Saturday, March 5, 2011

Paradise Lost?

Early into last night's graveyard shift, my favorite BR350 did something it's never done before. I was toolin' downslope when the throttle suddenly dropped 500RPM (with the associated loss of ground speed)

I throttled down to idle and back up to the joy...still shy 500RPM...

I rebooted the cat, and full throttle was available again. The mystery of the Checkout Sheet Comment from the Park Groomer who drove my tractor on swing shift was now understood...His cryptic comment: "Engine went to idle while grooming"...

Wait a second..."Rebooted the Cat"?

That's right, modern snowcats are computer controlled, and they load their Operating System every time they start up. As grooming technology entered the 21st Century, groomers learned the Reboot Trick...most glitches can be fixed with the old Restart/Reboot Routine. Most common is the tiller that won't spin...a quick restart will usually restore operator control of the tiller...we reboot to fix everything that isn't damage or breakage.

A half an hour later, again pointed downhill (if only just barely) the same symptoms once more. This time I let it go...I twisted the throttle knob up and down, finally leaving it at idle. The throttle became possessed! Without input from me, it cycled up and down from it's 800RPM idle to 1500RPM...spooky!

I rebooted, and normalcy returned once more.

I keyed the mic and called the Swing Park Groomers. I asked them to give me a shout-out when they finished their shift, so I could park Ol' Faithful and jump in their Bison for the duration. We discussed their cat's pesky glitches, and I told them to finish their List because I could soldier on OK.

An hour later, the Graveyard Wrench punched in and called us on the radio to say he was in the shop.

I replied and told him what was going on with my steed: "It's happened twice, but it hasn't thrown a code yet".

Another hour passes and the glitch hits again...this time it displays a Flash Code. I give the Wrench a call and tell him: "OK, I gotta code, it's 4-2" The Wrench said: "I'll look it up and give you a call back".

The call came 20 minutes later: "It's a non-critical fault. The Throttle Position Sensor is probably failing. It's OK to run it".

I ran it for the rest of the night without any more weirdness.

At the end of my shift, I was fueling up and the Boss walked up to shoot the shit. We marveled at the nearly uninterrupted service my cat has provided this season. It's the oldest cat in the will turn over to 8500 hours Saturday...more than half of those hours are my hours...I can say that in 30 years behind the sticks, I've never enjoyed a tractor more than this one.

I'm gonna miss her. Next season we turn her over for a new cat.

I'm optimistic though...I have a long string of great tractors behind me...I'll probably warm to the next victim, too...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Back On Top

Back in the saddle after my three day weekend at the Ancestral Digs, I enjoyed yet another Snow Night. Snow levels were way up compared to the previous two storm periods, so the powder was closer to mashed potatoes than to champagne powder...still, the grooming was good.

I did sorta pay the Piper for my clever "Evil Plan" to beat chain controls on my way up the hill Wednesday...I made a sizable withdrawal from the Sleep Bank...and I paid the price. There's just no way to enjoy fighting to keep your eyes open!

A Power Nap just before sunrise did the trick, and within the hour, I was digging out my Ray-Bans. It turned into a beautiful morning, and despite picking up the slack for another department when their groomer went down, the crew was out the door by 11AM

Rolling down the hill after work, I was filled with warm feelings...the scenery was incredible...fresh snow covering the Carson Range...brilliant blue lakes, and the last of the storms clouds scudding into Nevada overhead...

I forgot all about my sleep-deprived struggle, did the Safeway Shuffle in under 10 minutes, and was home and tucked up in bed in time to fall asleep during the Noon News.

Life is good...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Catching the Whirlwind

Just like that, I'm back home in the DaveCave, the snow is falling again, and my Evil Plan worked to a fair thee well! Chain Controls fell about a half an hour before I said my goodbyes and departed the Ancestral Digs.

My trip was not without drama, however...after crossing the Benicia Bridge, I ran into a sea of brake lights JNO Lake Hermann Road on I-680...just about the spot I usually kick up the Cruise Control to 70MPH.

The superslab was dry, I can only guess that it was a blow-over...the weatherpeople were all crowing about the gusty winds an hour earlier on the Noon News.

As I crept along the RH Lane (Thanks KCBS AM 740 for the detailed traffic heads-up!), I watched the truck get tipped upright...there went my Kodak Moment...debris from the truck was piled up on both shoulders...bad luck for motorists, this happened right at an off ramp, making clearing things up a little dicey...

Once past the mess, the trip was clear sailing. The snow was falling on the Summit but it wasn't sticking at the DaveCave...I'd estimate the snowlevel to be nearly 7000 feet...probably no Hero Snow tonight...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just Visiting Spring

I made the trip down the hill to the Ancestral Digs this weekend. Nice weather, the East Bay Hills emerald green with newly sprouted grasses, and the plum trees...oh my! All the Flowering Plumbs in my Mom's subdivision are in full bloom. Stunning when viewed against the background of green rolling hills.

With half of Monday and Tuesday devoted to errands, I saw eyeful after eyeful, and grabbed my camera when I embarked Tuesday...Post Office, Bank, TacoBell, COSTCO Gas, COSTCO, Health Food Store, Smart&Final, Asian Grocery, Hardware Store, and CVS Pharmacy.

I pulled over to rest up at my Mom's Church, where the Flowering Plums are the biggest in town. They also have some teak garden furniture to lay about on...right under the riot of Plum Blossoms.

I shot a bunch of photos...natural light...with fill flash...macro closeups...into the afternoon sun...and on, ad nasueam...Jeez...thay all looked so good on the digicam's 3" LCD!

Back at the Ancestral Digs, I put the groceries and supplies away, did some maintenance on the pickup, and laid down to take a load off and download the photos to the laptop with the 15.4" screen...

Oops, I forgot the proprietary USB Cable...and the Micro SD Card Adapter, so no joy until I get home to the DaveCave. d'oh!

I'll post a couple when I get home.

I turned on the tube. The local weatherpeople were gushing again on the 5 O'clock News, 6 O'clock News, and 11 O'clock newscasts. Just before his weathercast, KTVU2's meteorologist, Bill Martin hit Facebook to ask: 

"anybody in halfmoon bay... should be dumping....yes?" 

"I know you guys are all busy but would would help me out if you could hit me with any heavy rain reports.... Thanks."

"should be raining hard in the city right now... anybody verify?"
 I cocked my ear, but I couldn't hear any rain on the roof. I strode out to the garage, there I coud hear it...light, but steady rain...nothing rattling through the downspout outside my room yet, but it's here, and they say an inch or inch and a half by the time it exits Wednesday...noonish...
 I'm resigned to a sloppy drive up the hill, I'll be watching the Reno AFD, the webcams. and the remote data...timing is everything...I'll attempt to ride the backside of the last wave...I may lack for an hour or two of sleep, but I never have any trouble staying alert on storm nights! 
I've enjoyed my visit to Springtime World...I'm looking forward to getting back to Real Winter...and some more Hero Snow!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Now the Story Can Be Told

No, there was no embargo on my story...It's an organic time, and not enough sleep conspired to keep me from my keyboard.

The story has a happy ending though!

Blistering cold temps arrived with the cold front...already cold, temps haven't been above freezing on My Mountain in 13 days. The cold front dropped the mercury into the teens and twenties...that's the High Temperature for the day!

High winds and copious snowfall made for interesting grooming say the least! My crew handled it with aplomb...I'm very happy with how these guys are jelling into a solid team.

So we persevered, but Mother Nature prevailed...she closed our lifts, one by one, and closed Interstate-80 with her gale force winds and heavy snowfall combining to make white-out conditions.

Jeweler offered his futon, and I wisely accepted. Talk about hospitality, when we finally got to Jeweler's place, his room mate Trevor had a beautiful plate of hors d'oeuvres on the kitchen table, and plenty of good conversation.

Trevor made pork chops and mashed potatoes for dinner, but I slept through the seating...I enjoyed the pork chop in my lunchbox that night...Trevor can flat out cook!

Friday night, the storm was all but over at midnight. No snow, no flurries after 0100, and decent seeing made for a triumphantly enjoyable night! We got plenty of corduroy made, did the digging, and were still out of there by 11AM!

I made my way home to find the driveway buried under three feet of snow with a evening away had allowed the ski-lease across the street to get their driveway cleared, so I poached the spot to park the pickup in, and waded into my garage and fired up the Honda snowblower.

The snow was deeper than the Honda's box was tall, still ol' reliable did it's usual yeoman's job dispatching the hour and 45 minutes, and the driveway was buffed wall to wall and the pickup was in the garage...I'm Saved!

Shoveling my way into the DaveCave, I didn't dilly-dally...straight into a hot shower! I made a pastrami and cream cheese omelet, a screwdriver cocktail, and wasn't even 2PM!

10 seconds later, my alarm went off...10PM...uggh...up and at 'em, Saturday night looked much better!

All hands on deck! We did it guys kicked it, and we were off the hill early. I blew home at 65MPH and hit the hay...just a nap...I had an unavoidable meeting at 2:30PM...on my first day off in six days...I'm OK with it...the grooming crew Ruled the Universe...again!

Come on up! The skiing is incredible, and I am Outta Here!