Saturday, May 24, 2014

A “Pay It Forward” Moment . . .

A “Pay It Forward” moment – also a bit of a warning for the locals who have to avoid the drain and pothole when pulling into the parking lot at our store . . .

I got clipped on the way into the parking lot at our store on Whipp Road yesterday. 24-year-old girl didn't notice that I was slowing down to turn into the lot and pulled out of the CVS lot too soon.  I didn't realize what had happened at first ... she hit me in the wheel.  We pulled into the lot and surveyed the damage ... her license plate and cover were torn off her front bumper, and I had some small scratches on the wheel cover, a little paint scratch on the fender, and was missing one of those little weights used to balance the tire.  I got her information and told her I would get the tire rebalanced next week ... then I sent her on her way. 

She was very composed at first but had started to cry by the time we parted company ... I think the initial shock had worn off. I told her I'd had a similar incident when I was about her age and a nice guy did the same for me ... and I hoped that some day she would do the same for someone else.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Prepared for Years to Blame This on Tom . . .

Most of you who have read these musings for a long time know that we love everything about our pets.  Well, almost everything.  There is this one issue I had with Tom for years (if you’re not familiar with our tomcat, you can click on this link for a retrospective on his life when he died 15 months ago).


Tom spent about half of his time as a housecat until a bout of toxoplasmosis at age three changed his personality enough that he started “spraying” different areas in the house.  So he was banished to the garage and the yard, except for times when he could be closely supervised when he was in the house.  We still caught him spraying occasionally, but it was several years before we discovered his primary focus . . .


This is the air conditioner compressor (or what’s left of it) behind our house.  It didn’t always look this bad, but we started to notice rust and the fins started rotting away.  And we wondered what was causing it until one day when we saw Tom applying his own personal cleaning solution to it.  The vet told us that once a cat chooses a place to spray, it’s really hard to make it stop.  And by then, the damage was done.  So we let Tom continue and the compressor looked more gruesome over the years, but an occasional blast of Freon kept it running.

Every now and then I would tell someone that I hoped the compressor would outlive Tom . . .

And it did, by a year – but a couple of weeks ago when it finally got hot enough to need the air conditioner, it didn’t cool the house a bit.  This wasn’t uncommon – we’ve been there every year or two since the spraying began.  So I called Bill Jones (my heating and air conditioning guy – in our area, he is simply the best) and he came by and gave the compressor another precious blast of Freon – which now costs $60.00 per pound.

The house was blissfully cool again – for a whole day.  By the next morning, I suspected that the A/C wasn’t working right again and the inside temperature kept rising during the day.  So I called Bill again, and in the conversation I mentioned that I had picked up an unusual smell in the house the evening after he had serviced the compressor.  He got it right away – “Was it an oily smell?”  When I confirmed it, he diagnosed a leak in the coil box under our furnace – and the next day, he confirmed that a huge leak in the coil box meant our 23-year-old air conditioner was deceased.

And he also confirmed that Tom did not cause its demise.  While I have been assured often that the compressor would have eventually given out because of his antics, I have to admit that my first comment when Bill told me the coil box was shot was “You mean Tom didn’t kill it?”  I actually felt a little guilty.  For years, every time I walked past that compressor I thought about how much that cat was going to eventually cost me.  And after the big bucks we had shelled out so he could survive toxoplasmosis in the first place, I always thought the least he could do was protect our home rather than destroy it.

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So yesterday I spent the day at home while Bill installed a new system.  And the first thing I said when the compressor came out of the box was “It’s Tom-proof!”  The metal casing around this model would have prevented his spray from damaging the fins.  But that wouldn’t have crossed my mind when the house was built, and we didn’t have any pets then anyway.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Arizona on My Mind . . .

This just shows how long I have been off the grid – I got home from visiting my parents seven weeks ago today and I am just getting around to posting the pictures.  Mom and Dad came back to Ohio three weeks ago today.  Mom’s leg has healed.  Oh – you don’t know about that yet . . .


This was the first time I had gone to Arizona alone since 2008 – in 2009, I convinced Blake to come along for the ride/hike the first time we did the Grand Canyon and we had gone together since.  But he got promoted in January and just didn’t have the time this year.  And while this picture looks like it might have been intended as a tribute to my missing brother, it was just a way to keep my hat off the ground the first time Dad and I stopped for a break on the trail.  And I liked the pic . . .

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Saw lots of these leftover stalks from the yuccas along the trail – and got lots of chances to take pics of Dad while he was eating during rest breaks.  You’ll see jackets a lot – it was 85+ degrees in Tucson the whole time I was there, which meant that Dad took us farther and farther up into the mountains in search of comfortable temperatures.  I like hot weather, but I will admit that the one day we spent in lower elevations was grueling so I defer to his better judgment.

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I’m not a photographer, but when we’re hiking I’m always in search of “that picture” – the one that would look great in a frame on the wall or a collage of photos from the trip.  The first day, we hiked on the Babad Do’ag Trail (apparently the locals refer to it as “Bad Dog”).


I thought this was interesting, mostly because of the little lake I could see in the distance, thousands of feet up in the mountains.  Dad said he has hiked there before and it’s really pretty.

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Dad is not afraid of heights – I am (though not nearly as much as when I was a kid).  So if you see a picture of me perched precariously on top of a rock, you can be pretty certain that it’s an optical illusion.

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Two different views from the same spot.  Again, it was a long way down . . .


And yet for most of the second day, we were always close to the road.  So even if you don’t hike, you can see many of the same views that I did from Mount Lemmon.

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The second night I was there, Mom and I went to the Gaslight Theatre.  If you like really corny slapstick parodies, the Gaslight is a “must see” if you’re in Tucson – but you usually have to make reservations several weeks (or months) in advance because it’s usually sold out.  There is an early show on the weekends – and since my body clock was on Eastern Time, getting out of the 6:00 show at 8:15 meant it was already past my bedtime.

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Don’t see a lot of this along the trail in the desert – didn’t even see running water in a stream until the fourth day.  So a little splash of color stands out.

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This was from the low altitude hike – we were headed to the top of the peak in the distance and it was hot, so a bit of shade on a break was appreciated.

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On top, I found three things of note – a survey marker, a plastic tub with a notebook inside so hikers could sign in and register their thoughts (not sure why the spoon was left behind), and fencing from a time when cattle grazed here . . .


The view from that peak – that’s Tucson spread all through the flat ground in the distance.

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Still searching for that perfect picture – still haven’t found it . . .

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Once in a while, I run across some greenery that catches my eye.  A cactus with “arms” coming out of its “head” is rather rare.  And I referred to this little fellow as a “Mickey Mouse” cactus . . .

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Occasionally, we come across a couple taking a picture and I always offer to take the shot so both of them can be in it.  Sometimes they will then offer to take one of us – I appreciate those shots . . .

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There is a story behind these two pictures and the few that will follow.  The one on the left was taken on my cell phone in 2002, the first time I came out by myself to visit Mom and Dad.  And it was the wallpaper on that cell phone for a couple of years.  When we walked by the same spot again this year, I remembered the shot and wanted to recreate it . . .

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It probably would have been a little better if I had remembered that 12 years ago I was sitting on the other side of the rock formation . . .

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Our last hike was all the way on top of Mount Lemmon, north of Tucson.  Saw a few deer along the road and stopped to take a couple of pictures – they weren’t the least bit afraid of us.

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The Old Carter Canyon Trail starts just above the village of Summerhaven near the top of Mount Lemmon.  Dad said this is an area where the rich folks from Tucson had summer homes back in the days before air conditioning – it’s much cooler at 8,000-9,000 feet.  This trail literally starts above a very nice home at the end of a cul-de-sac . . .


And the trailhead comes complete with its own survey marker.

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This trail is very obscure and doesn’t seem to get a lot of use.  But it’s well marked with little pieces of ribbon (look for it in the right picture – in the branch straight above Dad’s head) and large washers that can catch the glare of the sunlight nailed into trees (both pictures – in the burned out stump ahead of Dad).  This area is very barren because of a forest fire that roared through Summerhaven several years ago and burned much of the town and the surrounding hillsides.

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At the top of Mount Lemmon is civilization – observation areas and transmission towers . . .

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And a very popular skiing area.  I took a pic of the map of ski runs – #2 that goes straight down the mountain is called “Hot Dawg”.  Not for me, thanks . . .

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This is my idea of a quality ski lift experience – it’s not moving, and I’m not freezing . . .

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From the top of Mount Lemmon, I could see two peaks to the south (Mount Wrightson on the left is also known as “Old Baldy” and Mount Hopkins on the right) that we hiked/climbed three years ago – these are more than 60 miles away.


And on top of Mount Lemmon, I found a little touch of home – dandelions . . .

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This was my favorite sight of the whole trip – an observation building on top of Mount Lemmon.  Apparently it’s still in use – Dad has been here when the boards that cover the windows were open and someone was inside.  But not today.  From this point, you can see for miles in every direction with nothing to block the view.

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Original site of the lookout tower . . .


No kidding . . .

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Just because I thought it was interesting.  And another little critter along the trail (look for it) . . .

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More views of that little lookout shack – I saw it all day long as we hiked and took pictures from all angles.  Dad finally took a picture of me taking pictures of it.

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More views of the lookout shack – I told you it was my favorite sight of the trip.

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Saw a lot of this on the trail – apparently planes dropped seeds over the burned out areas in an attempt to restore the forest.  And our first view of Summerhaven as we neared the end of our last hike and returned to where the car was parked.


I took this picture of Mom just before I left for the airport – she spent most of my visit with her leg propped up because she had a squamous cell carcinoma (one step worse than a typical skin cancer) removed from her leg just before I arrived.  They got it all – she’s fine.  I also took a picture of the incision to send to Blake, but I won’t share that one with you.  You’re welcome . . .

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We usually take a short hike before I head for the airport to go home – makes the day seem more like a vacation day and less like an all-day travel day.  But this time, I wanted to watch the usual Tuesday pickleball games – Dad talks about their pickleball games a lot and even though Blake and I played some with him last year, I hadn’t seen him play with his friends.  So I watched and took pictures . . .

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Until they ended up a player short and drafted me.  I do better when the ball isn’t moving.  We looked at these pics before I left for the airport and Dad wanted to know why mine of him didn’t show the fencing – he gave me one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” looks when I told him that I put the lens through one of the holes . . .

More stories to come – I’m not caught up yet . . .