With the gNash parked mere feet from the front door of our current project Burt takes full advantage of his early mornings and the accessibility. Recently he’s been going in as early as 3:00 AM. Now back on the west coast that’s midnight. I’ve been pondering what this means for Burt’s internal clock and our lark/owl interpersonal relations for weeks and then this morning happened. Burt woke up and misread the 11:00 PM as 1:00 AM. Our clock is two hours behind. He thought oh, it’s 3:00 I might as well go to work instead of trying to sleep. But it wasn’t 3:00, it was 1:00. Got that? So Burt showed up for breakfast at 8 AM after putting in nearly a day’s worth of work. In the meantime I was sleeping soundly in the spacious bed. We were both awake for breakfast of pea soup. Now it is 11:55 AM and Burt is sound asleep. I’m doing computer updates and backing up writing and photographs.
I made a pumpkin pie but I can’t bake it until Burt wakes up and lights the oven. As of yesterday we have been living in this 22′ box for seven years and I still can’t light the oven. Co-dependency is what they call it. We’re off to my brother and sister-in-law’s place for the holiday. We haven’t settled on a meal plan. I was supposed to bring my pie but Christian won some pies in a raffle and so I get to keep this one. There’s no such thing as too much pumpkin pie in this trailer.
It’s been bumpy around here. It seems like there was a gap in the space time continuum while we had the flu. Some regular maintenance got away from us. That’s to be expected. Dirty laundry, dog walks, flossing. Then there’s the bigger maintenance problems. Appliance repair. In the background of our daily life is our Norcold refrigerator. It’s a nearly 10 years old dual propane/electric model. All propane fridges are notoriously finicky. They hate cooling with propane when it’s hot. Cooling on electric is fine. Cooling while the environment is hot is the general purpose of a refrigerator and you’d think somebody would have found a way to fix this common problem. The internet is full of ideas. Clean the orifice. Blow out the exhaust. Burp the coils. Install an exhaust fan. Buy a new refrigerator. Buy a new trailer. That last one was my idea.
Since we got here we’ve been running a pretty tight schedule of using electric power to cool while the sun is shining and hoping that the propane system will carry us through the cooler, shadier nights. There have been a couple of incidents where clouds came in while we were away and we drained the batteries of our solar system. There was a day when we were detained longer than expected (Hello? Bridge players?) and we drained the batteries, again. Batteries do not like to be drained. It’s bad for their long term survivability. Batteries are very, very expensive. Meanwhile the propane cooling was getting weaker. Or possibly we were imagining it was getting weaker or possibly we had imagined it was working at all. Perception is a tricky thing.
One day last week at the tail end of our illness Burt announces we are going to ‘burp’ the refrigerator tomorrow. Now for 3 1/2 years I have been advocating the burp maneuver so you would think I was thrilled with Burt’s idea. I wasn’t. I’d given up on the idea as an effective solution somewhere in June in Portal. Perhaps it was my lingering ennui from the flu. Perhaps it was the sense I had that the internet was full of liars. Maybe, I had convinced myself it was the power of our flame (the heat source drives the cooling) that was the problem. Regardless, after 3 1/2 years of saying let’s burp this sucker I had no interest but had to accept Burt’s plan. I could not articulate why it was a waste of time and, besides, there was a chance it would work. It couldn’t hurt. Right? Wrong.
Weeks ago we watched a guy on YouTube remove his Norcold fridge. He made it seem easy. He also, a key fact I forgot, didn’t actually remove his fridge. He merely puched it partway out so he could clean the exhaust vent. Burping a fridge is like burping a child. The theory is there is a gas bubble stuck in the coils, intestines of said child, and you want to move the fridge around so the gas can be released. Burp, fart, whatever. For a child it is not generally recommended to roll it over and leave it upside down for 24 hours but for a fridge it is. So after much annoyance and with great determination Burt got the fridge loose. There were many poorly placed screws. Then he pulled it out and with my help we placed it on a milk crate precisely in front of the cabinet where it normally resides. It filled the narrow trailer hall. I was on one side and Burt was on the other.
When I agreed to this mission I had one concern and one idea. I was worried I would not be strong enough to help. My idea was that the fridge wouldn’t fit past the table. I thought we should remove the table first. Burt was not worried or concerned about these items. He believed me to be strong enough and the space wide enough. Now here I was stuck in the bathroom on the far side of a refrigerator I could not move because it did not fit past the table. Did I tell you I have claustrophobia? I cleaned the litter box while I listened to Burt’s colorful and heated commentary about how things were on his side of the appliance. Anxiety crept in. I studied the litter box. I cleaned Mimi’s water tray. I refilled her food bowl. I wondered if I would fit out the roof vent. I tried to ignore Burt. I refrained from saying, “I told you we should have removed the table.” I did hope to keep Burt on my good side and working towards my eventual release. Don’t antagonize your jailer.
Burt removed the table and we moved the fridge towards the door. We had stupidly assumed the fridge would pass through the door. The whole point was to get the refrigerator somewhere we could roll it around for a day. Well, not our fridge from our trailer. Not a chance. We discussed options. We were hungry. We decided to lay it partially on its side and get some tacos. The photo above is Burt climbing over the fridge in its angle of repose. It reminded me of an altar. I pondered killing a chicken.
After lunch we decided the fridge had to go back where it came from. I assiduously cleaned the coils. We verified the exhaust was clear. We put the fridge back in place and plugged it in. Nothing. It was now dead and would not run on solar. We f f f f f f broke our refrigerator. Install the only word that will suffice. We verified connections. We looked for a chicken to slaughter. Then my brilliant husband said, “Maybe we just blew a fuse.” Our fuse box has less labels than fuses. I deduced the unlabeled fuse was the fridge. Burt used some pliers and pulled out the fuse I indicated and it was (omg) a broken fuse. We found a new fuse and the fridge came on.
You think this would be the end of the story. No harm, no foul. The fridge was back in its hole working like it did before. Time would tell if the burping worked.
I thought I smelled propane. I heard a high pitched hiss. Oh no. A propane leak. Burt found the leak and tightened the fittings. We went to bed. In the middle of the deep, dark Baja night I woke up and said, “I smell propane.” Burt responded, as he does to all my claims of bad smells, “It smells like Mexico.” I sourly said, “Mexico does not smell like propane.” Maybe NJ smells like propane or Laurel, Montana, but Mexico does not. Mexico smells like burning plastic and dead dogs on the highway. Sometimes. I only mean in those instances when you are over come by a smell, not everyday. Definitely not propane. I digress.
Burt went out and could feel propane leaving the tubing. He turned off the propane and we went back to sleep. One more problem that could wait for tomorrow. I dreamt of a new trailer. I woke up and told Burt I had three ideas: A new trailer, a new generator, a new fridge. Burt had an idea that he could fix the leaking line. I went to tennis. Burt made repairs.
So here we are two days later. Our illness is gone and our fridge is working better than it has in years. Our conclusion is that there was a small propane leak all along. Just ask Burt how many times I’ve said I smell propane and we couldn’t find the source. Too many to count. He was always telling me it was propane residue around the fittings. Since when is there a propane residue? So there was probably a small leak for a length of time and when we jostled the fridge and undid and redid the fittings we made the leak bigger. The small leak was probably reducing the intensity of the burner and limiting the cooling capacity. With the leak repaired things are running much more efficiently.
In conclusion: Burping worked but for all the wrong reasons.
Today marks one week since our arrival in El Pescadero. Things are going well. Our tarp blew out on day two. I can’t overstate how important the shade tarp on the trailer is to our general comfort. Shading the trailer on all sides makes it livable and it allows the propane fridge to keep working. We were using a massive but sun-degraded tarp left behind by Robin and Jen. It lacked integrity. The first mild breeze ripped the grommets and brought it down onto the trailer. Instead of shade we had a blanket. So we decided to run to Cabo ASAP to find a replacement. While we were at it, why not buy a bed? Our mattress was 11 years old. The peso is weak. WEAK. Really, really weak. 17.5 pesos to the dollar. It was 11.5 five years ago. In the last five years more luxury goods are also available. I presume it’s a post-crash investments by beach hungry gringos.
So, we decided to look for a bed. A run to Cabo, while much easier than it was a couple of years ago due to improved roads, requires many calls to neighbors to see if they need anything. In ten minutes I had a list of cat food, asiago cheese, and toilet paper added to our mattress and tarps. Three out of four calls yielded results. Our first stop was the bed shop. Mattress dealers the world over are notorious for the obscurity of their pricing. Mexico outdid the US. No mattress in the store had a price. When I asked how much a particular bed was I got a fleet of answers: Mexican Queen? U.S. Queen? Cama Matrimonial? Every number had a better number than the first number. This was the standard response: This bed is 17,000 pesos. Pause. But really it is 13,000 pesos. Pause.
This kind of haggling makes me crazy. Burt and I finally found a rather firm Simmons Beautyrest we liked. Have you shopped for mattresses recently? They are really thick. In a trailer every inch counts. We pondered the extra height. Would Burt hit his head during certain maneuvers? Could Mimi the cat make the leap with the added altitude? Having no alternative to the super padded slabs we decided we’d just have to take a chance. We settled on a price of $730 US. My mattress from 11 years ago was $1200. I felt like we’d made a good deal.
Humans are notoriously ill prepared to make decisions in the short term and understand the long term ramifications. I like to pretend I am exempt from this general flaw in humanity. I can defer short term enjoyment for long term benefits pretty well. Clearly mattress buying is my Achilles’s tendon. Burt and I told the guy we’d be back in an hour and a half to pick up our new American Queen sized mattress. Adding to our human nature for short term gratification is a thing called decision fatigue. Watch what happens. We left the mattress store and headed to Home Depot.
This excursion took place during a Mexican national holiday. The Home Depot was jammed. Una carambola. People everywhere. We just wanted a tarp. What is the word for tarp? It’s not what my handy phone dictionary gave me. SpanishDict dicked me over and gave me the word for tent. We persevered and found the tarps. We had to buy three tarps to match the size of the previously installed shade. Done. Now to Costco.
Costco was also overrun. We picked up asiago cheese and some groceries and dog food for us. We left to pick up our mattress. As we arrived at the mattress store we realized we failed to buy toilet paper and cat food. At the mattress store the salesperson said. I have your Queen ready but it’s 84″ long. Burt asked me what I though. I (will regret these words for a long time) said,”I guess that’s the standard length. What else could it be?” We paid for the mattress and packed it on top of the truck. We headed to Home Depot (oops, I forgot more rope) and Costco. Tequila was added to the toilet paper and cat food. Isn’t that a shopping cart for the ages? 36 rolls of toilet paper, 40 pounds of cat food, and a supersized bottle of tequila.
We made it home before dark feeling pretty good with our accomplishments. The next morning I went to yoga. Burt repaired the shade system. I walked up the hill from Prissy’s house ready to help Burt wrangle the new mattress into the gNash. I recalled the original mattress went it with much difficulty. Burt was 10 years younger and we had a big young guy helping (John Dendy). It was the proverbial hog wrastle. Burt and I are 10 years smarter if not as strong as we once were. And we have spent many years moving heavy things together. I was optimistic we could do this. I was right. The old mattress slipped out. The smart move was key. We screwed down the pneumatic lid to the under mattress storage area. Without the lid in the way everything was manageable. Barely, but we succeeded.
The old mattress was carried to the rumpus room for our daring, amiable, flexible, guests to use. The new mattress was hauled in. I took the low end and pushed while Burt steered and pulled. Mimi ignored the entire thing from her bedside nook. It all went so easily. And then we realized our great mistake. The altitude of the mattress was going to take some adjustment but the big problem we had just lost 4″ of our 22′ of living space. Gnashing of teeth in the gNash. There’s a mattress as big as a life raft in our tiny home. OMG. The sales guy tried to warn us and we didn’t get the hint. Ack ack ack.
My original motto for happiness on the road was, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Once again we quickly looked on the bright side. Mimi has a shorter jump!!! Olive’s bed is nearly invisible under the massive overhang!!! The shoes are well hidden, too!!! I LIVE in the bed. I have more space!!!
Through massive effort and my carpentry skills I was able to force a deep-pocketed regular queen onto this boat of a bed. I got on Amazon and ordered two new fitted sheets and sent them to friends coming in two weeks. We will adapt. The height thing has proven to be more annoying than the length. Instruments stored besides the bed are very hard to reach. Mimi’s nook requires her to belly crawl for access. Burt’s positional needs require his head to be in the window recess. I took bearings so I know where to be so his head has clearance to do what we both want him to do.
Last night we slept pretty well. The bed is more comfortable. Mimi was oddly restless and she walked all over us all night long. We think she was just getting the lay of the land.
We are safe and sound on our lot, in our trailer, in El Pescadero. The drive was uneventful yet memorable. A new route with some new stops made for new experiences on a trip we’ve done 5 times. More details tomorrow. My first impression is: arrival 16 months after a hurricane is way more fun than last year’s arrival 4 months after Odile trashed the place. Wow, our structures and trees and fence are all just as we left them. AND, paying a gardener to keep an eye on the place and remove weeds before we arrive was SOOOOOOO worth it.
We left Portal two days ago. We got to San Diego and found our friend sick with a terrible cold so we abandoned him and headed north to LA to see Burt’s Aunt Carol and Uncle George and cousins. We are burning through our hard earned wages like we won the Powerball. I have a new iPhone (the 6s), yoga mat, clothing, and a 6 month supply of hair conditioner, chocolate and tampons. Mimi has cat related supplies that will hopefully last as long as she does. The Mim-ster is officially 17 years old. The dogs only got some biscuits and a bag of food. They will have to eat Mexican Costco dog food for the duration. Burt has a supply of shaving cream, dental floss, and cooking essentials. The trailer is overflowing with groceries and DVDs and plain old stuff.
Aunt Carol took us out for some much needed grooming. I got my fingers and toes done and, and, and my eyebrows. My visual impairment (progressive lenses that never have the focus in the right spot) and the dim light in the trailer makes eyebrow plucking very hard. I’d rather higher out the job than face the grim realities of seeing my aging flesh in direct sunlight with a magnifying glass.
Tomorrow I am going to try to get the new phone updated with all the data and apps my old phone was using. It could be a rough transition. Don’t panic when we fall off the internet Sunday morning. It could be phone issues or just Mexico.
The phone purchase filled me with trepidation and I had been procrastinating despite my 3 1/2 year old 4s showing signs of an imminent demise. The battery only held a charge for an hour and the glass front had become sensitive to any pressure. I was but dialing and texting people every time I put my phone in my pocket. I didn’t want to pay more for a new phone. I liked the 4s size and it’s camera is great. I was feeling techno-phobic. Lucky for me I found a great guy, Anthony, at the Verizon desk in the San Juan Capistrano Costco. Anthony got me $200 in rebates and a cheaper data plan with more data. My new phone and larger data plan are actually costing us less a month, even without the rebates. What a surprise. And no contract.
Back to Aunt Carol and Uncle George. Aunt Carol is Burt’s mother’s sister. She just moved into the house Burt’s dad, Jack, was born in. This house has been in the family, on one side or the other, for over 85 years. Carol’s son John bought it from Jack in the 80s and now Carol is renting it from her son. Norma, Burt’s grandmother, was the original family owner with Burt’s grandfather. They bought it before 1929. When Carol moved in this past June she planted a rose bush that she has moved from house to house to house almost all her adult life. Norma gave Carol the rose bush many, many years ago. Isn’t that a sweet thing?
The other day I was sitting in the car waiting while Burt was checking out a local hotel to see if it was suitable for a music camp. It was a spur of the moment idea of his and I was too sore from riding and too preoccupied about our imminent appointment with the Bridge to English program to get out and look around. I often find myself sitting in the car or truck while Burt does things. I call it the living room. Usually I’m playing security with the windows wide open so the dogs don’t escape or our belongings don’t grow legs. Sometimes I’m lazy. To pass the time I’ll take pictures. Here’s a funny sequence I got the other day. I had my phone propped on the window ledge and I was composing shots of this bougainvillaea draped wall when this dude ran past just as I pushed the button. I never saw him coming. I kind of like the shot. The sun on his backpack. where is he running all bundled up? The sky through the frame of his sunglasses. The right angle of his arm. The shot without him looks so empty. I’ll never know who this guy was.
Saturday morning is my day to sleep in. Burt leaves for tennis and I can do whatever I want. I read, I write, I practice. The big thing I do is I wash the dishes. It’s the only day of the week I am around without Burt. There’s no room for two to chore in this trailer. Burt gets to everything while I watch. Saturday he’s gone and I put my bug girl pants on and wash dishes. Then I go outside and do what really is a vile chore. I take a 3 gallon bucket and stick it under the gNask drain and bucket by bucket remove the previous week’s grey water and water our cactus garden. Grey water from the shower waters our figs trees two or three times a week. It’s nice and fresh and has some sand and soap. It smells good. Grey water from the trailer is fetid, foul, anaerobic rot. Bits of food, clumps of congealed grease, ants (from washing the hummingbird feeders) float out on top of a noxiously aromatic grey hued liquid. Flies swarm when I open the valve. Where are these flies are the other 6.5 days of the week? We do not have an overabundance of houseflies up here in the desert. They come and go. Allow the perfume of rotting food to waft from your environs and soon every puddle of grey water is covered with a blanket of flies. Where are they waiting? Do they have a schedule? It’s Saturday, I heard the lady on the hill empties her tank every Saturday, let’s go….On the upside the puddles rapidly sink into the ground and the food stuffs, while of sufficient amounts to disgust, are actually tiny motes that dry out and disappear. The flies leave within ten minutes of completing the chore. The smell dissipates soon after. The grey water is dispatched, the cacti are watered and the environment is one tiny bit conserved. It takes about twenty minutes to get 3-6 buckets of water out of the tank and distributed around the yard. Our aloe vera are busting moves all around. Some have baby plants sprouting from under their maternal arms and others are shooting up tall spikes of flowers. The cholla have doubled in size and have pretty buds on their tips.