Power to the People

Trip to ‘town’ for the usual food supplies today, plus medicine refills.

This weeks’ prep work: replaced the keyswitch on the almost new 7K/9K generator (got it barely used for $400, but the key didn’t work). New switch and keys only cost $9. Started right up (after I remembered to turn on the fuel valve and choke it). Not too noisy, about the same as my 4-stroke lawnmower.

Next on the list: install a manual transfer switch to some of the house circuits. In the meantime, got lots of heavy-duty power cords. Only need to power the fridge and freezer, plus the DirecTV/TV room (gotta keep myself entertained). Power outages here happen about 2-3 times a year, usually due to windstorms (lots of trees next to power lines here in the OlyPen).

Food/water supplies are OK for short term. And, of course, I have lots of FLASHLIGHTS (and batteries, along with two LED lanterns).

Weather today: a bit foggy in the morning, but cleared this afternoon to an almost-cloudless sky. Temps in mid-40F, above freezing overnight.

Notes and Roasts

I spent almost 2 hours practicing a song on the piano – I get to accompany a group of teenage girls in their Church presentation next Sunday. One song is sort of easy, the other is harder. Need to practice some more tomorrow to see if I can get these old fingers to bang on the correct keys.

Also helped the Financial Clerk with some beginning-of-year stuff while I was at the Church building.

Yesterday, I got some plastic shelve units from the orange-box store. Put one of the smaller ones up in the corner where there were some leftover paint cans. All were from the previous/original owner of the house, and they are mostly dried up. So I gathered up the ‘dead’ paint cans and drove over to the county waste place, where they told me they don’t take old paint unless it is ‘solid’.

That’s different from CA, which has a hazardous waste collection area at their waste place. So I put the cans back in the trunk, and stopped by the grocery store for a small bag of cat litter (their recommendation). That’s a project for later this week; I’ll solidify the old paint with the cat litter, then stick the cans in the regular garbage.

Some minor web site stuff done. And there is a roast beef in the oven; this time we seasoned it overnight with the steak seasoning (like we do for tri-tip roasts), so that is cooking slowly at 225F for a couple of hours. Will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Tonight’s activity: favorite TV shows – new episodes of NCIS and Limitless. Along with some more binge-watching of old NCIS episodes.

Not As Cold

The weather has changed from clear and cold to cloudy and not-as-cold with a bit of dampness. The folks in Seattle area got a bit of snow (under 2 inches) but that got everyone excited, so schools and offices closed down, and the commute was a bit dicey for some.

My commute was OK. Bedroom to living room (with a side trip to the kitchen for breakfast) had no obstacles or traffic.

On the list today: trip to “town” for groceries, and lunch. And some computer stuff, of course.

Cold and Un-Clear

Back from Utah last week; great visit with all the kids and grandkids. It was cold there; it had snowed just before we got there, so a couple inches on the ground. Then the skies cleared, so temps ranged from 10-30F. Brisk.

Trip home was between big storms. We made it to La Grande OR just after they closed I-84 over the Blue Mountains (summit is about 4100 feet). Icy roads and stupid drivers caused some crashes, so the road was closed just before we got there in the afternoon. Weather models looked snowy, and I really didn’t want to put chains on the car (I had them, though). The Highlander is 4WD, but I’d been driving for about 8 hours by the, so wasn’t really looking forward to a 2 hour trip to Pendleton (slower because of the weather) then 6 more hours home (with some snow forecast).

So Pam used her phone to find a nice hotel in La Grande, and we relaxed there. By the next morning, the weather was better, the road was open (with some minor packed snow and ice) across the Blue Mountains into Pendleton. Right outside (east) of Pendleton is a steep 6%/6 mile twisty downgrade, and that section had some really heavy fog (low clouds), so that was slow going. After that, the roads were damp, with some falling snow that didn’t stick in the Columbia Gorge (The Dalles to outside Portland), so minor slowdown. Damp roads the rest of the way home, so about an 8 hour drive. But we were glad to be home.

Since returning home, clear skies and cold weather; temps in 20-30’s. Heavy frost in the shady areas around the house; that melted if the sun hit it, but our shady front lawn area is still frosty. Today (Sunday) was Church day, with my first meeting at 7am, so liberal use of de-icer while the car warmed up. I hadn’t driven the car for a while, so there was a bit of frost on the inside of the car. And it is parked in a shady spot, so the water bottles left inside were mostly frozen. But the heater works good, so safe travels.

Today looks like a minor storm in the area; but doesn’t look like much rain at the house. Cold enough that there could be a few snowflakes, but the weather radar doesn’t show any moisture headed our direction.

Tired because of getting up early today; I think I’ll head to the den with a blanket and continue binge-watching NCIS. If I can stay awake.

Power Protection

There are the occasionally high wind events here in the Olympic Penninsula. And those can cause short-term power outages. Has happened twice this storm season, with each outage under 12 hours.

A friend is selling their very slightly used generator at a great price, so that is our next self-reliance purchase. Initially I will use it for wind-caused power outages, with heavy-duty extension cords for the fridge, freezer, and my CPAP (I don’t sleep well without the CPAP).

Ultimately, the generator will be connected to several house circuits via an manual transfer switch. I got a circuit tracer from Harbor Frieght (here http://goo.gl/17qeZI for $19.00) to identify the circuits at the main panel. I’ll then instaall a 30 amp manual transfer switch and wire several circuits through the transfer switch (I’m thinking fridge, freezer, and the DirectTV/TV, plus bedroom).

With that in place, I’ll be able to fire up the generator, connect to the transfer switch, flip the transfer switch to isolate the main (so I don’t feed back into the power grid), and I’ll be OK for the next power outage. I can watch DirecTV during the outage, and keep cell phones charged.

With a couple of battery-powered LED camp lights, plus other FLASHLIGHTS , and the propane fireplace (which may also get connected to the transfer switch to power the fan for better heat), I figure we’ll be in good shape for a power outage. Around here, they last under 12 hours (the last two were about 8 hours), so a couple of five-gallon cans of gas will keep things working until the power is restored.

In the meantime, work continues on the WordPress plugins, with some final fine-tuning of the code and operation.

Plugged In

Started out cloudy today, but clearing now. Still cold outside (45F), but not as bad as my previous home in Utah, where a big snowstorm dropped up to a foot of snow on the Salt Lake Valley floor – with more in the mountains. That made for a messy commute – but I don’t worry about those anymore. My commute is from my bedroom to the living room.

I finished up the WordPress plugin I was working on. It’s been submitted to the WP folks, so I expect to get it listed in the WP Plugin directory by tomorrow.

The WP 4.4 update borked a plugin that I put on the Chaos Manor site; but got that fixed with a little code tweak.

Now on to the next programming project. With a great view of the Puget Sound from my ‘office’ in the living room. Life is tough.

Tripwander Return

SWMBO and I took a trip to California to see Daughter #2 (and husband) and their two cute children (ages 2 1/2 and 5). We had a fun visit with them in their new (rental) house. Of course, all were terribly spoiled (SWMBO has a shirt with “Grandma Claus” on it). We brought their early Christmas present (a PS/4) along with some games. The grandson (and his dad) had much fun playing with the new games.

Our trip home was an adventure. We left early (6am) for what is normally a 13 hour drive up I-5. We made good time, and managed to miss the usual rush-hour traffic through Portland. But there was a bit of rain in the Portland area. A lot of rain. Enough that there was a big mudslide on I-5 just north of Woodland WA.

I use Waze (crowd-sourced traffic app that alerts you to problems Рand patrolling police), and also use Google Maps for directions. (I know how to get home, but it is nice to see the ETA.) Maps told us about the road blockage and we were shuttled off the freeway just before the blockage. We ended up in the WalMart parking lot (and the Taco Bell next to it). There were varying reports of the magnitude of the slide, and how long it would take to clear it. We saw a few pictures on Facebook, and Pam immediately used  Priceline to get a hotel room in Woodland. That was fortunate, as the hotel filled up fast.

So we checked into the hotel room, got settled, and watched FB posts from Washington State DOT about the slide. It was starting to get dark, and WADOT wasn’t going to do anything about the slide until they could inspect it the next morning. So we were fortunate to get a hotel room – lots of other people were sent to shelters at the school.

There is no easy way around the slide area. There is a back road, but the LEO’s were only letting local residents through. We could head down to Portland, then east up the Columbia River to get to Yakima, then take the northern route. But the storm was still active, and we were worried about snow closures.

Another possible route is back down to Portland, then west on Oregon Highway 30 to Rainer, then back to I-5. That would be a 2 hour detour. So we planned on doing that in the morning.

The next morning, WADOT had no estimate on opening. I figured that it would be at least the evening, since the slide was apparently still ‘active’. (Back in the old days, they would have sent a few bulldozers to clear at least one lane, and then you take your chances on driving past it. THese days, you have to study and engineer everything, so there was at least 6 hours of that that had do be done before they could even start clearing.) I figured the road wouldn’t be open at least until late evening (or night), so we decided on the Highway 30 option.

Back on the highway, southbound to Portland. Some heavy traffic to get through, but eventually got onto Highway 30.

Which was fully clogged. Two lanes in each direction; westbound was stuffed with cars and trucks. Full stoppages of 10-15 minutes; then a short 1/2 mile opening, then full stop again.

The trip on Highway 30, normally  about 1 hour, took us 8 hours. A lot of dead stops and short bursts of speeds up to 30 mph. So our 3 hour trip home (from Woodland) took 10 hours. Lots of fun.

But, we made it home safely. And I was prepared for a long ride (full tank of gas, water and snacks, blankets, and of course, Flashlights).

Today, work on a WordPress plugin I am developing. It’s mostly done, just a final tweak that is taking a lot longer than it should.