Thursday, March 5, 2015

Smoke Spill, And A Darkened Trip Home.

   I've got a small crew of characters staying here for awhile with their RV plugged in while they install hi-speed Internet to the remote first nation villages scattered around the valley. They were getting ready to head out for a few days off and while they were waiting for the noon road opening I offered to take them over and show them the pelton-wheel that generates the juice around here. 
"It's been running a little warm the past week." I had told them walking over there.
I opened the door to the shack and it was considerably warmer in there than normal, a sure sign of electrical resistance, and I expressed my concerns. They asked me what the serviceable life span of the generator should be.
I told them I wasn't too sure, but figured I was about to find out.
   Sure as hell, the very next day, off goes the power. I went over to the genset shack and opened the door and was greeted by a strong burnt electrical smell, which is never good. Obviously it has developed some leaky wiring, allowing the smoke inside to escape. I cranked it up manually and yes indeed there is smoke squirting out everywhere. I had been dreading the possibility of a smoke leak.
When the system was installed 14 years ago, the machinery was bolted down to a cement slab and the shack was built around it. I had given the ability to remove it someday a little thought alright, and made the doorway extra wide. I figured that one day down the road, the genset will crap out and some poor bugger is going to have to figure how to get the monstrosity out of there.
At the time, I didn't really think it was going to be me.
There was a hemlock that fell over close by that I had been saving for about a year and a half now, and it turned out to be just what I needed to strap on the front of Old Alfie for a boom so I could reach in there and snatch out the frazzled 600 pound generator end. The hemlock was ideal as it was small enough for me to man-handle around without wrecking my old self, but plenty skookum to hold the weight.

I brought it back over to the lodge and poked it in the back of my truck and tied it in there good.
As much as I hated to, the next morning I pulled out at quarter to five and headed to the big city to try and rectify my dilemma, hitting the end of the lake at sunrise.
I got to Squamish just as the Ford dealer was opening, I've been working on a neighbors pickup and it was a chance to order parts. Turns out the part (electrical) is on back order.
Not only that, but he had some alarming news...
"I don't know if its going to be 2 weeks, or 2 months" the parts man explained.
Not a great start to the day and I jumped back into my truck and continued on to the big city hoping to be on my way back home with a smokeless generator as quickly as possible. Well, a guy can always hope anyways, these things are not as common as you think, and pretty specific to the particular pelton-wheel installation and controls. I thought worse case scenario, I might have to come back down in a few days or so to pick up the repaired, or replacement genset end.
I imagine even sooner when I tell them how big of a hurry I'm in!

I made good progress to the city until I actually got close to it, when the Monday morning traffic came to a snails pace. I couldn't do this every day, or even every Monday for that matter. After crawling along like this for what seemed like about half an hour, all of a sudden the brake lights went off and everyone took off going like hell and it was all I could do to keep up it seemed.
I'm not the best guy to be driving around civilised country, and I could carry on here for half a page about my adventures and mis-adventures trying to get to where I was going.
Fate finally delivered me to my intended destination for once, made notable by the proliferation of broken down gen sets and electrical motors lined up out front. I honked the horn to alert the mechanic and backed up to the big shop doors to save precious time then ran inside and explained my predicament to the guy at the counter, whom seemed a might unimpressed at my leaky winding/smoke escaping theory. 
First thing to come out of his mouth is..."I hope your not in a hurry".
I said that's easy for him to say, he's got electricity!
There is indeed jobs lined up and the phone rings steady.
I finally talk him into getting his guy in back to come out and have a look. He rolls up the big noisy shop doors and I perceived a certain hesitation in his voice before he called out...
"Hey Latkus, can you spare a minute, I got another job for you to look at!"
Someone from in back shouted some European four letter word, and a string of something or other in between before ending on the four letter word again. There was a few clangs and bangs from tools hitting the workbench and pretty soon counterman and I are joined by the short, over worked, and harried looking shop foreman.
"Smoke leak!" I joked, trying to lighten the moment.
"I better leave you two to chat." says counterman, and excuses himself to a safer locale.
"Oh cheezes" the man says peering into the generator with a flashlight, "You really booger 'dis one goot".
"Thanks" I said, "Should I wait for it or would you like me to pop back in later?"
"Oh shits," he says wiping his brow with a grimy rag, "...a guy of funny too!"
He tells me it would involve 3-4 days winding alone, without knowing what else is burnt in there.
I told him 3 days would be an eternity, he countered that was once they got to it. That got my interest up, and I queried him on how long it might take for them to get to it. He blew out a big breath, looked around at the pallets of generators and electric motors, makes a long whistling sound and looks over his shoulder into the shop.
"It be, oh..., 3 weeks we can maybe squeeze in you".
"Oh cheezes!" I said.
"Dats da best we can do," he says, then adds, "...we short a man."
"Oh, he sick?" I asked.
"No...he dead!"
I went back up front to continue my discussion with the boss.
"I could send you over to Beaver, but its the same story there" he apologises.
I showed him my short list of possibilities.
"How about these guys?" I asked, pointing out the only one not crossed off.
"Oh them." he chuckles, then informs me they had gone out of business some months ago. 
How could it be, with a gold-mine like this? 
A likely story I thought to myself, and off I went in search of the outfit with the big important sounding name. After numerous wrong turns and adventures with the local inhabitants by accident I finally found the boarded up competition, whom had indeed gone out of business some time ago.
So, a good part of the day had been used up already with my wanderings, and I pondered my next move. There was only one thing I could do...I decided to go home and think about it for a bit more.
Recalling the grid-lock traffic of this morning, and timing it just right to hit the grid-lock traffic in the afternoon, I decided to take a route home more my style. 
I'd take the rugged West Harrison, or Sts'ailes road/mountain goat trail home. 
I headed the opposite direction of the Big City, out through Abbotsford, where I lived until I was 13. 

 Stopping for a late lunch there I happened to notice differential oil smeared all over my right rear wheel. "Cheeses!" I said, then went looking for the local Ford dealer.
The place wasn't where I expected it to be, they have gone and moved things around since I was a kid it appears. But soon enough I get all fixed up with a new axle seal, brake shoes and differential oil at the new place. I already have a line-up of broken down stuff piled in front of my shop door that I was going to have to drag out of the way first, but I figured I could handle the axle seal job in an afternoon when I got home.
I was going through town, which looks nothing like it did, when my low fuel warning light goes on and I make a wise decision to hit the next gas station that comes up. Turns out to be Hub Service, a family run gas station-repair shop that has been on that corner forever. Wheeling up to the pumps I recalled pulling into the same place years ago to pump up the tires on my mustang bike. A very personable chap ran out to the pumps and I asked him to squeeze all he could into the tank.
"So wheres this Hotspring Lodge?" he finally had to ask, seeing the lettering across the rear window. 
I said it was up at a hot spring off the north end of Harrison Lake towards Pemberton, and that I was taking the rough way home up the lake. 
I recalled my leaky diff seal, and the possibility of camping out on the little traveled Harrison trail.
I had also noticed an empty service bay, "Say, you guys got time to do a axle seal, I got all the parts."
Sure, no problem he tells me, and I drove up to the doors.
 We go in and he writes me up, I give him my first name and my last, which is a well recognized pioneer family name around these parts. There is a street and a museum and a park and a few things around town carrying the family name as well.
"Trethewey," he says, "Are you one of 'the' Tretheweys?"
I told him I most certainly was...but probably not one of the ones he was thinking about.
He introduced himself as Ross Siemens. The Siemens name has been around town for awhile too, Ross is the 3rd generation to operate this business, and somehow finds time to serve on city council. We had a good chat about local history, the Trethewey House museum and about how much the town has changed. 

He showed me a whole series of photos taken over the years, this is what I remember as a pup.
They have expanded by a few bays over the years, but in 1954 the original building had been constructed of materials bought down the street at Abbotsford Lumber, an outfit my dad operated.
Anyways, if you are ever out that way, stop for gas and leaky axles at Hub Service, really great owners, the mechanics are cool, and even the customers were nice. They got me on my way and I headed off in the direction of Harrison Lake country.

An hour or so later I headed up the Harrison/Sts'ailes forestry road , I'm not sure what the time was getting to be, along with being one of the last people on earth without a phone, I also don't own a watch. 

The road starts off civilized enough, and I stopped and took a few pictures here and there.
There is some discussion about improving and paving this road in the future. I hope so.
Darkness was approaching, and I wished it had of been earlier in the day so I could have done a post about the trip. I decided to do one anyways...

There was the odd boulder on the road...
There was the odd little creek crossing...
Cheeses, their getting bigger...
Three hours later I saw the sign for the IPP project, so I knew I was at the head of the lake and the Lodge was only another hour up the road.

 It was nice to be back at the fort after my adventure to the Big City.

The next day, on the back-up generator, from the comfort of my computer I ordered a new 22kw generator end. Its sitting at the factory in Texas, they will spend the next week configuring it to my application and ship it out. It will take another week to reach the border and clear customs, if all goes well.  Its going to cost a few hundred bucks short of what I paid for the pickup I'm going to haul it home with. Bastard.
I can almost hear all the giggling going on out there after all my bragging I do about all the creek produced 'free' electricity I have around here. But I guess sooner or later wear and tear and smoke leaks catch up with you, and its time to write a cheque.
In the meantime, I'm burning up the wood-pile by the arm load and running the backup generator 8-10 hours a day and going through propane at an alarming rate of a couple hundred bucks a week to keep myself and my guests in the style we've become accustomed to. Almost.
Two or three weeks shipping from Texas sounds like a long time to wait...
...anyone up for a road trip?!


  1. Just think you will have a brand new toy to play with just around your birthday no?

    Been thinking of dragging the kids and spending my b-day on the weekend of the 14th.

  2. The sooner that gen end arrives the happy'er camper I'll be.

  3. You're getting soft in your dotage!

  4. Great adventure Robin!

  5. The last thing I need around here is more things to play with.
    My dotage works just fine thank you.
    Great adventure, you're telling me. I've still got to venture back down there to civilized country to pick the new one up.

  6. Thanks for the Harrison West road report. Tried it a few times over the years and only got to 57km, loggers I talked to said only a side by side would do it. Maybe the rough stuff finally got a blade passed over it.