January 17, 2012

(Continued from last week)

Track-vehicle repair in Yellowstone
Courtesy Jim Ruen
Zac, Allen and I worked together to repair our Yellowstone tour vehicle and get everyone back to the lodge in time for dinner.

One of the rubber track pads had begun to split. Zac, our driver, headed for a warming cabin where passengers could hole up while he made the repair—his first. When I offered my repair services, Zac quickly accepted. Alan, a second passenger, also pitched in as did Isaac, a teenage passenger, who held a flashlight for us (it was dusk when we began the repair). 

When Zac opened his tool kit, I was reminded of the mechanics instructor’s advice from more than 40 years ago when our class received our certification in track mechanics.

“Look around the teaching bay at all these perfectly assembled tools and diagnostic equipment,” he said. “When you get to your units, you’ll be lucky to have an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver.”

Luckily, the kit we had available for this repair consisted of an adjustable wrench, a screwdriver, a single socket with ratchet, and a few spare nuts and bolts. A field repair meant bolting a rubber pad in place under the break. With luck, it would hold long enough for us to make the 2-hour trek back to the lodge where we all were staying. I advised backing the snow coach up to place the break midway, giving us a little slack to work with.

Zac went to work with the socket wrench, while I used the adjustable wrench, the two of us trading off with Alan as our fingers chilled. The wrench handle served as a hammer to break apart frozen brackets. Once disassembled, we used the screwdriver to line up holes and pull segments together. What would have taken minutes in a warm shop stretched out longer as our cold fingers fumbled tools and parts in the deep snow. Finally, we finished.

We hit the snowy trail again and made it back to the lodge before the restaurant closed for the night. It had been an exciting, challenging and fulfilling day. (It also reminded me how lucky I had been taking Miss Boyer’s high school typing class.)

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