This is post 486 on this blog, and if you’re a geek, that’s a number with a bit of meaning, since it’s shorthand for one of Intel’s microprocessors – the predecessor of the Pentium. It was more formally known as the 80486. And of course, this leads into a story that plumbs the depths of dorkdom.

About 15 years ago I got in my car to go to work and happened to notice my odometer. A quick estimate told me that when I got there, it would read 80487. That was almost cool. And then I realized that if I took a shortcut over a dirt road during part of my commute, it would shave off about a mile, and I would achieve geek odometer Nirvana. So that’s what I did. This is only noteworthy because of what happened next.

It just so happened that we were having a bit of an ice storm that day. That was unusual, because I lived in Virginia at the time, and we didn’t get ice storms every other week. Actually, we kinda did that year, but that’s beside the point. I gingerly turned onto the dirt road, and it was exceedingly slick. I was tooling along at about 2MPH when I met an oncoming vehicle. I gently nudged the steering wheel. The nose edged around and then kept edging until the car was perpendicular to my intended direction of travel. The oncoming pickup missed me by a hair, and the front end of my car slid into a ditch.

I was somehow able to back it outta there though. Don’t ask me how. It hardly seems possible in retrospect. Then giving up on geek odometer Nirvana, I eased back out towards the main (paved) road. That’s when another car turned onto the dirt road. I watched in slow motion through my rear-view mirror as that car’s passenger-side wheels slid into the ditch. There was plenty of traffic on the main road, so I had plenty of time to sit there and watch. The car carried two people, a man and a woman. The woman was driving. The man got out, went around to the back of the car and pushed. The passenger-side wheels stayed in the ditch. The car moved unhelpfully forward. I realized that it would be pretty easy to get it out of the ditch if the guy would just push the front of the car to the left instead of pushing the car forward, but he persisted. Sigh.

I shut off my engine and got out to help. I took two steps and found out exactly what was making the road so slick. The ice on the road was covered with about a quarter inch of water. On step two my foot slid right out from under me and I did a dramatic face-plant on the road. Yup. In a quarter inch of water. I was pretty soaked. “You OK?” he yelled. “Yeah” I replied, picking myself up out of the frigid puddle. Then I went over and gave the front of his car a nice shove and it popped right out of the ditch.

What to do next? I sat in the car and considered my options. If I went home, I imagined it unfolding like this:
Va: “What happened?!”
Me: “Car slid into a ditch and I slipped and fell into some water covering the road.”
Va: “Were you hurt?”
Me: “No.”
Va: “Was the car damaged?”
Me: “No, it’s fine.”
Va” “Where did this happen?”
Me: “On that dirt road that connects Rt 50 to 606.”
Va: “A dirt road? What were you doing on a dirt road during an ice storm?”
Me: “mumble mumble, eight-zero- four-eight-six, mumble mumble.”

I didn’t have the heart to imagine that unfolding any further. Instead I cranked the heat and the A/C on full blast and went on to work. The heat dries out the clothes and the A/C dries out the air. By the time I got to work, I was plenty dry enough, thank you. I vowed to never tell anyone what had happened. And then I immediately told everyone I knew what I dork I was anyhow. A story that good HAS to be told!

In other news…
We sold the last of our fruit tonight. Whew! We only had five boxes left when we started, and those were gone in two hours. Now I’m thinking we should do this again next month, only expand to two more stores. I think I could safely order and extra 36 crates if we did that. However, that will be pretty close to Christmas, and it might be difficult to get Pathfinders out then. On the other hand, it gives the parents time for some last-minute shopping if they drop them off with us. I’ll have to poll them and see


My snowblower broke again. It did a fantastic job clearing the drive yesterday, but then it snowed another inch or so, and then the snow plows piled up a mound at the entrance to the driveway. Plus we didn’t get any mail today because I had not yet cleared the area in front of the mailbox. Funny how we still get a paper, but not the mail. I guess if you’re motivated by money, you find a way to deliver the goods, but if that’s not connected to your pay…

When I got home, I cranked it up again. First I cleared the entry to the driveway, and then I turned my attention to the mail/paper boxes. The snow there was heavy, having been churned by the plows a couple of times I guess, and the blower was having trouble. So I started taking small bites instead of large ones, but then… it just quit moving snow. Sometimes the master clutch has a habit of disengaging, and i have to reach around and re-engage it. But tonight, I couldn’t find the master clutch handle. It was dark, but I was sure that it had to have been in the engaged position, the disengaged position, or somewhere in between. But it was not. I cripped it back into the garage where I could see a little better, and sure enough… the clutch handle was gone. Its mount was broken off, in spite of it being made of eighth inch steel. I have not idea what could have stressed it so much to make it… off. But there you go. I went in and got my headlamp, and then moseyed back out to the mailbox. The handle was lying there in the snow, right where the beast quit performing well. So now I have a repair job ahead of me. The bracket that holds the clutch handle needs to be replaced with more steel I guess. I didn’t feel up to it tonight though, so I went and got the shovel and finished clearing a path for the mail carrier.

In other news… I got a hair cut today. I’ve been trying to get to the barber since the first of the year, but I’ve been so busy at work that I just haven’t been able to break away. It feels a lot better now.

I also got a text message from my Dad. No within 100 miles of them has electricity due to the ice storm they had yesterday. He bought a generator just before the storm hit, and he now has enough gas to run it for three days. I’m guessing he’ll be able to find more gas if the juice doesn’t come back before then.

This morning I got a call from the person who ordered (and paid for) 20 cases of fruit. She didn’t show up yesterday to pick it up and wanted to get it today. I work about 10 minutes away from the church, so I told her I’d meet her there. She predicted she would arrive at noon, and said she’d call when she got close. Hearing nothing, I headed that way at noon.

Mrs Brace had the kids out at recess, so I chatted with her first (no sign of the customer yet). The Internet wasn’t working. I told her I’d look into it, and I did. The server upstairs had been shut off. Dunno how, but fixing it was easy enough. After that, everything else checked out.

I asked her if the server was meeting her needs, and she said that it was. So I’m going to propose that the school spend $200 to get their own server which I can lock in a closet and no one will bother (such as… by turning it off). I think they’ll go for it.

Then I started moving fruit from the closet to the foyer near the carport. The customer arrived, and I helped load it into her van (she brought her teenage son too, and he helped also).

Va arrived at the school before I left, and she needed a strong flashlight. I rooted around in the Pathfinder trailer and found that all our flashlights were quite dead. Also, the tub that they are stored in was very damp. So I’m airing that out now. I need to go through the rest of the tubs, because the rope tub was in the same shape last month.

Va decided to put off the science experiment until tomorrow, but then I remembered we had a spot light in the furnace room. I grabbed that and brought it to her, and it was perfect for what they were doing. Science experiment done.

Then I went back to work and had a productive afternoon.

Things are pretty normal at our house, and they were pretty normal at work too. I was regaled with several outage stories. Lots of people brought their families to the office so they could get showers. Beats stinking!

Ice storm

Ice storm

This is a photo of the woods in front my house today. It was absolutely, stunningly gorgeous, and made me think that this is what it must be like to be inside a diamond. But man – here’s a beauty filled with treachery. This same ice storm knocked out power to over half the residents of New Hampshire. We were lucky in that our power was restored in about 12 hours. I know many people who still do not have electricity.

I woke up sometime Friday morning. The radio was playing, but I couldn’t find the clock. That’s because the power was out. It was around 6:30, I guess. I didn’t know that the battery would still try to wake me up when the power was off, and I had actually always wondered about that. Now I know. It was still pretty dark outside, and it was still raining (and presumably freezing).

Va got up and called Mrs. Brace. Yup – school was canceled. Listening to the rain, I just snuggled deeper into my covers and went back to sleep. No WAY was I going to be able to get in to work today. I got up around 10:00 and went outside. There were several bent-over trees in the yard, and several pines had their tops snapped out. It was a little weird – I could see what looked like a fallen pine tree, but didn’t see the stump. That’s because the stumps were over 20 feet high. I took several pictures, including the one at the top of this post. Penny helpfully chased sticks.

Without electricity, we have no heat and no water. We have forced hot air, but that runs on an electric blower. We have a well, but the pump needs electricity to do its job too. So we decreed moratorium on toilet flushing and fridge opening. Flushing was allowed in SOME cases though. We did take a few things out of the fridge every now and then too, but instead of putting them back, we just put them out on the deck. By mid-morning the temperature was up above freezing, so the deck made a pretty decent fridge anyhow.

By noon, the ice was melting out of the trees so heavily that it looked like it was raining. The rain had stopped by then and the sun was out. And the beauty was stunning. The road actually looked somewhat drivable, so I called Pizza Hut to see if they were open – and they were. So the whole family piled in the car and we went to Tilton for some hot food. Then we hit the Walmart and bought a couple of six gallon water jugs, and some other items too. We dropped the kids off at the house, and then I drove to the spring on Intervale Road in Canterbury. That spring is a pipe coming out of the side of the hill, and it flows at about a gallon per minute. I filled both jugs and returned home. We used that water to refill the toilet tanks (even though it is some of the best tasting water in the state).

Then Va and I decided to sneak into Concord. I had a form I needed to return to HR so we could have medical insurance next year. It was due that day (no excuses they said, but I’m betting they would have accepted “ice storm” as one). Then we went to the church and set up our laptops to grab our email, etc. When we finished with that, we grabbed some food to go and started back home. We stopped at the spring on the way, but there were already two pickup trucks there. One of them had half a dozen coolers and 20 gallon tubs in the back, and they were emptying buckets into them. These people live just up the road from the spring – the sign in front of their house says “Centerbury Tales”. I found out that Canterbury Tales has ten tales: five horses and five dogs, and the horse drink way more than the dogs. They were very nice people though, letting others slip in and fill their jugs between their buckets. I guess it took 20 minutes before we had our six gallons. Then we waved goodbye and set out for the house. No sooner had we pulled back onto the road than the boys called Va’s cell phone – we had electricity again! And had for 20 minutes! If they had called right away, they could have gotten their dinner sooner, because we would have left the spring as soon as we heard.

When we got home we ate. We had been planning on using paper plates, but since we had power again, we went all out and used the china. The furnace kicked in, and the water heater started doing its thing again too. The house had gotten down to 57 degrees – not bad. But I’m thinking I really need to get a generator now. I don’t know how long the house would stay above freezing under these conditions, and I sure don’t want any frozen pipes.

Even though we had electricity, we still didn’t have any Internet access. Jonathan was devastated. I think he might be slightly addicted to the Internet, and I can’t say I was sorry he had to go without it for a day. He jokingly (but perhaps… only half jokingly) declared that the three essential items for survival were water, electricity, and Internet access.

I spent the evening going though my digital photo collection and started tagging them. I made a scratch, and I was at it for maybe three solid hours. I also got ready for my Sabbath School class, and then I went to bed. I noticed that the clock was claiming it was 3:00am, but it wasn’t THAT late. I corrected the time, and then went to sleep.

This morning we got ready for church and then went in. I brought my laptop so I could let my family know we were OK, and I posted my previous missive here. We had a light crowd today, which kind of surprised me. The church had power and heat, which is more than could be said for most of the members. One of my friends had a tree fall on her car yesterday. Big tree. Little car. She was in a rental today. Others have generators. Some have wood heat. Many were hauling water. Concord itself was in pretty decent shape. There was no ice on the trees by this morning, and I didn’t see much tree damage. Others reported massive tree damage around where they live, some comparing it to the tornado that blew through NH this summer. Many stayed for a potluck dinner, even though that wasn’t on the regularly scheduled program. It was a great idea though. We would have stayed, but we had power at home and a dog in a crate who needs exercise. So we cruised home. We still have plenty of ice in our trees (unlike Concord).

Once the dog was freed, we had some lunch. Then Beth and I took Penny for a walk down to Sandogardy Pond. I brought my camera. Again, it was like walking around on the inside of a diamond. There were plenty of sticks for Penny to chase, so she was in doggy heaven. But man – it was cold. Sixteen degrees. David opted to stay home because of the cold. Beth and I had bundled up pretty good, so it wasn’t all that bad. We got home around 3:30.

At five-ish, Beth reminded me that I said she could go to child-care night tonight. I had forgotten that I had promised that, but Beth is pretty good at remembering fatherly promises. So we got a grocery list from Va, got in the car, and drove in. Beth had a good time playing with the other kids who were there. They played Uno and watched videos. Beth and a few other girls were pretending they were circus animals (except one of them who was apparently the circus master).

While they played, I washed the cookie sheets we used at our previous Pathfinder meeting. We had filled them with sand and had used plaster casts I had made previously to make new tracks for them to cast. A few people picked up their oranges while I was there, and I did collect payment from them, so that’s good.

We bugged out early. I wasn’t on duty tonight, so I didn’t have to stay the whole time. We did give Joy a ride home though. She lives about two miles from our house, and since I offer extra merit points for anyone who helps on child care nights, Joy wanted to be there. Her mom had brought her, and asked me if I would take her home. I was glad to do that.

So now I’m home and everything appears to be back to normal. We have power. We have water. The Internet came on again at about 1:00pm. So according to Jonathan, we NOW have the three essentials.

It is amazing to me how dependent we now are on something that didn’t exist 120 years ago, and most people didn’t even have 60 years ago. But we sure are! I hope to change that soon, but we’ll see how it goes. Maybe Barak Obama will incent me to install solar cells on my roof.