Sunday, August 9, 2009

AWK! Blog post! Blog post!

On Friday, August 7th, I had to go back to Fort Madison to service one of the machines on this highway job. It quit calling out remotely on the 26th. We were having such problems with the communications on all our remote units that we weren't sure if this was a communication problem or if the machine had a problem. It seems the battery on the machine had been drained. That'll do it. Low battery means it won't call out, no matter how hard it tries. It also means a 5 hour one-way trip to fix this. And with the communication problem, we aren't exactly sure that replacing the battery will make the machine call in.

Oh well. It gives me something to do.

I head west. It's a heavily overcast day with the threat of rain. I drive through some spitting showers, nothing major until I get to 40 minutes from Iowa on I-80.

You know these kinds of rains. God unzips the rain clouds and has his angels overturn buckets of wash water. You can't see. Sky, horizon and ground meld into a gray gauze. Instinctively, you take your foot off the accelerator because if anything happens in front of you, you want to be able to stop. Westbound traffic is relatively light so I peer into the immediate distance trying to get some idea of where I am. I have to get off I-80 and head south to Galesburg, but I can't see road signs for where I am.

Too late, the exit for I-74 to Peoria wanders by and I realize I have missed my turn. I push onward hoping there will be some identifying marker that tells me I can get off and turn around, but there isn't one. 10 minutes more and the rain ends, leaving the pavement covered in water. The Mississippi River bridge looms ahead and I am in Iowa.

I take a quick glance at the map and exit at Route 67 south. I have to go south to Fort Madison. The sky ahead is that deep blackish blue of an impending storm. As I am driving south through Davenport, the sky opens again. I unzip part of the window and smell the familiar odor of a Midwest summer thunderstorm.

It's hard to describe it, particularly along the river. There is the smell of the earth, the smell of mud, the smell of water and the smell of humanity. A series of hard storm like this washes away the urban smell and replaces it with a fresh smell. I love to walk in the rain and smell the earth and the water. Even a driving rainstorm, as long as there is no lightning, is a wonderful feeling. Rain water is good for your hair and skin and sitting on the deck at night with a cup of tea getting drenched in the summer is heaven.

I continued south. By the time I got to Fort Madison, the sun had come out on a few occasions and steam was rising from the small woods or hollows visible from the road. I got some lunch and headed to the non-working instrument. One battery change, a 15 minute job, and the machine called out on its own. A crack gauge I had installed on the south side of the house fell off so I had to install another one. We use hot glue to affix it to the brick. A liberal application of rubbing alcohol will dissolve the glue and pop off the gauge.

It took a few minutes because the gauge wouldn't stick at first. Then I didn't have enough glue and it had started to rain lightly again and I was getting soaked. When the gauge finally stuck, I stood up and bent over to pick up my bag. Attached to my jeans was the largest bug I had ever seen. It looked like a june bug on Miracle Gro AND steroids. It was light green with red tinges. I have no idea what it was, but I brushed it off quickly, grabbed my bag and walked smartly to the Jeep, whose passenger door was standing open in an ever increasing shower. The communications center in Atlanta, Georgia called to tell me my machine had called in and done a full download. I hopped into the Jeep and thought, "Dang! That would have been an incredible blog post!"

So, I got out of the Jeep and went to find the bug, but it was gone. I got back into the Jeep and headed home, stopping in Fort Madison for $2.45 per gallon mid-grade blend gas.

That, dear reader, is a synopsis of what I do. The money I'll get for expenses based on mileage will cover the rest of this month's bills AND pay for more blood tests for Betsy to see how much fluids she should get. I used to put 300 miles on a week but I run the office more these days. Part of me misses the time spent in the car on job sites, but most of me is grateful for not climbing in and out of cars and quarries and construction sites. Life is a series of trade-offs. I enjoyed classical music on my CD player while driving through rain storms. It was okay.

Beverage: Strawberry Crush


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