Saturday, April 30, 2011

Keepin' On Keepin' On

What a nice surprise last night.

Owing to my BodyClock disdaining ways over my long weekend, I didn't get my sleep...that is I only tallied a nap, not serious shuteye. When my alarm roused me, I gazed out at a little snow on my deck.

After my shower and shave, I made my lunch and a Thermos of French Roast, synced my iPod, got dressed and headed out the door. I locked the hubs on the Parts Runner, and I was off. The webcams showed a little accumulation.

Near the summit of my drive to work, I threw it into 4WD. Frozen sleet glazed the road, an it was really slick. At the parking lot there still wasn't much more than an icy glaze on the pavement. With most of the parking lot lighting off, I gingerly walked up the shop road.

Swing shift had good news, while not actual Hero Snow, it was close enough. The list was light and the climbing was improving hourly. Jeweler and I set off into the night.

It was slow going at first. So, slow and steady it was. At 0300 I finished my first project, and headed in to the shop for a top-off of fuel. It was as close as I'd get, and if things stayed low and slow, I'd have a long trip to the pump right during our busiest hour.

As I neared the shop. I saw some new footprints in the fresh snow...or paw prints. The bears are awake from their hibernation. These tracks were bigger than my hand prints (I wear XL gloves) This bear was really out for a stroll, his tracks were seemingly everywhere I went once I left the pump. I wanted to take some photos, but I didn't. Two reasons:

One. I was worried about the time...the grooming was turning out good, but it was slower going than I was comfortable with.

Two. With a fixed flash on my Point&Shoot digicam, I figured the prints in the snow would turn out totally washed out anyway.

While writing about the bear track photos, I came up with a plan to make the pix without flash, using only my BR350's lights. I'd probably need a tripod too...oh yeah, and another perfect storm of an inch or less of new snow, a sauntering bear, some spare time, and the luck to find it all again...

Around 0400 I saw my first stars, and the mercury plummeted 20°F in about an hour. The Boss called on the 2-way, he was in the house and warming up. I told him where we were at, and where he could help the most.

At 0500, my sleep deprivation demanded a power nap. I finished the trail I was working on and parked it on the side of the Start Bump atop the Race Course. I set the iPod's timer for 30 minutes, keyed the mic an announced: "I'm goin' 10-7 for lunch, I'm on the start bump".

I awoke refreshed 30 second before the alarm sounded. There was a little bit of color in the eastern sky. I rolled away, and the snow had noticeably improved, still not hero status, but closer and faster.

The sun rose revealing streams of blowing snow Himalayan-style off the ridge tops. With renewed purpose, we kicked it down the home stretch, tossing in a couple of extras.

Back at the fuel dock, I called us clear a little after 0800. Yet another silk purse from the sow's ear. Smiles all around.

The morning's beauty was amazing, I took a drive along Donner Lake, and there were several mackinaw fishermen on the looked cold...the East Wind was up, but not "Victory At Sea" size. The east wind is forecast to end, but I think it will help further dry the piste while it lasts. Could be Hero Snow tonight, or as close as it gets at the end of April!

Good times!

Friday, April 29, 2011


It takes two to tango...justice-wise.

I was gonna whine about No Justice No Peace, 'cause I'm not getting my sleep...but it's my own damn fault I'm not banking the winks I "The Man" screwing up my BodyClock...nope, the blame is all mine.

Three days off, three shifts to's blowin' like stink out, and I'll be punching in in just four hours...

Good night!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Gotta Get Back To Work!

These days off are killing me! Fortunately, all my technology has been making life easy on me!


My email got hacked around the 10th of April or so. And everyone in my address book started getting spam for Caribbean Time Shares and Canadian Drug Stores that specialize in Boner Pills.

So for several hours Monday and Tuesday, I went through my email accounts and upgraded my passwords to two dozen symbols...up from nine. I'm ditching the email address I've used since the mid-90's, so I've created a new account, with a new address...which means I've got to migrate my address book to the new account, and email everyone with my apologies and new address.

That's barely the half of it! I haven't counted the number of online places that the old email address is my log-in or user name...I've got some online orders in progress...A couple of Amazon orders of artist supplies, printer ink, and kitchen gadgets, so I don't dare change those until delivery. Three more orders from garden supply websites...heirloom tomato seeds, garden supplies, and herb and veggie seeds for the Ancestral Diggins.

I foresee another month of changing my online aliases at bulletin boards, forums, and the few membership sites that would have me as a member...

So, after burning the Midnight Oil knocking out the Lion's Share of the eMail Project, I awoke to find that our local CableTV vendor had turned off the analog portion of their feed, and remapped the digital feed as well.

No problem, a rescan fixed me right up on my 2011 HDTV...the problem came when I rescanned my 2006 DVR...the old Philips has the fashionable for it's day hybrid tuners weren't FCC mandated until 2007. So the legacy tech is more than a little cranky...not one atom of fuzzy logic in it's parts or far I've rescanned three times, and manually entered 30-40 channels, and there's still a dozen or so channels that are holding out on me...cranky bastards!

Tonight I will return to the comfortable embrace of my Legacy BR350 has 8800 hours over most of four seasons, with still robust hardware specially designed to fit the application...hey, I'm the firmware, so glitches will be few and far between!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And So It Begins Again

OK, I've got a four day weekend this week. Then three shifts and that's it for the 2010/2011 season.

I've decided to play with fire, in that I'm not trying to stay up this weekend...instead I'm thinking I'll get a jump on resetting my BodyClock...and pay the price on my first shift back.

I have a grab bag of thoughts on the past few days and nights.

The wind Monday was was snowing up top. I ran into long-time Donner Summit Legend Norm Saylor at the grocery store and said: "A great day to get off the Summit, eh Norm?" Norm shot back: "This has been a tough one, I don't care if it doesn't snow again until December!"

I was stirring yesterday, and ran into Mrs Landlord on the front deck. She told a story of the previous evening when she came outside to get an armful of firewood. She opened her front door, and there, five feet away was a smallish bear sitting on the deck railing looking for the suet cage! Mrs Landlord couldn't say who was the most startled...little bear bolted across the deck and off into the night. Now the suet comes in at sundown!

It's been a couple of weeks since I heard a cheeseburger bird call...

Closing my 15 year old primary email account and migrating to a new address, notifying all my contacts, and updating myriad website profiles is exhausting...and I'm only about 40% done with the ordeal so far...

Sierra Stream Trout Season opens this's gonna be a blow-out...temps are forecast to rise as the weekend nears...the melt is already in full swing, and the high in Truckee was only in the mid 40's Tuesday afternoon.

Man, am I ever looking forward to doing some Ocean Salmon Fishing!

NASA's Space Shuttle blasts into space Friday's the last one...gonna be bittersweet for sure...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Eggs & Finish Line Follies

I can see the end from here now. Three more shifts this week and another season goes into the books. All in all, it's been a good one.

Business wise I dunno...I have a feeling that our midweek visits were up over last season, but I've managed to miss all the business meetings this year. I think most of our Holiday Weekends escaped heavy weather as well...I'm thinking business was good. Lately I've been surprised several times by the midweek numbers...maybe I shouldn't be surprised...the skiing's been great, along with the weather.

From my Groomer's standpoint, it's been a great season. Yeah, there were a few nights of rain, but not enough for real depression to set in. The long mid-winter dry spell was accompanied by cold temperatures, so grooming and skiing were good enough to endure. Once the storm doors reopened in mid March, snow and skiers kept coming in droves.

Maybe it's the protective fog of memory, but I don't recall many bad nights. Oh sure, I found plenty to belly ache about, but no killer-bad shifts...well OK, maybe the one where I drove four cats and finished in the mobile crock pot known as the Shop Cat. For the most part, I drove my own BR350 nine nights out of ten.

I'm gonna miss that the oldest cat in the frontline fleet, she's scheduled for trade in after the season. She's the last of her breed too...our second BR350. We've been buying Bisons ever since. Yeah, the Bison is just a BR350 with Rexroth pumps and motors instead of Sunstrands, but what the Bisons gain in speed they give back in torque.

In every way possible (except for ergonomically) Bombardier hit for the cycle when the BR350 came off the drawing board. Ever since they've been "fixing stuff that's not broken" Even when Bombardier sold their snowcat business to Prinoth the Italian maker of quirky grooming machines, the Italians couldn't leave well enough alone either.

Given my history in the trade, and my cockeyed optimism, I suspect I'll find more than enough to love once I strap on my new tractor next season.

Management loves 'em too. What we used to do with 12 shifts a night, we now do with 7. That's real money. I suspect that the increased efficiency has a secondary but more important impact. Operators are more likely to return season after season because the comfort and ease found in the throne of the BR350's

A happy, seasoned groomer in first rate equipment does a lot to improve quantity and quality of the product. There is a tipping point in the growth of groomers...when it becomes something like a calling.

The good ones are always trying to innovate...trying to do  more, better, with less. This season, I've added a couple of new routines to my bag of tricks...little things really...I've just added a few extra passes to my traveling passes, but these are like money in the bank...they pay dividends every morning.

2010 CenterX Bison
I figure my new tractor will be a CenterX Bison...if it's got as much leg room as the standard BR350, we'll do just fine.