Friday, November 23, 2012

More Bad News

Don't ever ask, "What else can go wrong?" Somebody will be compelled to answer.

When I came home from work today, it was a bit early. There was still light out. I'd tried to stop and get a much-need oil change, but the Econo Lube joint closes early. That was my good luck, as it turned out. Having light enabled me to see the first sign of the problem.

The front entry slab is covered with green astro turf. There was a dark spot on it next to the house. I stopped to check it out, since I didn't remember there being a dark spot anywhere there.

It was wet. I felt it again, just making sure. It was still wet. There was no way it should be wet. I looked over at the pipes coming out of the ground next to the house and there was a little wet spot where the shut-off for the water line into the house was as well.

Having one of those growing sinking feelings, I walked straight into the den, the room on the other side of that wall with the wet spot under it. Good thing I did. Half the floor was wet. It was, of course, the half of the floor that was covered by cardboard boxes we hadn't unpacked yet, rather than the half covered by plastic totes we hadn't unpacked yet.

The next twenty minutes were occupied by Steve and me moving the totes out of their piles to make a base of plastic for the stacks of boxes that got moved on top of them. Several were soaked and had to be emptied, checked, and contents rescued. Somewhere in there we also got out both boxes of rags and threw them all over the floor to soak up the wet spots as much as possible.

Trouble was, as soon as we soaked up everything, more leaked out from the base of the wall over the floor again.

We needed a plumber.

Of course, we had no idea how to find a reputable one rather than a see-how-much-the-traffic-will-bear kind of plumber. You know, like the one we wound up with for the sewer repair. The next door neighbor had mentioned a better cheaper plumber, after the sewer repair had been finished, sort-of. Steve headed over to find out the name, but it's a holiday weekend and he wasn't home.
There were lights across the street, but she (Naoma) is new here and hasn't needed to find a plumber herself yet. She did show up a few minutes later with a wet vac to help with the mess, however, as well as helping with the shut-off valve and bringing over a gallon of filtered drinking water for our use while the house water is shut off. (I didn't tell her I've been drinking unfiltered water in my lunch jug because the ice cubes come that way. Lemon slices hide the taste. I don't seem to have been poisoned yet.)

Now for the yellow pages. The first choice just rang and rang. Not even an answering machine. The second gave voice-mail, so I left a message. I'm an optimist. The third advertised no extra charge for evenings, weekends or holidays, 24/7 service, and had an answering service which promised to call a tech for us if we would wait a few minutes for him to call. We did and he did. About 20 minutes later his truck pulled up at the end of our driveway.

I showed him the wet spots, inside and out, and he looked in the space for the water heater, dug a bit of dirt around the pipes coming out of the ground, and offered his conclusion. I had been envisioning tearing the wall apart to find a leak and requiring a repair of the major construction variety.

Nope, not that. We had a slab leak. Translation: the pipe running under the concrete slab the house sits on had developed a leak somewhere between the shut-off and the water heater. Now I'm envisioning jackhammers or tunneling under the slab and wondering how on earth I can manage that kind of expense.

There followed another 20 minutes of checking out various parts of the house and yard, determining what kind of piping ran where and what the options were. The must beautiful words in the world at that point were "bypass" and "through the attic". I was cautioned that his plan, while leaving the house intact, would route the incoming water around the existing pipping in the front yard and in the process also leave the ability to irrigate the front yard in the dust, so to speak. No biggie, we hadn't used it and had no plans to. If we lost the hoses too, well, we might lose the front pine tree but while a loss, it wasn't the one shading the house.

It still won't be cheap. A wall will have to be opened up to determine where exactly the incoming water hooks up now, likely to the water heater, but we're not sure. Maybe 90% sure. He was going to open the bathroom wall between the door and the shower, but I asked why not the back of the wall, in the water heater closet? He said that would require removing the water heater, but after checking it's installation date, suggested that it might best be replaced now anyway.

So the final plan is to use copper, replacing the galvanized pipe there now and since 1961, coming from the meter to the car port, head up into the attic, across to the water heater, and down into the house again to hook up to the vicinity of a brand new water heater. It'll travel outside the house for a bit, something unthinkable in Minnesota. The old leaky pipe will be bypassed completely. They can even install a connector near the ground outside so we can hook up a hose again and continue to water the pine tree! The back yard watering system (hoses again) won't be affected. And, our water pressure should be even better.

When we commented we had great pressure, he amended that to add checking the pressure and maybe adding a regulator to insure that the pressure is not too high.

We can deal with water from the hoses  filling buckets for sanitary purposes until Monday. We're waiting till then because that gives us time to call the credit union and cash in another CD to cover the expense. But heck, this one's only earning 2.1% interest. I just hate that it adds to the amount of taxes I'll owe for the year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Desert Drive

Weekend before last Steve and I decided we needed to get out of the city. Fortunately, as far west as we are, that's easy to do. I remembered a short jaunt I took my parents on years back, up to see Lake Pleasant back when they were still in the filling-it stage. No amenities, but therre was a spot to pull over and see where the water levels were going to be and get an idea of the future shape of the lake.

Yep, that long ago.

The most noticeable thing at the time was the sharply dwindling supply of cactus, notably saguaros. It had become a crime to remove them from the desert, finally. But now, with so many due to drown, one could go through a beaurocratic process and get a permit to remove one or more to a new location.

Getting there is simple from here, Just head over to 99th Ave and go north. Keep going north. Eventually there will be signs letting you know you're going the right way, and finally signs for where to turn off for various access points.

The first ones will be for private land, well developed with overlooks, a huge marina, and RV park and a store. We took that, having to pay $6 for access. The overlook made it worth it, but made us both regret having no cameras along better than in our cell phones. The weather up north was mixed rain and snow and the clouds were a great accent to the shots. We sat in sunshine, of course, enjoying the weather the best way, from a distance.

Having seen our fill, we decided to head further along the road we had been on and see what else was there. Shortly we arrived at the turnoff for the regional park, another pay-as-you-enter access. Having done that once already, we declined the privilege and turned back to the main drag. Along the way we started noticing funny saguaros, with arms in all directions and all shapes and sizes. If we anthropomorphized them, they became funny beings with individual personalities as shown in their "postures". I found a need to go back with a camera sometime, shoot them, and add captions. One had droopy arms,  cris-crossed arms,  and upright arms, but each pointed a different way. Steve and I both shot it, though the sun disappeared behind a cloud and all we got were silhouettes. Steve thought his should be directing a posse with a "they went thataway" and I thought it should be telling the lost wanderer where home or a water hole was located.

Passing a sign indicating that this road joined Hwy 60, we decided to continue our jaunt. The result was 20 miles of nearly pristine desert, and the surprise of a pack of wild burros, including an adorable white baby, walking along the road. We weren't the first or last car to stop, watch, and take pictures, the last being a county sheriff to monitor things.

The minute we hit Hwy. 60 we entered a different world. Civilization again, but at it's worst. Dingy, depressing, the homes and junk of folks on the edge of modern survival lined the road all along the way back until we hit formal suburbs again. It may not have looked so bad had we not just come from the wilderness we'd just enjoyed.

We'll have to go back.  Soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Driving Arizona

There's much that's different down here, and I don't just mean no icy roads. That does, however, affect how they build, design, and drive on the roads here. Since there's less freeze-thaw pothole creation and expensive repairs, it's easier to make a road last longer, and that makes it cheaper to make the road in the first place. So it can be  wider. Side streets in residential areas aren't affected, but freeways often have, in each direction, an HOV lane plus four or 5 more lanes of through traffic plus the entrance/exit lanes which go just between exits. It starts with the on ramp, connects for half a mile or more until the next exit, giving everybody plenty of time to change speeds and change lanes smoothly.

Contrast that with too many Minnesota freeways which have two lanes plus short merging ramps. There might be three lanes if you are lucky, and very rarely a separated extended merging area between exits.

Drivers down here are more likely to let a merging vehicle into the lane they're in. After all, there's plenty of lanes for them to more over into if a merging vehicle makes their current lane feel a bit crowded. All those lanes do not make for faster rush hours, however. I think there must be a corollary of Murphy's law that says that traffic expands to fit into the available space, and then some, just like you expand into a newer bigger house so it becomes as cluttered and crowded as the older smaller one you just left.

There are a lot of major streets that aren't freeways down here. Lay a grid over the city and every mile will have a major street, 3-4 lanes wide each way, center turn lanes, lights only every several blocks, restricted driveways into/out of those blocks. Typical speed limits are 40 or 45.  There is no on-street parking, and I mean NONE. You pull off into an area in front of stores or businesses, and there will be abundant parking there, with connections to the next lot and the next and next, so you can navigate without returning to the arterial street. A Minnesota block, by contrast, will have lots of driveway entrances and no connectors between the parking fiefdoms owned by each business.

Since it is a major deal to exit and enter each block of businesses, often requiring driving an extra block or two to make a u-turn to access a driveway, they do consistently do a couple of things down here to make it easier to plan in advance where you need to turn. First, all the even address numbers are on the north side of east-west streets, and the west side of north-south streets. Compare that to the Twin Cities where not only are different cities unlike the next but different parts of, say, Minneapolis are different from others. Here you learn one system.

Second, the street signs let you know where in the numbering system you are. One set will tell you where you are in the east-west numbers, and the opposite corner will inform you where you are in the north-south numbers.

Interesting that with all that it still takes forever to get around.

Breaks from driving are a bit different down here as well. Of course, by that I'm talking about rest stops, better known as rest rooms. It's jaw-dropping to me just how many gas stations have either no or closed-to-the public restrooms. The ones which do offer them tend to be a little light on the cleaning part of the equation. Mom would have refused to use most of the ones I've seen, but I tend to hit them when it's very necessary - very, very necessary. I've learned just which business stops offer bathrooms because they tend to be much cleaner and better equipped, say, with soap than the gas stations.

I carry hand sanitizer.

 And perhaps bless the drier climate which makes such stops less frequent.

Another difference is that so many restrooms in Minnesota have gone automated. Toilets flush after you leave, water runs when hands are under the faucet, soap dispenses likewise, towels, dryers and lights have motion sensors. They're all rare down here, and I have yet to find a restroom with all of those in place.

I haven't quite decided how much of the differences in restrooms might be a poor regard for a higher Hispanic population, or how much might simply be a poor regard for strict laws regarding such intrusive things as sanitation. As a newcomer, I may not be the best to evaluate that question.

I have noticed one more curiosity while driving around. It took me several days. There are a very few standard-looking cell towers down here. I began to notice them after I tumbled to what most of them look like: palm trees. That became noticeable after the pruning away of the dead leaves started. I began seeing which were pruned, which still had big bundles of dead leaves hanging down. Then I noticed a third variety, with green both sticking up and hanging down, nicely symmetrical and perfect. Too perfect. Too green. And too full, with what turned out to be green versions of those flat cell tower metal plates surrounding and embedded in the fake foliage. If you're not looking for them, they're well hidden. And very attractive.

That definitely wouldn't work in Minnesota though.


I had actually cheered up this last week, regarding prospects for staying down here through the winter.  Then I checked my bank account on line. I'd started earlier in the week with a couple grand in the account, the amount left after all the moving expenses and the emergency sewer repair.

I got my first week's paycheck deposited. I also paid the early-month bills: utilities down here, insurance payments, a loan payment. The net result is about a grand left in the checking account, two more weeks to find out what something more resembling a real paycheck is like down here, and enough bills to more than deplete what's left. If I have to leave, heading back to Minnesota, the real question will be is there enough to cover bills,  gas home and the next two weeks before a real paycheck comes through again?

Without getting too specific, that first week, after three with no income, would be covered by two days worth of income in Minnesota. Granted, there was a learning curve involved, on both sides: my learning how to get around, and them learning what I'm capable of. The last couple days this week were OK, though I still have no idea just how I'm getting paid per job down here. For some odd reason, the powers that be don't give that kind of information to the drivers when they're actually doing the run. That comes later, attached to a pay sheet summary. Which I haven't seen one of here yet. In Minnesota I had a general idea which runs pay shit, which earn you a tank of gas or more. Here these are new-to-me companies, and I've no idea what kind of deals the company cut with them to outbid the competition.

I'm not overly optimistic. I haven't seen a track record overall which values the workers. We're highly replaceable.

I was hopeful, earlier this week. I'd had what should have been a couple good days. But still, not knowing, and now seeing just how dismal a single week can be. I have never, in 27 years, had a pay week that meager where I worked all five days. Not even my very first week. Not even back when I knew squat about the business or the cities, and the pay was much lower.

The result is a lot of imagining worst-case scenarios, which, if I really think about it, aren't all that worst-case. There are funds I can tap into, but they're tied up in nice CDs right now, and I don't wish to eliminate a good source of interest income. No, the real worst-case scenario is my returning to the land of ice and snow for a few more working winters. At least there is a job up there to return to. I'm getting to like it down here, where 50 degrees has folks shivering and there's always green and no ice under feet or wheels.

I just need a liveable income.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Winter" Remnants

A couple weeks ago the TV broadcasters were in a near panic - if you believed them - about winter arriving in Arizona last weekend. OMG! It was going to drop to the 60's for highs in the valley!

We recovering Minnesotans, now become snowbirds, gave them the mocking they deserved, of course.

It did drop temps, and we heard of snowfall around Flagstaff. Actually, here they project snow by altitude, so much over 5000 feet, so much over 7000. Steve and I simply switched to long pants and sleeves, perhaps a sweatshirt for the evening hours, as I still have refused to turn on the heat  in the house. (Or AC for that matter, as 91 is relatively comfy and open windows cool the house quickly.)

I can now safely say I have seen my snow for the season, as in enough of the white to eliminate any hint of homesickness. I caught a run to Flagstaff yesterday, seeing a trace of the white on a couple of north slopes outside of town. Yep, that was enough.

Of course I was in a great mood, having caught a decent run at last. Topping it off, when I returned I caught another run, this time to Tucson. Nevermind hunting a place in the dark that is so low-profile they don't put their name on the building and their number is tiny and unlit. It was due at 6:31 and I hit it at 6:33 - not bad for hitting the choke points in Phoenix on the way. Speed limits were 75 heading south, and 10 expanded through the area to 3 lanes, enough that those wishing to go 75 can actually do so.

I returned home to find supper waiting, bless Steve, and a mere 623 miles more on the car than when I started the day.

My kind of day!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Tough Decision

There's so much to love down here. The 90 degree temperatures have been surprisingly comfortable. It truly is the humidity, as the cliche goes. Night before last we had what passes for rain: passing sprinkles and two brief (1 min) showers where you could actually hear the rain drop off the roof and hit the ground. As a result, yesterday morning for a couple hours it smelled like the desert, that wonderful scent I fell in love with years ago. I suspect it might be sagebrush, or mainly so. And yesterday while that was still in the air, I emerged from a building with exquisite desert landscaping to see a roadrunner strolling casually away from a spot 10 feet from where I stood.

The problem is finances. Not only did the move cost plenty, but the unexpected sewer repair erased my cushion, on top of which the bills are going up. My auto insurance jumped enough that the combined auto-RV-homeowners bill doubled, now that I'm not living way out in the boonies. Electricity and gas have big start-up costs, and we certainly used plenty of water with 6 people here plus all the cleaning and, again, the sewer repair. Garbage pick-up requires the whole season paid in advance.

On the plus side, energy and water costs should drop back in Minnesota with just two in the house. Gas prices here are coming down a bit, to where I paid $3.41 yesterday. I need to fill up every two days rather than every one, with so little work available. The car got paid off before we left, and major maintenance work done. And Steve listens when he has a wonderful idea but meets with my, "Not yet." His own budget is sending him to the library this morning for their book sale, hoping to return with a basketful of good reading.

So the level of work available is the big crunch factor. It has been increasing, but there are still big gap times, and  the long driving has pretty much been chasing after runs rather than hauling them. That doesn't pay well. Unless they charge way more down here per distance than up in Minnesota, I can't be making a living. I don't know yet. We don't get that information with the runs like we did years ago. We'll get it with our pay stubs, so unless I walk in and convince somebody to cough up that information, I'll know just how dismal it is after Thanksgiving: it's work 2 weeks, get paid the third.

By then I may have decided to be back on my way to Minnesota where I can really earn a living, despite the snow and ice, despite leaving Steve down here to enjoy the climate, no transportation but a scooter with a front basket. That would be a very tough decision, indeed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

First Day at... This Is Work?

The best thing about today is that it's over.

The second best was coming home traveling up Dysert, northward on the western end of the Phoenix area, when all but the very horizon was black, and that lit just enough in a faint gold to outline the western mountain(s?).

I was faithfully on the road logging in at 7AM this morning. Or trying to. After several tries, a phone call that wound up being picked up in Los Angeles because nobody switched them on out here, a later connection with this office, and finally a call back to the Minnesota office for some real  help, we finally discovered that my Blackberry phone number had never been entered in the system down here so it couldn't recognize me.

So could they fix it? Well, either ______ or ______ were the only two who could, and they'd be in at 8, or 9, maybe 10.

Gee, thanks guys.

I was told to head in to HQ for a spot of training in how to deal with one customer. (Couldn't that have been handled when I was in before, either time?) About the time I was getting close, dispatch called with a run coming from the area I'd just left. Rather than send me back, he gave me three slow service runs to get me started. The first was a downtown "slingshot" run, one that could be completed with a good slingshot. A short. Pays zip. At least I knew enough about downtown to drive right to the corners I needed, finding reasonable parking in a maze of alternating one-ways with few spaces to offer. On the other hand, the addressee was on the 20th floor of a building with access only to the elevator lobby of each floor and a phone with numbers to call.

Nobody answered. I tried more. Same story. Eventually I decided to head back to the security desk on the main floor and ask about a mailroom. Nope, don't have one. While dispatch was putting in a query to Dallas as to whether the package could be left without a signature, I decided to go back up and try some more. Lots of people were still arriving to work. Maybe I was just early.

As I was dialing the very last number in her department, finally getting a human voice on the other end, in she walked behind me and hearing her own name, claimed the package.

One down, two to go. This slingshot run had taken 5 minutes of drive time, 35 minutes of loadtime, unchargeable due to no electronic proof.

The next two at least were out of the same pick, 35 blocks north of the street I was parked on. Simple. The first went out to a very fancy hotel/resort/golf course, the kind of place where after you reach the address, you need signs to direct you through the maze of streets and buildings to the end of the road a mile later to the registration desk.

By then _____ was in and called to let me know my number was entered in the system. Try logging on.

Funny enough, I had taken a break in driving to try to do just that. No success. Tried again. Same thing. Head into HQ to get the phone straightened out. OK, just a 10 mile detour to my next drop, but hey, necessary.

You gotta figure by now that with this kind of day, when I got to HQ and handed over my Blackberry, _____ hit the key and it logged in perfectly.

I made my last drop with 45 minutes to spare before it would be late. It went to a residence. The dog was home, but it couldn't sign for the package. Too bad, it would be useful if they could. I called the attached phone number, got the addressee, and was instructed to leave it at the front door. OK, done.

I contacted dispatch and asked whether they wanted me to come back in to a busier spot, but was told to hang out where I was. There was no work.

Nor was there any an hour later. Nor three. Nor 5 1/2 hours later!!!!

This is the perfect recipe for paranoia: no work, lousy communication, and you start to wonder just how soon you're going to  have to return to Minnesota and how Steve's going to cope without a car down here? How big a mistake was this? Is it personal? Because I'm female? How badly did they lie to me about the availability of work? And why is this branch of the company such a rinky-dink outfit?

At about 5:30 I called in for my last time of the day and begged to be told that this day was not at all typical of what I was going to find down here. I'm used, after all, to working my behind off. (Unfortunately, only figuratively.) He assured me (?) that in fact it was very unusual, that after noon he had a lineup of 9 drivers waiting for work, and that most of them had gone home early. But wait, a run was coming across the board right now, and did I want it?

Of course! I would have taken anything at that point. The pick was where I'd stopped earlier that day, not far in fact from where I had moved in to hours earlier. The drop was Avondale. Until I looked it up on the map, I had no clue where that was. Didn't care. I'd be  doing one of my least favorite things: hunting an address in the dark. Still didn't care. I had work!

Tomorrow's got to be better. Right?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Waiting to Work

It was supposed to be simple. Last February when I checked in down here with the local branch, they said I'd be welcome to work here. A couple things were listed that I needed to do, like get black shoes and my own Blackberry, and once here put commercial plates on my car. Two weeks notice should get all the paperwork transferred from the Minnesota branch.

I gave notice, got the plates, and showed up early Monday morning in uniform ready to start.

Yeah, right. I was ready. Corporate, not so much. It seems they couldn't decide whether I needed to repeat my background check and drug test. We had to wait. I said no problem, let's do them and get them out of they way.

Nope, had to wait for corporate to call, let us know. Maybe by Friday I could start.

Well, could we get other stuff out of the way?

Nope, gotta wait.

When Thursday came, I called. Yep, Corporate finally decided I didn't need the screenings. However, I did need to sign a new form for accident insurance. Same company, same coverage in all states, but new signature.

OK, went in, signed the form. Wore the uniform again, thinking I'd need a new photo ID. Was told they - meaning Corporate - would formally need to acknowledge receiving the insurance paperwork. Now, it's all done on computer, with a signature pad like when you use your credit card in a store. But, somebody had to formally acknowledge the thing. Might be later in the day, might not. I got a promise to call me just the minute he heard.

At least this time we could take care of other paperwork, like the direct deposit form for my checks, and my photo ID (back in a week).  I'm beginning to find out just how very small this branch is. Not totally surprising considering they have no stickered vehicles down here. Even if they aren't needed with the commercial plates on the vehicles, has anybody thought about the benefits of advertising on the side? Those mobile billboards do bring in business.

But perhaps they don't want more, with one to two dispatchers on duty at a time, in a tiny office where the main phone line rings in. If they don't, well, tough! There will be one rolling down here for a few months. Of course, it sports the St. Paul phone number.

Oh, and now they wanted an AZ drivers license, in addition to the plates. He explained it's not normally an issue, and in fact I'd been told last February that my Minnesota license would be just fine. Now, not.

So Friday I headed back over to the DMV office to wait in line for my new license. You can tell it's Arizona: in addition to my old license, I need my original birth certificate and SS card. That's what I have: my original SS card. Never changed it to add "Rosa" to it. Be interesting to see how the DMV reacts.

I put that in future tense, because I hit a little snag, along with everybody else who showed up for the same thing yesterday. Their system was down. Not the whole system, mind you, just the part for driver's licenses. The system for license plates was up and running, though it had just come back up a couple hours earlier, having been down also for most of the day. I was handed a letter with a number to call to check of the system was up. I have that number already in my phone. I used it to get information on commercial plates. I also used it to check what paperwork I needed to get this one.

I called once while shopping: still down. I tried later, allowing myself time to get over before they closed for the week. I'm heartily sick of their involved voicemail system, which includes among other things a warning not to give personal information to the person who will answer the call, eventually. Huh: Arizona! This time I was informed they were up and running again, so headed over again.

The voice lied.

So some time in the next month I need to take time off work and head over once again to get an AZ driver's license. Assuming, of course, I can actually start!

Moved In, Pretty Much

There were few adventures along the road. A bit of searching for motels for the group, a bit more challenge in finding one with a pool. In the end, that's exactly what we managed in 4 days of travel: a pool. Since my swim suits were all packed and on the truck somewhere, I didn't go swimming.

Oh well. I'm making up for it.

The one real adventure was the truck thinking it had broken down. Some gauge registered overheating or loss of oil pressure or something similar and shut the truck off in the middle of the freeway. We were lucky in many aspects. Roadside assistance was prompt. We had just left Gallup so help was close. More important - for those of us who found it important - was the car was mobile and there were restrooms just 2 miles down the road. Trust me, we found it important. While we were there and waiting, we decided to take advantage of the Subway as suppertime was rapidly approaching, and cell communication to get everybody's order. As we were heading back, we got the call that the truck was fixed and they'd meet us at the exit we'd just left. It turned out that the sensor was wrong. The repair guy didn't have a replacement, wouldn't be able to order one for 2 days, but he jerry rigged something that would hold for the rest of the trip.

It worked.

We beat Paul to the house. His plane had been late taking off, or it might have been a toss-up. Beds got set up for all and the clean-up began.

It took me the rest of the day to clean the fridge/freezer. Blecchhh! Soap, bleach, scrubbies, removing parts, trying not to wonder too hard at what the crusted and sloshed remains had been before. At least now I trust that it's safe for use, though there are black bits that come down with the the ice cubes through the door dispenser.

They get picked out. The taste sucks, so Paul got us a Britta filtering pitcher for a housewarming present, much appreciated and much used by the whole crew. I will need ice cubes, and picked up a bag of lemons to slice and add to my water jug for work. It works, at least for the trial run here. I haven't actually made it to a day at work, but that's a long story.

Much more house work first.

The rugs/carpeting got removed more quickly than anticipated. Traditionally down here they are glued to the concrete floors, and we came prepared to scrape and scrape. Instead they affixed wooden strips around the rooms and attached the carpeting just like over wooden floors. Once it was removed, however, we weren't looking at concrete. There were 9" floor tiles in a dark ugly brown that turned out to be asbestos!

Home Depot identified them and instructed us to use floor primer and floor paint. The den was the first for the treatment, so we could have a site to unload boxes from the truck. Unfortunately the grey top coat needed 72 hours to dry before use.

On the plus side. it turned out that the tiles weren't actually attached to the floor any more. Perhaps it was 50-year-old adhesive. At any rate they were simply lifted off and dropped in the dumpster. But the floors still needed 3 days before we could bring in furniture, much less boxes to unpack.

Other painting needed doing as well. The master bedroom needed de-wallpapering first, and we figured the living room as well, till we decided to prime an paint over it. When the bedroom took three days, I began to believe we'd never get things done in time. To complicate matters, the colors I had mixed at WalMart before leaving turned out to be too blue a shade. We'd already used the dark on the bed platform, recoiled, and replaced it. Not sure why we trusted the light after that, but it was a 2-gallon mistake. I went to Home Depot for the first replacement, and did it for the second as well. The trim - floor and crown molding - needed white paint when the other was dry enough for taping. Our bed was set up in the middle of the room while all this was going on. We had a platform with drawers, box spring, and mattress. It was so tall we could hardly climb into it at night. Steve and I agreed to ditch the box spring, and fortunately found someone willing to haul it away for use by a grateful somebody who was previously sleeping on a mattress on the floor: our plumber.

Did I mention the plumbimg? Paul woke us up in the middle of the first night to inform us the shower stall drained so slow it almost flooded. Meanwhile the then-only toilet, off the master bedroom so we had constant traffic, was also plugged. The rule became Use But Don't Flush. Instant honey pot.

We called the equivalent of Roto-Rooter down here: Rooter Hero. They had lots of coupons in the yellow pages. They - he brought an apprentice - ended up clearing the plugs - by then 3 systems were down - scoping the sewer to outside of the house where they found one pipe narrowed from lack of use joined to another cracked on the bottom and ready to attract tree roots, digging up and replacing pipes halfway through the yard, locating an uneven join to the rest of the system which they offered to fix for another $6G and we declined so he connected it up and gave us a 15-year warranty on the work done. While they were there we had him replace the internal toilet part which filled the tank so slowly we couldn't tell whether or not it was always running. And because it was there and Richard wasn't, we had them replace the second leaky toilet with a new handicap-height one we'd brought.

The system works now, though we've been cautioned that the uneven join in the yard may cause - no, will cause - problems in the future. Hopefully later rather than sooner. Also while we are absent next summer water needs to be run through the pipes every month or so to keep the shrinking pipe from shrinking again. The emergency fund has been extinguished, however.

One positive is that the digging did us the favor of eliminating one of the unwanted bushes lining the front of the house. Turns out it is the only one completely gone. The tops are gone, but ugly stumps stick up, a hazard to anyone crossing the front yard to the street. The yard is littered with hoses, pine branches,  rocks, paving blocks in stacks, and broken down packing boxes waiting for recycling right now, hopefully a deterrent to that activity.  Of course with the dumpster still in the driveway despite two calls to the company to come remove it, Steve and I still take that path.

Eventually all the paint dried and rugs and furniture got moved in, the storage wall built and installed in the master bedroom by Paul, boxes brought in for leisurely unpacking. One person down from our plans with Richard never showing up, we were behind in yard work. We'd all been enjoying the now screenless porch/patio, relaxing, smoking, and eating out there. Evenings we'd hear coyotes, including one night when sirens went off for a local fire and they began howling from three directions at once.  Waiting days for paint to dry, Paul moved the futon out to the patio and slept quite comfortably with the help of a warm bedspread. He almost refused to move back in when the floors were ready.

The unwanted chain link had been removed, other than the vertical posts imbedded in concrete. The dogs still had full run of the back yard, once the nasty cactus were removed. Koda twice needed pricklies removed from a foot, and now with getting shaved down and the worst area covered in pine branches, we hope it won't be repeated.   The ponytail palm got planted, though looking much the worse for wear. It looked so bad, in fact, that I had Paul scrape a bit of bark to find proof of life. It will recover, and in the process of checking we discovered several new babies growing at the base of the trunk which may be replanted at some future point. Imagine: a yard of ponytail palms!

The last day was a day of mishaps. Lance and Orrin were working on getting out their first stump, when the pick axe handle slipped, nailing Orrin the the least desirable spot for such a mishap. A bag of ice and some time later, he declined a visit to the hospital, less than a mile away. Lance wasn't so lucky. Getting back from a late night trip for cigarettes, he tripped over the curb at the street and hit his head on a rock. Paul drove him over, Lisa tending him on the way. He wound up with nothing broken, "just" a sore head and lots of soft tissue damage to the foot he tripped with, the right. He assurred Paul he could still help drive their rental car home as long as it had cruise control.

Scary thought.

However, we heard from all concerned, and they made it safely with a side trip to the Canyon and a route going along the east side of the Rockies.

Steve and I got out recreation center passes and the punch cards allowing us to bring guests, so most nights most of us enjoyed a good long soak in the spa pool after a hard day of work. There is nothing quite like sitting in an open air hot tub or walking in a pool after sundown, watching the moon or planes from the airport pass by, knowing it's November, to help you realize that you are no longer in Minnesota!

The real topper came last night in the walking pool. I find just walking boring, and started varying that with long stretches, crossovers, and basically moving in the pool in ways this body hasn't moved for years. Music plays in the background though I don't really try to keep up. Slow works best in the water. The spa warms me, I exercise in the walking pool, and spa warms me again. Last night I kept noting the sign that says low-impact walking and exercising only, and got a bit inspired. When Steve left the spa for the walking pool, I joined him and in the 4' section we got together to do something we both thought we'd never do again: we danced, for the first time in years!