Saturday, March 26, 2011


Well, it's officially serious in the High Sierra.

Last night I woke up in time to see a Tweet saying the Interstate was closed.

No problemo, I'll just talk my way on like I always do...

You know what they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men"...

I hit my driveway 40 minutes early...I fired up the Honda Snowblower, and blew the driveway and the berm while warming up the Parts Runner.

I loaded up and rolled down the hill and into the breach...I didn't try to "talk my way on" at Donnergate, opting instead to roll up to the Donner Lake Interchange, where the more realistic CalTrans guys hold sway.

Cool! No CalTrans truck at the DLI Onramp! I'm in there!
As I made the turn up the onramp and entered the Fwy, there was the CalTrans truck with his beacon blazing...I pulled up and rolled down my window. The usually compliant CalTrans Guy only had bad news...he's love to let me on, but avalanche debris was across all three lanes, and there was no estimate of when the lanes might be cleared.

Disappointed, I turned towards home...I thought WTF, and drove into town to do my grocery shopping...sans shopping list...

At 0300, I tried again...back at DLI, the same CalTrans Guy was a little more forthcoming...the Eastbound side was worse...snowcats are having a hard time getting through!

I surrendered...and turned onto I80East...curiously, there were snowcat tracks heading west in the eastbound slow lane!

Back at the DaveCave, I jacked into the WorldWideWeb and beagan a tour of the relevant webcams and websites...TV wasn't yet in Local Mode, and I called Jeweler who was on My Mountain...Jeweler had a good handle on things. I reminded him of the priorities...don't worry about the grooming I told him, keep those roads to the mountaintops open! Graveyard Wrench couldn't get to work either, but the Graveyard Park Guy had stayed on the mountain, so there were plenty of horses on the track.

I even fired up the Police Scanner. I listened in vain for some CalTrans radio traffic...the avalanche scene was around the corner, and FM radio is line of sight...nothing to hear here...move along...

When the local news started at 0430, the story was all weather all the time. They even teased the I-80 won't reopen until midnight "story"...Westbound finally opened a little after noon...we'll try again tonight!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tongue Tired

What am I doing up? Perhaps last night's trouble free shift didn't take enough out of me?

So I woke up at 5PM...the TV was on (I fell asleep watching something on my DVR)...amazingly the tube was showing Regularly Scheduled Programming, not Special Storm-Watch News!

I changed worries, KCRA3 was offering the "Severe Weather First Alert" version of their "KCRA News at Five"...lots of flooded roads, satellite maps, and weather-beaten reporters on remote feeds from the most telegenic locations.

Interstate 80 is closed for zero visibility and reporter waded into the debris field of a slide that landed on the number two lane westbound...I saw some small debris fields on the shoulder on my way home this morning.

I guess I'm just numb...yeah the TV people are reporting that the CHP has closed the Interstate until at least midnight...I'll just talk my way on like I do every time the highway is's a Brothers In Arms deal...fellow Storm Fighters gettin' 'er done...yeah, yeah, SOP, whatever...

I guess, I'm just worn snarky retorts ...or thoughts for that matter...all my crew have become to it over again...and again...

The weatherman says we'll get a break next week...I'll enjoy it when it gets here...meanwhile, call me tongue tied...

I take solace in knowing that Baseball Season begins in earnest in under seven days...put me in coach...

Good night!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I'm up at 9:59PM...I was just watching the noon news!

My ride home from work was night at work? Not so much...

When I got to work, two tractors were down with blown hydraulic hoses on their front blades. Tuesday and Wednesday are the Graveyard Wrench's nights off. Fortunately, one of the Park Groomers knows how to build hoses. He said give him a shout on the 2-way when we got the hoses off, and he's come in a build the new ones.

We started tearing down the hoses when the guys found one leak was just a loose fitting. I jumped into that cat and rumbled off into the night...the guys were still working on my was 1AM.

An hour later the radio announced that my tractor was ready. I ran back to the shop, got in my ride, and handed the Bison off to another operator who was wallowing around in a winchcat.

An hour later, I was digging a lift terminal and bang! Another burst blade hose! By now the Boss was in the shop...I'd called him at midnight with the sad news of our situation, and to ask if there was anyone we could call in to help.

So, I checked my hydraulic fluid level, and roared back to the shop. The blown hose was the next in line from the one just replaced. We had it off the cat in three minutes. At the hose bench, we found a new hose, with the right fittings on both ends that was just an inch and a half longer than the original. On it went...I was back at 'em in under 10 minutes! I was feeling pretty smug...I finished the plow job, and started cleaning up my mess.

An hour later my eyelids were getting heavy...I set my iPod for 20 minutes, parked nose-up out of the way, reclined the seatback and closed my eyes. I got 20 winks despite my suddenly chattering crew...

My iPod woke me with it's "DEFCON 5" alarm, it was 5:30AM...I put the seat back up, turned on my lights and headed up, but there was a warning light going off, and my engine sounded rough...the flashing warning light was displaying a flash code...damn, back to the shop...swapped for the Bison, and low man on the totem pole got back in a winch...

We got everything done, no small miracle...

That was my wonder I slept most of ten hours straight!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Workin' For a Livin'

I enjoyed my weekend...albeit it sure seemed short! Lots of personal snow removal as Mother Nature did her best to remind us just exactly who's the Boss!

In keeping with the tenor of the week, I slept right through my first night off Sunday...Monday was spent digging out around the DaveCave, and waiting for the UPS new HDTV was supposed to be delivered Monday afternoon...that is until Mother Nature had other plans! Plenty of digging and snow blowing kept my mind busy enough to not stress over the scheduled delivery!

When I finally retired to the warm comfort of the DaveCave, the UPS website said: Emergency conditions beyond UPS' control postponed delivery until Tuesday.

Up early Tuesday, I heard the plow go by and suited up to blow the berm before it set up. (My 'Evil Plan' was to blow the berm for Mrs Landlord, and get to and from the grocery store before the UPS Guy came was his second try for my TV, and fourth try for Mrs Landlord's new spring ski gloves!)

All in all, I shoveled the front deck six times this weekend! All that time out front gave me a bird's-eye view of Mrs Landlord's Suet Bird Feeder. There have been a passel of woodpeckers around lately...they think the DaveCave is a tree full of yummy insects, because they are hammering on my abode almost non-stop!

Anyway, the suet feeder has been a very busy place because the weather has been so fierce. An Acorn Woodpecker, a White Headed Woodpecker, and a big Flicker as well as smaller fellows like Red Breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees  have been swarming Mrs Landlord's feeder. I tried to get some photographs, but even though these birds are super hungry, they still are very wary!

Tuesday before noon, I heard some noise on the front stairs. I threw open the front door and called: "UPS Man?" "Yes" came the muted reply. "I'll throw on some pants and be right up"

I hit the front deck as the UPS Guy was headed back up the stairs to fetch the box of gloves. My new TV was in front of the Landlord's front door. "Do you need a signature?" I shouted..."Nope, you're all good" came the reply.

I hooked up the new set and watched the second half hour of the noon news on it. I held out for two years before a new set fit my criteria...I've never in thirty years paid more than $500 for a it my $500 Rule. Starting in the early 80's, I bought a succession of SONY Trinitron TVs...17 inch, 20 inch, 23 inch and 27 inch...all were $499 at the time.

I've been holding out for an LCD/LED HDTV for two years now. Unfortunately, the industry is enamored with 3D TV now, so top shelf full LED array backlighting technology isn't trickling down to the 32 inch "bedroom TV" market, still VIZIO offers a set that's close enough...Internet Connected, LED Edge Lit...EnergyStar Rated...I've been following the price fluctuations for a few months, and last week Dell Small Business had the deal I couldn't refuse. $497.93 delivered.

Once I set it up and watched the News and Weather, it was time for a real test. I watched the Saphhire Edition Blu-ray of 2000's "Gladiator". This was an empirical test...honest! Now, I've watched this movie more than 200 speaks to me, plus I've owned several DVD Players over the years, so I know there's some variations in playback quality.

The VIZIO passed with flying colors! This set is a step up from the 24 inch 1080p LED Monitor I have been watching...bigger is better!

Monday, March 21, 2011


Another blast of Winter pummeled my mountain overnight.

It all started innocently enough, I first 11+ hour shift in over a month took it's toll...throw in the extra work of snow removal at the DaveCave, and I guess I needed every wink I could eke out.

Looking out the window as I turned on the shower, I noted one new inch on the front deck. Up in the driveway, there were two inches...not enough to deploy the snowblower, so off to work I went.

I parked in two inches of fresh snow, and trundled up the shop road. Everyone was there, and the fleet was whole as well. Plenty of digging to do, and the forecast promised another pounding.

We began with some trail breaking. Job One on these heavy storm nights is to keep passable routes open to the tops of every peak. Snowmobile access is critical to opening the lifts. Our lift mechanics inspect and fire up the lifts just before 0600. The first people to ride the lifts every storm day are our ski patrollers who do the Avalanche Control.

Visibility was pretty good. The much ballyhooed "Super Moon" was lighting up our world to fine effect. We spent a couple of hours packing out the mountaintop routes before we began grooming the basics. It was really snowing hard.

We endured the usual issues...lousy 2-way performance, lagging defrosters, and windshield wiper woes. We employed the usual work-arounds and soldiered on. We had the situation well in hand...

Around 0400, it was time to hit the mountaintop routes again. We packed-up and began heading up. Before we were even hitting the first steep, Eskimo radioed that his cat was running hot and he had a "burning smell". We relayed his dilemma to the Graveyard Wrench, and Jeweler escorted him to the base area where Eskimo could find his way to the shop despite his weak defroster.

I continued up. Halfway up this route is a huge, steepening meadow devoid of landmarks. In round numbers, it's a square, a quarter of a mile on a side. When the seeing is good, crossing the meadow is a piece of cake. When the seeing is lousy, I rely on my experience. The only real landmarks define the outsides of the square. Making things even more interesting is there are only two or three passes that are climbable when the going gets deep, and you must land precisely on these spots at the correct angle to climb to the beginning of the traverse cat track that leads to the top.

I couldn't see shit. It was a total whiteout. The winds weren't that bad, it was just snowing so hard that the far flung landmarks were totally obscured. The 2-way crackled as my phone rang. The Boss was on the phone. He was on his way, but had to stop to change a flat tire. "How's things going Dave?" "Well, it was going great, but now we're getting spanked" I told him..."See you when you get here".

The radio was Eskimo saying: "I'm headed back out, we couldn't find any problem" "10-4" I replied, telling him where to meet Jeweler. Five minutes later Eskimo was back on the air...he was limping back to the shop with his overheating cat. "Fire up one of the winchcats, Eskimo"...We were down to just the two of us...Mother Nature was kicking it up another notch or two...

After a long fifteen minutes of helplessly talking on the phone and radio in total darkness to let my night vision come in, I finally hit the sweet spot, and made the climb to the top. The snow was really piling up fast now.

The Boss made it out on the hill just before 0600, and the digging began in earnest. Operations made the call to abandon opening two of three mountaintop lifts and we got two lifts open at 9AM, a third at 9:10, and the last one, the one with Big Blind Meadow at 9:25

Eskimo called it a day, Jeweler, the Park Guy, and the Boss pounded trails and roads on the closed peaks, and I did the digging back at the shop. I made my online report minutes before the Noon Deadline. I punched out and walked down to the parking lot...there was more than two feet in the lot! The parts runner and Jeweler's ride and Park Guy's Subaru were all buried...nobody else had made it into the lot.

I called Jeweler on the phone. I asked him to bring his cat down the shop road to dig us out. Jeweler had us dug out in three minutes. I pulled the parts runner onto Jeweler's pass and cleared the snow off the rig. The Interstate was close due to an avalanche on the westbound side, according to Rumor Control. It was Friday night for me, and I was going to spend it in the DaveCave, come Hell or high water!

The Highway was empty, but the going was good. I made it home without drama. A Pastrami/Cream Cheese Omelet was breakfast, and I turned in after 2PM.

I woke up at 0130, fully rested...encore indeed...

It was a good week, the avalanche closed HWY89 near Alpine Meadows for a time, no cars trapped, we did "Strong Work" all week, and I'm feeling fulfilled this morning. Relaxed and better way to begin Springtime!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Whatta measly 11 1/2 hour shift and I slept through my whole day!

Update later, sorry...Supermoon, what?