Monday, February 27, 2012


I think it would be hard to not become some sort of naturalist with a job like this. With so little to do, without even realizing it, I spend a great deal of my day noticing nature, the weather, the changes of season, and how the three dance around each other. 

These are, off the top of my head, some of the animals I've seen or heard around the ferry: 
Wild turkeys

Say nothing of the local housecats that rub up against my leg each morning as I walk up the hill to unlock the gate. 

I keep meaning to bring a bird book down here. I'm curious to figure out what kind of ducks these are. They're very dark in color, almost black, with pointier bills than I expected. I've also seen gray and white ducks on occasion, sitting alone on the river bank.

Coyotes have jumped across the road in front of my car, I've seen them trotting through fields, and on occasion, before I leave for the night, I hear several of them yipping and singing at each other. 

The owls amaze me. I'm always startled to see them, swooping off a road sign in the pitch black of early morning, off to hunt their prey. I don't know what kind of owl they are, only that they seem to be brown and speckled in the headlights of my car.

I know where the raccoon lives, and I'm always cautious as I drive around that corner in the morning, he may be scampering across the road. He's a huge raccoon, bigger than either of my cats by quite a bit. 

It's also pretty amazing to watch the seasons change. I've never spent so much time focued on the seasons or the weather. It was a wonderful surprise to get to work one morning a few weeks ago when it was pitch black, to hear all of the pre-dawn birds singing their hearts out, ready to announce the new day. Such a portent of spring! The doe has a new fawn, I think they live in the cluster of trees up by the west gate. The first time I saw the fawn a week or so ago, it couldn't have been more than a few weeks old. The mother was very protective, but they stood not too far from me and watched as I walked up the hill. 

I'm curious to see when the ospreys return from their southern winter vacation. The one nest I can see clearly has gotten overgrown with grass over the winter. Will they use the grass as part of the nest, or pick it all out? And will another nesting pair try to make a nest on top of the tower, like they attempted all last summer?

Last week, the temperatures climbed rapidly, it was almost 60 for several days, with wide open, bright blue skies. Maybe spring was actually here! But then this week, it turned cold again. I scraped ice off my windshield this morning, and noticed a few stray snowflakes falling as I left Salem. The animals know, though. Spring will be here soon!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's been a day

And it's not over yet.

Lately, I've really been battling insomnia. I'll get in bed at a decent time, but then it takes an hour or two, once the lights are off, to fall asleep. Considering that I don't get home from work until 7:30, I'm having a hard time forcing myself to get in bed at 9. So I'm really tired this week. The past few weeks, I guess.

This morning, around 8, I looked up from my book and saw a car on the other side of the river. I put the boat in motion, and went back to my book. I do watch the river, I glance up now and then, but it's 8 in the morning and drizzling. Nobody is out and about. So I mostly read my book for the 3 minute trip. When I came in to land, it was just...weird. The boat skewed to one side, it almost felt like one of the motors wasn't working, though I heard it rev up. I pulled in, sort of lopsided, to what seemed like an ok landing, but when the car pulled down the ramp, I realized that I wasn't on shore, well, I was, but the apron was about 18 inches from the concrete ramp. What the...?

I ran out to look, stopping the tiny car from trying to climb over the gap and started looking. The motors were clearly working. I ran up to the ramp and looked. Ohhhhhh crap. There was a tree, and a substantial one, laying horizontally in the water, across the ramp, and was caught in the low water line. Like this: (sorry if the images are super huge, I'm doing this from my ipad, and it's a little wonky)

At one point, I could get close enough to the tree to tie a rope to it, from the ferry. I tried to drag it out into the river, but it was stronger than the rope I had. I tried to go far out into the river, hoping that less pressure on the low water line would let the tree drop into the river. Nothing worked. Finally, I called my boss, and he sent down a crew with a chainsaw and truck.

It took a half hour for the crew to get down here. In that time, I had to turn around 3 cars, by yelling into a bullhorn. I hate that. My voice echos across the bluff, and I'm sure anyone who's home in Buena Vista can here me shrilly screeching, "I'M STUCK! TURN AROUND! SORRY!" The fourth car that came down, they wouldn't leave. They parked, and we had a yelling conversation across the river. Evidently they were the electricians the boss had said would be coming down either today or tomorrow. They asked how to get around to the other side, but I said that the crew should be down in the next half hour, and they sat there glumly and waited.

Finally the bridge crew came down. From the other side of the river, I watched as the used the chainsaw to cut off a few branches, then tied the truck's winch to the tree and yanked it up the ramp and onto the road, where they cut it into lengths and rolled it into the ditch. I went up and talked to them, once I got over there, and was relieved when one of them said, "Yeah, that's a big one." I guess I'm still insecure about calling for help. I was grateful to hear that they--former ferry operators--agreed that it was a big tree. So it was the right move to call for help.

They left, and the electricians came on. Most of the work they were doing was to the electrical wiring that's under the operator's counter--basically under where the throttles, computer, gate switches, everything that runs the ferry--are. Which meant that whenever I had traffic, I was driving the boat with a guy--or two--laying at my feet. It was super awkward, but I think I managed to not kick anyone, though I did stumble over them a few times. I looked up at the clock at one point, as I was leaning across their prone bodies to lower the gate, and wanted to yell in frustration that it was only 11:30. GAH!

Finally they left, and things calmed down. The rest of the day has, so far, been uneventful. Knock on wood. I keep yawning, trying to wake up. I've had three cups of coffee, a diet coke, later I'll have a cup of tea, and some chocolate. You'd think that'd be enough caffiene. But it's not, and I'm still struggling to stay awake. I'm so very glad tomorrow is my friday.

The bright spot of the day is that I've finished a new pair of socks:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Been Awhile

First, the excuses:
My computer has been in the shop for a week, and still is.
I hate typing on the Ipad.
I was in the shops for three weeks. There's really not that much to talk about.


The ferry reopened last thursday. I started my regular Sunday-Wednesday week yesterday. Last week, the boss was in a class most of the week, and had told me that I'd be doing office stuff during those days. So I came to work wearing office clothes--my favorite jeans, a cashmere sweater, pearl earrings. And ended up stuck down at the ferry, washing the muck and silt off the ramps. I was filthy. And then Thursday, I'd been told the day before that the boss was going to sit with me in the morning and give me stuff to do, then go down and open the ferry with someone else. So I wore jeans and a WHITE sweater. And ended up possibly filtier than I've been before on this job, since I ended up working to open the ferry too. Serves me right. I guess I should keep a ratty old hoodie in the trunk of my car or something.

When we came down on Thursday to open the boat, the ferry was grounded. The water had fallen so fast that it was sitting smack on the hull. When you stepped on the boat, you could feel how far it listed over, with the front end leaning against the slope of the ramp. We tried everything we could, even pushing pickup trucks against it, but in the end, we had to call for a backhoe to come down and push. Took the backhoe about 30 seconds. We should have done that in the first place.

It was sort of cool to do all of the steps to get the boat back up and going. Last time we closed for high water, we called the Bridge Crew in to get the boat reopened. I did help, but they're Big Burly Dudes and didn't want a wee wimpy girl to help. This time, there were three of us, and we did it all. My arms were so damn tired by the end. Tons of bolts that had to be tightened tighter than you knew you had the strength for, 1000 feet of heavy metal cable that had to be fed out from the back of the truck slowly so it doesn't kink. It was a heck of a long day.

After we did all of that, the boss and I had to go up to the other ferry, and do some work up there. I was fine with it, it meant an hour or so of overtime, which has been sorely lacking working in the shops. Somehow on the drive up there, he and I ended up on the topic of religion. I think I started it, I was relating the story my sister had told me the night before about how her 5 year old had gotten in an argument on the school bus about whether "GodandJesus" existed. My boss was all starting up that he'd have to convert me or something, and I was getting uncomfortable. Finally I said, "Look. I'm a cross between a lapsed Jew and a lapsed Catholic who met and got married in a commune in San Francisco in the early 70s. Growing up, the Grateful Dead was my religion!" He cracked up and gave in, "Ok already, you've got a good excuse." HA!!

Working in the shops was nice...and weird. It was so awesome to not have to be at work until 8. I loved the short, 8 hour days, the paid lunch, and the fact that, holy cow, I was home by 5 every night! But at the same time, it was downright odd. I sat at my old desk most of the time, which was nice, but weird. Nobody was the boss of me, telling me what to do or caring if I was working. Which, mostly, I wasn't. It was more the odd questioning looks that other people gave me when they saw me. People who I never really talked to or associated with when I was a planner. They'd look at me with a look that very clearly said, "I recognize you, but you don't work here anymore. WTF are you doing here." But they wouldn't actually say anything, just give me a really weird look and the cold shoulder. I felt like an outsider. That part sucked. Like my old home wasn't my home anymore. Which I guess it's really not.

The flood did a fair bit of damage down by the ferry. As I sit on the boat typing this, I can see a work crew up on the road about 100 feet from the ramp, repairing a washout and hole that developed under the road. A coworker described it as "as big as a bear den." Having never seen a bear's den, and only a bear in the wild once, I don't know if that's accurate, but I know I wouldn't want to drive over that spot. Also, a ton of gravel and fill under the concrete pad around the tower washed out, and the fence is ruined. If it stops raining today, I'll walk up and take pictures. The chain link fence is totally covered with grass and weeds, the water was well higher than the height of the fence. The force of the water was strong enough that it pulled the fence posts out of the concrete, and the fence is leaning at an angle. It's a bit of a mess. The boss said that FEMA money will help fix that sort of thing, since the whole county was declared a disaster area.

I talked to a local yesterday who said that a creek near their house changed course, and is now about 30 feet from their back porch, instead of about 150 feet. Water levels have dropped, and the creek is still there. Instant waterfront property. Rather nuts.

The water level dropped pretty fast, once it finally started to. So fast, in fact, that I just recieved notice that the other ferry has closed. Closed for LOW water. WHAT?! While river levels are higher than they are in the summer, the flood deposited a ton of gravel in an already high spot in the path of the ferry. Looks like the WF will be closed for at least a week, and they'll have to get out there and dredge. Fingers crossed the BV doesn't close for low water. I don't think I really want more time in the shops. Plus, my paychecks are suffering! I've gotten used to 24 hours of overtime each paycheck!