An Apple ID Hack Attempt

Two unrelated incidents? Maybe.

The other day, after having lunch with a friend, I happened to check my email. There were two messages from Apple’s iCloud service, which I’ve been a user of since its first incarnation more than 10 years ago.

I should mention first that I actively use about six different email addresses and have another six or so more that I seldom check or use. The bulk of my email comes to a throw-away address on one of my domain names. Only good friends, family members, and important folks like my divorce lawyers have my keeper email addresses, including the one on Apple’s servers which I use with the @mac.com domain.

The messages were from Apple and I’m pretty sure they were real. Here’s the first:

Hack Attempt 1
First message I got warning of a hack attempt.

In case you can’t read it, it tells me that I recently initiated a password reset for my Apple ID and gives me a link to reset my password.

I looked at the URL in the link. It looked real. But I didn’t click it. I didn’t need to. I hadn’t initiated a password reset for my account.

Apparently, someone else had.

I have to admit that I first thought of my wasband and the desperate old whore he’s living with these days. Back in January or February, they’d hacked into one of my old investment accounts, probably searching for funds for their never-ending legal battle to steal what I’ve worked hard for my whole life. I’d found out because they’d actually gotten in — I’d been foolish enough to put his name on the account when I thought I could trust him — and changed the security questions for the account. I’d been automatically emailed about the change by the investment company, thus exposing their little trespass into an account my wasband knew was mine. Fortunately, there was nothing in there for them to take. Not long afterward, I discovered that I’d been locked out of another investment account because of too many incorrect login attempts. His name is not on that one so they couldn’t get in.

I couldn’t see any reason why they’d want to hack into my Apple account, though, other than to possibly access privileged communications between me and my lawyer. What would that get them, though? Unless they’re concerned about legal action by me against my wasband for his lies under oath in court?

About 25 minutes later, another message from Apple came through. This one told me that they couldn’t reset the password because too many unsuccessful attempts to answer my security questions.

Hack Attempt 2
This message told me that someone had gone so far as to attempt to answer my security questions.

Whoever was trying to hack my account was apparently rather determined. But why? Could some hacker be trying to access my credit card information on Apple’s account? I don’t store naked selfies — or anything else that should be kept private — on iCloud to leak onto the Internet.

I should mention here that both messages came to my throwaway email account, which is set up on my Apple account as a backup email contact. Obviously, if I didn’t have a backup email account, Apple couldn’t email me instructions for resetting my password on an account I couldn’t access. It seemed to me that security on the Apple servers had protected my account.

Overnight, another message came in. This was definitely not from Apple.

Hack Attempt 3
This message was definitely not from Apple.

How do I know at a glance that it isn’t from Apple? Let me count the ways:

  1. Dear Customer. A legitimate email message from an organization you do business with should always be addressed to your name. Not even to an email address.
  2. Message was from “Service Apple ID.” Who? The address for that account was service@customer.com. Yeah, like I believe that’s Apple.
  3. Link was to a page on chatkajamnika.com. No, I didn’t click the link to see it. If you point to a link in the Mail app, a tip comes up with the full URL inside it. ALWAYS check links before clicking them.
  4. Typos. Apple doesn’t have typographical or grammatical or punctuation errors in its messages.

What seriously creeped me out about this is that it also went to my throwaway account.

Now my throwaway account is “throwaway” for a reason. It’s the email address I use to sign up for things. As such, it’s subject to spam. The idea is that when incoming spam reaches a critical mass, I throw away the account and create a new one for the same purpose.

There is definitely a chance that the person who sent this message sent them out to everyone they could, hoping that some of them would have Apple IDs associated with the account and click the link. But what worries me is that it came on the same day that my actual Apple account was attacked. Coincidence? I don’t know, but I don’t like it. Still, I know my Apple account is secure, so I’m not losing sleep over it.

But I do want to spread the word.

Have you gotten messages like this? At least one of my Facebook friends has. Could this be a coordinated attack against people with Apple IDs? Perhaps a way to get access to their data for use with the Apple Pay system? Or something else?

I might never know. But if you have any insight about this, please do share it — or at least point me to a reliable source of information with real answers.

Apple, as we all know, is pretty much impossible to reach.

Getting the Facts Straight on Honey

A beekeeper ought to know, right?

I started keeping bees in June 2013. So, yes, it hasn’t been that long and no, I’m not an “expert” (yet). But I do know some things about bees and beekeeping and honey.

Maria the Beekeeper
This is me last year, examining a honey frame in one of my hives. Can’t believe how clean my gloves still were!

I posted a status update on Facebook yesterday that mentioned snacking on a piece of honeycomb from my beehives. The comments I got from my friends made me realize that there are some misconceptions — or simply knowledge gaps — out there about honey. I thought I’d take a few moments to clear things up.

Nature’s Perfect Food

I like to think of honey as nature’s perfect food. It’s created by nature, requires no refrigeration to preserve, and it doesn’t go bad. Smithsonian’s “The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life” elaborates on this. It mentions that the bees “regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs combs to make honey.” But no, honey is not bee vomit.

Beeswax

Extracting Honey
In this shot, I’m scraping the wax caps off a honey frame before putting it into the extractor to the left.

Bees store honey in wax honeycomb they create. Most beekeepers use Langstroth hives that provide their bees with frames specially designed for them to create nice, neat honeycombs. This makes it easy to extract the honey using centrifugal force in a honey extractor.

Some beekeepers prefer more natural hives, such as top-bar hives, which allow the bees to create comb as they might in the wild. (I don’t know how they extract honey from natural comb. Maybe they just sell the honey in the comb.)

Bad Comb
This photo shows some natural comb made on a Langstroth frame. This is not normal. I think it was a result of the frame’s plastic surface not being properly coated with beeswax by the manufacturer. I won’t be buying my frames there anymore.

Beeswax is edible. If you buy comb honey, you can eat the entire thing. I occasionally have comb honey that I get from removing unwanted natural comb from my Langstroth hives. I eat it with a spoon, chewing it gently until the honey is gone from the wax. The wax does not stick to my teeth. It ends up as a little wax ball that I spit out (like gum). Swallowing it would not hurt me, but I don’t think there’s any reason to.

Buying Honey

The absolute best place to buy honey is at a farmer’s market. A real farmer’s market. Chances are, you’ll be buying the honey from the beekeeper.

And if you don’t think there’s a difference between store-bought honey and fresh honey from a beekeeper, think again. The first time I tasted my own honey, I threw away all the store-bought crap I had in my cabinets. Then I gave away too much of my honey and had to ration the last jar so it would last a whole year. (It didn’t.)

Raw honey is best. Don’t buy the flavored crap. Who knows what they added?

Creamed honey is honey that has been processed to control crystallization. Nothing is added. It’s just been stirred or whipped at a specific temperature.

Spending a lot of money for honey does not mean you’ll get better honey. It just means that someone’s marketing scheme worked on you.

Honey sold in glass jars is not necessarily any better than honey sold in plastic jars. In fact, many beekeepers package their honey in plastic containers — even the bear squeeze containers! — for sale because they’re cost effective, they’re lightweight, and they don’t break. Do you think it’s a good idea to shlep heavy cases of glass jars around from one farmer’s market to the next?

Storing Honey

Store honey in the container you got it in. I generally put my honey comb in plastic containers so that’s what I store it in. When I extract honey, I usually put it in quart-sized glass mason jars so that’s what I store it in.

If you’re refrigerating your honey, take it out of the refrigerator now. It doesn’t belong there. Refrigerating it can hasten crystallization. While crystallization doesn’t make the honey taste bad, it does ruin its nice, smooth texture.

If your honey gets crystalized, you can heat it to dissolve the crystals. You can do this in the microwave if you like or by putting the honey container in a bath of warm water. They crystals will come back when the honey cools.

Beekeeping Costs

The main cost of producing honey is buying the equipment: hive boxes, frames, bottoms and tops, beekeeper suit, etc. My initial investment was about $500. I’ve since spent about $1,000 more — I really do know how to throw money at a hobby — but now have what I need for six hives. You can save money by building your own bee boxes and frames.

All of the equipment is reusable, so once you’ve made the investment, the only thing you’ll spend to keep bees and make honey is your time. This year, I was neglectful — my new home under construction kept me very busy — but my bees didn’t seem to care. They did their thing — including keeping my vegetable garden pollinated — and I pulled another 6 frames of honey out of my hives. That’ll probably yield about 2-1/2 gallons.

And yes, I do hope to sell some of it. In glass jars with fancy packaging. In roadside fruit stands that cater to tourists from Seattle.

Heck, if a fancy jar and high price tag makes people think they’re getting something extra special, why not play the game?

IRS Tax Payment Rejection Scam

Are people really this stupid?

I got an email message from “TAX@irs.gov” today claiming that:

Your federal Tax payment (ID: HF2IRS598523201), recently sent from your checking account was returned by the your financial institution.

For more information, please download notification below. (Security PDF Adobe file)

http://www.feftechnicalsupport.co.uk/google/[REDACTED].php

Seriously?

Are people really stupid enough to click a link on a site based in the UK for an IRS tax issue? Are people really stupid enough to click a link to a PHP file that’s supposed to be a PDF file?

Here’s a copy of the message. If you got one of these, “raise your hand” by posting a comment below. I’m curious.

And spread the word; you have no idea how much it irks me that scammers are preying upon people dumb enough to believe crap like this.

Tax Scam Email

Construction: Wiring My Shop

I expand the circuit in my shop area to include more outlets and an arc lamp.

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse movies that go with them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

Back in early September, I finally had the ground work done to bring electrical power, water, fiber optic cable, and a septic system line into my building. I got all the required inspections done, including the one with Washington State Labor & Industries (L&I). That required, in part, to set up a circuit that included an outlet, a light, and a light switch. Although I wanted to do more than just that, I decided to keep it simple to pass the inspection.

Of course, once the initial inspection was done and the power was turned on, I was free to wire my building however I liked — as long as it was within the requirements of the local electrical code. An inspection would be made before the walls were closed up — likely sometime in the spring. I didn’t have to keep the original circuit as it was on inspection day. I could expand the circuit to include more devices: outlets, lamps, switches.

So that’s what I did. I finished the wiring of my shop/RV garage area — the 36 x 48 foot space on the left side of my building.

More Outlets

One double outlet was clearly not enough — although I was making it work through the use of extension cords and outlet strips. I’d plugged in my Internet router and chest freezer on one side of the big garage door, with an empty outlet for the drill I’d need to get through the studs to run more wire. On the other side of the big garage door, I’d plugged in my mini fridge, wine cooler, radio, and four battery chargers (for power tools). There were spare outlets for my tile saw and kiln, which I use for my glass projects. To get the power from the outlet on one side of the garage door to the other side, I’d run a heavy-duty extension cord across the garage floor at the door. Not the best solution for long term.

So I started laying in outlet boxes. One by the fridge, one by my work desk, and one on the other side of the post in my storage area. I had to do some creative work with scrap lumber to hammer the outlet boxes on the underside of the girts — the L&I inspector had warned me that outlet boxes in unfinished walls could not be above a girt. And then I had to run the wire around the two windows in my shop area and behind two posts to connect them. Wiring them together wasn’t much of a problem at all.

What was a problem was getting the wire from the first outlet on the circuit over the garage door and back down to the next outlet near the fridge. The garage door is 14 feet tall and 20 feet wide.

Scaffolding
The nearly $500 I spent for this set of scaffolding is probably the best money I’ve spent so far on building equipment. I’ve used it dozens of times — this post just lists a few.

I’d bought scaffolding on Amazon a few weeks before and a friend had helped me assemble it. (It’s simply not possible to put together a 12-foot scaffold by myself.) The scaffolding consists of two 6-foot scaffolds stacked one atop the other with outriggers to prevent the whole thing from toppling over. A guardrail around the top scaffold platform gives me the illusion of safety — I’m not fooling myself: if I fall sideways while standing up there, that flimsy rail is not going to prevent me from falling over the edge.

It took some time getting used to climbing up and down the side of the scaffold, but after doing it a dozen times, I became quite proficient. Not only did all those trips up and down make me more comfortable about climbing the scaffolding, but it was great exercise that really wiped me out by the end of the day.

I brought the coil of wire upstairs and set it down on the floor. I fed it through the framing toward the post at one side of the garage door. Then I went downstairs, positioned the scaffolding, and climbed up. I fed the end of the wire between the post and metal wall — remember, the metal is fastened to the girts, not the posts — and into the space atop the garage door. I pushed it as far as I could, then climbed down the scaffold, repositioned it, and climbed back up to pull. I got about halfway across the top of the garage door when the wire got hung up on something at the other end. Back down, climb the stairs, free up the wire, push some forward, down the stairs, up the scaffold, pull the wire. It was clearly not a one-person job, but I was making headway.

That is until I got to the far end of the garage door and needed to pull the wire down to the outlet. Several trips up and down the stairs and scaffolding got me only a few inches. At that rate, it would take the rest of the day. I needed help.

Fortunately, a friend was coming by to help me move my heavier furniture — the red sofa bed, my bedroom set, a desk — to the back of the building to make room for the helicopter and possibly the RV later in the season. When he and his son were finished with the furniture, I asked him to climb the stairs and push the wire while I pulled it at the other end. Within 5 minutes, we were done.

I suspect that a lot of my friends would be helping me feed wire during visits over the next few months.

Once the wire was run over the garage door and stapled to the posts as required by code, I got back to work wiring the outlets. I did them in a sequence, then covered them up with the cheap covers I’d bought for the garage. (I’d use nicer ones for the living space.)

That part of the wiring was done.

The Arc Lamp

Is it really an “arc lamp”? I don’t know. Donn called it an arc lamp and Tom didn’t correct me when I called it an arc lamp. All I know is that it’s huge, has a big 500 watt bulb, takes a good 3-5 minutes to warm up, and is almost as bright as the sun. I suspect it might get hot.

My friends Donn and Kathryn had built a cherry packing shed on their orchard earlier in the year. They’d lighted the place with arc lamps that Donn had obtained used from some source. Donn had hired an electrician to do all the wiring. When he was finished, he had a few lamps left over. On the day I came to admire the shed, he offered me one. I thought it would make a good light for my RV garage so I took it.

That was months ago. For months, it sat in a big box in the upstairs of my building, out of the way of builders and movers. Four big pieces: transformer, light bulb, reflector, and lens. My job was to make sure the thing actually worked, fasten it securely to the rafters 16 feet off the ground in the center of the RV garage, and wire it to a light switch near the door.

The wire coming out of the transformer was simply cut about 3 feet from the fixture. I had two options to test it. I could hard wire it into a circuit and switch or I could put a plug on it and plug it into an extension cord. I went with the second option.

I also went to Home Depot and bought a two-foot length of chain with a screw-closure carabiner. The transformer, which weighted at least 30 pounds, had a heavy duty hook for mounting. I used the chain to hang the transformer to my scaffolding, screwed in the lightbulb — which is about 16 inches long — and plugged it in. The transformer hummed, but no light.

I wasn’t really surprised. I knew it couldn’t be that easy.

I examined the label on the transformer. It listed four different voltages, including the 120 volts I was using. Maybe the lamp was wired for a different voltage?

I (carefully) put the lamp in my Jeep and drove it down to Platt, the local electric supply store. I brought it inside. No one there could help me. They directed me to a lamp repair shop on Mission Street. I drove over. It was located in what used to be a house. I went in and described the lamp. The guy there said he couldn’t help.

Back in the Jeep, I called Donn and asked him. He said he didn’t know because he hadn’t done the wiring. He gave me the number of the man who had, Tom. I called Tom. We tried to get together that day, but weren’t able to connect. Instead, he came up to my place the next day.

Lamp Works
These lamps come to life slowly. Within minutes, it was very bright.

He brought tools. We chatted a bit. He admired my “man cave” and then made the now familiar comment about me having a “great setup.” Then he opened the transformer and fiddled around with the wires. Apparently, it had been wired for 277 volts. He rewired it for 120. He closed it back up and we put the bulb back in. I rehung it on the chain and plugged it in. It immediately came to life with a hum. In about 3 minutes, it was at its full brightness, like a second sun inside my shop.

Whoa.

When he left he gave me a spare bulb. He wouldn’t take my money.

Of course, testing the lamp and making sure it worked was only the first part of installation. I still had to get the wire and the lamp up into the rafters.

The wire wasn’t that difficult. The route I chose was pretty much clear of obstacles, so the wire was easy to run. I did, of course, need to stand on the scaffolding. Up, run wire, staple wire, down, reposition scaffolding, up, run wire — you get the idea.

It was about this time that I got sick and tired of hammering in the wire staples, which were required a maximum of every four feet. There had to be a better way. I took a break for the day and headed out to Home Depot. I came back with a good stapler designed to drive in those damn wire staples. Not perfect — I still needed to tap them a bit with a hammer — but a hell of a lot better than what I’d been doing.

(Any job is easy when you have the right tools, eh, honey?)

Back to work the next morning, I finished running the wire between where the light switch would go and where the lamp would go. Easy peasy.

Next, I had to lift the lamp into place. I fully assembled it with the transformer, bulb, reflector, and lens. Then I tied a rope to it at the bottom of the scaffold, climbed up, and pulled. I lifted it about 2 feet off the ground when I realized that I would probably not be able to lift it 16 feet off the ground. Again, there had to be a better way.

Warn Winch
Wow! Is this ever handy for general use around my shop and garage. It makes it possible for me to lift or move up to 1,000 pounds with the touch of a button.

The better way was with a winch that I already had. You see, I’d cooked up a solution to lift my kayaks off the floor of the shop. I was tired of walking around them, so I’d put pulleys in the rafters between two posts and run line down and around them. Because I couldn’t manually lift them, I’d bought a small electric winch on Amazon. I’d fastened the winch to a hook on a post and had fastened the ropes to the winch. Squeezing a trigger lifted the kayaks high enough to walk under them.

Hung Kayaks
Hanging my kayaks was another little project I did this summer. You can see the winch hanging from a post. (If I blogged about all my projects, I wouldn’t have time to do any projects.)

Winching the Arc Lamp
In this shot, you can see the winch attached to the rafters with the cable running down to the arc lamp. If you look closely, you can see the wire I’d run along the bottom of the rafters.

The winch was still holding up the kayaks, but I rigged up a rope on the same hook to do the job, freeing up the winch for other duties. I carried the winch up the scaffolding and secured it with a rope atop some rafters near where I’d hung the chain for the arc lamp. I ran an extension cord to the winch. Then I dropped the winch cable down to the floor — it’s 15 feet long — went down, and hooked up the lamp. Then back up to run the winch. I brought the lamp up slowly until it was high enough to fasten to the hook. That was probably the hardest part: disconnecting the lamp from the winch and connecting it to the chain without dropping it. I was mighty relieved when I was done and the lamp hung securely from the rafters.

Hung Lamp
I left the wire long in case I wanted to move it someday and needed a longer wire. Rather than leave it hanging, I draped it around the rafter. I hope L&I doesn’t mind.

Next, I had to mount one of those blue plastic boxes to the rafter to connect the wire from the lamp to the wire from the switch. Not a big deal. I hammered the box in place, ran the wires in, and connected them with wire screws. Then I fastened a cap over the blue box. I stepped back on the scaffold to admire my work — and take a picture, of course.

I brought all my tools and the winch back down the scaffold. I had one step left.

Tying It All Together

So far, I had three new double outlets and an arc lamp wired. But none of them were wired to a circuit. That was the last step.

I’d already set up a light switch and outlet beside the circuit panel near the door to my RV garage. I decided to tear that apart and replace it with a box that would house two light switches and an outlet.

I should mention here that L&I, on its inspection, had told me that the outlet needed to be GFCI protected because it was the first one on a garage circuit. Although they passed me, it was contingent on me replacing that outlet. Doing the rewiring to add outlets and the arc lamp seemed to be a good time to make the fix.

Switches
The final outlet box after rewiring the outlet to a GFCI and wiring the two light switches. Note that the power comes from this box and crosses over the garage door to the other side of the room.

I shut off the circuit in the panel, rolled over my cart full of electrical tools, and got to work. The wiring wasn’t difficult — I had done it all before. When I was all done, I put one of the cheap plates over it, crossed my fingers for luck, and turned on the circuit breaker.

No explosions, fires, or even smoke. Always a good sign.

I tried the light switch for the existing fixture beside the panel. It worked fine. Then I tried the light switch for the arc lamp. It came to life immediately, sputtering a little as it warmed up. Then I crossed the room and tried the outlets. They worked.

Success!

Second Sun
I’d originally thought I’d need more than one light in the RV garage and that this one would be a good start. But I soon realized that I wouldn’t need any other overhead light in this space. It’s that bright!

Later, I’d ditch the extension cord across the garage doorway and plug everything in to the closest outlets. (Still needed a power strip for all those darn battery chargers.)

That night, my friend Bob stopped by for dinner. After watching a beautiful sunset from my Lookout Point bench, we went into the garage and I flicked the switch for the arc lamp. The light started off dim but warmed and brightened as it usually does. It lighted the entire space. Not only that, but the light shined through every single window in my place, making it glow from outside.

Lighted from Outside
This was the first time my building had been lighted at night since the night before the concrete was poured.

As far as I’m concerned, my shop/RV garage is now wired. Whether I add another circuit in the future is something I’ll deal with when I find a need. It’s good to go now and extremely functional.

Up Next

My next circuit will include my entrance lighting, entrance hall lighting, one outside outlet (near the front door), a light (with a switch) for just inside the first bay of the garage, outlets inside the first two garage bays (including for garage door openers), and light fixtures for outside the first two garage bays. The entrancee hall lighting will be interesting because it requires a three-way switch that makes it possible to turn the light on or off from the top or bottom of the stairs.

And don’t worry: if the job has any unusual challenges, I’ll blog it.

Home is Where the Helicopter Is

Zero-Mike-Lima moves into its new home.

A lot of folks who’ve seen my building plans or listened to me tell them about its design can’t quite understand why I need so much garage space. Like an old motorcycling friend who sadly passed away from an illness some years ago, I’m building a “garage with a home attached.”

New Home Plans
Garage, man cave, man trap. Call it what you will, but it has almost 3,000 square feet of garage and shop space.

Moving Forward with the Plan

I decided two and a half years ago, when I started looking for property in Washington, that I wanted to keep my helicopter at home with me. Not only would it be extremely convenient for the few times a month I fly, but it would save me hundreds of dollars a month on hangar costs — not to mention time and truck gas, wear, and tear.

Hangar
Here’s a partial view of the hangar the helicopter lived in for about eight months. The building was huge and technically I leased only half of it, paying only half rent.

The hangar the helicopter was in last winter, along with my furniture and boxes of possessions from Arizona, was costing $850/month — that’s nearly double my mortgage! I couldn’t wait to get out of that place and was thrilled at the end of June when my building had reached a state of completion where my possessions could be moved into it and I could end the lease on the hangar.

I moved the helicopter to my future home at the end of May, right after the start of cherry season. I had an early contract in Quincy and needed to respond quickly to calls that sometimes came in without warning. From that point forward, it sat outside on a leveled piece of earth in my side (back?) yard — a sort of lawn ornament that I’d fire up when I wanted (or needed) to fly.

Lawn Ornament
I kept the helicopter parked on a nice flat spot near my RV throughout the construction period.

The landing zone was good, despite the dust. I was able to approach from below, actually climbing to reach the spot. This minimized noise. In fact, a few neighbors asked if I were still flying from my home. When I told them I was, they responded, with some surprise, that they never heard me come and go. I’d actually chosen the building location, in part, because of its position between two hills. The idea was to focus the helicopter’s engine sound back out into the valley. A more attractive building location might have been where the helicopter was parked — it certainly would have given me better views. But in the interest of being neighborly — and to reserve that spot for the next property owner’s home — I tucked my building back up against the hillsides.

The building’s shell was finished — walls, roof, floor, doors, and windows — in mid July. The big garage door — 20 feet wide by 14 feet tall — was the last component to be installed. With the help of a friend and his son, I rearranged the furniture I’d stowed in the back of the RV garage space to make room for the helicopter and RV to be parked side by side, as I’d planned.

The Landing Platform

Ground handling a 1500+ pound helicopter by myself had always been a bit of a pain in the ass. It was impossible for me to move it without equipment, so I purchased a tow bar from Brackett Aviation in Kingman and a golf cart to tow it with. I’d had a similar tow bar for my old R22, but the R44 was a bit too beefy for the aluminum model they’d custom made for me (to keep it light). The steel replacement was heavy but manageable. It made it possible to tow the helicopter in Wickenburg from my hangar to the fuel pumps or helicopter pads, despite the hilly ramps.

But what I longed for was a helicopter dolly — a platform I could land on and tow into the hangar. I priced them up everywhere I could find them, new or used, but could never justify the huge expense.

In the winter of 2013, as I packed up my Arizona life and began liquidating possessions I no longer needed, a solution stumbled into my lap. My friend Mike’s friend Jan had bought Mike’s helicopter dolly. Mike had designed it for his Hiller and it had been made to his specifications. He’d used it a few times and, after a scare from a skid sticking to tacky paint in the hot Arizona sun, had sold it to Jan. Jan never used it. I had a very nice golf cart I wanted to unload. Would he take a trade?

He would and did. My friend Janet and I loaded the golf cart onto my flatbed trailer and towed it down to Falcon Field in Mesa. Jan and Mike and a few others drove the golf cart off the trailer and manhandled the dolly, broken down into three pieces, onto my trailer. We strapped everything down and drove back to Wickenburg.

Trailer Packed for Move
Do I know how to pack a trailer? I replaced the trailer tires and had the bearings repacked before the trip north, just to minimize the likelihood of wheel trouble for my friend on the 1200-mile drive.

Due to the nature of my never-ending divorce, the trailer and dolly just sat in my Wickenburg hangar for months. In September 2013, I loaded a few more things onto the trailer and sent it north on the back of my truck, with a friend who offered to drive it for me while I drove my Honda and movers took everything else. The trailer and dolly then sat in my East Wenatchee hangar for another eight months. In July 2014, it moved from there to my property, where it sat out in the sun for another few months.

Tow Platform
Here’s the trailer outside my building last month, waiting to be unloaded. The orange thing is my old tow bar, which I used in my East Wenatchee hangar.

Putting It All Together

Assembled Helicopter Dolly
What amazed me most is how small the platform looked in my building.

Finally, at the end of September, I asked my friend and his son to stop by and help me unload the dolly. It rolled down the trailer ramp onto the floor of my building. The hard part was pulling the top half off the bottom — I think one more set of muscles might have made that easier. But we did it, lined the pieces up, and bolted them together. The roughly 9 x 9 platform was ready for use. (The flatbed trailer was almost immediately put to work hauling apples to Seattle for a friend. It’s now parked, empty, out of the way behind my building — the only thing I own that’ll likely never be stored inside.)

The only problem was, I couldn’t get the helicopter inside until I had a concrete apron outside the big door. Not only was there a 4-inch drop from the doorway to the ground outside, but the ground was not something the dolly’s 12 hard rubber wheels could easily roll on.

I had the ground work and the concrete work done in September. The concrete guy said I needed to wait five days for the concrete to cure enough to be driven on. Sunday was the fifth day.

I happened to have a charter flight on Sunday and expected to be home by around 3 PM. That morning, before taking off, I positioned the helicopter dolly on my big new pad with my 600cc 1999 Yamaha Grizzly — did I ever mention how glad I am that I bought that thing and brought it to Washington with me? I locked the Grizzly’s brakes and put a wooden block behind one of the dolly’s 12 wheels. (Hard rubber chocks should arrive from Amazon.com today.)

Dolly Ready for Landing
Nothing like a little challenge to get the blood going, no?

Then I got out my extra long measuring tape and started measuring. I measured the helicopter’s skid length and spread. I measured the point from the front of one skid to the end of the front blade. I measured the back of the skids to the end of the tail. I measured the dolly’s width and the distance between the faded and mostly worn off orange painted lines Mike had stuck to years ago. I measured from an arrow on the dolly out the pilot side door to the post in the corner of my future deck.

And then I measured everything again.

And one more time.

It was doable — the measuring tape doesn’t lie — but with the RV parked where it was, I’d best make my approach down the driveway. It was important to come in slowly and not overshoot the platform. If I landed where I should on the platform, everything would be fine.

Yes, it would. I had to tell myself several times. It sure looked close. But then again, every time I land at the fuel island at Wenatchee airport, it’s a lot closer than this.

I shut the big garage door and locked up the building.

The Moment of Truth

I left at 10:30 AM to do my flight. I stopped at Pangborn Airport, fueled up, and met my passengers. We went on a scenic flight up the Methow to view the fire damage, then cut over the mountains to Chelan where we landed in front of Tsillan Cellars Winery. Bob, the owner, walked down with a glass of wine to greet us. My passengers treated me to lunch at the restaurant there before I flew us back to Wenatchee.

Then they were gone and the moment of truth had arrived.

It was right about then that I realized that I’d never landed on this platform before. In fact, the only time I’d ever landed on anything resembling a raised platform was back in 2002 when I landed my old R22 on the back of a trailer.

Well, there’s a first time for everything, huh?

I started up the helicopter — now very light with only about 15 gallons of fuel on board — and headed home. It’s a 3-minute flight.

Instead of approaching from below over my Lookout Point bench, I came in slightly above my landing zone, a bit more to the east. I slowed down to a walking pace before I reached my driveway just behind my shed and chicken coop. Then I moved forward slowly, got myself over the landing pad, and lowered the helicopter down onto it. I had a moment of doubt when I worried that my left skid might be over the gap between the dolly’s two landing platforms and that made me double-think my landing. I wiggled a bit, inched higher, shifted to the left a little, and set it down. The rear of the skids landed first, as they usually do when I’m alone. Then the front. Nice and solid. No movement on the platform.

Helicopter on Platform
Success!

Needless to say, I was thrilled.

I went into my RV to let Penny out while the blades slowed to a stop. I took a bunch of photos. I opened the big garage door all the way and locked it in the up position. Then I locked the helicopter’s blades into a front/back position, got on the ATV, started it up, and began rolling it backwards into the building.

The door was supposed to be 14 feet tall. The helicopter’s mast is 10’9″ tall. The platform was 18 inches tall. It should fit, right? Of course it did! But it wasn’t until I actually rolled it in that I believed it.

Not Perfect
My landing wasn’t perfect. I could have been forward 6-10 inches and left about 6 inches. When I get a chance, I’ll repaint the surface with better markers. And next time, with the hard rubber chocks handy, I’ll move the platform a bit closer to the edge of the pavement.

The only trouble I had was the fact that my furniture was pushed up against that back wall. With the ATV in front and the helicopter not quite as far forward as it could be, I didn’t have enough room to pull in all the way with the ATV. So I unhooked it, moved it out of the way, and pushed the dolly in the rest of the way. It was remarkably easy to push on the level ground, considering it weighed at least 1800 pounds with the helicopter on it. It was in far enough to close the garage door.

In the Garage
Good thing I didn’t put that arc lamp on a longer chain! It clears the rotor hub by about a foot and a half. In the future, I’ll be parking to one side or another anyway.

A while later, after walking around and taking photos and being thrilled that I could so easily walk under the tailcone to get around the garage even with the helicopter in there, I rolled the door closed and locked it.

My helicopter was in its new home.

On Milestones

This was yet another milestone in my rebooted life — another goal reached without a risk-adverse, fearful, sad-sack old man holding me back. I was moving forward, I was making it happen.

(I feel another divorce-related rant coming on. Stop reading now if you’d prefer not to read it.)

I try not to think about all the years lost waiting for the man I loved to get his act together and take control of his life, to stop being a 9 to 5 slave to possessions he bought for reasons I’ll never understand: a plane he never flew; an expensive, cave-like condo in a dismal city; a luxury sedan not suited for the unpaved road we lived on. I try not to think about what might have possessed him to live beyond his means, year after year.

I try not to think of his broken promises — promises I banked on to build a financially secure future in which we’d both be able to achieve life-long goals.

I try not to think about how hard he tried those last few years to pull me down into the rut he’d dug for himself and how he plied me with guilt and attacked my self-esteem when I resisted.

I try not to think about how miserable I’d be if we’d stuck together and I had to continue a stagnant existence in a dead place with a man who just never seemed to be happy.

But when I see how easily I rebuilt my life here in a better place, how easily I made good friends, how easily I designed and arranged for the building of my dream home, how easily I’ve learned to take care everything that needed to be done — I realize that no matter what he said to put me down, I was not the problem. He was.

I would never be here in this happy place with him holding me back. The divorce freed me to move forward with my life, a life so much better than I had with the sorry excuse for a man that he’d become.

The sad part of it is the way he chose to do this: the deceptions, the betrayals, the legal battle to steal what I’d worked hard for my whole life. The lies in court documents and under oath in court.

He told me two years ago when he asked for a divorce that he wanted to remain friends and I was open to that. But then he did everything in his power to fuck me over emotionally and financially. What’s up with that?

And yes, the battle still rages on, two years after it started. Delays, delays, delays. He’s doing everything in his power to delay my happiness — and he’s failing miserably, at his own expense.

He burned his bridge to any possible future friendship. And in doing so, he threw away the best part of his sorry life.

What an asshole.

As for me — well, I haven’t been this happy in years.