17 July 2016

motorized things

The other morning, I could not get the AC to turn on in my car. It was quite annoying, because I need the AC to work in order for my windshield to stay free of fog when it rains.

I had my oil changed over the weekend, and when they finished up, one of my headlights wasn't working. They had joggled it loose somehow (they fixed it). So I suspected them of also doing something to the AC. What, I didn't know, but something.

I tried many times, turning it off and on, and then I gave up. Ugh. A car problem. 

On the drive home, I noticed that the fan wasn't on. Turns out that the AC only works when you have the fan on.

So there's that.

...

The motorcycle repair garage across the street was extra loud one night this week.

I was getting up at 5:30 am last week, working 10 hour days, so I needed my sleep. I was not particularly pleased when they started revving one of the loudest of the engines over and over and over for a good half an hour, starting around 10:30 pm. 

The thing about a noise like that is the unpredictability. I can sleep through a constant noise. I can sleep through a noise that occurs at regular intervals. I can't sleep through a noise that stops and starts unexpectedly.

I was too tired to do anything about it, but the next day I went over into the garage full of metal and rubber and said, "So, I live across the street, with the window facing this way, and..."

I didn't even get to complete my sentence before one of the guys was apologizing. He knew exactly what the problem was, and how late it had been. They were getting ready for a big trip this weekend, it seems, and that bike was having trouble. 

...

My headlight has gone out again.


04 July 2016

bits, pieces

Apparently my commitment to avoiding ants in my chai just disappeared when I got up after 6 hours of sleep on Friday morning and found an ant in the day's chai. I don't even drink the chai until I get to work, 2 hours after I wake up, but it's a ritual, and I wanted it, especially after staying out late for J.'s birthday. So I fished out the ant and went on my way.

I have now resorted to making chai on the coffee table in the living room, since I found an ant on the bar stool. How is this possible? They are everywhere. 

...

I've become the sort of person who reads about climbs for fun. Hmmm, Class 4 but very exposed. Crumbly 5.0-5.3 approach. That sounds like something that requires a real climb leader, not just a bunch of us who have taken the initial class.

I also have plans for the intermediate class, starting a year from now. I have to get in three more summits, including two that involve rock climbing. I just have to find people to lead them, since I'm a little bit of a skerdy-cat when it comes to the anchors, etc. I like safety as much as I like getting to the top of a mountain.

...

I like fireworks a lot, but my tolerance for them on a Monday night is low, and they are going on in all directions around my house. The kind, you understand, that are illegal in some many states. 

There were some kids setting off a firework in the middle of the road, in the fancy neighborhood up the hill. I watched as one lit it and another tried to set a plastic take-out container upside-down over it. The container tipped, and the kid who lit it had to go back in and set it right. 

Fortunately it was just a smoke bomb, and all it did was color the take-out container green before the it tipped over again.

The only other adult visible, standing on the sidewalk I was on with a smaller kid, looked at me with the look that says, "We are supposed to be the grownups around here. What do we do?"

I just smiled at her. That is not a battle I'm going to attempt. I'm sure there were some parents somewhere, off on a porch. This is not the kind of city where kids roam free. 

It's a good thing I can sleep through a lot, because a lot is going on right now.

29 June 2016

ant revenge

The ants have taken over again.

J. was in my kitchen the other night and lost patience with them. He wiped them all off the counter into their deaths in the sponge. I found baby powder, which he sprinkled around the edge of their favorite counter to keep them away.

Tonight I lost patience with them and added a whole bunch more baby powder to other parts of the kitchen.

I have no idea why the baby powder stops them, but it seems to.

I had to make my chai on a stool today, because lately I've been finding ants in my chai. And I'm not that picky about finding ants in my drink, but I draw the line in two places:


  1. That time that I came back from Spain and Croatia and I had a chai in the fridge waiting for me and it turned out that an ant had been marinating in the tea for about 12 days. It was bloated.
  2. The ants that are in the cup when I pour in boiling water so that they are cooked in the cup. The last one I found was breaking apart into little ant bits. So much in the way of nope.

22 June 2016

weekends

The last few weekends have looked like this: 

1. 

J. got back from Spain on Saturday, jet-lagged. We spent Sunday shopping the sale at re!, buying very important things like a sleeping bag (me) and a cargo box for roof of a car (him). Rain came down in sheets, so we took refuge in a Thai restaurant, where we sat in a booth made out of a tuktuk and found out that J.'s final softball game was canceled. We ordered more Thai iced tea to wait out the storm. 

2. 

I took Friday off so that we could head off to the desert. We spent Friday morning packing J.'s Subi with way too much camping gear (a canopy is really vital, obviously) and about two weeks worth of food and water and a dog. For a weekend. I miiiiiiiight not have conveyed quite how far away the desert is, because when we got to Sunny Ski Town, J. thought we were almost there. We were, in fact, almost halfway there. 

We ate West African peanut soup and chilaquiles outside in the sunshine in Sunny Ski Town with the (borrowed) dog constantly begging next to us. 

By the time we got to the desert, it was dark, and the camp was not in the same place it had been last year. We ended up driving through the fog over the flat, cracked dirt. It was eery not being able to see very far in front of us. With the fog, we could have been in a forest, even though there was nothing to run into for miles. 

The camp was full of lights and music. People played music at all hours - one night there was a stage set up in the middle of the desert - and lounged in open sided tents during the day. "This is the Pleasure Pavilion," a woman I know from hiking said as we walked by one afternoon, from pillows in a screen tent. There was a geodesic dome with hammocks strung from the frame. 

J. and I mostly went for hikes and explored, though. We drove south to another mountain range one day, and across the desert to the bluff the next day. J. took the Subaru up past 100 mph on the open desert, and then he took his hands off the wheel. There was nothing to make the car deviate from its course. 

The dog turned out, at age 10, to have a bit of a mind of her own. When she got tired, she just plopped down and laid there. That was fine on the first hike, where we mostly followed a little stream. She could go frolic in the water until she had her energy back. One time she laid down and sat, panting, looking at us, while a lizard snuck up and jumped on her back. We laughed at how she turned her head and scared it off, but didn't startle enough to jump up. As soon as she looked away, the lizard came back and jumped on her back again. This time she grudgingly got up. The lizard scampered off for good.

There was no water on our walk the second day, back between the bluffs out of the desert, and so when she refused to move we just turned around and started back. We saw a snake that startled us, but it didn't have a rattle, so we weren't too worried. (It was probably a Pacific gopher snake.)

The drive back to Gone West was just as long, except interrupted by lunch at a Lebanese place in Sunny Ski Town.

3. 

J. was in San Diego for work, so I drove his car out over the mountains after work to the cabin of one of my climbing friends. A bunch of them were gathered there. I made guacamole and we all laid out our climbing gear in the living room, asking people's opinions. 

"Do I need a puffy?" S. asked. 

"I don't think so," I said. "It's going to be almost 100 degrees this weekend, and even if it is 40 degrees on the mountain, I was okay in the desert with only a fleece and this other light jacket."

After dark, I drove out to the nearest airport to pick J. up. He had changed his flight to join us for the climb, so that we didn't have to drive three hours from Gone West in the dark.  

The next morning, we all packed our packs and met our climb leader at the trailhead. We hiked through a large burn, our leader telling us stories about the time he got caught in that fire and had to hike out the other side, without a trail. We hiked through snow, until we were right at the bottom of the glacier, and there we made camp. 

Around 3:50 am, 30 minutes into trudging up the snow, the only thing I wanted was to turn around and go back to my warm sleeping bag. The only thing in the world. 

But then the sun came up, over the east ridge of the mountain to the north, and the world was all aglow, and my muscles loosened up, and then it was just one step and another, all the way up the snow to the top of the mountain. 

4. 

J. and some friends ran a half marathon up on the mountain. There were ten adults and one 2 year old in two condos. (Our condo got the two year old.) 

The morning of the race, J. and R. went off with one of the other runners in her car. I followed an hour or so later, driving mostly blindly since I didn't have network on my phone. It was like the old days: I had to watch for the sign.

Driving semi-aimlessly, I finally found a spot where the runners were passing. I didn't know how many had passed, so I watched for a while and then worried that I might have missed J. Also I had parked J.'s car in a place with many signs demanding that one pay for the park entry and put the proof of payment in the car window, and I had not, mostly because I had no cash. 

I should have waited, though, because I beat the fastest runners to the finish line, and it was confusing who had run the marathon and who the half, and it took almost an hour before J. and one of the other runners made it to the finish line.

Fortunately, there was a hot tub and ridiculous amounts of nachos and some crazy 80s kids game that involved fitting shapes into the correct spot while a timer ticked, and if you didn't get them all in time to stop it, the whole thing got upset.

5. 

J. went to Spain, so I had a weekend to rest and do nothing. 

Of course I volunteered to spend Saturday assisting with the summer climbing class. Which meant getting up at 4:35 am. 

I have no explanation for myself. 

I didn't do much climbing, but the wind picked up and the guy in charge of the chimney decided to shut it down, so I climbed last, with my pack. There's a little lip at the top that I struggled to get over last time even without a pack and without the wind. I might have panicked a little. The poor guy had to pull hard on the rope to keep it without any slack, and even then I panicked about falling. 

I didn't fall (not that I would have gone anywhere if I did). 

21 May 2016

traveling again

On the overnight flight from Gone West to Amsterdam, hours and hours in which the light never quite went away because the plane flew up over the Arctic Circle, I couldn't sleep. I don't know if it was for excitement or because the flight left Gone West at 1:30 pm. Who can sleep then?

As the flight tracker showed us beginning to descend over southern England, down over the English Channel toward Schipol Airport, I started counting to myself how many times I've flown into Amsterdam since 2000, when I first went back to Europe and Africa. 

How many times have I watched that flight tracker cross the English Channel? 9 or 10, I think. The 10th flight over the Atlantic might have been to Brussels instead, and the 11th to London, unless those were numbers 11 and 12. 

Schipol was the same shiny, bright place it's always been, with the yellow signs overhead. I had just enough time to go through immigration into the EU and back through security and to find a bathroom that didn't have a line all the way down the hall, and then I had to board my next plane. 

On that flight, I slept. 

There were no seat-back screens on this flight. Nothing to tell me where we were or when we would arrive, so I leaned against the window and dozed my way across Europe.

When I walked out of the "Nothing to Declare" door in Barcelona, J. was waiting with a sign that had my name, a picture of Barcelona, and the word "Bienvenidos" on it. (For any one who happens to be totally Spanish-less, that means welcome.)

Jet lag is a strange thing. I managed to stay awake until 11 pm Barcelona time, which was 2 pm in Gone West. By then I'd been awake for 32 hours, not counting the naps on the planes. We'd walked all across Barcelona, through the warren of narrow little streets full of tourists, past the markets and boulevards that everyone sees, and down along the waterfront, where we found a restaurant to sit protected by glass and eat thick-cut papas bravas next to the sand.

"I'm fine as long as it's light," I said at one point, "but even when we go into a street that doesn't have sunlight, I can feel myself fading." 

"You're a little loopy," J. said, as it got dark, as I blindly followed him across intersections and through alleys. 

I was quite loopy.

But I slept for 11 hours, and when I woke up, the air was warm and the sun was bright over Barcelona, and I was traveling again.

13 May 2016

another side of the road

The car overheated a few kilometers outside of Krka National Park. It was a little grey Peugeot 208, and we had quite liked it, initially. It had a transmission that could run as either an automatic or a manual, and it turned its engine off when you stopped with your foot on the brake. There were only 12,000 km on the odometer.

But then it overheated, and some warning words and red symbols came up on the navigation screen. They were in Croatian. Neither J. nor I can read Croatian. At all. And we had no internet to google the words. We knew that red symbols and exclamation points were probably bad, though, especially combined with the temperature gauge blazing past the top of the red zone, so we stopped and popped the hood.

The fluids all seemed fine. Nothing was visibly wrong. We resolved to turn the heat on to try to cool it off and limp back to Sibenik.

A kilometer later, the temperature gauge was back in the red and the symbols and words were back.

Bad.

It took another kilometer or so to find a place to pull off - there was a tunnel - and when we opened the hood again, the coolant was completely gone.

Very bad.

We sat on the side of a hill for a while trying to connect to a cell phone network to call the rental car company. J. barely got through once in several tries, and then lost the call immediately.

At length, we decided to walk down the road to see if we could get better cell reception. We moved the car to the end of the pull off, debated the merits of leaving the hazard lights on ("The engine may already be destroyed," I said. "Who cares if the battery dies?"), and set off walking. (Well, first we took turns visiting the bushes for a pee on the side of a hill looking over a Croatian lake. It was a pretty pee.)

After less than half a kilometer of walking, a car containing two middle-aged men stopped and asked if we needed a ride. Gut-check revealing nothing other than a horrible smell of cigarette smoke in the car, we hopped in. The language barrier was real. We didn't even try to explain where to drop us off in town, accepting the bus station as a central (and explainable) location.

We arrived back in Sibenik about an hour after we planned, with no car. Instead of climbing up to visit two fortresses as we'd intended, we ended up using J.'s computer and then our host's cell phone to call the rental car company. 

"Does the car start?" the rental guy asked. 

"Yes," J. said, "but you can't drive it."

They would send someone, they said. It would be a couple of hours.

We got a bottle of wine and sat on the roof deck, watching the sun set over the Adriatic. 

That didn't suck.

We got some bread and cheese from the bakery and grocery down the hill, and we ate that, watching the last of the daylight over the islands.

That didn't suck, either. 

It was nearly 9 pm by the time the new rental car got there with two employees, and we directed them in the dark, studying the GPS on J.'s phone in the back seat of the little Suzuki. (I like Suzukis. I had a good experience with one on Zanzibar.)

They didn't believe us when we told them where to turn, but we finally convinced them to turn anyway, even though the wheels of "silly Americans who don't know where they are going" were visibly turning in their minds. The reason they didn't believe us about the turn is because we had brought them by a different route than where the car was, and so it required backtracking, not going toward the park. Which is a legit concern, but still. The J. and M. engineer/attorney combo is pretty likely to be right about a map. 

The car was still where we'd left it, blinking in the night. The coolant tank was still empty. 

"No problem," the English-speaker said. "We have water."

They poured a liter or two of water into the coolant tank. Employee #2, the non-English speaker, got behind the wheel and sat there for a minute, looking around the car. 

"He says that he can't drive this car," #1 told us. "It's an automatic."

Whaaaaaaaaaat? I still don't understand.

So #1 drove that car and J. drove the Suzuki. For about 500 meters before the Peugeot started having problems again. In the middle of the tunnel.

"They didn't believe me when I said it wasn't going to run," J. said. "They must have assumed the stupid Americans couldn't actually tell when something was wrong with the car."

Now the coolant tank was over-full, filled with a mixture of water and coolant. 

We left it on the side of the road, again, piled into the Suzuki, and drove back to Sibenik. The next morning, two different employees showed up at the guesthouse with two cars, the Suzuki for us and another for them. The company, they said, would send a truck for the Peugeot.

J. and I got into the Suzuki, which was a manual and had no fancy navigation contraptions, but ran like a dream, and we drove away along the scenic route down the coast, past emerald bays and steeple-topped hill towns, exclaiming all the way about how beautiful Croatia is. 





18 April 2016

in

"You are fearless," my mountaineering instructor said, as I leaned back off the edge of a rock to do my final safety check.

"Everyone has fears," I said. "I feel funny in my stomach when I stand at the edge of heights." (Facing backward is apparently fine.)

"So do I," he said. "But it doesn't stop you."

One other student and I were so excited about rappelling the forty feet off the rock that we did it three times. Everyone else did it twice, but we were first, and then we were standing at the bottom looking up longingly as the others finished up, so they let us do it again.

"You are a pro," my instructor's fiancee said, down at the bottom, as I finished my rappel, leaned fully back like I was sitting in a chair. 

"It's so much fun!" I said.

I was trying to explain it to someone the other day: I can't do sports that require much in the way of hand-eye coordination, which rules out most team sports. But give me a sport that requires fearlessness and a willingness to work hard, and I'm in. (See martial arts. See also mountaineering.)