Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dodge One Bullet, Bite A Bigger

I was looking at my odometer the other week, noticing that it was over 72,000. Now for me with my driving history, that's nothing, though nowadays I barely fill the tank once a month. But it occurred to me to look up when my timing belt needed to be replaced. The older cars said around 90K, but I had the niggling thought that newer models said more like 60K. If that were true, I was past due, and my warantee was screwed. Had I not retired, it'd be moot by now anyway. Now, however, I had plans for making this car last for a very long time.


I looked it up on line. Well, I tried. I found all kinds of prices for new belts, others for replacement labor, still others insisting I had to replace what is still called a water pump, though it has no water these days, at the same time as the belt. We were pushing well over a grand in potential expenses by now.

But what was this? Some models of my car the same year had timing chains? Could I be that lucky? How could I find out? After more internet research, I still had both answers for how my vehicle was equipped. I headed out to the car to pour through the manuals for when the service was required. It should be listed along with oil changes, tranny flushes, etc. Nope, nada. The only answer was to call my dealer's repair shop, give them the VIN, and ask if I needed to schedule the work. Put that way, they were happy to look it up for me.

I have a chain!


About this same time, I changed insurance companies, both for the house, and for the car. I had been paying the same car insurance as I did back when I was filling my tank once or twice a day rather than a month. That didn't seem fair. Plus I knew from past experience there was a discount when one company carried both policies. The quote I wound up with halved my auto premium while lowering the homeowners policy a few bucks a month.

Heck of a deal!

They needed to come out and look over the exterior of the house, a reasonable request from any insurance company. That's when I got the letter. It contained a threat to cancel, provided I didn't send them proof of a seemingly minor repair which had the possibility of causing a major problem, namely a fire.

Down here nobody has basements. One of the results is that the circuit breaker box is traditionally mounted on the exterior of the house. Our house was built in 1961, and presumably the breaker box was also. There was just one wee little thing about how it was designed: the sheet metal cover wasn't hinged and fastened on either one side or the top. Instead it was a separate piece that could be pulled straight off.

Some time in the last couple of years, it had been. And not replaced. Having the circuit breakers exposed to the elements was a bad no-no. So far, that seems logical. Replace that cover or get a new one, and we're good to go. Right?

But it's never so easy.

Not only had we never noticed that cover was missing, we had never noticed anything resembling the cover just kicking around the yard, or the workshop, or anywhere else. Nobody remembered picking up a stray piece of metal and wondering how it got in the yard and finding no answer, tossing it. It was there when we had our home inspection for buying the house. But who on earth would steal one? It's not like they made them from copper, perhaps making it seem valuable. It's not likely that once removed it would be carried by the wind over our 6' fence.

OK, so Home Depot. We measured the existing box and went to look for the right sized cover. No go. Not only do they not make anything anymore in that size, all the new boxes have attached covers, leaving us with a double strike-out. Nothing offered on line either. Everybody's solution was to get hold of an electrician.

Everything about that panel and box was out of code. Big surprise. The estimate required replacing the entire box and breakers, moving it 20 feet east of its current location where the big pine tree has grown up to rub its branches fondly over the wires, install a new mast riser (I had to look that up), put in/replace (depending on whether it had an old one in the first place) the main grounding system, get a county electrical permit to do the work, and relocate the existing branch circuits. After both a senior discount, and the SCHOA discount for being located in Sun City, then adding on sales tax, the total came to over $5 grand.

I guess there are a few good things here. We'll be safer. It will have had to be done at some point. I can actually afford to get it done, though it will be using money being saved for major plumbing repairs, which I think will be severely scaled back to what we absolutely must have, piecemeal. The electrician is reputable, highly recommended by the Sun City homeowners association. PLUS he thinks he can get it done before we want to leave to head north, also before the letter's deadline to keep our insurance.

APS had to come out to approve the new location we proposed moving their wires to. They managed to show up on Saturday, and we were told to expect them no earlier than this coming week. Once the new box and breakers, etc. are installed, the county has to come out and inspect them before the wiring can be transferred over to them. I'm told this could actually be the major delaying factor. How busy are they? (How busy do they think they want to be?)

We may not be leaving when we wanted to be. I'd already begun researching routes and lodging. We plan to avoid the three day monster driving marathon this time - and future times as well - as my body no longer is adapted to nor willing to be chained behind the wheel for 14-hour days. Our thought is head up to Durango the first night, a stop in Montrose for Steve to visit his mom's grave with maybe Denver for the night's sleep, then two more days till "home." Which it isn't any more, but it's been weird finding the right term for it. Maybe I should just call it Paul's.

There have been other, nicer bits of news. It rained last night. Perhaps a whole third inch. Muchly needed and refreshing to all but Ellie, who managed to renew her terror of the 5 lightning strikes at 3AM. Baby quail are running around following their leader parents. Most of what I "needed" to do in lapidary has been finished, though ideas still percolate for next season should I delay it that long. My new credit union offered to refinance my car loan with a lower interest which would save me $50/month. Fresh raspberries have hit the market and on sale, the limited quantity per customer being just perfect to use them up and hit the store again during the same sale. I think I have made a list containing everything we need to bring back north with us. I also think we can cram it all in the car and still be able to breathe.

That's it: breathe, Heather. Breathe.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


She was walking toward me in the WalMart this evening. Brunette, maybe 30, a grey t-shirt snug around her torso, if she wasn't already attracting enough attention, glittery letters decorated the most tightly stretched part of her shirt with the word "GUESS".

After looking her over, I decided to accept her shirt's challenge. I guessed...


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Not Just Eggs At The Hunt

The warnings over local media were going out loudly and often all last week to all the parents and other folks organizing Easter Egg Hunts. Down here where the temperatures are typically in the 70s and 80s for this holiday, egg hunts outside seem to be the norm. That's a change from my experiences with 3 generations of Minnesota Easter Egg hunts where inside hunts are the rule. Piles of snow being not the best spots for eggs and candies, cupboards, closets, and behind and under furniture are the favored locations that I recall. If you want to get really tricky, try inside a shoe, or the heavy boots still sitting by the door.

Hey, they are wrapped, right?

Outside hunts have a whole different set of parameters. You don't just take pets and traffic into consideration, or find an enclosed area for your hunt. Rain isn't an issue except in the rarest year. But none of the warnings were about any of that stuff.

We were being warned not to place goodies under bushes, or in/next to holes in the ground. Never mind that around Phoenix yards and parks there aren't a whole lot of other places where one can actually hide something the size of an Easter egg,  just don't do it in any of those good spaces.

Why not?



Black widows.

They are awake, and apparently ornery about all the incursions into their territories when nobody invited them to have any of the goodies but just want to carelessly run around, make lots of noise, chase their food away, and step on them.

Hey, inside, anyone?