I’ve been at my home in Colorado for a couple weeks. There is much to do here and I haven’t found time to give my publishing the attention it requires. I’m too organized an individual to publish trivially or without giving serious attention. Finally, I have a moment to publish a bit of my journal.
It was an interesting car ride from east to west. I saw this interesting piece of art at a rest area on I-80 just as I entered Iowa. I suppose it’s to represent all the things Iowa is known for.
Getting out and traveling really forces you to realize the rate at which the nation is changing. For better or worse, peoples false entitlement to authority is getting absurd. I found myself having to put a few people in their place along the way. I even encountered a sign trying to tell me what to do, as if it had some ability to enforce its directives.
I don’t smoke, but if I did, I would stand right in front of that blasted span of sheet metal and burn one. The absurdity of collectivists knows no boundary.
I was happy to get out of Iowa’s grasp of stupidity and decided to eventually venture through Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had never been to Cheyenne before and it was interesting to visit a place of legendary history.
The city was pretty cool with a few notable scenes but there wasn’t much to be fascinated by from the detour I took through town. The reality of the great western territories is much like the following photograph. A whole lot of nothing, and rattlesnakes.
It wasn’t too long after Cheyenne that I arrived at the cabin in Colorado. It’s been two years since I’ve been here and I was excited to unload the much needed tools I brought. The first night came early and I was tired so I removed the downstairs shutters, slept for the night and removed the remaining shutters the following day.
With the cabin opened and everything unloaded I began tackling the problem of restoring the water supply to operational status. A couple days passed to get the project properly visualized and then I linked the hoses together and installed the water filter. The filter was designed by my grandfather and I imagine is a series of tubes with holes drilled in them and fastened together inside a wire mesh that is then wrapped in gauze-like material. It took a bit of quick magic to submerge the filter just under the surface.
With the supply line ready and fed into the pump box, I now had to install the old pump we had repaired in South Carolina. Some modifications had to be made to the orientation of elbows and hoses but I was able to get it hooked up properly. It took multiple attempts to get that old pump thoroughly primed but it works like a champion, and moves a lot of water fast.
After all of that, it was time for a break. Look at the beauty of this sandwich; constructed by my hand and waiting in all of its majesty to be eaten. Yeah, it was as good as it looked.
Now that the water project is complete, I can pump some water and take a decent shower. Or so I thought. A full tank of water was pumped up into the attic, and to my surprise, it quickly ran down through the plumbing and out somewhere under the cabin. Once I discovered the cleverly disguised access to the crawlspace, I could hear and see the temporary resting place of a lot of pond water. Rattlesnakes! A day passes and then I begin to take a real look at my new project.
After a lot of cleaning, the trampling of old fears, a clever use of clothing, and some liquid courage; I begin the journey of discovery. I scoot through tight areas of sand, rocks, failed nails and the remnants of other 80 year old building debris and finally find the source of my frustration.
A threaded plug that had once sat at the end of a T-connector, which should be an elbow, had worked its way out and landed in the sand below. I guess 80 years of varying temperature and pressure will do that to a short plug with a cork washer.
Well it was an easy fix. It just required a good brushing to clear out the pipe and some Teflon tape wrapped on the threads of a modern Chinese plug. It’s a beautiful thing when a problem is so easily solved. A great feeling of accomplishment sets in with obstacles overcome and all that tango. The result looks pleasing, even if you’re looking at it from the perspective of a 16 inch crawlspace.
Now that the tank is holding water, I let it fill the rest of the system but it’s taking an unnerving amount of time for the water to fill the system and settle. I head to the entrance of the crawlspace and poke my head in; I hear splashing. Double Rattlesnakes! I turn off the supply valve to the hot water tank and the splashing stops. All that is leaking now is the cold water faucet in the bottom of the shower that exists to drain the system. I replaced both ancient mangled faucets in the base of the shower with some modern Italian ball valves. Not a drop of water is getting by those in the closed position. The cold water plumbing is secured.
A day passes and I take time to inspect the old drain faucets I replaced. The cold water faucet had a fairly eroded stopper washer that would let water by when it was in the closed position. The hot water faucet had its stopper washer completely dislodged from the internal retaining screw and was partially obstructing flow. This gives me an idea of the state of the rest of the plumbing. Now with modern valves at the bottom of the system, I reopen the valve to the hot water tank and take a look into the crawlspace. I can see the leak in the hot water line right near the entrance. I suspect from the look of it, the T connector has burst.
I take a day to ponder and discuss the options. I went for a walk out to the meadow and witnessed an odd effect of a sunset on Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker through some clouds. It burned its image into my memory but I photographed it for you.
After many calming experiences, and an occasional alcoholic beverage, I decide to make the repair with plumbers epoxy. It was the easiest option for repair, and also the cheapest. I crawled under and prepped the split area of the T then mixed and mashed the epoxy and applied it well. The directions say it hardens like steel in twenty minutes. I poked at it after a couple hours and it was still a bit gummy, so I decided to gave it a day. Perhaps I applied it too thick, or the marketing of the product is generously exaggerated.
After all that, there is still another leak on the hot water line further in and around the corner. I suspect it’s on an elbow near my first repair on the other pipe in the photograph or on the T connector immediately down the line from that. This type of multiple plumbing damage occurs from water left in the pipe and freezing during winter. Perhaps what happened was the rubber stopper obstruction in the old hot water drain prevented the water from draining fully and froze in the traps of the system. This should only happen when there is a lot of water trapped along the line; enough to expand and burst steel. Perhaps none of the hot water line was drained last year. I don’t know, I wasn’t here.
So, I have yet another discovery expedition to undertake in the crawlspace. It’s very difficult because I have to wear a dust mask that always fogs up my glasses. Luckily, there are vents in the sides of the foundation that let fresh air somewhat circulate. I can only hope radon won’t be a problem, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t built an ion chamber to detect if there is much. Colorado, and specifically my county, is known for high radon levels. It’s from the natural uranium and thorium that breaks down into radium, which then also decays. Radon is the resulting radioactive gas that rises up to the surface and is often trapped under/in houses. It’s scary stuff but I expect it would require a great deal of persistent concentrated exposure to do serious damage. Or not.
I crawled back under to look for more breaks in the line. I found a nice one inch split along the line running to the kitchen sink. I ran my hand along the pipe and felt a bulge where it split, confirming that the breaks were due to water freezing in the pipes. The cabin wasn’t thoroughly prepped for winter last year. I checked the rest of the lengths of pipe and found no more bulges.
I then made my way over to the area of the first repair to check the elbows on the hot water line. Sure enough, I discover a gigantic bursting crack along the backside of the elbow. There’s no way I’m trusting epoxy to fix this.
I had originally thought to use one of these newfangled pressure couplers I saw at Ace Hardware to repair the one inch split in the kitchen line, but that would require cutting the pipe in half. That would have been dumb and a waste of time so I just pasted some plumbers putty on the split for a good seal and clamped a pressure brace on it.
The elbow repair required some time to prepare. I cut the short vertical length of pipe above the elbow and used the leverage of the pipe to unscrew it from the lateral pipe. Then I used a pipe wrench and a magical source of leverage to unscrew the cut pipe from the intact elbow above. I cleaned all the threads and had a brilliant idea for an easy and reliable repair. I installed a gender-changing nipple in the remaining elbow, wrapped the threads in Teflon tape and installed a steel-braided faucet supply line to cut the corner. Done.
It doesn’t look pretty but I doubt the ants and spiders will raise Hell about its looks. They might miss their indoor pool though. Take another look at this enormous bursting split. Wow.
Heck yeah! There are no more leaks and finally, three weeks after arrival, I can enjoy a proper hot shower. MERICA!
(a Colorado delivery vehicle for sandwiches I photographed in Estes Park)
-Jeremy Edward Dion