Friday, March 02, 2012

Catching up

It occured to us that we haven't blogged for a while. Things have been ticking along just fine here in Congress, AZ and I guess we just got caught up in the mundane little things that make life interesting and fun (not boring) when we have to sit for a while. One of our daily activities is pickleball. If you google this term you will get the history, but basically it was made up by two suburban dads for their summer-bored kids. It uses half a tennis court, oversized ping-pong paddles (made of aluminium mesh, not wood) and a somewhat revised whiffle ball. We practice or play for about 2 hrs a day. We haven't changed our diet since we got here, we do no other aerobic exercise, and we are both losing weight. The game is played with partners. Here is Duane making his shot with Derice watching the ball.

A backhand move. This happens to be an indoor court, but most are outdoor, and chain-link fenced so the ball doesn't wander too far. At this particular park we play at 4pm when the mixed group shows up. Mixed group means mixed levels of play. Duane and I have been playing for a few weeks, but he is better because of his table tennis background. That and tennis give you an edge because the moves translate easily to this court. There are two other groups that play for blood or just to keep up skills, but this group is social. We meet to chat, learn, and have fun.

We took a couple of touring trips on the bike. Cave Creek is a tiny town north east of Phoenix. We went to see their very nice museum. The museum complex contains several rescued buildings from the founding of Cave Creek. The town was founded on gold and ranching, but quickly became a place to recover from tuberculosis.

A tb cottage. At one time cottages like this lined the road into town. Inside is a bed, cupboard, a bed pan and a basin and pitcher.

This church was moved here and is still used for services and weddings.

Church exterior

The complex also included some old equipment from the mine outside. The museum itself consisted of an archeological wing, an artifacts wing, and a town history wing. There was a gift shop and two very nice, helpful, informative, and cheerful docents to greet us.

Another tour we took was in the opposite direction to the little town of Bagdad, the town that copper built. We met in the town community building for our prescheduled tour. We signed waivers, donned our safety vests, hard hats, and safety goggles, and boarded one of two vans. The vans took us a few miles out of town to the open pit mine. Main gate below.

The copper here is not lying around in sheets or nuggets. It is gathered as tiny particles throughout the ore. You can just make out the copper on the two ore samples below.

The ore loosened by blasting, then dug out by shovel and loaded into huge dump trucks. The pix are deceptive. The trucks hold 280 tons which the shovel loads in three bucketload.

Here is the bucket loader with its attendant D10 Cat dozer. The dozer's job is to remove all sharp rocks from the approach of the trucks. A rock can puncture a $20,000 tire causing not only financial loss, but down time as well.

From the rim (where we started) to the bottom of this mine is about 2000 feet. They are still going down. After the trucks are loaded, they take their loads one of several places. The good ore gets dumped onto a conveyer belt that takes it to a grinder. From there it goes by conveyer belt to a processing plant where it is mix with chemicals that leach out the copper. From there it is loaded into tankers and further process elsewhere. Some loads go to tailings dumps and get further processed by acid leaching. The copper resulting from this process is run through electrically charged solution that binds it to copper starter sheets and makes copper plate.

Processing plant

Leaching tailings. Click on the pic to enlarge. You can see small plastic drip lines in rows.

conveyer belt

Copper starter plates start out at 5 pounds and end up about 120 pounds.

Our intreped group outside the computer command shack (to the right). Inside one guy sits monitering about a dozen screens. One set of screens monitors satelite pix of the mine looking for any shifts in the mine walls. The other screens monitor the operations. The computer operator choreographs the trucks movements, telling them where they need to go, and keeping them awake. One of the screens is dedicated to cameras in each truck which in turn watch the drivers' eyes. If a driver's eyelids droop the computer operator wakes him/her up. The drivers only drive slowly back and forth for 12 hr shifts with small breaks. No music to keep them awake, they do nothing all day but drive.

Our tour took us to all of these areas plus the maintenance garage. We got a close look at one of the dump trucks. I am 5'2" for reference. There are 6 of these wheels on each truck.

Louise standing in front of the truck. The front is about 5' off the ground. The ladder aids the driver. Cameras are mounted in the cabs but also under the truck to help detour around rocks.

Shot of the truck with the bed up. An oil change uses 78 gal. of oil which is changed every 250 hours or every six days since the mine runs 24/7. Duane thought that the most interesting part about the garage tour wast that the trucks used 78 gallons of oil--not quarts! Now you can see why it takes so long to change a tire. We thought it was bad when we paid $1400 for all 6 of our tires but don't feel so badly now.

One of our other activities (when we are not touring or doing mundane chores), is riding the bike. The bike came with a stock seat which is fine for riding around town or other short trips. For long rides Duane needed a back rest and I needed a wider more level seat. The old seat caused muscle cramps on long rides and slid me into Duane whenever we stopped. This is our new seat. Ahhhh, much more comfortable.

We also mounted our GPS unit on the bike so we won't get lost.

Another thing we did was talk about future trips. We had learned from our travels that our Chevy truck was underrated for pulling our rig. We shopped around for more pulling power and found this 2010 Ford F450 super duty that is rated to pull anything we can manage to accumulate. Below is our whole rig (bike included) to date.

This truck is basically the same size as the Chevy but a little higher off the ground. It comes with built in GPS which allowed us to use our Tom Tom on the bike. This truck also has a tailgate backup camera which is nice. The rig is parked on our site here at North Ranch, so you can see how nice our spot is.

That's what we have been doing for the last three weeks. We hope you have enjoyed your last three weeks as much as we have ours.


Louise and Duane