Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooling Off

What a difference a day makes!

SturgeUrge and TruckeeDave spent a fine day on San Francisco Bay Friday. We launched the boat at the reasonable hour of 9AM and motored out of the Richmond Harbor, past the site of the Kaiser Shipyards.

During WW2, Liberty Ships were built at breakneck speed in Henry Kaiser's three Richmond Shipyards. Although it's "Rosie the Riveter" who we think of when pondering the Liberty Ship Builders, the reason the Liberty Ships were such a big deal is because they were Welded Ships not Riveted. "Wendy the Welder" worked at Kaiser in Richmond. Today, you'll find the "Rosie the Riveter World War II-Home Front National Historic Park" near the marina.

It turns out that Kaiser was the Henry Ford of ship building. His scheme to build ships in a modular fashion revolutionized shipbuilding and the method is the standard today. Kaiser recruited workers from all across America, they came to Richmond in droves...they swelled sleepy Richmond from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand people in three years.

Of the 2710 Liberty Ships built during the War, only two are still operational. The SS Jeremiah O'Brian is based in San Francisco. Although she was built on the East Coast, she belongs to us now, and she makes a few cruises every summer for history buffs, and hosts other events. Next Saturday August 22nd, 2009 she's cruising San Francisco's "Barbary Coast" for an afternoon history seminar.

The O'Brian was the only large ship that participated in the D-Day Landings at Normandy, France of June 6th, 1944 that returned to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. It was the O'Brian's eighth crossing, the first seven were during WW2. After languishing 33 years in Suisun Bay's "Reserve Fleet" (known locally as the Mothball Fleet) volunteers restored her and she began her second career as a floating history museum.

As we left the "No Wake Zone" and throttled up, we passed another Liberty Ship, the USS Red Oak Victory. She's part of Rosie's National Park and is undergoing restoration. She was built in Richmond, and served during WW2, Korea and Vietnam. This month two of my favorite WW2 Movies are being screened on board: Casablanca and Mrs. Miniver.

The other operational Liberty Ship, the SS John W Brown is ported in Baltimore, MD

Our plan for the day was to blast south from Richmond to Alcatraz Island and get a few drifts in before the Small Craft Warnings forecast to begin at 11AM kicked in...reports from Thursday had many large halibut taken there and around neighboring Angel Island.

It was not to be. Turning onto the Bay itself, we were greeted by a fresh breeze and sheep as far as the eye could see. "Sheep in the Meadow" is just one cliche for whitecaps on the water. Going to Plan-B, we slowly beat our way across the Bay to find shelter in the wind shadow of the Tiburon Peninsula. This fishing spot goes by the name: "Paradise"

Most of the Thursday Fishing reports I saw online mentioned 30 knot when we got to Paradise we had the place to ourselves. Once we settled in, and got our baits into the water, we took a look around and saw a little "Plastic Navy"...four hearty kayak fishermen drifting in close. As the day wore on, we gathered more boats here to stay outta the wind, and maybe catch some halibut.

We drifted several times thru usually productive water to no avail. The wind was allied with the barely perceptible tidal current, and we ventured deeper into the center of the Bay each time we began a new drift. Right at 11AM the wind really started to howl...Nice going NWS! The guys who put together the early AM Marine Forecast couldn't have been any more accurate...Score one for the Weatherman.

There wasn't much of a "Swing" between Low Tide and High Tide, so the current wasn't able to overcome the wind. Fortunately, with the wind and current aligned, the movement over the bottom looked the same to our quarry, and about an hour after the bottom of the tide, we started getting bit. First up was a good take-down on my rod...the fish screamed away and I stood up to pump it in. It telegraphed none of the usual halibut signatures...I knew it was a Bat Ray... I played it in, and SturgeUrge cut it've got to be careful releasing these guys. This year we're seeing them curl up their bodies so they can lash out with their stingers while you try to pull the hook...we took the hint and just cut them loose now...they head home with new jewelry, a lip piercing if you will, that'll rust away in a few days.

Next up, SturgeUrge gets in on the action...he's says: "I feel the head shake!" I get the net. Urge gently brings the fish to his side of the boat...I hand him the measuring stick...yep, legal enough! I carefully dip the net into the Bay behind the fish, and into the net it goes...Gotcha!

High fives and a couple of quick snapshots and into the fish box! A short chorus of atta boys, and we reflect on our angling prowess...On each and every trip we've taken on a Bay this season, we've hooked gamefish and gotten them to the boat...or at least close! Last time at Paradise, SturgeUrge was hooked into a really nice Halibut and just about the time the fish was going to see the boat, disaster! A failed leader ended SturgeUrge's joy for the day...we went home empty handed. We consoled ourselves: You can't land 'em until you've hooked 'em! Amends were made Friday.

When I dropped my next bait, I must have hit the fish on the noggin with the sinker. I hooked up just when the rig hit bottom...Urge put the net on my Halibut, and the twin went into the box! Hey, these guys are good!

We enjoyed a very nice day on San Francisco Bay...the day was warm enough that I never put on long pants...unusual for August on the Bay...sunscreen and shirt sleeves ruled the day...not your typical summer day on the Bay.

We brought home the bacon, the weather Gods were kind, as were the Fish Gods.

It was Cool.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hotseat

The summer heat is on...still. I finished my little project on the SturgeUrge and my trusty Swiss Army Watch needed a new battery today. The watch came from COSTCO in Reno a decade or more ago and it turns out it's really never loses even a second, until the little battery dies. The battery goes a couple of years, anyway, and I remember when the first battery died.

I thought "What a jyp! This watch is only a couple of years old!" That morning I got home after my night on the Mountain and dug up the docs on the watch...d'oh! It's not "Self Winding" like I thought, it needs a new battery!

It's funny what you remember. When I noticed the watch had died, I had a passenger in my cat...last evening I read an article in the Industry's Magazine that quoted that passenger. The article was about Female Groomers Working on the Mountains. Julie, the passenger that night, was on her first "Ride Along" when the watch battery quit...I remember because Julie asked me what time it was when she started to feel like nodding off. The time was 3AM, the watch said 12:30...again.

The Ride Along
I've trained a whole bunch of operators over the years. In the long run, training groomers is probably the most important part of my job. We try to hire total rookies, with skill sets we think will enhance their value to the Mountain once they learn how to run a groomer like TruckeeDave runs a groomer. My mission is to train up a bunch of TruckeeDaves, keep them in nearly-new, well maintained equipment, hopefully 'till they reach retirement age. That's my plan...Sometimes I get lucky...most years I'm training three or four rookies for a crew of twenty.

It turns out Julie is my best work so far, by a long shot...She's been my Swing Shift Star for a couple of years now. I'm looking forward to working with her this season too. Though she's left the Mountain for Greener Pastures, she loves grooming enough to come back up the hill and groom for the Christmas Holidays. Julie and her husband left the mountain so Julie could study at a school in a neighboring state...she's going into medicine, not Medical School, but a she'll be a professional medical practitioner none the less.

I knew at the time I was training her that she wouldn't be on my crew forever, Julie had too much on the ball to settle on Grooming For Life. I was more than happy to have her for as long as she stayed happy, but soon she would want more than the Mountain could offer. She's had a great run, and great times. Julie met her husband on the Mountain, she left my employ during the Real Estate Boom and worked in the Mortgage Industry, and returned to Grooming just ahead of the Real Estate Bust...Smart

The Ride Along is when I get the first good look at my new prospects. Rookies ride with me for a few nights to start. Sometimes they decide they're not into it, and that's that. Other times a rookie finds out there's so much more to it than they figured...maybe it won't be boring after could be fun! These are the guys who get my undivided attention, though I'm pretty much an advocate for the job. I love it...I guess you might call me a Disciple.

Most people I know are either Early Risers or Night Owls. Groomers are only slightly different, they come in two flavors as well: Swing and Grave. Some people are born with the Graveyard Gene. Some don't have it...and no matter how hard they try to do the Graveyard thing, their DNA has the last word, and they become Swing Shift People or find another job on the Mountain. Julie lacked the Graveyard Gene...she suffered big time to learn her craft, before I let her go to Swing Shift.

After riding along enough to impress me so I'll trust them at the sticks of a 350HP snowcat, I tell the rookie to come prepared to run this cat tomorrow night.."Let's see how you do" They get this spiel after a couple of nights of asking the questions I want to hear. I like to set rookies up so they feel like they've discovered the point...that way they remember it forever, and it's more fun for me to watch...besides pounding it into their thick skulls is hard on me...not to mention what it says about my ability to "choose good horseflesh"

Fear is my friend, I wield it with wicked intent, it makes me strong, it makes my cats last through the shift. Grooming cats are interesting creatures, they are designed to work like a bulldozer, but they must be light enough on their feet, that they're able to climb steep slopes covered with deep new powder. Imagine a cross between a bulldozer and a biplane.

The first time a rookie sits in the operator's throne, his eyes get wider, his heart rate rises, and adrenaline pours into his bloodstream. This is's my friend because I use it to reign in the rookie's enthusiasm, thereby protecting my equipment. All those physical manifestations of fear work against the rookie...right from the outset, and inevitably lead to wider eyes, higher heart rates, a little more adrenaline...and my hidden smile.

Here's how it always goes down...TD: seat belt fastened? Rookie: yes. TD: (as I reach over to his side of the console) this is the Track Speed Control, I'm turning your track speed down, so you'll have an easier time taking off smoothly. Rookie: thanks. TD: OK, take off the parking break. Rookie: OK, now? TD: Slowly ease your sticks forward. The the rookie "eases" the sticks ahead and the cat jumps forward, feeling like it's trying to jump off the snow! The rookie pulls the sticks lunges towards the windshield, eyes widening again...until he finally finds "smooth"

I always do this drill in the middle of a wide, flat run devoid of hard lift towers, no snowmaking, no trees, no other cats...just me, the kid with the wide eyes, and my perfect pass to follow. Most of the rookies catch their breath after a couple of hundred yards, and think to ask "How am I doing" TD: OK...for a rookie...I smile inside again..."thanks fear"

Now I start kibitzing to follow my pass, "look farther ahead, keep a loose grip on the sticks, more to your left...a little more left...You can use the hinge in your blade as a gauge, just hover it above the edge of the pass you're following...that's it...counter-clockwise around the Top Terminal"

It usually take an hour or so before I'm confident the rookie is good to go alone...that is, good to follow me around like a puppy for the rest of their week. Now he gets to negotiate the skinny, tree-lined road back to the shop where my cat is waiting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Warming Up

The Inland Valleys are warming up again, Mother Nature's acting just like she should in mid-August.

I spent some time this afternoon at work on my buddy's boat, "SturgeUrge" We're going to launch SturgeUrge onto San Francisco Bay Friday morning and spend the day chasing those delicious flatfish, California Halibut...and Beatin' The Heat!

San Francisco is famous for it's Summer Weather...the Mark Twain attribution: "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco", has not yet been verified, but millions believe he said it, wrote it, and lived it...especially after riding a San Francisco Cable Car in August. Ghostly white legs clad in Bermuda Shorts help those beliefs become indelible.

The SF Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta sit astride the "Great Natural Air Conditioner" The phrase "Nature's Air Conditioner" gets worn out every summer in these parts by almost every Local WeatherCaster droning thru their Weather Sound-Bite Minutes on TV and Radio.

It's a simple machine really...the Great Central Valley heats up during the day...that heat rises...creating the "Thermal Low". Out on the foggy coast, colder denser air is sinking, and acts like a "High Pressure Area" compared to the rising Valley air east of the Delta. Then the wind begins to blow from "High" to "Low"

The Golden Gate is where the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin River System waters find their way thru the Bays and Delta and into the Pacific Ocean. In the Summer the magnificent Golden Gate funnels the afternoon winds right through San Francisco Bay, towards the Upper Bays...San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay, and on into the Delta and Valley beyond.

The San Andreas Fault opened the Coast Range...right beneath the Golden Gate Bridge... creating the huge estuarine nursery system so enjoyed by spawning Herring, California Halibut, Striped Bass, Juvenile Dungeness Crabs and several non-game species.

Back at "The Weather Center" there's usually another cliche uttered near the end of the forecast..."Nature abhors a vacuum, so the wind will begin to blow..." This boilerplate is repeated hourly, day in, and day out, beginning in mid-April and playing like the antique "stuck record" 'till the "Rainy Season" begins come October or November. This vacuum deal seems to me a misnomer, but it rolls off the tongue better than the alternatives, I guess.

The Weather Cliche is the reason Local Weather Reporters all start gushing every fall, when they can finally turn off their Auto-Pilots, re-engage their hearts and brains, and start enjoying their careers again!

The other things to recommend the Machine are the nice cool days spent boating on the Bay! Escape from the Inland Valleys' heat is just part of the fun out on the Bay. Sailing is really popular here, there are reliable winds all summer long...and they really get going just about quitting time for regular Daytime Worker Bees!

Halibut fishermen enjoy the cool, but need to work around the wind. The LazyBones Method is "Drift Fishing" that is drifting a bait right at the bottom, propelled only by the Tidal a Perfect World! The LBM is the extra nice way to fish because it's quiet, slow-paced and relaxing, and there's no engine fumes like you get when you're slow-trolling...
(the Commercial Fisherman's preferred hook & line halibut method)

Tides are the Bay Angler's best friend...tidal currents carry the prey (bait) to our prey (Halibut Dinner) Halibut are usually thought of as "Ambush Hunters" who conceal themselves in the soft bottom, and wait 'till the prey drifts by, and whammo-dinner!

The wind complicates "The Drift" like nobody's business...the best you can hope for is wind and current working your drift together-like a team. This happens once in a Blue Moon. We settle for what we can get, or barring that, we hunt around the Bay trying to "stay outta the wind" so we can enjoy another productive drift.

A quick glance at the Tide Calendar for Friday, shows the day to have "Halibut Tides" that is, gentle changes from High Tide to Low Tide. This means slower Tidal Currents, which means the water won't be as roiled-up, and will stay cleaner so the sight hunting Halibut have a better chance to see our baits.

Tides cycle with the Moon and Big Tides alternate weeks with Halibut Tides...Bay Area Fishermen call Big Tides: Sturgeon Tides. It's a cool thing if you get to fish every week. This week week, Halibut...variety, the spice of life.

My Fishing Buddy (AKA SturgeUrge) is the only person I don't work with who enjoys Sundays and Mondays as their Days Off. This has been working for us for 20+ years...Summers we're fishing on the Bay and Ocean, alternating with Sierra Camping and Trout Fishing. Winters, SturgeUrge skis my Mountain alternating with me Sturgeon Fishing Suisun Bay on his's a racket, I tell ya, a racket!

What you ask does any of this have to do with CorduroyPlanet? Nothing really...I just needed to think "Cool Thoughts" after pondering Heat and Warming all week! I'm going to muse on Snowcat Heaters soon enough, but I'm already half-baked...Iced Coffee couldn't cut it this afternoon...this space will heat up soon enough.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


No blast furnace deja vu in the Folk's driveway this AM...granted I was picking up the fishwrap earlier than yesterday. The haze became overcast overnight, and the outlook was for "Missed It By A Mile"

After watching my Giants lose to the Dodgers on the tube last night, I heard the top of the hour weather forecast on the radio say: "A few degrees cooler in the Inland Valleys tomorrow, with low clouds and coastal fog returning by the end of the week"

I dressed up a little today, and I took my Mom to her monthly church luncheon. My trousers had deep-set wrinkles from our last church to-do, so into the dryer for a touch-up they went. Pulling the hot trousers on beneath my new Hawaiian shirt would have been unbearable yesterday, but not it's 18F cooler than yesterday...breezy too.

I checked the Sacramento NWS Fire Weather Forecast, it's mid-70's up the hill today, same as here in the Inland Valley...cue 86: "Missed it by that much"

Why quibble you say? I'm just sayin'...making a point. Here's my dreaded ENSO Effect in CenCal...mid-summer...the local NWS Forecast is off by 6X on the 24hr temp change forecast!

I'm not dissing the scientists at the local NWS Office (Monterey,CA I think?) I don't pay much attention to the Bay Area Weather as a rule...not like the way I follow along with my local forecasters at home during Ski Season!

If you stop to think about it, the NWS has been amazingly good the past few years compared to 20-30 years ago. Technology and the Computer Modeling Arts have evolved into reliable tools that we've all come to rely on since we entered the "Space Age" a half century ago.

The downside of their success is our own Raised Expectations...we expect accurate forecasts, and gripe mightily when they miss their mark by even a little. Back East there was even a lawsuit filed against the NWS by the survivors and heirs of fishermen lost at sea during a terrible, un-forecasted Nor'easter. To be honest, I don't know if the suit was allowed by the Court, or the outcome...if any. The timeline of this suit ran well before the current financial malaise developed, so it wasn't just out of work Ambulance Chasers trying to drum up business.

The Tech Explosion of the last few decades have given us an arsenal of weather observation tools. Fast, powerful computers and software have helped grow meteorology into the respected science it is today...even Local TV WeatherPeople make the big money now. Studies show that before Social Networking and iPorn assumed the helm, the Number One driver of Internet Growth was regular folks checking the weather from their home computers. Just another growth cycle in the Human Story...

The latest swing in the tech cycle coincided perfectly with the warm side of ENSO, so the development of the computer models occurred during the warm phase and performed OK as long as Sea Surface Temps (SSTs) stayed "normal" or above...when
La Niña events prevail, accuracy goes out the window.

OK, I'd better get my terms straight now, ENSO is Weather Geek-Speak for

" El Niño-Southern Oscillation" ENSO may be part of another Pacific Ocean Climate Engine: PDO, or "Pacific Decadal Oscillation"

Wiki says:

"The PDO is a pattern of Pacific climate variability that shifts phases on at least inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years. The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, north of 20° N. During a "warm", or "positive", phase, the Western Pacific becomes cool and part of the Eastern Pacific warms; during a "cool" or "negative" phase, our Eastern Pacific cools."

OK, Here's what I really meant to say: The WeatherTech Explosion coincided with the Warm Phase of the PDO...I was a Cheerios Kid...AlphaBits? Not so much...that goes for Alphabet Soup too...sorry if I've got you all confused now, I'll get it all ironed out before the snow flies!

I may be speaking outta school, but it seems to me that when you develop your tools during the warm regime, and your tools under-perform during La Niña events, you may have more tool development to do, especially now that the PDO has shifted Negative! I'm not exactly sure why I have faith that "they're working on it"...if I was in their shoes, I'd be busy getting the show ready for PrimeTime.

Why this matters to me:

Day Trippers watch the Weather Channel and their favorite Local TV WeatherCaster like hawks watching field mice when they're considering a trip to the slopes! My Mountain's bottom line depends on their seats riding on our chairlifts, and Californians, especially Day Trippers are clearly becoming more like "Fair Weather Warriors" every season...after all, avoiding excess fuss and muss leaves more time to enjoy even more entertainments generated by our culture!

I admit I went into last season with a deep sense of dread. Last fall, people were playing their hands close to their vests, and I figured we'd really feel the contraction in the Economy. (Though I was buoyed by the soft gasoline prices)...Turns out the American Consumers are way more complex than I'd given them credit for! We actually had a decent increase in mid-week visits. Our weekends were softer...due mostly to weekend weather, and highway issues. These slowed the crowds, but some weekends without travel dramas went bust behind bad weather forecasts that kept folks home needlessly.

I guess folks were working a little less, but still sneaking up the hill to bag some freshies when they thought they had the weather Go-Ahead.

Anticipate changeable conditions when you're thinking of coming up...use the tools available in Real Time...most resorts have Webcams and Weather Pages, the NWS has RealTime data pages, CalTrans has Webcams, Chambers of Commerce Cams too. Use the NWS Sacramento and Reno Office Zone Forecast Pages in lieu of the prettied-up national weather websites (Hint: the real straight dope from the forecasters is found in the NWS Forecast Discussion)

There's good cell coverage all along the I-80 Corridor. Armed with your iPhones and Blackberries (and the Hands Free Stuff) you'll have instant intel in RealTime. Clearly the resolution of our forecasts will be less than we're used to until the WeatherGuys come to grips with the Pacific's New Regime. So, a little Game Plan Adjustment on our part is called for.

So when you're watching another Valley Forecaster "Curing the Drought" on their 11PM forecast, don't fold your cards...go All In and set your alarm anyway...the weather will be what it is in the's worth a look...hell, you might beat the system and end up with the Mountain all to yourself...with "Surprise" BlueBird Weather to boot! I'll be working with a Mountain-full of happy groomers (we hate missed opportunities for fun on the Mountain, too!)...enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Heat Is On

The Dog Days of Summer continue...Downslope winds (offshore, for you Sailors) are keeping the mercury up into the mid-90's here at the Ancestral Digs.

I spent late morning Monday buttoning up my Chevy's Radiator R&R Project, finishing with the Sun on my back for the last hour of the job. I looked like I'd just been freed from The Box in "Cool Hand Luke" work-T had the neck, sternum, and armpit sweat stains CinemaScope.

I gathered up my tools, rags, and fluid jugs, secured the hood, doors, toolbox, and camper shell, closed up the garage, and strode into the house. After pulling off the sweaty Tee, I poured a tall, cooled French Roast over a tumbler full of ice, and sat down to check the e-mail and cool down a bit.

I admit it, I'm a Coffee Achiever...and proud of powers my productivity and helps come multi-tasking time. I drink a pot a day...Winter or Summer, though more often than not, I don't get time to do the whole thermos-full most Winter nights. I've been grinding my whole beans since the mid-70's, and settled on the French Roast before Alternative Rock became Mainstream.

The French Roast never keeps me from falling asleep come bed-time, it makes my kitchen smell like Heaven, and keeps well in Summertime for afternoon Iced Coffee. Fresh brewed, I take it black...when it's iced, I add sugar...1/2 teaspoon to a pint tumbler.

Sipping on the cool confection, I noticed an itch between my shoulder blades and rubbed it hand came back with that rolled-up, exfoliated stuff...I finished the coffee and hit the showers.

Cooled and cleaned, I sit in front of the laptop mind wanders to the rolled-up dried skin thing, I remember every October fishing trip to the tip of Baja. Sweat-soaked every day, fishing from pangas on the 85F Sea of Cortez in the tropical heat and humidity... and after a few Happy Hours spent at the Hotel Swim-Up Bar, the dead stuff would disappear, leaving me smoother than a baby's bottom.

Then I am ready for another Winter of single digit humidities, hot snowcat heaters, and warm, bone dry, wood heated homes. This annual dermal renewal has become a milepost of sorts...a signal that another Winter is coming soon.

It's not the first sign I receive and record each fall, in fact the first data point is gathered in Late Summer, a week or so before the Autumnal Equinox...I always receive this signal out at Stead Field north of Reno, NV during the Reno Championship Air Races...the signal is subtle, the Unlimited Air Racing is blatant.

That second week of September is when I first notice the difference in the quality of the gives a different cast to my world, a more diffuse look than mid-summer light gives. The Sun's come almost halfway down from it's zenith, and the photons travel thru much more atmosphere to reach my eye, than when our star is overhead in Mid-Summer. It's almost like a wispy, smoky sky...without the smell and worry.

Still, something always stirs in me when I notice those kamakaze squirrels dive-bombing stray pinecones in the middle of the mountain highway, gripped by their instincts, this signals things I dare not ignore: My boat and the garage are a mess...I haven't done enough trout fishing this Summer...Arrange a place for the boat and camper... Not enough camping trips taken...I missed Oregon again...Fleet Week is just a month away...Next up, Thanksgiving...will the Mountain be open for Thanksgiving?

The weather's been funny the past few years. The Eastern Pacific has been "running behind schedule" from a fisherman's perspective (and the weatherman's perspective, I suspect) Ocean currents have strayed from their usual haunts, cooler waters are way outside, dungeness crabs are at the bottom of their productivity cycle, the decent-sized bait is way outside.

In '07 and '08 the Ocean was about six weeks "behind" Salmon dilly-dallied offshore, failing to congregate off Central California beaches before pushing thru the Golden Gate, and up-river to their destiny. Highly Migratory game fish dawdled to the south as well, and the Mountain didn't open in November...not for three years, at least...the past two years I didn't fire up my snowcat 'till the second week of December.

So here's the light month earlier than usual...a looming early winter? We could use one, my feeling is later than Thanksgiving.

There's just barely a salmon season here in California this year...those weird ocean conditions and lousy Federal water management have taken their toll on our salmon and forced resource managers to keep salmon fisherman in port again this year, except for a week or so near the Oregon border around Labor Day. Not what I'd call "Salmon Season"

There went my weather intel network, salmon fishermen are a chatty lot...I'm going from Hunch-City only this year. The light is early, but it's mostly smoke from Siskiyou and Stanislaus fires transported here by the offshore breezes.

Thanksgiving? I hope not, Thanksgiving is my only semi-reliable Family Holiday...With my schedule, I have Christmas off every ten years, though I usually end up working for of one of my Guys who have kids.

What do I think? I was surprised that we went three in a row with sub-average precipitation. With ENSO trending colder, I'm guessing December again...maybe not the second week...all signs aren't in...the smoky skies have me over-thinking this today.

I'd better do the math again next month.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Running Hot

I went out to pick up the paper this morning...before 11AM the driveway's still in the shade of a big cedar deodora, but I felt like I was in a commercial kitchen, walking by the Pizza Oven on a Saturday Night...better get after it early today.

A couple cups of coffee, and I'm back in the Folks' driveway putting my repaired radiator back in the Chevy 4X4. I'd cleaned a decade of CalTrans' finest "sand" from beneath the radiator, from the cross-members, the hard lines and hoses. The Chevy's radiator does triple-duty, keeping coolant, ATF, and engine oil temps in spec. It does this cleanly as long as accumulated road debris doesn't "hole" the core.

I have an aversion to loose fluids, all groomers do. Loose fluids always find their way into your snowcat and onto your shoes, and for groomers oily shoes make for Katarina Witt moments, another "slide for life" off frozen tracks, ending in who knows whatever solid encounter.

If you're a lucky guy, you won't hurt yourself, instead you'll track that spill into your personal vehicle, and home to the entry runner, the bathroom throw, and maybe the ottoman. These spills are insidious, they aren't puddles you can see and avoid. These spills are lurkers, hiding in the dark, even in "your" snowcat, waiting to spread to your shoes, your space, and to your life.

My mountain has spent hundreds of thousands on spill containment infrastructure over the years to mitigate the Big Scale version of this problem. Berms, vaults, catch basins, sumps, false floors with drains in the Oil Room and more are the frontline fortifications...Spill Kits, protocols, safety meeting discussions, MSDS's are the rear guard, still the goo-on-the-shoe eludes these sentinels to dirty my personal world.

So, I've learned to deal with it...steam clean the carpets every spring, spray lots of Shout on the clothes before they hit the laundry...RinoLiner floor mats for the Chevy take care of the garden variety contamination, but these measures are no match for spilt Off-Road Diesel Fuel.

Here in California, diesel fuel is as clean as the driven snow...ultra-low sulfur, cleaner-burning Cal-Spec, Gaia-loving, good-citizen diesel fuel. Clean, and clear as mountain spring water, unless you burn "Off-Road" Diesel Fuel...what's that? Same water-clear, clean fuel with Lucifer's Own Red Dye added to discourage scofflaws.

Off-Road blend isn't just for gearheads with too-tall 4X4 Rock Crawlers, Baja Buggies and off road toys of every description,'s for California machines who don't operate on Cali roads or highways, so they aren't obligated to pay CA Highway Tax, but ARE obligated to pay the Federal Excise Tax up front, CA Sales Tax, and other taxes I'm sure.

The State mandates the Red Dye because if you introduce the Red Diesel into a highway vehicle, it will stain the fuel system...pretty much forever...allowing the California Highway Patrol to catch the Tax Cheat during the next CHP Annual Inspection...California needs all the "Revenue" it can get these days...

This dye is death to groomer's duds. Shout goes hoarse tryin' to "Shout-it-out" water seems to set the stain...and subsequent washings are futile. I've had some success using orange based cleaners along with the Shout, but a couple of trips thru the laundry are usually called for before you can wear the darn thing to work again.

During the heart of ski season, I can go weeks without spilling a drop of fuel...the mountain has an IP Cam watching the Fuel Island, and fueling without your hand on the nozzle is a Firing Offense, Fuel Spill Rules are drummed into every employee's head during training, and repeated the Mountain keeps it's fuel in the tankage where it belongs.

After 29 years on my Mountain, I just want to know why am I always wearing a new T-Shirt, Carhartts, or Levis when I do slop a little Red Fuel on myself!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Watch This Space

The snow won't fly for a couple of months yet.

That doesn't mean I'm not Thinking about getting back out on my Mountain!

It got to nearly 90F here at the Folk's today...a far cry from Winter's icy embrace...

So I kept my hand in the Game...I spent a couple of hours deleting a Season's-Worth of Company e-mail.

When it's me and the Guys on my Mountain, I'm "Master of My Domain" and all those in my Inbox I'm just another tiniest Subset of "Mountain All"...not that I take it personally...

The Pacific's "turned over"...Climate Scientists say: "The ENSO had entered the Cold Phase"...WeatherNerds know that means: "Oh Shit! NWS Forcasters never get it right during La Nina events"...and the ENSO shift is good for thirty years of La Nina resolution...roll the dice, pick your metaphor, play the hand that's dealt...just deal with it!

Did I mention this will be my 29th year on my Mountain...Dealin' with it?