MILESTONES AND OTHER NOTES

Well, it looks as though we are fast approaching a milestone. As of this evening Route 66 Chronicles has logged 99,484 page views.
Not quite as momentous in nature is the weather encountered this winter in Kingman. As an example, for the past several days the high temperatures have hovered just below forty degrees. Today, the high temperature was 33 degrees and in the morning, if the weatherman is correct, it will be about ten. There are a few reasons why I no longer reside in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Michigan and this is one of them.
For someone who now looks for the union suit when the temperature drops below eighty this isn’t pretty. Well, at least I have the luxury of a job that enables me to work indoors for a few hours every day.
This wasn’t always the case. Several decades ago I worked as a night shift dredge operator on the tailings pond at a copper mine up on the continental divide in New Mexico. Among the various duties that the job entailed was replacing the packing in the pump seals, a job I preferred to do during daylight hours.
As we worked twelve hour shifts in two man crews, six hours in the cab behind the controls and six hours hauling fuel or performing maintenance, that meant when the seal began to leak and spray water, I would have to cinch down the packing nuts on a regular basis to maintain pressure. To give a clear picture of what this meant, on the morning of Christmas eve, at sunrise, the temperature hovered near zero and the winds were brisk, the spray from the pumps had transformed everything with the exception of the engine housing into a thickly frosted lump that had the dredge sitting low in the water.
As the cab was cramped for one, and as I had pulled the short straw, I was on deck for the last six hours of the shift. So, I watched the sunrise from my perch pressed against the radiator with icicles adorning my hard hat.  
This wasn’t my first or last encounter with winter while on the job. It wasn’t even my coldest or most miserable experience.
One winter when steady employment was scarce, I was drifting in Arizona and New Mexico picking up a weeks work in one place and a couple of days somewhere else just to afford to eat on semi regular basis. Usually that meant I took jobs no one else was crazy or desperate enough to do. 
One of these jobs was supposed to keep me busy for at least a month but it would require camping out, literally, near the old town of Drake in Arizona located between Paulden and Williams. Now, this was in late February and so morning temperatures hovered in the zero range, not temperatures that were conducive to camping or for providing incentive to crawl from a warm sleeping bag to start the day. 
Even this paled in comparison to my worst winter adventure – the recovery of a stolen vehicle, in February, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. What the impound company neglected to include on the requested vehicle inspection form was that the van was missing most of its seats, that it was literally filled with garbage, or that the heater did not work. 
I flew into Sioux Falls at 3:00 in the afternoon and the temperature was a balmy nine degrees. The impound company picked me up at the airport, took me to the yard, collected the fees owed, gave me a receipt and a screw driver in lieu of a an ignition key, and pointed out toward the snow filled yard in the general direction of the van. 
I was somewhat prepared for the adventure as I was wearing long johns, flannel shirt, coat, sweater, boots, two pair of socks, and gloves. Still, the long trudge through ankle deep snow, and the occasional drift that was half as tall as I was, left me quite cold and rather uncomfortable. 
Imagine my lack of surprise when I found the van, turned the ignition, and listened to the click of nearly dead battery. Imagine some of the language used as I trudged back to the office as a stiffening wind numbed my face. 
As the impound yard was also a garage, I was able to purchase a battery, borrow a few tools, and a scrapper for the thick ice on the windshield. Still, the sun that had hid all afternoon beyond a heavy grey curtain was fast vanishing somewhere to the west by the time I changed the battery. 
Imagine my delight when the van started almost immediately. Imagine the language used when it died almost as quickly and I noticed the fuel gauge was south of “E.” 
So, once again I trudged through the snow and only the thought that these delays were keeping someone after hours made me smile, or at least an imagined smile since my face was froze beyond numb. Well, my joy was short lived as the manager gave me a can full of gas and some starting fluid, and as he was turning off the lights, asked me to leave the can by the side door and lock the yard gate when I left. 
This was the second time for a winter trip to South Dakota to fetch a vehicle and for the second time I realized why Sioux Falls in February is not a prize on game shows. I vowed that there would not be a third time.
Well, it was full dark and the wind was whipping the snow into a frenzy when I got the van started, and drove it about ten feet before getting it stuck in the snow. Anger, choice words best not repeated in the presence of ladies and children, and kicking a vehicle will only keep a person warm for so long.
By the time I had the van out of the yard, had locked the gate, and discovered the heater was non functional, I was far beyond chilled to the bone. The rat hole of a motel a mile down the road near the interstate seemed like a touch of heaven that night, especially after a hearty meal at the truck stop next door, and a bottle of apple schnapps purchased from the convenience store across the street. 
The next morning I was torn between the urge to return to the impound company and the all consuming obsession to get back to Arizona as quickly as possible. But, regardless of decision made, there were a few things that required immediate attention – such as having the van towed to a dealership as the battery was dead and I was in dire need of a defroster, the purchase of a ski mask, and the need for tires that gave never indication of ever having tread. 
On a whim, while waiting around the dealership, I called the impound yard to inquire about the seats. Yes, they knew where they were. Yes, they had forgot to bring them in with the van when it was picked up from their subsidiary company in Sioux Center in Iowa. Yes, I could have them if I wanted to pick them up. 
So, now I was going to be heading east instead of west. So, now a few day were being added to the adventure. 
Well, the dealership was able to take care of the tires, and the alternator, and the defroster (still no heater), and the short in the ignition. However, as it was near closing time before the job was finished, I set my sights on a Holiday Inn (company expense account), and settled in for a second night in Sioux Falls. 
The next day didn’t exactly dawn as much it lightened to reveal a most charming blizzard, or at least what appeared to be a blizzard to an Arizona boy. Still, I wasn’t planning on sticking around to see if the weather improved and so, by mid morning, I was Iowa bound. 
The rest of the adventure mirrored the first days. Bad weather and vehicle problems, closed roads and flea bag motels, icy roads and late starts. 
It is adventures such as these that leave me hungry for a return to an Arizona winter, not the spring time in Minnesota type weather of the past few days. And yet, I find myself thinking of how interesting it would be to photograph the sites along Route 66 with a winter perspective. Whats wrong with that picture? 



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