Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Snow and Cold and Wind

 It seems like every winter we get at least one decent snow storm and hopefully the one we just got is the biggest for the season. Don't get me wrong, I like plowing snow but a foot or more of the stuff dragged out over twenty four hours is bullshit to deal with. Maybe not for the home owner doing their own drive once or twice for the whole event but for us plow jockeys that need to babysit factories it can be challenging.
 I got in the truck at 1am when there was only threeish inches on the ground. We knew a lot more was coming but the plan is to plow with the storm and not let any one area get too deep. I had about four hours before the early birds arrived followed by the bulk of first shift and hundreds of cars that would fight for good parking in about a dozen lots associated with this factory. When one of these workers sees a spot they want its like they have blinders on and can't see the plow truck they just cut off to get it. Screw em, they can walk through the snow. If they would have had 10 seconds of patience the spot would have been clean.
 I'd been at it for a while and was starting to get lonely. What I mean by that is all the big iron in my crew was MIA. When I can, I like to plow with the window down and just as I was about to call and find out where they were I heard a loud noise.

 No it wasn't a train but was just as loud. The three pieces of equipment I was waiting for just went rolling by heading toward the shop. The big tractor was towing the big loader and that was being pushed by the smaller loader. Right then I knew it was gonna be a long day.
 At about four hours in I just gave up on parking lots and we started cleaning production areas. What I mean by that is areas where truck and forklift traffic has to happen or plant production stops. This factory goes way back and there are many buildings joined together and a lot of outside forklift movement and foot traffic. Also because of the layout and the three separate locations in the city there is a lot of truck traffic moving product around. I'm sure the bean counters wish it was all under one big roof. Oh and to keep things interesting theres an active set of train tracks splitting the main plant in half.
 Eight hours in and I'm finding that this 16' back blade works wonders in deep dry snow. I'm easily doubling production. This is the third year for me running this blade and I still find new ways to use it. The rear blade has down pressure but because its snowing so hard and its too cold for salt the truck traffic is really packing it down and the blade can skid over the top. The hydraulics on the blade won't lift the rear of the truck with 3 tons of salt in it but I've found a way to help it along. Eventually the extra pressure broke the 3/4" bolt holding the lift ram. No problem, I have a spare in my pocket.
 Nine and a half hours in I heard another loud noise. This time I immediately recognized it as my stomach growling. Time for snow plowers brunch.

 A gas station sammich and a bag of donuts. Wash the whole thing down with Red Bull and get back to work.
 The snow is stacking up pretty good anywhere it hasn't been touched. Temps are pretty cold and the salt in my truck has been in there from the start. All that its good for is adding weight and traction so I can plow mostly in 2wd in flat areas. The wind is blowing so salting is really only done where absolutely necessary.
 The eleventh hour caught me off guard. I got a call that they just announced shutting down for the day due to blizzard conditions. Normally the plan is to have parking lot lanes open so workers can easily walk to their cars and drive off once out of their parking space. That wasn't gonna happen but I did have time to scrape a few main employee exits. I then went and found a remote area to work in for a while till exiting traffic diminished.
 The funny thing is that it stopped snowing just about the time they shut er down. Oh sure a good handful of people (cars) remained but for the most part the lots were empty. Now it was just a race to clear as many lots as possible in the next five hours. That was the planned quitting time for our shift with a return time of 1am again. We were having so much fun that we ran an hour over.
 By the time I got home, cleared the end of the driveway and ate dinner there was time for a three hour nap. Overnight winds weren't as bad as expected. While everything had a good dusting on it from wind blown snow, many of them didn't need service. Thats a good thing because the ones that needed it took a while. I told you this old factory was pieced together and that means there are areas that are like cubby holes where the snow drifts in and there is no place to put it. I suppose in the big city you either truck it out or maybe melt it. Our plan is to push, pull or drag all that snow down the road to empty lots owned by the factory. Some of these lots are a few blocks down the road but this plan is easy and inexpensive. Its also quieter and that matters because this place has residential neighborhoods on three sides.
 We were able to get all the lots done before first shift arrived. This is the only account I'm responsible for and when I'm done with the big iron operators I send them off to help elsewhere. That leaves me to run around and do inspections and cleanup. Usually that means cleaning empty semi trailer stalls, pushing back piles or just detail work. This time there was a lot of detail work that needed attention and I spent three hours putzing around.
 So thats my plow story. Eighteen hours in the truck followed by three hours of sleep and then another eight hours in the truck. I then worked around the shop till noon and called it a day. I much prefer a two inch snow. Everything gets done once and I can be home like it was a regular work day. The weather liars messed up on the timing of the event as usual but their 10-14" estimate came in right around 12 or 14. Now we need to push piles back and make room for the next storm.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Birthday Girls

 My wife and her two sisters all celebrate their birthdays withing a few days of each other so we got together to celebrate. Happy Birthday girls!

 We had a nice visit and a good time was had by all.
 I don't have anything new to report today. Its been cold and gloomy and I feel the same way. We are expecting blizzard conditions overnight into tomorrow so there's no relief for a while.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Week Four

 Not much interesting to report today. I'm writing this Tuesday night because we are suppose to be in the middle of a big snow storm. They keep pushing the timing back but I'm scheduled to go in and start plowing at 3am. Technically the ride in should be one of those times when I want a big ass station wagon to negotiate the deep snow. We'll see how much actually comes down but I'm thinking they may have over estimated this one.
 I've got some back problems and if I'm on my feet too long it really bothers me. My boss doesn't mind me sitting on a stool while I do chainsaw repair and it seems like its just enough relief to get me through a day. I guess I use it a lot cuz it looks pretty rough and has recently been upgraded.

   One of the guys in the shop was working on a truck that had a leaky air line under the cab. I don't know how the hell he got under here or why he thought this was the best approach but there he is. I tried sticking my head under there to see what he had been working on and could barely fit in there. It looks like a back breaking job. Yes, some of the guys in the shop were throwing things at his nutz.

 The insurance adjuster got back to me and approved $5100 worth of deer damage repair to the big ass station wagon. I'll have to kick in my $1000 deductible so they're sending a check for $4100. It still runs and the bent radiator hasn't developed any leaks yet. Hopefully it makes it to the first week of February when it goes in for the repair.

   And finally a few words about the NFL. I watched the Saints get beat by the Rams but most likely that happened because of bad officiating. I really hate it when games are decided like this as was the case six years ago when the Green Bay Packers were cheated out of a victory. They need to put a system in place that allows for correcting these calls, or in this case a non-call. I'm not a Saints fan but I'm bitter enough about it that I probably won't even watch the super bowl this year.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Second Brine Sprayer

 I told you about a second sidewalk brine sprayer that I was building. That unit needed some plumbing and last week I finished it up. I also added a bumper, fluid level sight tube, wand holder and even a different pump. The first pump shit out for whatever reason and my last extra pump was bolted in place. It doesn't flow as many gallons per minute as the other sprayer but this machine doesn't move as fast so it all works out.

 We had one short test run in the parking lot before it snowed Saturday morning and then put it into action. The plan with this unit is that it can do two jobs at once. That is it can broom walks of snow while applying brine.

 The machine works well but there were a few glitches. I'm told they blew a fuse so I'll have to investigate why that might have happened but I suspect its not related to the sprayer but an issue with a power distribution box in the cab. The engine also died once with no obvious reason why. I guess this has happened in the past. Despite those few problems the crew still sprayed over 200 gallons of salt brine through the machine.
 This is what it looks like after brooming and brine a few hours later.

 You can see where there was snow the brine is still wet and where the lot was dry the brine has dried. Eventually it would all look dry.
 We have a third sidewalk machine that can remove snow with a front attachment and drop salt in the rear. There is still a need for a machine like that for those heavy ice situations but for these light snowfalls this system will work well. I think our experiment with using brine on sidewalks has passed and I don't see giving up on this system.
 With our summer turf spraying equipment I've tried to do at least one thing each new year to improve efficiency. That could be in the sprayers themselves, truck/trailer setups or maybe something on the paperwork end. I want to apply some of that to this brine setup. We'll finish out the season with this equipment but the gears are already turning and I think by next year I'll have a few tweaks and improvements.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dang Forest Rats

 Sometimes finding enough material to make two posts a week in this blog can be difficult. Other times it just jumps right out at you as was the case yesterday on the way home from work. I was just tooling along minding my own business, listening to Larry The Cable Guy talk about poop or farts or redneck relatives, when BLAMO! A good sized buck appeared from my right and I hit it dead center with the big ass station wagon. That deer didn't just jump out at me. No this guy must have been running full tilt and I had no warning. The Yukon soaked up the impact pretty well and I didn't even spill the three to-go drinks that were in a tray on the center console. The soft shell tacos and potato wedges didn't do as well because they hit the floor just before, and in the same spot, as my cooler.

 When I said dead center I wasn't kidding. Both headlights are intact and work although their mounting tabs are snapped off. One of the landing lights popped out but still works. Now the bad news. The front valance, grill, ac condenser and drivers side fender are toast. That drivers side headlight is pushed up higher than the hood and the fender is almost touching the door on the bottom edge. I wonder if some of the frame that extends into the front valance may be pushed up. I took the cover off the top of the core support and was able to look down at the space between the radiator and condenser. Near the bottom there is no space. In fact the radiator is quite bent and I'm not sure why its not leaking. Oh, and more bad news. I have a thousand dollar deductible.

 So now I get to play the insurance/estimates game and let the pros tell me what kind of damage I have. I can't help but notice that if I had a beefy winch bumper on here that the damage could have been fixed with a can of spray paint. I'm thinking there may be an opportunity here to fix this myself with an aftermarket front bumper but to be honest, I haven't looked close enough at the frame to know how bad this really is.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Nothing Interesting-Just The Facts

 I've been  listening to a lot of stand up comedy lately. From Larry the Cable Guy to classic Richard Pryor and everything in between but the funniest thing I heard this week came out of the mouth of a three year old and it happened right in my own dining room. "Excuse me Aunt Stacey, I'm hungry. Could you please stop talking so we can leave and go to dinner?" I'm not saying my wife has a big mouth, it was just funny hearing the little kid politely ask her to shut up. Poor kid was hungry.
 Yesterday my wife and I went bumming. She had heard of a place that sells used furniture and stuff and we were in the market for a big mirror. When we got there we found a big mirror that would work. In fact they had a two fer sale on mirrors but we weren't sure if they would fit in the big ass station wagon because I had all three rows of seats in it yet. We left without the mirrors and stopped at a flea market style store we passed earlier. Lots of cool old stuff but nothing we really needed. The next stop was about thirty miles up the interstate to a small shop we heard about. We picked up a bunch of painting supplies we'll need for our next room remodel. When we left the store I decided to look at the seating in the Yukon and discovered I could arrange the seats so they weren't folded all the way forward. This left a flat area big enough for a sheet of plywood. Back we went to the first shop for mirrors but not before stopping at an Amish store. At the Amish store we noticed something we hadn't seen in a long time. Maybe we just haven't been paying attention but at this store they sell milk in glass bottles that have a deposit.

 Anyway, we didn't buy any milk and continued on back to buy the mirrors. This place gets old hotel furniture to stock their store. Ya a lot of it looks out dated but most of it is very durable stuff and things like mirrors only look old if the person doing the looking is old. I'll let you think about that for a minute.
 We left with four mirrors. The big ones have a boring frame but beveled edges and are over six feet tall and three feet wide. The smaller ones have nicer frames, beveled edges and are about three by fourish. We paid less for these four mirrors than the smaller one we bought for our last bathroom remodel. Schwiiiiing! On a side note, these mirrors look older than they feel.
 Later that evening we went out for dinner at a nicer area restaurant. Good thing we went early cuz the place filled up fast. As usual, a good time was had by all.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Yet Another Sprayer

 Our experiences with using salt brine on sidewalks have been positive ones and its clear we will be using this method looking forward. Because we don't want to rely on just one machine to do this work we decided to tool up another one of the rigs with a spray system. The first sprayer I put together works good for pre-treating but that unit has no means of clearing snow. This is a Steiner tractor we put a broom, blower or blade on to clear walks and we'll be able to spray at the same time we are clearing snow. Right now that barrel on back holds 400 pounds of salt that is applied by hand. We have a different rig with a drop spreader for salting walks also.

 The plan was simple. Keep the existing rack and make a system that is self contained and easily removed. What I came up with disconnects with just four bolts and one wiring connector. You gotta start somewhere so after removing the old salt tub I bolted on a few rails.

 From there its just a matter of mocking things up then going back and welding it all together. This is the frame I made that everything will mount to.

 The unit isn't done at this time. I'm waiting on a few parts yet.

  Like everything else built in this brine adventure, we used as much stuff as we could that was just lying around the shop. The tank is a take off from a vibrating roller machine. The pump was a spare and the hose reel was hiding under Als bench. Al pointed out that he had planned on using the hose reel in his bay. Ooops.
 So all the basics are there. The wiring is done, the pump, tank, and reel are all in place. The nozzles are mounted underneath and all thats left is the plumbing. I'm thinking about making a protective rack around the unit but I'm afraid it will just offer a place for the crew to haul bags of salt. There's enough weight back there already.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

High 40's Plus Three

 Wow we had some nice weather yesterday. I worked half the day and when I got home there was an hour of Honey-Do list that had to be accomplished but after that I was outside. The weather was so nice that I was comfortable in just a short sleeve shirt, in January! First on the agenda was an oil change for the big ass station wagon. After that I rolled around on a creeper with a flashlight looking at the underside, checking for loose bolts on the lift kit install and any other visual problems. I knew about a torn cv shaft boot and there is still some grease left in it that hasn't been flung all over the underside of the truck. I knew there was a very slow brake fluid leak and found some moisture on the front left brake caliper. Gonna have to pick one of those up soon.
 While creeping around I noticed a wire loom hanging down and rubbing on the front drive shaft.

 The plastic loom was rubbed through and one wire had the insulation worn off. This means that wire was grounding on the drive shaft. The repair was simple but I wonder what that wire does? Never had any running issues but now that I'm writing this I remember having a code for a heater switch or something. I need to go back and look but I wonder if this loom runs to the rear heating controls.
 Once I rolled to the back of the truck I could see the fuel tank vent hanging down. When I say it was hanging low I mean it looked like it could have started a siphon and drained the tank. This also explains why I couldn't completely fill the tank the last few times at the pump. A drill bit and some zip ties got me back into "like new" condition. The lesson here is that all those little clues mean something.

 I write this blog twice a week. Some new readers arrive here via a link I post on facebook. That means they see that post and only see older material if they go out of their way to investigate. Personally I don't see that happening so I'll take this opportunity to do kind of a 2018 year end wrap up that links to a few of my favorites. I think one year I did a top ten list from the previous year but I won't put you through that much bullshit. I picked these three from last year mainly because they aren't the regular motorcycle or work related stuff I usually post.

"Headlight Adjustment" is a story from January about some issues I had at a car dealer.
"Runaway Lemonade!" is a story about my first visit to an Arbys restaurant.
"House Rules" is just a lousy set of rules I posted when our niece Stefany moved in with us.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What Day Is It?

 I don't know how retired guys keep track of the days. Throw in a holiday or two, a weekend and a snow event on a day I should have had off and I'm lost. I asked my phone and the voice on the other end says its Wednesday.  I'm thinking by next Monday I'll be back on track...unless it snows over the weekend and I have to go out plowing.
 I took another shot at laying out some flames on my practice tank. I felt things were starting out ok...

 If you remember I said I wanted to keep the pattern a bit more open and leave more of the base black paint exposed through the flames. I know the above pic looks goofy but that base layer gets buried quick so it seems I don't have to be very detailed in a pattern. Or at least thats what I'm trying here.

 The red candy and orange candy layers are on at this point and while I hate the way it looks, I like a couple of things I did like trying to weave patterns and colors in and out of each other. I was also able to create highlights by not saturating the candy layer. I left a little base layer show through in spots and thats the lighter look around some of the edges. That concluded what I wanted to see in this practice session and the next practice session went on right over the top.

 I like traditional hot rod flames and have this idea that if I start at the flame tip end of the tank and just keep weaving and overlapping flames, working towards the front of the tank, they don't really need a starting point. Two things learned...I need more stencils despite having cut four more just for this attempt and that stencils get wet and can transfer paint to the project when flipped. That seems like a no brainer but once you get rolling those things can be forgotten.

 I also tried painting individual flames in multiple candy colors but that didn't work well. Probably because I didn't seal each color with clear before moving to the next. I don't know what the hell I'm doing so I'm gonna try that one again.
 What I found out from last week was that combining real fire and hot rod flames yields questionable results. At some point I need to decide what style I'm after. Real fire, hot rod style or just some mishmash like in the above pic.