Summer Travel Map

Friday, March 26, 2010

Time to turn our attention...

March 26, 2010
Peoria, AZ summer! As usual, time has flown by and, with all the things we tackled around the "stick house" this winter, the list of things to do around the coach has only grown. I've started to organize and tackle those, as well as start some general planning for travel routes and stops.

Of course, I still have one key item to complete at the house: fix the counter under the sink. I ordered and picked up the Formica (closest match we could find), and have the underlayment ready. Over the next few days, I'll laminate a new piece of countertop and cut the opening to size for the new sink. Then, we'll schedule a day to remove the sink, fit the new piece of countertop, and replace the sink. That's the part I'm not looking forward to, given the weight of the sink, but it'll be good to finally have this one "done".

Wednesday, I spent most of the day at the coach, knocking off a variety of "small stuff" on the to-do list. I've got one more afternoon of that kind of stuff (cleaning air conditioning filters, straightening up small wood trim pieces that have worked loose, fixing a window valence that's loose) and a couple of sessions of more complicated stuff (generator oil and filter service, chassis lubrication, cleaning and lubricating the entry steps and slide locks), so we should have plenty of time before we leave for the summer.

Preliminary trip routing has us hitting the road around April 15th, heading west to California to visit Geri's sister and pick up some wine. We'll start back east about a week later, making an overnight stop here at the "stick house" to put some of the wine in the "wine box" before continuing east toward Alabama at some time in May. We may make a few stops along the way (haven't really visited San Antonio, might stop in New Orleans, wouldn't mind checking out the Gulf Coast in Alabama before heading north). We'll see - my new "don't need a detailed plan" travel style will get a bit of a test.

After Alabama, we're not sure which direction we'll head. One school of thought has us making a "short loop" back to AZ with a stop in South Dakota for Geri's driver's license renewal. Another "traditional" option would take us back to the Northeast for visits with friends and family. We just head that one of Geri's nieces will be moving to the Boston area, and Geri's still waiting for that birthday/anniversary lobster dinner, so that route may be our choice. Or, we might come up with a completely different idea!

In other news, we got the results of Geri's last kidney MRI yesterday and everything is clear. This was especially good news as we now move to a 6-month follow-up schedule for the next couple of years. It seems that many of our friends are facing cancer or the threat thereof these days - very scary. We wish everyone affected all the best...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring has sprung early

March 16, 2010
Peoria, AZ

Well, the weather has finally turned "normal", with temperatures rising into the 70s (76°F is "normal" for this week) and even touching 80° today. Gotta love that!

The last few days have been a bit of a blur. Saturday, I cleaned up the garage in the aftermath of the whole painting thing (lots of tools and painting supplies all over the place) and then we headed over to our friends, Ana & Larry, for dinner (chicken with rice & beans and some awesome wines). Sunday, I caught up on bills and spent some time trying to figure out why the IRS disagreed with our tax return (they sent us $550 more than we asked for - not asking too many more questions on that). Yesterday, I ran a bunch of errands, ordering the Formica to finish off the kitchen sink installation, getting part numbers to upgrade the headlights in the coach to the new SilverStar Ultra ones, mailing an eBay sale to China (it's a small world), and ordering 5 tons of rock.

Huh? What on earth do we need with that? Well, after we bought the house, we went xeriscape. Actually, we went beyond "dry landscaping", removing not just the irrigation system but all the grass and plants at the same time. After that was completed, we laid down a new top-coat of the landscaping rocks that cover the yard. Well, almost; the eastern side of the house wasn't done because I under-ordered.  And it stayed that way for a while and finally got rationalized away as "no sense doing that until after we paint the house". Hmmm. House painted, so...

Anyway, off to the rock store I went, ordering 5 tons of the closest thing they had to what we put in 4 years ago. They work in tons, I don't. I work in cubic yards. That, I can figure out (I got an "A" in geometry) how much we need. "They" say there are about 1¼ yards in a ton. Hard to tell. I ordered 5 yards yesterday afternoon and around 9:30 this morning the big dump truck showed up and dropped a pile in the driveway. I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon spreading about 4 of the 5 tons along the side of the house, a nice thick layer. I'll finish up tomorrow morning before it gets hot, spreading a bit of the new rock on the old stuff to blend it in, running a hose over the new stuff to clean off some of the dirt that comes with, and fashioning any remainder into another decorative berm that'll pass the HOA's 2-foot rule on landscaping (don't get me started on rules).

Once that's completed, all the outside work for this season is done. I have to finish the sink on the inside, but we're in pretty good shape there as well. Now, I get to turn my attention to the list of things I want to do with the coach before we head out for the summer. Yeah!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Painting: done!

March 12, 2010
Peoria, AZ


I'm sure you're as tired of hearing about the paint job for the house as much as I am in doing it. Well, we wrapped it up today. I was able to sand off most of the rough edges on the patio woodwork after investing a few bucks in an angle grinder with a sanding disc adapter. It's amazing what 11,000 RPM and a 36-grit disc (or is it disk?) can do. A rainy day or two, a day of drying out, a coat of primer, and it was time to paint. Yesterday, I did all the masking (windows and trim) and sprayed on the first coat. Today, I was able to get an early start, get the second coat on, get the masking off, and touch up the trim in a few places. Boy, does it feel good to have this one in the "done" column!

In other news, we had a short visit from Rod & Jean, friends we traveled to Alaska with last summer. They were on their way from Nevada to Casa Grande, AZ, where they have bought a new "stick house". They'll go from being "full-timers" to "most-timers" like us, "nesting" in the winter and traveling in their motorhome in the summer. They made the quick stop in order to pick up a power washer that we "sold" to Bob & Marlene (the other Alaska couple) last year but didn't get around to delivering.

And, speaking of selling stuff, much of the rest of the eBay listings I made earlier in the month actually sold, so we've had a variety of trips to the Post Office as well.

The back yard, with the house and a fresh coat of paint - and
nobody on the roof this time...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No project is ever simple...

March 7, 2010
Peoria, AZ

I've already mentioned how the scope of any project can expand to exceed the amount of time (and budget) available. Today was no different. For some time, I've planned to install an under-sink water filter in the kitchen. We have one in the coach and really like it for drinking water and coffee. Over the past few weeks, I've been quietly accumulating all of the parts needed, and that's where the scope got out of control.

Filter housing for under the sink: check. High-performance filter cartridge and spares: check. New single-lever faucet for the filtered water: check. Hole in the sink to install said faucet: not so much. Not a real problem, since we wanted to swap out the kitchen sink anyway. The double-bowl sink just doesn't work for us, since we routinely have large pots and pans, so we ordered a nice replacement and a new faucet (also known as a shower for short people).

Today was another rainy day (and it really rained!), so it was designated as "kitchen sink day". I dragged the sink box in from the garage (did I mention that it's a cast iron sink?) and Geri helped me get it up on the counter. I removed the old sink (nowhere near as heavy) and installed all the hardware (both faucets, soap dispenser and "air gap" for the dishwasher drain). It was easy to install the filter with the sink out.

I had a couple of different issues with the new fittings and made a couple of Home Depot runs, but had everything all set, so Geri again helped lift the sink up and into place.

Hey, why is the hole in the counter way too big???

Well, it turns out that the builder cut the hole to within 3/16" of the rim on the old sink, and the new one, even though it's nominally a 33" x 22" sink, has a smaller lip edge. I was able to use some furring strips screwed into the existing counter to make enough support to get the sink in place for now, and we really like it. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll figure out how to fill in the small gaps. It never ends...

 The new sink, gaps and all...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's a Digital World

March 4, 2010
Peoria, AZ

Duh, right, coming from a guy who started playing with computers in 1976. Yes, but today is different, marking the end of an era.

I mentioned the batch of stuff to be sold on eBay and, truth be told, the primary motivator was my decision to finally bite the bullet and go 100% digital on the photography front. With a quick series of "Buy-It-Now" sales (did I set the prices too low?), everything I had in the film world is gone.

Geri's been poking at me for a while about the film stuff, primarily because she's tired of working around the boxes of film stored in the refrigerator. But I knew she was right. I've carried around my 35mm (Nikon F6) and medium format (Mamiya 645E) stuff for the last four years worth of travel, and shot maybe 20 rolls of film total. And essentially nothing in the last two years. I really thought I'd use some film during last year's trip to Alaska, but the lure of digital's immediate gratification and quality (using the Nikon D200 and D70 with very good lenses) was impossible to resist.

So, I'm sad to see it all go but happy to have made the right decision and move on. Of course, I'll have to think of something to buy with the proceeds. Maybe a long lens I've been talking about for years? Probably the high-end remote for the D200. Oh, and let's not forget paying for all the paint and lumber we've thrown at the house. And maybe a little left over for this summer's diesel bill? Sounds just about right...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting other stuff done

March 3, 2010
Peoria, AZ

This week has turned out to be about "other stuff" - can't spend all my time painting!

Monday was the day scheduled for Geri's next follow-up MRI to verify that last year's kidney procedure "took". We were up early and over to Boswell Hospital's Imaging Center right on schedule. By 10:00, she was done and getting the Cracker Barrel breakfast "she deserved". A few errands later and most of the day was shot.

Tuesday turned out to be a computer project day, not that it started out that way. I've been gearing up for another batch of eBay selling for a while. OK, "gearing up" in this case means that I've been making a messy pile of stuff on the bed in the spare room, much to Geri's dismay. On Monday, our friend and neighbor, Mary Ann, forwarded me an email from eBay outlining their "one day sale" on listing fees for Tuesday. Being a cheap bugger and not liking fees in the first place (even though my rational side knows that without fees there would be no eBay on which to sell stuff), I knew I had to get off my duff on this. I organized everything in this batch and took the necessary photos and weights, then sat down to create the listings.

I knew that I didn't have eBay's "Turbo Lister" software loaded on my current laptop, so I fired up the older one that I now use for navigation and monitoring in the coach, where it had to be since I'd sold stuff last year. Uhhh, so where is it? Not here. Oh, I must have used the tower/desktop PC for that. Uh-oh, not there either. Hmmm, when the motherboard failed on the tower PC last year, I had to do a clean install and all the eBay stuff is gone.

Turbo Lister is a locally-installed package that lets you create all your eBay listings offline and upload them in a batch. While this is convenient for managing the auction durations, the real value is that you can create a template with all the routine shipping options, return policy wording, and item description boilerplate text, which makes creating listings much faster. Except, that is, if you have to set it all up from scratch. In any event, I got it all done and managed to upload about 30 listings before going to bed, saving myself a whole $8 in listing fees in the process. Woo-Hoo!

Today was another "early day". Geri had made appointments for us at the doctor's office. We have a new doctor, since our old one (literally - he graduated from medical school before I was born) finally retired. We'll both need prescription refills before we leave for the summer and "new guy" can't write prescriptions without seeing us in person, so it was unavoidable. At least she was able to get us early appointments (8:30 and 8:45 - how they can only allocate 15 minutes is beyond me) and we were on our way by 9:45. Geri had made appointments for the pups to go for grooming at 11:00, so we had plenty of time. I took the opportunity of the dogs being gone to spray a weed treatment, which was a bit overdue. All the rain we've had here (year-to-date 2010 is more than all of 2009) has yielded a bumper crop of weeds.