Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016 Lake Spivey Road Race

My neighbors and I decided to man a water station on Emerald Drive 3 miles from the end of the Lake Spivey Road Race 15K. My wife Susan and I thought it would be a good way to spend some early Saturday morning leisure time outside in the cold fall air with my neighbors. We searched the Internet for motivational music and poster ideas. We ended up with a playlist of a dozen songs or so including the old standard including; Bill Conti's - Fly Away Now (the Rocky theme song), Journey's - Eye of the Tiger, Alicia Keys - This Girl is On Fire, etc. Susan was right on time to play Alicia Keys whenever she saw a lady coming down the hill toward our table.

This Girl is on Fire
The water station was stocked with orange slices, Gatorade, purified water, Halloween candy, and coffee and doughnuts from Duncan Doughnuts for the volunteers. We bought poster paper for our signs which I made the night before, 6 too early to think about coloring between the lines.

Water station setup
The station was all setup by about 8 a.m.. The first runners weren't expected until sometime after 8:30 a.m.. That gave us 30 minutes for the kids to write stuff in chalk on the street.

Chalk writing in the street
Our offering were made available to about 50 runners this morning. Most of them ran right by not partaking in what we had to offer though I'm sure they all drank in the encouragement we offered.

The crew
I tried to take pictures of all the runners that passed by but I missed a few. I found that I've become so used to taking pictures with my cellphone that I hardly know how to operate my Nikon DSLR camera anymore. Here a link to the online photo album I created - Lake Spivey Road Race 2016.

Results for this year's race are on the Orion Racing website. More pictures can be found on the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department Facebook page.

Thanks for reading.

2xhome TV Wall Mount

I installed a new 2xhome TV wall mount and shelves this week. I ordered the unit from Amazon for $42.49 plus $17.50 shipping for a total of $59.99. I had previously purchased and installed what seemed to be a similar unit from Costco. The Costco unit didn't have shelves so that seemed a plus for the 2xhome unit since it was about $20 cheaper. I was installing the same TV that was on the Costco mount so, all things being equal, I thought I should be happy with the mount from Amazon, and I guess I am. The TV is an old Sharp Aquos 52" 1080p LCD unit that, per the specs, weighs 89 lbs.

The 2xhome wall mount is described on Amazon as:
    2xhome - TV Wall Mount with Shelf Up to 85 inches tv Floating Shelf with Strengthened Tempered Glass for DVD Players/Cable Boxes/Games Consoles/TV Accessories, 2 Shelf, Black
  • Universal tv wall mount fits most 30-85"; displays up to 176 Lbs.
  • Premium Knobs design - Security locking the view of positions. Easy to use(IKEA style) full instruction manual; FREE basic hardware included
  • Tilt function up & down 15 degree, only 2.5 inches from wall for a sleek installation
  • VESA Compliant: 200mm x 200mm, 400mm x 400mm , 600mm x 400mm, 700mm x 450mm, 718mm x 450mm
  • 2 glass aluminium shelf is designed to fit under your display and provide an on wall solution for other components such as cable boxes, DVD players, game consoles, and stereo components
I watched several YouTube videos to refresh my memory about the installation process before I started the project. My goal was to remove a TV cabinet, gain some floor space, and hide any cable box wires.

Before picture of TV and cabinet

TV mount and shelf boxes

TV mount packing
TV mount

Power run from outlet below

Satellite TV cable from the basement 
The hole for the cable which I had to move to a location where it was inside the wall cavity instead of outside. Drilling the hole which happened to be located in the crampiest part of my basement was a pain. I bought a 90-degree drill adapter for the job and that did the trick.

Cable and power box
I ran the power and cable to the new "old work" box I installed just below the mounting rack.

Mount, cable and power installed
The wall mount bracket, power outlet, cable place and cover plates are all installed.

TV mounted
The TV is temporarily installed on the mount.

Shelf in box
The shelves came well packed with plenty of hardware. I felt the wall anchors provided were ridiculously large for this application so I replaced them with some smaller ones.

Shelf cable route access tabs
The tabbed wire guides slide to allow for the wire to be adjusted to the right elevation.

Shelves installed

A close-up of the mess behind the TV
I chose a non-recessed outlet and cable plate. Although the cables look a mess I was able to pull them out of sight with a few tie-wraps.

The finished product
The finished product looks pretty good. All the wires are hidden and the TV cabinet is gone.

The 2xhome mount was noticeably less well constructed than the Costco unit. The metal was thinner and the hardware is less well thought-out. The 2xhome unit is rated for a TV that is "30-85"; displays up to 176 Lbs". I would never use this mount for a TV heavier than mine. The hangers seem just too light weight. The installation took me 4 days and 3 trips to the hardware store. I have lots of tools. The items I didn't have were the ones for running the cables inside the wall, the smaller wall anchors, a drywall saw, and the 90-degree drill adapter. It took me 4 days because I only worked on it a few hours each day before going to work.

In summary, the 2xhome wall mount did what I need it to do. I'll probable feel better about it when it's holding a newer/lighter TV.

Thanks for reading

Update (11/1/16): For a second TV I used a different wall mount. This time I went with the Mount-It! Universal Flat/Tilt Mount for 40-70 Inch Panel LED,LCD, PLASMA TVs (Samsung, Vizio, Sony, LG, Toshiba) for my Sharp Aquos 60" TV. This unit has no shelf but does have a bubble level attached to the wall bracket. The price was $33.99 for the 42" to 70" model.

Mount-It! 42" to 70" wall bracket installed
The hangers on this unit seemed more substantial than those on the 2xhome version.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Emerald Drive Landscape Project

In August my wife Susan and I started another landscape project at our "new" digs - new to us but otherwise old. You might remember we re-did the landscaping at our other house a year or so before we sold it in May. You can read about that project here. The new home was built in 1956 and the plants in the front of the home were almost that old. It was a rental we've owned for about 9 years before we decided to move into it ourselves. The existing plants were mostly Chinese Holleys, Aucuba, and Ligustrums, all of which had long outlived their appeal and their place in the front of our home.

Left side of Landscape Plan

Right side of Landscape Plan

Before we could do anything we needed a plan. Zac Davis, our landscaper, created a plan for us that would work well with the style of the home, a standard brick ranch. With the plan in hand I set forth removing the old plants and root balls. The hollys came out with ease thanks to a rope and my truck bumper. The Ligustrums were a different story. They did not want to go. I cut the tops off, axed and mauled the roots, saturated the soil with water and eventually they were gone too.

Work to remove a Ligustrum root ball
Unfortunately, in my zeal to remove the limbs I slid a 3" Ligustrum branch along the bed of my truck and right through the back window. I spent the next half a day and $400 at the glass place getting a new window. Low Price Auto Glass was the cheapest place to get a new window on my side of town. Be forewarned though that the waiting room smells like cats - a lot!

Busted truck window - Duh!

Low Price Auto Glass in Conley, Georgia
With my window replaced and all the old plants out of the way I commenced to preparing the soil. I raked off the old pine straw and put my tiller to work. I tilled in some top soil and removed the smaller roots as they wound up around my tiller's tines. There were a lot of roots. Hanging onto my front tine tiller was a workout too. I eventually got it done though. I leveled the soil and removed the occasional stone and brick fragment. I even found a cat collar as I tilled.

Cat collar found while tilling

Planning beds tilled
With the soil prepared, Susan, Luke and I met Zac at Wilson's Nursery to pick out our new plants. They were having their Fall sale so we think we got some awesome plants for a great price. We worked it out so that Zac would drop them off at our house and, when we were ready, he'd help place the plants in the beds per the plan.

Zac and Susan selecting plants

Luke at the nursery

Some of our plants delivered

Placing the plants

More plant placement
Susan and I divided the project into two parts, left and right. We pretty much completed the easier left side before attempting to tackle the right side. I wanted the right side of the planting bed to have some type of retaining wall. We bought most of the the supplies we needed for the wall at American Stone. We had them delivered and placed as close as possible to the project area.

Hardscape supplies and a massive root ball from one of the Ligustrums

The hole left after removing a large root ball

The hill that the wall will help tame
Since the west side of the yard slopes from the front and back yard to the basement door I wanted a hardscape that would eliminate any drainage issues and dress it up a bit. I ordered 180 blocks, 30 caps, 3 yards of gravel, and a pallet of medium side stones. Doing all the work by hand I dug a trench in the hard dry (we're in a drought) Georgia clay that mimicked the design Zac had illustrated in our plan. Starting at the lowest point I filled the trench with about 4" to 6" of gravel. I used a 10" tamper to manually beat the gravel down and level. I used a torpedo level to level each block on the first course. This is the hardest part. Each block has to be precisely placed or the blocks may settle unevenly or have some movement. To ensure each block was place solidly on the gravel I beat the top of the block into the gravel until I was satisfied that it was placed correctly. I started with a full block against the house. The second course was started by moving the first full block one-half of a block over to tie the courses together. I cut the cut a block in half later to fill the space. As I wrapped around the end of my planting bed I used another one-half block to re-establish the proper layout. A misalignment occurs because each course is smaller in circumference. The half block compensates for that. My wall had a maximum of 4 courses on the front wall and 5 courses on the back wall, not including the cap.

The back part of the front wall

The gravel bed and blocks in place

Partly done with the first wall
To cut the block I used a skill saw with a masonry blade. I was only able to etch each side about 2 inches but it was enough for me to break the two pieces in half by standing on one side of the block and hammering down on the other half with the tamper tool.

In addition to laying down a bed of gravel I put gravel behind the blocks and filled the cells. This is to allow for adequate drainage since I left a gutter downspout to drain inside the planting bed. I used the dirt from the slopes I wanted to remove to fill the void behind the wall.

The front wall shown from the backyard

The back side of the front wall
The front wall is missing a few cap blocks and the lighting timer is temporarily hanging on the fence. These are two items still on my punch list.

The backyard wall not included in the plan
With the wall in place and the plants in the ground I placed some of the stones between the plants. After the beds were done I focused my attention on putting some grass on the bare soil I had created where the slopes once were. I bought a pallet of centipede grass at Super Sod at the Forest Park Farmers Market. I also used a 4" solid metal border for a portion of the planting bed where I didn't use blocks.

The left side from planting bed completed

The right side front planting bed completed

Metal border meeting block wall cap


Varigated Gardenia
I elected not to connect the gutter downspouts to a corrugated plastic drain pipe as I'd seen done with some retaining walls.

Upright Yew

Purple Daydream Compact Loropetalum

Standard Natchez Crape Myrtle

Homestead Verbena

Lemon Lime Abelia

Bordeaux Dwarf Yaupon Holly

Lucy Althea Rose of Sharon

Silver Dragon Liriope 

Plum Spreading Yew



Creeping Jenny

Flirt Nandina

Radicans Gardenia
I installed a Malibu landscape lighting kit for the previous project. I wasn't completely happy with that kit. The connectors were crap and the fixtures weren't sealed. I elected to install a Volt lighting system that I found on-line for this project. I ordered the VOLT® Brass Lifetime LED Landscape Lighting Kit | (6) Path Kit. I assembled the fixtures and placed the lights where I wanted them. To get the low voltage cable under the sidewalk I dug a hole on both sides of the sidewalk and used the rubber mallet to force a 4' 6" piece of 3/4" PVC under the concrete. I advanced the PVC in stages moving it about 6" through the moist soil before removing it from the hole and extricating the plug of clay from the pipe. It probably took me 2 hours to dig the holes and beat the pipe the 4' I needed to get the other side of the walkway. After I installed the pipe I wired up the lights. In addition to the 6 path lights that came with the kit I ordered and installed 2 up lights to illuminate the front of the house.

Path light

Up light

Left side planting bed after dark

Right side planting bed after dark
Tools List: Leather Gloves, Safety Glasses, Digging Shovel, Flat Shovel, Tamper Tool ($36), Maul, Axe, Tiller, Manual Lawn Edger, Wheelbarrow, Rubber Mallet, Skill Saw, Masonry Blade ($4), Extension Cord, Bow Rake, Leaf Rake, Truck with Trailer Hitch, Rope and Towing Strap, 4' Level, 2' level, Torpedo Level, Hand Truck to move larger stones, and a Drain Spade for digging in those narrow spaces. I included the cost of the 2 items I didn't already own.
Total: $40

Lighting Tool List: Wire Cutters, Knife, Phillips Screwdriver, Small slotted Screwdriver

Hardscape Items: 180 Blocks ($5.23 each), 30 Block Caps ($4.92 each - I still need about 15 more), 1 Pallet of Stones - 0.97 tons ($194). 3 Yards of #57 Gravel ($28 per yard), and $115 for delivery.
Total: $1575.21

Other Items: 20 or so Bags of additional Gravel (About $4 per bag = $80), 1 Pallet of Centipede Grass ($195), 3 Pickup Truckloads of Top Soil (About $35 each = $105), 3 Pickup Truckloads of Mulch (About $35 each = $105), 4 pieces of 4" wide by 8' long Metal Border ($10 each = $40), and 4 - 16" square patio stones ($5 each = $20).
Total: $545

Plants List: The plan cost us $100. It included the following plants: Silver Dragon Liriope (16), Rose of Sharon (1), Lemon Lime Abelia (3), Standard Natchez Crape Myrtle (1), Variegated Gardenia (6), Plum Spreading Yew (10), Upright Yew (2), Flirt Nandina (3), Hydrangea (1), Creeping Jenny (12), Bordeaux Holly (2), Radicans Gardenia (2), Flirt Nandina (2), Anise (1), Bordouve Holly (3), Homestead Verbena (9), and Dwarf Loropetalum (5). There was an add additional $100 fee for delivery and plant placement.
Total: $1115 .

The landscape lighting kit cost $547.58 and the 2 additional lights cost $128.84 with a 12 pack of connectors and 2 4-watt LED bulbs. Both amounts include shipping which was not free. I already had some extra low voltage wire from the previous project so I didn't need to buy more.
Total: $676.42

The total cost for the project was $3,951.63 and many days of hard and heavy work.

Before (Photo taken in February of 2015)


After dark
Tip: Put a tarp down if you plan to put the gravel on your lawn or in a pine island like I did. I did have a tarp in place but the pile of gravel spilled onto my lawn which made getting the gravel up difficult. If you put the gravel on a driveway you won't need a tarp.

Things Left To Do List: I still need to order and install 17 more block caps, cut the block caps where needed and use adhesive to stick them to the block, install an electrical outlet with a weatherproof cover for the lighting timer, buy some concrete anchors and permanently mount the timer, and remove some other tree stumps unrelated to this project.

The remnants of a large stump from a tree removed long before Susan and I bought he home

Another even larger stump in the process of being burnt up
All told this project cost about $4000 with about $300 in additional cost still to come. That doesn't include the $400 for my truck window. The project took about 2 months to complete. Susan and I did all the work ourselves. I think we did a pretty good job.

I have to mention the massive quantities of Gatorade and ice water I drank during this project and the never ending baskets of dirty sweaty clothes I cycled through each day. There were some days when the temperature was in the 90-degree plus range which made staying hydrated especially difficult. One should also expect to smash a few fingers along the ways so be sure to wear some good gloves.

Forest Park Autumn 5K Run/Walk

Even with all these chores I still had time to run a local 5K race and take home a trophy. I ran the Forest Park GA Autumn 5K race on Saturday, September 22nd with my buddy Jim Macie. It was my first race this year. I placed 2nd overall and first in my age-group. It was a small race!

Me almost finished

Unfortunately, I didn't start my Garmin watch properly so the data from the race was not collected. I manually entered the course and my results for posterity.

The course length was slight more than 5K.

My buddy Jim almost to the finish line

On Stage receiving my trophy with the Chick-fil-a cow

Jim won a door prize - $5 off at Dick's Sporting Goods
The next outdoor project will be to tackle the backyard and my next race might be in preparation for another Ironman attempt in 2017.

Thanks for reading.