#damselNOTindistress: Flooring … and a little bit more.

Last summer, when I went back to Washington for Edgar’s number retirement ceremony, I wound up replacing flooring in my mom’s kitchen, living, and dining room. Over the winter, Mom and I agreed that I would plan on doing the rest of the flooring this summer. I could drive up, bring Sprocket and my tools and knock it out.


Her insurance also insisted that she replace the siding so she hired a contractor friend to tackle that. He figured, no big deal, it’s one story, no ladders needed.


Her house is almost 40 years old which meant plenty of surprises as both the siding and the flooring projects proceeded.

Almost immediately, things went off the rails when I discovered a leak from the master bathroom shower into the living room when I pulled up the carpet. I replaced patches of subfloor from years of pets in the house. And the bathroom leak morphed into a full master bathroom renovation.

A full bathroom renovation included doing drywall. I hate doing drywall.

I sort of tortured my pup as a distraction:

Days and weeks crept by and by the time I was getting close to wrapping things up, life in Colorado started demanding that I come home. Sprocket and I were pretty happy to answer that call. I felt bad because there were finishing touches to be done but fortunately they were much smaller projects (baseboard, painting) that other family members volunteered to do for Mom.

Before I left, the flooring was all done, the master bath was brand new (isn’t her vanity gorgeous?),

She also got a new hot water heater! (Ughhhh, the lighting in this hall sucks…. I have Ideas.)

This vanity area turned out nicely though!

Her bedroom is also freshly painted and has a new floor:

Now, I just have to go back next summer and tackle this project that appeared during the process. It’s always something, but I’ve been promised I can learn to tile here.

Women Who Inspire: Launching Damsel NOT in Distress

Starting today, it’s time to bid adeu to 3Up Adventures.*

A lot has changed in my life, and more and more often, the world around me seems to be changing just as fast. I have grown substantially by embracing my ability to do things—I’ve worked on renovations, become passable at maintaining my vehicle, and feel pretty empowered to tackle projects and experiences of all kinds.

This blog will largely continue to be a record of my own activities and projects. One of the things that has always motivated me to write here is to create a record of places I’ve gone and things I’ve done first and foremost for myself. On the other hand, I do have some wonderful readers of this blog. It is a new goal of mine to bring you stories of other women doing inspiring things. I am not entirely sure what form that will take but I am excited to build that space.

Thank you so much to you all for following my adventures. I find the feedback that I get from readers who are inspired by *me* super inspiring.


What’s Changed? Where do I follow along?
  • Update your RSS feeds/readers to follow http://damselnotindistress.com/blog/. All new blog posts will be made only on Damsel NOT in Distress, although I’m attempting redirect 3Up traffic and links to the appropriate posts here.
  • Facebook made me start an entirely new page claiming my name was misleading to readers so you can find me there under “Damsel NOT in Distress.”
  • My Twitter and Instagram handles have simply been updated to the new name.

*3Up was named for my ex, Sprocket, and I all riding on our quad together. 3Up, the corollary for a couple and their dog instead of “2 Up” on a motorcycle.

#shedlife Patio

When I realized that last summer was not going to turn out to be one of crazy adventure but instead going to be one that presented me with the opportunity to make a house in Ridgway a reality for me, I also decided to take on a bit of a project.

While I was mowing a neighbor’s lawn around her raised garden beds (very similar to mine) I realized that it was a giant pain. I had to maneuver the mower around a million corners and it still needed to be edged with a weed eater. I needed to think of a different plan for my beds. Then I started to think about summer monsoons and tracking mud into the shed…

A vision for my shed patio was born. (Hurray for another #damselNOTindistress project!) I went to Home Depot and started browsing their options for patio pavers. I started out envisioning this as a relatively inexpensive project but as DIY things often do, the scope expanded and I decided to do a more “complete” job and I wound up spending about $1000 on pavers, sand, gravel plus delivery, and the rental of a paver cutter. Initially I thought, I probably should have put this project off for a few years but when we had multiple thaws over the winter it was totally worth it. (Not to mention it just felt like further staking a claim to the property!)

The project started out with digging out a level paver surface. Let me tell you, this turned into a way bigger thing that I thought! I wish I would have laid the pavers and installed the garden beds at the same time to eliminate the need for cutting pavers but hindsight is always helpful.

Taking a break in the shade

Since I don’t have a pickup truck, I splurged on delivery of gravel ($125) for the paver area rather than asking a friend to take multiple trips to Montrose. Spreading the gravel went extra fast thanks to help from a neighbor and from little Miss LC. The help was especially awesome since I was trying to do this amid 60 hour work weeks!

Fortunately, a friend volunteered to bring me some paver sand from Montrose which saved me another hefty delivery fee and signaled real progress on my project! Laying the pavers went fairly quickly and they’re pretty darn level. Once I had all of the whole pavers laid, I rented a cement/paver cutter from Home Depot and trimmed out all of the partial rows. I’m glad I didn’t stray from my pattern to force the pavers to “mostly” fit into the spaces. Everything looks so great this way.

Early in the fall, my friend moved to California and gave me her patio table and then my boss found me an old umbrella he wasn’t using so the whole thing feels really quite nice. I was really conservative about over planting this year since I didn’t have water on the property until just last week but they still look good!

#damselNOTindistress: XJ Alternator

School got out Friday afternoon and I could hardly wait to hit the road for Arizona. My plan was to camp somewhere near the trailhead for Mount Baldy (if not at the trailhead). Sprocket and I made good time down through Cortez, on to Shiprock, and then to Gallup. Before we knew it we were passing through St. John, Arizona. Somewhere just south of St. John, the battery light signal came on.

With just 30 miles to go to Springerville, I figured I should be just fine. I turned off the radio, didn’t use my brights and continued on. (This is where I should point out that #thehelpfulex suggested ages ago that I find a set of non-dummy gauges for RuthXJ and I said I didn’t need them…I would have noticed the issue way sooner if I could have seen the voltage drop rather than relying on the light to come on.) As the headlights started to dim, I was pretty sure the alternator was the problem. Then the clock went out and I was even more sure. Fortunately, this is a totally parking lot fixable problem for a #damselNOTindistress so I stayed nice and calm.

Google maps showed a couple of auto parts stores in Springerville that were open on Saturday so I had a destination: I was going to make it to Carquest to be there when they opened at 8am.

At the junction of US 60 and US 191, I felt the first sputter. I was less than 4 miles from town and really hoped that I could make it. Another mile and a half down the road, however, the fuel pump stopped getting enough voltage to work. I coasted into a ranch driveway with room alongside to camp just off the highway and crawled in the back.

In the morning, I flagged down the first car I saw which happened to be a Eagar Police animal control officer. He hung out with me for ten minutes charging up the battery so that I could drive into town and followed me to make sure that I got there.

Carquest had the alternator in stock and charged my battery while I swapped out the alternator. First I had to loosen up the power steering pump to remove the belt (it was a lot more cramped than my experience with the FSJ one!)I made it harder than it needed to be by trying to take it out without loosening the bracket but eventually I got it all sorted out by being smarter not stronger. I even changed out my belt since I had it loosened up although I certainly paid a premium for it.

While it sucked to be delayed a bit, it felt really good to know that I was capable of handling the problem on my own (including telling the men who passed by me on the way into the store that I really did have everything under control).

Building Raised Garden Beds

As my summer has started to come together, it appears that I’ll be in the Ridgway-Montrose area for the best time of the year! This meant that I would be around enough to tend to the beginnings of a garden. I especially wanted to get some raspberries going since it takes a couple of years for them to really get established and growing. Since the lot is bare and might be so for awhile, I wanted the garden to help make it appear that someone cares about the place so raised beds just seemed a lot more substantial.

Considering that I’m a combination of cash poor and kind of cheap, I initially decided to make my beds out of deconstructed pallets. After knocking apart two pallets I decided that was pretty much a waste of time and decided to go to Home Depot and make a different game plan.

I LUCKED OUT. When I went to Home Depot, I found enough slightly flawed 6’x3″ fence boards to build 3 beds at 18″ each I also grabbed three 10′ 2x4s to be the uprights and put all of it on top of Ruth for the trip to Ridgway. Once I started building, things went absolutely swimmingly. (It also helped a lot that my shed was mostly empty and I could use it as a flat stable place to assemble things.

Sprocket amused himself by frequently climbing the dirt pile (happily diminished last fall by someone who needed fill) and checking out the view of the Cimarrons.

I paused before tackling the next two boxes to artificially level the first and see how it looked:

And then Sprocket convinced me to stop and enjoy the sunshine for a minute:

Building the second two boxes went fast after figuring things out with the first one. The batteries on my drill died and I forgot to bring the charger so I had to go borrow an impact from a friend. My #damselNOTindistress wish list totally grew: it was so much easier. Here are the completed boxes before they were leveled in the ground:

I got a little over ambitious and created another project for myself when I set the boxes level to each other even though the ground slopes to the east; I’ll eventually level the area around them I guess because I’m a glutton for punishment.

I’ll be headed back down to Ridgway soon to fill them from the dirt pile!

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Starter Replacement

Last Friday, after I’d decided to take a weekend off from hiking, I headed to Grand Junction to pick up some supplies for my quilting project. On my way home, I stopped for gas and when I tried to start the Jeep, I was greeted with an absolutely terrible grinding noise. The only logical thing I could think of was that the starter had gone bad. I made a phone call to #thehelpfulex who confirmed that it was likely to be the starter but perhaps it could be the flywheel.

Regardless of what the issue was, the part was not going to be available at 8:30pm so I called for a tow back to De Beque. The next morning, I got on the phone and was able to get a starter ordered. Thanks to the wonders of community Facebook groups, a neighbor was able to pick up the starter for me and drop it off Sunday evening.

Monday, I tried to install the starter. First, I realized that I didn’t really know where to find a starter. Next, I realized that it’s a really simple job. Two bolts and one electrical connection and I had the new one installed. I hopped in the jeep for the moment of truth. …nothing…

There was no grinding noise but there wasn’t even an indication that the starter was doing anything at all. I could hear a click indicating that the starter solenoid was working but besides that, I was dead in the water.

I immediately blamed myself. I’m not a mechanic, therefore, it HAD to be my fault somehow. I followed wires all around the battery. I Googled. I browsed the FSJ forums. I called #thehelpfulex. He suggested that the battery was probably dead. That made no sense to me since I haven’t had issues with the battery discharging but I was willing to entertain the idea.

Tuesday, I got up and asked my neighbor for a jump. He lent me his battery charger so we topped off my battery. Still nothing. My neighbor and I poked around for awhile trying to figure things out. #Thehelpfulex called to check in on me and the project. He walked me through some troubleshooting ideas and nothing worked. I wound up in tears out of frustration. I hate being vehicle-less. I really really hate it.

Without any better ideas, I threw some money at the problem via Amazon Prime: I ordered a voltmeter to be able to better test the electrical connections and I ordered another starter. I figured in any case I could return the locally purchased one and this would help me eliminate the very unlikely scenario in which the replacement starter was bad.

Friday, the starter arrived late in the afternoon so I put off the swap until the sun had warmed things up a bit on Saturday morning to dive in. I was feeling a little defeated and nagged by a sinking feeling that something more major might be going on and I wasn’t going to be able to get Francis Sally started.

Before I crawled under the jeep for the dirty part of the job, I used the voltmeter to test a few things, many of which I had tested before but now I’d have data(!):

  1. Battery voltage: The battery measured 12.67 (about 95% charge). Clearly it wasn’t my battery.
  2. Voltage at the starter solenoid: Power appeared to be traveling through the cable to the solenoid since I measured the voltage at 12.62 there.
  3. Voltage across the starter solenoid: I didn’t actually measure this because I didn’t have a helper to read voltage or turn the key. (Santa really needs to bring Sprocket some thumbs for Christmas…)
  4. Voltage to the starter: First, I disconnected the negative battery cable from the battery terminal. then I disconnected the positive battery cable from the solenoid and attached it to the opposite side of the solenoid (essentially bypassing the solenoid). I reattached the negative battery cable and tested the voltage at the starter. I was measuring about 12.5V but the starter wasn’t doing anything.

That was enough. I’d confirmed that even with voltage flowing to the replacement starter it wasn’t spinning. I returned the solenoid wires to their correct positions and  quickly swapped to the replacement for the replacement starter.


I tried by passing the solenoid. The stater spun! I briefly entertained the idea that maybe I’d somehow burned up the solenoid with the bad starter. And then I remembered my neighbor had been trying to figure out why there was only one small wire going to the solenoid (the ignition wire). I swapped its position and tried again.


The #damselNOTindistress was victorious again.

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Tailgate Rehabilitation

Among the common issues on the full size Cherokee (and Wagoneer) was that the rear window had to roll down to open the tailgate. This design had it’s benefits with a truck like tailgate for sitting on and a giant opening which makes for awesome camping views (plus there’s no overhead hatch to hit your head on like the XJ). The downside is that if something happens to the window mechanism, you can’t open the tailgate.

When I bought my Cherokee, the rear window kind of worked. By kind of, I mean that it would roll down about two inches, I’d get out rock it to the left, and then be able to roll it down the rest of the way. I’m sure you can imagine that as my primary way to load and unload Sprocket that this got old very quickly. I ordered all of the internal parts hoping to only have to disassemble the whole thing once and figured I could handle the more external parts as I desired. In retrospect, I wish I would have just ordered the deluxe tailgate renewal kit from Team Wagoneer considering that I used everything but the lifter bar and its cushion (and I was just lucky, I very well could have needed this and had actually ordered it separately).

This was my first major repair on the Jeep and I was a little bit nervous. I’d tried to read descriptions on the FSJ forums (Full Size Jeep Network and International Full Size Jeep Association). I’d poured over the factory service manual diagram of the tailgate. And finally I realized that unless I just dove in I wasn’t really going to understand it.

My first order of business was to actually remove the window. I recommend having a garage or at least not being in Colorado during the wettest May ever. Removing the window was actually a lot easier than I’d expected it to be. I took off the carpet on the tailgate and the access panel. I raised the window just enough to get my hand inside and remove the clips from the lifter bar. Next, I worked one of the studs out of the slots in the window lifter and began to search for a friend to help support the window before I removed the other stud and slid the window out. Fortunately for me, Ridgway is a friendly place and I nicely asked a woman out on a walk through the neighborhood to help me for two minutes while I accomplished those things. (Fortunately for her, it only took about one minute.)

A look at how the studs and clips hold in the window:

I inspected the lifter channel (also known sometimes as a lifter bar?) and realized that I didn’t actually need to remove the glass from it. I’d heard that these often rust out; mine was dirty but not rusted so I opted to keep it.

I replaced the tailgate glass side channels which looked like they’d seen better days. In fact, this was all I needed to replace to make the window function. After 38 years of dust working its way into the channels, there were large chunks missing. In fact either the inner or the outer piece (I didn’t really look at it until I’d set it down) of the drivers side channel was entirely missing. Putting in the new channels only took a couple of minutes but the rain started falling before I could get them in so it necessitated this:

I became the heroine of my neighborhood when I had to leave Francis looking like this for a couple of days while I waited for the sun to return:

Eventually, I got tired of waiting for the rain to clear so I informed my friend Bryan that I was coming over to use his garage. This arrangement also helped me to have his help getting the window back in place. (I was petrified of breaking it the entire time it was out of the vehicle. It took a little bit of figuring out how to get the clips back in (I’d bought a new pair in case the ones inside bent or broke on the way out or in…) but I got them in, or so I thought…

I left my friend’s house and headed to the laundromat and was super excited with my working window but suddenly, right as the rain started falling, it wouldn’t roll up. One side just wasn’t going up and it didn’t take very long for me to figure out that one of the clips had fallen off. With thunder rolling in the background, I decided to avail myself of the cover provided by an after-hours bank drive through:

Sure enough, that fixed the problem!

I found that with all the driving I do down dirt and gravel roads that I was pulling in a lot of dust. I’d learned that the original weather stripping was body mounted but somewhere along the lines, someone had replaced mine with generic weather stripping. This didn’t take long at all to replace but it had taken me until the end of my roadtrip with Amanda to choke it up and spend the money on a new seal. The seal needs the plastic rivets at the top and doesn’t come with them. I had one still floating around, fortunately, so I was able to size one for the other side.

I also went ahead and replaced the upper slide channel since pretty much everything else was new and didn’t want it to feel left out. Removing the old one was way more of a pain than putting in the new one since it came out in about twenty pieces.

I also purchased a new wiring harness for the rear window that I haven’t finished installing yet—with all of our monsoons, it’s been hard to feel comfortable cutting off my ability to close the window for a day! More on that coming soon (probably once I get to De Beque and have a garage!).

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Power Steering Pump

When I had my steering debacle in SLC, I noticed that the power steering hoses were showing some wear and it probably didn’t help any when the whole steering box was hanging from them…

Since I was going to replace the hoses anyway, I checked on the price of a power steering pump and realized that for $40, I needed to go ahead and replace it anyway since I was going through the work of changing the hoses.

All mechanical projects seem to take me quite awhile, but I’m learning and becoming much more proficient. It’s a process but I’m kind of proud of myself.

The good news is that my steering feels so much better. The sort of good news is that I’ve located the steering fluid leak and it’s not the pump or the hoses (although I think there was at least weeping from them both before). The bad news is that it’s at the pitman shaft seal. So I’m trying to figure out how to proceed–fortunately, a rebuild kit for the steering box is cheap, it’s just another new thing to learn!

FSJ To-Do List

Overall, I’m pretty lucky with my Jeep: it mostly runs and drive pretty well. But like all older vehicles there are plenty of little things that need to be fixed. Here’s what’s on the list for Francis:

Fix the heater: The heater is stuck on. This was not a problem when I got the FSJ in January (well, Dave complained a little bit about how hot it was). In fact, given the choice, I was happy it worked versus not working. Now that it’s warmer, it’s terrible. Even worse, it’s dirt road season and with the windows open, lots of dust gets sucked in. This makes fixing the heater a top priority.

Tighten the antenna: I think I must either be missing a bolt holding the antenna on or it’s gotten realllllyyyy loose. It just kind of flops all over the place and really needs to get tightened up before it gets ripped off or falls off.

Rear window: FSJ rear windows are notorious for not working particularly well. I’ve bought all the parts to totally rebuild the window plus a new relay system. I just think it’s going to be quite a process with a steep learning curve so I’m afraid to attempt it until I have a window of a couple of days without rain in the forecast since there’s a good chance the Jeep will be missing a rear window for a couple of days…

Drivers’ wing window: The pin has fallen out of the latch for the driver’s side vent window. I have the latch but I’m not sure how to get another pin for it. This is going to take some research…

Passenger window: The passenger window works but it’s really tight and needs to be “helped” past the midpoint. I’m afraid that if I don’t fix it, it’ll break. This is basically going to require me to disassemble the door and make sure there isn’t anything stuck or broken.

Locks: When I take apart the passenger door to fix the window, I also need to fix the lock. Sometimes it rattles, sometimes it locks itself when I shut the door. The drivers side door almost always locks itself when the door is shut. This isn’t really a problem since the key works in the doors but it’s annoying.

Sunroof leak: When it rains just a drop or two seem to accumulate along the sunroof. I’m not sure if this is just condensation or if it’s actually a leak. Since Colorado is so dry and its such a small leak this isn’t a big priority to me right now.

It’s all small stuff but it can be really time consuming. I’m hoping to start tackling this a little bit at a time but it’s hard when I’d rather be out adventuring!

Edit: I ordered a power steering pump yesterday. At $40 it is NOT worth constantly filling the reservoir and having a mess of ATF under there. Ahem.

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Replacing Rag Joint

I’ve been shopping for the perfect XJ Cherokee for quite awhile and one popped up in Salt Lake City that seemed like it would fit the bill perfectly with low miles, a five speed, and cruise control. I didn’t want to risk missing out so Sprocket and I drove straight up from Ridgway and got into SLC at about 2am. In the morning before looking at the Jeep, I headed over to the bank to get some cash.

As I pulled into the drive through, I heard a loud clunk sound. At first, I was confused, had I some how hit something? I sort of forgot about it while I was conducting my business at the bank but as I pulled out of the drive through I realized I couldn’t turn left. Something seemed bound up.

I crawled underneath the jeep and noticed that the tie rod end & pitman arm were hitting the sway bar when I tried to turn to the left. I went back into the jeep and turned the wheels to the right and heard another larger, ominous, clunk. This time, it seemed apparent what was wrong: the steering box was hanging down off of its mounts. While not an ideal situation, I figured this wasn’t that bad and I’d be on my way within the hour.

When I returned from the hardware store bearing what I hoped was the correct hardware (this was actually the second trip…), I realized, it was more than just a broken bolt. There was actually a broken part. I had no idea what that part was but I knew that my mission had just gotten a lot more complicated. I also noticed that the steering box had been bolted from the top and they had sheared off in the steering box.

I headed over to a fast food restaurant, washed my hands, and took a walk to look at that XJ. Turns out, it wasn’t what I wanted. As  I walked back I started browsing the forums and learning all about the steering system on the Jeep. Turns out, I had a broken “rag joint” or power steering coupler—the part that connects the input from your steering wheel to the steering box.

That bolt circled in red is supposed to be attached to the hole on the rag joint (indicated by the arrow. My theory is that when the steering box fell, it stressed the 38 year old piece of rubber and it failed.

While I was able to locate a replacement rag joint fairly easily, first I had to figure out how to get the old broken one off. I struggled with it for awhile and was finally able to get the old joint off of the steering box. This might have been the low point for me—I was covered in power steering fluid (cursing the advice I’d been give to not replace the pump and just make sure it was full), removing a part that I didn’t fully understand how it worked, and just feeling a little bit unsure.

As I read the installation instructions, I realized that I was going to need some backup. While I was carrying tools, I didn’t have a grinder or a drill to remove the old pins. Away I went to Pep Boys (again) to see if their service department would do me a little favor. Thankfully, they seemed happy to help and soon I was headed back to figure out how to reinstall the rag joint.

Somehow, I made this way more complicated than it needed to be and it took me a long time. It was all made more difficult by the fact that the steering box was definitely supposed to be attached by the top bolts so I ended up using ratchet straps to hold it exactly in place.

On the way to fellow #omniten member Josh’s house (yay for friends to crash with!) I stopped for some beer and for the bolts I’d need to fix the Jeep for good (yay for Josh having a drill!). I had some priceless looks but when the cashier at the liqour store asked, “What happened to you?” And I answered, “Well, the bolts on my steering box sheared and when it fell it look the 30 year old rag joint with it, but I fixed it.” His answer? “I’m seriously impressed.” Since I was seriously impressed with myself, it felt good to hear someone say it.

At Josh’s place I was able to use his drill to extract the broken bolts from the steering box and get it bolted up so that I didn’t need the ratchet strap safeties. The replacement rag joint was a little thicker than the original and I couldn’t get the metal support to fit on correctly in the parking lot because the bolts were too short and had little “keepers” on them. I ground off the keepers (they looked like ski pole baskets) and replaced with the longer bolts that came with the replacement part.

Everything is back together and looks great. Except, I’m going to have to take it apart one more time to get the steering wheel straight since I apparently bolted the steering column attachment on 180 degrees off. Oops. But this time, it should go fast. 3rd time’s the charm. 🙂

(The wheels are just slightly turned to the left in this photo. It’s driving me nuts to have the AMC logo upside-down.)