It’s not always easy having stuff.
I have too much stuff. That’s not under question. But I’ve learned that one of the problems with having too much stuff — besides finding places to store it all — is keeping it all working and in good repair.
Take, for example, my two motorcycles. Bought brand new in 1992 and 1996, I rarely ride them. I simply don’t have the time. So they sit in storage, gathering dust while the gasoline in their tanks turns to varnish and their batteries die. I’ve tried battery tenders and gasoline stabilizers, but every time I want to take one of them out, I have a heck of a time getting it started. The solution, of course, is to sell at least one of them and I’ve made the decision to do just that. But I still have to get it running and bring it over to the motorcycle guy who said he’d sell it for me.
My new old redneck truck — nicknamed the “Brokeback Mountain Truck” because of the way its 14-year-old pearlized red paint looks pink in strong sunlight — required a bunch of small repairs to get it up to operating standards for the long trip it’ll take me on in May. That bunch of repairs, which I thought would cost about $500 to $700 cost a whopping $1,500. Ouch! The mechanic, who I trust, says it’ll run a good, long time. It better. It’s my first Ford. Some of us know what F-O-R-D stands for. (If you don’t check the title for this post.)
To be fair, we drove it this weekend to Howard Mesa and Flagstaff (so far) and it’s running okay. Sure, its 8-cylinder engine is a dog and the Ford steering is about as loose as you can get, but get it up to highway speed and turn on the cruise control and everything is satisfactory. I’ll have accurate fuel burn numbers when I fill up in Chino Valley on our way home.
Mummies in the Attic
But the ongoing source of our repair efforts is our little vacation cabin. Its exterior was built by people who know how to use the necessary tools and materials and they did a reasonably good job. The place is sturdy, anyway. But after adding plumbing, electrical, fixtures, appliances, and furniture to make it a home way from home, the problems began.
First it was the mice, who seemed to invade the premises every time we left. That means a thorough cleaning and disinfecting each time we arrived. I don’t know about you, but after a 3-1/2 hour drive, the last thing in the world I want to do is spend four hours vacuuming and washing floors and countertops, and furniture. The mouse moved into the walls, so we’d often hear them scurrying around at night. It took a long time to find and seal up all the holes where they were coming in. When I got sick of dealing with the humane mouse traps, I resorted to rat poison. The worst night we ever at the place was the night after Mike threw rat poison into the roof rafters and sealed up the holes on either end with steel wool. All night long, the doomed rodents were running back and forth over the ceiling.
And yes, there are now mouse bodies in our ceiling. But thanks to the dry Arizona air, they mummify quickly.
We were still battling the mouse problem when the plumbing problem began. We’d used PVC piping which, due to our low water usage needs, should have been fine. Trouble is, if you don’t drain the pipes properly, the water in them freezes up in the winter. That causes the pipes to expand until they break.
Our first Christmas at the cabin gave us our first plumbing repair job. We brought everything inside, turned on the water, and turn on the pump. Within seconds, water was gushing out of the wall.
Mike spent most of the next day repairing the broken pipe. When he was done and everything was closed back up, we turned on the pump again. Another pipe was broken. He fixed that one the next day, on Christmas Eve. So yes, on that trip, we didn’t have running water for more than 48 hours.
Despite our best efforts to drain the pipes on departure, this happened again, to a lesser extent, on our next visit. Mike got very good at repairing pipes.
The following Christmas, Mike came prepared. He replaced all the PVC pipes with copper. Unfortunately, there had been water in the toilet valve and that had split. (We had installed an RV toilet to conserve water.) So we had to manually flush with a bucket of water.
On our most recent trip, we discovered a crack in the pump. We bought a replacement and hope to repair the old one as a spare. But when he went to fix the toilet — after replacing the pump — he discovered that the replacement part he’d bought for that didn’t have the piece he needed. So we continue to bucket flush.
We’ve had other problems with the place over the years. There was the mouse nest in the furnace that prevented it from staying lighted until the nest was removed. Before fixing that, the cabin actually got down to the low 40s at night.
And then there was the poorly set windows and doors. I spent a whole day with a caulk gun filling cracks with clear caulk to stop the cold wind from finding its way into the building.
Otherwise, everything has been fine. But now I know why Mike doesn’t like going up to the vacation cabin. Every time we go, there’s something that needs to be fixed.
Our house is just over 10 years old now, at that age when little things start needing attention.
Original light bulbs all over the house have been dying lately. The guy who built our house probably had stock in the local utility company. Every single light fixture in the house has either 3 or 4 bulbs in it. The master bathroom, which has a long countertop with two sinks and a vanity, is lighted by a row of 16 bulbs. When we moved in, there was a 150-watt bulb in each one. That’s 2400 watts of lighting with the flick of one switch. We replaced all those bulbs with 40s and put a dimmer switch on it. I don’t need to get a tan in my own bathroom.
We’ve had a few minor leaks in the past few years. We’ve needed some paint touchups inside and out. A few of the ceramic tiles between the kitchen and front door are cracking but not loosening up. The appliances are still all working fine, although I know that when they start dying, I’ll replace them with better rated equipment and leave the foo-foo brand names for another sucker. (I’ll take my old Kenmore dishwasher over the JennAire I have now any day.)
So I’m waiting patiently. Something else will break shortly — I can feel it in my bones — and I need to be ready to take care of the repair.