Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saga In Search of a Soundtrack

Let's not do that again! Whatta night last night.

When we walked up the shop road at midnight, there was a yellow Bison parked with it's blade in the vehicle shop and Driller, the lead swing shift park builder was elbow-deep into a broken hydraulic hose replacement.

Up on the hill, our newest CenterX Bison was down with ECM trouble as well.

Not an auspicious beginning...fortunately the Work Orders were light on grooming and beefy on the digging side of things.

When it all shook out, we would be OK...a cat for everyone, the Graveyard Wrench would roll in before 0300, and we'd get to catch up on some overdue digging before Friday's forecast pummeling. Happily I roared off to do battle with our ever burgeoning snow pack.

My usual go-to podcast of "The Don Geronimo Show" has been on vacation this week, and I didn't fancy talk radio politics, so I cued up Steely Dan's "Everything Must Go" album.

My mission was to dig out our moving carpet beginner lift. These are delicate, slightly inclined "moving sidewalks" like you'd see in most airports, but without the escalator-style moving handrails. Ours is about 200 feet long with a rise of maybe 15 feet. It stands on an earth berm about eight feet tall, atop leveling jacks that are another three feet high.

Five or six weeks ago, I was pushing snow across the bunny hill to hide the carpet's underpinnings and bury the top of the berm...last night I needed to remove the new snowpack. The carpet was now in a trench 5-6 feet deep!

As I began to backblade the pack away from the carpet, my 2-way crackled...It was the first guy out after me. "Dave, do you want some help on the bunny hill?" "No thanks", I replied. "Why don't you start with your usual program, 1st two secondaries only tonight". "OK" He came back as he roared by.

I turned Steely Dan back up, and went about exposing the moving sidewalk. I cleared the north side down to just under, and made a few passes to windrow away the spoils from the carpet. When the album ended, I started it from the beginning again.

About a third of the way up the other side, the 2-way crackled again: "Dave, my tiller's broken, I can't lift it, and the stinger mount welds are broken" "Pack up your stuff, and I'll come and get ya" I radioed back. We were barely an hour and a half into our shift.

I roared up the hill and surveyed the broken Bison. I ferried the operator back to the shop, and asked him to stay...he could help the graveyard wrench get the crippled cat off the hill, and help fix it...The 2-way came to of the winch pilots just blew a hose, and couldn't lift his tiller, but wasn't stuck. He was right at his pick, and could drive it back to the shop.

I radioed Driller, and asked if he had another hose fix in him tonight. "Sure" said Driller.

I dropped the operator off at the shop, thanked him for his perseverance, and he and Driller got ready for the disabled winch. I went back to my moving sidewalk project, and switched my tunes to Jane's Addiction...time to power forward!

Digger called again...they were out of the hydraulic fittings he needed to make the new hose for the winch...I was starting to feel that Bunker Mentality coming on...

At 0300, there was no sign of Graveyard Wrench...that's when someone on the radio said: "Yesterday was his birthday" Digger chimed in: "Jesus, St Patrick's Day birthday?" Digger continued: "I'm in the shop, and this week's schedule has him off tonight" "We'll try to get the Shop Cat started if we can find the blade for's got the forklift mounted up front now..."

Just about the time I finished my second Jane's Addiction album, and cleaning up the bunny hill, Driller called and said they were ready to jumpstart the shop cat.

I rumbled in, parked next to the shop cat and waited while the boys hooked everything up. I unplugged my iPod, turned off the 2-way, and shut down the stereo...I didn't want to tempt The Fates! I scrolled through my display and stopped on the volt meter page. My cat usually runs 28V-28.5V. With the jumper cables hooked to the shop cat, the voltage dropped to 27.2V.

I revved it up to the governor, Driller turned the key...nothing...not even a solenoid clicking...

I soldiered on...I topped up my fuel, and headed back to the bunny hill. I knocked out all the grooming that needed back-ups...dug out the top bunny chair terminal and tailored the ramp, dressed up the maze at the bottom of the bunny chair, and feathered the pack to the lodge decks and the ramps that land on the roads and parking lots.

I called Jeweler who was working farther up the mountain and quizzed him: "How's it going for you tonight? We laughed, and he said: "I know I'm behind, but we'll just go forward" I didn't want to pile on, but I entreated Jeweler to: "Take four feet out from in front of the Race Shack, two passes wide". "Don't make a project of it, just take a bladefull every time you go by" "10-4" Jeweler replied.

I moved up the hill and finished the secondary with the broken cat on it. My phone rang...

The Boss was almost laughing when he asked: "How's it going, Dave?" "Driller just called me and related your tale of woes" I said: "We'll be OK, it's a short long as nothing else goes down...knock on wood"

We "got 'er done" and were back at the fuel dock in time for the lifts to turn at 8:45. The crew could finally sigh in relief. Truth is, we kicked it. We did the whole grooming list plus two short extra trails, and we got better than half of the digging done. Strong work for sure.

In the groomer's ready room I thanked the guys again. We agreed that someone should have recorded the 2-way all night...our night unfolded like a novel in search of a sound track.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weary of the Hype

I'm all tuckered out today.

I blame nuclear fallout!

Nearly a week of breathless reporting on the Japanese reactor situation has taken it's toll on the ol' psyche!

Here's the antidote: Fear the Media Meltdown, Not the Nuclear One

And a second dose for the truly frightened: Going Bananas Over Radiation

OK, now everyone can relax!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Before and After

Wow, fortunes certainly have changed overnight! Sometime after I could no longer prop open my eyelids, snow levels fell and the snow piled up big time!

I woke up around 0230 and observed 4-5 inches of new snow on the front deck. I took in some 24/7 News...all the nuclear excitement in Japan seems like so much breathless hype delivered by American journalists "reporting" from 150 miles away in Tokyo. The three effected 40+ year old reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are toast for sure, but this mess is a far cry from Chernobyl!

I'm reminded of Three Mile Island in the way all the "reporting" was just a storm of speculation in lieu of facts...lots of hand wringing, and not much investigating. Granted, you don't do "60 Minutes Ambush-Style" interviews of a nuclear power plant in distress. Once these things scram and experience an "incident" everything must be done remotely. There's no place for a reporter and cameraman to barge into with lights and mics blazing...out of sight by necessity, not easy, not ideal, and ripe for speculation.

Since Three Mile Island in 1979, media availability has multiplied a thousandfold. Unfortunately, media malpractice enjoys similar inflation numbers.
At 0600 I saw a Facebook post from a friend in Grass Valley:
"Wowee Zowie!!! The creek on our property, DRY CREEK, sure isn't dry this's a roaring river!!!! I'll bet we have next years firewood trees down by the end of the day"

An hour later I was watching The Trainwreck News. They had a remote truck at Dry Creek, way downstream in the Big Valley, where Dry Creek is just five feet below flood stage. Up in Grass Valley, my friend's place received 3-4 inches of rain overnight.

And after shoveling almost a foot of Sierra Cement!
Reservoir releases have been stepped up to make room for the deluge.

Good Noon News
Dry Creek has crested now that it's clearing over the Valley. The snow has stopped for now in Truckee

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Curtains I Tell Ya!

Dark gray curtains of melancholy have enshrouded the DaveCave today. Not exclusively the DaveCave actually, but all of the High Sierra below about 7200ft! Sheets of rain are drenching the whole damn place!

This isn't helping...late night low clouds and drizzle over my mental health...thanks Mr Waits for the phrase...watching the Old Testament disaster unfold in Japan isn't adding sunshine to my outlook either. What next? Volcanic eruption...Oh Jeez! Thank God my radio guys were on point this morning!

You see, I'm still suffering the double whammy of physical "discomfort" and psychic exhaustion. It's tough having my pickup down, in need of my wrenching skills...dutifully catching a ride to work with another groomer, and resting up my sternum sprainage, in preparation for the new distributor R&R.

Last night I couldn't stifle a sneeze in time, and I paid the I'm super sore now.

So, here I sit, stewing and watching the local Noon News Shows...most are saying there'll be breaks in the rain this afternoon. I'll take the parts runner downtown and pick up some supplies...then I'll pull the pickup out of the garage, turn it 180° and put it back in...hopefully I can get the distributor job done this afternoon...cartilage permitting...I'm just like any other man...I'm a piss-poor patient...a plain lousy sick person...let me up...

The Reno AFD says storms all week, chain controls are up over the Summit...raindrops the size of nickles...Winter melting away like the Wicked Witch of the West...thank God L. Frank Baum's Flying Monkeys aren't out there!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Cure

We enjoyed a fairly decent night on the hill, grooming was OK, but the weather really warmed up as the sun rose and a dark cloud deck rolled in.

We got out a little early, and I was stoked to get home and watch some Paris-Nice bicycle racing on VersusTV, followed by a Giants' game from Arizona vs the Dodgers.

Pretty good bike race...I remember switching to the baseball game...I woke up when the next program after the game started...I don't even remember a pitch! I'm gonna need the rest...the new early daylight savings time begins tonight.

This is one of those Good News/Bad News deals in my world. Yes...the sun sets an hour later, but I'm sleeping at day's end...the sun rises an hour later too...right as my crew is entering the home stretch. I also have a lot of clocks...only a few reset themselves...

I guess the big thing is I can no longer fool myself that the season isn't closer to the end than the beginning. Season 2010/2011 is more than half over.

It's bittersweet really, the sun rises higher every day now foreshadowing the end of "Hero Snow Season". The Vernal Equinox and Spring are eight days away, and my job is going to become a genuine Grind sooner than later.

I earn every cent once Grinding Season quote BB King: "The Thrill Is Gone"

Springtime, when young groomers fancy turns to other, gardens, fishing and camping, and racing...bicycle racing and of course motorsports.

I'll find my half full glasses. I always get a little sad as season's end looms closer...most nights, slope grooming is a Peak Experience (as long as you don't count Grinding Season) Those nights when all is right in my world are very precious...they've held me in thrall for 30 years.