24 April: It gets hot in April! Too much exertion?

Ted Raguso has been on my case for a while, to go for lap swim after church.  I did a few times last year, and it was great… but then again at that time I was driving to church.  These days, I tend to cycle – but I took my swimming suit this morning, and figured I’d drop by the pool after service.

It’s a bit of a trek – something like 35 km (21.8 mi) according to the Google!

Right from the get-go, I felt tired this morning, not sure why.  But I got onto the bike and got rolling in decent time.  The service was fine, although, yikes, that last hymn – the Americans went and changed the tune for a familiar hymn, we sounded rather thin!

After he service, I cycled over to the aquatic centre and had a nice swim in the pool – outdoor lap swim pool – I need to get some polarized swimming goggles or something!  I was only able to do 1/2 of my regular 60 lengths / 1500 metre swim – 30 lengths / 750 metre total.  I was tired when I got into the pool. and you know that I was even more tired when I got out.

I left my swimming trunks on, put on my shoes and my cycling shirt, and headed for home.  Oof, I could not believe that I had no reserve, couldn’t kick it up when coming up on traffic lights….   and that hill at 13th Street, about 4 km (2.5 mi) from home, which is always a tough slug on the way home, was almost impossible!  I had to stop at the top for a minute, down a bunch of water, breathe deeply and let my heart rate recover 🙂  But, I made it!

It took 1/2 hour at home before I could get up to shower.  I was going to jump in the pool, but it’s still a bit chilly – 24.2 C – I really want 25 C before I even think of going in.  After my shower, I was so whipped that I slept on & off for another hour.  Zounds, that’s not like me, to sleep in the afternoon.  Oh well.

According to my weather station, the temperature peaked at about 35 C around the time that I got home (2 PM).  No wonder I was a little zoofed after the ride 🙂

I’m still fighting to avoid turning on the air conditioning, save energy, save money, and all that stuff.  I bought a couple of box fans on Thursday, and put them in the windows all night, blasting away.  At the peak of the heat outside, it was 25 C inside, which is OK if you aren’t exerting yourself – with little to no humidity, 25C feels just nice.

SRP Perkins Substation Installation

This was interesting.  A 500 kV substation.  Everything overhead is humming and buzzing, 24 hours a day.  Only our little section of the substation is powered off, the rest is still working.  We installed some equipment in an outdoor cabinet, and also in a rack indoors.  We’re doing a bit of a joint demonstration of digital substation technology.

One of the challenging things about this kind of work is that the guys start soooo early.  They generally arrive at 5:30 AM.  We’d show up 6:30 or 7 AM, just as the sun was coming up.  I understand why they do it, of course – there’s no shade out there, and the sun is unrelenting & hot!  Hard to believe it until you feel it!

27 March: Visit to the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa

Right after church, Ted Raguso asked if I wanted to go to an air museum.  Now, I don’t know much about planes, but you know little boys always like planes, trains and cars.  So we went.  It was pretty interesting.

It turns out that they used to call themselves the Confederate Air Force, but here in the USA, the word “Confederate” has some meanings that many do not like – too many people lost in the war, still fresh in their minds, even though it was long ago.  So, they changed their name.

They were having a military flea market inside the hangar, and a military vehicle show outside that day.  The vehicle show was interesting too.  One was a perfectly restored WW II jeep – a real jeep, not an imitation or postwar commercial one.  I didn’t realize that Kaizer was made to share the prints with Ford, who made identical machines.  But, Henry Ford being the guy he was (or was it his son?  no matter), they put a little “F” on all the parts.  So, restoring a Ford WW II Jeep is more challenging, because you have to track down all the parts with “F” on them.  Heh, heh, maybe that’s why they did it – to make their vehicles more collectible????

I spotted a vehicle with a Canadian military insignia, flying the New Brunswick provincial flag, and numbered with a “CZ” on the side.  What gives?  It was an all-purpose military truck, and yes it’s originally from Canada.  Ha ha, can’t get away from those Canadians, can you?

One of the tracked vehicles was some kind of gun carrier – eek, the armament on that thing!  Kind of a propos in gun-happy Arizona, let me tell you… but that’s a story for another time.

March & April: Backyard Flaura & Fauna!


In early March, I had the first orange blossoms on my little orange tree 🙂 Other folks’ trees have been blooming for several weeks, such a sweet smell… and now my tree smells nice too. Maybe this year I’ll get more than one orange from it 🙂




Like last year, and the year before, there were so many blossoms on the tree, but last year I got only one orange, and the year before, only three.  After the blossom petals fall, you can see tiny fruit where the flower was – but they all disappeared, so sad.

So… just before he left, Eric helped me put a screen cover over my orange tree.  The idea is, if it’s birds (and we do have a lot of birds clattering around here in the spring), then it will stop them from accosting the tree ’til the fruit gets larger, when it seems they might be safe.

It’s a clunky contraption, but I hope it works.


It turns out that I have two rosebushes in the backyard, along the fence.  Had I known that, I’d likely have put the shed somewhere else!  Oh well.  The one on the south wall, is beautiful pink, smells lovely, came out with at least half a dozen blossoms.  The one on the east wall, is beautiful orange, came out with only three or four,   Both were lovely while they lasted!

The red rosebush appears to have been attacked by caterpillars or bugs.  I’ve sprayed to prevent further damage.


Here’s an update from early April.  Again, still lovely 🙂  I will have to spray them earlier next year.


And here’s from a week or so later.  They just kept coming 🙂

And a few days later.

Creeping Vines

Those who’ve been here know that I have a patio area covered in vines.  These vines appear to originate from my neighbours’ house – their whole south side, and half the west side, is covered with them!  I shudder to think of the damage that they’ve done to their house’s structure.  Oh well.

Anyway, these vines periodically get these big, beautiful, yellow blossoms on them, so beautiful.  Also, good hummingbird attraction as well – I’ve seen them a few times, but never fast enough on shutter to catch a picture.

Here’s what it looked like this year.


One Saturday in March, my neighbour told me by text, that the bee’s nest on his house would be taken down Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, in the middle of the night.  What bee’s nest?  Oh the big one facing my kitchen window.  Hmm, never saw it.


I don’t know how I missed it!  It was over a metre across, it was crazy!  Constant activity around that hive.  I was wondering how I always had bees around my outside lights at night, and I’m sure that’s why.

Before relocation – about a metre (3 ft) across!

Apparently, they were honeybees and not nasty bees, so they were going to a farm – being relocated.

The guys didn’t show up on the appointed night, but about a week later, while falling to sleep, I heard something and looked out front.  Sure enough, a couple of white vans marked with the name of the bee keeper’s farm, and saying “Bee Relocation Service”, and they were readying their suits & ladders.  Now the eaves are empty.

There are still a few forlorn honeybees flying about.

After relocation – just a few forlorn honeybees buzzing about


10 to 22 March – Eric visits Phoenix

Eric came to visit for almost two weeks this year.  He made it a sports extravaganza, taking in a NASCAR race, 4 baseball games, and an evening of dirt track racing.  We did Sedona & the Grand Canyon on a road trip.

Let’s Go Racing!

13 March: Eric and Dean go to NASCAR

It was loud!  It was fast!  It was thrilling!  Lots of fender benders, of course – what would NASCAR be without a few crashes????

19 March: Eric & Dean attend evening of Dirt Track Racing at Arizona Speedway

It is way, way, way out east & south… an hours’ drive, even with little traffic!  Had stock cars, modifieds, and sprint cars.

The funny thing is, with Phoenix being as big a centre as it is…  Grand Forks track is way, way nicer!  Stands, concessions, and all.  Oh well, in spite of that, we had a good time.  And some beer.  Beer helps too.  [ it looked like beer helped a lot of people that evening 🙂 ]

Other Car Stuff

Gotta check this museum out next time: Arizona Museum of Open Wheel Racing

We drove by, after the baseball game in Tempe, but they were closed 🙁

The Martin Auto Museum

We visited the Martin Museum, a little gem of a private auto museum tucked away on the east side of I-17 just south of the 101 loop.  It is a small, unassuming building (although it does have a cool sign), but inside it has a fantastic array of race cars, performance cars, sports cars, and memorabilia.  Very cool.  Check it out if you’re ever in town: http://www.martinautomuseum.com.

Play Ball!

14 March: Eric & Dean attend California Angels vs Cincinati Reds in Tempe Diablo Stadium

18 March: Eric & Dean attend Kansas City Royals versus California Angels in Surprise Stadium

16 March: Get Out of Town!

Eric & Dean take road trip to the Grand Canyon

I did not realize that Eric had never been to the Grand Canyon.  He expressed interest, and when I realized that he had never been, we just had to go!

On the way, I insisted on a side trip through Sedona, taking an extra maybe 3/4 hour, mostly to see the view from Oak Creek Vista.  Oops, forgot that it was spring break, ugh!  Took over an hour just to get to Sedona.  Mostly 2 lane, and a lot of traffic circles… had a chance to practice my circle etiquette.  Let’s just say that Eric found my etiquette a bit lacking a couple of times.  I needed the practice, I guess!

By the time we got to Sedona, we were starved, so we stopped for lunch.  Ugh, parking, finding the restaurant, then getting out of town…  I guess I could have planned it better.  Oh well, more dad & son time 🙂

Oak Creek Vista

One of the most interesting things about here is that you can look back into the canyon that you just wound your way up out of – and see the teensy weensy cars winding their way up the road you just came on!

Grand Canyon

Well, of course, it was…  Grand!   Heh heh.  Eric and I stayed a respectful distance from the edge.  Yikes, there were others who were way out on ledges, even a couple who sat with their legs dangling over a long long drop… he was reading her poetry.  How romantic… but not so much if they get startled and fall to their deaths…  oh well, that would never happen, right?  Actually, it happens all the time!  Ya can’t legislate intelligence.  Hmmm, more about the Arizona school system another time.

Eric hopped the low barrier and went out on a plateau, right as soon as we got there.  Thereafter, he stayed well back.  We overheard a guide saying that you should stay your own height’s distance from an open edge – so if you fall, you are ensured that you can grab something, even if it’s a trip-launch.  Good advice, I figure.

…and then Eric went Home…


23 April: Has it really been over a year?

Apparently, it has.  Sorry about that!  I’m getting busier, here in the land of scorpions & rattlesnakes.  I’ve posted a few things on FaceBook, mostly because it’s easy from my phone.  So, you know what?  I think I’ll snag the FaceBook stuff and re-post it here, since it’s my life! 🙂  Then maybe I’ll try to get started here again.

05 April: Easter morning!

Last fall, I formally joined Mission Bell United Methodist Church at 44th Ave & Bell Road.  It’s a great place.  The minister, Pastor Paul Self-Price, is a wonderful guy, preaches thought provoking sermons, and is familiar with the struggles of the 12 step program, which made it comfortable for me to talk to him.

Well anyway, last Easter, I attended my first “sunrise Easter service”.  This year, I attended my second.  I was at the church from 6:30 AM til after noon, attending all 3 services (sunrise, contemporary, traditional).   Ugh!  Then had to go to work to prepare for this trip to Lyon that I’m currently on 🙂  In between services, thankfully, we had a bit of a breakfast thing, which was very nice.

The only pics I got of the morning were of the Easter egg hunt.  So cute!!!  The setup for the egg hunt was interesting too – the older kids were asked to spread the candy-filled plastic eggs in the designated area.  The kids, especially the older boys, apparently have hearing difficulties, or can’t follow directions, or don’t care, or something like that – they put eggs all over the place outside the designated area – and got careless, tossing eggs several feet, not caring if they popped open and spilled their candy all over.  Heh, heh, pandemonium both on distribution and on retrieval!  Ah well, they are kids, and they all had a good time!  Sugar rush for many little ones that morning, eek!

02, 03 April: The Desert Blooms!

The summer heat is so stifling here, and the winter is so dry here.  I bought a house with a lawn front & back – small lawns, but lawns nonetheless – but now I see the wisdom of having the front & back yards in a “natural” state.  The sun is so hot, the air so dry (most of the time – but more about that another day), that you must dump copious amounts of water onto the lawn, just so it will survive.

The sun is so strong that it works as a bleaching agent – colours get washed out here, plants die unless watered – well, except of course for the weeds – weeds seem to flourish everywhere – and the cacti.

So, it’s amazing and wonderful when, all of the sudden, the desert blooms.  Here are a few pictures of the desert plants in bloom.  The first couple are in my yard.

In my backyard.  I just missed catching a hummingbird that was sipping at some of the nice flowers in the creeping vines…

In my front yard.  Since this picture, the whole tree has opened up in huge blossoms of red!

Landscaped area around water treatment plant along my cycling route to work.  Look at those gorgeous red flowers!

More along my cycling route.  Different colours for each type of cactus?

Catching other cacti along my cycling route.

Zoomed back shot along my cycling route.

More cactus along my cycling route.

In a front yard along my cycling route.  Look carefully at the top of the cacti.  I saw birds sitting on top as I rode up!

December/January: Cycling in the Winter, yay!

Part of the reason why I’m here is that I can cycle to and from work in the wintertime.  Now, I’m hoping to cycle all year ’round, but I have been warned that the extremely high temperatures here might make that a bit… um… dangerous (no freakin’ kidding, I got here last July, and wow!).   Once I start losing serious weight, I will be in better shape to cycle during the heat, shall see.  I hope so 🙂

Anyway, so for now, I am cycling about 6-1/2 miles each way.  There are two off-road segments not properly shown on the map – one where I cycle the path along a canal, and one where I cut through the desert to avoid Pinnacle Peak Road and its traffic, and save about 1/2 mile of riding.

Cycling Route… doesn’t show path along canal or through desert just north of airport

The path along the canal is not much fun – it’s a track for vehicles… but not normal vehicles.  It’s very stony and up & down.  It seems like they made an embankment along the canal, and that’s what I cycle on.

The start of the trail along the canal, off to the right of the service road, and up…

Once just before Christmas, on 18 December, I spied an easier route on the other side of the canal.  Much less up and down, it held some promise.

Ah, a much nicer, more level trail on the other side of the canal!

The trail showed signs of some use, although not much.  It had a fence on either side, no worries.  It turned out to have some seriously stony patches, so had to dismount a couple of times, but still was nice to ride on.  I got to the other end, had to navigate a bit around a few trees, up a slope, and guess what I came to?  A locked gate!!

They coulda done me a favour and blocked the other end of the trail…

Well if that didn’t give me a sense of deja vu from so many years ago, ha ha.  Remember the story of the barbed wire topped chain link fence at A. I. Dupont research campus in Wilmington, Delaware, on my very first business trip in 1984?   Hmm, a story for another time 🙂

Yup, so anyway, had to backtrack the full 1/2 mile over the stones, etc., and cycle the other side anyway.  Learned my lesson on that one.  Or did I?

On 27 January, I decided to try the route that Google maps shows – some kind of a trail that cuts off and saves the whole beside-canal thing altogether.  It turned out mediocre-to-OK.  The jury is still out on this new trail – it’s kind of rugged and loose material in spots (makes for difficult cycling), so I’m using it for now, but considering whether it’s worth the effort.  And – oh yeah – there’s a nasty dog along the way – but the yard is mostly fenced in, and he doesn’t see me until he’s corralled behind the fence and can’t get to me.  Heaven help me if he sees me coming and takes the long way around!

On the way in on 27 January, I had a few exciting moments.  First, at the stoplight on Cave Creek Road at the underpass of the 101 Loop freeway, I was waiting at the red light when an ambulance came toward us.  Since the traffic was stopped, it couldn’t get to the intersection.  It bounced out into our side, which was no problem because most of the traffic had stopped…  well, no, they hadn’t – and the ambulance ended up nose-to-nose with a lineup of cars coming down off of the freeway and turning to head north on Cave Creek Road.  They sat face-to-face for a bit, two rows of traffic blocking the ambulance, when finally someone in the second lane cleared out, and allowed those right in front of the ambulance to cut to the right.  Just about that time, the light came green for the traffic facing us to turn left onto the freeway, cutting across in front of the ambulance.  In spite of full lights and siren, the front car in the innermost lane pulled out to turn as the ambulance entered the intersection.   It blocked the ambulance!  With the horn blaring and siren screaming, the driver froze, blocking the ambulance from getting anywhere.  For over 20 seconds, the driver sat there.  Then tried to move to the right, as the ambulance tried to do the same.  Then tried to move to the left, as the ambulance did the same.  The entire intersection was empty, everyone else was stopped, but this driver was petrified.  After at least 30 seconds, finally the driver moved their car just enough that the ambulance could pass.  I sure hope that it wasn’t a fatal error on part of the driver.  Yikes.

Two blocks further up, when I went to cross the street (to enter the trail beside the canal), I had an opening in traffic and zipped across through it… but for some reason my rear wheel came loose and jammed against the frame of the bike.  With the traffic bearing down on me and the bike in too high of a gear, I just put my leg into it and powered across the opening, just in time.  I took the bike aside and realized that the quick release for the rear axle had come loose.  I tightened it and proceeded.

At the other end of the trail, I have to cross traffic again.  Everything was going fine, until I was in the centre of the road, trying to get across the last few lanes.  As I went to power through the gap in traffic, it happened again – but this time it jammed firmly.  I powered across the first lane and half the second, then had to jump off the bike and carry it across the rest of the way.  Fortunately, there was only one pickup truck coming, and the driver saw me and steered around.  It wasn’t all that close a call but it was a bit stressful.

It turns out that the cause of all this was that the derailleur had come loose and was working its way out.  I pulled out my tools (thankfully I have them 🙂 ) and fixed it.

Speaking of which, my backpack isn’t as heavy as it was a month ago – it sure is nice since my new work computer arrived.  From early August until early January, I was bringing my personal notebook computer back and forth every day.  When driving, that’s not much of a chore.  But when riding a bike, that extra four or five pounds was annoying – good for me, I’m sure, but it’s a lot better now that I don’t have to.  The tool kit is only a couple of pounds, so not that bad – and much more useful on the trail 🙂

26 November: Riding again… oof!

I guess I was so traumatized that I didn’t mention it before – had a flat tire on the way home on Thursday evening.  My seventh.  I’ve had about enough of this!

Fortunately (or not), it rained cats & dogs through Thursday night, all day Friday, and into Saturday.   My riding was over for the workweek anyway.

On Sunday, I finally got a chance to stop at a bike shop – appropriately named Bicycles of Phoenix – and had a chat with the folks there.  They claimed ignorance of said “solid foam” tube replacements, but told me that there was a granular filling that I could use – but it needs periodic replacing, and is very expensive, oy.  I bought a pair of wicked heavy duty tires (with Kevlar or something else layer that should stop speeding thorns), and a pair of ultra heavy duty tubes, again filled with Slime.

I put them on Monday morning before work.  Holy mackerel, what a fight to get them on – they are so heavy and thick that it was really difficult, and took forever.   When done, I was sore and tired, ugh.  And late!  Had to drive to work.  Grrr.  Oh well.

Oh yeah, they want 45 to 55 lbs. pressure in the tire.  Wow, what a fight!  The foot pump I bought back in early September to pump up my bike tires, has sprung a bad leak in the hose (cheap pump / cheap hose ugh), so had to use my hand pump.  Took a long, long time, and, as I said, very tired when done.

Today I rode on those new tubes & tires.  The tires have a much less aggressive tread than the old knobby mountain-bike type tires, so they ride much more smoothly.   However, there is also a lot more mass there, so I feel like I have to pedal harder. 

The craziest thing is, although there hasn’t been rain for at least 36 hours, the “gravel” and “sand” along the side of the road, is soggy and soft – must be sand mixed with clay!  Oh boy, that 1 km stretch along 7th St., running past the Deer Valley Airport, was a mucky, heavy, strain-filled slog.  That chunk of off-road by the Fedex building was also mucky – leaving a coating on my tires – which flew off as I finished the last 1/2 km on the pavement. 

Later, when dry, of course that muck flew off of the tires like crazy this evening.  Most of the ride was in the dark, but fortunately the sand had dried that much more and was not as bad.  The only downside now is that it appears that some 4x4s have been tooling around back and forth across the shoulder, so there are very deep ruts in the sand & clay.  Almost dumped me on my butt – had to jump off of the bike, ha ha, yikes.

No matter, I made it.  I’m feeling better each day I ride 🙂