Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It Seemed like a Good Idea...

 When I was a wee lad my Mama told me I would sometimes have one of "those" days. You the know the kind. The kind where NOTHING seems to go as planned. That was the kind of day I endured yesterday. I only had two projects in mind for the day. I wanted to clear the snow from my driveway before a predicted cold snap hits, and I wanted to fire up the snow machine to scout and break out some trails for running my dogs. That seems simple enough, doesn't it? It sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

 The day started nicely enough.  The temperature was above zero, kennel chores went smoothly and Trish and I enjoyed the breakfast scramble I prepared with home-grown eggs from our own small flock, nicely seasoned turkey sausage and locally grown potatoes.  Our breakfast was interupted and the day started heading south when a co-worker called Trish, asking her to come into work early. Apparently the co-worker had lost a temporary crown on a bad tooth, and had only 1 opportunity to get it repaired before the holidays. Anyone who has ever had a toothache can appreciate that Trish dropped her own plans and headed out straightaway, taking the dog truck.  The truck is a relatively large rig, so getting it out of the way offered a bit more room to maneuver the tractor. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

 As the sun rose high enough to give the first bit on less than 4 hours possible daylight, the tractor started nicely. All the hydraulics warmed quickly and things were looking good for the driveway project. I got one pass up and down the driveway with the blade before sliding the tractor off the hard pack and into the deep snow berm alongside the drive. That would not have been any major problem had it not broken the bead on the tubeless right rear tire. Since the tractor wasn't going to come unstuck under it's own power, I recognized straightaway I would need to either tow or winch it out of the berm. To do THAT I needed an anchor or rig stout enough to pull the tractor.

 My tiny little Toyota RAV4 does NOT qualify for either task. So, the first step in solving the tractor issue was to head to the store to trade vehicles with Trish. Fortunately, the Toyota IS a tiny little car, so I was able to snake it past the tractor to get on the road. The road that had NOT been plowed, for a plodding 6 mile trip up to the store. Then there was the equally plodding trip back to the house. I had to back the truck down most of the length of our meandering, unplowed driveway.

 Next I gathered up my "rope along" winch (similar to a come-a-long but using stout nylon rope rather than steel cable) a big scoop shovel and so forth, tossed the tools into a hand sled and drug them up the driveway to the waiting tractor and truck.  Rigging the winch to my now solid anchor was easy.  Digging out the snow berm from around the stuck tractor was less so, but only took about 20 minutes or so.  I started levering the hand winch and the polypropawhatever rope grew tighter, and tighter, and tighter and when I no longer had the strength to get even one more click out of the ratchet, the tractor remained firmly planted in place.

 I put the truck in gear and eased it forward, and much to my relief the rope did NOT break, and the tractor actually came out of the big hole in the snow berm fairly easily, now fully blocking the driveway.  I very carefully eased it into the gear and crawled it to the front of the house.  At least now the driveway was no longer blocked.  The next problem was reseating the bead and getting air into the tractor tire.

 I have a hydraulic jack that is sufficient to lift the tractor, but it doesn't quite extend high enough to engage the axle, so I needed more 'stuff'.  I drug out a good sized square of 3/4 inch plywood left over from last summer's dog box project to use as a base, and prevent the jack from just digging into the snow rather than lifting the machine.  I also grabbed a 4 by 4 block of wood to give the jack enough height to actually lift the machine.  Is seemed like a good idea at the time, and it actually worked as planned. 

 The next problem was getting the sidewalls of the tractor tire positioned tightly enough against the wheel to seal, so a shot of compressed air could push them back into place and seal the system.  By wrapping the rope from the hand winch around the center of the tire, I was able to gain enough pressure to push the sidewalls out just enough to do that job.  Things were looking pretty favorable when I plugged in my air compressor to let it build up pressure.

 It didn't take long for me to realize that my small air compressor wasn't going to provide the volume of high pressure air I needed to set that damned tire.  Meanwhile, I was losing daylight at an alarming rate.  I heaved a sigh as I realized this was NOT going to be inexpensive, and dialed the number of a local tire shop that offers road service.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

 The road service guy was on another call, but I was promised he would head to my place straightaway after finishing.  "It shouldn't be longer than an hour" the tire guy said.  "Of course, we need your credit card number before we can dispatch him."

 So, while I was waiting for the tire service truck I tended to the chickens and rabbits, collected and put away the tools I no longer needed outside, checked Emails, read some FaceBook posts and then decided to address a slow draining sink in our bathroom.  Finally, two hours later, all of the dogs in the yard 'went off', telling me the tire truck had arrived.  The dogs kept barking and carrying on while I donned bunny boots, bibs, winter vest, winter parka, gloves, headlamp - and still no truck in the lot.

 I hiked up the drive to find the service truck, a Freightliner straight truck, stuck in the snow berm beside the drive where he slid off the hardpack.  The service tech and I laughed at the irony of the situation, grabbed shovels and dug him out.  He finally got the massive beast moving which was a good thing, but in doing so he made the snow situation on the driveway much worse than it had been before, churning the hardpack into a frozen mush.

 To his credit, the service guy knew his craft well and had the right tools and supplies to get it done.  He smeared beading compound along the tire and rim, popped the air to it, and nothing happened.  He mussed and fussed and persevered and half an hour later we finally heard that reassuring "pop" as the tire reseated itself.  As the last vestiges of daylight faded away he churned his way out the driveway, heading off on his next service call.

 With the hard-packed foundation of our driveway totally destroyed, I knew the plow blade wouldn't be sufficient to restore the drive, so swapped the blade for a loader bucket and went to work, removing snow one bucket at a time.  That worked well enough for a couple of hours, but to finish the job I'd need more fuel, so - I made another trip to the store.

 When all was said and done I did get the driveway project finished, and I have to boast that it's in pretty darned nice shape.  Much of it is dug down to gravel, and that which isn't is firm and clear and offers good traction.  I finished that 'simple, two hour job' about 12 hours after I'd started it.  I parked the tractor and spent a few seconds admiring my handiwork before starting evening kennel chores, at about 9:00 pm.  What the heck, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

 My Mama was right, I sometimes have 'one of those days'.  What she didn't tell me was that I would have so many of them.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't had this particular problem with a tire but I sure understand sliding into what looked do-able just before one actually got there ;-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed the read - your momma was right.