Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to waste three hours...

The day started off well enough. -23C and an hour drive had me at my first site. Imagine my disappointment when I found that not only was the road closed, the road was not plowed. Now, this makes total sense, why plow it? There was only one driveway, and the apparently plowed just past that driveway on a semi-regular basis. When I turned around, I tried to back down the road a bit. Then noticed that it got harder. Got out, looked at the snow (after I pulled forward) and saw that I was creating a groove with my trailer hitch.

This was bad news. As I still had to get to my site to take a look at it. It was only a few hundred meters down the road. As Mrs. Spit pointed out to me tonight, it beat 1/2 hour on the elliptical! Ha! I don't use an elliptical in a gym that keeps the temperature at -23C (about -10F) or that makes you walk through snow two feet deep the whole time!

Here's what it looked like when I got to the culvert site, walked to the top of the dirt piled in the road, and looked back towards my truck. Yes... that little dot is my work truck...

So, that site was examined. Much slugging about in the snow. Not sure what I walked on, as I couldn't see it. Ice, beaver dams, the ground - who knows? Afterward I went for another hour drive to the area of the next site. In the space of 50 km, the temperature went from -23C to 0C. Amazing what a ridge line can do for you!

So, I go traveling down a road that hasn't been plowed recently. But several people have driven down it, so I figure that I'm OK to get to my site. I'm driving about 50 kph when I pass a field entrance where I can see that 1 or 2 people have used to turn around on. Then I notice that the road doesn't look quite as good anymore. Like it's never been plowed this winter and the only thing that has driven down it was a large tractor. The view from the driver's seat looked like this - taken after I was fully stopped and stuck, of course:

That's when I hit the brakes. I was only about 40 m past the field entrance. I thought I might be able to reverse out of the situation, using my tracks made on the way in to get out. This worked... except that I slid off of them into the virgin snow near the ditch. This didn't look good, so I put it into drive and tried to get back ONTO my tracks. (yes, that's the field entrance so very close in the background)

In the process of trying to go backwards again, my back tires started to skid to the right. I went forward a bit, and tried again. And went more to the right. A few iterations of this and I realized that I was now not going anywhere without outside assistance.

In case you're wondering, Alberta highway maintenance crews make judicious use of road salt... hence my "Patriot Blue" truck is a nice shade of salt-white.

Extra lucky for me, I had good cell phone coverage. I phoned my client. He was happy to hear from me - he likes me after all. When he asked what I was up to, I said "I'm stuck in your area." He quickly twigged onto the fact that when I said "stuck" I didn't mean placed in the area to get work done. When I told him where I was, he gave me that vital informative piece of any puzzle... the gem that makes or breaks the plan: "We don't plow that area in winter as it is only field accesses around there." Perfect.

He then says that his grader is working near me, and he'll call the operator and get him to come help me out. He'll be there in half and hour to an hour, as he'll plow his way over to me.

1/2 hour passes (now an hour after I originally got stuck)

an hour passes

an hour and a half passes

1 3/4 hours pass - I phone and ask after the grader "He should be right there shortly, within the next 15 minutes."

10 minutes later, I see the grader in the rear view mirror. The problem is that it's Alberta farm country. It's flat. I can see the grader over two miles away! (Our rural roads are laid on the Imperial system, sorry, they were laid out in the 1800s, back when surveyors where a lot crazier than they are now.)

Finally the grader gets to me. HE turns around in the field access!

After some discussion about how I ended up in my predicament, we hook up a chain to my trailer hitch and haul my truck out of the snow. The operator tells me that, thanks to his discussion with his supervisor (the guy I talked to) he's going to clear the road all the way to the culvert that I was originally in the process of going to look at. Yippie...

Three hours later, I'm cruising away from the sticky locale, on my way to wade through more snow as I inspect a bridge, and take photos of 'everything' - why everything? Because the engineer that went to that site a couple of months ago (the week of the break-in actually, when I was to have been there with them) was afraid of big dogs. She was stymied from taking the required photos because, apparently, the local friendly farm dog was at the bridge, barking at her. I'm a little skeptical, as in 5 years of doing this, I've never, ever had a problem with dogs on a site. Sure, I get barked at lots. Most of the time I end up with a 'helper' following me around looking for more ear rubs. But that's another story.

The moral of this story? Two-fold:

1. 4x4 only means that you get stuck further into the muck...

2. Talk to the client about whether or not the roads are plowed where they want you to work!!!


Mrs. Spit said...

Mr. Spit, who plays fetch and gives out dog bones and ear rubs and has a huge dog at home, doesn't have a problem with big dog?

I'm glad the nice county man sent his grader to rescue you, even if I did laugh at you.

Ya Chun said...

sounds like you need some snow shoes - don't they let you walk on snow? Maybe Mrs Spit can weave some!!!!