Posts belonging to Category Personal Life Stuff

Alaska, Averted

All things considered, I’d have likely gone to visit my sister closer to Christmas instead of last week.  But events conspired to cause an early trip.

As early as last December I was told that she was pretty much done with her long-time boyfriend (common-law husband would probably be the best description).  But it was amicable and he stayed around for a while and eventually got a job teaching at a village in the Alaskan bush this fall.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and about a month and a half ago she announced to us that she was going to move there with him and that she’d be leaving at the end of December. 

Since it would be pretty expensive for us to visit Alaska, we (my mother and I) decided that it would be good to visit before she left.  To avoid hitting the rush of packing and preparations for her trip we decided to visit early in December (when my mother could get time away from work).  Fortunately, after a couple of weeks she decided that she didn’t really want to be with him again and cancelled the move.  But my mother’s vacation schedule was already set by then so she couldn’t get time off near Christmas (she actually has to work that day).  Hence our trip last week.

In the meantime I’ve learned quite a bit about life in the Alaskan bush through Google (hence the addition of Tundra Medicine Dreams to the blogroll, written by a PA who practices from Bethel, which is the “capitol” of the district my sister would have been in).  It looks like a nice place to visit during the summer.  But I had a hard time comprehending the concept of the long winter night, frozen rivers, and the occasional -50°F low.

In the long run I’m glad she decided not to go.  It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but would have made visiting complicated and expensive (it’s too far to drive, even if there were roads to this village).  At least Colorado isn’t too far away (although I think my mother would be happiest if she moved back to Texas).  And her location isn’t likely to have too many -50°F days in winter.

Packin’ It In…

I’m going to be leaving for Colorado tomorrow morning to visit my sister.  I likely won’t be blogging unless something really ticks me off while I’m gone.  I’ll be back on Monday the 18th.

There’s an interesting story in why I’m making a Christmas visit this early in December.  No time to tell it now, but I’ll write something about it when I get back.

Stay safe and warm.

Well There’s Your Problem!

From the ‘fungus among us’ department…

Reverse Hibernation

Bears hibernate for the winter.  A quick glance at today’s forecast makes me wish I could reverse hibernate (i.e. for the summer):

Our Revels Are Now Ended

I’ve just returned from twelve days of vacation.  I spent the time with family and the last couple of days just doing nothing.  It sure was nice.  Too bad it has to end.

Retainerized For Your Protection

I got my “permanent” retainers this week.  I shouldn’t have referenced the fascist boot of the temporary retainers.  The “permanent” retainers are far worse.  Something about them triggers my gag reflex, so it’s taken a lot of getting used to.  The first day I was gagging every few minutes.  I’m slowly adjusting.  Now it’s only every few hours.  long face

Oh… and to add insult to injury I sound like a deranged chipmonk with them in.  I had to do a meeting this week where I was presenting some information to our customer along with my first- and second-line managers.  I ended up taking them out before the meeting.  I don’t think a strategy presentation delivered by a chipmonk would have been well received.

The Avalanche Has Landed

Westgate Chevrolet had my Avalanche ready on Friday, so I packed up the dog and headed for Amarillo Friday night and picked it up Saturday morning.  Before leaving I made sure to ask the service advisor if the tech had road tested the truck.  I didn’t want to get a couple of miles down the road and have the “new” transmission die on me.  Considering I had to drive 340 miles back home, it was only prudent to be a little distrustful.  And when you add in the fact that the “new” transmission was what GM euphemistically calls a SRTA (Service Replacement Transmission Assembly; double-speak for “rebuilt”) I was a bit concerned.  Unfortunately, it’s in the terms of the warranty that they can do this.  I know the bean-counters like rebuilt parts, but customers almost universally loathe them.  I wonder if GM has ever really given any thought to customer goodwill in this area?  Granted, they didn’t hassle me on getting the truck fixed or getting a rental car (total costs for repairs and rental: $0¹ ).  Still, putting in rebuilt parts doesn’t inspire confidence, regardless of whether it’s still covered by warranty.  In the end, you’re still getting something that’s already failed at least once.

Anyhow, all seems to be OK so far.  Once I got on 287 I put it on cruise-control at 70 and watched the tachometer frequently for any signs of over-revving or sluggishness.  I couldn’t detect any signs of the problem, and the shifts were regular and smooth² (mostly you could only tell the shift points by the tach needle, as the electronic controls on the Avalanche usually deliver very smooth shifts).

Still, once a vehicle has a major episode (anything that results in towing), you never quite trust it the same way again.  It’s bad enough that I’m already an automotive hypochondriac (What’s that sound?  What was that vibration?).  Now I’m going to be watching the tach all the time and expecting the transmission to explode at any moment.  rolleyes

¹  It’s too bad they don’t allow “incidental” expenses, since I spent three nights in hotels and made an extra trip to and from Amarillo.  All that nonsense isn’t cheap.

²  Except for the cruise control on hills.  It gets impatient on steep hills and kicks down HARD.  If I’m going to be in hilly terrain, I typically turn off cruise control and do it myself, since I can usually do it without having to kick it down if I take advantage of previous hills (I will also tolerate a little more loss of speed going uphill to avoid kicking it down).

Make A Run *From* The Border

After spending Sunday in Dalhart with nothing to do (and only a couple of pizza-delivery joints to choose from for sustenance), I was at Langen Chevrolet bright-and-early on Monday morning.  The service manager was a very nice young man who immediately put someone to looking at the diagnostic codes to try to determine if the problem was electrical or mechanical.  The procedures indicated replacing the TCC solenoid as the first step, which would take a couple of hours.  Once installed, they would have to then check for any mechanical problems.  Unfortunately, while the solenoid did indeed need replacing, its failure caused damage to the gears due to overheating, which means that the transmission has to be rebuilt or replaced.

The dealership in Dalhart didn’t have anyone who could do this, although they did get agreement with the GMC dealer across town to have the work done.  The problem, though, was that there were no rental agencies in town, so I couldn’t get the rental car specified in my extended warranty, and I couldn’t afford to sit in a hotel for a week while they did the work.  The service manager went to work with GM and finally got clearance with them to have the truck towed to Westgate Chevrolet in Amarillo, where they could perform the work and arrange a rental. 

I have to compliment Chris Bell at Langen Chevrolet on working through all the red tape with GM and getting me and my truck to a place where it could be serviced and that allowed me to get back home.  I’m definitely going to send an email to the dealership about it.  I seem to spend so much time complaining about bad service that I can surely spend a little time to compliment good service when I see it.

Not Amarillo By Morning

I set out yesterday in the hopes of making it to Amarillo by evening, where I’d spend the night before continuing on to Keller today.  But my plan was not to be, as I was let down by my Avalanche.  Somewhere between Raton and Clayton, NM, I noticed that it seemed to be having trouble getting up hills and was revving a little high to maintain speed.  Right after Texline I got the first “Transmission Hot” message, so I had to pull over and wait until it cooled.  It was also getting progressively more sluggish.  After babying it into Dalhart, I stopped and checked the transmission fluid level, which appeared to be OK and then let it sit for a while.  This didn’t help, as it was worse than before.  The transmission would be OK up to 35mph, then it would kick and feel like it was slipping.  Which seemed to be the final impetus for the thing to post a diagnostic code, which set off the engine light. 

The OnStar folks were able to read a fault in the transmission control system, so I got them to send a tow-truck.  Luckily, for both me and the dog, we were able to get back to the truck stop we’d just been at and we could run the engine for air conditioning while waiting. 

So, now I find myself stuck in a hotel in Dalhart, TX, waiting for the nearby Chevrolet dealer to open at 8:00 tomorrow morning.  On the upside, the hotel is right next to the dealership, and I’ve got a high-speed connection and cable TV to while away the rest of the day. 

I do have to say that as breakdowns go, this one has been fairly civilized.  I just hit the OnStar button, got transferred to Roadside Assistance, and they dispatched a tow truck.  They also called me back on my cellphone with the estimated time of arrival and the number of the wrecker service as well as the number of the dealership.  Finally, they called me back at the end of the estimated time to verify that the tow truck had arrived.

Now we’ll see just how good GM’s warranty service is at the local dealer…

Defective Head Hits The Road

I’m not sure whether my ear infection was returning before I did the stint at KellerFest last weekend or if all the time spent in the heat took its toll.  But by the end of the day Saturday I had decided that I was going to try to finagle my way in to see a doctor (I didn’t care which one at this point) on Monday.  As luck would have it, the office had changed hours so that they’re open from 7:00am to 7:00pm and they now take walk-ins (which is completely new since I was there two weeks ago).  So instead of waiting around all day for an opening I was pleasantly surprised to be seen almost right away by my doctor who took a look and confirmed that my ears were indeed full of crap (not her exact words…).  Not that I really needed a professional opinion to know that my head is full of crap, though…  wink

While she gave me a prescription for a more powerful antibiotic, she also thought it possible I may have a problem with my eustachian tubes.  I’ve always had trouble with pressure equalization and getting the water to drain out after swimming.  I recall a couple of flights where my ears never would equalize.  It wasn’t really painful, just annoying, as all I could hear was a general roaring sound.  All I could tell during the pilot’s announcements were that someone was talking, but not what was being said.  So, should the antibiotics fail to do the trick, I’ve got a prescription for a course of steroids. 

If the antibiotics don’t clear up the problem I will have to start the steroids next week while I’m in Boulder, CO.  The Omnicef has helped quite a bit more than the first round of Amoxicillin, and some of the pressure is gone, but not all of it.  I’m driving up there, so it won’t be quite as bad as flying (I’m told that airplanes maintain pressure equivalency of about 8,000 ft.), but still, I can’t imagine the difference in altitude helping with the pressure in my ears. 

Anyhow…  I’m going to be leaving tomorrow and won’t be back until the 18th.  This means the current lame level of service will continue.  raspberry