This morning my wife and I arrived at the polls a bit after six. The room was already full, which made me happy and, as a foreign acquaintance once reminded me, thankful that I was able to vote. However, the best thing in the polling place was seeing only paper ballots, no electronic voting machines.
My friend and I decided to tow his boat from Tucson to Lake Powell a few weekends ago for a multi-day adventure. The trip was that, but instead of describing why, I will summarize what happened:
- Traffic accident.
- Departure delayed by hours for repairs.
- Seeing mountainside on fire north of Phoenix.
- Choking on smoke on the way up to Flagstaff.
- Sleeping in bed of truck just south of Flagstaff.
- Waking up in the cold.
- Hearing that two armed men had robbed the mini-mart within sight of where we camped.
- Driving through the vast Navajo Nation and is varied colors and landforms.
- Reaching Page and Glen Canyon Dam.
- Launching boat and finding recently repaired impeller has failed.
- Learning nobody in Page (and nowhere else) has the old impeller key.
- Talking our way out of a speeding ticket inside the National Park.
- Machining a key then relaunching to find engine runs about 40%.
- Boating to the other ramp 17 miles away then having the engine die for good.
- Using the 3hp backup motor that dies as well.
- Finding that I have no cell service at the ramp.
- Getting lift back to other ramp by park rangers.
- Returning to pull the boat but ending up riding out a storm at the dock during which time panicked people assault the dock to get their own boats out.
- My tent nearly blowing away in another storm.
- Waking up to find friend's boat had drifted away.
- While I scale nearby ridge, boat has electrical fire.
- Can't burn almost any of the gas we bought despite the 3hp have returned to life.
- Meeting 20-mile bumper-to-bumper traffic jam north of Phoenix.
- Taking crazy route through Prescott.
- Arriving at 10pm to unload boat.
- Finding trailer third wheel is trashed due to earlier accident, so we have to rip it apart to remove it.
- Returning home at midnight.
- Waking at 5 to go to work.
This morning I volunteered for a second day with Habitat for Humanity. We were supposed to paint the outside of a house to which we applied primer two weeks ago; however, it was raining—brief lightning, too—so we wound up working on the interior. The future Habitat homeowners putting in their required hours mainly worked on painting the doors. I wound up doing much caulking of baseboards and shelves, but I also sawed some boards to become shelves and secured shelves with a nail gun. Good stuff!
Helping people build homes is enjoyable, and it also gives exposure to a number of tools, methods, and people. The Tucson branch doesn't have any volunteering during July, because it is too hot. If more openings come up, I will volunteer again later this year.
My friend and I towed his boat up to Saguaro Lake this Thursday. We quickly found that the work he had had done was inadequate: Every time we turned off the engine or ran at near-idle speed for more than a few minutes, one cylinder would quit firing. Thankfully we had multiple spares, so we could rotate through them and generally maintain performance.
But the throttle linkage seemed wonky as well, with irregular fluctuations, one of which tossed me backward from the bow. My rear still hurts from that fall.
Our first night was spent camping on a floating dock without cleats about midway to the dam at the opposite end of the lake. Early Friday morning I woke to feel four steps on my chest followed by a flop flop of wings right by my ear. Some largish bird had used me as a runway. Shortly thereafter we pulled over to the secured dock to check out the campground, which was very nice: at least twenty sites, ample shade trees, and a toilet. But someone else had set up their boat in preparation for a horde of revelers that would arrive throughout the day.
After cruising up and down the lake and refueling, we met my father and step-mother for Fish Friday at the marina's restaurant. Not bad at all! But when we returned to the campground dock, there was barely an opening. We managed to squeeze in, which brought some people convinced our boat was going to bump into theirs. We apparently defused the tension, but probably the revelers' drinking helped them forget all about us. They cranked music until midnight, but the Mr. Microphone sessions thankfully ended around 10. Few had expected the night temps to drop into the 50s, so there was a late-night exodus back to the marina and onward to homes and hotels.
Saturday was a repeat at the campsite, with even more boats tied three abreast. This time, however, people were prepared for the cold. During the day, a Phoenix friend came and we drove him up to the dam. On the way back, we stopped at a party beach where we met, unexpectedly, another Tucson acquaintance. Drinks in buggies had driven overland to the beach, and one poor guy managed to roll his on the beach. People got together to right it, only to find his head gashed badly. Thankfully another boater and hockey enthusiast had superglue on hand, which was used in lieu of stitches. On our way back to the marina, we saw the State Patrol boat stop at least one boat for unknown transgressions.
Sunday morning we decided to call it quits, but we had learned it will be worth going up for the campground on non-holiday weekends.
On Sunday some friends and I decided to go up Pikacho Peak, a peak that stands alone along Interstate 10 and is notably tall with sheer faces. When driving past it on your way between Tucson and Phoenix, you can't miss it. It is now an Arizona State Park. But you might wonder what it looks like from the top, and whether anyone can get up there.
We started about 8:45, later than we wanted but fortunate on an oddly chilly morning. The lady at the entrance collected our $7 fees and reminded us to wear hiking boots and carry two or three liters of water. I went with Chuck Taylor high top sneakers and six liters.
The start seemed not too worrying but soon it was uphill and the water began to weigh.
Once we got to the base, the wheezing and pounding hearts stopped. Things levelled off for a while, but we were soon near edges, seeking footholds and toeholds, and pulling ourselves up on steel cables.
The pictures that can do the most challenging parts of the ascent justice are those where you least want to free a hand or set down a backpack to fetch a camera or phone.
The climb took almost two hours for me, although others in better shape clearly go up in less time. Near the top, you might be pleased to note you are higher than most of the birds living on the peak fly at. There is some satisfaction in looking at hawks from on high.
There are actually two peaks, the shorter of which was far less crowded. Regardless of the peak, you can see entire trains, areas watered and not, and more.
The return was not the knee killer I had feared. However, it was turning almost crowded with all the people coming up. We had to stop in places to let others pass including some older people with what looked like ski poles and a surprising number of foreigners. There were also pairs of young people carrying no water whatsoever. They were not going to be very comfortable. I ended up drinking about two liters, but I should have drunk more.
Sure enough, I wound up with two blisters on my toes, but my shoes are now broken in for the next excursion.
The next day my calves were very stiff, but it was well worth it. That said, I don't know whether I will be in a rush to go up Pikacho Peak again.
Slowly I am acquiring the tools for home maintenance, but the knowledge is still a ways off. Only today did I realize the true value of a 1/2"-wide flathead screwdriver.
Today I returned home to find three men standing on a neighbor's driveway. One was the owner with his small dog on a leash. It wasn't until I had parked in the garage that I saw a big snake on the driveway as well.
It turned out that the neighbor had hired two men to bring a large defanged rattlesnake with a bite guard affixed to its face to train his dog to respond. The rattlesnake's rattle was surprisingly loud, and the Doppler effect was pronounced. For the while that I watched the training, the dog initially seemed to ignore the snake intentionally, although it would stay close to the owner's legs. At some point we later heard the dog yelp with fear.
Another neighbor happened by with her dog and said she had done the same training. Her dog had yelped as well at times, but he was apparently now able to sniff rattlers and notify her.
This morning, while traveling north toward the airport on Old Nogales Highway, I saw a young man in a light colored shirt waving his arms rather frantically on the east shoulder of the road. Uncertain what he was going to do, I began slowing down from 55 mph when he suddenly dashed across the road, a car or two in front of me.
Just then another guy came out of the scrub to the same point. He was also waving his arms to get people to slow down. Barefoot, he dashed across both lanes two or three cars behind me.
Next was a policeman hopping into a sheriff's SUV facing south on the east shoulder. When he flipped his lights on, I jammed on my brakes, allowing him tear into the southbound lane, surely in pursuit of the two jaywalkers, or jayrunners.
What was going on?