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Covered in mud and bird poo - My car arrives safely


Rain storms came through this weekend, the first time since I arrived in Quito.  The storm clouds could be seen coming off the mountains to the east.  The cloudbursts were dramatic and amazing as I watched them roll in from the safety of my patio windows.  

As the subject line states, I was reunited with my truck on Wednesday.  I've adjusted to life without it, but it's great to have it back. Several people have offered to chauffeur me around, and I've also used cabs when needed.  But nothing can replace the freedom of getting to know the city while driving your own vehicle.  Lucia will get a nice change as well, since we can drive to distant parks instead of limiting our walks to the nearest one.

The FJ is well suited for the hilly driving in Quito. Many of the side streets have pavers vs. asphalt or concrete.  So the ride can be a little bumpy for a sedan or other low clearance vehicle.  However, there's plenty of economy sized vehicles traveling the city streets.  And the cost for imports is very high.  I've heard new vehicles can cost twice as much as you'd pay in the States or other countries, even higher if you're talking about high end luxury vehicles.

One of the first things I've had to get use to is parking in my residence's parking garage.  The height and turning radius inside the garage makes driving the FJ feel like I'm a gopher burrowing into its hole.  

Speaking of new things arriving-

Everyone told me that the speed of shipments have improved over the last few years.  Here's how my personal timeline shaped up for my vehicle (POV), unaccompanied air baggage (UAB), and household effects (HHE).  Everything was shipped from Virginia during the week of July 10.  Everything was staged in Miami, Florida for shipment to the coastal city Guayaquil, Ecuador.  From there it comes over land to the capital city.

Here's how long it took everything-

UAB - < 21 days

POV -  35 days

HHE - arrived in Guayaquil Aug-17, a week to 10 days for Customs clearance to Quito

I'm hopeful I'll see the HHE before the labor day weekend.  Fingers crossed.

¿Por qué mi café está frío?

"Why is my coffee cold?"

I pour a fresh cup of hot java, take a sip, then set it aside for a few minutes.  The next time I take a sip, there's a noticeable drop in the coffee temp.  I'm a fast coffee drinker normally, so I was at a loss until someone explained what was happening.  

At higher elevations, water starts to boil at lower temperatures.  This is due to the decrease in atmospheric pressure the higher you are in the world.  At sea level, water boils at 212°F.   But at 7500 ft, it boils at 198°F.   Water starts to boil for me at 195°F, since I'm a little higher at 9100 ft.  So with cooking you have to compensate for the lower boiling temp by increasing your cooking time and not the cooking temp.  You can't increase water's boiling temperature, unless you use a pressure cooker.  So if you try increase cooking temps, you'll just boil away water faster and dry out what's being cooked.  I noticed this cooking with chicken.  The meat dried out quickly and I should have covered the dish in the oven to retain the moisture.

So my high altitude coffee never gets as hot as it could if made at sea level, thus it will reaches room temperature faster than a sea-level coffee since it's coming down from it's boiling point of 195 vs sea level's 212.

Speaking of coffee, I'd like to end with a nice graphic from Coffee for Less.






Project Underground: Accomplished!

Version 3

The entire project has taken over two years to complete but it was well worth it.  The hardest part was the just gutting the basement, letting contractors replace the water displacement system (sump pump and drainage), and then waiting a year before I did any construction to see if water still found it's way into the rooms.

The actual construction took about 14 months. 

Looking back the basement went through many different looks.  It started with the original finished basement with horrible carpet, no insulation, bad plumbing runs, a sump pump pit in the main room, and multiple leaks.

After a few major rainstorms and the loss of power several times, my sump pump just wasn't able to keep up. I knew I had to decide if I was going to redo the basement or give up and just use it as an unfinished basement.  I went with the former and hired contractors to cut up the perimeter of the interior floor, replace the drainage tubing, and move my sump pit.  (See eariler posts)

Jump to a year or so later, and I began the long road towards finishing the basement.  With B's help, I hired plumbers to replace the poor pipe runs that were always in the way.   Next came the carpenters to put up the framing around the rooms.  B and I worked on the electrical after that.  Then along came drywalling. I still have visions of drywall dust lingering everywhere.  Actually, I think I'm still finding places in the house where dust came from the basement.

Then the real fun began with the brick walls, ceramic floor tiles, glass tile back splash, and dri-core flooring projects.  After that, painting began and the light of the end of the tunnel was starting to show.  Next came the engineered hardwood flooring, wall trim, and actually putting all the light fixtures, electrical covers, and final touches into place.

It wasn't until the final weeks of putting in the flooring and touching up the paint that I realized how much work it took to remodel a basement.  My back still shudders at the labor that went into it.  Now when I see drywall waiting to be installed, I can help be think of all the sanding I had to do for mine.

Here's the before shots of the stairway, bar area, and back room when they were completely gutted.  Check out the ugly carpet on the stairs. That use to cover the whole floor.   

So happy that it's finished and I wouldn't change a thing.  And a huge Thanks go out to B and N for all the support and help.  I couldn't have done it on my own.

  Master 001  

Master 002 

Master 006

Master 009



Project Underground: There's something on the wing!

All your base belong to dust
You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of shoe molding and pneumatic-nailers but of miter saws.  A journey into a wondrous land whose baseboards are that of imagination. That's the sawhorse up ahead-your next stop, the Perimeter Zone!

Baseboards are something I take for granted until they start to show wear and tear.  When I started thinking about what to put in the basement, I had to look at what was already installed in the rest of the house to remember what I actually had.  The kind above came from Home Depot.

It took a little practice but pretty soon I had coping and miter cuts down, along with figuring out how to transitions trim over different floor heights. I had a bit of a floor drop along one wall, consisting of a tile and hardwood floors.  And another more radical change between the last step and my hardwood.  I like showing the transition.  Here's an example of how the cuts are made..

Baseboard miter cuts

Finished baseboard 1
Finished baseboard 2
So if you get the cracks just right, they'll be hidden with a little help from Spackle and paint. 

The inner and out corners were a little tricky.  But once I figured out how to do coping cuts for inner corners, it looked a lot better than trying to adjust a miter cut for a corner that wasn't perfectly square.  Here's someone else (HomeAdditionsPlus) showing how to make the cuts on YouTube. 

Unfortunately, you can't cut the outer corners like that.  I used a simple carpenter's protractor to measure the outer corner and divided the total to get the miter angle I needed.Protractor

All in all, I hadn't realized it was going to take a week just to run all the trim around the floor.  But after learning a few new tricks, I'm happy with the results. The dog on the other hand, she's just happy the floors are clean again.

Baseboard completed

Project Underground: splitting stairs

The day finally came for me to hand over my project to a third party contractor.  Instead of taking it one step at a time, I decided to have them do all twelve. (Ba-dum-bump..crash)

So I go from this fine pine leftover staircase with temporary landing...



To this...  Finished stairs 1
And these stalworth but ugly steps to...


Finished stairs 2

I know what you're thinking.  Why is there a half wall of brick ramming this man's staircase?  Unfortunately, my sewer outlet pipe runs through it.  It's a bit off putting but after I finish the top of the half wall, it'll looks better.  And from the side as you look at the brick, it's worth it.

After the contractor finished the landing, I could see it wasn't exactly square.  So instead of shimming it out to square, the contractor just installed the hardwood.  So now the landing looks a little crooked if you look at it long enough. bummer..  But I did catch the contractor trying to install god awful brackets on the side. 

The brackets cover the profile of each tread and riser. (Note the gap for the last 5 steps in the picture above)  So with a little advice from B, I used my router and fabricated these.  Each step was not exactly the same height or length so it was truly a custom job.  I'm pretty happy with the results.