Thursday, December 19, 2013

It Only Hurts When I laugh.

    Earlier this Fall, excruciating pain under my ribs sent me to the little Pemberton health clinic emergency one night. That started a whole round of visits with doctors, an ultrasound, and an MRI down in Whistler. After visits with specialists in Vancouver, endless jabbing, stabbing, bloodletting, and chest hair tugging little deals they attach wires to a decision was made to seek a date for surgery. They  emailed one day with a date that had come open if I wanted it. Friday the 13th. Oh what the hell, what could possibly go wrong. I don't imagine it is too unusual to get cancellations for surgery on Friday the 13th. That could go for some Doctors too I would imagine. She had given me an alternate date, just in case, but I was keen to take the earliest date available and get the ordeal over with.
   I got my firewood caught up and split, some winter improvements done to the intake screen up the mountain, and some repairs to the large water driven pelton wheel generator it initially feeds. Fixed the hell out of my old tractor to plow with, crossed my fingers and prepared myself for the possibility of being layed up for awhile, having the power not working and freezing up the cabin, vehicles falling apart, or any number of calamity than can befall a person out here.
   I don't usually care to leave here if I can help it. Double especially to the big city. Seems the closer I get to one, the more my stress level goes up.
I've become akin to a forest creature, comfortable in his natural environment, although some contented farm animal preferring to be left in his happy pasture is maybe more like it, and the closer Friday the 13th got, the more this critter couldn't help but think he was being led off to market.

Lions Gate Hospital North Vancouver
Friday the 13th.
   The day started early.  Forest creatures seldom sleep in the city, and last night was no exception.
With no little amount of trepidation I presented myself to the admissions desk where I'm handed an identification tag. "I put that on my big toe?" I asked.
Sometime later, the surgeon stood  chatting with me beside the operating table, holding something that I hoped wasn't a 'how to manual'.
"Well, Doc", I said, " guys have worked wonders on me, I've never felt better, so if you can round up my clothes and boots, I'll be heading on back to the old lodge".
"Sir, let me just strap your arm down now", a  young specialist said looking down on me from behind, "...there is important IV's and things, we can't have any movement going on." She pauses for a moment, giggles from behind her mask, then continues working, strapping, tubing, poking, reassuring.
   By now I have had a pretty good look around the operating room and its contents, and she must have wondered if my head was actually attached, and that door with the exit sign on it looked mighty inviting. In fact, I have memorised every step from the front door of the hospital, right here to the green painted O.R. You know,  just in case of fire and I need to escape or something and its every man for himself, but thats just me. The possibility of having to make a run for it dragging several hundred or more pounds of medical equipment along behind I wanted to make sure I was going to take the short route and avoid any stairwells or bottlenecks with the herd.
   The half dozen specialists present stand off studying charts, beeping equipment, and colorful computer generated images of the inside of me, chatting quietly among themselves.
"OK, I'm going to do the same to your other arm now." states upside down girl, who straps the other arm down
 "I'll never get away now." I mumbled to her.
"What was that?" she asks, stopping her work and leaning into view.
I thought for a moment, then said in a matter of fact voice, loud enough for all present to hear, that while they were rooting around in there, to keep an eye out for a set of lost keys.
I had them in my peripheral vision of course, and noted it had the desired effect...each had stopped what they were doing, turned, and looked.
Upside down girl popped back into view. "You swallowed your keys?" she finally had to ask.
"No", I said, letting the moment hang for as long as was suitable at a $25,000 an hour facility,"...but its the only place I haven't looked."
There was a collective shrug and they all went back to what they were doing.
"Goodnight Mr. Trethewey, just relax now, and breath deep." says upside down girl, opening a valve.
"Mooo..." went the inner critter softly, strapped down belly up and helpless, and the next thing he knew, or better put, didn't know, for the next 6 hours, was out colder than the proverbial ham sandwich.

   They insisted on keeping me corralled up there enjoying the hospital hospitality in a room over looking the Vancouver skyline for a few days, looking like the sorry loser of a knife fight, plugged into oxygen, intravenous lines, and several tubes jammed into me that drained off to bags clipped to my hospital gown. "What if I sit on one and squish it all back in again?", I asked a nurse one day, only half joking.
"That won't happen" she assured me, before cracking up.
After a few days I was up and about, hobbling along with my wheeled life support tree up and down the hallway. I was keen to go home and every time I passed a Doctor or nurse in the hallway I would straighten up and try to look as normal as possible and ask them which way to the weight room.
   Eventually, I was unencumbered from any equipment, found myself in my street clothes close enough the entrance to see pasture and made a run for it, skipping out on the bill at the same time.
I was turned loose after agreeing to follow their advice for a suitable recovery period, limiting my work and recreation, and making my carcass available for further prodding and poking.
And then I couldn't get out of town fast enough.

So for the time being, I am begrudgingly restricting my activities, and it looks like I'm going to have to plant myself here in front of the keyboard and behave myself for a stretch. 
So I'll sit back here and grow a new patch of belly fur and see if I can come up with some stories and posts for a bit to keep myself occupied.   

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Flat Tire Fix

    I'm getting my old tractor back in running shape after an extended period of being broke down. After getting it mobile I tackled the flat tire that it has had for about 8 years now. By nature I like to do things myself of course so I got an new inner tube shipped up on the bus. Tractor tires are usually filled with water and calcium for weight and traction. I figured it could weigh 1000 lbs. or more. 
 First thing is get out your big tools. Your big ratchet, sledge, and 20 ton jack for starters, and be prepared to use a 4 foot pipe over the ratchet handle for leverage.
 I got all the lug nuts off but it was stuck on there, I'm not sure if the wheel has ever been off, I figured a few well placed hits with the sledgehammer would do it.

 I got my hands on an old sign post and managed to pry the wheel off the studs. I got in there and tried to roll it towards the front of the machine. I was rather hoping I could just hold it upright and slowly roll it to the front of the machine and lift it with the bucket. It was all I could do to hold it upright and there was no shortage of odd noises emitting from both ends of me before it finally fell over with a ground shaking thud.

I managed to get the calcium siphoning out into a
pan and dumping it in buckets and a barrel, it was slow going as there was probably between 50 and 60 gallons in there.

Once I got it lightened up enough I could stand the wheel up with quad to drain the rest out.

 I went to work at breaking the bead with the loader bucket.

I even got a little creative, and spiced up the language, then spiced it up some more, but no way I could knock the bead down, there was 45 years of rust sticking it to the rim.

OK, I know when I'm beat, into town we go.

So when I go to fire up my pickup it won't start. It was my in tank electric fuel pump, about the last bloody thing I wanted to be doing now, or anytime for that matter.
If you have ever had to replace one yourself you know what kind of job that can be.
Of course it had all rusted on bolts and several broke off just to make things entertaining, and I had just filled the tank.
  I had one in stock, for just such an emergency.
OK, back to the flat tractor tire. Several days later I backed out of the shop and fired it in the back. I took it easy all the way in, I was afraid of the tire spreading my pickup box.
A couple hours later I arrived in Pemberton and let the tire shop deal with it in the end, saving myself further aggravation. In a few days I drove back in to get it and took it home and got it back on the machine without any major calamities.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Road Work 2013 InShuckch Road.

 Our bumpy old forest service road out here has been getting plenty of attention the last year or two.
A contract was awarded recently to improve a section a few km down the road from here, and a small crew will be working there until the new year.
More often than not the roughest part of the journey, this narrow 1 km section along the river was always a challenge and prone to flooding. Locals call the area Singing Rock, the wind funnels through the notch and according to local legend, sings.
They had been making noises about doing this section of road for some time now.
A week ago a reflective vest showed up to pound grade stakes in.
I started hearing banging and clanging going on down the road a few days ago, and of course was listening to the chatter on the local radio channel.
So today I had to go down for a look, and make sure they were doing it right.

It was hovering at the freezing point which wasn't so bad, but Singing Rock concentrated the wind and it felt damn chilly out there on foot overlooking the job site.
They are lowering the road under the hydro line and packing off the material to bring the lower area up to grade.

Dumping it and spreading the material with the cat, taking the bend clear out of the road and lessening the grade. Work along the river can only be performed during low water so next year another job phase will take the work beyond along the base of Singing Rock.
The original gold rush trail of 1858 included a steep climb up and over the backside of Singing Rock. The Royal Engineers came along a year later to improve the important road to the upper Fraser River goldfields, blasting in a rough lower trail alongside the river.
In the early 1950's BC Hydro built a power line through the valley, and my uncle whom had been logging at the head of Harrison Lake received the contract at that time to upgrade the original wagon road between the two lakes.

A short section was completed not long ago along the slide just this side of the village of Skatin', above the Skookumchuck rapids, a long retaining wall holds back the unstable material from above.
A stretch at this end of Lillooett Lake was finished in September or so, and another long section of road further up the lake at the 18km mark was raised considerably and we hope has flooded for the last time.
 You get accustomed to the regular road closures at one point or other along the road, you know what time they going to let you through, usually every few hours so its not so bad.
It can be a bit of a social thing too, as people often get out and chat it up before being let through.

The waits along the lake could be quite pleasant too. Those that work or live out here often don't take the time to stop and enjoy what the lake has to offer.

For a period in July you could be entertained while parked waiting for the openings by the helicopters fighting the lightening caused fire up the mountain, coming down to the lake to fill their monsoon buckets and climbing overhead.

There was a steep hill down around the 40 km marker with a turn at the top that used to snag up 2 wheel drive vehicles in the winter pretty regular.
The loggers had at it and completely cut out the hill and turn and lessened the grade.
Its like a freeway along there now.

The past 20 years I've seen plenty of improvements done to the road, big and small, and I've welcomed every one. Wear and tear on vehicles out here is a major deal, and those with a vehicle are usually handy at keeping them together.
People have often asked me over the years what I thought the best kind of vehicle to drive out here was. I always answered, "Someone else's!".
The entire road will be improved on a regular basis until eventually it will be paved I imagine and only the old timers and native elders will recall what a rough, car eating, tire flattening experience it was to travel in the valley in the olden days.
Improved access to the remote valley will certainly be of great benefit to the local Inshuckch first nation as they complete negotiations and move towards improved services, self government, and future economic opportunities.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Refinishing The Lodge.

   In spent most of July 1995 staining the cabin here, and I recall crabbing about the $40 a gallon cost of the sealer which I recall buying in huge 5 gallon containers. It never really occurred to me at the time that eventually it would deteriorate and have to be sanded down and reapplied. It needed it a few years ago but I put it off as long as I could, then began to tackle it  a wall at a time.
Exposure to the elements over the years had taken its toll on the logs and finish.

I needed to fix were a bear tried to climb the bedroom wall back a few years, for reasons known only to himself. Imagine laying in bed at night and have this going on a foot and a half from your head.

I have two different sized grinders with different sanding discs, one for lineal and one for the notch corners. Its a nasty job, even with mask and goggles.
I let the first coat sit for a few days before applying the second.

Anyone making the mistake of stopping in looking for work was handed goggles mask and a grinder. Pretty soon word gets around and I end up having to do it myself, that's what happens to you if you don't stay in school kids. I got my old stunt double to finish it off this summer.

That stuff I spread all over the logs has climbed to $80 a gallon over the years.

It sure looks better though.

You need to remove trim etc and refinish that as you go.

 Railings and show spots are sanded by hand between coats to give a sheen.
All the spindles and railings were taken apart to be sanded down, and I have done that once already 8 years ago or so
Well I've got the south exposure all done, next year I'll start around the other side and do the guest cabin as well.....anyone looking for work?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TNQ, Rubbing Shoulders With A Legend.

   In September 1966 a helicopter rolled off the assembly line at the Bell factory in Texas. A model 204B, it was assigned the registration/serial number N8514F. It had been earmarked for delivery to Air America and was shipped overseas, arriving in Vietnam in November and began an interesting career, as recorded in its flight log.
Screen shot of  N8514F in Air America colors, Vietnam, late 60's.
Air America was a covert CIA transportation cover organization engaged in a wide array of activities during the Vietnam war. Some of these activities were the type they don't file flight plans on if you know what I mean. On Nov 24 after a week in country, N8514F received several rounds of ground fire in the butt and made a forced landing near Bon Son.
Not long after a nervous passenger fired his weapon off inside the aircraft. The ill placed round went out the top of the fuselage and damaged the main rotor, causing an emergency landing near the village of QuiNohn. In January 1972, at an undisclosed jungle airbase it caught fire during refueling while running. Extensive repairs were carried out, and during a later test flight the engine developed a problem and made what the log described as, '...a hard landing from 35feet'. In June of '72 during a routine take off in Saigon it lost power and had another bad day.

On April 29 1975, as the North Vietnamese army overran Saigon an order was given to evacuate, and the biggest helicopter evacuation in history, called Frequent Wind, began. Most are familiar with the iconic war time photos of the helicopter picking up people from a roof top during the final hours of the evacuation, and of helicopters being ditched into the water off aircraft carriers to make room for more. Often thought to be an army helicopter picking friendlies from the roof of the US Embassy, they are actually Air America helicopters removing CIA staff and operatives from the roof of the Pittman Building. Helicopter N8514F was one of a handful of B models involved in Frequent Wind, the model had the advantage of a larger fuel tank which enabled it to do more than its share in moving evacuees from Saigon roof tops to aircraft carriers sitting out in the South China Sea. The flights ended as communist troops over ran the city, with bullets from ground fire following the last machine out to sea.
Running on fumes, N8514F found one of the last remaining spots on deck of the USS Midway and off loaded in Guam before being shipped stateside.
  In November '75 it was de-registered in the US and sold to an outfit that flew the fjords and glaciers of Greenland as CY-HBU.  In early 1980, it was sold to Trans North, an operator based in Whitehorse Yukon. It received the Canadian registration C-GTNQ, the airframe was stripped and given a glossy coat of the companies red and yellow paint scheme.
C-GTNQ, with the big Q on the nose. Dawson YT 1981

My partners and I had been drill testing several drainage's and had intended to look into some old gravels located over the hills towards the Yukon River. With a small bulldozer and tracked drill carrier, I needed to make use of a glacier at the narrow headwaters to get into the area, but by the time we got around to it in late May, the ice had melted into a trough and we could not negotiate the initial narrow, rocky canyon with the equipment. Despite a good try and scouting out an alternate route, we were forced to retreat over the dome and follow our tracks all the way back to our Bismark Ck. base camp to figure out a plan B. We worked with a variety of smaller helicopters, but to move our drill over the divide was going to take a special machine capable of a heavy lift.

On July 26 1981 'Q' arrived to disassemble and move our drill over the hills, bringing with it fuel and supplies. We could hear it coming long before it got close.

The track machine the drill rode on was to stay behind so a skid frame had been fabricated and was flown out first, the idea being to assemble the machine on the skids on subsequent trips.
TNQ buggers off with the skid frame. Bismark Ck YT.

The boom was removed and set beside the skid frame over at the new site before coming back to hook onto the main unit, lifting it off the tracked carrier.

Q shuddered under the load and disappeared over the distant ridge to the south west.

We jumped in the last trip to Rosebute and organized ourselves to reassemble the drill rig.
A much younger me in blue, and a hired hand take a moment as the big machine cranks up.
TNQ hovered while we worked underneath in a 100 mph down wash, hooking up slings to lift machinery, line up bolt holes and attach the large extending derrick.

We carried on with our gold exploration until it got too cold, dragging the drill around the the area with the aid of large gasoline driven winch. We never saw the machine or crew again my time up there. We didn't require a heavy lifter again. I made a trek out there on the snow with the bulldozer the following Spring to retrieve the drill on the skid, taking several days each direction.
I learned Q had been sold a few seasons later, re-registered back in the states as N109CH where it fought fires and flew rescues until 1994 when it crashed for the final time,  sparing the pilot, but meeting her demise while fighting a brush fire near Alamogordo New Mexico.
The accident report simply concluded, "...damaged beyond repair".

I was surprised to discover N8514F (TNQ) had been recognized for its role in Operation Frequent Wind by being available on ebay and hobby shops in the form of a die cast model.
Although I didn't know the machines history at the time, I feel proud to have crossed paths with the old veteran.

And now you know...the rest of the story.