Monday, January 31, 2011

Idaho Falls? I'm in Idaho Falls?

Well, I was. Taking a break from insanity, I went to Idaho Falls to visit a friend. Eighteen hours by bus, leaving late in the afternoon, arriving at noon. When I got out at the 2am stop, I realized something. There was snow on the ground. Yes, intellectually I knew there was snow in Utah and Idaho in the winter. But I'm from Los Angeles. We keep our snow sensibly on the mountains, and go visit it from time to time. We don't live in it.

Snow there was. I got some great pictures of snowy mountains and houses and reflections in the window of the passengers on the bus. My camera was of the type that sucked its lens back in when turned off, so having an attachable filter was a non-starter. But the pictures remind me of the trip. They don't have to be shared. [*sniff*]

So for a week, I stayed in Idaho Falls, where the temperature never got above freezing. The house was warm, the company marvelous, the futon couch comfy if difficult to get out of. I was introduced by my host and his two sons to anime. I enjoyed it very much. It snowed several times, but nothing substantial. Enough to make snow angels. I could ask no more.

My host, Bob, took me on a tour of the highlights of Idaho Falls, which took all of an afternoon. I did get some pictures of the Falls of Idaho Falls, which were lovely all frozen over. I also meandered around the neighborhood taking pictures. [Here]I found when I got home that I had managed to gather a collection of prints of various creatures meandering thru the snow. Find them here.

On Sunday, Bob and I took off fairly early for Yellowstone. It was quite likely Yellowstone was closed, but since I was in the area, I wanted to go as far as I could. So off we went, thru the Grand Tetons and the snow. I took five thousand pictures, well, ok, 4,990, of pine trees covered in snow, gorgeous vistas as we topped a hill, trees covered in snow, and lakes and rivers and mountains and trees covered in snow.

Jackson, WY, was fun. Touristy, but fun. We did in fact make it all the way to the south entrance of Yellowstone, which was closed. But driving the roads of the Grand Tetons National Forest with nobody else on the road was a delight. I got a great example of how to drive on ice and snow without having to flinch about running into someone else. It was a tad slippery.

We took the long 'way round, coming in to Jackson. We took 26 to 89, then north thru Jackson. When we came home, the GPS said the shorter route was over Teton Pass. I don't do really well on twisty mountain roads, but I was fine with Teton Pass. I couldn't see over the side because the snow had been piled at least 8 feet high. Part way up the pass, Bob flipped a switch, saying 4-wheel drive is for wusses, but in this case it might be wise. I gave him a startled look and asked, have we been driving without it all along? Yup, said Bob.  Swell.

We did stop sliding around so much, which was good in the face of oncoming traffic. There were a couple of places where the two lanes, one each way, got very... shall we say, friendly. Fortunately when we went around the "friendlier" corners, there was no oncoming traffic. One of the niftier sights along the pass was the crowd of skiers along the side of the road. The vans were letting them off there, and were going to pick the skiers at the bottom of the hill.

The following day, my day of departure, the trees were covered in frost crystals. None of the pictures I took captured the incredibleness of trees seemingly covered in diamond crystals. Ohmy it was gorgeous.

At noon, I got back on the bus, headed south. My days of frost and snow were over.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Christmas to remember!

It was a season to remember! Beth ran into a high school chum, married, with three kids, in a bit of a bind. Housing was an issue, as the chum was running into problems with his insurance company with regards to payment for his house that burned down. It looked like the family would be spending Christmas in a homeless shelter. So Beth invited them to stay in the "big room" out back. Kenny moved in with his girlfriend, Beth, Tom and I all cleaned the place up, and the family moved in the first part of December.

All went well, for about three days.

December turned out to be the second wettest since recordkeeping started in 1887. This compounded a problem we didn't know we had. Apparently the septic tank had never been drained in all its fifty year existence. We found this out when it backed up into the only shower in the house. And stayed.

The landlord sent out the plumber, as always. The plumber got the rooter machine out, to once again remove the tree roots from the main drain. Except... it didn't help. That's when we found the entire system was full, and with all the rain, wasn't draining. And no one knew where the clean-out was. The landlord called the previous owner trying to locate it. No luck. Meanwhile, we have no shower. For three weeks, we have no shower. There are now six adults and three teens living on the property, with no shower. I thank all the Powers that it was December and not July. Several of us made repeated visits to friends and family to use their showers.

A plumber with the proper tools was located just after Christmas and the two-weeks-without-shower mark had been passed. There was much fidding around with equipment and on December 31. The septic tank was unburied late in the afternoon, thus rendering our front yard more of a wasteland than usual. No one was going to come out on January 1, or on Sunday, January 2.

And then, one of the people living out back died two days before Christmas of complications of alcoholism. In the back yard. The family thereof descended upon us, with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And raiding of the refrigerator, eating anay and everybody's food without replacing it, using every pot and pan we collectively had and not washing the dishes. Charming. Not. Washing the dishes was taken as permission to get them dirty again, and eating what little still remained in the fridge.

Meanwhile, this poor family of five is living in a house with no shower, only one toilet still working, the back bathroom sink only having cold water, the kitchen sink piled with dishes, with all these crazy people mourning the dead guy while simultaneously deciding they should be cheerful "for the kids" for Christmas. The family had continued negotiations with their insurance company, and a few lawyers, and it looked like they were going to be able to move into their new place in January.

January 3 dawned bright and clear. The family in the "big room" moved out so fast you could hear the thunderclap of the air closing in behind them. I'm sure they wished they had stayed in a homeless shelter. It would have been less crazy. Mid-day, the septic tank company showed up, drained what they said was probably 50 years' worth of stuff, and we had the shower and second toilet back in operation. The first toilet kept working, and we found out it had been an add-on, and so drained into a different septic tank. The family of the dead guy decamped, including the remaining resident out back, leaving the three of us alone in the house once more.

Happy New Year!