Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September postings and the tale of a bear in a peach tree.

Postings are a bit lean this month. There is lots going on - though I am not home for any of it. In my absence, Greig et al, have been busy at a bunch of things: fibreglassing, cutting firewood, fixing electrical issues, adjusting docks, making way for new docks, boats etc.

Apparently the Lightship has sold too. Which is a good thing as I'd was dreading the owner having to get rid or more of its original brass portholes just to make the moorage.

"Does this new fella know anything about boats," I asked Greig?

"Hmmm...don't think so. Not sure. Seems nice enough though."

I am back up in the Kootenays as my Dad took a turn last week. Staples from the previous week's surgery had pulled away inside and he was leaking from the small intestine into his stomach cavity. He went under for a second surgery last Wednesday. I was able to fly into Trail directly via Pacific Costal Airline's service there. It was very nice to not have to go through the main terminal at Vancouver as that one is so terribly busy. Well, busy as far as BC standards go, it's no Heathrow or O'Hare.

Old Dad has really been through the wringer these weeks. He went in by ambulance to Trail on Aug 31 with a possible strangulated hernia, and until the day before yesterday, had had NOTHING to eat for 18 days. He is finally on clear fluids though still getting a intravenous nutrition that is very high in sugar, and as a result, is throwing his blood glucose completely out of balance. On top of that to counter act that he is getting insulin as it is normally about 6 and running 18-20 now.

The day before yesterday, my brother and I took a trip home to check on the house and maybe pick SOME of the peaches. Upon arrival we inspected the garden. Gavin set about installing a new toilet they had ordered and I watered the plants in the house and the begonias by the creek. I was hunting about for the wheel barrow to use to pick the peaches when I noticed some piles of scat about. I also noticed something a bit suspicious around the peach tree.

I went back up to see brother dearest and asked him, "Gavin, do you know where the wheel barrow is and weren't there peaches on the ground around the peach tree when we got here?"

"Well, the wheel barrow is probably leaning against Woodhenge* and yes there were peaches on the ground. Why?"

"Well, there aren't any peaches there now. I think the bear has been there since we got home and he's left his calling card."

He rounded up the wheelbarrow for me and said, "Well, I have to get some more parts for this toilet. ARe you going to be OK picking these without me?"

"Oh ya, I'll scare him off if he comes around. I'll be damned if he is going to be getting anymore of these if I can help it."

And so I picked them all - about two wheelbarrows full. I kept trying to dream up some clever song about the bear and the peaches but I really suck at songwriting. It was a very itchy process. I've forgotten too how much I hate earwigs. Something I don't see much of on the coast.

Bear Bruin didn't show up again to stake any additional claim on the peaches. That was on Monday and today, Mum and I left Dad with Gavin to keep him company to tend to these bits of sunshine. I told Mum they were ripe but she didn't think they'd be as ripe as they are so we're canning peaches this very moment. It has been YEARS, since we have done this. I really miss doing this kind of thing with her: antipasto, beets, tomatoes, pears, jams, borscht.

Tomorrow morning we'll go back to Trail for the rest of the week (and probably the weekend) with Dad. Gavin is heading back up to Prince George to be with his wife and kids. Dr Britto says he is likely to come home on Monday. Regardless, I am stiking around for a couple of days after to ensure he (and mostly Mum) can handle all without me. So if we can get through the bulk of the garden produce then, and she can arrange for some homecare support while he heals from all this.

All that back and forth to the hospital several times a day is exhausting. It was really doing my Mum in when she was there by herself. Regardless, this is why I work so hard. For when it really matters, I can help those I love for a bit it won't completely kill us.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reluctantly earning my engineer's stripes

I arrived in City of Champions, somewhat flummoxed. As I was about halfway there, Leni seemed to loose power; like she wasn't getting fuel. It was intermittent and particularly aggravating when trying to pass the slow pokes, like the tin boxes/RVs Rob describes over in Jolly Ole'. (Except ours our usually fibreglass in these parts).

Is my turbo charger going? It was like it was sputtering for fuel. All fluids look fine and the new rad is holding....nothing leaking so far. What could it be? Geez, I feel like such a girl...

Later that night I spoke with Greig about it and he suggested it may be the fuel filters and gave me the run down on how to switch them out myself (in the parking lot of the Trail Hospital). What tools I would need to buy; how to do it; how to manually pump the engine to re-prime after I change the filter. "Time I learned how," he said.

Yes, AND with my father in hospital, could there ever be a MORE PERFECT time for me to actually LEARN one of these necessary life lessons? Sorry it took me a week to get here Dad. And sorry I don't have time to sit with you but my car is having issues and well, I've a life lesson to learn and you'll have to keep waiting.

I had left Leni at the hospital over night and the following morning upon inspection, also noticed there was coolant on the ground beside it. More lovely. I left Mum at the breakfast spot as the local Lordco was just next door. One filter was there but the other would be there by 2pm that afternoon. I have so impressed my mother so by all of this that I can actually recognize coolant from say oil or transmission fluid.

I wandered aimlessly though the store, wondering what tools I should buy and would they be cheaper at Canadian Tire? I opted to wait to buy the tools when the parts actually got in. I took Mum back up to see Dad and off went to deal with my car. I stopped back at Lordco and the part that was supposed to come in the afternoon was already there (11am). YEA!! I asked for them to recommend a shop in town and they said any were just fine.

Finding a mechanic on duty, or a shop open on a Saturday in Trail, was the challenge. I found a fellow who would do it and he also reconnected a vacuum hose that had come off my rad. Coolant leak solved too. Forty bucks and that would be a far sight cheaper than the money I would have spent on tools PLUS trying to figure out how to do it 'cos I didn't write down Greig's directions. Immediately I noticed driving away from the shop it was better.

With Dad on the improve and seeing his determination to get out of there, I left this morning and the trip was mostly fine.

Until I hit Chilliwack. I heard something thunk as I was booting down the highway. Sounded like in the rear end. Maybe I just hit something on the road. Feels fine. Then a half hour later, I could smell diesel fuel. "Is it me?" I wondered, booking along at 140km with the rest of the bunch.

I noticed my fuel gauge was dropping awfully fast and a fine mist/smoke inside the car. OH CRAP!! I better pull over! IT IS ME!

I opened the hood to see diesel fuel spraying everywhere! I noticed the disconnected hose clamp coming down from the new fuel filter. Kill the switch! Gee that hose looks new too. Luckily, I had purchased a new screwdriver. (my trusty red one was left in the Suburban from the previous sojourn.) Ooh...what the hell is this big lag bolt doing right there? That looks out of place.

It was about 3.25" long, I couldn't see if it came out of anything on my engine though it certainly could of for all I know. I'll keep it just in case. Maybe I picked it up and it just "happened" to knock off the line to my new fuel filter. Hmm...unlikely coincidence. Buddy may have not entirely tighted it up but he seemed a bit to particular to overlook such a thing. On the other hand...where did this bolt come from?

A bit of a twist to the hose clap and a check to the other end seemed OK and I started it up and nothing was leaking anymore.

Whew! I did it! Yea me Girlie-princess!

Oh MY...running on empty! Off to re-fuel. I lost quite a bit of fuel before cluing in about it. Now I know better.

I refueled in Chilliwack and back onto the Highway 1 went, pulling over again just to check it was still holding and it was.

Almost home - should be there in an hour I thought and I was another 15 minutes down the road when I smelled diesel AGAIN!!

I pulled off as soon as I was able and pooped the hood and lo and behold...THE OTHER CLAMP CAME LOOSE!! Didn't I tighten that for good measure too? I can't remember. Surely I would have... friggdy-frig-frig-frig....I have to steam clean this engine now! Oh the underside of the hood covering is soaked with diesel too!

Tighten clamp. Start engine. No leaky-leaky!! I finally made it home and as far as I could tell nothing else has come apart.

I think.

Dad is on the mend but Mum has nabbed herself a nasty cold in the process. I still don't like Trail very much though. The people are lovely. It's just a bit of a vortex to me. That is for another post.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


As in the town of Hope, BC actually. Last weekend we were trying to get beyond Hope*, but as we were pulling in to a gas station fill up our "new" suburban, the transmission packed it in.

This last minute trip was a bit of a mad dash to get off to Trail to see my dad who'd taken ill. Thankfully, Karen 1 was happy to make the 2.25 hour drive to come and rescue us and we ended up just leaving the Suburban in Hope and coincidentally, opposite the GM dealership. So while we waited for her...

We've had a bit of a devil with cars lately. Should we put money into the creampuff, my 1983 Benz that I've become a bit attached to? I know its issues and prefer the devil I know where Leni, the Benz is concerned. Greig had found another Mercedes down the road at the auto wreckers but alas, the lack of a California registration was too much hassle. (This after we put it through a provincial inspection and repairs to the tune of $800.) So it would stand to reason wouldn't one think, that a 1990 Jag in need of some TLC is an appropriate alternative. Everything we OWN needs TLC and Greig can fix the mechanical quite handily, when he HAS THE TIME. We'd also picked up the Suburban last week too as often as not we are transporting more than half a dozen bodies hither and yon. Especially if the kids are here and have friends over to play with.

In light of everything in the past couple of weeks with Flash and Mark, we're taking some inventory. Life is short. It has always been a bit of contention between Greig and I that this place is WAAAYYY too much work. Individual personal pursuits have no other place but to be on a back burner. And as much as a social experiment it has been in the "pay it forward," it is not an easy way to live. Interesting for sure, but never easy. If it was just about taking care of the boats, well, I think that would be the easy part. It is the human condition that is so challenging.

I must say though my intuition for picking out sociopaths has much improved.

In spite of my misgivings all along, I believed and still believe in my oh-so-altruistic partner. I've always been impressed with his ability to look on the good side of people. Even when their bad side is right in his face and throwing their nasty karmic goo all over him; even WITH a half a dozen of us going..."Don't do it! BE CAREFUL!!!"

Yet recent events are also a prime example of strength in numbers, which is part of Greig's Grand Theory/Experiment. A few of us were able to be there for the Flash's family: to help them and to also help ourselves though a really horrible tradgedy. On the other hand it is a not so subtle reminder on the fragility of life - you only ever get today. I can't say if we've been as "there" for Mark. But he is gone from here and though he is slowly healing, we're in some ways mourning the loss of him too. Of course logically, I realize he'll come back to visit at the very least but perhaps there is some closure still required - at least for me.

All that notwithstanding, I have been Benz-less this week as I set about to getting it repaired and try to get my backside up to the interior to be with my parents. Life goes on...tickety-tock. Some days, just trying to get out the door is an exercise in frustration. Anyhow, a new radiator and my stereo back in order should stand me in good stead for the seven hour drive to, ugh, Trail. I just happens to be one of my least favorite places in the Kootenays. OK, so they produce A LOT of NHL'ers and calls itself the City of Champions. (That is hockey champions to you foreigners.) That and Cominco is it's claim to fame.

So I am off to the City of Champions to see my Dad, now post-op, and hope the drive will be nice and uneventful and that I can be of some moral support. Gee...what a poor old Dad has to do to get his little girl to visit him eh?

* As a child, growing up in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, there was a saying, usually to slag Vancouverites. "Anything beyond Hope (BC) is beyond hope."