Disneyland with the DIY Guy's Eye

No, I didn't finish remodeling the house to look like a pink castle.

We took a long weekend and headed for Disneyland. As always, it was a great time. Nobody does it better when it comes to detail, service, and providing an enjoyable experience, for 10 bazillion people.

If you haven't been, I'm going to let you in on a little secret, to prepare you,... you are going to wait in line. Seriously. You are going to wait in some serious, godawful lines. Sure, it's worth it in the end; the attractions are pure joy for young and old. In fact, the lines are not so bad at first. They're generally theme decorated and everyone is anticipating a day of awesomeness. Early on, the lines are pretty fun...

Cars Land is like stepping into a cartoon! ...but later, as energy wanes and the heat of the day starts wearing you down, the lines are not quite as fun.

"Staaaaar Waaaarssss....better be worth it" (It is!)

When your's truly wasn't in kid consoling mode or fetching drinks, I was peaking at the details, figuring out how stuff was put together. Check out at this bow-tie / dovetail joinery holding the timbers together at the

Peter Pan line. I imagine, it was probably built in the 1950's.

A " bow-tie / dovetail" (?) Over at the newly-renovated, Thunder Mountain Railroad, the fence was made from some sort of weird resin or acrylic, but it was nicely done.

Dino-mite!!!! There was some seriously rustic timber fit in place with meaty shims.

In the Toy Story -  Midway Mania line I was mesmerized by their plank ceiling. I never even thought about setting ours at an angle. Look at all that molding!

We clamored around in Tarzan's house for a while. It truly feels like a massive, vine filled tree...

... especially with this weather tight, flexible electrical conduit, growing from the jungle floor.

Finally, my keen eye spotted this incredibly realistic horse. I couldn't believe the attention to detail the designers had put into this fine piece of animatronic wizardry. I marveled at the heap of steaming Disney magic it deposited on the street, just like a real horse.

Obviously hand crafted realism!

Financial Impact

Renovation is expensive and difficult to keep on budget.

Around here, the short term budget is a little tight as we move into the final stages of the living room remodel. We can handle it, partially because we planned well and used a 0% financing deal for the costly flooring investment. We're disciplined and use these finance deals fairly regularly, paying them off well before the big interest hit comes into play at the end. Sweetie handles the books perfectly, every time. Why would we pull from interest-earning savings when we can use the merchant's money for free? As all projects do, we got hit with a few construction overruns. We managed to absorb them as we went.

But sometimes unplanned things, outside the current project, give a swift, precision kick to the wallet and drop your plan gasping to its knees. For instance, who could have foreseen the colossal financial impact our family budget would suffer due to an utter and complete unpreparedness for the season where legions of uniformed Girl Scouts besiege the entrances to every shopping center in the county, with their diabolical cookies? I simply lack the fortitude to walk past a smiling little commando, as she dual wields Samoas and Thin Mints, without reaching for my wallet. (Note to self: double-check the ladder's maximum weight capacity rating against my new-found pounds.)

The diabolical lure of Thin Mints, for second breakfast
Breakfast of Champions

Then, another hit. Literally. On my way to work this week, some mental-giant in a Honda Odyssey decided to cross three lanes of traffic and stop across the fast moving left lane lane blocking a pack of speeding morning commuters in the darkness. It caused a chain reaction of ricocheting vehicular pinball madness that resulted in a fast moving Mustang skimming across my front bumper and running me off the road. Luckily, the stability assist feature in my truck helped me maintain control and avoid a streetlight when my tire blew out on the curb. Even more lucky was the that bus stop I found myself parked in was vacant and a couple inches higher than my roof rack.

Hanging out at the bus stop.
I know there were several vehicles that hit each other in the pandemonium. I heard the impacts. I saw the skid marks and bits of plastic in the road. Of course, every single one of those turkeys boogied-out, at great haste. I was only able to catch a partial plate number on the Mustang before the throaty roar of its big V-8 disappeared into the darkness.

One of the special treats about living in Arizona is a cornucopia of possible reasons why people may abandon an accident scene. There are undocumented immigrants afraid of deportation. There are people with minor criminal warrants, terrified of being sentenced to the humiliation of pink underwear, green bologna, and freezing nights of Sheriff Joe's "Tent City." There are uninsured drivers. There are common people afraid there is a loaded firearm in every other car, ready to settle traffic altercations like it's the O.K, Corral.

Regardless of reason, I was alone on the roadside with a busted wheel, flat tire, and a pounding heart.

Busted Ridgeline Wheel
$480 worth of aluminum and rubber.
Surprisingly my truck body was only a little scratched up. Nothing serious. I have to contend with a $300 wheel, $180 for a tire, and an alignment to be roadworthy again. I can't DIY this particular project; regrettably it's not in my wheelhouse. Hopefully, the suspension is OK. I won't know until I get the wheel back on, but  if major repair is needed, we'll have to make an insurance claim.

This is definitely not in the budget. We could have done a lot of DIY renovation work for this kind of money.

P.S. - No, before you ask, the new "spare tire" in my mid-section from ingesting 2 metric -tons of Girl Scout cookies will not fit a Honda Ridgeline. 

This is AZ DIY Guy's 100th Post! Thanks for reading.

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There and Back Again

I've gone dark for over a week, enjoying some time back in Michigan with family and friends. No projects, no tools. Just crisp fall air and overwhelming amounts of water and the color green. Living in the desert southwest is a land of beige and earth tones. There's nothing like this blast of fall color.

Ok. Gracie did have a little wood work project to do. 
We timed our trip perfectly. Michigan was beautiful, crisp temperatures in the mornings and evenings with warm sunny days (mostly). Sweetie and I felt a homesick, missing living there.

The kids had a blast. It was fall break in Arizona, but school was in session in Michigan. We had parks to ourselves, only sharing them with the seagulls, Canadian Geese, and Swan.

We enjoyed a day of apple picking, cider and donuts at the cider mill / orchard, where Gracie befriended several wooley caterpillars...

...and the other of our young offspring, quickly devised a rousing game of apple stomping.

We spent a nice evening at my folks place on the lake, ending with making s'mores. 

Alas, work and school beckoned us home. The beauty of Michigan will soon give way to the horrors of winter driving, shoveling snow, and freezing one's butt off pumping gas. Arizona has passed through its time of summer inferno and is offering months of sunny, beautiful paradise. We'll miss everyone, but we'll miss them while we enjoy wearing shorts and sandals, picnicking in December. 

We returned home, tired and jet lagged from the three hour time difference. There'd obviously been a wind storm, judging the amount of newspaper in the yard and pool, not to mention the submerged patio chairs. The pool was filthy with the vacuum tangled in a chair.

Allow me to show you to your seat sir.
What a difference a couple weeks makes. The cactus I'd cut up and laid out is dramatically dried up. Most of it is crispy, like weathered cardboard, ready to be scooped up and thrown away.

Pita chips anyone?
You know me; of course, with a post title of There and Back Again, there has to be a hobbit reference, right? A Lord of the Rings movie quote perhaps?

Nope. But it all comes together in the end...

This is a grand item of mystery we found laying smack-dab in the middle of our front yard, when we got home, right beside the walkway. 

Take this back to Hobbiton please.
Seriously, what the hell is this? Who leaves a collectible plate in someones yard when they leave town? More importantly, who owns a "collectible" plate featuring a freakish, barefoot circus-child that looks like one of Samwise Gamgee's hobbit children? "Little Strong Man" .... I just don't have a clue.

Get a damn truck first!

I listed a couch on Craigslist this weekend. It was a well used couch, offered at a cheap price, just to get rid of it.

Seems like a decent deal. 

Seems like a decent deal. 

Public service announcement:

Dearest  potential buyers, when you would like to purchase large items from people on Craigslist... get a truck before you call, please.

This is a big IKEA L-shaped EKTORP sectional couch rigged up with the pop-out bed, ottoman, and a storage drawer. We'd finally replaced it, since it was out of scale with the remodeled living room, with its higher ceiling and we wanted more layout flexibility. The removable cover was fairly worn and soiled from countless disasters involving the raising of a 5 year old and representative specimens of the milk, orange juice, Cheese-it and Fruit Loop food groups. The night before listing it, I took it apart and assembled the new couches.

Size-wise, this is what I consider "big"

Size-wise, this is what I consider "big"

This is a used but decent couch. The bones were in great shape, but the cover was shot. IKEA still sells covers of all colors and fabrics, but we thought it was time to replace the whole thing, rather than just a cover. I listed it on Craigslist at 9:30 am for $50.  New, this beast goes for over $1,000 as equipped, but I wanted it out quick.


By 9:34 am,  I'd already received my third inquiry. Everyone wanted it. I had to start a waiting list, just in case, while the first caller was "on their way". I lugged the massive slabs of couch scattered around the house out to the garage and put it together.  Easy sale!

What followed was a full day of delay tactics, schenanigans, and no-shows. My phone rang and received texts constantly. Someone actually showed up,... in a bright red Honda Fit.  

What?!!! The thing was the size of a pregnant roller-skate. They couldn't even fit half the cushions.

All day, it was a lack of hauling vehicle that kept people from showing up. The stories though...

"My dad will be home on Friday"

"I called my cousin, but he isn't calling me back"

"I'm trying to find a truck"

"My mom is coming over with her van"

"I'm on my way,... when I borrow a truck"

"Nooooooooooooo.... truuuuuuuuuk....".

I felt the day slipping away. Surely one of these peanut-heads would soon to get their hands on something with four wheels and a cargo bay or bed at some point, right?.. right? 

Could someone even come up with a mid-sized vehicle that they could stuff into and lash on top? A Honda Element perhaps? A station wagon with a roof rack even? I offered local delivery for $30 (two trips in my truck), but apparently that was too steep. Heck, Home Depot will rent you a truck for $19.00.


Dear readers, if you were seeking and answering ads for a couch, wouldn't you be ready with a couch-capable vehicle? Of course you would, because you are bright, well-read people.


Finally, at 3:30 pm, working my way down the list to a dude who'd been waiting patiently for a few hours (while I dealt with a rabble of truck-less (friendless?) nincompoops). He showed up promptly, slapped fifty bucks in my hand, and loaded up a mini-van and a mini-pickup, before departing happily with his soft cushioned prize. That's how it's done folks, the man was clearly a genius.

If people want to buy my original Kindle, or a Palm Pilot, they can show up on a unicycle for all I care, but if they're shopping for a deal on a COUCHget a damn truck first!

Flagging it for the weekend

This morning, with Sweetie feeling under the weather, I took the kids to join a group going to place flags at at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.

We figured that approximately 100 volunteers would complete the 40,000+ grave markers in 3-4 hours. then, everyone showed up: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Junior-Marines, biker gangs, families, veterans, active duty soldiers,... everyone. Five hundred people?,... A thousand?!!! A sea of humanity had descended on the cemetery this morning. At one point it was shoulder-to-shoulder, like Disneyland.

Our group loaded up bundles of flags, headed out to a fairly uncrowded section, and set to work.

The desert floor proved to be very tough to stick flags into. Of course, the Boy Scouts were well prepared with custom-made, welded-steel, hole-punching contraptions of precise efficiency. They positively started ripping along, peppering their trail with fluttering flags. Never without at least one of my tools, I employed my beloved Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool's saw blade to poke holes in the tough soil for some of our group.

Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool
Don't leave home without it.
Gracie liked to stab the flags into the ground with the unbridled gusto of an explorer of old, claiming new found shores for King and country. 

It was humbling to read the names and dates of the heroes interned there. Our section was from those who had passed around 2003, but had served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Sometimes, they had served in three conflicts.

With the volume of volunteers on site, we finished in an hour or so. Considering the solemn nature of the location, I don't consider the experience "fun", but it was certainly rewarding. I enjoyed hanging out with the 30 for 30 team again. It was a good experience for the kids as well.

Have a great Memorial Weekend all! Do some projects, put some flame to meat, and enjoy the time off.

Oh yeah, can we get some more stars and stripes back in our neighborhoods too? I don't get it, why am I the only one flying a flag on my street each patriotic holiday?

Remember our heroes, past and present.