Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday snows

I left here in plenty of time to get to Woodland Park yesterday -- or so I believed.

When I got outside it was snowing, a light granular sifting of starred crystals that looked dull and gray beneath the dark overcast sky. I couldn't see the mountains for the clouds and even though it was near 8:00 the sun was a weak kitten drunk on whiskey. Once I got to Route 24, the white hammer descended like a wrecking ball.

At first the going was fairly easy because the roads were too warm for the snow to stick, but that didn't last long as uncounted worlds of snow overwhelmed the roads and any remaining sense the drivers might have had. Four wheel drive trucks stuck in two-wheel drive were fishtailing all over the roads, slipping and sliding backwards towards the ditches. I put on the electronic traction control, dropped into third gear and drove past them, hugging the right berm in case they slid into me. Semis labored up the hill, groaning and roaring as dropped into lower gear. Four-wheel drive trucks and jeeps slowed to a crawl like turtles wearing ice skates for the first time. I maneuvered into the passing lane, careful to keep my wheels straight and my moves subtle so as not to hit the building slushy, ice coating the roads the wrong way and send me careening into the ditch or sideways into the traffic. It was like driving on a Dodge-Em car track with everyone intent on playing demolition derby. Even police cars were stuck in places and one police car slid into the side of the mountain and stayed there, steaming and fuming in the near darkness.

After a somewhat harrowing drive and a couple of near misses where I turned too sharply to avoid being hit, feathering my brakes and turning into the slide, I found the Hungry Bear Restaurant where my fellow MARC VEs were still waiting for breakfast. I was 25 minutes late, but I was there.

We talked about how the ARRL were proposing dumbing down the ham radio license requirements and taking out the Morse code requirement, something none of us want to see, and joked and talked and laughed until time to go to the library and set up for the exams. By the time we left the restaurant (the food was very good and I had a veggie omelet, bacon and a cup of fresh fruit) the sun was busy turning the slushy iced roads to wet shining strips of graveled black. My trip back across the highway was a lot less tentative than when I arrived and I made it to my car without even the possibility of a slip and fall.

We had five candidates for exams, two of them twin boys of about 16 or 17, all but one of whom passed their exams and will have licenses by Tuesday afternoon. A father and son came from Leadville in a blizzard to take the exams. (Good thing the VEs betting they wouldn't make it didn't put down cold hard cash or I would have gone home considerably richer.) The father aced his exam and his son failed. There's always next time.

One of the candidates took the code test and passed. The best part of it is that he was one of the candidates who took and passed the Technician exam when I did my very first VE exam at the hamfest in Monument in June. I was tickled to see him again and to know he passed code. I'm sure I'll see him again when he passes General and Extra, too.

As we whispered quietly at the VE table, I found out that Paul had been voted in as president of MARC (he showed me a copy of the minutes) and that the PPRAA held a board meeting where they decided that I would take over as the new Zero-Beat newsletter editor. They still haven't told me about it yet, but at least they talked about it behind my back. (very big grin)

When all the grading, signing and congratulating/commiserating was over, we took down the tables and put up the chairs and Steve and Wes surprised me by telling me that I was required to attend Hamcon in Estes Park because the MARC VE team does all the exams during the eight-day event. I've long been wanting to see Estes Park and take the tour of the Stanley Hotel where Stephen King's The Shining was filmed and on which he based his overlook Hotel and it looks like I'll get my chance. I will also have vacation time since I'll have been working for Silent Type, Inc. for over one year, so I will be there with bells on.

Oh, there is one other thing. I became a member of MARC yesterday and that makes me a MARC VE, although I was told I was already considered one since I have done five VE exams there since I was accredited. I guess now that I'm going to edit their newsletter, I'll have to join PPRAA and take my assigned seat on the board there. You'd think I was actually getting involved in the community here or something. Add all this to my widening base of close friends and chosen family and it looks like I'm putting down roots for the first time in my life.

The ride down the mountain was a wet, sun shining, melting ice glittering breeze. I went to the movies and ended up sitting cheek by jowl with a room of laughing, screaming, giggling, howling kids. Chicken Little was a sweet and funny movie, but what was really funny was the anonymity and cover that a theater filled with delighted children gives usually staid and fussy adults. They can laugh and giggle to their hearts' content and no one needs to know they enjoyed themselves under cover of the children. Camouflage at its best.

After the movie, I went to Home Depot to get a new handle for my toilet -- one that isn't plastic and won't break again quite so easily -- and became very excited when the clerk took me to the tool corral. There is a set of soldering irons I will just have to go back and get when I get paid tomorrow. One is a needle fine soldering iron perfect for home brewing ham radio projects and the other a shiny new regular tipped soldering iron. I have one that the Luddite bought for me, but since they come in a packaged set I don't want to separate them -- and I'll have a backup. Backups are good.

The clerk, after asking me if I knew where the tool corral was located, welcomed me to the store when he found out it was my first time. He smiled at me and knowingly winked, saying he knew I'd certainly be back. He is right. I will be back -- and it won't take decades for it to happen. Got that MacArthur?

I got back into the car, motored over to Sage Woman Herbs to talk to the owner, Valerie, about iridology, got some information, left, avoided the urge to stop in at Arby's and get a huge roast beef sandwich on a sesame seed mountain of a bun and a chocolate-strawberry milkshake, and drove home to install my new toilet handle (which took all of one minute) and ended my day on a very dramatic note.

Le sigh.

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