Saturday, November 17, 2007

After being woken up so early yesterday, I wound up staying up instead of going back to sleep. I had a plan to deal with the packrats, so I decided to put it in effect - I patched all the holes they'd already chewed in the cable, and then wrapped the entire cable in duct tape.

The theory here is that duct tape has crossed fibers, so it's relatively difficult to chew, but do-able. The glue smells bad. So my theory is that it's an attractive nuisance to a packrat - the rat will want to get the duct tape, and hopefully will ignore the insulation under the duct tape. And maybe be less inclined to chew on it anyway because of the smell. Anyway, that's the theory. We'll see when we get back how well it worked - if the power is still on, I guess it worked.

I'd been planning to drive out to Austin, but had thought to do it starting late on Friday so that I could stake out the foundation and do some work. But the sky was overcast, so I didn't have any confidence of being able to find solar south, so I decided to just go. What with all the fussing with the duct tape, I didn't actually leave the property until 9:30. And then I remembered that the gas was on and went back and turned it off. Sigh.

Then it turned out that there was a warning light for low tire pressure, so I spent some time down in Bowie at the 31 flavors figuring that out, and didn't actually hit the highway until about 10:30.

There's not much to say about road trips. They do their work on you, or they don't. I'm a big fan of road trips, but I was feeling pretty out of sorts when I left. I'm not sure when the trip began doing its work, but somehow it felt like it did - certainly by the time I was through El Paso, I was feeling pretty happy, but I think it started before that.

I tend to not stop much on road trips; this one was no exception. I stopped for gas and a (bad) cup of *$$ and a snack, and didn't stop again until Sonora, about 400 miles later, after dark. Oh, well, there was an unscheduled stop just before Ozona. Texas has this weird thing where the speed limit is different at night than during the day, so during the day you can go as fast as you want (or at least I can) without worrying about getting pulled over.

But at night, the speed limit drops by fifteen miles per hour, and my speed of choice drops by about five. So I'm cruising along at 75mph, and I notice a slow-moving car up ahead. It dawns on me that it's a cop about ten or twenty carlengths back, and so I pop off the cruise control, but it's too late - I drift by the guy at 65 (the speed limit) and his lights come on. Fortunately, he let me off with a warning.

I guess one of the advantages of age is that I no longer see cops as the enemy. When I was in my twenties I definitely did - the only time I ever encountered cops was on my bicycle, where they harassed me, or on my motorcycle, where they ticketed me. But maybe since the National Motor Speed Law got gutted, it just hasn't been the same. They have a job, and a mindset, and if you're pleasant to them, they tend to be pleasant back. Plus I was actually kind of happy to see someone. So there was no adrenaline surge, and no feeling of adversarial antagonism, and the whole thing took maybe five minutes.

It's frightening to consider what we're doing to ourselves when we travel, and what we have done as a society by being so mobile. Mobility is great - it expands the mind. But when you drive from Bowie to Austin at 80mph, it takes a day. It would probably take three to six months to travel that same distance on foot. And you'd probably starve to death on the way, or die of exposure, or god knows what. Andrea is in Chicago. I'm in Austin. My parents are in Warwick. Her parents are in Chicago. My friends are in California, Arizona, New York, Singapore, Chicago, and god knows where else. What would it be like if we stopped being able to travel like this? It would make for a good story, no doubt, but it wouldn't be fun.

But it would take a really major shift in how things are in the world for that to stop. If you look at a map of flights in the air over the U.S., it looks like a swarm. If you consider how many vehicles are moving at any one moment on all the roads in America, it's staggering. I don't think we are going to stop, even if it kills us. So I hope we can find a way to do it that won't kill us.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I finished leveling the trailer. It was not the work of moments - the light was nearly gone by the time I put the tools away. There were no more really big rocks, but there was a pretty big rock that took quite a bit of effort to undermine to the point where the caliche bar would budge it. But at least this one was light enough that I could pick it up, rather than having to lever it out of the hole.

The actual leveling process, once I'd dug the level spot for the wheels to go, was still pretty fraught. If you're curious, you can see it in the comments for the previous post. But now for some more pictures.

The Prius' expression, in case it's not obvious to you, is "you have got to be kidding!"

This is the uphill view. You really don't get a sense of the size of the mountains in this shot, unfortunately. The one to the left looks like a pretty exciting scramble. The one with the knob on top in the distance may be a technical climb. Not that I really care - mostly it's nice to look at, framed as it is by the nearer mountains.

Here's a telephoto shot of the knobby peak. Below it you can see the Fort Bowie visitor's center. Ironically, despite the fact that we are building a house here and have been coming out here for about four years now, I have yet to make it up there to visit. I was hoping to do it on this stay, but unless I pull it off tomorrow morning, it's not happening. Sigh.

I've been noticing that my tendency to laze out and go get food at a restaurant is completely stupid. Out here, it's an hour and a half round trip to the nearest restaurant, a Mexican place with lard in the beans but really, really good salsa. Andrea and I ate there last night (she was on her way back to Tucson). Anyway, I thought about getting some food from the Safeway while I was there, but I knew I had enough stuff in the fridge to get by on, even if it's stuff I don't normally cook for myself.

Lo and behold, because I didn't have any choice, I wound up making several quite tasty meals. Something to ponder when I'm back in civilization.
A blustery November day up at Diamond Mountain. I'm sitting in the trailer, putting off going outside to do some more digging. When the trailer was delivered, the road that Scott dug for us was pretty close to level, but not close enough for a fusspot like me. The downhill wheels of the trailer are up on boards, which I really don't like. So I've been jacking the trailer up and digging out underneath to level it off.

This has been a longer process than I might have hoped - I found a very large rock the day before yesterday. It was about 2" below the wheel shown here, which is about 4" too high, and it was a major labor to remove it. I finally managed it yesterday by excavating enough of the rocks surrounding it to slightly weaken the earth's hold on it, and then levering it out with a caliche bar, which is a 1" diameter 8' long steel bar, which deflected about ten degrees from the force I put on it before the rock finally moved.

But why dwell on that - the rock did finally move, and now all I have to do is dig out the other wheel, take out the wood on the other side, and try to get the thing level again. Should be a work of moments.

To give you an idea of what's going on here, I'll give you a brief photo log. The picture you see here on the right was shot from the trailer site at sunset sometime in October - I could probably get the exact date out of the camera if I weren't a lazy person. Right now things are a bit different - the weather shifted toward the end of October, and so it's a cloudy day with a lot of fog in the air. The mountains you see in the distance in the sunset view are about 30 or 40 miles away; today the camera can barely see them at all (they're a little more visible to my eye).

Here's the trailer:

Breakfast at my workstation:

Our lovely kitchen, with a bunch of clean dishes (yay!):

Our driveway. The part that's grey is the Stumpf's driveway - they're our neighbors up the hill, who built their house out here at DM several years ago. David is our local expert on everything, and spends a huge amount of effort trying to make sure that people have what they need.

In fact, it was he who set up our power hookup, which is why I'm able to be online right now in the trailer:

He even warned us about the packrats:

The white spots on the cable are where pack rats have stripped the insulation off of it to use as nesting material. One of my tasks today is to patch the insulation where it was stripped and then tape up the whole cable with duct tape so that the pack rats hopefully won't be able to strip it any further. I've got more pictures, but I think this is enough for now, and I actually ought to get some work done before the light goes.