Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Holding Pattern in Arizona

Nancy's Mom, Irene Galvin Beck, passed away Monday morning April 24th. Nancy and both of her sisters had been with her all weekend. Nancy will remain in Chicago for a while helping Joan deal with their Mom's apartment and attendant issues. I'm sitting tight in Tucson, getting things cleaned up and packed away in anticipation of hitting the road as soon as Nancy returns.

Wednesday 4/13

Morning walk in the desert, saw two ravens building a nest in the crotch of a tall saguaro right next to one of the trails we take regularly.

Loaded the bikes onto the truck, along with some other items and made a run to Ajo-Kinney Storage. No point in hauling the bikes along with us this summer.

Ran some errands, Nancy doing the driving since the car is rented in her name. We are still seeing ants around the footprint of the house, so we stopped at “Do It Yourself Pest Control” on Ajo Way and picked up some ant bait. Stopped by the lot and spread it around.

Picked Gary up and we went to Coyote Pause for lunch. Karen and her Mom were out shopping.

I did some looking at used smarts available in the Chicago area. Found a possibility at Mercedes St. Charles, but it is white and silver - boring. Then I found a yellow and black one at Mercedes Orland Park where we bought the last one.

Turns out it is a brand new 2013 that has been sitting in the dealer’s inventory for three years! It has 51 miles on it. Apparently not a big market for yellow smarts in Orland Park. That is however perfect for us! In fact, when we bought our first gray market smart in 2006 Nancy had really liked the yellow and black ones but none of them were being brought into the US.

So … we called and made a deal. We will pick it up as soon as we get back to Illinois. It is called a CityFlame Edition and there were only 2,400 built in 2013. Some were black with yellow interior trim, others were yellow with black safety cell like ours.

Blackhawks opened the playoff tonight and got ripped! They played a good game against St. Louis that ended in a scoreless tie. Then the Blues scored a fluke goal on a deflection off a Blackhawk’s defenseman! Very disappointing.

Thursday 4/14

After our morning walk we stopped by to see Gary and he rode over to take a look at the house with us. Ants seem to be gone! Yeah. Nothing happening right now, Paulette says they plan on pouring the foundation on Saturday!

Again ran a few errands, stopped at BK Tacos for lunch. Starting to get things picked up and packed up. We have decided to skip the stop in Show Low and head head straight back to Illinois so Nancy can see her Mom and help Joan with the attending issues.

Friday 4/15

The ravens seem to be settling into the huge nest they have built in the saguaro. Another beautiful morning in the desert, weather has been really nice lately. Warm enough for the AC in the afternoon, but nice at night. For the first time in seven winters here we saw a pair of coyotes out in the desert this AM, trotting by about 100 feet from us. We hear them quite often, but this is the first time we have actually seen any in the desert. We occasionally see them crossing a road, especially in our new foothills neighborhood.

Headed into town to swap cars at mid-day. Joan had found a great deal for Nancy on the car we had this week. Dollar has “City Specials” on their website. If you watch it during the week the prices drop substantially. The one we pick up today will cost us $90 for two weeks! A great deal. Apparently rent-a-car demand drops off here this time of year.

Took 45 minutes standing in line at Dollar to get the new car! One would think they could staff based on known demand at any one time, but noo. 

Stopped at Ajo Cafe for lunch, then a quick stop at Camping World. Back home I talked to Gary and the insurance adjuster was stopping by to see him and he wanted me there as well so we stopped by. Ended up with more questions than answers after the meeting. We’ll get it straightened out.

End of season Bar-B-Que at the RV park this evening and the Blackhawks are playing game two in St. Louis.

Saturday 4/16

Hawks played a good game and won last night in St Louis so they evened the series and took over home ice advantage! Yeah! Some sour grapes in St. Louis over disputed goals, but for once this season the process went in the Hawks favor!

Up early, but no walk, they are supposed to be pouring concrete on our house today. Got over there about 7:30, in time to see the last two trucks (of nine!) loading concrete into the pumper. John Herder (our builder) was there and he explained that they pump it in instead of just pouring from the trucks because it goes in more evenly. When they pour from the trucks the first load begins to dry while they are moving the trucks and that can cause voids or cracks. With the pumper the concrete flows in steadily and they can smooth it as they go. Quite a process, 90 yards of concrete 8-1/4” thick!

Had a long conversation with John as we watched them smoothing the concrete. He spent a lot of time explaining exactly what was going on and why they were doing things like scoring slab marks in the garage (localizes cracks and prevents hairline cracks in the garage surface.)  There are perks to being the folks paying the bills! 

The foundation will be what they call “post tension” reinforced. Last week they strung plastic coated cables between the footings in a 3 to 4 foot grid. Looks like the way they used to put in rebar. Once the foundation has cured - about 7 days - they will come back with a machine and tension the cables to 35,000 lbs.! This is done before the slab has any vertical load on it and will prevent cracks later on. Using this process is the only way they can do polished concrete floors, which are becoming more popular. We will have tile throughout and John says they have never had to replace any tiles due to cracking since they went to the “post tension” system. 

Left there about 9 and went into town to the Hotel Tucson for the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society semiannual conference. We only signed up for one of a number of seminars.  “Designing Your Own Succulent Garden” was an excellent presentation, exactly what we were looking for! We learned a lot about what we want to do and how to go about it. I took four pages of notes!

Lunch at Beyond Bread and a stop at Trader Joe’s then back home to listen to A Prairie Home Companion, which is now on at 3 PM here! The we watched the F1 qualifying from last night.

Sunday 4/17

Slept a bit later than normal, then our regular morning walk. No sign of the ravens and it looks like some of the nest blew down in the gusty winds yesterday.

Watched the F1 race, an especially good one with a lot of action. Then the Blackhawks, they played pretty well but not good enough to overcome both the Blues and the referees who apparently listened to the Blues whining from the last game.

Mid-afternoon we drove over to the house and took some measurements of the area we have for landscaping. Want to noodle around with some ideas during the summer. Slab looks good, wood forms removed and surface nicely finished, particularly the garage.

Monday 4/18

Morning walk and then a fairly quiet day, puttering around with small tasks getting ready to hit the road. Nancy has spent hours cleaning our Bar-B-Que grille which I have neglected a bit. 

Tuesday 4/19

After our morning walk I spent the entire morning doing the on-line safety class to expunge the ticket I received after the accident. Nancy did laundry and worked on her Spanish. She has really put a lot of time into this class and her progress is really good. She’ll be speaking Spanish like a native before too long!

Quick run in the afternoon to drop a check off at Herder’s office in Starr Ridge, stop at Tucson Estates Hardware and a run by the house. No activity there, but we did not expect any. Concrete needs to cure for a week before they do the post tension, then electrical wiring and plumbing goes into the slab. Then there is a wait for the building inspector before they start framing. Don’t expect to see much activity before we leave on the first.

Wednesday 4/20

Nice walk in the morning, it is getting hotter here, but the mornings are glorious! In the 50’s with a cloudless sky and low humidity. One of the ravens is now sitting on the new nest.

Ran into town for lunch at Ajo Cafe, good lunch, but disappointingly they were out of chocolate cream pie - again! Stop at grocery store and then back home.

Running the AC pretty regularly in the afternoon now.

We have decided to forgo the stop in Show Low on the way home and just head straight back so Nancy can help Joan with their Mom who is now in rehab. Expect to be at Big Rock Campground in Kane County the 4th or 5th of May. 

As soon as we get to Illinois we will pick up the new smart, then I will be waiting for my Jeep to arrive! Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Thursday 4/21

Blackhawks did not look great tonight, but they found a way to win in double overtime! Not sure if they have turned a corner or if they are just prolonging the pain!

Friday 4/22

Morning walk and then we made a run down to the storage place to drop off a few final items and bring back a bottle of whiskey! I think I mentioned before that I found a great deal on my favorite scotch at Costco a while back, so there are several bottles in the storage locker.

Then we got a call from Joan to say that Mom seems to be going downhill quickly. Made the decision to pack up and leave this Sunday instead of next. So we started heading in that direction. Changed the mail forwarding to start Monday and stopped the newspaper a week early.

Then another call from Joan. Not looking good. So Nancy packed up quickly and caught a flight to Chicago mid-afternoon! Connie is getting in from Denver about the same time tonight.

I said I could load up and head back North, but Nancy does not want me making the trip alone, so I guess I will wait until she returns.

Saturday 4/22

Nancy reported that she and Connie, along with Connie's son Lawrence (who live in Chicago), got there in time to talk with her Mom Friday evening.

Headed into town at mid-morning in the truck. My solar charger is doing a good job keeping the batteries topped up. Made a stop at Bookman’s. Some kind of Steam Punk event going on so it was crowded. Picked up a couple of paperbacks cheaper than I can get them on the Kindle.

Stopped at Beyond Bread for lunch and since I was at the one on Speedway I picked up a small chocolate pie at the Back Dough!

Back home and watched the four hockey games I recorded during the day! Glad the playoff are on while Nancy is gone.

Sunday 4/23

Watched CBS Sunday morning, did some packing. Picked up our outdoor carpet and laid it across the back of the truck so I could hose it off. Stuff dries really quick here!

Three pretty good hockey games today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Into Each Life, Rain Must Fall

Tuesday 4/12: So, the narrative below ends abruptly on April 5th.  Good reason for this. As I had noted, Nancy went to Chicago on Monday to help Joan with issues around her Mom’s injury. Wednesday afternoon I called Gary and asked if he wanted to run out to Fred’s Arena for pizza. Karen had gone to Minnesota for a quilting conference on Tuesday, so I knew he was a bachelor like me.

We had a pizza and then on the way back we were in a fairly serious accident and we both ended up in the hospital! The poor little smart gave it’s all to save us though, it is a write-off after being hit almost head-on by a Chevy pickup going about 60 MPH!

No point in going into details, but Gary has seven cracked ribs and a lung puncture, along with bruises and a black eye from one of the airbags.  I have a broken sternum and substantial bruising and contusions around my waist and hips. All of our injuries are from the seat belt/shoulder harnesses. The smart maintained the integrity of the safety cell, with just a slight kink in the right side "A" pillar. Right in the center of that pic you can see a silver rectangle. That is the horn of the safety cell where the front structure attached. That front structure crushed as planned and absorbed energy, the safety cell has no deformation at all at that point! The driver's door still opened and closed normally! Since the hit was 45 degrees on the right front all four of Gary’s airbags triggered while only the front two on my side went off. 

I had a titanium plate put on my sternum on Thursday  morning and that pretty much took care of the serious pain. Nancy came home early and picked me up at the hospital on Saturday, while Karen did the same for Gary on Sunday. So, besides the new Jeep we will be looking for another smart car as well when we get back to Chicago.

Nothing but good to say for the staff and the treatment I received at Banner University Medical Center!

On the good news front the house is moving along. All of the plumbing and electrical wiring that goes in or below the foundation is in place and all the tension cables for the Post Tension foundation are in place. Apparently they pour the concrete around and over the cables. Then a week later they come back with a machine and apply tension to the cable to firm up the foundation.

It’s now Tuesday 4/12 and we are getting back into a fairly natural rhythm. Walked around the RV park the last couple of mornings, but today we went out into the desert again and encountered a light rain along with a beautiful rainbow. Tucson has officially had 3/4” of rain the last couple of days. This is the only place I have ever been where people get excited about rain in the forecast!

Monday 3/28

After our morning walk we took our bikes over to the Foothills first thing this morning and did a short ride around the area with Gary. No action at the lot so far.

After the ride we went to BK for lunch and did some shopping.

Tuesday 3/29

There have been beautiful, cool mornings with scattered clouds the last couple of mornings.

After breakfast we headed into town to REI. Nancy had a coupon and a dividend so she used them to purchase a new new pair of hiking boots for me! While we were there I also picked up a new pair of brake blocks for my bike, the rear ones are almost worn out.

After that we drove up to LA Encantada shopping center to the Bose store. Nancy made a stop at AJ’s Grocery to check it out. I have decided on a Bose Soundtouch 10 and a Soundtouch 20 for the new house. We gave away both of our old stereo systems when we moved, plus FM reception is not very good this side of the Tucson Mountains and we always listen to NPR in the morning. The Soundtouch speakers can operate from a WiFi system or Bluetooth. Receiving from WiFi means they can pull in any FM station on the Web, in addition to all of the on-line music services. They can also link to the music library on my laptop, iPod or iPhone with either WiFi or Bluetooth. The Soundtouch 20 will go in the kitchen, the 10 in the master bedroom. So now we have a radio and a stereo system for the new house.

 I was under the mistaken impression that there was going to be a price increase so had decided to buy them now instead of waiting. Turns out I was wrong, but there was a bit of a sale so we went ahead and bought them anyway. 

We stopped at Culver's for lunch, then back home. I spent the afternoon setting up the Bose systems so we could check out their operation. They can be controlled from pre-select buttons on the speakers, my laptop, or from an app on my iPhone. A slick setup and the speakers have the usual incredible Bose sound in a small package.

Late in the afternoon we went over to Karen and Gary’s. We all went to dinner at La Parrilla Suiza to celebrate Karen’s birthday. As on our previous previous visit the food was excellent. This seems to be our new favorite Mexican restaurant.

Wednesday 3/30

Usual morning walk in the desert, then Nancy was off to her Spanish class, I did my weekly house cleaning. After lunch went to Costco as Nancy wanted to pick up some contact solution that was on sale and I wanted to order another pair of glasses without the sense coating that makes them so hard to clean. Turns out Costco will not sell glasses without the anti-glare coating! How stupid is that?

Anyhow, the visit was no a total loss. We always walk through the whisky aisles to check out what they have. Today I found my favorite, 10 year old Laphroaig, for $29.99 a bottle! That is about $16 a bottle less than it usually costs here and an even greater savings over the cost back in Illinois! So I bought four bottles! Dropped three of them off at our storage locker on the way home, no point in carrying them around with us all summer! We also picked up a 24 bottle case of Mexican Coke for a good price. We like the Mexican since it uses cane sugar instead of the corn syrup used in the US product.

Thursday 3/31

Took our regular walk in the desert, then we both went to the yoga class here at the park this morning, my first yoga class since before my foot surgery. Beautiful day, a bit one the cool side. High in the 60’s

Nancy did laundry and studied her Spanish. I put the new brake pads on my bike - and fixed a loose retainer on my rear fender. Then relaxed and read.

Friday 4/1

Cold this AM, 43 degrees! We decided to skip the morning walk since we were going to the 4th Ave Spring Street Fair.  After breakfast we headed into town. Parked in the Garage at 4th and Broadway. As we came down the stairs from the garage we ran into Karen and Gary getting off the elevator from the same garage!

Walked with them for a while, but got separated along the way. Had a pretty successful visit to the fair, usually we don’t buy much other than the face and body creams that Nancy purchases from a local woman. This time Nancy found a nice key hook made from cholla wood. Something we will need by the garage door in the new house. Nancy also picked up a couple of cute blouses.

Had lunch at a new restaurant on 4th Ave., Latin It Up. Nothing fancy, but pretty good Cuban sandwiches. Not up to La Septima in Brandon, Fl., but hey, we ain’t in Florida!

Back home we had a package delivered from SwissTrax with samples of the plastic floor tiles we are looking at for the new garage.

Saturday 4/2

Up early to head to H F Coors for the First Saturday seconds sale. Thought the crowd would be lighter, but no soap! Lot full and lots of cars parked along the street. Used to be light crowds, this thing is getting out of hand.

Then up to the Northwest side for the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society annual members only garden tour. Eight lovely gardens, a lot of natural plantings. Nancy learned a lot about the plantings, I got a lot of ideas about landscaping and different kinds of garden paths.

Stopped at Beyond Bread on Ina for lunch and then headed home. On the way home Joan called and told Nancy that her Mom (who will be 102 in June!) had fallen and broken her hip! Oh, oh! Looks like Nancy will be heading back to Chicago pretty quickly.

Gary had called me while I was waiting for Nancy at H F Coors, he and Margo had walked past our lot and they are putting in the footings for the foundation! Yeah!

Drove by our lot on the way home and the wood footings are in showing the full outline of the house on the lot! Seems real now! Looking at the room for our front garden we do not have as huge a space to fill with landscaping as we thought, especially compared to some of the gardens we saw today that covered more than an acre. Things are really looking encouraging!

Back home watched the F1 qualifying from Bahrain. Another dull and boring session due to the cockamamy new format! They have screwed up the best part of the F1 weekend!

Sunday 4/3

Up at dawn this morning and out in the desert early. Another beautiful morning, we love the desert at dawn!

F1 race first thing this AM, one of the better of the recent races. Great to see Rosberg win the first two and Haas F1 is off to a great start!

After the race we went over to the lot and walked around looking at the position of the house. A lot easier to visualize things now that there is a physical outline on the ground!

Back home we watched the Blackhawks game that we had recorded this AM - it was on at 9:30 AM here and we were watching the F1 race.

Blackhawks seemed to break out of their slump once again, hope it sticks this time! By the end of the 2nd period they were leading Boston 6 to nothing! Patrick Kane had a hat trick. Then the Bruins scored twice in the last minute of the 2nd! Hawks hung on to win 6 to 4, but it wasn’t pretty!

Nancy did some laundry, she is packing and getting ready to fly to Chicago tomorrow - could not get a flight today! She should get there before her Mom has surgery tomorrow.

Monday 4/4

Up early, Nancy had a flight out at 7:15 AM! Thankfully it is only a 20 - 25 minute drive to the airport that time of morning, nice to be living in a mid-sized town again, even we are almost out in the boonies! Actually we can see them from here!

Called my friend John Fortman at Lou’s Jeep in Geneva to ask his advice about buying a Wrangler. He agreed with me that the used prices are pretty ridiculous. Said he doesn’t even bother going to the auctions because they are selling there at retail! Driving through town the other day I saw a TJ Wrangler on a used car lot. Looked it up on line when I got home: 2006, 68k miles, asking $18K! I can buy a new one equipped like I want for about $27, so why would I buy a 10 year old one?

Anyway, John said if I wanted to order one the way I want it I should do it now. Orders probably close around the end of April with build-out in May to get ready for the 2017s. John put me on the line with his service  manager Mark, who used to be Service Manager for the Chrysler/Jeep dealer in Aurora. He gave me the name of the sales manger and said he would do right by me.

SO, I called and talked to Dave at Riverfront Chrysler Jeep. He said he could find what I wanted and said he would call back in an hour. Called back and said, “Nope, we’ll have to order it.” I knew that all along since I had been looking and knew there was nothing in dealer inventory anywhere that matched what I wanted.

Dave said if we place the order now it should be in the third week in May. Perfect! We’ll be in Kane County May 25. So I placed the order and we’ll have a nice new Wrangler when we get back to Illinois!

Sent Nancy a text and told her I bought a new Jeep! It’s a Wrangler 2 door, soft top with half doors, AC, auto trans, and towing package, nothing else. I wanted a basic Wrangler without all the fru-fru. Of course it comes standard with all the safety stuff - anti-lock brakes, stability control, airbags, and tire monitors, plus an 8 speaker stereo/CD player, cruise control, intermittent wipers, etc.

One reason I had to order it was that I wanted half doors, which dealers simply do not stock. Having it Tucson all the time I expect to have the top down or completely off 90% of the time with a bikini top for sun protection. I think they look a bit tacky with the top down and the full door frames. So half doors with canvas windows!

Here’s a pic of what it will look like:

The back and forth on that pretty much killed the afternoon and I watched a couple of hockey games in the evening.

Tuesday 4/5

Up and out for a walk on my own before 7 AM! Decided going out in the desert alone was not the wisest choice, so I did 2 miles around the two RV parks. Later in the morning I went into Costco to pick up a prescription for Nancy. Nancy had been ribbing me for buying the Jeep as soon as she left town, so I sent her a text about the great deal Costco had on a 60” flat screen TV. She didn’t buy it though, texted me back “Fortunately it won’t fit in my car!”

Stopped at  Roma Imports to pick up some air dried beef for Andrea (Desert Trails manager) and David. David is a computer consultant and he worked on my laptop for a couple of days trying to recover lost Quicken data and was unable to help, so he did not charge me.

Back home, quite afternoon. Ran back into town to Beyond Bread for dinner (and lunch tomorrow!) and made a stop at a Safeway for some stuff.

Blackhawks play tonight in AZ so the Chicago Center Ice feed is blacked out. Have to watch the AZ broadcast on Fox Sports. To add insult to injury they are delaying the broadcast by 2-1/2 hours because there is a Suns basketball game!