Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Some days the medicine doesn't work, or, why a bald guy has a hair dryer

Vidal in his wildest dreams could not have foreseen this.
Waking up after only an hour of sleep should have been enough of a warning that this was going to
turn into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, the kind Judith Viorst wrote about so eloquently. But it wasn't.

All I wanted to do was take a day trip to the East Pole to check for any damage that might have been done during a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that had shaken the whole area about a week earlier. Though it was 200 miles away it rattled this house pretty good and was the first earthquake where I felt the floor rise and fall as if on waves.

The cabin survived a 7.9 some years ago that didn't even tip over wine glasses standing upside down in a dish drainer, but still, you worry.

So after realizing there would be no more sleep I decided to head out. First the lock on the snowmachine trailer had frozen so I couldn't hook up until I burned it open. That should have been a warning but it never registered.

Everything had been packed for almost a week so it was just fire up and drive off. Four miles down the road I realized I had forgotten something I just could not go without, so I had to go back.

Quick stop at the grocery for some water and go-juice, to the gas station where I discovered the little zipper flap in the weather cover that allows access to the snowmachine filler cap was frozen and no amount of strain was going to free it. Eventually I managed to loosen one side of the cover to put in three gallons of gas and some Heat, some of which I managed to spill because of the odd angle I had to hold the hose. Another unheeded warning.

That done I made a quick stop at McDonald's. Egg mcmuffins are the only thing I will eat from there and they have become part of the ritual going to the cabin. Took the bag and a jug of milk back to the Jeep and tossed them in. That was the last I saw of that milk until I got home later in the day.
Off I went for the highway to the East Pole. Now, this Jeep's heater is next to worthless when the temperature drops much below 20. I had on only the clothing I wear under my Carhartt suit and as I progressed along the road I began feeling chilled more and more, but that didn't register.

By the time I reached the trailhead I couldn't wait to get into my suit and move around to warm up. Fortunately I decided the first thing I should do is make sure the snowmachine started before I began taking anything off the trailer. I could tell I was not warming up, still felt the chill and began to question whether I was making good decisions. I have been seriously hypothermic a couple of times and was beginning to suspect the signs.

The main latch-down for the snowmachine had frozen in and I had to take a hammer to it to loosen it. Then I pulled the cover off the machine and went to put the key into the ignition. Guess what? Frozen solid. I doubt I could have pounded it in with a hammer. That's when you start taking a mental inventory. I always carry a Bic lighter in my survival pack. Except this time. I dumped the whole thing out in the Jeep and there wasn't a lighter. There was, however a flint and steel. Good luck with that. At this point I was beginning to realize I might not be thinking straight. A few recriminations showed up as well, like why hadn't I suspected this when the trailer lock was frozen or when the zipper in the cover wouldn't open?

I could go get a lighter or matches, come back, try to thaw it and head in. Fortunately I didn't do that. You count things up. I don't have to go. If I was living there I would do it, but I'm not. I am not warming up very much. If something went wrong on the trail I could find myself in worse trouble. Old Lodgeskins came to mind and I realized the medicine wasn't working. What also came to mind was something an Iditarod racer had pointed out – that seemingly insignificant things can build up one after another until you are in serious trouble. I'd already had enough of those for the day. Right then and there I decided to cut the losses and go home.

Recovered and tied down the machine, climbed in the Jeep and headed down the road still wearing every bit of winter gear I had brought. An hour and a half later I pulled into the yard and stopped the Jeep in the middle of everything. I still felt chilled. In such a hurry I didn't park it as much as I abandoned it. In the house I ripped off all my clothes and hit the shower until I had used up every drop of hot water. I made a quick bowl of tomato soup and ate it, then I crawled into bed under four heavy blankets and slept for three hours. Even after that when I woke up I had to start a fire in the wood stove to stay warm.

I had to tell all that so that now I can tell you what this post is really all about. After all this, two days later the snowmachine ignition was still frozen solid. Why anyone would put an ignition on an almost horizontal surface is amazing. It is bound to collect water. It did rain in the past week but I had a cover on the machine ­– didn't matter. Given that the ignition is close to the filler hole for fuel, open flames like a lighter or a match were out the question. Even an overnight soaking in Lock-Eze didn't do it. Another time to sit down and take an inventory; what did I have that could do this job? For once the answer came almost immediately. The hair dryer. Thawed in less than a minute. New medicine.

And now thoughts go to prevention in the future. This isn't a problem at the pole because I never remove the key out there, but out here in civilization there is a much larger chance for theft so leaving the key isn't an option. And, I usually have to run the machine to load it onto the trailer just before I leave so I would automatically know if something were wrong, but this time it had been on the trailer for more than a week. I think the ignition at one time had a removable cover on it that fell off somewhere along the way. This after all is my son's machine which I don't use often and over the years he had it not much maintenance had been done. So he easily could have lost that cover. I will check that with a dealer. Next thought was a 12-volt hair dryer I could run off the car battery. 

Maybe. For now though, I will just make sure to check it before I depart if I don't have to run it and once under way leave a key in the slot. Also in the future I will dress better even in the car when it gets too cold for that heater. Preventive medicine.

Meanwhile I am going to have to trust the cabin is OK until I go out in March.


  1. Love the title on this one, Tim :) This sounds crazy, though! Glad you are okay. You Alaskans are much tougher than (at least this) Californian!

  2. Yikes. That is SCARY. Glad you lived to tell the tale!


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve