Friday, 30 November 2012

The left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing

We are so close to finishing the reno that we can taste it. But "close" and "finished" aren't the same thing. Today was one of those days that really demonstrated how far apart these two things are.

Our floor installation was finished earlier this week, and it looks great.
As the grout is still being cleaned up
On Wednesday, the dishwasher and fridge were delivered.
Dishwasher slid into space
Miele delivered the dishwasher within the 3 hr window they promised, brought it into the kitchen, unpacked it and took away the packing materials.

Canmore Courier were 4 hours late delivering the fridge (bringing it at 6 PM), delivered the 350 lb monster with one guy and no dolly (meaning they couldn't get it off the truck without my help), and struggled to get it into the garage on the palate jack because the thing was too tall to fit under the garage door. Thursday AM, two of my contractor dudes arrived, and it took almost an hour for the three of us to grunt it into the kitchen, where we could unpack it. I asked if they were installing it. Nope, they answered. Beyond their capabilities. "Someone else" was installing it.
Ready to be moved into place
Today was one of those days where you learn there is no such person as "somebody". My contractor thought our kitchen dudes were putting the fridge in place. The kitchen dudes arrived today and said they had expected the fridge to have been fully put in place by "somebody", ready for front panels. The kitchen dudes wanted to put the panels on the dishwasher, too, but were also expecting "somebody" to have put it in place already. Getting it "in place" meant having the electrical dudes wire in connections for it, and plumber dudes connecting the water and drains, neither of which was done. So Friday was a mess of phone calls, finger pointing and recriminations among unhappy worker dudes about which "somebody" was supposed to have done what when, and why it wasn't their fault. I missed most of it; I was skiing. KC took the brunt of the unpleasant conversations.

However, they did install the missing cabinet...
In place
...the sink and taps...
It works, and we're using it!
...and the panel on the not quite installed dishwasher.
About the black bit on the bottom...
But in happiness comes sadness. Three months ago, we bought an instant on hot water tap. Today, they tried (and failed) to install it. It doesn't fit our layout. Whoops. So now not only do we have a tap system we can't use (and don't have a receipt to take back), we need to rush order a new one.

The hood fan is supposed to be installed Saturday, the backsplash Monday, the final electrical Monday...

...but at this moment, a 350 lb. fridge sits in the middle of my kitchen, and no one has established which "somebody" is supposed to install it.
Looks lonely

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

He's back!

Look who was in my backyard today!
What does he see? 
Skulking on the fence 
The endless search for mice 
Very cute
He stayed on the north side of our house, jumping between our yard and the neighbours. If he heads south, he's in trouble just like he was last time.

Not 2 minutes after he left, a squirrel showed up. Brave of him.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

More on the Reno Progress

The tiles that were supposed to arrive Wednesday now won't be here until first thing Friday. Gotta love Canmore time.

The kitchen dudes came back yesterday to go through the "but" list of items yet to be done. During the inspection, a bunch of little buts were squared away. They found two doors that weren't constructed properly (one is warped, one has a delaminated section) that will be replaced.

You may recall I mentioned here that we had blown the design of the wine cupboard by making it have a capacity of at least 72 bottles (fill it up and it would have pulled off the wall). That was our fault, not theirs. Well, we mentioned it to the kitchen dudes and they suggested we just pull the X out of the cabinet, and make a new one out of 2 shelves. We thought that could be a challenge, but turns out the X is held in only with 1 small pin, because its designed to jam in the box. About 2 minutes of wiggling and the X came out.
...and after
As I mentioned, the heating pads and floor leveling was done last week while we were away...
You can make out the wire pattern
...and the pot lights were installed in the ceiling.
Lights in. Pendant drops moved, too
So now the tiling will start tomorrow, maybe, if the tiles arrive.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Home, but...

We arrived home from Maui late in the afternoon last Friday, and it has been not stop craziness since we landed. Some brief updates, with more details (and photos) to follow:

The Reno

Just before we got home, they installed most of the lights so now we can see in the dark (though it took us until Monday to figure out that the switches worked). They also put down the in-floor heating and levelled the floor, with the intention of laying down the floor tiles starting first thing Monday. Our floor tiles arrived while we were away. We picked them up and, on Sunday night (mostly by flashlight), started testing out the tile pattern we worked up. But something just didn't seem right to KC. In the daylight first thing Monday morning, KC figured it out: we had the correct tile shape but the wrong tile colour. The installer arrived about 10 minutes after we figured this out. Panic call to tile supplier; new tiles should arrive Wednesday, and the installer will come by Thursday to start. Update: In typical Canmore time fashion, the tiles did NOT arrive by close of business Wednesday. No Thursday install. Now maybe a Friday install start. Maybe.

On the bright side, we found out tile pattern we designed on paper wouldn't have worked anyway.

Appliances, we were told, could be delivered any time. We called to make the delivery arrangements, and learned that, more accurately, the appliances can be delivered any time so long as its a Wednesday. So they will come on the 28th, after which the last of the rest of the stuff can be done. We might -- just might -- be finished by Nov 30.

Other Stuff

We flew in Friday night. I worked as a SnowHost on Saturday, which you can read about on my other blog here. There's something inherently psychotic about being in Maui and +28° one day, and skiing 2 days later at -8°.

Sunday we spent all day in a season wrap up session of the Bow Valley Stewards. That's the group where we plant plants (or rip up plants) or do other "stuff" to enhance wildlife habitat in the Bow Valley. Great talk on the white nose syndrome that's killing North American bats.

Monday, I had two meetings. The first was with the MD about our condo complex, associated with land we own that is affected by the annoying development that's going up the other side of the creek that we don't like and have been trying to stop. Then the Condo Board -- of which I am Chair -- had an impromptu discussion on the upcoming budget that lasted an hour.

The second meeting was with the Trails Coordinator of the Friends of Kananaskis, the non-profit who's Board of Directors I am on. We talked mostly website development and IT stuff.

Tuesday, we had to get snow tires installed on both our cars. Then I had a Friends Board meeting in Calgary, plus a meeting with a website designer. It was a joyous hour long commute through a raging snowstorm to get to the meeting, and another one to get home -- so it's a really, really good thing we got the tires on.

And you thought retirement was sitting around with your feet up.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New Maui hike at Kahakapao

Always on the lookout for new stuff to do here, I got wind last week of a "new" upcountry hike that has opened up on the hillside above Makawao. An article then appeared in the local paper talking of a lost hiker rescued up there, which confirmed it existed. A bunch of 'net searching and I found info on the Kahakapo Trail in the Makawao Forest Reserve. After visiting the bird sanctuary the other day (which is in the same vicinity), we went to find the place.

Like most trails on Maui, finding the trailhead is a pain in the butt. See below for directions.

I looked hard on line for trail maps of the place. I liked this sketch map a lot, but it's wrong. Wrong as in nonsense. Wrong as in "missing a ton of trails". Wrong as in "not even nearly to scale". I found a site where someone took that wrong map and superimposed it on the sat image of the area. Really bad.

But I did find an real Division of Lands and Natural Resources map of the "official" trail, and enough info to tell me it was a 5.6 mile (10 km) loop that gained 800 ft (250 m). Looking at the official map you can see how bad the sketch map is.

So off we went. Initially, we weren't planning on doing the whole thing. But it's such an easy hike, we were able to walk it in 3 hrs. Here's our GPS track set in Google Earth.
The big picture 
Zoomed in
It's not that interesting a hike. There's no birds to speak of, native or otherwise. There's nothing to see and no consequential views. The west side of the loop and the top half of the east side are just lots of eucalyptus trees.
The "road" at the start
There's a few koa trees, the odd native fern. Low down on the east side, you walk through a native fern grove.
Lots 'o ferns
The "lower east side" also has monoculture pine forests...
Pines with no understory
...and Cook Island pine forests. The main trail is really well marked and impossible to lose. So as I said, it's really blah hiking and not worth it as a hike. Except...

Since I have started to volunteer with folks who build trails for hikers and mountain bikers, I pay attention to trail design. This is one beautifully built trail. You climb 800' but you can't tell you're doing it. You zig and zag, and wander seemingly aimlessly but purposely. The climb is never tiring, though eventually you catch on to the fact that you could just shortcut most of the zigs on... amazingly well designed set of mountain bike trails. The main hiking trail has an easy enough grade to ride up for anyone, and the west side of the loop has just an incredible maze of beautifully designed single track downhill specific mountain bike trails.
Technical swirls in a natural gully
This whole place is trail art. The mountain bike trails flow with the land. The main loop trail was built in 2010 by the Na Ale Hale trails group and the Sierra Club, but the mountain bike trails were added by the Maui Mountain Bike Alliance. They did an awesome job.

And it's been successful. Despite limited info and practically no directions or signage, this is the first trail I've ever been on in Maui that's busy. Busy as in at least 20 vehicles in the parking lot, more than a dozen bikers and handful of hikers on a Saturday afternoon.

If you're a mountain biker, you gotta try this. If you're a hiker, I still recommend the Waikoa Loop Trail off Waianapanapa Road for better birds, views and a cloud forest.

Finding the place:

This link will highlight the route for you on a map.

Go into Makawao to the 4 way stop. Head towards Haiku on Makawao Road. In about half a mile, turn right onto Piholo Road (just past the church, school and cemetery). Just over a mile up the road, veer onto your first left (Waiahiwi Rd) where you will see your first little brown sign for the Makawao Forest Reserve (as in the rest of Maui, there's little itty bitty brown and yellow signs that point the way to the trailhead -- when they put them up and they don't get wrecked). Wiggle your way along this road for a quarter mile, past Ehu Rd., and turn right onto Kahakapao Road (no signage here at all). Follow the road uphill, and arrive at a gate with a bunch of trail signs. This gate is locked at sunset. Drive through the gate, and go very, very slow from here on. Between here and the parking lot 1 mile ahead are 4 wickedly deep, car eating drainage channels crossing the road (like upside down speed bumps). Unless you have a truck, creep over them slowly at an angle and you should be OK (my Ford Focus made it fine). Park in a well marked gravel lot.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Zip, zip, zippin'

My daughter was here for a week on Maui with us (starving new grads never turn down free accommodation, even employed ones). We took her on a snorkel boat trip to the Kanaio Coast and Molokini, and got to drift snorkel the back wall of Molokini. You're in ~300' of water with ~150' visibility, and you get to see the wall of coral disappear down into the depths. It's VERY cool.

But not, apparently, cool enough for her. Neither was blasting around at 40 kts on the speed boat we used to visit the place. No, on Wednesday, she said she wanted to go ziplining, and not just on any zip line, but on the Flyin' Hawaiian Zipline, featuring the 3rd longest single zipline in the world. As would any dad hoping to buy her affections, I said I would join her.

The line runs above the two golf courses on the north side of the central valley. They start you with a short little 200' line to practice positions.
One has landed. Another is on the line.
Then the first main line is a little 2,600' sucker that gets you going ~85 km/hr (according to my GPS).
My daughter blasts off with screams
The next one is ~2,100' and I peaked out at 91 km/hr. The next is 2,500'.
More screams
Around here I figured I could hold my camera and make a movie (while going 60 km/hr).
More lines came, including one you could ride backwards.
Ready, and... while hanging upside down.
If I could film me, I could film my daughter. Love her landing.
All roads lead to the monster. The last line is a whopping 3,600'. That's 1.09 km. You can barely make out the end from the starting platform.
Ready to launch. The end is over by the road in the distance 
Flyin' Hawaiian
I did it too. Here's my landing.
Along the way, you get bi-costal views.
Here's the route as seen in Google Earth.
The lines are numbered
When I dropped her at the airport, I asked what her best thing was while on the island. Was it my cooking? No. Was it the great beach time? No. Was it the beautiful sunsets? No. Was it the killer boat trip and snorkeling with turtles? No.

It was the Flyin' Hawaiian Zipline.

Really, really rare Maui birds

We have been up in the Olinda area several times, and have passed the (never open) Maui Bird Conservation Centre every time. We always wondered what went on in there. We drove by it last week and saw a sign announcing an Open House for this weekend, so we signed up for a tour and went for a visit.

Turns out the place is affiliated with the San Diego Zoo, and while not generally open to the public, hosts lots of school kids. It used to be a prison, and the re-purposing of the facility is pretty cool. They used to breed the Nene, a native goose that, in 1952, was down to a population of 30.
Apparently descended from the Canada Goose about 500,000 years ago
Now there's about 1,800 of them, and the captive breeding program has stopped.

Now the Centre's principal captive breeding focus are 3 birds, the 'Alala (the Hawaiian Crow), the Maui Parrotbill and the Puaiohi (a thrush from Kaua'i).

In 1997, the global population of the 'Alala was about 20 birds. They are officially extinct in the wild. Today, they're up to ~118, about 1/3 of which are in a breeding program at the Centre, the rest of which are in a sister facility on the Big Island.
Rare crow dude
They have one crow here who likes to imitate humane speech, and he's quite funny, even though he doesn't really "say" anything -- but it sounds like it.

The Maui Parrotbill still lives in the wild, but is critically endangered in that there's fewer than 500 of them, and they all live in two small bits (a total of only ~5,000 acres) of rainforest on the wet side of Haleakela.
Love the beak
The Centre has about a dozen birds for breeding purposes.

The last dude isn't as cute, but he's just as endangered. The only ~200 wild Puaihoi live in a swamp on Kaua'i.
One of a few in the centre 
Kinda drab for a tropical bird
Note the fine mesh on the cages. Turns out one of the biggest killers of all three of these birds is avian malaria, transmitted by mosquitos (which are not native to Hawai'i, but are here in abundance up to ~4,000' ASL). But all three of these guys have lost most of their habitat, get predated by introduced things for which they have no defense, and generally are having a hard time of it.

It was an interesting facility, and our tour guide was one of those enthusiastic, energetic types who make Red Bull nervous. We even got to see the silkworms that they breed to feed to the Parrotbills in order to keep the colour in their feathers.
Shades of Indiana Jones, on a small scale
Glad it was open, and glad we went.