Thursday, January 9, 2014

A bit of R&R, and a Change of Venue at Work.

I don't often write about my life at work, because it's imprudent.  I'm employed in a dual role as a security officer / paramedic at a remote industrial facility in the petroleum industry, considered vital to the national economy.  Most folks can put 2 and 2 together and figure out what that facility is, and since I've mentioned from time to time that my work site is (was) at the edge of the White Mountains, someone who is really clever and has a decent map can figure out where.

Normally I work a two-week on / two week off rotating schedule. I've been stationed at the same work site for nearly 20 years (yeah, it really IS a good job). Early each year we change the schedule slightly so that the "opposite" shift can enjoy holidays off with their families, alternating the schedule to be fair to everyone.  In the area where I work, we do that simply by doing one week on / one off for one 'rotation'.  That's what's happening now. 

When I finish this short, 1 week R&R I will NOT be returning to the same facility.  Having been there nearly 20 years I felt it was time for a change of scenery, and my employer agreed.  Next Wednesday morning I'll be boarding a chartered airplane for the flight to my new post, located approximately midway between the Arctic Ocean and the northern base of the Brooks Mountain Range, well above the Arctic Circle.

The terrain around my new workplace looks something like this photo that I googled up.

My new workplace

This change of venue also means some significant changes in my job.  At my current post I stayed on the facility 24/7, with the focus of controlling access into and out of the facility.  At my new post I'll be spending most of my time out on patrol, keeping a sharp eye on about 60 miles worth of assets.  That means more of an opportunity to get a first-hand, intimate view of the arctic tundra ecosystem that I've previously only seen in passing. 

My 'counterpart' (the guard-medic working opposite me) is also relatively new to that post, and he's told me that virtually everything about that new post is different from what I've become so accustomed to at my current job.  At this point, DIFFERENT is exactly what I'm looking for.  I've been warned about the dangers of the infamous haul road made famous (or notorious) by the television series Ice Road Truckers.  Rather than living in a permanent structure, I'll be housed in a work camp, which is not a big deal to me. 

What is a big deal is that my duties will be more varied, more physically active than answering phones and radios and opening or closing gates, and just more interesting all around. 

I'm really looking forward to exploring a new (to me) ecosytem populated with caribou, muskoxen, wolves, grizzly bears and even, though very, very rarely, polar bears.  I'll have a change to get first-hand experience in one of the most extreme climates on the planet.  I'll be commuting by aircraft rather than driving back and forth. I'll get to do all those new things while still doing the same job and serving the same role I've been doing for a long, long time.  That is protecting the pipeline from the ravages of crime, terrorism and disease.  (It sounds more exciting than the reality of it).

I'll share what I can without being imprudent as I embark on this new workplace adventure.

Meanwhile, back at the house...

I drove the dog-truck up to work for my last tour of duty in order to drop it off at the shop as early as possible when I got off duty on Tuesday.  Some time during the last cold snap the power steering unit on the rig failed, causing it to suck air, turn the hydraulic fluid to foam, and NOT work properly.  Although I can horse it around without the power assist, Trish can not.  It's a good sized rig, pretty darned heavy, and the steering wheel just isn't big enough to provide a whole lot of leverage. 

I know the shop is working on it, as I've received a couple of calls from them.  So far they've determined that it is an expensive pump failure rather than a less expensive ruptured high pressure line. In order to see what they have to see they had to run it through an expensive high pressure wash (not unexpected), and the spewing hydraulic fluid soaked into the (expensive) serpentine belt, requiring that it also be replaced. 

I'm hoping they'll finish up the work today so I can run into town to pick it up.  I've been holding off on doing grocery shopping and running other errands in hopes of doing everything in a single trip.  I try to consolidate town errands to make as few trips into Fairbanks as necessary. 

Yesterday (Wednesday) I gave the hen-house a badly needed cleaning, removing the straw from the floor and nesting boxes (that requires scraping the frozen chunks off the floor and nests), replacing it, and changing the configuration of the nest boxes so that they can be cleaner and tidier than before. 

That gave me a chance to watch the chickens interact, and there is no doubt that our largest and most beautiful rooster is a bully and a jerk.  Trish and I have agreed to name him "Supper", and to help him live up to his name very shortly.  One of these days soon Supper is going to become a nice, tender and tasty supper.

Once I was finished with the hen house I mixed oil into 5 gallons of gasoline for our old snowmachine, and went to work on our trails.  Our feeder trail needed to be broken out, but I was surprised and pleased to see that the powerline trail has seen a bit of snowmachine traffic.  It looks like the power company was patrolling the line, as the tracks go through a neighboring property that is fenced and gated to prevent recreational trail traffic. 

The main trails have been well traveled, so they are packed, a bit icy and 'fast'.  The return trail we frequently take across another neighbor's property to return home had a couple of downed trees and low hanging limbs that were easily corrected with my chain saw.

Trish and I paid a social call to Allen Moore, Aliy Zirkle and the crew at SP Kennel after I'd finished on the trails.  That provided an opportunity to meet Lidia Dale-Masaros, who is a long-time member of the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project and owner of with whom I've enjoyed on-going correspondence for quite a few years now.  Lidia is owner of Valley Snow Dogz in New Hampshire, and is visiting in order to handle for the SP Kennel teams running in the Copper Basin 300 this weekend.

After we returned we did our evening chores, cooked and ate supper, and pretty much crashed straight away.

1 comment:

  1. Always enjoy reading your blog, Swanny. Been checking out the maps ;-)