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Digging the White Stuff

March 19th, 2006  · stk

A month ago, we were extolling the fact that it seemed winter had passed us by in Edmonton, this year. No longer. Yesterday, we received 22 cm. of snow. Read about how it affected our family (especially our cat)....

22 Centimeters of Snow

On March 5th, we reported a recent snowstorm, how winter seemed delayed this year and how spring was forecasted to be running a tad late. Two weeks later, we're hip-deep in snow and regretting any claims we made about winter passing us by this year. We received 22 centimeters of snow on Saturday. When we awoke, it was snowing. All morning, it snowed. It snowed through lunch and all afternoon. It snowed past dinner and into the evening.

At mid morning, Scott went out and shoveled the front walk, the drive and the front stoop. He assisted our neighbor, getting her car unstuck from the middle of a nearby residential street. We helped the guy across the way, get his car back on the road, after parking too close to the sidewalk. By the time evening rolled around, it didn't look like Scott had shoveled at all. So he went out and shoveled some more!

We haven't lived in Edmonton long, but in our brief two-year tenure, THIS is the most snow we've ever seen. It's unreal. As Scott jokingly told a neighbor, "Maybe I'll just make a tunnel to the front door, it might take less effort!"

Fortunately, the snow abated Saturday night. We awoke on Sunday, to cloudy skies and shortly after lunch, Scott was out shoveling again. This time, it was the back stoop, walkway, alleyway and garage parking area. He filled trashcan after trashcan with the white stuff and hauled it to various places around the yard. He began to run out of places to dump it!

We've been debating where we're going to move to, after Rachel finishes her Nursing degree in August. We'd been considering a move to Canmore, near Banff National Park, just west of Calgary. We'd even considered the notion of staying in the Edmonton area, as the cost of living is reasonable and the summers are glorious. This recent storm might have nixed both of those thoughts, as we're likely to stick to our original plan of moving to Vancouver Island. Moderated by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island rarely sees much snow. Just the ticket, according to our California-boy, Scott.

We Know Snow

Alex didn't seem to mind the fluffy stuff and was eager to go outside and "help" Scott shovel the walk, the driveway and other wide expanses that needed to be cleared of over a foot of snow. She enjoyed sitting in it, rolling in it, throwing it, eating it and (occasionally) tossing a scoop or two of it into a bucket ... then promptly dumping it where it had already been cleared. Though the Oop loved the snow, she has no idea of where it is supposed to go. :|

The snow seemed to affect most everyone's schedule in the household. Scott spent several hours shoveling it, while Alex spent nearly an equal amount of time playing in it. Only Rachel seemed unaffected, as she's busy on a term paper, which is due Monday. She sequestered herself in her basement office and has been relatively immune to the the snow outside. It was, perhaps, the smallest member of our household that felt the effects of the snow more than anyone else. Tuxedo, our lethargic cat, ventured outside once, to do his "business" and it was a very pitiful feline that returned.

Poor Tuxedo is getting on in years, nearly 13 all told. His idea of a good time is a long, quiet nap on a heater vent, followed by a hefty dish of wet cat food. Going outside is only desireable if the sun is shining. Tuxedo isn't fond of the winter cold. So far this year, he hasn't had to deal with much snow. So he was surprised, when we opened the front door, to be faced with several inches of snow. With a gentle boot at his bottom, he soon found himself up to his belly in snow. He shook a couple of paws, hoping to rid himself of the disdainful snow, but each step caused more to stick to his warm fur.

We watched, curious to see his reaction and at first, we wondered if he would move at all. He looked this way and that, realizing that only the cement walkway was clear enough for him to tread. So down the front steps he went. He stopped at the lawn, with snow higher than his head, putting a paw forward. "No good," he thought, as his paw was swallowed up in white. He shook it vigorously and treaded down the path, to the driveway. He longingly looked at the shallow depression under the pine tree, where bits of grass were poking through. "How can I get over THERE?" he seemed to wonder. He tested this way and the next, but each was blocked by too-high snow. Finally, in desperation, he went out into the front sidewalk. He dug a tiny hole and there, in the middle of what would normally be a wide, cement path, our cat did his business (quite hurriedly, I might add).

True to form, he even tried to "bury it", which was amusing because the paws that hate snow, were busy shoveling it. I guess the hereditary need to "bury one's business" outweighed the hereditary "distain for all things water". Anyway ... once finished, he raced back to the front stoop and meowed pitifully, eager to get back to his warm bed and out of the hellish white.

From relatives in Phoenix, Arizona to friends in England, we can only say ... "See, here's REAL snow!"

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Tricky Tranny Troubles

March 18th, 2006  · stk

We'll never purchase a Chrysler automobile again and we're recommending you don't either. Read about our experience with a poorly engineered mini-van transmission and ridiculous experience with the Chrysler Customer Service. The transmission failed three hours from home, cost us $2,500 US to repair and customer service has been absolutely NO help whatsoever...

chrysler thumbs down

We'll never buy another Chrysler automobile and I'm recommending that you don't either. The transmission problems we had on our mini-van were astonishing and costly. (Their customer service and loyalty is also a match to their poorly engineered cars).

~ Troublesome Transmission ~

We bought a used 1993 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE. It was 10 years old and had 118,000 kilometers (approximately 73,000 miles) on the odometer. It was in superb condition, both physically and mechanically. It was the largest version of the model year, had AWD, a large 3.3 liter engine, a towing package, electric controls & leather seats. We paid $4,500 CAD for it and thought it was a good value, considering its features and condition.

We drove it locally, for a month, then took it on a 1,200-mile family vacation, to see Scott's folks, in California. The transmission acted funny on the way down, refusing to go into gear immediately at a stop sign and shifting jerkily on a couple of occasions. In California, we drained the transmission fluid, replaced the transmission filter and refilled it with the recommended "Mopar 7176" fluid.

On the return trip, we stopped to visit with friends in Seattle, spending the night. Upon our departure, the transmission refused to deliver power, leaving us stranded in Seattle. We opted for a genuine Mopar replacement transmission, which came with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. The bill totaled $3,503.89, plus incidental expenses, including a bus ride, back to Vancouver. It was an frustrating experience and and expensive repair.

That a transmission would fail at 73,000 miles is unbelievable. The mechanic who replaced the tranny said, "These transmissions are known to be troublesome and only last for about that [70,000 miles]. My advice? Drive the vehicle for another 70,000 miles and then sell it, before it needs another transmission."

Some stuff on a car needs to be replaced, including oil, tires, brake pads, a water pump (perhaps) and the odd fan belt. But not transmissions! Certainly not at $2,700.00 USD a pop and certainly not three or four times, over the life of a vehicle. Shame on Chrysler for such shoddy engineering.

But, that's not the end of the story and it's their customer service that really made me part ways with Daimler-Chrysler. To learn about the customer service fiasco, read on ...

Why Chrysler Sucks

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Lost Journals - Please Help!

March 8th, 2006  · stk

Calling All Journal Readers

After a day of soul-searching, frantic emails, file searches and Internet searches, we now have an assessement of our journal devastation. Most entries are GONE. Our only (thin) hope rests with our readers.

IF you have a copy of any of the missing entries below, PLEASE contact us. Thanks!

 

PCT Journal
http://pct.diary-x.com

  1. CANADA! (Mile 2,658)
  2. Stehekin (Mile 2569)
  3. Skykomish (Mile 2472)
  4. Snoqualmie Pass (Mile 2396)
  5. White Pass (Mile 2298)
  6. Cascade Locks (Mile 2150)
  7. Olallie Lake (Mile 2047)
  8. Cascade Summit (Mile 1907)
  9. Crater Lake (Mile 1829)
  10. Ashland (Mile 1721)
  11. Seiad Valley (Mile 1656)
  12. "Stumbling Toward Canada"
  13. Castella (Mile 1500)
  14. Chester (Mile 1329)
  15. "Trail Questions Answered"
  16. Soda Springs (Mile 1153)
  17. Sonora Pass (Mile 1013)
  18. Tuolumne Meadows (Mile 936)
  19. Red's Meadow (Mile 900)
  20. Cedar Grove (Mile 784)
  21. Kennedy Meadows (Mile 697)
  22. Tehachapi (Mile 555)
  23. Agua Dulce (Mile 455)
  24. "The Routine"
  25. Wrightwood (Mile 366)
  26. Big Bear City (Mile 267)
  27. Idyllwild (Mile 180)
  28. Warner Springs (Mile 110)
  29. Mt. Laguna (Mile 42)
  30. Pre-hike Jitters
  31. Rooster Sends Get-Well Card
  32. Broken Bones & Killer Roosters
  33. Trail Mail
  34. One Month to Go!
  35. Hiking Boots and the NFL Draft

Pacific Coast Cycle Tour
http://rands.diary-x.com

  1. Blowin in the Wind
  2. A Really Gross Farm
  3. Big Grey Little Moo-Moo
  4. Tom and Sheila
  5. Pesky Pete
  6. Prince of Manchester Beach
  7. Thirty-six Damme Eggs
  8. Two the One
  9. Ice Cream Marathon
  10. LOST: A Small Cyclocomputer
  11. On Safari
  12. Into the Golden State
  13. Hamburger Wasteland
  14. Numb Toes & Other Body Parts
  15. Mud Slide!
  16. An Octopus Named Red
  17. Sunbathing Saturday
  18. Visitors from Portland
  19. Internet Woes
  20. Wow. Oregon Already!
  21. A Dear Among Deer
  22. Getting Frisky
  23. 1st Anniversary
  24. Hood Canal
  25. Down to the Wire
  26. Flat Rain
  27. Tossin' Goobers
  28. Casa de Pasa
  29. Meet Scott and Rachel

Note: Hover over an entry for date of that particular entry.

 

Journal entries with a line through them are ones we have resurrected, from readers or other means. We'll keep this list up-to-date. Thanks in advance for your help!

Words cannot convey the depth of the devastation this has had on our psyche.

* - Thanks to Tom & Sheila!
* - The ONLY backups found locally.
* - Thanks to Yahoo! cached pages
* - Thanks to Tom Kerns!! (a reader from Orinda CA, who had downloaded our complete on-trail journal as a reference)

 

Continue reading about resurrection efforts...

Read full story...

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Dark Adventure Days

March 7th, 2006  · stk

Adventure Journals Lost ... "POOF" into the Ether

I don't often cry, but I did this morning. In a very twisted turn of events, I've managed to lose the journals for two of our biggest adventures: The Pacific Crest Trail and West Coast Cycle Tour (from Vancouver to San Francisco).

We emailed our journal updates to a service called "Diary-X", where they've been sitting ever since. After losing our guestbook entries in a similar "here-today, gone-tomorrow" kind of fashion, I made it a point to make a text backup of our entries ... or at least, I thought I had.

We received an email from Tom & Sheila, PCT friends. They had followed us on our journey, reading our Diary-X entries. Then they hiked the trail in 2004, using the same Diary-X journaling solution. They reported to us that the site had gone belly up and that all of the journal entries were magically, iretrieveably gone.

  Diary-X has suffered from an unrecoverable drive failure. Due to a combination of issues, the last backup (from December 2004) contained only configuration files and other non-essential files. We do not have any other backups for the site. All journals, user information, forum posts, templates, images, and everything else are all irrecoverably lost.

I first took the news casually, patting myself on the back for having made backups some time ago. When I searched my computer for the backups, I broke into a cold sweat when I couldn't FIND THEM. Now, instead of patting myself on the back, I'm kicking myself around the room, as it appears I had only thought about making them, which only proves that if you think about something enough, it's not actually the same as the DOING OF IT.

Fortunately, for Tom and Sheila, their journals ARE backed up and they have a hard copy that their Dad made, while they were on the hike. We have a hard-copy too. One that Rachel's father meticulously kept for us, while we were hiking the 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, over that 6-month period. Where is it? Well, we mailed it to Scott's grandmother to read, when she showed an interest in our journals (and wasn't savvy enough to read them online).

It was never mailed back. :'(

We even mailed our old ISP, thinking they might have backups off the mail server, which could resurrect our "sent mail" folder from April 2002 to October 2002. No such luck.

So, the journals that Rachel wrote, each night in the tent, after hiking 12 or more hours during the day ... appear LOST. POOF ... into the Ether ... gone. The links to our PCT Journal and West Coast Cycle Tour now point to the Phoenix version of Diary-X, with a link that explains what happened.

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A Week of Winter

March 5th, 2006  · stk

Our weird, mild winter weather came to an end last week, when a storm system blew through, dumping a record-setting pile of white stuff onto Alberta and our yard. In Edmonton, we received 13 centimeters of snow, which blanketed our brown lawn (Rachel heard on the radio, that it was the most amount of snow Edmonton has ever received in one dump, beating the previous record of 12.8cm by a smidge). It was followed a day or so later with the addition of a few more centimeters.

We finally were able to get out the tobaggan, which we used to haul Alex to day-care with, until everyone managed to shovel out from under the load of snow. Temperatures are holding at sub-freezing and just when we thought we might escape a winter in Edmonton, blammo ... we're knee deep in it.

Winter of Our Heart's Content

Up until last week, we've been having a very unusual winter. After our September snow, last year, we were preparing ourselves for an anticipated onslaught of cold and snow. It never materialized. Instead, we had a brown Christmas and indeed, all of Canada was basking in warmer-than-normal weather, throughout December and January. This change was felt greatest on the prairies and "Winterpeg, Manisnowba" (a normally very cold capital city) was registering temperatures 14°C higher than normal.

Is this a sign of global warming? (If so, at this rate, we'll be planting citrus next year and soon be living in a desert).

In reality, it's "a total absence of cold air" that is explaining the phenomenon, according to Environment Canada. Maybe they should pay these guys more money - they're sharp as tacks? Actually, the answer is more complex, involving a swirling polar vortex which, during most winters, sits over Hudson Bay. This year, it lingered over northern Europe, warming Canadian toes, while frosting the Russians, instead.

It appears that the vortex has finally come home to roost. The result is pulling cold air down, across the prairies and into Ontario. Unfortunately, it will probably mean a delayed spring for us (just as winter was "delayed").

Too bad! :| We had nearly forgotten what it was like to shovel snow and put the car on the block heater a half hour before starting the car. Perhaps we should cancel our order for citrus seedlings?

Soggy B.C.

While we enjoyed mild temperatures in December and January, it is interesting to note that Vancouver, from where we moved, set a record this year - "most days of rain in January since record-keeping began, in 1937". They had 29 days of rain, in the 31-day month. :( Yuck.

In fact, they nearly broke a couple of other records.

  • total January rainfall (1992 281.8mm)
  • consecutive-day rain record (1953 28 days) (fell one day short)

In short ... it was depressing, as reported by Rachel's folks. Evacuation alerts on the North Shore, because of mud slide fears. Flooded basements kept restoration workers busy. Day, after day of rain (as we can attest) just dampens the spirits.

Who would have ever thought that our Edmontonian winter would be better than Vancouver's?

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