Thursday, February 4, 2016

On a Phoenix Brouhaha Regarding City Council Prayers

My daughter lives several large states and one to two time zones away, depending on Daylight Savings timing, She's not plugged in to Phoenix local news. As an atheistic activist, I thought she might be particularly interested in recent events down here. I know I was, even as "just" an agnostic. So I sent her the following email a bit ago:

Just an fyi for you. You can do more research in local news outlets if you care to. This is just a summary gleaned from local news, the bits sandwiched between Super Bowl, Waste Management Golf, Zika, and traffic coverage.

A group of Satanists applied for, and fought for over several years, the right to say their own prayer at the Phoenix City Council meetings. They were finally put on the agenda for later this month after attorney advisement that they couldn't be singled out when Judeo-Christian prayers were offered regularly. Naturally, as soon as it got some press, folks went bat-shit crazy. That got more press. A special council meeting was held to discuss it. All the usual opinions were expressed.

The upshot is that the city council will now be having a moment of silence rather than anybody's prayers being spoken.

This being Arizona, somebody in the legislature is sure to try to bring a bill up to defy the constitution.

*    *    *

A tiny note of perspective from a former small town mayor: We never had prayers. And despite repeated encouragement to me, we never started meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance during my 8 years either. I started each year with a sworn promise to uphold the constitution. That was enough. I didn't need to hold a piece of fabric as a sacred object, and I figured everybody could make their own determination as to whether any deity held jurisdiction over zoning, water and sewer improvements, stray dogs, or tax billing.

Love you,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wasting Wire

There is a purpose here, but we have to begin with a few premises. The aspiring wire wrapping jewelry maker hopes to graduate to silver wire. Gold is for experts, well funded ones at that, so forget that. Copper is therefore popular and sensible as starter wire, and you can throw in brass and alloys, even colored wires for variety.

Jewelry can be made more simply, like gluing things like bell caps, but, well, it tends to scream "cheap" to the discerning eye. (Uh, sorry folks. It's a process. It'll get better. Just know you were thought of.) When one makes jewelry to sell, one can move it faster and for more money if one goes beyond that technique. That's a challenge. While building your skill with wire wrapping, mistakes are made and stuff gets tossed. Wasted, mostly, though pure copper can be recycled. Silver absolutely will be recycled, but we're not there yet.

My wire wrapping experience started with taking a class using 22 gauge half-hard square ( ! ) wire to make, in order, a bracelet, a ring, and a pendant, the latter two of which incorporated cabochons (stones) into their designs. There was little room for creativity, though much room for error. At the end of the class, we were told that this was just one method of making each item, and just one kind of wire that one could use. We could go online for free patterns and lots of ideas. Class was done.

Yeah, OK, I'd had my class but I was into the lapidary piece of jewelry making: buying, cutting, shaping and polishing the stones to be used in jewelry. I got pretty good at it. As I went, I got fussier about the quality levels, improving my quality, making me even fussier....  Eventually I could mostly produce stones of a quality to be sold in the shop. I still haven't figured out sodalite, for one.

Of course, the shop doesn't sell plain stones. It sells jewelry, meaning those stones have to be mounted into or onto something to make them wearable. So, bolos. Simplest to do, though not all that cheap. Of course, there is a limited market for that sort of thing. I was discouraged from trying to sell any, though local sales have recently been on the upswing. But hey, they make great gifts, and with a little sizing down of the stones, can be marketed as "Lady Bolos". They can be worn as one would any other necklace, on wardrobes with or without collars, and plenty of adjustment for length to the main stone.

That would go over better for the ladies if there were matching earrings to go with them as a set. Suddenly my lapidary skills needed a brush-up, adapting from larger cabs to tiny ones, as the majority of women I've talked to require light weight earrings, and from front-only cabs to full front/side/back polishing. Additionally, those stones needed either bell caps or wire wrapping as a base for mounting to ear wires. Once I mounted over a dozen sets of earrings using bell caps, I was strongly encourage not only to discontinue doing that but to undo what I had done. (About three more steps up beyond my skill level, they could be inset into a shaped form of, say, silver. That works if one actually has an interest in that skill and is willing to produce perhaps one project per month. So... no.)

Well, at least I didn't go out and spend a whole lot on buying bell caps. The copper ones I found are pretty cool, with a leaf design that even the club members who judge what is of sufficient quality to go into the shop thought was allowable. Furthermore, to "rescue" those stones, the glue used to adhere the bell caps is soluable in acetone,  reasonably inexpensive if one buys it straight rather than with all the extra stuff that's supposed to improve your nails while you remove the polish.

So that got done. I'm back to a whole lot of very nicely done stone pairs that need wire wrapping.

None of my class instructions covered how to do that.

I went back online, going through other people's samples and ideas, trying to figure out how whatever it was they did could be adapted to my stones. Or not. And trying to figure out what techniques were used, what kind/size/hardness of wires might work. Make a cage? Criss-cross spiraling wires? I even checked out drilling the stones to see if they could simply be turned into beads, thus simplifying wrapping. No go. Laser cutter, anybody?

My tendency to insomnia got fed by lying in bed imagining how which wire could be used with which stones. Over and over. Some I tried to do in real life and found out just how unskilled I am in wire wrapping. Or how slippery some of those small rounded earring stones are. I tried new wires, new sizes, packs of multiple colors - just for fun - and did manage to accomplish a couple things. Never what I originally wanted, but some of the side trips were interesting.

I figured out how to loop a few beads on a matching colored wire and fasten it to the tip end of a bolo cord so it couldn't be pulled off, then wrap the cord up an inch rather than gluing an expensive pre-formed silver tip on it, as an adaptation of lady bolos. One three-yard spool of 26 or 28 gauge wire did both tips of one cord. Yes, that much wire. Since those fun colored wires came in multi-packs and I only used a few, I had lots of that wire left over. At least those packs come cheap.

I tried using some of the left-over wire from class to try a few projects on my own. I think of those as re-learning experiences. They sit tucked out of sight, where they can't mock me.

While going through some beads for the bolo projects, I came across a set of ammonites I'd bought and set aside while I thought of something I could do with them. Think flat snail changed to stone fossil, mostly browns with incredible detail looking like a neverending leaf margin if the original shell had gone, or an incredible starburst of opalization if the shell was still intact. Maybe both if it had a partial shell. They were still waiting for that thought to occur.

I finally bought a pair of titanium drill bits and tried to drill a hole in their middles. If I couldn't wrap them, maybe I could string them? Let me just tell you that drilling through a fossil is an extremely difficult task, even using titanium bits, and I only got through about 2/3 of them before deciding other things needed my attention more. So they still sat.

This weekend I finally decided to try them with some of the square copper wire using a combination of the designs I'd seen online. No instructions, of course, but what the hay? I came up with a design I liked and discovered just how awful I was (OK, am) at wrapping something so that it looked like something. Anything. Just something above kindergartner skill level.

No go.

But I lay awake another night and came up with an idea. I had those spools of colored wires, way too tiny to do anything with, but what if I could fix that? I know that small wires can be used for viking knit to make something appearing thicker. I can't do that yet, but... how about if I tried braiding the wire? I used to be able to braid fairly well, even, once upon a lifetime ago with long hair and good shoulders, doing my own french braiding. Those wires were just sitting there, money already spent. What would I lose?

After some thought and several tries, I found the right thing to anchor the starting wires to. Thank you Steve, my first anchor, but I now can do it without waiting for him to free up a hand for 20 minutes. Each. Just an fyi, there's a chair involved now. Those 3-yard spools make 3 one foot braids, perfect for looping through the drilled hole (after filing it a bit bigger with a round file), and making a two-bail connection with a fat middle wrap, turning it into a pendant for whatever your favorite necklace may be: cord, thong, or even sterling. The first ones are in bright red wire, in case somebody wants a cheap - uh, inexpensive - Valentine's bauble, or green in case somebody's shopping for St. Paddy's Day. Or just in case you like those colors with your fossils. The ammonites which had opalized either in reds or greens were given matching wires.

Too bad none opalized in blue or purple. I still have spools of those colors.

Obviously there was a lot of wasted wire in the process. There will be a lot more. But is it really a waste?  OK, is it really an unforgivable waste?

Meanwhile, I have my first projects submitted for sale., You know, so I can make some money. So I can buy more wire to waste. While I wait, maybe I'll try braiding some 3-color wire, see how that works. I still have that chair....

Friday, January 29, 2016

Praise the Lord and Pass the Scalpel

Yeee- Haaaaaa! My first knee replacement is scheduled. Plus, the second one is planned, if not exactly on the calendar yet.

After a week delay because the Orthopedic Surgeon had an emergency, I finally got in to see him. We started with the usual paperwork, of course, followed immediately by x-rays. He wanted to know what we were talking about before beginning the conversation.

I get that. I'd thought maybe an MRI would be scheduled a few days out, but while that happened after my very first knee injury, we're down to x-rays now. Apparently nobody cares any more about which meniscus might be torn where. We're way past that. Like a dozen years or so. It's been so long I can't remember any more, except it was way back during one of those periods when I had actual medical insurance, and it was done in Ramsey Hospital before their major renovation project and before they changed the name to Regions.

Yeah. That long ago.

I've seen my knee x-rays since then. Some were a bit ambiguous. My untrained eye thought there was a little bit of spacing left between the bone ends, since they seem to have a thicker white line at the tip. I got to see the real-time pictures of those cartilage injections as the needle went deeper in and - oops! stabbed the bone, haha, nevermind, sorry, try again. Squeeze some more of that lidocaine in there, will ya? I could actually watch a shading difference as the needle emptied until the contents spread out. Too bad it didn't do much after the painkiller wore off two hours later.

Today's films were, first of all, a royal pain. Seriously. I had to stand during them, and the technician kept having me move my feet this way, no, back that way, now over here, bend them so, and hold....

There were about 5 variations of that without any sitting in between. Her time was important, ya know. Can't take a break. Eventually there was a picture taken while I got to lie down. Ahhhh... Once she looked at the pictures to make sure I hadn't moved or something, she told me I could reload.


She pointed to the pile of necessities I had removed from pockets at the start of the process. Good thing she specified, because, as I informed her, I was about to ask her just what caliber she was going to suggest!

On the way to the exam room from there, we passed somebody introduced to me later as my doctor. He got a real good look at how I was walking in the process, or more like how I wasn't. Armed with the x-rays (which now even I could clearly see involved extensive unprotected bone-on-bone contact, just in case I needed the verification), his own observations, and a fairly short conversation about my history, he was ready to discuss knee replacement.


There is a process you as the patient have to go through first. There's a class to take, answering questions, preparing you for what to expect. There are exercises, an exam by your primary care doc to verify whether you are in condition to actually have surgery, meds to start on and meds to quit on a fairly complicated timetable, ways to prepare your house and its chores ahead of time... and that's just what I read in the first half of the booklet they hand out for us to read ahead of time.

The exercises look pretty easy, definitely doable, lying down on the bed rather than standing or walking. I just need to remember to take the list and how-to pictures into my bedroom with me and perform them after every time I go to the bathroom. After. Not before.

Don't ask why. Not unless you've been drinking the Flint, MI water. Then you might need somebody to explain it to you.

The meds range from simple (adding iron to build up hemoglobin) to insane (stopping ibuprofin days ahead. That's so-o-o-o-o not going to happen!) I don't need to worry about stopping warfarin because last week my cardiologist took me off of it, permanently unless the meds I'm taking for A-fib quit preventing it. It's been six months so far without a recurrence, knock on wood.

So, surgery is scheduled for early March, with the anticipation that I can drive to the airport to pick up Paul when he comes down for a vacation from winter later that month. We're doing the left leg first, but I might still be on narcotic painkillers and not legal behind the wheel. But hey: Super Shuttle!

The other leg is planned for three weeks (prep time again) or so after we come back down from Minnesota at the end of summer. Who cares if I can't drive then?

Hey, by then I'll be hoping to walk!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dratted Hinge

OK, first a silly riddle from the local silly-riddle-of-the-month signboard on the way to the store:

What did one snowman say to the other snowman?

Do you smell carrots?


Hinges are a great invention. We all take them for granted, not even thinking of what things would be like without them. Doors at best would be sliding and/or pocket doors, perhaps a curtain sliding across a pole or tied back. Cupboard would be just shelves. Home security? Yeah, right.

Occasionally the metal becomes old, the hinge warps a bit, the tight fit is lost. I've had that happen. Or at least the folks who are replacing a door claim it has, given as a reason why I need to pay for a new hinge along with the new door. I guess I buy that. Quite literally.

But the house here has another issue. Some dope installed the top hinge on the master bedroom door upside down.

Do modern hinges even have a top or bottom these days? It would be so easy to make them with caps on both ends so the pin inside can't be pulled out, leaving a closed door forever closed unless the person inside chooses to open it. I haven't bought one lately, so I don't know. But I may have to. And really, there may be a perfectly good reason for having a hinge that can be taken apart. Like, say, a busted lock, unopenable.

But installing one upside down? Given a hinge with one end capped off to stop the pin passing that point, and the other end open so the pin can be put in or pulled out, don't you understand that there is a clear up and down to a hinge? The top is obviously the open part. The bottom is obviously the closed off part, closed to keep gravity from working its magic on the pin.

At least it should be obvious to everybody except the idiot who installed the top hinge in the bedroom door.

We first noticed the problem a couple months after moving in. Hinge pins make a peculiar pinging noise when they drop 5 feet to the uncarpeted floor. It's a sound I've come to know too well. If one doesn't check to see if the pin is starting to slide down, it will soon be heard. Sometimes even if one does check it, the ping announces the event. Last time was the day after reinstalling the pin from the drop before. AKA yesterday.

Now you might ask why that door needs so much moving that the hinge malfunctions. First, we keep the dogs out. Or in while we sleep, given their tendency to scatter wastebasket contents across the floors in pursuit of a popcorn kernel or a used tissue.  Even putting wastebaskets behind (hinged) doors doesn't eliminate the problem. Smart dogs!

Second, it keeps light and noise on the opposite side of the door from the sleeper, when the other is not sleeping. Third, it means not such need is attached to maintaining a spotless room in case company arrives. Fourth, the door helps regulate the environment inside the house, which areas are heated or chilled being varied due to its position. Anyway, reasons.

An upsidedown bottom hinge would not be quite such a problem. I think. The door could swing hanging from the top hinge and still be quite usable.  A separated top hinge, on the other hand, allows the door to drop and scrape the floor, sway, or any number of things that make it unusable. And trying to fit it back together takes two people with a lot of cooperative coordination, at least one hammer, and often involves a bit of cussing.

Not just because the hammer in that inconvenient corner may hit more fingers than hinge parts.

First, of course, the hinge loops must be lined up. Exactly so. Not a millimeter off. The channel must have no obstructions to keep the pin from advancing.

You try it.

The weight of the door helpfully wants to swing it out of position with any twitch, sneeze, or nano second of inattention. Even closing the door does not guarantee that the frame itself will hold it in the needed position. The first time we tried to fix the hinge it took us half an hour.

The second time took a bit less.

Recently I figured out a system.

The last two times the pin dropped (yes, Virginia, you can hear a pin drop, even with the TV going in the living room) it was as the door opened fully. The hinge itself hadn't yet shifted position. I gave Steve and myself both strict orders to leave it open in its exact same position. Don't even bump it. That was doable, but it let the dogs, light and noise flow freely in and out. So it had to be fixed quickly.

I needed a stick, something to slide the pin out of the corner behind the door without moving the door. After a search of the house, I decided on the mop handle. Success!

From the doorway side there was enough room for a finger to fit. It was all that was needed to start the slide of the pin several segments up into the hinge again, though not enough to push it all the way. Steve went to go get the hammer while I eased around the door and used the mop handle to slip under the hinge pin and hold it from dropping again. I managed to be coordinated enough to keep it in place through the closing of the door, giving Steve room to swing the hammer and finish the job.

Of course, as noted above, it didn't last long. But replacing it this time only waited until we were both awake at the same time again. Since then I look at that dang pin every time I pass the door, whether it gets moved or not. And when I do move the door, I try to put a little pull on it, enough to maybe keep the pin from falling out.

Now we're waiting for one of the "kids" to come down and either turn the hinge around or put a new one in. It didn't seem to be one of their priorities on previous visits.

That'll change.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Vacation High Points

- finally getting the suitcase closed over all the winter clothing
- finally having a fellow driver kind enough to let you pull out from behind the semi climbing the mountain at 37 mph
-  seeing Dry Beaver Creek full of water, noting a place to pull off next trip now you know it's there and can turn in time without getting rear-ended
- seeing all the snow on the red rock formations
- meeting good friends and making them better ones
- sharing each other's stories
- gracefully navigating 4 adults with just one bathroom
- finding out the landlord stocked just over enough toilet paper for you all, it was just hidden
- finding back roads you never knew existed, offering new vistas
- locating Coffee Pot, Sugarloaf, and Snoopy rocks
- not needing to walk the dogs
- having even the non-dog-person agree that our dogs are actually well behaved, even if he won't pet them and thinks they stink up his car 
- being able to sit in the car while others with better knees do most of the hiking
- finding a large ammonite, opalized in red bands blending to orange, in my price range
- exploring the Turquoise Spider, visited on a previous visit many years ago, enjoying it even more this time (sign: "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.") (T-shirt with fly fisherman in stream picture: "Sorry I couldn't answer the phone. I was on my other line.") (T-shirt with feathered fishing lure pictured: "The way to a man's heart is through his fly.")
- also finding a pottery storyteller in googly-eyed frogs with ladybugs. In my price range.
- Seeing more architectural details from the old mining town not noticed on previous trip
- finding a really great Mexican restaurant, another time a great pizza restaurant
- saving money by mostly cooking at the house
- having somebody else do most of the cooking and appreciate what you cook
- turning around to see the huge pile of snow now covering the sidewalk where you just had walked when the tree had only dumped a tiny bit on its snow on your head, waiting till you passed
- sharing some of your favorite and much-visited places and finding your friends take just as much enjoyment from them
- crackling fires in the fireplace, once somebody buys a hatchet to make actual kindling
- somebody else driving
- free native flute concerts
- sighting most of a javelina,
- having packed enough ibuprofin even though it doesn't begin to make up for the abuse your knees have taken through the week

*    *    *    *    *

- having car packed  to head home with help carrying from friends
- collecting good-bye hugs
- having the other couple still there when you finally remember what you forgot to pack, and arranging to get it from them next summer
- driving yourself
- reprising the high points of the last week with your partner
- peace and quiet again
- warmer temps
- saguaros again
- putting the dogs in the back yard while you unpack the car
- no stair between you and the bathroom
- having your own bathroom again and a low-threshold shower instead of a tub
- having your partner be the second one to flush, realizing he needs to go out and turn the water back on, and doing it
- opening up the house to fresh air again, briefly. (Note to self: next time remember to take the garbage out before you leave!)
- knowing the real unpacking can wait a bit
- finding some actually decent pictures among the hordes
- RECLINERS!!!   ahhhhhhhhhhhh....


At long last, after all the visits over the years, after moving down here, after traveling around most of the state, after hearing about their destruction, after wondering if they even existed... a javelina sighting!

Or most of one.

Let me backtrack a bit. Our Minnesota friends, Les and Peggy,  were visiting us, futilely seeking warmth - bad year, sorry, guys, but still better than Minnesota. They had rented a house in Sedona for a week and invited us to stay with them. There were two bedrooms, a fenced yard for the dogs, a big wood fireplace, great scenery and great company, so the answer to their invitation was never in doubt. The only downside turned out to be the step between the great room and bath- and bedrooms. Yes, turns out my knees are that bad.

We had delayed joining them for a day due to winter weather, heading up Saturday. Even just north of The Valley we could see snowy mountain tops, and those are not tall mountains. It had been an exceptional snow dump for the state. To give you an idea, in the week since the first of the year Flagstaff had gotten 30.6 inches of the white stuff. Anybody connected with the Snow Bowl or area winter activities was ecstatic. The freeway heading up was jammed Saturday morning.

At least we didn't have to head that far that day. Once off the freeway we made a leisurely trek up 179 into red rock country. Seeing them wearing white tops made for a very satisfying shutterbug experience, for while there are not a lot of areas to pull off the road to shoot, there are some along the way and I took advantage. Now I had seen snow on those red rocks before, but it was always a light dusting with the  red peeking through or the snow still falling to blur the details. This was several solid inches of snow with the sun shining on it, blue sky behind.

For the record, there were still bits of snow when we left.

We spent the afternoon all together driving the back roads searching out good views and opportunities for photos, even sitting on a big log streamside relaxing to the flow of the water. They have a sizable SUV with room for four and a cargo space for dogs to move around in. During our stay we checked out the drive up Oak Creek Canyon into the snowy ponderosa pines near Flagstaff, the charm (and shopping: see the Turquiose Spider if you head that way) of Jerome, the airport road overlooking the whole of Sedona, and finally Sunset Crater and Wupatki. I've started erasing the bad pictures but last I noted the count, there were still 279 left on this particular SD card.

With all the driving around, our wildlife sightings were limited to the ubiquitous ravens and a single roadrunner. Around the house we were renting there were other small birds, flying in to dip their bills into the backyard pond when it wasn't iced over, or land in the pyracantha bushes to feast on the thousands of bright red berries. I recognized the cardinals, but need to work on other bird identifications.

There had been a fairly large prickly pear where the street met the driveway. It needed to be avoided on the way in and out, or while taking pictures. On our second morning our early walker returned for breakfast with the report of its destruction. Pads had been bitten off and chewed, remaining pieces of the plant scattered over a wide area. Closer inspection revealed hoof prints.

Conclusion: javelina.

It provoked much discussion, including whether or not we should notify the landlord so he wouldn't think we or the dogs had damaged it. With the bites out of the pads and hoof prints, we figured no blame would attach to us. Dogs would have done neither, nor would a careless vehicle.

The morning walkers noted more damage and hoof prints down the street the next day, indications that at least one was "scouring" the neighborhood. The prints came in two sizes, leaving us wondering if there was an adult with young, or whether front and back hooves come in different sizes.

While the dogs were out to wander the yard, I was gazing out the window to see if they needed attention. I saw movement just outside the fence, looking just in time to note the animal's rear  covered with black hair/fur with single white hairs scattered throughout as it disappeared behind one of the many bushes along its path. Wolf? Coyote? The dogs were totally unconcerned, which was reassuring. Or upon reflection, stupid. At its stolid pace the snout appeared in a gap between bushes for just a moment but is was enough for identification: javelina!

I never glimpsed a whole animal. I did, however, manage to draw Peggy's attention to it quickly enough that she also caught a quick bit of movement. Unlike me, busy calling the dogs in "just in case", she walked over the the fence trying to catch another view.

No joy.

But at least we could both now say we had sort of seen one.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Darth Nino

We expected rain. The forecasts all agreed on that. It was even supposed to be a downpour right around the times we were unloading and assembling scooters, riding for the shelter of the visitor center, and still lasting through the way back to the car when the more lengthy task of disassembly of the scooters and packing them back in the car was to take place.

At least the main attraction of this trip, a tour of Kartchner Caverns, would be relatively dry. And warm, like 70 degrees year around. Plenty nice enough to take the chill off the bones during the nearly 2 hour tour. But still....

We couldn't reschedule. After all, we were going with some friends from out of state, and one adjusts your schedule to theirs, with the limited time they have to join you. Plus, hey, it's Kartchner, and though you no longer need 6 month advance reservations, you still need to make reservations, and this was the day.

We actually considered ourselves lucky in the scheduling. It could have been so much worse. We could haave been doing the northern part of the trip. This last week was all snow snow snow in the "higher elevations." That turned out to be defined as about 4000 feet this week. El Nino, long awaited during our extended drought, was finally arriving. Of course, for Flagstaff that meant about 30 inches over a series of three back-to-back snowstorms in a week. While we weren't heading up that far north, we still were keeping a leery eye on the Oak Creek Canyon area. Our location was about the 4400 feet mark.  So maybe, just maybe, the snow would finally quit late Friday and we could enjoy the rest of our time together there.

We also considered ourselves lucky in our timing. It was nearly dry all the time from the car to the visitor's center, and from the center to the cave entrance. Yes, the ride up was in a covered trolly, meaning plastic sheets like golf carts use that let the breeze and rain in through the gaps where they attached for winter use, but it was still relatively ... OK, it wasn't cozy at all. Satisfied? It was next to freezing until we reached the cave entrance, and it took about 5 minutes for glasses to unfog.

But at least it wasn't pouring.

The tour was marvelous. I highly recommend it.

Of course, by the time we emerged, it was steadily raining. Still not pouring, but steady. And still cold. Windy too.  We spent a bit more time in the center, warming up again while seeing what we didn't have time for before our tour.

It's a fair distance from the last bit of roof shelter of the center to the parking lot. The rain wasn't heavy, but still cold and windy. We were chilling down, and disassembling the scooters just wasn't going quickly enough for anybody. The first one was nearly apart and in the car, with all the car doors open, when the wind suddenly picked up and it started hailing.

OUCH! The pieces were small, but they still hurt, especially driven by that wind: hands, backs, and heads. Holding the jacket up over the head didn't make a bit of difference. Or maybe it did but we were still hurting enough that we couldn't tell. We all agreed to quit working on the scooters and head into our respective cars. In the time that took, hail had blown in through the open hatch and side doors to cover the entire inside of the back of the car. Enough had blown in the front doors to coat the seats and floors and fill up the little indentations in the doors where locks, window controls, and handles were.

When you're sitting on hail because the stuff is still coming down and there's no way you're opening the door and stepping out enough to scrape the stuff off your seat, you quickly wind up with a cold, wet butt. And as the stuff slowly melts after you warm up the car - after, of course, the hail stops and you're only battling snow to finish loading scooters, but the snow doesn't hurt - the whole inside of the car fogs up and stays foggy for about the next hour.

Even after that mostly dries up, you still need to keep the defroster blowing on the windshield, the heater wires working on the back window, and periodically lower and raise side windows to scrape moisture off them. The wiper blades quickly turn into white clubs with a tiny black stripe in the center, valiantly striving to keep the view ahead clear. Plus, your wet butt is still cold. And your wet sleeves. And collar where the stuff dripped off your head.

It's about 8 miles from Kartchner back to the freeway. In that time, the snow changed to large flakes, the ground and bushes turned white, and the road slushed over to the point where 30 mph seemed barely slow enough to be sensible.

You know, kind of like Minnesota driving.

Which we all thought we had gotten away from.

I checked later to see if Benson counted as one of those higher elevations that justified the snowfall. Just 3655 feet. Tucson was a bit lower, and sure enough, the snow changed to rain before we got  that far. It wasn't soon enough to prevent stupidity, though.

Not ours, of course.

While we were doing about 35 on the freeway, we got passed by an idiot who still thought that 65 was just fine, thank you. I mean, that's what the sign says, right? I rather jokingly said to Steve that when we passed him upside down in a ditch up ahead, I was going to laugh at him.

He wasn't actually upside down, though he probably had rolled through that position to land where he did on his side.

And I was too busy staying far enough away from everybody doing about 20 mph now, rubbernecking  emergency vehicles on site and new ones arriving, to actually laugh.