Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sweetness and Dark

It never ceases to amaze me...just how much an inch or two of new snow will improve the outlook of a groomer in Spring...I'm talking Hero Snow...with just a few weeks to go in Ski Season!

My dream every spring, especially "down the stretch", is to get a small storm once a week, with cold temps, to stave off the afternoon slush/graveyard boilerplate routine. As long as the snow stays squeaky, I'm in paradise...once the thaw/freeze/thaw regime begins, well let's just say that's when grooming becomes a job.

That hour or two of "Perfect Corn" seems like so much settling to me. As a groomer, I'm all about winter snow, period. Once springtime conditions set in, I'm all about fishing, bicycle racing, motorsports, and baseball.

Last night was a rare springtime gem, hero snow from top to bottom, and even though half my crew showed up an hour late, conditions were so favorable that we kicked the list despite a winchcat going down after sunrise. A few very cold mica-like flakes, cold ambient temps gave the shift extra sparkle before a clearing sunrise promised a bluebird day. Words fail on these kinds of mornings...plenty of joy for the crew, another peak experience don'tcha know!

The hits just kept coming once I got home to the DaveCave! Today was the Home Opener for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. CableTV showed the opening ceremonies where the Championship Flag was hoisted over AT&T Park, and I was ambushed by how emotional it all made me feel. Like all SF Giants Fans, I waited a lifetime for baseball glory to visit our house.

The Giants put on a fine show and won the game over the St Louis Cardinals 5-4 in twelve innings. After the game, Giants' manager Bruce Bochy said: "It's obvious we're not retiring 'Torture'"

Isolated snow showers are in tonight's forecast, but Spring is in the air...with all it's sweet paradoxes.

Breathe deep...

Friday, April 8, 2011


Last night was more welcome than home made ice cream right from the churn!

Snow started falling in the evening across the Tahoe Sierra. I parked in three inches of new fallen snow when I got to work. Swing shift were happy as clams! What's not to like? Freezing temps, new snow, and for the first time in digging projects!

My tractor was running like new. We've been trying to track down a glitch in the drive for two weeks now. Not always the easiest chore...yesterday it came to me, or rather I remembered the fix from a season or two ago. The shop replaced the potentiometer in the left FNR lever and problem solved!

BR350's, like all modern grooming machines are electronic over hydrostatic systems. The FNR sticks control the track drives. My Ol' Faithful has more than 8700 hours on the clock, but it never has suffered a total loss of hydrostatic fluid, so the pumps and motors are still in like-new condition. The glitch we've been chasing looks like impending pump or motor failure that every groomer who's spent much time in BR275's or earlier snowcats is all too familiar with.

When Bombardier designed the BR350, not only did they up the ante horsepower-wise, they also used a lot more hardline and a lot less high pressure hose in the drive system. The bottom line is a whole lot fewer total fluid loss events and consequently a whole lot longer drive system life. All it takes is one or two of these fluid loss events to fry a pump and/or motor...their tolerances are that tight. Then it's $8000+ to rebuild a pump or motor, and a bunch of down time while repairs are made.

The FNR pot is a cheap component, and a quick fix. They are a wear item, and eventually they grow a flat spot...this is what I remembered and the shop fixed.

I warmed up the ol' girl and set off into the snowstorm. It was blowing like stink, and the conditions finally were in our favor...we would have time to start grooming some secondary trails that have seen little love during the siege of snowfall followed by a long week of balmy temps.

I rumbled over to the study plot to look at the 24 hour snow was laying on it's side. I started grooming my way up the mountain...seeing wasn't the greatest, but nobody was complaining! The winds were picking up. I called Jeweler on the 2-way. I wanted to know how the winds were up top. "50-60MPH steady from the Southwest" came Jeweler's reply.

With the 24 hour stick out of commission, I called the Snow Removal Crew to get an idea of how much snow had fallen since morning. They said two or three inches, max. It had been snowing and blowing for almost four straight hours, but it didn't seem to be stacking up. Oh, the wind was playing havoc with our freshly made corduroy, but it was getting blown away, not buried.

At 0400, I called the Ski Patrol Boss like I do every Storm Night. We discussed the snowfall and wind, and he makes the Go/No-Go Call for Avalanche Control. Despite the dearth of snowfall, the winds were the determining factor. A/C is a Go.

We refueled the fleet by 0500 and we packed up and made the push to the tops for the lift mechanics. By the tine I hit the Big Blind Meadow, twilight was dawning making navigating a snap. Lots of drifting up top, but no genuine accumulation. Thankfully no digging was required to open the lifts...just a quick till of the maze areas.

My crew re-rolled everything basic and headed up to help the Park Guy down the stretch. Patches of blue sky were breaking through the clouds, and sunglasses were deployed. Back at the Groomer's Ready Room, the guys were ebullient...the mood was joyous for a change.

Better than home made ice cream fresh from the churn!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Want Fries With That?

Springtime is beginning to take it's toll on me.

According to Reno's AFD, salvation in the form of a cold front with snow is supposed to arrive overnight Wednesday. In front of the advancing cold front, there's more than enough wind to blow up some dust. When I got home this morning, I noticed that Mrs Landlord's Suet Bird Feeder had gone MIA...blown away? I looked around for it to no avail.

So, last night was my Monday. The days are getting longer, and the sun is getting higher in the sky daily, making daytime sleeping tougher and tougher. Yesterday I laid in bed from 3:30PM until 10:15PM. All in all, I banked roughly two hours of actual sleep. When I was shaving post-shower, my eyes were bright red in the mirror...ouch! My body clock has been all out of whack since daylight savings time returned.

Thankfully, temps were down and grooming conditions were passable. The piste was robust enough that your blade wouldn't dive into the soft stuff beneath the hard frozen crust. Going was slow, but the product was satisfactory...firm, but with enough loose, fresh ground "pixie dust" to make decent looked good under the lights through the rear-view mirrors!

When the grooming is like this, there's not a lot for the groomers to berms to control, no moguls to cut, no managing up-pressure. There's no digging or plowing to do, and ground speed is just a slow stroll...boredom and "Highway Hypnosis" set in early. My frighteningly red, sleep deprived eyes started turning to barely open slits after an hour or two, and no amount of podcast hijinx could help forestall the inevitable. Somtime around 3AM, I pulled up, reclined my seatback, turned down the stereo, turned off my lights and set the timer app on the iPod for 30 minutes. I woke up with 1:46 left before the alarm sounded....problem solved.

Eventually the night turned into a lovely morning, and we got off the hill a little early. I don't think I made it to the noon news.

I woke up during the 5th inning of the Giants/Padres game. Finally I watch the Giants win one! So far this season, I've seen all the games save one...their only victory until today's game. Young Tim Lincecum, the two time Cy Young winner who looks like he came straight from a Diane Arbus photograph, struck out 13 batters while giving up three hits, one run, and no walks. Ahhh, springtime!

Back to bed....I don't want to feel like french fries again tonight!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


It's my first whole day off this weekend. Damn, Springtime is here in full force. I dunno what the afternoon high temp is, but it feels like it's in the 70's!

I spent my morning watching the Trainwreck News and shredding a month's worth of credit card come ons, and other junk mail with too much identity detail to just casually recycle...

I made some more baby steps on my pickup's distributor R&R plug wires are ordered, and on their way to the DaveCave Garage...this seems like a never-ending whirlpool of one step forward/two steps back...

I've thrown open all the windows in the DaveCave, and spent some time outside basking like a lizard in the sunshine...I haven't heard a single "cheeseburger" bird call yet.

Tuesday is just One Awesome Online Auto Parts Store! I ordered the new spark plug wires at 3:13PM Monday. My UPS Guy delivered them this morning at 11:13AM! Do the math...that's 20 hours folks!

I set about installing them on my new distributor cap while watching the Noon News. A big chill is coming with a chance of snow...In fact, most of the chill arrived today, along with Lake Wind Advisories and high harbinger clouds. The weather presenters say snow levels could be as low as 2500ft by Thursday morning.

Uh-oh, there's a problem with the plug wire set...three of the shortest wires, and only one of the next-to-longest...just damn! Back to the internet, I ordered another set...this time at 1:22PM...crap! I so wanted to drive my own pickup to work tonight!

I sought solace online...first to the remote sensors...a full 10°F lower than yesterday's high temp...still, it has been 36 hours since the mercury touched freezing...

I read the latest Reno AFD. They're upping the precip a little...4-8 inches above 7000ft. Cold temps and snow showers will hang around until Friday night...can you say Hero Snow again?

Well, there you are...a semi-happy ending...huevos rancheros and a Giants game to put me to bed...I'm rooting for a pitching duel...the better to fall asleep to...Did I mention the homemade "Baja Style" margarita? Two parts tequila blanco, one part triple sec, one+ part fresh squeezed key lime juice...¡Olé!

Good Night...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sword of Damocles

My mother always said: "if you can't say anything nice, it's best to say nothing at all" Thanks Mom...

Conditions this week have been dismal for has been like pulling a word, ugly.

While I slept today, my SF Giants beat up on the LA Dodgers 10-0 at their house, so maybe things will start looking up.

Reno's AFD is promising temps colder than seasonal norms, and a shower or two towards the end of the week.

So rather than write some tripe under the shadow of that fabled sword, I'll wait until I have a good night to regale you with.