary is checking our GPS to make sure we’re on the right trail.
Whew. We wound around the mountain, down to a bouldered stream with water rushing through,
through a grassy grove of trees
by masses of sunny yellow flowers lining the trail,
across a grassy meadow,
and finally to Hutch’s pools. Deep enough to be still,
blue enough for reflections,
clear enough to see boulders at the bottom
and calm enough to sit beside for a lunch and a rest.

We could watch the waterfall,
and enjoy a respite under the shade of the nearby trees.
We wondered at how this tree grew around the unseen boulder below it. All you can see here is the root of the tree.
But, finally it was time to return and take the tram back to the parking lot. Let’s get these packs off our backs.
Now, let’s plan our next hike - in the fall.

‘Honk if you love peace and quiet,’