Monday, October 15, 2012

Finding Fall Foliage

With October marking the two year anniversary of our departure from New England, we started asking locals here whether we could find any fall foliage in the Tucson area.   After considering a long trip to Sedona or a short trip to Sabino Canyon, we decided to make the 65 mile drive up Mt. Lemmon in search of some Maple trees, Aspens and whatever else we could find.   Getting to Mt Lemmon's Catalina Highway means we have to cross all of Tucson to the east side where we always see these suspiciously perfect, giant Saguaro Cacti looming above us on Sunrise Dr.  Today we decided they needed a closer look:

I guess they are some kind of cell tower, but they sure look real next to some live Saguaros.

The 6000 ft. vertical climb, 26 mile trip up Mt Lemmon passes through many Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations but we had our sights set on E. Bear Wallow Rd in search of Maple trees.

I think we found the Aspens right at their peak!  They were gorgeous, set off by the rich green color of the Ponderosa Pines.

At last, Maple trees!  Martha soaks up the sun donning a long sleeve shirt in the 63 degree air here at 8000+ feet.  Down in town it's about 98 degrees.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Final Inspection

This morning I made my self imposed deadline and passed the final inspection for the pool!  Whew, it's been a couple weeks of hard labor but it all came together this morning.  Two weeks ago while scheduling my 2nd to last subcontractor I realized that I would be the one holding this job up if I didn't get the pool barrier and other safety issues finalized for the final inspection. So, despite the summer heat I persevered and completed 80 feet of  solar pull barrier.

The job entailed 22 post holes dug in Arizona Caliche,  142 pickets, 9 lbs. of nails, several sore muscles, numerous aching joints and a whole lot more, all stepped down a gradual slope just to keep it challenging and interesting.  Oh, to be 50 again!

After I was done Martha began the job of weatherproofing all the new wood.  Lookin' good!

Pools require a self closing gate at least 5 feet high that must swing out from the pool.  I built this one out of Redwood which is cheap and plentiful here in Arizona. In the Northeast Redwood was expensive and hard to come by; here in Arizona I think I'll be doing a lot with this beautiful wood. 

For the front of the gate I was lucky to find these huge antique iron strap hinges on eBay. This was an amazing find; sometimes I've looked for weeks and weeks for an item like this and never found it. This is sooo much nicer than new hardware from The Home Depot. The gate already looks like it's 100 years old.

Another item I had to install was a door alarm, but why do these things have to be a screeching 120 db?  While putting this on the pool doors and testing it I put ear plugs in, but our dog, Charlie, was so mortified by the sound that she asked to go outside and wouldn't come in for hours.  The inspector is now gone-no children in the house-door alarm disabled-end of story. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Bobcats are back

Actually I don't think they ever left, this is their home.  We see them now and then but it's not often I get a chance to take a photo of them together.

These guys showed up right at dinner time last night when I put some ribs on the grill.  It's kind of a surprise to go out to my BBQ and see them just 50 feet away staring at me.  I guess they were hungry.

The pool is coming along great, only two more subcontractors to go and I can fill it with water which will come from my metered water here in this part of Arizona.  Normally my water bill is about $20 a month; I don't have a clue what it will cost to fill it.

While the east and south sides of the pool area have the masonry barrier you've seen in the photos, the north side barrier will be a combination wood fence and slanted wall that will support eight 6 1/2' dia. circular solar water heaters that will extend the pool season to about 9 months of the year.  To get approval for this design I had to build a prototype and submit drawings to the county building department. The drawings were readily approved and were said to be a creative and innovative design that did double duty.  I wonder if I could patent it?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Favorite Things

Partial rainbows are common enough here during the monsoon season but seeing a full rainbow doesn't happen with every storm.  This afternoon we had 30 mph winds and enough thunder and lightning such that Charlie would not eat her dinner, but we only got a few drops of rain. However, we did get a whopper of a rainbow over the Catalinas.

This must be 10 miles wide end to end.  I don't have a wide angle lens big enough to get the whole thing.

These storms produce rainfall that is extremely local.  It's very common for one town to get an inch of rain and the next town nothing at all.  And, the clouds are so beautiful at sunset.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our First Pool Guest

Our pool project has been waiting for the natural rocks to be installed which happened this morning.  Everything went well and the rocks are nice; no scratches or marks from a backhoe on any of them. What do rocks cost you may ask?  They were $100 each, delivered and mortared into place.

We added the real stone rock features because we wanted our pool to look more natural.  I guess they look natural enough for this visitor who showed up an hour after the rocks were placed.  Beep beep!

We're going to have to name this guy.  This Roadrunner and another smaller one (a mate?) are always running around outside. 

In this photo and the top one you can see I've got some of the masonry primed.  7 gallons worth so far, looks like it's going to take another 10 gallons.

Shortly after I posted this blog I saw the two Roadrunners together.  By the time I got my camera one of them was gone but I was able to walk within 4 feet of this one and take these photos.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Furnishing Our New Digs

Moving out of your RV and into a house necessitates a certain amount of shopping whether you like it or not. Now, I love shopping at thrift stores, second hand shops, estate sales, Ikea like stores and even furniture stores but I cannot stand going into a mall. Recently I've been dragged into a couple malls here in Tucson under duress and came up with a great idea while looking for a way to escape. Why hasn't anyone invented the "Man Mall"?  Lets start by putting Home Depot at one end and Lowe's at the other end as anchors.  Just think of the competition this would create; you could park once and shop both stores. Now that we have the anchor stores lets add Cabela's, Bass Pro Shop, Dick's Sporting Goods, Ace Hardware, a couple pubs (after hours and hours of shopping I will need a libation), Woodcraft Supply, Harbor Freight Tools, Camping World, Hobbytown, Grainger Industrial Supply, Victoria's Secret, Northern Tool, McMaster Carr, Autozone, Tractor Supply, a motorcycle shop, a stone & granite store, a welding shop, a few thrift stores and finally in the food court there would be just one restaurant: Hooters.  This is the kind of mall I would shop at!

A couple people have asked how we're doing furnishing a 2000 sq. ft. empty house so I thought I'd post a few of our finds. We found many pieces at a thrift store here in Catalina called The Golden Goose . This store is unique in that all of the merchandise comes from the estates of the upscale homes in the gigantic retirement community of Saddlebrooke. Here's a few finds:

Vintage oak armoire from the Goose $112.  I brought this home on the roof of the Jetta, whew!  A couple days ago I bought a 2000 Ford F150 pick up so this won't happen again. We can't live with one car so I may as well drive a white pick up truck like everyone else in Arizona.

Mission bed with matching footboard, St. David thrift store $50

19th century wash stand, wrong pitcher but otherwise very nice, Craig's List $75

Ikea chair and ottoman, estate sale $25

Antique Chinese ginger jar from estate sale $100.  In recent years many ginger jars have become ornate and are sold as decorative items. This is a real ginger jar that was used to ship commodities like salt, oil and spices. The white marks on it aren't damage; prior to shipping the lids were fastened down with cement which acted as a seal to prevent tampering. This was a rare find.

The antique Carrom board on the wall is from the Goose $38.  We splurged and bought the table and chairs new because we liked the "pub feel" of the benches and corner chair.  It's also a higher than normal height which we've been looking for.

I saw this Ikea style desk in World Markets but it was too big and cost $250 so I built it my size for $75. Chair $10 from the Goose.

1.6 gal flush toilet, from the Goose $30.  Our house had old style 5 gal. flush toilets so this was a good change.  The funny thing is that there are always nice toilets for sale at the Goose. We think this is because the goods come from Saddlebrooke retirees who are changing to tall handicap toilets.  There's also always a a pile of used walkers for sale.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bring on the Gunite!

The rains stayed at bay overnight so I had a nice dry, firm pool hole when the workers arrived at 6:30 this morning.

As soon as the concrete truck arrived they went straight to work spraying the gunite. Gunite is really just concrete with a  finer aggregate so it can be sprayed.  At $123.25 per yard it's a bit more expensive too. By days end I used 22 yards, exactly two truck loads.

The workers put up a barrier around the pool so any over spray doesn't get on the masonry wall or the house.

Creating a pool is really more of an art than a science. The gunite has to be constantly carved and checked for level and plumb as it is sprayed.  A detail like the steps has to be delicately shaped and measured by an experienced worker to come out right.

It only took about 4 hours to do the job.  Now I have a one-of-a-kind totally unique pool like no other.  The 3 square niches along the pool's edge are where natural rocks will be placed.  This will be the next contractor followed by tile around the perimeter at the top.

I was very pleased by the work my Mexican amigos did.  This arch was added to my original plan when I learned their prices were so reasonable-just $500 more!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Arizona Monsoons

Today we welcome new followers: Traveler, Box Canyon Blogger and RV Travelers in Search of Adventures.  We're happy to have you aboard but I doubt this blog will be about RV lifestyle any more, at least for the present. Maybe I should blog about moving out of an RV and into a house. Well, there isn't much furniture to move, none to be precise, just the minimal belongings we carried with us. It's a lot like moving into your very first place when you finished college or moved out of your parents house. Although we miss some of our old things it's fun to start fresh and fill the house a little at a time. We enjoy scouring thrift stores, estate sales, Craig's list and yard sales which seems to fill all our spare time. We've splurged on a couple new purchases but for the most part we've furnished about half the house with used things as well as a few pieces I built. I'll post some photos if anyone is interested.

I really wanted to blog about the monsoons today. This photo illustrates how the Catalinas look much of the time lately, in sharp contrast to the usual bright sunny blue skies throughout the rest of the year. Having only spent winters in Southern Arizona we are amazed how humid and rainy it is here. The humidity and clouds seem to keep the temperatures lower however, which is a benefit.  Whereas most of June was around 100 degrees everyday, most of July has been between 85 and 90 degrees, unless it's actually raining when the temperature will plummet 25 degrees in a matter of minutes. And, everything is really green, especially all the brown dry grass you see here in the wintertime.

There must be about 30 of these barrel cacti on our property and they're all blooming for the second time.  We went to a plant sale at The Tohono Chul Park yesterday and learned that they blossom 3 times a year and have an edible fruit.

Look at all the fruit on this amazing Prickly Pear cactus.

The pool passed the pre-gunite inspection today so we hope to get the shotcrete in tomorrow if it doesn't rain. This will be a relief as I've had to shovel mud out of the hole 3 times due to the rain storms. The privacy wall is now done, complete with the stucco finish.  Now I have to paint the whole thing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Today's Wildlife

Just when we thought we had seen all the wildlife the Catalina foothills has to offer a new species was pointed out to me by the steel workers after they arrived at 6:30 this morning.  When they pointed towards a tree and in their best English said "beast" I wasn't sure what I would see.  I have no way of knowing whether these are Africanized bees or not though they seemed very calm.  They made me miss my bee keeping days; at one time I kept 9 hives. Maybe I'll start up a couple colonies; Arizona is supposed to be a good place to keep bees.

The pool construction moves forward again. Today they're laying the web of re-bar required to give the gunite the reinforcement needed to support the weight of all the water. The next subcontractor will be the electrician followed by an inspection by the county, then comes the gunite. Better start shopping for a bathing suit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Longer Gypsies

Yesterday we sold our coach after 8 weeks of advertising, answering phone calls and showing the rig to about 2 dozen people. I've sold 3 houses, numerous cars and several boats but this was the hardest sale of my life.  There are just so many RVs for sale out there it is simply a buyer's market and shoppers can afford to be very very fussy. As my real estate agent says however "there's a lid for every pot" and the right person showed up yesterday. Now that we've become Tucsonians it hardly seems right to have our blog named The Gypsy Life Journal, but we'll keep the name for now. We've looked at a number of 32' class As at the RV shows and think this might be the right size for non full-time travel. For now the construction and remodeling here at our new digs offers a great deal of excitement and we don't miss fulltiming. When we got up this morning we both felt like we had lost something we loved but it just wouldn't be practical to keep the RV here in the desert. To keep an RV parked here you really need a shelter to keep the sun off it and the pack rats out.  It the short term I've kept lights under it every night to keep the pack rats away but they can be very persistent. I had a small debris pile here from the demo I did for the new French doors. After just one week I overturned some scrap plywood in the pile and found a hoard of Mesquite beans and Cholla cactus; a pack rat nest!  Everyone here in our neighborhood parks their car with either the hood open and or a light underneath. Just one of the many ways how life is so different here in the desert.  We love it here!

We will miss you!
A desert pack rat.  Another reason to try to keep the population down is that they dig tunnels all over your yard.  The tunnels themselves are harmless but are often used as shelter by rattlesnakes.