Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Washer Saga

Monday we discovered the clothes washer wasn't really interested in working for us anymore. Maybe we should have listened to the warning signs: a rather obnoxious creaking as the drum spun through the spin cycles and the occasional thump which we ignored as a minor unbalanced load which always righted itself. This day there was a hint of a peculiar burnt electrical smell, suggesting a possible calamity in the making, but not quite strong enough to push anybody into immediately seeking out the cause. On lifting the lid, instead of seeing items of apparel clinging to the side of the drum we noted the soggy mess of clothes resting at the bottom. Not a good sign! A quick twist of the dial to start the spin cycle with crossed fingers. Alas, only the feeble whir of a non functioning motor while the drum remained sullen and immobile. Tuesday morning I gave the machine one last chance to properly complete its assigned task and was met with complete refusal.

Now our current situation is clear, we only need to replace the washer for a year or perhaps a wee bit more. Simple enough to drag the broken down machine outside, load it up and deliver it to the transfer station with no recycling fee. That would seemingly suggest a used model with a much lower capital cost and a fast solution to the problem. Quickly Googled ‘vancouver appliances used’ and voilĂ , a number of nearby stores with directional maps popped up and away I went. First store sold both new and used, so I scuttled passed the 4 figure, gleaming virgin washers to check out the previously owned models. Hmm! The lowest cost unit was still a startling $450 and I was unsure whether I should kick the cabinet to show my interest. The amiable saleslady assured me the solidly rebuilt washer would last 15 to 20 years, and the delivery charge was only $85 plus a small recycling fee of only $50 for our broken down hunk of metal. There was doubt in my mind as I wondered if that machine had even lasted 5 years in its previous incarnation while I also questioned whether a six month warranty would be adequate. I mumbled something about keeping it in mind as I exited the premises flashing a friendly lopsided grin.

Next establishment was solely used and rebuilt wall-to-wall appliances. Humming softly to myself, I sauntered down the aisle until I spotted a $359 washer (actually they all displayed identical $359 price tags....) and I bent down to have a look at its rear. The information plate was well worn but after translating I’m pretty sure the machine was built in Minsk sometime about 1954, however it had only been used sparingly for cold water washes in a Siberian gulag. One of the back room boys came out to see if I needed any help and I pointed to the badly rusted backside of the cabinet. “Not to worry sir”, he said, “All the inner components have been gutted and replaced”. Does this also work in humans or will the outside skin container just give way allowing all the fine medical work to fall out? Something for me to consider. Oh, by-the-way their additional charges for delivery et cetera worked out to a miserly $125 not including taxes.

Once back in the friendly confines of home, it was time to consider purchasing new. Back to Google. From our friendly Canadian department store - known for its practice of doubling prices this week and offering a half off sale next week - a brand new washer for $478 plus $69 delivery plus $25 recycling pickup fee. Not bad compared to the used prices. Then I remembered the fridge downstairs (serves as a beer cooler from time to time) which came from the same store. No matter how carefully the door is closed, we notice it pops open occasionally. We have yet to determine if this is due to weak magnets, the inner fridge being interested in its surroundings or simply its lust for the nearby furnace. Next up was the online offerings of a local big box dealer. With some tempting offers on the web page, I convinced myself to head out to their bricks and mortar site. Surprise surprise! As I passed by the big ticket, chrome encrusted models, there in the middle stood a cute plain-jane machine with a price tag of $358 just begging to be purchased. Then I had the luck to run into a super nice saleslady who began the process of determining the final price. Delivery charge $58 - just move the x up a couple of slots and this now includes the full hookup service. Connector kit $24 - toss that in no charge. Pick up old machine $30 - reduced to $20. Competitive discount - sure, why not? Take another $35 off the price. Easy peasy. Our brand, spanking new washer will be delivered and installed next Monday. Shopping just doesn't get any easier than this.
Somewhere in this story is both a moral and an economics lesson, but I’m too lazy to search. Meanwhile, since the new washer is likely ‘Made in China’ I have to brush up on my Cantonese so I can read the instruction manual.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Last Monday in November, we were hanging out at the side of the highway waiting to flag down the bus for Boca. The idea was to hang out in the town plus maybe take a water taxi to one of the secluded coves. However, the first bus careening into view was bound for El Tuito which led to a quick change in plans.  Figured we may as well hop on and spend part of the day at the Botanical Gardens rather than wait until later in the week. Twenty minutes later, we arrived right at the gates about 10:05 just a few minutes after opening but it is still locked up tight. Met a couple who had arrived on an earlier bus plus a tour SUV with another two people. It seems we all miscalculated as the Gardens are closed on Mondays from April to December. 

Sure enough! Checked the notes on my Nexus 7 to discover this was true. For a moment I wondered why I research things if I can’t be bothered to read it later. Lucky for us the tour guide phoned somebody  connected with the gardens, so moments later one of the staff showed up to spring the locks on the gate (he also accepted the entry fee). Pretty special for just six people to have the run of the place without the usual hordes of tourists arriving by the busload. For the low price - 60 pesos - it is well worth the visit. Besides the gardens and restaurant (it remained closed), there are also a network of hiking trails and a swimming area in the river. Just before we left, we managed to convince one of the staff to let us buy some local coffee beans and a bottle of vanilla, of course.

If you head out from PV the El Tuito bus is only 20 pesos each way, stops very close by and seems to run quite often. Just remember to check the schedule for the Gardens - they may not always be so kind on closed Mondays.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013










So there you go! New Years Day and off we go to Squamish to view the eagles except the eagles aren't that excited - guess they fail to read the tourist promotional material.  On the other side of the river, 400 feet away, they cling morosely to tree branches and gloomily stare back at the two legged gawkers parading up and down the snow covered dyke. Lots of seagulls winging to-and-fro squawking about nothing while pleasantly defecating in midair.   Mind you, there are a couple of camera types with 8000 mm lenses peering intently for the flash of white heads but failing to spot a bird that isn't comatose or entirely disinterested in putting on a show for the pathetic human audience.
Later on the return journey, we stop off at Porteau Park to take a quick break. Here the seagulls aren't especially friendly, however they continue to sit on the railing even if  you approach to within 5 or 6 feet. Have to give them credit for chutzpah, they appear almost disdainful of  people and not at all worried of our size or bearing. All in all, a good day on the west coast. Sunny without rain - what more could we ask for?