Joyride

Speaking of fun, yesterday I got to hitch a ride along on a ride to the End of the World. No, it’s not as dramatic as it sounds. But it was a heckalot of fun.

On my daily commute between Summer Camp and Station, I have to navigate around these enormous 40-foot high snow piles that the heavy operators have built up while digging things out from the previous winter. We’re now at that point in the season where they’re loading them up on tread-bound gravel-truck-like trailers and hauling them out the half mile or so to the (grid) southern boundary of the groomed area. For obvious reasons, this little frozen patch of heaven is called “The End of the World”.

So now, in addition to dodging these constantly-resculpted snow mountains, we Summer Campers also need to dodge diesel-snorting tractors and bulldozers weighing nearly 100,000 pounds apiece. It’s not actually hard, and it’s a lot of fun – I’ve now gotten to the point where I can recognize most of the operators, even 1 story up, through the smoked glass of the cab.

Aside: apparently, this is an acquired skill. When you first get down here, everyone is a Michelin-man shaped waddling red blob in bunny boots. But as the season progresses, people work in their personal variations – the green knit mitts from home, or skua elf hat that lets you slowly learn to differentiate everyone. Or… you just get better at picking out the way each person moves.

So yesterday, as I was heading out to the construction Jamesways to install a new graphics card in one of the surveyors’ computers, I had no doubt that it was Elissa that I was waving to over in the cab of the Challenger tractor. She waved back (Elissa always waves back – I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a uniformly enthusiastic person anywhere), then waved again, with a “Hey, come over here” gesture.

I clambered up the steps – the cab of the Challenger really is one story up from the ground.

“Where ya headed?”

I told her.

“Want a ride?”

It was really only about 250 yards to the construction Jamesways, but who was I to decline an offer like that? Keith had just dumped a final load of snow in the trailer she was hauling, so she put it in gear, and off we went.

Shiny modern gadgets!

“I hope you don’t mind if we swing by the End of the World on the way?”

Of course not. It was really only five minute detour for me, and I’d been wanting a ride in one of these things since the day I got on the ice.

It’s a bumpy, noisy ride, but the cab of a Challenger is remarkably comfy. A pair of individually-adjustable padded seats, big tinted windows on all sides, and a heating system more than capable of keeping the interior toasty warm. Shiny, high-tech digital controls and a computer-controlled transmission that would astound Henry Ford. I think Elissa made some comment about keeping things slow, so usually not needing to go above 9th gear. Ninth gear?!?

Anyhow – it was a wonderful little detour.

Some video snips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2noLKBmiVUU

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