Saturday, March 21, 2015

Robin's Little Shack Of Horrors.

    I lay awake last night thinking about it, and when I awoke, I lay there and worried about it some more, not entirely sure if I was going to be able to pull this one off or not. The dreaded day had arrived, and I felt like a death row prisoner about to meet the noose. I had worried lots about this particular little job for many years now. But it was a job that needed to be done, the plant was down and it was a perfect time, and couldn't be put off any longer, no matter how many excuses I came up with, and there were plenty, believe me. I was going to have to put my phobias at bay, keep a cool, clear mind under duress, and work quickly under adverse conditions. Today was the day I was going to venture into the pelton-wheel tail-race.
 The tail-race is what us independent power guys call the pipe where the water comes out after it goes through the wheel that generates electricity. This particular tail-race is a galvanised culvert that is plugged into side of a poly box below floor level the pelton-wheel dumps into.  

 With the inspection plate off, the wheel, the holding box, the dreaded culvert/tail race end.
I built this dump box and stuck the culvert into side of it back in 2000, filling over and around it, pouring a concrete floor on top and putting up a structure over the pelton workings. I had sealed the pipe first with some oakum or something that I had around and had second thoughts about it afterwards. Before the water was turned on for the first time I decided to wriggle up the tail-race pipe and slop some tar around from the inside. It was a tight squeeze and I had a little flashlight and I would get in a little ways, get freaked out and wriggle back out, saying no way. Going inside at some point had never occurred to me when I brought home the tail-race culvert, and I'm thankfull I didn't bring back the next size down. This particular death-trap is 18" (that's 46 cm for you young folks here in Canada) which may sound like a lot, but theres not much room in there, for me anyways, I don't know about you. The confined space, the fact normally 250 gallons of water pour through there and dead-ends in the dump box just creeped me right out. But I persevered onwards, had a look around in there at what I needed then started wriggling my way back out. I had a light jacket on, it began to ride up and bunch up on my shoulders as I worked my way down jamming me in the pipe, and all rearward motion stopped. I squiggled forward a little to work my jacket back down and started out again. The jacket rode up once more and I was stuck again, only now I was stuck even further from the entrance. My blood-pressure went into triple digits. Well I did with time manage to keep a cool head and work my way out, rolling the jacket up over my head and trailing off my outstretched arms and that sunlight sure looked good when I got out of that hell-hole. Of course there was no-one around for miles, and it would have taken a week or more before anyone would begin to miss me. I crawled in there once more to do the sealing, but I remember when I scrambled out of there I said that was the last time I would ever do that again. Famous last words.
Several years ago water began to trickle alongside the culvert, and the ground in front of the steps was saturated, and I knew it wouldn't be too long before I was going to have to talk some poor bugger into crawling in there and initiating a repair. 

You must be this small for this ride.
If you have been reading me for any length of time you will recall most often when 'poor bugger' comes up in the job description, for some reason, I am the one most highly qualified.
I had saved the disc I cut out to fit the culvert years ago, I thought it may be of some use down the road. It never did, but it did come in handy today cutting my rope gasket to size, and convincing myself this was a good idea. I stood there studying it for about 10 minutes, working my courage up, and willing myself smaller.

For real, just in case, and as I often do when I'm out and about and up to no good, I left a note on the kitchen table directing people to the mishap. I don't know what the hell 'COME QUICK!' is going to do for me, it would be 10 days or 2 weeks before anyone missed me, but at least they would know where to retrieve the body. I probably should have explained what the tail-race was though.
   The tanks running low on propane, but I figured the back-up generator would run for about 3 days continuous before my trouble-light down there went out. What a way to go, getting jammed in my pelton-wheel tail-race, that would be like Willie Wonka falling into his chocolate vat.

Through the inspection hole above, I dropped a trouble light into the abyss, and lowered a grocery bag down that held tools and cans of sealant. A last thought, I added the two way radio to call for help when the time came. It would come in handy for giving interviews to Fox News during the televised rescue attempt when they were drilling me out of there too. then took the long walk outside to the open end of the offending culvert.

Goodbye cruel world.
Before I lay down to crawl to my demise, I stopped for one last picture. A rainy, dreary day, what better time to meet your maker. A bat flew from the spider webbed opening, and my last thought before getting in there was..."I can't believe I'm going to do this".

Dead man squiggling.
I lay right down in the puddle at the entrance, may as well get the getting wet part over right at the start. Once I got in there to the dump box, I could roll over on my back and the water would seep through to the other side of my crotch, and I could be wet on both sides, what the hell. But for the grace of God, in I went a-squiggling, accompanied by much grunting, cursing, and multiple remarks of, "This sucks!".

Sucks big time indeed.
I held my camera out ahead of me, documenting the event for the up-coming coroner's investigation. There is just enough room to fit, rubbing on all four sides and moving yourself along with your arms out ahead of you pushing with your toes and nipples, a few inches at a time. Its hard work, and if you try to take a big breath, you jam in there. The spiral corrugation is none too comfortable to lay on, and theres a puddle in every goddamn one, but it does give you a toe-hold up the slight incline. At the half-way point there was a welcoming trouble-light dangling at the end of the tunnel.

I got in there with the top half of my old self hanging out of the culvert end and rolled over to take a shot looking up at the pelton-wheel and deflector, and immediately my hat fell into the water, I chucked it out the inspection hole above, then took a couple selfies in there, but decided not to use one here, as they looked like I was scared half to death for some reason.
I dropped the camera into the pre-lowered grocery bag and dug out the can of foam filler to start with to clog up the gaps, then I would wrap a marine grade dock rope around and spray it down with an aerosol roof repair product to saturate the rope and goo it to the side of the box. If you have a better idea, you are free to come show me how its done. I'll watch through the inspection hole.
   If you have ever used a can of foam crack filler, you will know that once you press the button, it is difficult to get them to stop. So I'd spray-foam fill a section then struggle to roll over so I could carry on, meanwhile, foam-can still slowly spews it's contents and I soon remembered not to hold it above my face and by the time I got a handle on things it was smeared all over my jacket in several places. You can't wipe it off either, I recalled after the fact. Pretty soon its all over my rubber gloves and I can't let go of the can. I pull it off my right and it sticks to my left. There was still some water in the bottom of the dump-box (I know because I was continually sticking an elbow or shoulder into it, and if I tried to lay my head back to rest my aching neck, it would jerk right up again, sopping wet on back) and as I would change position I just tried to hold it out over the water, forming a large floating foam replica of a dog turd I would suppose, if a dog were to stand very still say. This brought me a moments amusement, but I'm pretty sure a floating turd would wear pretty thin after 3 days stuck in there waiting for the generator to run out of fuel. I finished with the foam fiasco and tried to chuck the can up and out the inspection hole. It stuck to my rubber glove of course, and sling-shot it's self backwards into the water, making an ice cold splash that got me square in the face. After several attempts, and another splash in the face I finally managed to chuck the can, with two attached rubber gloves out the opening above. I pulled down the length of marine rope I had dangled in there and set it in place, then dug in the bag for the next part of the project.
   If you have ever used a can of aerosol roof patch, you will know that not all of it goes where you intend it. Holding the spray nozzle in the proper direction is a good start. By the time the tar-can was near empty, there was a black cloud in there that was dimming the trouble-light's glow, my glasses are speckled on, and from breathing the fine asphalt mist I was getting light-headed from the fumes, and not in an entirely unpleasant way either. By the time the large can was about empty, the rope and I both were equally saturated.
   Well it looked like I was done. And it was really awkward work. I pushed myself back into the pipe a bit to rest, laying my head back to ease my aching neck.
By now I knew how far back I could go before touching the water...
But I didn't factor in that goddamn floating foam turd being there. I jerked my head up and it was considerably heavier with all the mass attached. I remember saying something, I don't know what it was, but it was probably not good. I get an arm free and manage to liberate the back of my head from the object that sticks to my hand and as I was trying to shake it off I got a start when I noticed the floating dead mouse was stuck on there too. I guess I never mentioned the floating dead mouse did I.
   Well  guess I have to mention it now, the day before I had been trying to lower the level of water in the dump box using a drill powered pump, which are about half useless to begin with. I had a length of hose going down into the sump, and another small hose running out the shack door, and I had been doing my share of sucking on the hose to draw the water up to prime the drill-pump, getting various snoot fulls in the process. I never did get it working despite swallowing and wearing a considerable amount. I ended up making a little bailing can that I lowered down there on a wire, and it was during this procedure that I noticed the floating dead mouse. Yuk.
   I threaded my way back down the culvert and out to freedom. I went above and peered down the inspection hole with the trouble-light into where I had just been admiring my repair job. I was a bit damp, all over, I had hold of the cord and I knelt down on my wet knee to get a better look, completing the circuit. One hundred and twenty volts of startling electricity jumped from the cord into the palm of my hand, and I squealed like a little girl, dropping the works and falling over backwards. Scared me more than anything, normal household power usually not going to kill you, but it certainly gets your attention, and encourages you to put down whatever it is you have hold of. 
So my last big adventure up the tail-race was a great success.
Lets see..., I drank dead-mouse broth, got soaking wet, bruised up, cut up on the sharp edge of the culvert, blackened my glasses and splattered my face, got foam filler and a dead mouse stuck in whats left of my hair, and in the end I got nearly electrocuted by the backup generator. But I got out!
Turns out the squeezing into the culvert was the least of it. But I'm not going back in there again for a long time. Just to make sure, I'm going to crawl back in tomorrow with a half gallon of gummy roof fixing stuff I found around to smear around in there a little more. 
I better save that note.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Had To Start With The Big Valve.

   After yet another trip to the Big City, I have returned with the new generator end that arrived from the factory in Texas, along with a few more odds and ends. There had been a list in my head of things over the years concerning the pelton-wheel that I planned to do if it was ever down for any period of time. Little improvements, and maintenance issues here and there, that just needed some time with the water turned off to accomplish. 
The past several weeks broken down like I've been has been a perfect opportunity. Only thing was, I couldn't shut the water off completely. There has been an issue with the main valve leaking, which has been getting progressively worse over the past few seasons, and really makes it difficult to work on. So I ordered a replacement, which I picked up the other day with the generator.

First thing yesterday I tore up the mountain on the Honda, hiked down into the intake pond and dropped the gate valve in the pond, it doesn't seal completely, so I disconnected the penstock a few feet below to keep the dribble of water running down the line and pouring out on my feet while I'm trying to change out the main high-pressure valve located down at the pelton-wheel. The 580 meter (1900 ft) penstock drained out in about a half hour, and I got out the heavy duty socket and ratchet, supporting the pipe on a couple jacks.

 Here be the offending, 6" high-pressure valve. Its a gear actuated butterfly that no matter how fast you crank on the wheel, it closes very slowly so you don't blow something up. 
But as it is, no matter how hard you close it, it doesn't stop the water.
 I got the old valve off, which weighs about 65 lbs., and drug it outside in the light and the problem became obvious. The leading edge of the butterfly was damaged from rocks and gravel coming down the penstock during those bad storms when something washes out above. I recall problems with the valve started after a bad storm about 4 years ago. I thought there was a small stick wedged in there, and it got worse after a few more storms, Then after the Winter storm last December when the road washed out up the mountain I got some more junk down the line which beat up the sealing edge even more. You have to be able to turn off 'all' the water in order to service the machine, and it was a real pain in the ass with this leaky old valve.

The replacement one is not so extravagant, and was about a $1000 cheaper. I didn't figure I needed the gear drive job and went for a simpler lever type, I just have to remember not to turn it off too fast. I went up top and connected the penstock line and pulled up the gate valve in the pond to fill the pipe and came down to check for leaks. 
There is 200 psi of water behind that butterfly valve, you wouldn't want to crack it open to peek in there, it would blow you right out the doorway. That remaining section of pipe needs to be lifted up and held there while the bolts get started, a two man job normally. This particular section has never been off all these years, other than once, about a month ago during the last monsoon washout. Pierre and Cody were camped out enjoying the hot spring and made the mistake of asking if there was anything they could 'help' me with. That was a mistake. I decided that would be a good time to drain the penstock, pull off that heavy bloody section of inlet pipe and dive in there and see if we could fix that leaky main valve. 
The poor buggers kneeled in the water and un-did and did-up bolts and fought with the mis-aligned flanges while I stood around telling stories and handing them tools all day, and I made them work right through lunch break until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon before they finally quit en-mass, and departed for their hot spring holiday once more. Turned out the valve was just had 'er, and I started the search for a replacement. I sure did appreciate their help though.
I should have invited them back. One particular old guy just had to manage by himself today of course, and spent the rest of the day layed out on the couch moaning.
The flanges didn't line up, and it was a heavy, awkward job. Worst part was despite wrecking myself in the process, I never did get the damn thing lined up right.

 So first thing today I gimp over there with my sore back 24 hours smarter with a much better idea, and rigged up an overhead attachment for a come-a-long to support it while I figured out what the problem was. Anyways, without getting too technical, the section between the valve and the pelton-wheel is actually two sections mated together with a clamping high pressure sleeve.  I recalled when I installed all this years ago I didn't leave much gap between the two pipes and I suspected some contact there that made it difficult to line up the flanges.
That turned out to be the problem alright, so I hoisted the short stub up on my shoulder and over to the shop and bucked off 3/4 of an inch with the cutting torch and ground it all down nice like. Being a little smarter than I was a half hour before, I loaded the now shortened flange onto my little wagon, and hauled it back to the pelton-wheel shack on that.
I had to tap out an new gasket for the lower flange, a discarded old drum-head carton works just fine.

It fell into place almost and all 16 big bolts lined up nicely, and that come-a-long was a hell of an improvement. I can't turn the valve on and test for leaks quite yet, theres some more work I need to do on the pelton-wheel.  

Without getting too technical again, this part is called the 'stream deflector'. If all is is not well with the water supply or the electrical system, a solenoid releases a weighted arm that turns the deflector into the stream of high pressure water that runs the pelton-wheel, stopping its propulsion.  It rides on a couple of nylon bearings I installed a season or two ago, but they leaked water like hell all over the floor in there. I got that problem fixed (I hope) with my secret process I'm not ready to divulge here yet. In my fartings around with the stainless steel deflector assembly, I dropped it down into the lower sump with a splash, and spent a good hour with my head and a flashlight stuck in there trying to fish it out with a long hooked rod. 
Well, I think I got all my little down time fixes done I need to. The new generator sits in the back of my pickup, and you are probably wondering why I'm in no big panic to get it installed. Turns out the factory improved that model generator with a larger input shaft than the old one, and the original coupler no fit no more. A new drive coupler flange between the pelton-wheel and the generator was ordered and flown out from Edmonton and put on the Greyhound for Pemberton. I'll pick it up when I go in for a dentist appointment Saturday. (I hope)
So in the meantime, I've had the leisure time to do some much needed repairs and improvements. 
Maybe I'll get around to loosely install the generator later tomorrow. 
But there is one more nasty, awkward, and creepy job to do that I left until last. 
I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow, ...if I'm still here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So Long Old Freind.

   So it has been a few weeks now since the generator burnt up. I made another trip to the city recently to retrieve the remains from the rewind place. They told me nothing I didn't already know, that it had served its life, which hasn't been an easy one spinning around out there for 14 years and I reckon I had got my moneys worth out of it.
I asked him what I should do with it.
"Boat anchor, that's about all its good for." he advises me.
My new boat anchor came with nearly a $200 bill to take it apart and estimate it's demise.
They plopped it into the back of my truck with a fork-lift, and I headed back wondering indeed,...what the hell was I going to do with it.
 I brought it home one last time, picked off the regulator, the shaft-key, and saved some of the shroud bolts I've noticed vibrate out sometimes. But beyond that, theres nothing worth keeping around for spares, anything I'd ever probably ever need someday has been worn or frazzled out already. And I knew if I unloaded it out here, it would sit around and be in the way for who knows how long.
A fitting burial was in order.

I just about busted my guts skidding the housing and all your innards out off the tail-gate, but after 14 years, so long old generator. For over 120,000 hours you've lit up my life, warmed the structures, heated the hot-tub, dried my jeans and froze my food, not to mention amping up my drum kit.
It was never any trouble either, I had a main connection or two burnt off over the years I had to fix but never had a single problem with the generator its self. Unlike the pelton-wheel and intake screens its hooked up to, that as you know I'm always fiddling with due to some new storm or mechanical calamity. But its time to move on. I'd feel a lot worse for my old friend here, if it wasn't for the fact the brand new replacement is not far away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reality TV, Stowe Creek Yukon...Who Would Have Figured?

    Like millions of viewers around the world I have been following the popular gold-mining shows on TV, or in my case, YouTube via satellite. I find it all rather amusing, being as familiar as I am with the Dawson area. Over thirty years ago, working out on the placer creeks, it seemed like the last thing in the world anyone would ever want to do a television series about, but these days enough viewers are tuning in that there are two networks airing competing weekly shows.
I track the hits to Hotspringlodge and search keywords people use to land here, and after the new season starts they flood in related to gold-mining and a few of the creeks I was associated with in a past life, and received mention here in some rambling. 
   The original series on Discovery seems pretty heavy with the drama and scripted situations, and if you've been in the racket, you got to wonder when they get in all the time it takes to mine with all the BS going on.  In the real world, good chance the original cast members would have been out of business halfway through the first mining season, never to be heard of again, except from inquiring creditors, but by sluicing the world of ratings, they managed to keep going despite themselves.
One thing that never fails to astound me, is the fact these guys appear to have all their gold at the end of the season, usually most of it is cashed in for operating expenses throughout the season.
And no-one accounts for the gold fineness, or purity, seeing pure gold doesn't exist naturally.
Most miners I've run across didn't keep their gold in glass jars either for fear of dropping it.
Anyways, that's television, it's all entertainment and editing.
The History Channels program Yukon Gold is probably a little more representative of what you would typically find I think.
   But I've got to hand it to that character Beets that moved the last remaining gold-dredge to the mouth of Eureka Ck. That particular large gold-dredge had been moved up to the Dawson gold-field's from California sometime before 1940 and assembled out on Clear Creek where it worked until 1955 before being shut down. Back in my day that same dredge was being refitted and resurrected where it sat by Queenstake Resources, to the tune of about a million bucks. They managed to get it up and working then for a few seasons, but new environmental restrictions and the falling price of gold put them out of business, along with a lot of other outfits, one of which I will refrain from mentioning.  This past television season the huge machine has been moved I don't know how far, but lots far, south to another mining area located on the Indian River at the mouth of Eureka Creek. It has been resurrected and refitted once more, to the tune of another million bucks, and it will be interesting to see how he makes out with this old technology, and today's economy.

In the early 80's I worked further up Eureka Ck. Ours was a much smaller Cat operation, mining the narrower valley for coarse gold up towards the headwaters of the right fork. 


Hal and I, swapping out a cracked D8 head.
Pushing in the last of a cut.

 Stowe Creek- I just about fell out of my chair last week at a new episode of Yukon Gold shown on the History Channel when I discovered a young couple, Nika and Chris, mining on our old Stowe Creek claims. This area was considered well off the beaten trail back then, and along with most of the Montana Ck. tributaries, we had the entire 3 mile length of Stowe staked. and was included in our optimistic drill sampling program in 1981.

 Arriving by helicopter, the test drill set up on some stripped ground, mid point Stowe Ck.

Old door from a remaining cabin.

Getting our contraption set up to put down the first test hole, Stowe Ck. March 1981.
The old timers would have to sink a shaft in the permafrost using fire for a month to accomplish getting samples from bedrock. Once in place and set up, we could bang down a 6" hole, often 30', in a couple hours. Of course it took us all day to get in place and set up.

If I figured we were onto some encouraging ground, I'd take a section of the lower drill core, thaw it over a fire on the spot, melt some snow and pan it out.
Eventually, we hit the Stowe pay I believe, or what there was of it, from a few hand fulls of gravel, and some snow melted over the fire, this was the first gold panned out of Stowe in 80 years. Not long after, the bottom fell out of the gold market and we never did get around to mining this ground, letting the claims lapse in '87.  
   I'll write a more in depth story sometime about this project and the creek's early history, but it cracks me up to no end to see the old creek featured on TV every week. They get in there using our old road, and set up their camp in the very spot that we had intended to. That location is a natural spot for a camp there is a small tributary located there called Hidden Treasure Ck. that allows for a gravity feed water line to the camp. I still have all the drill-logs around here someplace that recorded depth, material, and gold recovered, calculated out by the yard. 
   Would I like to go back gold-mining again? Well yes and no. Its a pile of risky hard work, but if I was 30 years younger, I'm sure it would be difficult not to be drawn back to the allure of gold. 
Second thought, I think I have enough problems, and I'm not so sure I would make good television material either. But as it is, with not much chance of growing younger, I may just have to sit back in front of my lap-top and live vicariously, along with the other millions of viewers, through the efforts of these modern day miners working my old claims.  Good luck to them.
More gold stories....

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Smoke Spill, And A Darkened Trip Home.

   I've got a small crew of characters staying here for awhile with their RV plugged in while they install hi-speed Internet to the remote first nation villages scattered around the valley. They were getting ready to head out for a few days off and while they were waiting for the noon road opening I offered to take them over and show them the pelton-wheel that generates the juice around here. 
"It's been running a little warm the past week." I had told them walking over there.
I opened the door to the shack and it was considerably warmer in there than normal, a sure sign of electrical resistance, and I expressed my concerns. They asked me what the serviceable life span of the generator should be.
I told them I wasn't too sure, but figured I was about to find out.
   Sure as hell, the very next day, off goes the power. I went over to the genset shack and opened the door and was greeted by a strong burnt electrical smell, which is never good. Obviously it has developed some leaky wiring, allowing the smoke inside to escape. I cranked it up manually and yes indeed there is smoke squirting out everywhere. I had been dreading the possibility of a smoke leak.
When the system was installed 14 years ago, the machinery was bolted down to a cement slab and the shack was built around it. I had given the ability to remove it someday a little thought alright, and made the doorway extra wide. I figured that one day down the road, the genset will crap out and some poor bugger is going to have to figure how to get the monstrosity out of there.
At the time, I didn't really think it was going to be me.
There was a hemlock that fell over close by that I had been saving for about a year and a half now, and it turned out to be just what I needed to strap on the front of Old Alfie for a boom so I could reach in there and snatch out the frazzled 600 pound generator end. The hemlock was ideal as it was small enough for me to man-handle around without wrecking my old self, but plenty skookum to hold the weight.

I brought it back over to the lodge and poked it in the back of my truck and tied it in there good.
As much as I hated to, the next morning I pulled out at quarter to five and headed to the big city to try and rectify my dilemma, hitting the end of the lake at sunrise.
I got to Squamish just as the Ford dealer was opening, I've been working on a neighbors pickup and it was a chance to order parts. Turns out the part (electrical) is on back order.
Not only that, but he had some alarming news...
"I don't know if its going to be 2 weeks, or 2 months" the parts man explained.
Not a great start to the day and I jumped back into my truck and continued on to the big city hoping to be on my way back home with a smokeless generator as quickly as possible. Well, a guy can always hope anyways, these things are not as common as you think, and pretty specific to the particular pelton-wheel installation and controls. I thought worse case scenario, I might have to come back down in a few days or so to pick up the repaired, or replacement genset end.
I imagine even sooner when I tell them how big of a hurry I'm in!

I made good progress to the city until I actually got close to it, when the Monday morning traffic came to a snails pace. I couldn't do this every day, or even every Monday for that matter. After crawling along like this for what seemed like about half an hour, all of a sudden the brake lights went off and everyone took off going like hell and it was all I could do to keep up it seemed.
I'm not the best guy to be driving around civilised country, and I could carry on here for half a page about my adventures and mis-adventures trying to get to where I was going.
Fate finally delivered me to my intended destination for once, made notable by the proliferation of broken down gen sets and electrical motors lined up out front. I honked the horn to alert the mechanic and backed up to the big shop doors to save precious time then ran inside and explained my predicament to the guy at the counter, whom seemed a might unimpressed at my leaky winding/smoke escaping theory. 
First thing to come out of his mouth is..."I hope your not in a hurry".
I said that's easy for him to say, he's got electricity!
There is indeed jobs lined up and the phone rings steady.
I finally talk him into getting his guy in back to come out and have a look. He rolls up the big noisy shop doors and I perceived a certain hesitation in his voice before he called out...
"Hey Latkus, can you spare a minute, I got another job for you to look at!"
Someone from in back shouted some European four letter word, and a string of something or other in between before ending on the four letter word again. There was a few clangs and bangs from tools hitting the workbench and pretty soon counterman and I are joined by the short, over worked, and harried looking shop foreman.
"Smoke leak!" I joked, trying to lighten the moment.
"I better leave you two to chat." says counterman, and excuses himself to a safer locale.
"Oh cheezes" the man says peering into the generator with a flashlight, "You really booger 'dis one goot".
"Thanks" I said, "Should I wait for it or would you like me to pop back in later?"
"Oh shits," he says wiping his brow with a grimy rag, "...a guy of funny too!"
He tells me it would involve 3-4 days winding alone, without knowing what else is burnt in there.
I told him 3 days would be an eternity, he countered that was once they got to it. That got my interest up, and I queried him on how long it might take for them to get to it. He blew out a big breath, looked around at the pallets of generators and electric motors, makes a long whistling sound and looks over his shoulder into the shop.
"It be, oh..., 3 weeks we can maybe squeeze in you".
"Oh cheezes!" I said.
"Dats da best we can do," he says, then adds, "...we short a man."
"Oh, he sick?" I asked.
"No...he dead!"
I went back up front to continue my discussion with the boss.
"I could send you over to Beaver, but its the same story there" he apologises.
I showed him my short list of possibilities.
"How about these guys?" I asked, pointing out the only one not crossed off.
"Oh them." he chuckles, then informs me they had gone out of business some months ago. 
How could it be, with a gold-mine like this? 
A likely story I thought to myself, and off I went in search of the outfit with the big important sounding name. After numerous wrong turns and adventures with the local inhabitants by accident I finally found the boarded up competition, whom had indeed gone out of business some time ago.
So, a good part of the day had been used up already with my wanderings, and I pondered my next move. There was only one thing I could do...I decided to go home and think about it for a bit more.
Recalling the grid-lock traffic of this morning, and timing it just right to hit the grid-lock traffic in the afternoon, I decided to take a route home more my style. 
I'd take the rugged West Harrison, or Sts'ailes road/mountain goat trail home. 
I headed the opposite direction of the Big City, out through Abbotsford, where I lived until I was 13. 

 Stopping for a late lunch there I happened to notice differential oil smeared all over my right rear wheel. "Cheeses!" I said, then went looking for the local Ford dealer.
The place wasn't where I expected it to be, they have gone and moved things around since I was a kid it appears. But soon enough I get all fixed up with a new axle seal, brake shoes and differential oil at the new place. I already have a line-up of broken down stuff piled in front of my shop door that I was going to have to drag out of the way first, but I figured I could handle the axle seal job in an afternoon when I got home.
I was going through town, which looks nothing like it did, when my low fuel warning light goes on and I make a wise decision to hit the next gas station that comes up. Turns out to be Hub Service, a family run gas station-repair shop that has been on that corner forever. Wheeling up to the pumps I recalled pulling into the same place years ago to pump up the tires on my mustang bike. A very personable chap ran out to the pumps and I asked him to squeeze all he could into the tank.
"So wheres this Hotspring Lodge?" he finally had to ask, seeing the lettering across the rear window. 
I said it was up at a hot spring off the north end of Harrison Lake towards Pemberton, and that I was taking the rough way home up the lake. 
I recalled my leaky diff seal, and the possibility of camping out on the little traveled Harrison trail.
I had also noticed an empty service bay, "Say, you guys got time to do a axle seal, I got all the parts."
Sure, no problem he tells me, and I drove up to the doors.
 We go in and he writes me up, I give him my first name and my last, which is a well recognized pioneer family name around these parts. There is a street and a museum and a park and a few things around town carrying the family name as well.
"Trethewey," he says, "Are you one of 'the' Tretheweys?"
I told him I most certainly was...but probably not one of the ones he was thinking about.
He introduced himself as Ross Siemens. The Siemens name has been around town for awhile too, Ross is the 3rd generation to operate this business, and somehow finds time to serve on city council. We had a good chat about local history, the Trethewey House museum and about how much the town has changed. 

He showed me a whole series of photos taken over the years, this is what I remember as a pup.
They have expanded by a few bays over the years, but in 1954 the original building had been constructed of materials bought down the street at Abbotsford Lumber, an outfit my dad operated.
Anyways, if you are ever out that way, stop for gas and leaky axles at Hub Service, really great owners, the mechanics are cool, and even the customers were nice. They got me on my way and I headed off in the direction of Harrison Lake country.

An hour or so later I headed up the Harrison/Sts'ailes forestry road , I'm not sure what the time was getting to be, along with being one of the last people on earth without a phone, I also don't own a watch. 

The road starts off civilized enough, and I stopped and took a few pictures here and there.
There is some discussion about improving and paving this road in the future. I hope so.
Darkness was approaching, and I wished it had of been earlier in the day so I could have done a post about the trip. I decided to do one anyways...

There was the odd boulder on the road...
There was the odd little creek crossing...
Cheeses, their getting bigger...
Three hours later I saw the sign for the IPP project, so I knew I was at the head of the lake and the Lodge was only another hour up the road.

 It was nice to be back at the fort after my adventure to the Big City.

The next day, on the back-up generator, from the comfort of my computer I ordered a new 22kw generator end. Its sitting at the factory in Texas, they will spend the next week configuring it to my application and ship it out. It will take another week to reach the border and clear customs, if all goes well.  Its going to cost a few hundred bucks short of what I paid for the pickup I'm going to haul it home with. Bastard.
I can almost hear all the giggling going on out there after all my bragging I do about all the creek produced 'free' electricity I have around here. But I guess sooner or later wear and tear and smoke leaks catch up with you, and its time to write a cheque.
In the meantime, I'm burning up the wood-pile by the arm load and running the backup generator 8-10 hours a day and going through propane at an alarming rate of a couple hundred bucks a week to keep myself and my guests in the style we've become accustomed to. Almost.
Two or three weeks shipping from Texas sounds like a long time to wait...
...anyone up for a road trip?!