Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trail time!

Two days before my birthday on my every other Friday off (isn't working for the government great!) young daughter and I traveled north of Santa Barbara for some communing with nature via a hike in the coastal mountains. After a nice drive through the hills and over the "5th longest span arch bridge" (in the state, world, universe?) called the Cold Spring Canyon Arch bridge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Spring_Canyon_Arch_Bridge (The old stage coach road travels under it and we did that drive on the way back) we reached the Forest Service day use area that leads to the Santa Cruz trail. Unfortunately rain earlier that week caused the creek to rise and the ford was closed to traffic. The Jeep could have easily made it across but there was no one around to plead our case to so we took off our shoes, rolled up our pants and waded across.

The water came up to just below my knees and it was cold but not uncomfortable. Another 1.5 miles got us to the end of the paved road to the start of a closed dirt road. Being my father's son and that it was noon I decided we could not go on without eating lunch, so we did.
The trail is mostly in a canyon with a running stream and waterfalls along the way. This is the Grouch in full White Knight mode (as in Alice in Wonderland - read the story to understand the reference). The rocks behind me are very picturesque but unfortunately did not photograph as anything more than rocks.

This is young daughter with two of her well behaved dogs along the trail. She looks so fresh and happy because she is not carrying the water and other gear. She is smarter than the Grouch who ended up carrying everything.

We climbed out of the canyon where it was starting to feel pretty darn hot with no breeze penetrating into it and emerged to this beautiful wildflower covered meadow. We hiked a bit further just to say we did so and then turned back. All together we walked about 9 miles. It was a great hike and left me hoping to return again and go even further next time. Being with my young and lovely daughter made the experience even better!

Here is some information on the trail:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Just how hard can this be?

So as a long time fleet manager I felt that I would be completely able to replace wiper blades on the Grouch fleet and change the oil and filter on the blue whale. No worries, right? You are dealing with the Grouch don't forget.

Step one: Remove the wipers from the Aztek (the most unique car on the planet), the Jeep (now accessorized to be the most unique Jeep on the planet) and the whale (the most....something on the planet). The Aztek yields meekly and surrenders her wipers. The Jeep struggles a bit but give in. The whale...not on your life, no sir, no wipers are coming off this car! I finally pull the blades out of the holders leaving the assembly behind.

Step two: At the local parts store named after a major street in this fair city. My policy when possible is to patronize locally owned establishments. I walk in, gather the oil for the oil change and ask for a filter by car and year. Got it. Lay out the wipers. Get an attitude from the clerk. He throws the replacement stuff down. "We'll charge you to put the blades in the holders" he snarls. No problemo..I can do it. I pay and leave.

Step three: Sitting in the Jeep outside the parts store I decide that I'll just put the blades on now. They are too short. I think that I am a chumley and too dense to do this right. After 10 minutes I go back in. The clerk snatches the blades and throws longer blades down. I go back out. Too long. I come back in. This is starting to feel like an auto parts store version of Goldilocks. Too short, too long...what will be just right? I know, more expensive complete assemblies! Another $12 out of my pocket and I leave. These fit. I drive home.

Step four: Install the assemblies on the Aztek (no refills for this baby!). They fit but don't lock in place. I tell the Aztek to accept these or go without and it is going to rain tomorrow. The assemblies click into place.

Step five. Install the blades on the whale. Guess what? Right, too long. I cut 'em off to fit. They fit.

Step six: Change the oil in the whale. No drama so far. Remove the filter. Look at the old filter. Look at the new filter. The new filter is a third bigger. It won't fit. Call the parts shop. 'No problemo! Bring it back to exchange'.

Step seven: At the parts store. The correct filter is a third smaller in size than the one they sold me. It is also a third again more expensive. Interesting relationship, that. I fork over the money and leave.

Step eight: Install the filter, add the oil, start the car. Everything works. Hurray! Back the car out onto the street. Put the driver's window up. It goes up half way and sticks with much grinding and groaning sounds. The groaning was me. I yank the glass up and get it in place. Memo to myself: don't open the window more than half way.

And to think I am an automotive professional. Or a Grouch. It shouldn't happen to a dog...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Grouch on patrol

As part of my continuing education I got a ride along with one of the City's patrolmen. He was a very nice young man, very fit appearing, very polite and very focused. We patrolled pretty close to where my place of employment is. I learned that our call sign indicated that we were a one officer car (I won't reveal it) but if a call sign starts with 'Adam' it means two officers. Sound familiar? Come on, you must have watched the TV show in the 60s - or was it the 70s? How many officers were assigned to that car? Our patrol was pretty uneventful, low crime rate and all. We got one guy for expired registration and his car ended up getting towed away. Two others were pulled over for minor MV code violations but let go with a warning. As we drove the officer would key plate numbers into his computer looking for bad guys. I learned that there is a look that guilty drivers give that attracts the officer's attention and that driving significantly below the speed limit is another clue to being up to no good. Since the blue whale drives (wallows) about 5 MPH below the posted limit - since it is the size of an ocean liner it take a quarter mile to change direction, just like the Titanic or the Andrea Doria, both of which lie at the bottom of the ocean because they needed to change direction now not in a quarter mile and you can see what happened to them - I hope I don't attract any undue attention.

The last thing I learned from the officer was to never, never use my debit card at any place except a bank ATM due to rampant fraud. I then suggested we get a snack which entailed stopping at Starbucks. I grandly pulled out my debit card to pay which earned me a disapproving "I've got cash so I'll pay" from my temporary partner. I could tell he was hurt that I hadn't heeded his warning about debit cards. Dang!

I learned that law enforcement, like combat, is hours and even days of routine and even boredom bookmarked by frantic action. Every stop could turn bad and as the officer gets out of the car his adrenaline is already pumping. Be nice to the officer if he pulls you over. He may just let you go with a warning!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trash talk

My new job is what every little boy dreams of growing up and getting. Recently I got to spend the day as a passenger in an automated side loading refuse truck. This is the truck with the hydraulic arm the reaches out and grabs the trash can in front of a house, hoists it up and dumps it in the bin and then places it back in position on the street. The term automated is a bit misleading because the driver actually controls the arm via a keypad. The driver works like a concert pianist, playing the keypad to efficiently move the arm in and out, up and down. I gained a new appreciation for the work that they guys do. Like in any profession, the old timers have a rhythm to their work that can get them through the day in a third less time than a rookie.

I got to go to the dump twice with the driver which was another interesting experience as the stuff was dumped and immediately flattened by a huge dozer. The amount of stuff we throw away is staggering. We truly are a rich society.

Something I did learn on this trip; do your trash man a favor and don't put out cans that are empty or only a third full. He has to spend as much time dumping an empty can as a full one and each can adds a minute to his route. Believe me, you don't want an unhappy trash man picking up your trash!

Next; the police car ride along!