Posted in Creations, Desert Life, Uncategorized

Nothing can ever be easy

I decided, sometime before Christmas, that I wanted to start riding my bike again. Given my orthopedic issues, my options for injury-free movement are pretty narrow, but bicycling seemed like something I could do, and I already had a bike. The bike I have, however, I bought at least 14 years ago. And because I live in a place where EVERYTHING is prickly and trying to stab you, the first two times I ever took the bike out, I ended up with a flat tire. So we decided to replace our regular inner tubes with foam, solid ones, so that even if the desert did its worst, we’d still be able to get home.

I’ve used it on and off, but in recent years I’ve noticed that the tires were kind of mushy (the foam precludes increasing the pressure), and the tires hadn’t aged well over 14 years that included 14 Tucson summers outside in the heat. And when I decided to start riding it again, I realized it needed an entire overhaul:  new inner tubes (the normal kind), new tires, and a serious bath, since it was covered in dust and the chain was all gunked up with oil and dust.

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It’s not like I go into these DIY projects unawares. I read how-tos on the internet. I watch videos. I print instructions. I buy special tools to do it right. The directions seem straightforward and simple enough. And I think, “I can do this!”

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And then about 3 1/2 minutes into the project, I learn (again) the first rule of DIY: No plan survives contact with the enemy. “Insert the tire lever,” the directions said. And then the tire just laughed at me. Even as the tire lever slipped and the spokes shaved little bits of knuckle off of every finger on my right hand, it laughed. The tire had been so cooked in the heat over the years that it was NOT budging. Not even a little.

So I got out the flathead screwdriver and tried that. And while it put a nice little hole in the whitewall, there was still no movement, and I could not, for the life of me, get the bead of the tire up and over the rim. At this point, I’m thinking I’m going to have to replace the rim, too, if I can’t get the tire off, and that’s not cool, because by the time I buy those, on top of what I’ve already spent for tires, tubes, tools, and tchotkes to pimp my ride, I could’ve bought the pretty new bike I really wanted at Target, before I decided instead to be all responsible and spruce up my existing bike, which I thought just needed some love.  (That was before it decided to be a jerkturd.)

Continue reading “Nothing can ever be easy”

Posted in Desert Life

The mystery of the fairy lights

In October I bought 65 feet of solar-powered fairy lights to add to the string I already had in my front courtyard because it’s dark out there, and also, who doesn’t love fairy lights?  I waited until after Halloween to put them up because, frankly, I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, and Frankensteinly, I didn’t want them to encourage trick-or-treaters. (We have dogs who don’t enjoy the ringing doorbell, let alone it ringing 40x in a night; and we have what must be the lamest trick-or-treaters in town–they don’t even say “TRICK OR TREAT!”  They just stand at the door and stare at you mutely.  My generation is clearly failing at the home training.  I mean, you go around and collect free candy from near strangers.  This is an excellent holiday; do your part!  All I need is for you to be adorable and say “TRICK OR TREAT!” in your tiny, warbly little-kid voice. I don’t ask much.  But I digress.)

So last week, I finally got around to hanging my fairy lights when I put up the Christmas lights, and so long and glorious was the string that I was able to move the older set of lights out of the courtyard and onto the palm trees in the front yard.  Yay for solar power!

I put everything out, and waited for them to charge, and was rewarded that evening with lighted front yard that looked festive.  Success!

We’ve been in the middle of a cold snap, with freezing or below temperatures at night all week, so my plants have all been covered, and with them, the fairy lights.  But last night, I noticed that the lights were out about 2 feet beyond the solar charger.  A quick check indicated that there was a break in the line, and I thought, “Did I yank it unawares while I was covering the plants?  Did they freeze and break?  What’s the deal?”  The old set I had had never had any problems.  But this set had been blinking oddly at one point, and I’d chalked that up to the dark and cloudy days we’ve been having not charging them enough.  Maybe it was the break?

A little further investigation found 2 breaks, in fact, and the situation was curiouser and curiouser.  But it was dark out, and there was nothing I could do about it until today, when I went out with a roll of electrical tape and my wire strippers to splice the pieces back together in daylight.

But the more I unraveled things to find the loose ends, I found 3 more loose sections of wire, attached to nothing.  And all I can think is that something is eating them.  That something is probably a rodent, and in all likelihood, a pack rat, because we know there are some in the yard, and we know they like to eat wires.  We once had one in the garage that ate through lighting wiring in Scott’s car.  So I sat there and spliced everything together, and figured I’d solved the problem, because everything I could see seemed whole.  A final check indicated I’d missed two separate pieces, one of which was from the old set, wrapped around the baker’s rack I put plants on, but I set them aside, because I wasn’t going undo anything I’d just did.  I held on to the pieces figuring if they ever broke again, I’d splice those extras in at that time.  I wasn’t sure about the rest of the lights, but my plants were still covered and I didn’t want to undo all that work, so I decided I’d wait until dark and make sure they’d come on.

After sunset I went out there to check them, and saw that while everything I’d put back together today (4 separate splices, 2 wires apiece) was working just fine, none of the lights under the blankets were on.  How strange.  So I pull off all the blankets, and I find there’s another break.  And another.  And by the time I’m done looking through every plant, I end up with this:

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Aaaaand I’m pissed.  Because that pack rat bastard is making his way through the wire, no doubt under the cover I provided!  Pack rats are very susceptible to exposure, so he’s been hanging out in my tent fort, safe from the cold, wrecking my lights one snack at a time.  And this is why I hate them.  Because you cannot live in harmony with a pack rat.  If they just stayed out in the yard and ate their seeds and lived among the cactus, I’d ignore them.  But they won’t do that.  They’re always trying to get in somewhere, and they are 12 ounces of pure destruction and filth.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of cleaning out a pack rat nest, count yourself very, very lucky. 

And while I was happy enough to splice together what I thought were just a few random breaks, I look at this pile on my dining room table, and think putting it all back together isn’t worth it, especially since I have no reason to believe he won’t just keep at it, and I’ll be right back here a week from now.  Ditto on buying a whole new set to replace this one.

Time to get out the live trap.