Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gennie on standby

This time of the year in my small town (at least on the section of the locally owned and operated electrical grid where my house resides) is what we've coined the "bright-boom-dark-room" time of the year.

Seems that the utility pole that serves the 4 house block we live on is the favorite target of any and all lightning strikes that make their way down to terra firma Oklahoma.

That's right. Almost without fail, if there is a lightning storm within a 25 mile radius, our power goes out. I'm not saying our power grid is old and utterly vulnerable to the ravages of our weather, but at times it seems all it'd take to kill our power would be for an 18-wheeler on the highway to flash it's highbeams at us.

After the tenth or so instance of flash-boom-bang during our first spring/summer here, we're totally prepared with our flashlight/candle and matches routine.

Once the candles are glowing and the flickering of flames transports our 19th century home back into the days from whence it was originally built, I'll normally step out on the front porch, peer uptown and see if our historic downtown is powerless as well.

When it is, I rejoice knowing that the powerful powers that be that power and repair the power lines in our town will be powerfully motivated to get on the ball and up the power poles if more than one block (my block) is being affected by the "bright-boom-dark-room" event.

ETA for power restoration is about 20 minutes in this instance.

If, however, my porch view survey reveals that just our block is down, then I settle in for a good 45-60 minute wait.

Seeing as how the NOAA just announced Tornado Watch #462 (that's for 2008, thus far), I went out to the garage to test fire up my trusty old 5000 watt generator, run an extension cord from the generator to the house, and wait for the lights to go out.

Which in a wonky, roundabout way, brings me to the actual topic of this post.

For reasons I'm choosing not to reveal at this time (future post perhaps) I acquired a 5000 watt gas powered generator back in my grad school days. Gennie and I were quite popular and in-demand with the crowd I was running with at the time and she enjoyed many hours of use and abuse.

When I made the move out to the middle of the Oklahoma prairie, Gennie came with me -- even though it had literally been years since I had checked her oil, drained her gas tank, or fired her up. She however made the trip without complaint, being the trooper she was, and sat quietly in a corner of my garage for the 3 years since our arrival.

After the last several rounds of bright-boom-dark-room took out our power for the third night in a row, I decided to renew my past relationship with Gennie and see if she would see fit to service my electrical needs again, in times of power line failure and windless sorrow.

At first inspection, she wasn't a very pretty lady. The gas left in her tank and lines had turned to varnish. The needle valve in her carb was disintegrated, the float frozen in gunk and time, and the starter pull cord was frayed beyond repair.

She needed surgery, STAT.

Luckily, I live in the state of Oklahoma grace -- aka the lawn mowing lap of luxury, and found a crusty old dude sitting in a crusty old chair, repairing yet another crusty old lawn mower in the rear of the crusty old lawn mower repair shop.

Having spent a goodly amount of time and money in engine supply houses, I knew better than to question the total surety with which the shop owner plopped my needed parts on the counter, and the utter lack of hesitation with which he told me that the parts he gave me weren't for the Tecumseh powerplant at the heart of Gennie, but would work fine, "just the same."

Had he taken the time to look up the part numbers in a book, online database, or parts manual, I imagine my confidence might have been a little shaken. But in the time I've been around old dudes who have spent their lives working on things of a mechanical nature, I've only been burned once when handed a part that wasn't the exact part I needed and told it would work just fine.

True to my gut instincts and the Lawn Mower Shop dude, the parts worked fine, the carb rebuild went swimmingly, I flushed out the gunk, filled her up with some fresh ethanol free 87-octane,and got her fired up on the third pull of her brand new starter pull cord.

Gennie nows sits idly by, sporting a sexy blue nylon tarp secured by bungie cords of complimentary colors, waiting for the day when our power goes out for more than the requisite hour, and a few quick pulls brings extension corded light to our darkened abode on the prairie.


Malaise Inc said...

The crusty old guy I used to go to down here in Norman seems to have gone out of business. I hear rumors of another down in Noble. I will need to investigate.

My power situation down here in Norman, and out by Lake Thunderbird, is pretty good. It rarely goes out. I work from home, so a loss of power is a bad thing. Even during the big ice storm in December, we only lost power for about 3 hours. I just fired up my generator, ran an extension cord, and plugged in the DSL modem and computer and I was good to go. I felt just like a pioneer!

OKDad said...

When the entire downtown area goes, it usually takes our main digital host switch down with it -- meaning we lose our iptv/high speed modem signal as well.

All the more reason to have good batteries in our weather radio.

Last night we were dining at the local Mex joint when the power flickered and sent us into queso dip darkness...and there hadn't been a lightning strike anywhere near our town.

Must have been those winds.

Luckily we had already been served so by the time we were licking up the last remnants of honey with our sopapillas, the power came back and we were able to put the bill on our credit card.