Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What a Day!

Yesterday was a blustery cold, snowy day at Bear Valley. It was supposed to be Lowell's "Friday", but his boss asked him to work today. After reading this, you may understand why. His work day began at a ridiculous 4:30am because one of the snow removal guys quit - and in order to be on the mountain at 4:30, he has to get up at 2 am. In my opinion, this alone qualifies him for a medal - but it gets better.
The carpool meets at the market and then the guys sleep as much as possible on the drive to the mountain. The first job for Lowell was to weld new feet on the very old blower to get Kieth out on the parking lot to start clearing snow. Meanwhile, snow cat driver Carl came in saying that his snow cat had leaked 4 gallons of oil in three hours. So Lowell put more oil in it and sends Carl on his way. Next, Lowell and Danny load up parts to go fix snow cat 58 that was left over night at the lodge with a 'broken drive hose'. When they get to the snow cat and dig it out, they discover that instead of a broken drive hose, it is a broken tiller hose. So they turn around and head back to the shop. On the way, they come across snow cat 51 which appears to be on fire. Danny picks up Carl from his smoking cat and drops him off at the shop to get snow cat 59, leaving Lowell there on the side of the mountain in the blinding snow. (snow cats only seat 2) Danny picks Lowell up, now with the right parts to fix snow cat 58 and off they go. While they're putting in the plug in the new tiller hose, they see Carl go by in #59. About 5 minutes later, Carl comes walking up to Lowell and Danny saying #59 now has a broken drive hose. hhmmm... Well, they start up 58 and leaving it warming up and follow Carl to 59. At least they already have the parts to fix a broken drive hose in their cat. Just for your info, since I'm sure you don't know :) changing a drive hose on a snow cat is no fun task because it requires laying under the snow cat in the snow with snow and fluid and water dripping on you. Anyway, they fixed 59, put the tools back in the utility cat and sent Carl on his way. Then they head back to 58 where they had left it warming up and start to drive it to the shop. Unfortunately, 58 won't groom, so Lowell has to follow in the utility cat so that he can cover 58's tracks because they are driving right through groomed skiing trails. So, Lowell turns around to groom where the tracks were left and after about 10 yards, his parking brake locks on and he can't drive anymore. He manually turns it off, and starts again only to come to a schreeching stop about 10 yards later. He discovers that the passenger door keeps falling open, and for safety's sake, the cat automatically shuts itself off. So he jumps out to shut the door and suddenly, Craig comes flying by and misses Lowell's feet with the rotating knifes of the tiller by about 12 inches. Lowell finally makes it back to the shop when Kieth calls. "My blower is broken." This is the only blower they have left on the whole mountain. Kieth says that the feet need to be adjusted so Lowell gives him the benefit of the doubt, (he doesn't think that will solve the problem) and does it. When they test drive it, the blower is still trying to flip over and not staying level on the ground. So they take the blower to the shop. Next, Kieth and Steve decide the problem must be in the ram. So, they remove the ram and take one off a snow cat. They have to fabricate a mount for it because it doesn't fit, and then finally they test it again. Same problem... Lowell says they need a new cutting edge. Finally its lunch time. (Can you believe it - all this before lunch!?!?!)
As they're finishing up lunch, the office calls to tell them the Pepsi delivery truck is stuck in the parking lot. So Kieth goes out on the grader to dig him out. Lowell and Steve are left to deal with the blower problem so Lowell tells Steve that since they don't have a cutting edge, they need to give the box down pressure. Usually on a blower, the weight of the box keeps it pushed down into the snow, however in this case, the edge was worn down and the snow was extra thick and wet, so the box kept riding up the bank and causing the blower to almost turn over... So, they decide to make a hose and a valve to help the box stay down. Viola! It works! So, Kieth goes back out on the blower and Lowell goes down to the parking lot where there is a bus driver complaining about his chains and his brakes. Lowell brings the bus to the shop, replaces the chains on one tire and looks at the brakes. Oh, and since he has nothing else to do, the bus driver asks him to fill it with gas too.
Then Kieth calls again... He's broken the shear pins in the blower. Shear pins are the "weak link" in the blower so that if the blower hits something hard, the pins will break and cause the blower to stop spinning without chewing it up. In this case, the shear pins broke and the drive line was flopping around so that it broke the hose off of the ram they had just put in.. Lowell and Steve go back out into the storm and fix up that mess. When they finally get back to the shop, they can start on the work that they were scheduled to do for the day. There is a pile of work orders on the desk for the snowmobiles that are lining the shop. They get the tools laid out and wash up to start on the snowmobiles when, again, Kieth calls. "I broke it good this time." He knew it wasn't the shear pins this time, but the blower wasn't turning and it was making a horrific noise. He brought it into the shop and Lowell and Steve discover that the bolts have fallen out of the driveline - and, amazingly, it didn't do any collateral damage. So, they put the bolts back in it. Kieth looked at Lowell after all this was over... "Can you work tommorow?" "Sure," Lowell says. "Then let's get out of here!" (Finally!!) On the drive home, they discover that the place where Kieth was breaking the shear pins was the same place Steve had to drive on top of the snow because it was just too heavy and packed for the grader. Lowell said they call it "Sierra cement".
So, how does Lowell get through days like this? "I just think of my little family at home and providing for them." Isn't he wonderful???? And don't you feel better about your job now? :)

1 comment:

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