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Phoenix

Underwhelming second half of a do-it-yourself summer

Underwhelming second half of a do-it-yourself summer

— I’m not really a do-it-yourselfer. I’m more of a don’t-do-it-at-aller, which is one of the reasons our home has maintained its timeless mid-1980s aesthetic. However, sometimes things get past the point of ignoring, and I either have to act or get someone else to act for me. About a month ago, I could smell a musty odor coming from under the kitchen sink. The faucet itself was leaking, not any of the shutoff valves or other plumbing.
Golden sunrise while hiking at Shaw Butte

Golden sunrise while hiking at Shaw Butte

— After the sun reaches a certain point in the sky, I usually don’t even bother trying to take sunrise photos. Direct sunlight tends to expose the imperfections in the lens of my low-budget smartphone. However, this photo from my hike at Shaw Butte over the weekend came out better than expected. You may have already seen it, since I posted in on my social networking account Sunday morning. This past weekend was the first time I’ve done any real hiking in Phoenix since the beginning of summer.
Heartfelt welcome back to tooth number 14

Heartfelt welcome back to tooth number 14

— For roughly thirteen months, there’s been a hole in my mouth where tooth number 14 was supposed to be. Earlier this week, I received the crown for my implant, finally finishing the job of refilling the hole. An implant isn’t necessarily supposed to take over a year. Based on what I understand, though, it also shouldn’t be rushed. Spending a little extra time after the extraction to wait for the bone in the jaw to set is a good thing.
Ramping up the Camino prep

Ramping up the Camino prep

— Now that I’ve been home from Mexico City for almost a week, I’ve begun ramping up my preparations for the Camino de Santiago, which I anticipate starting just after Easter. Specifically, I’ve been hiking more. Although I want to work out my walking muscles and increase my stamina, I’m not trying to create a typical week of hiking — partly because I have other things to do while I’m home, and partly because I don’t want to leave everything on the hills near Phoenix and not have anything left for the Camino.
Sunrise selfie

Sunrise selfie

— Notwithstanding the nasty weather in Phoenix earlier this week, it’s hiking season here again, at least for me. I like to start my hikes really early in the morning. I don’t wait for dawn. I prefer to get underway at the beginning of civil twilight. Sometimes I start even before that. One of the great things about getting an early start is seeing a sunrise along the way. On a recent hike at Shaw Butte a couple weekends ago, the sun was just coming over the horizon at the same time I was reaching the high point of my trail.
Car is in the shop today, so I’m using public transit

Car is in the shop today, so I’m using public transit

— Most days I drive myself to work in my own vehicle. As much as I’d like to take public transit and let someone else do the driving, it’s not practical in my situation. As much as I complain about my commute, it’s only about an hour and 20 minutes round trip. If I were to take public transit, it would be an hour and 45 minutes each way. That’d be two hours and 10 minutes more time spent commuting every single day.
3:10 to Yuma: Does someone at American Airlines have a sense of humor?

3:10 to Yuma: Does someone at American Airlines have a sense of humor?

— I just got a text from a friend who’s waiting for a connecting flight at Sky Harbor Airport here in Phoenix. The flight he’s waiting for is — I’m not kidding — the 3:10 to Yuma. Even though I’ve never read the short story nor seen either of the film adaptions, the reference wasn’t lost on me. It seems someone at American Airlines might have a sense of humor. Furthermore, in case you’re tempted to think the 3:10 departure time to Yuma is merely a coincidence, they went ahead and numbered the flight 3100 too.
Subtle but shameless promotion finally pays off

Subtle but shameless promotion finally pays off

— Most of my traveling bags are of the type with loop-and-hook fasteners for patches. Most people who own bags like these, if they don’t put a “morale” patch of some sort, put a tape with their last names. For several years, I’ve been taking a different approach. I display a patch with the domain name of my blog. Earlier this morning, I began my trip back to Phoenix. While I was waiting for my Chick-fil-A order at the airport in Pittsburgh, a guy introduced himself to me and showed me what was on his phone.
My customary airport rant has been canceled for lack of outrage

My customary airport rant has been canceled for lack of outrage

— This is the point in my travels where I usually go on a rant about the TSA. Today, I can’t. Every TSA agent I interacted with today was pleasant, courteous, and professional. I’ve heard and read a number of horror stories about checking in firearms at the airport, concerning both the airlines and TSA. This was my first time, so I prepared myself for the worst. I didn’t have a problem from either American Airlines or TSA.
The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

— After fifteen days in Montpellier, France, our long journey home to Phoenix is underway. The upside of getting an early start is not having to rush. The downside is a lot of time spent waiting. We unwittingly arrived at the airport an hour before check-in was scheduled to begin for our flight to Paris. We used the time to enjoy a coffee and the sandwiches Kathryn made us last night from food we otherwise would have had to throw out.
Cookies and our breaking points

Cookies and our breaking points

— If you’re reading this, we’ve safely landed in Detroit. I’ve never been to this airport before, but I hear it’s nice. I’ll report back when I’ve had a chance to look around. In the past, I’ve had a difficult time sleeping on airplanes. However, on the flight from Phoenix, I was asleep before we pushed back from the gate. I slept for well over an hour. I woke up feeling great, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the two tall beers I had at the airport.
Bags packed, ready to go

Bags packed, ready to go

— Kathryn and I were up and at ’em early this morning to start our long trip from Phoenix to Montpellier, although compared to our normal weekday schedules, it was like we slept in. Even after a couple leisurely cups of coffee, we finished our last minute chores way ahead of schedule. We’ll leave for the airport in about two hours, giving Kathryn extra time to say goodbye to the cat. We’ve arranged a petsitter who will be here the entire time we’re gone, so the cat will be well cared for.
Saying goodbye and good riddance to tooth number 14

Saying goodbye and good riddance to tooth number 14

— Two weeks ago, I arrived bright and early at my dentist’s office for what was supposed to be a routine crown replacement on tooth number 14. It didn’t go quite as planned. In a mouth full of otherwise relatively healthy teeth, tooth number 14, a molar on the upper left side, has been nothing but trouble ever since it first poked through my gum line. When I was a teenager, it was always one of the teeth most prone to cavities.
Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris

— Today is Ash Wednesday. It falls relatively late this year, March 6, as Easter will not arrive until April 21 for those of us in the Western churches. For me, Ash Wednesday also means it’s time for a rare selfie. This one is quite a disappointment compared to last year’s. Even after a lot of tinkering with the contrast and exposure, the ashes disappeared into my hairline. I knew I should have gotten a haircut yesterday.
The maiden voyage of my parents’ new motor home, Eloy, Arizona

The maiden voyage of my parents’ new motor home, Eloy, Arizona

— The maiden voyage of my parents’ new motor home last weekend was a smashing success, even though everything seemed to be working against us, at least at first. Friday was a miserable day weather-wise, at least by Arizona standards. Cold and wet are not two words one often uses to describe the weather in this state, but last week was both. The drive to the campsite involved several downpours. Luckily we weren’t heading north, as there was snow falling at the higher elevations.
Trying something new, Mexican coffee at Tres Leches Café in Phoenix

Trying something new, Mexican coffee at Tres Leches Café in Phoenix

— Every once in a while, I find myself trying something at a place that’s been right under my nose for years. Earlier this week, I had a meeting at my church to go over some volunteer paperwork. The time between leaving work and my appointment was about an hour, which is about 40 minutes longer than the drive. I got on Google Maps and searched for coffee shops near the church, and one of the most highly rated was about two blocks from the church.
A tasty first order with GrubHub at Caveman Burgers in Phoenix

A tasty first order with GrubHub at Caveman Burgers in Phoenix

— Last weekend I tried GrubHub for the first time. I thought I’d share some initial impressions. You may wonder why a guy like me who literally never has food delivered to his home would go through the trouble of installing the GrubHub app on his phone, creating an account, and so on. Well, during a review of my American Express account last week, I was reminded that one of my card benefits is a $10 monthly dining credit.
Flight delayed out of Louisville, prompting a dubious American Airlines “upgrade”

Flight delayed out of Louisville, prompting a dubious American Airlines “upgrade”

— We’re still in Louisville. Our American Airlines flight to Chicago has been delayed, guaranteeing we’ll miss our connection to Phoenix. There is a later flight to Phoenix, and we were able to get seats on it, so I guess that’s a good thing. However, American Airlines is playing a game they already played with us once on this trip, which is to separate our assigned seats in such a way that one of us has to pay a seat upgrade fee if we want to sit together.
Starting the trip off right, sort of, with donuts and coffee

Starting the trip off right, sort of, with donuts and coffee

— In some sense, our four-day weekend to Kentucky has already begun. We’ve left the house, but we both still have to put in a half-day at work. Since I can literally see Sky Harbor Airport from my cubicle — if I’m standing up, that is — it doesn’t make much sense to return home before our flight. To avoid using both cars when we’re traveling to the same destination, Kathryn dropped me off at a donut shop near a light rail station near her place of work.
Think you’ve imagined the perfect New Year’s Eve?

Think you’ve imagined the perfect New Year’s Eve?

— If you could spend New Year’s Eve anywhere in the world, where would it be? Until yesterday, the plan for Kathryn and me was to ring in the new year around a propane fire at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona, enjoying a quiet evening to ourselves, drinking some beers with starlit skies above us. However, as the date drew nearer, we saw the temperatures were forecast to be unseasonably cold, with snow also a distinct possibility.
Getting ready to leave paradise for two weeks

Getting ready to leave paradise for two weeks

— Listening to the radio on my way to work this morning, I heard the weather forecast for the coming weekend in Phoenix: sunny with highs around 80 degrees. Turns out that’s more or less the forecast for the following seven days too. Sounds like paradise. Too bad Kathryn and I won’t be around to enjoy it. Instead, we’ll be in northeastern Massachusetts for the next two weeks, where the highs will be closer to 50 degrees, with rain in the forecast for three of the next five days.
Sunday morning sunrise hike at Pima Canyon in Phoenix

Sunday morning sunrise hike at Pima Canyon in Phoenix

— Kathryn has been petsitting for the past ten days or so at a home in another part of Phoenix, about a thirty-mile drive south from our own home in Phoenix. Last night we spent the night there together and woke up in time for a sunrise hike at nearby Pima Canyon, an area in the South Mountain Preserve. It was a relatively easy yet enjoyable hike. We started at first twilight at the Pima Canyon Trailhead and walked up the Dirt Road Trail until it ended.
Surprisingly, a sunrise hike in Phoenix never gets old for me

Surprisingly, a sunrise hike in Phoenix never gets old for me

— It’s getting to be about that time of year again, where every weekend hike in Phoenix could be my last before October. On those hot Phoenix summer weekend mornings where the outside temperature is 90 degrees before I’ve finished brewing my coffee, I don’t hike. I either go to the gym or, more often, stay home and get fatter. This morning, however, was a May blessing. It was about 70 degrees when I woke up, falling to about 68 degrees before I left the house.
A demanding Labor Day weekend in Ahwatukee

A demanding Labor Day weekend in Ahwatukee

— Kathryn and I tend to be somewhat contrarian in our getaway planning. We’re often home when everyone else is away and away when everyone else is home. This Labor Day weekend is no exception. While millions of families have taken to the road to enjoy the last long weekend of summer, Kathryn has a petsitting gig in Ahwatukee, a village at the southern end of Phoenix. Although we haven’t technically left Phoenix, we’re a thirty-mile drive from home.
Sunday morning hike at Shaw Butte, Phoenix

Sunday morning hike at Shaw Butte, Phoenix

— We’ve had a relatively wet winter this year in Phoenix, and the desert vegetation is greener than I’ve seen it in a long time. Kathryn and I went out yesterday morning for a routine exercise hike at Shaw Butte, and she couldn’t help but grab some photos on the hike back down. (Photo: KG7NRB) The camera is facing roughly north-east, as the 7 am shadows attest. Our home is somewhere among the suburbia in the top-left quadrant of the photo.
Credit where due at Sky Harbor, particularly to TSA

Credit where due at Sky Harbor, particularly to TSA

— We’re at the airport in Phoenix, and it’s time to give some credit where it’s due. First, when we arrived at the self check-in kiosk, we got a message telling us we were misconnected at Salt Lake City. The Delta personnel who resolved the situation were patient and friendly. After having the agent check several alternate routes, we’re back on the same route with a shorter-than-normal layover. Apparently the minimum is supposed to be 30 minutes; we’ll have 27.
Waiting on an arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Terminal 4

Waiting on an arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Terminal 4

— I’m at Sky Harbor for a little while this afternoon, waiting to pick up my aunt arriving from New England. Terminal 4 has seen some vast improvements in its food selection over the past several years, but I’m seldom here long enough to enjoy them. Many of the national chains have been replaced by local vendors, and the overall quality of the offerings has increased as a result. However, a number of the new restaurants seem to be fighting for the pretentious armchair foodie demographic, and that’s disappointing for a guy who just wants a coffee and a muffin after eight hours in the salt mines.
How to order coffee at McDonald’s in Phoenix

How to order coffee at McDonald’s in Phoenix

— I like drinking coffee. I enjoy eating fast food. I live in Phoenix. You might be inclined to think I’d be a master at ordering a cup of coffee in a local McDonald’s. You’d be mistaken. Years ago, it wasn’t such a challenge. I’d visit a McDonald’s and ask for a small coffee. I’d get a Styrofoam cup with brewed coffee. I’d then turn around and find the condiment station, which would have the creamers and sweeteners and those cool plastic stirrers with the arches on the handles.
Dazzo’s in Wikieup, Chicago hot dogs halfway from Phoenix to Las Vegas

Dazzo’s in Wikieup, Chicago hot dogs halfway from Phoenix to Las Vegas

— Roughly halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas is a place — I hesitate to call it a town — called Wikieup. It’s a perfect spot to stop for a bathroom break and a bite to eat. On previous trips, we’ve often stopped at the Wikieup Trading Post. They make a pretty mean patty melt. The problem is that it became played out for us, stopping the same place every time. That, and the fact their bathrooms are beyond disgusting.
Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary

Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary

— When we first started planning a trip to Pennsylvania that would continue on to Europe, I wasn’t really sure how to go about booking the airfare. Normally when I travel to Europe, I buy a round-trip ticket, and that’s the end of the story. Since I live in Phoenix, I usually have to connect somewhere, often Philadelphia, and it’s not a problem. One time several years ago, I flew to London on Icelandair and decided to stay in Reykjavik for several days.