Friday, February 13, 2009

Durango - Mudding in a PT Cruiser!

Oh my God, I wanted to KILL my customer in Durango. His work site was way the hell and gone out in the middle of nowhere so we decided to meet at his hotel. I told him that I was driving a PT Cruiser, he pointed out his Suburban, and said "Follow me!" and off we went. . . where a itty bitty PT Cruiser with two wheel drive had absolutely no business going. We'd been driving about 15 minutes when he turned off the pavement onto a dirt road. At first the road was wet with a bit of mud from the melting snow, but nothing that caused me too much concern. As I am following his Suburban (A huge four wheel drive) I suddenly see mud spraying 3 to 4 feet in the air from all sides of his truck. He made a hard left turn, mud still being slung all over, including on my car. Too late to stop - if I had tried I would have just lost my momentum in the middle of the huge mud mess and been stuck. I know this from a miss-spent youth hot rodding cars on dirt roads. Instead I kept the throttle even and followed him through the turn, car sliding sideways and then weaving back and forth, with a windshield now so covered with mud I can't see the road. I thought to myself that maybe I should just stop now, pride and inconvenience be damned, but I figured these were two grown men ahead of me that should know there are limits to what a tiny two wheel drive can make it through. Surely that must be the worst of it? WRONG! The road did get a bit better for about two miles and then the next 10 miles was pure, heart pounding, adrenalin through 4 to 6 inches of mud, sliding sideways toward sheer cliffs, and almost getting stuck so many times I lost count. The problem is, by the time you get so far into that sort of stuff, there's not much point to turning around. I had already made it through stuff I really didn't think I was gonna make it through, with rocks and mud pounding the under carriage of the car, and I kept telling myself "This MUST be the worst of it! If it were any worse these guys would have warned me not to bring the car". Every time I thought this, I was proved wrong, and the road kept getting worse and worse. I snapped some pictures, but could get not shots of the worst. Let's face it, I was too busy trying to keep my rental car from getting stuck in six inches of mud and water, on a muddy road, in the middle of dog gone nowhere to be snapping pretty pictures. Fortunately, most of this trip was down hill, where gravity worked to help keep the car moving. All I could think of though was how bad my odds were of getting that car back UP the mountain when my repair was done. When we at last pulled into my customer location, my heart was doing it's very best to beat its way out of my chest, and I was mad . . . I mean deep down, spitting nails, mad! Fortunately I've been working with customers a long time and kept my temper, but I told them pretty clearly "It sure as hell would have been nice if you had warned me about the conditions we were heading into so I could have got a four wheel drive or just rode with you! I hope you guys have a rope or a chain and intend to follow me out, 'cause I'm fairly sure that car is NOT making it back UP the mountain!" Again, was polite and tried to make it sound like I was kidding around, but I was really seething. Then they added insult to injury! "Oh hell, that's all right, there's a better way out of here." Better . . . way . . . out of here????!!! He brought me down a hazardous road, in a car no where near capable of it, beating the undercarriage of the car against rock after rock in the mud, and there had been a better route available??!! That "better route" by the way is a purely relative term. There were a few spots that were just as bad, and it was at least it was down hill, but I still left a good deal of Detroit Steel in the mud and rocks. All of the attached pics are of the "better route" on the way out. Like I said, taking pictures on the way in was not an option. Oh, you know what really tops it all off? THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR EQUIPMENT! It was operator error! The instrument is a Infrared Mass Spectrometer that uses a Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) cooled Infrared detector that requires refill every 8 to 12 hours. When it is allowed to come up to room temperature, the LN2 will just boil out at first, trying to get the detector cold enough to hold LN2. So at first, you get a lot of bubbles and over flow making it appear to be full, when in fact, all your seeing is the very cold LN2 boiling right back out of the very (relatively) hot detector. Having run in to this before with customers, instead of filling it myself, I asked him to fill it so I could watch his methods. Sure enough, as soon as LN2 started to boil out, he pulled the funnel out and said he was done. I explained that so far, the detector is likely still empty, all your seeing is boil off while the we try to make the detector cold enough to actually hold Ln2. He insisted that that it WAS full when my company helped him trouble shoot by phone, but I think he is mistaken. He had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him if he had seen a spout of LN2 when he put the funnel tube into the detector.When you drop the relatively warm funnel tube down into the ultra cold LN2, you will always get a spout, where the LN2 is being flashed to a gas by the heat. The fact that he had no idea what i was talking about tells me he had never seen this, so I demonstrated with the detector we had just properly filled. When I dropped the funnel down inside the LN2 in the detector, LN2 shot about a foot high out of the funnel, and both of customers jumped damn near as far! "THAT is what it looks like when you put the funnel into a detector that still has LN2 in it. If you didn't see that when you were trouble shooting, your detector was not properly filled." I said this with a smile, after all this IS my customer, so I can't pound his pee pee into the ground TOO far. :-) Watching him clearly fail to fill it properly, coupled with all of the symptoms, and his own surprise that LN2 will spout out of the hot funnel when it's dropped in to the detector make it a slam dunk for me, but he still adamantly refuses to admit he may have done it wrong. By the way, I can forgive the customer for not knowing this, but I'm having a hard time accepting that the people in my company that tried help him over the phone while I was working in Golden didn't catch it! In the end, we compromised. I agreed to lave the part with him that we had thought might be bad when this trip was set up. I left it on two conditions: - He mail it back to me when it was clear there were no problems. - He take a rope or a chain in his four wheel drive, and lead my happy ass outta the swamp to make sure I made it. He agreed! The route out was much longer, but the majority of the road was in better shape. Even at that, my heart was pounding like mad when I finally got to the pavement. It must have looked like a circus clowns car when I first hit the pavement, with the car bouncing up and down on huge chunks of mud stuck to the tires, and flinging mud to both sides and the rear! Durango is a very small town, with very little to offer of interest in the way of something for a crossdresser too do, so I'm spending tonight in the hotel watching the idiot box. :-(
Durango 2009 02 13 014 Durango 2009 02 13 010
If you follow the above pic/link to flickr and view the large version, you can better see just how bad the road is about to get directly in front of the truck! Oh, and yes, he DID take the left turn into the worst of it!

Durango 2009 02 13 009
If you follow the above pic/link to flickr and view the large version, you can better see that we are approaching two streams. Both had mud at least eight inches deep and even the four wheel drive in front of me bottomed out going through them. I actually stopped the car at this point trying to figure out what my options were - I had none so I followed him, grimacing at the sound of the floor of the little car going through the water and rocks pounding the under carriage.

Durango 2009 02 13 006
Again, take a look at the original size version of this pic to see how bad it really was. The smaller pics just don't convey it!

1 comment:

  1. Customers. You can't live with them and you can't live without them!!