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Christmas (part 2)

Started: 2009-01-12 08:00:13

Submitted: 2009-01-12 09:01:11

Visibility: World-readable

With Kiesa in Washington, it fell to me to get the house ready for the New Year's Megafest. This included vacuuming, but when I tried to vacuum (with the old vacuum Kiesa got from her mother long ago) I couldn't get it to pick up any dirt. (It seemed capable of merely redistributing the dirt around the carpet.) I checked the bag and discovered it was full, so on my next trip into Boulder I picked up the appropriate size of vacuum bag. This wasn't enough to resurrect the vacuum; I discovered chocolate-brown carpet fuzz from the new carpet in the basement in the tube that fed the vacuum bag and cleaned that out, but the vacuum still didn't work. I talked to Kiesa in a minor panic and she looked up vacuums in Consumer Reports and I drove across town to Sears to pick up the highest-rated Kenmore vacuum available. This shiny new vacuum featured a number of bells, whistles, and gongs to enhance my carpet-cleaning experience. With the properly-functioning vacuum I had no trouble cleaning the carpets on all three levels of the house.

(I'm sure I could have done more to resurrect our existing vacuum, but it had been on its way out for years, and the only reason Kiesa hadn't purchased a replacement was that I'm primarily responsible for vacuuming and I hadn't complained yet.)

On Sunday before Christmas (in the midst of my vacuuming adventure), I drove to Chautauqua and hiked Green Mountain via the Mesa Trail, Bear Canyon, and descended via Saddle Rock. The snow was well-packed, and I saw only a few people on Green Mountain itself. In the preparation for the holidays (especially the multi-weekend basement carpet project), I left very little time for recreation; I knew I needed to go out and do something while I still had the chance.

Christmas Eve

I worked two days before Christmas and flew to Portland on Christmas Eve. I continue to be impressed by the efficiency of the shuttle parking operating at DIA. This time, the Mount Elbert lot was open, and the parking attendants directed traffic to the single next open row, where a long line of shuttle busses waited to pick up passengers. DIA was crowded but operating efficiently. The flight went without incident; I sat in a middle seat next to a nine-month-old lap infant. I was slightly disappointed that we didn't take off on 17R or 17L, which would have given us the opportunity to see the burnt-out shell of the Continental 737 that crashed in the gully on takeoff the weekend before.

On the ground in Portland, I ate lunch at the airport, checked my e-mail, picked up a last-minute set of cards, and headed out to find my checked bag. This was more easily said than done; I had waited too long to claim my bag, and the baggage claim area was packed with unclaimed bags from delayed and rerouted flights. I couldn't find my bag next to the Frontier claim. A Northwest baggage attendant pointed me upstairs to the Frontier ticket counter, which was closed for the day. (It was barely noon but apparently there were few if any flights out for the rest of the day.) I wandered around the airport a bit more and finally called the baggage office number posted on the ticket counter. The baggage attendant promised to bring my bag right out to me; it turned out the baggage office was immediately behind the ticket counter.

With my bag claimed, I headed to the rental car counter for the four-wheel-drive vehicle my father-in-law upgraded me to in light of the snow in the Portland area and on the Columbia River Gorge. (Our travel plans involved spending Christmas with Kiesa's family in western Washington, then driving to Walla Walla for Bethany's wedding.) I picked up a blue 2009 Subaru Outback with 16,000 miles. (Documents in the glove box suggested the car had been in service since August.) It amused me to observe that I flew all the way to Portland to drive Boulder's official car.

I left the airport and headed to Clackamas, where I picked up my tuxedo rental for Bethany's wedding. The snow had melted somewhat since earlier in the week; traffic was slow on I-205 but the major hazards were vehicles with chains (clanking noisily in the rightmost lanes on the wet but otherwise clear pavement) and chains that had fallen off vehicles and were sitting in the gaps between the lanes. Sunnyside Road was another story; I fought through six-inch-deep ruts in hard-packed snow. I was grateful to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, though I'm confident I would have done well enough on a two-wheel-drive vehicle.

My in-law's driveway was the most exciting part of the journey. It's a quarter-mile long and climbs several hundred feet from the road to the house. The steep lower section climbs at what seems like a thirty degree angle. In dry conditions (rare in western Washington), it's perfectly passable in any vehicle, but six inches of snow made it far more exciting, though still no match for me and my Boulder-certified four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Christmas Day

The plan was to visit Kiesa's grandparents in Portland for Christmas dinner. This seemed like a reasonable plan until it started snowing; we looked out the window while playing Cities and Knights of Catan and saw golf-ball-sized globs of snow falling from the sky. This rendered the driveway impassable and called into question the road conditions into Portland. We scrubbed the Christmas dinner plan, finished our game of Catan, and I headed out to clear the lower section of driveway, where one of the cars (with chains) had gotten stuck trying to ascend back to the house.

I enjoyed the opportunity to shovel the driveway; I got to spend time outside engaged in physical activity. The driveway was covered with a foot of wet snow of various descriptions; the wheel ruts packed by the cars were slushy and slippery, and everything was covered by six to nine inches of new snow. When the snow let up in early afternoon, the temperature was above freezing and didn't drop below freezing until I left Longview several days later. Tristan joined me an hour in and worked on clearing the upper, flatter section of the driveway. I declared victory when I had cleared a hundred feet of the steepest section of the driveway.

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas, we headed into Portland for a substitute Christmas dinner with Kiesa's grandparents. I researched the things to do in Portland and came up with a respectable list of things to do outside without a foot of snow on the ground; I settled for my annual Powells pilgrimage. As usual, I started in science fiction and spent an hour pouring through the stacks, ranging from rare first-editions in protective slip-covers to mass-market paperbacks of all descriptions. Visiting Powells is a religious experience for lovers of books.

On the way back to Longview, Kiesa's father decided she needed to get her toe x-rayed. She tripped over an Ethernet cable on Christmas Eve, and her big toe had been hurting consistently ever since. Being an ER doctor, her father knew a thing or two about this sort of injury and was able to identify a number of possibilities; if the toe were broken and the break included the joint, pinning might be in order. A crash on the Interstate took priority in radiology, so we headed home and got stuck on the flat section of driveway at the top of the hill. I shoveled another chunk of driveway and had enough space to park and turn around cleared by the time we decided to head back to the hospital. The x-ray showed a tiny chip broken off her toe, not large enough to pin. The ultimate treatment ended up the same as it would have been without the x-ray -- buddy-taping the toe -- but at least we had a record of what the break looked like. We carried prints of the x-rays back with us for future reference.

When the only tool you own is a hammer, every
problem begins to resemble a nail.