Sunday, April 28, 2019

Time to Stop Mowing the Lawn

Twenty-eight years ago, when we bought our first house in Arizona, I jumped on a chance to buy a used McLane reel lawnmower with an electric motor. It has served use well all these years, but it does require that someone guide it which makes one more thing on our list when we're gone for our summer travels. While our friends at Glory Farm were installing a sprinkler system for their yard, I was cutting and capping the line to our lawn sprinklers.

We did a bunch of research, leveraging direct experience and a friend in the business before deciding to install artificial turf using a new 'cool touch' technology.

The crew to remove the old turf were "headed our way today." Eventually, on the fourth 'today' the sod crew arrived and made quick work of removal.

The old turf was folded up and hauled out to their truck.

I was really impressed. As always, having the right tool makes the job much easier. The heavy knife behind the roller vibrates rapidly and easily cuts the turf into strips. It also cuts the heads off of sprinklers that might be in the way.

It took longer to clean up the edges than it did to remove the bulk of the turf.
I couldn't resist a picture of one of their shovels. No, it's not stuck in the dirt. They just get their money's worth out of their equipment!

Less than 90 minutes after their arrival, the crew of four, and the old grass was gone.

The next morning two other guys showed up. They stacked up bags of "stuff," hauled in some fine sand, and got to work doing some final leveling.

It took at least twice as long to do the prep and compaction of the base as it did to cut out and remove the old sod.

The new turf was laid out and nailed in place before the edges were trimmed.

At last the mysterious bags went into the spreader and were thickly spread over the turf. After applying the first material, it was power swept into the turf and then the second material was spread and swept into the turf. The first layer was an anti-urine material because of the dog, while the second material was crushed copper slag which makes the turf stand up.

I suppose I should have taken the lawn mower pictures on the old sod, but... Some time soon I should put together a Craigs List ad to find this one a new home. It's served us very well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Running Out of Time

Triple digits are still threatening (the 99 we got doesn't count!) which means that sane desert wandering is nearing an end for the summer. Even now, an early morning start is always a wise decision.

A couple weeks ago, I went wandering, looking for places for a series of five caches. There was an are on the map that had a number of washes but looked a bit barren of trails. It was time to explore.

Turns out, there were some obvious trails and some interesting saguaro. The brittle bush were blooming and an occasional hedgehog, but the grass and other flowers was already brown.

As I wandered the trails, I discovered other, fainter trails that led to interesting places

and interesting rocks - all of which could serve as clues to where this latest series of caches were placed.

Now & then a saguaro would stand tall and get my attention

but this area was different than some of the others. Boulders large and small provided structure for the hills while the palo verde trees and other plants struggled for a foothold.

All in all, I found five spots I liked, all with interesting views that required some effort to attain. We'll see how many are willing to make sense of the directions and try to locate these before the summer heat hits for real.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Old Roads

The weather people are threatening triple digits which shouldn't come as a surprise but first they called up a day that was cool and threatening rain. Just right for a short road trip.

We drove out past Canyon Lake,

including a stop to check out water levels and water conditions. The water was way too green right now to be conducive to what I was thinking about so we kept going past the marina, past the now closed for the season campground, and past the store and saloon at Tortilla Flats.

Our goal for the day was to check out a mile long section of the original Apache Trail road, used for wagon and truck traffic when the Roosevelt Dam was built.

Most of the flowers had dried and blown away but the brittle bush still had color

and the ocotillo and other types of cactus were blooming or at least starting to create buds.

We drove about 1/2 mile but started getting concerned about the high dry grass in the center of the road, not wanting to park the truck where the muffler might be touching the dry grass. When we found a safe spot, we parked and walked the last 1/2 mile, only to find a clear small turnaround at the end of the road. No worries, the walk gave us a chance to observe the old road route on the other side of the wash.

At one time there had been a bridge across the wash, but now the drivable portion of the road ends at one of the bridge abutments while the geocache we were seeking was on the other side.

The cache was neat & clean, but the best part was that it was an excuse for us to see some history we'd driven past many times.

Our timing was right. We got back to the marina at Canyon Lake in time to have lunch and watch the Dolly depart on its half of a three hour cruise.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

New Shoes

I'd expected to get more miles out of the Goodyear LT265/70R17E tires that came on the truck than I did. I could have stretched a few more miles, but with the Alaska trip rapidly approaching, it was time to bite the bullet.

I fully intended to install what Michelin now calls the Defender LTX M/S because I'd had incredible experience with them on the Tacoma, but the tread life warranty was now only 50,000 miles on the LT version of the tire even though I'd gotten right at 100K on one set on the Tacoma.

I ended up going with the Michelin LTX A/T 2 tire. The tread is more aggressive than the Defender (about the same as the Goodyear LT tire from the factory) but the tread warranty is 10K better while Discount's prices were essentially the same for the two styles, making my decision easy.

The Discount Tire location I use didn't have the A/T 2 in stock in my size but I had a call from them the next morning that they'd come in, so I stopped by and within an hour (in spite of not having an appointment) the tires were going on.

The tread is about as aggressive as the Goodyear tires the truck was delivered with, but they are quieter running.

Meanwhile, I pulled the wheels on the Scamp to check the brakes and bearings but figured it wasn't worth a bunch of pictures. The Timkin bearings that I put in 33,000 miles ago when we returned from our last Alaska trip still look good so they were cleaned, packed, and reinstalled with new rear seals.

One month until we head north.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Which Side's Up?

When we went to Alaska in 2013, I decided we needed a bit more storage space. There are some very nice, purpose-built containers, complete with brake lights, but we used a Harbor Freight ATV carrier and a large Action Packer. Turns out it was overkill, and we never used it after that trip.

Note that the carrier never sat level!
This time, our Honda generator is making a one way trip to Alaska and I didn't have a secure place for it in the truck. I made up a smaller base for the main arm of the HF carrier. Among other things, it fits the smaller Action Packer that our generator has been stored in for years. Since we installed the solar system, we've had no use for the generator.

There are two holes in the base (and the Action Packer) - one on either side of the main support arm. A security cable will wrap around the hitch receiver and the hitch before routing up into the container and through the carry handle of the generator may slow down some thieves.

The loop style cam straps are from Northwest River Sports and are well known to rafters.

The other reason for building this carrier was that I wanted a simple way to carry our Rhino "Blue Boy."  We have a couple places that we often go where the internal black tank isn't enough, but it's a hassle to break camp to visit a dump station.

Thanks to the offset on the ATV carrier arm, I can flip this adapted carrier over, giving me about 8 inches of ground clearance,

which will make it much easier to load a blue boy for the trip to the dump site

without breaking camp.

It still doesn't sit level, but I was too lazy to cut and re-weld the stinger to get it squared up.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the other parts of the old carrier. Maybe they'll turn into part of a geocache.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

All Washed Up

Over a year ago, BJ and I hiked to the lime kiln in search of a First To Find on a geocache near there. The other day, I was approached by a couple other folks about going past the lime kiln to log another cache on the hill past the kiln. We parked at Blue Point and headed downriver before the sun started dispersing the shadows.

The spring flowers have been extra special this year and because our temps have been sane, the flowers have lasted longer than usual.

Even some of the cactus were starting to join the party.

The vast majority of the hike was in a variety of sandy washes.
After Bob signed Pizza-Pizza (near the kiln,) we headed up a wash. Turns out the wash we chose headed in a reasonably appropriate direction, but was blocked in several spots by brush, creating more work for us.

Eventually, we spotted a pile of rocks that seemed like it deserved a geocache, but nothing there.

Apparently, we need to go "that a'way." The last 1000 feet or so was a total bushwhack.

The views to the north were part of the reward,

and the smiles when we found the rarely visited cache were another part of the reward. After some snacks and liquid, and replaced the cache with three more signatures on the log, it was time to head back down the hill.

We elected to gamble on a different wash on the way down the hill,

since the uphill wash wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The downhill wash wasn't straight, but it also wasn't choked with brush which made it a much better choice.

All told, about 6 miles round trip for just one cache, but a delightful morning with friends and a chance to visit another area I'd never seen before.