Archive for March, 2011

Moving forward

There’s an old adage that says you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. So I took a little side trip on my way back to Tennessee from Louisiana yesterday and found the place where we lived when I was born.

1006 Edwards Street

For most folks, that’s not that hard to do. I remember as a child seeing a red shotgun house across the bayou from St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Schriever and hearing my dad say “That’s where your Uncle Red was born.” My dad has a picture of the house where he was born hanging on his living room wall.

Me? I came home from the hospital to a trailer in a town that we only lived in for 6 weeks before moving again.

I do remember the trailer. My parents have pictures of us in it while living in a variety of places. Our mobile home really was mobile. By the time we settled in Thibodaux when I was 7, I’d already lived in more than 20 states and 1 Canadian province, so I pretty much have my pick of places to visit to say “I used to live there.”

My old school in Murfreesboro is still here. I can show you my first-grade classroom if you ever come to visit. Our trailer park in Murfreesboro is  now the site of a Taekwondo shop that was a NAPA Auto Parts store during my first visit here as an adult in the 1980s.

But visiting that first place I lived on the planet had always eluded me. Until yesterday.

1006 Edwards Street. It’s not much of a place these days. Unlike most of the places where we lived when I was a child, this one’s still a trailer park. And if you can picture in your mind what a 54-year-old trailer park might look like, you’ll understand why I didn’t take any pictures inside the park. But they have a street sign, which is kind of neat and helps me tidy up things.

1006 Edwards Street. That’s the address on my birth certificate. It’s where my parents got the idea to use Edward as my middle name.

I’m going through some changes, a “life event” as they say in employer benefits enrollment lingo. Stopping by 1006 Edwards Street seemed like a great place to begin a new journey in my life.

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Sink outside the bowl

I read a story in the Nashville Business Journal this week about a company based here in Murfreesboro that has borrowed from a Japanese idea on how to reduce water use for everyday household functions. But whether Sink Positive could win me over remains to be seen.

The company has connected a lavatory faucet to the water fill valve on toilets, putting a small sink on the top of the tank. What this means is the water that’s used to flush the toilet can be used to wash your hands too.

In theory, it’s a great resource and space-saving idea. That’s important to people who plan to build tiny houses.

Putting the lavatory on top of the toilet would work fine in cramped quarters. Using “gray water” from the sink to flush the toilet is another great idea, especially if your water supply comes from a cistern or rain barrel.

But I see three major problems with the design:

  • You’re washing your hands with cold water. It may get the dirt off, but it doesn’t kill germs.
  • I’d have to straddle a toilet that I just used. I’m male, I’m nearsighted and I’m middle aged. Nuff said.
  • Sometimes I’m still sitting when I flush. The idea of water splashing on the back of my head doesn’t appeal to me.

I like the idea of using gray water to flush the toilet, though. So I’ll come up with another design when I build my cabin that allows me to use warm water at the sink.

What are your ideas?

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When you buy a new car, there’s always something you find after the sale that makes you say, “Why didn’t I check that out?” When your new car is a used car, the little things can multiply.

My 1999 Avalon

In my case, it was the fuel door. I meant to check it out before the sale, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. I think I was too busy making sure everything else worked, especially the door remote and the sunroof motor.

It wasn’t until after I wrote the check and was getting ready to pull out of the dealership that I realized my mistake.

As I was getting in the car, I glanced at the gas release lever on the floor near the seat. I pulled on the lever. Nada.

I held the lever up while the salesman pried the fuel door open with a key. “This is easy to fix,” he said. “Just spray a little WD40 on the switch and it will work fine.”

Had this conversation occurred before I wrote the check, I would have said, “Great. I’ll wait while you fix it.” But it didn’t. And the sale was “As Is, No Warranty.” Lesson learned.

One thing I learned in my short tenure in the locksmith business is that you never use WD40 on a locking mechanism. While that compound is great for busting loose a rusted nut from a bolt, it will gum up the works of any intricate system, such as a lock, in no time flat because it is a dirt magnet.

So I figured I’d use some Triflo teflon spray on it when I got home. No big deal. I have 2 cans of Triflo leftover from my locksmithing days. Except when I got home, I realized that the switch was working fine without the need for Triflo but the fuel door was missing a spring.

The first thing I did was go to Google to see how expensive this was going to be. (It wasn’t. I found a new one on eBay for $5.70 with shipping. )

Then I tried to find instructions. Google sucks if you’re looking for instructions. The best I could find was on a Toyota enthusiasts forum. It was a drawing from a Toyota service bulletin. (It appears that mine is not the only Avalon to have a fuel door issue.) And the writing was really tiny.

The part came in Thursday night and I changed it out this sunshiney morning. I thought I’d share how I did it so that if someone else tries to find instructions, I’ll make it easier on them than that teeny-tiney word drawing did for me.

This is the fuel door spring. Part No. 77360-33020

This is where the fuel door spring is supposed to be.

This is a closeup of where the spring goes. In my case, the spring portion of the part had broken off at some point.

Using the special fuel-door-spring-assembly removal tool, which I just happened to have in my tool box, I pried the old plastic part off the door. (Wear safety glasses when you do this. Please. You'll regret it of you don't.)

With the old part removed, close the fuel door about three quarters of the way. Snug the front hook of the new part over the metal tab in the door while you work the back tab on the part into the slot on the door hinge.

Once the tabs are in place, fully open the door and the part is snuggly in place.

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Talking on sunshine

I posted this on Facebook last spring and thought I’d post it here, in hopes that spring might take a hint and arrive early.

I charged my cell phone with sunlight today. I used a 12v 5w solar panel I bought for $20 at Harbor Freight a couple of years ago and hooked it up to an auxiliary power socket I bought at AutoZone for$10. I plugged in my DC phone cord and an hour later (including a nice 10 minute chat with Merrill) my battery was fully charged from the day before. We now have electricity where ever we go camping.:-)

I have since added a charge controller and a 12 amp-hour sealed 12v battery to the mix, which gives me cleaner electricity to charge things with. I’m trying to find the perfect carrying case for it all. When I do, I’ll post an update.

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What a week. I was heading home from the airport after a same-day round trip to North Carolina that started at 3 a.m. It was 7 p.m. and I was about a mile away from home when someone in the Kroger parking lot decided to shoot an imaginary gap in evening rush hour traffic.

I saw their headlights as they pulled out in front of a car that was turning. I swerved into the left lane and tried to avoid them, but their front end made contact with my rear quarter and suddenly I was spinning in front of 3 lanes of traffic going 45 mph.

The damaged Camry. Busted suspension, bent axle and banged up quarter-panel were enough for the insurance company to total it.

I came to a sudden stop on a hedgerow, right after I jumped the curb. I got out of my car just in time to see that the other car didn’t stop.

I wasn’t hurt and I have collision insurance. Thankfully, one of the cars next to me was a police officer from a nearby town. She kept other cars from hitting my car and got the local police to the scene quickly.

The next morning, I called my insurer and by 11 a.m., I was in  a rental car, heading for work.

On Wednesday, I learned that my axle was bent and the damage to the quarter panel was extensive. They wanted to total it based on what the tow truck driver told them. But I’m a stickler for protocol, so I requested that the adjuster actually go look at the car, so that we could make an informed decision. Push comes to shove, I can drive a dented car with a new rear axle, I told the guy.

He scheduled an inspection for Thursday and I started looking for my replacement options. I owned the Camry for a little more than 6 years. It had 80,000 miles on it when I bought it and together, we moved the odometer past 237,000 before the fatal punch to its rear side.

I’m not one of those folks who don’t believe in buying new cars. Truth be known, I love new cars. But I am working very hard to get out of debt as soon as possible, so I decided not to go for a new car right now.

I started at the dealer’s web site where I found the Camry 6 years ago (after another crash totaled my Corolla, but that’s a whole nuther story.) Sure enough, they had some older model cars, including a ’99 Avalon that looked to be in good condition.

I took the long way home on Wednesday night and ended up test driving the car. It’s black, where my Camry was dark blue. But it has the same interior color scheme as my Camry. The kicker is that Avalon is a luxury car, where my Camry was just a comfortable car. The Avalon has leather where the Camry had cloth.

The new Avalon

Long story short, I settled with the insurance company on Friday and bought the Avalon today. It has 160,000 miles on it but is in great condition. One owner, who even turned in the second set of keys (with the original key code tag on one set).

I’ll have to think a while to figure where the Sirius radio will go, but my TomTom GPS is already set up and  working fine. The other gadgets are in the car waiting their turn and once the weather clears tomorrow, the stuff that was in the trunk of my Camry will be in its new home in the Avalon.

Insurance covered half of the final price.  I added a little more to my total debt, but it will only affect cash flow by a small, manageable amount each month.

I was upset on Monday night and half the day on Tuesday. I still don’t understand how you punch into a speeding car and then just high-tail it without knowing whether you’ve hurt someone or not.

But anyone who knew me as a teen, knows I did a lot of stupid stuff to other people’s property, so I’ve moved on from the anger and hopefully karma and I are about even at this point.

In the end, I got a newer car than I had before. And I’m still on track to eliminate all debt by the end of next year.

So I’m back in the saddle again, looking forward to new adventures on the road.

Only this time, I have a sun roof.  🙂

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