When it rains it pours goes the old adage...unfortunately I had to live it first hand Friday night.
I should have suspected the continued pummeling when I parked the parts runner in the freshly plowed parking lot. As I got out from behind the wheel, a huge gust of wind blew my watch cap off my head! I grumbled as I looked in vain for it. Oh, there it is...some 40 feet away!
Walking up the shop road with the wind at my back, I had no idea what faced me...until I walked into the groomer's ready room and felt the defeated vibe...three cats down will do that...especially when there's so much work to be done!
Once everyone punched in, my fate was sealed...everyone would have a cat to run once Driller finished his shift in the Terrain Park. Two of us would have to run winchcats, but we wouldn't be hooking up and pulling new trails...just digging and the basics...this was no time to wallow into bottomless secondary runs!
Of the three downed cats, the Bison would be the quickest fix...once the Graveyard Wrench punched in. My Ol' Faithful was still awaiting a new injector so I took it upon myself to run the Shop Cat until further notice. I wanted all the guys to at least run BR350s...the guys running winchcats as free groomers felt put upon enough already...
I set about getting the Shop Cat started...I rounded up the hot shot battery charger and an extension cord. Eskimo hauled me and the charging kit up to the parking hill and back-bladed away the drifted snow around the old warhorse. I embarked and thanked him for the ride, and slogged to the cat.
The Shop Cat is a patchwork quilt of retired front line groomers. She began life as a 2001 Bombardier BR275 Olympic Winchcat. We bought her on the cheap because she was a demo cat. Bombardier made a fleet of these Olympic Cats available to the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee for use at the 2001 Olympic Trials, the dress rehearsal for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games. The cat has the signature livery featuring the 2002 Olympic Emblem, a stylized snowflake. Ours had just a few hundred hours on the clock when we took delivery, and she served as a frontline winchcat for several years before being put out to pasture.
On the back, the winch has been replaced by a tilting aluminum pickup bed from another retired demo groomer...one of the two Euro-Spec BR400MPs we bought around Y2K. One of those EuroCats was my daily driver, I hated those pickup beds...they did a great job of totally obscuring the tiller's cutter bar...not to mention how much snow they'd catch in a shift...snow that you have to shovel off at the end of your shift!
I schlepped the charger around to the pickup bed, brushed the snow from the batteries, and hooked up the leads. I ran the extension cord to the power pole and plugged her in. Back at the Shop Cat, I could hear the charger doing it's thing. I turned the key...nothing, no lights either...I looked around for the Main Electrical Shut Off Switch...nothing...then I remembered that our mechanics had installed the big switches in the cabs back in the day, and that the OEM location was back in the engine compartment. A little more snow sweeping and I found the Mains. Back in the throne, I turned her over...I got a good five seconds before the starter drained the pitiful battery bank.
I tried again every few minutes before I got some encouraging coughs and ignitions, but still not enough electrons to get her to catch. I busied myself looking about the cab. I put the rear view mirror back on it's stalk. I turned her over again...more good sounds, but still the Cummins engine refused to run on it's own before the juice ran out.
I think I know how the thoroughbred race horses feel in the starting gate. Waiting more than five minutes between tries was torture. Finally she caught and stayed running. It was almost 2AM
I still couldn't relax...the lights were dim, the heater blower was barely moving any air, and the voltmeter hadn't moved one millimeter...diesels don't need any electricity to run once they've started. I kept the lights off while I warmed it up...I figured the the Graveyard Wrench could council me on the cat's foibles...he'd be in any minute. I throttled up to drive down to the fuel dock and the volt meter came to life at 1000RPM...I'm saved!
I put the charging gear back in the shop and got my things arranged in the old cat's cab. I filled it up and the Graveyard Wrench walked in. I gave him the thumbnail of the state of the fleet, grabbed a handheld 2-way, and finally rumbled off into the night...now it was 0300...
I started mashing down the homeruns and maze areas...it was really deep. I could barely see...the defroster just wasn't getting the job done. Cats of this era had windshield defrosters on a timed circuit. Turn on the defroster and it turns itself off after 15 minutes. There's an indicator light on the dash that shows when the defroster is on, but it's notorious for failing...today's cats still have the timer, but the timer resets every time you move the blade, so the windshield defroster only goes off when the cat's not working.
I turned the heat up and tried to run with the window open, but those gusty winds were bringing in more moisture than the heat was moving out. It was like a sauna in there...without the relaxing part.
I ran this way for seven hours...now I know how a pot roast feels coming outta the oven!
The Bison was back online around 0600, and my Ol' Faithful was ready to rumble at 0900.
I can't wait to groom in the 21st Century tonight! (Though I'd be lying if I said these days don't remind me of 1981/1982)