November 2, 2005

It's Hot in the Hot Tub!

StephenA few months ago we went shopping for a hot tub but soon realized that they're an expensive item to purchase. So, I set up an RSS feed on Thunderbird to show me all the hot tubs for sale on I came across one tub that was at the side of a five million dollar home off of University Avenue in Palo Alto. It looked okay to me and I offered the guy $100 for it. I called a Spa Mover who I also found on craigslist to go and pick it up for $250. He went to the house but was not able to move the hot tub because the house was undergoing a renovation and there was a three foot deep trench travellling around the house and the tub. Mike the spa mover said it wasn't that great of a tub anyways. So, I told him I was looking for a used tub in good shape. He just so happened to have a Jacuzzi brand tub in his warehouse that someone was storing but did not pay the rent for storage. The person was unable to be contacted so he said I could buy the tub for $1000, pay for the storage fees outstanding of $250 and a delivery fee of $250. New about four years ago the tub was valued at about $8000. So, I went to the warehouse, checked out the tub and closed the deal. Mike delivered the hot tub a few days later and slid it down two by fours onto our back deck. Prepared as I usually am, I reinforced the deck over the summer with three more posts and beams; overkill for the weight of a hot tub. We purchased sixty feet of six guage wire, a fifty amp single pole breaker switch for the panel and a GFCI cutoff switch box to place five feet from the tub. So, Saturday morning I crawled under the house and ran the wire from the tub to the breaker panel. While in the crawl space after drilling holes to pass the wire through, I turned around on my belly and wacked my bald head on the corner of the galvanized cold air return duct. Ouch. I crawled out the darkness like a Marine at boot camp with rounds firing overhead. Blood was dripping down for forehead and I ran up to the washroom and yelled, "Need first aid!" to Sharon. After bandaging up my two one and a half inch gouges I went back to work and wired the tub up. I saved the breaker panel for last because it just made sense. In the past I've always been afraid of the panel, but on Saturday it all changed. Don't fear the panel. I shut off the big main breaker and all the power went off in the house. I shifted all the Zinsco breaker switches up and the 50 amp switch for the tub fit in the very last slot. I also replaced the only single 15 amp breaker with a new double one so if I have future electrical additions, I now have a free switch for it. I got it all wired up in about twenty minutes, turned on the main power and nothing exploded. This was good. We filled the tub and flicked on the cutoff switch and she started right up. Half of the jets were working so I went on and found out that sometimes air builds up in the pump and you have to bleed it out. I undid the skirt and bled the pump and the jets started working. Sweet. We followed the spa start up directions, added the bromine chemicals and started up the spa. I'm learning all about pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness. Our quality of life has increased at least ten fold. It feels like we are on vacation as the tub sits under a redwood grove. Perhaps the novelty will wear off in a couple of months, but for now we're having a lot of fun.

Posted by stephen at 8:21 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

Our Tree is Bigger than Your Tree

That's a big tree ya got there.I don't want to mention any names but one of our neighbors brought over a very large Christmas tree for us. After some trimming, it stood 16 feet tall. We wrestled it in through the side door and put it against the living room wall. Well after two nights we realized it was a bit too wide and it impeded the exit, in case of god forbid, a fire. So, after playing "Designer Guys" and rearranging the living room, the tree ended up in front of the window, thus giving us more room width-wise. David and Keiko, other neighbors, showed up at 6:14pm with enough sushi to sink a Japanese submarine. David forced me to drink a shot of Patrón and soon we were chopstickin' our way through rice wrapped eel and yelling Kampai! Sumo wrestling was unavoidable. More drinks were consumed and then I was on top of an 18 foot extended ladder mounting an angel, with a power cord coming out of her where the sun don't shine, to a 16 foot tree. The neighbors left because they had tree envy and the lovely Sharon and I resumed decorating the Mountain Charlie Tree with the lights, bulbs and ornaments from all of our travel destinations.

A few drinks later, I was up near the top hanging a red bow when the ladder fell off of the beam and fell into the tree with the window catching the tree, the ladder and myself. I clung to the ladder all puckered up screaming HEEEEELLLLP! I pulled the ladder off of the tree being careful not to step on a myriad of broken ornaments. As the tree propped itself back up I heard the tree's drink trickling down the furnace heat vent in the corner. I thought there must be some bad Karma associated with the tree that was given to us. Perhaps, you'll be seeing me volunteering at the St. Francis Soup Kitchen in Santa Cruz this holiday.
Public Service Announcment: Please don't drink and get on a ladder and decorate a 16 foot tree this holiday season. Later skater.

Posted by stephen at 8:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2004

Warming up the House

Today, Bogner Sheet Metal showed up at our house to start the installation of our new Trane propane furnace. It's going to take them about a week to complete. They are putting it into the crawl space under the house. This will free up the closet on the main floor that the old furnace was in. I plan to tear out the closet and open up the kitchen, doubling it's size. The ancient diesel/oil furnace that was in the house when we bought it was not up to code and it also had a crack in the combustion chamber causing an awful smell. We haven't used it since the summer when we ran out of fuel. I did some research and found out that our title insurance covers undisclosed items that were not permitted. After dealing with the county planning department and the title insurance company for two months, I finally won the claim and the insurance comany is paying for the new furnace installation which runs about $12,000. The catch is the deductable is $4750, but it's still a good deal. One of the issues of the new install is finding a place to put the cold air return duct. After talking with the project manager and learning about air flow and CFMs, I'm proposing we put it inside the lower kitchen cabinet with the grate opening on the wall on the back hallway. We're also adding extra heat vents to the office/bedroom, upstairs washroom and downstairs washroom in the guest bedroom. I've also obtained a 500 gallon propane tank. This is a big tank; most people have 250 gallons. My reasoning for the large size is to have the ability to purchase propane at a bulk rate in June during off-season when propane prices are low, and have enough gas to last all year. Owning your own tank is also a good thing because you can shop around for gas from suppliers without being locked into a contract. The large tank will also come in handy in the future when the stove is replace with a gas one. I also plan to switch the electric hot water tank to a propane powered hot water on demand unit resulting in power savings. By heating the house with the wood burning stove alone, we have almost burned through a cord of wood in three months. On really cold nights it just doesn't have the BTUs to warm the room. By next week that won't be a worry.

Posted by stephen at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 6, 2004

Mountain Livin'

It's raining. It's the rainy season. We are up to almost 1 inch per hour right now. This is northern California's version of snow in the winter. I do not miss the snow back in Canada one bit. Sure snow is nice once in a while, but I guess it's the freezing weather I do not miss. Neighbors have told me every 5 years or so we do get a little bit of snow up here in the Santa Cruz mountains, but it only lasts for 2 days. I find the pitter patter of the rain on the roof of our house to be quite relaxing. Cleansing. Looking out the windows at redwood trees with the fog floating around them is quite a sight. Late at night I put on my motorcycle rainsuit and Tilley hat and take Justice for a walk. It's so much fun for me but not Justice. She hates the rain. If you put her outside to do her business while it's raining, she'll just stand on the porch out of the rain. When you take her for her walk in the rain, she squints her eyes as the drops hit her face. She appears to be pissed off and would rather be sleeping in front of a warm fire. Maybe its time I invested in a doggie rainsuit. Our neighborhood is situated on the side of a hill so water flow and drainage is taken seriously because the rain can cause mudslides. This past week the road manager has put out sand bags in high flow areas so that the asphalt on our roads does not erode. Last February during a heavy rain, a redwood tree fell just down the road 100 yards taking out the power to our neighbor's house and blocking the roadway. I was at home at the time and heard it fall. I was suited up in no time with my chainsaw in hand ready to help. A group of guys in the park with help from a backhoe had the road cleared in an hour. With the rain, comes broken branches that take out powerlines. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) are usually slow to respond and we've gone a without power for over 16 hours a couple of times. We light up the candles and huddle around the wood burning stove. Moments later you hear some of the neighbors' generators start up and they run all night long. Although having a generator is a nice luxury to keep your fridge running, I find the power outages a nice break from modern technology. Waking up the next morning in a 55 degree house and jumping into a cold shower as I cuss like a longshoreman is quite an invigorating experience.

Posted by stephen at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack