Saturday, March 26, 2005

Why NOT To Lose Your Car Keys

Yesterday I thought I was a real man of leisure....I skipped out on work at noon and headed up to Snowbowl (our local ski hill 20 minutes from town) with two of my doctor buddies (who both take Fridays off) for an afternoon of snowboarding. We were all in great spirits and kept throwing quotes out like, "boy, it's really winter up here" as we drove up the mountain on perfectly clear dirt roads that normally would still be under plenty of snow. "Man, I'm glad I layered" and other such sarcastic comments abound...but it has snowed up in the mountains off and on all week so we thought it would be fun to slide down the mountain on a flatboard.

And we had a grand time....the snow up top was actually pretty damn nice, and these guys are both much more advanced than I am so it was a hard day of fun and learning for me....we'd do one groomer run and then one tree run; the first tree run was actually just my style, nice wide open areas to turn in and great powder. As the day progressed we kept getting into tighter and tighter tree lines....mentally I shut down on a few of them and had to sort of 'slide' down and out of the trees. Once or twice I bit it pretty hard, either hitting a tree or falling into a tree well (the latter can be very dangerous, but we stayed close to the inbounds and to each other). We had an awesome time and ended the day taking a long groomer run that unfortunately was pretty much all hard-packed ice of the bone jarring variety.

We decided to have one slice of pizza and a bloody Mary each, both things being Snowbowl specialties. We spent about 45 minutes chewing the fat on the sun-drenched deck of The Last Run Inn, snowbowl's quaint little restaurant/bar and then headed down the mountain to the dirt parking lot near town where people all park who are car pooling or hitching up to Snowbowl. The lot is day parking only. I guess it was about 5:00 PM when we got down there and started unloading from Colin's car. I reached into my pocket for my keys and they weren't there....the pocket was unzipped. Panic seized me as I began searching all my pockets....no keys. We searched Colin's car....no keys. I re-traced my steps and thought maybe they fell out of my pocket when I was getting my wallet. So my other friend, John said, "no worries, do you have a spare set at home and a way to get into your house"? Why yes, I do keep a hidden key and I've got a spare set. John offered to drive me to my house and take me back so we set off in renewed calm, eating lemon poppyseed bread and reliving the fun of the day. We got to my house, I opened the door and went to my key drawer...no spare keys inside. We spent the next half hour looking before John realized he had to get home to his wife and two kids...he again said, "why don't you come with me, take my truck and after you find your spares you can come and get me and we'll take care of everything...no worries". So we drove the 20 minutes back to his house and he gave me his truck.

By now I'd already missed Ultimate Frisbee pick-up, where I was supposed to distribute rosters for the league which starts next Wednesday. I drove back home and spent the next two hours tearing my house apart looking for the spare keys...nowhere to be found. I recalled giving them to my brother when he visited last fall, so I called him hoping for a clue...none was to be had. Finally, at about 8:30 PM, I called AAA and explained my predicament: No problem, was AAA's response...we can call a locksmith and have him meet you at your car, get you in and make you a new key...And because you are a Plus member, we'll pay for the first $100.00 in expenses. Awesome, thought I. So I drove back up to the dirt lot and waited...listening to the games on a some seriously bad AM reception. By 9:30 I began to get worried so I went to call AAA back...cell phone battery dead. So I drove to the nearby gas station and called the toll free number..."Oh, didn't anyone call you back? The locksmith can't come now,,,they can't come until tomorrow morning" Uh, no...the only call I got before my cell went dead was a confirmation call..what am I supposed to do now? This is a day parking lot only! They will tow my car and it is a AWD car so they will probably damage it when they do. PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE. "Can you hold on Mr. O'Connor"? (I get nervous when people call me Mr.). Well. the only option is if you find someone on your own, we'll reimburse you $100.00 of the cost.
Enter Missoula Security and Locksmith...a small Mom & Pop operation I found who got to the lot at 10:50, 10 minutes after I pleaded my case.
Peter, the Pop of the company, has been opening up cars and homes for 16 years. He was a salty dog who looked like he just got out of bed. My owner's manual didn't have the key code inside so Peter had to do a series of maneuvers to get a key to work...but when he unlocked the door the alarm went off, because I have remote entry that activates an alarm and will not allow the ignition to work. So it took him about 45 minutes to get a key made and another half hour to get the car to start....It cost me $150.00. peter told me the AAA certified outfit in town is notorious for turning down jobs but not usually late Friday night jobs, which allow them to exceed their AAA approved charges...he said it would have cost me about $300.00 to use them.
So now everytime I lock the car, when I unlock it the alarm goes off and I have a series of tricks to use to get past the alarm. I'll be heading to the local subaru dealer this AM to try and deal with that.

The silver lining is I saved $150.00 by getting screwed by AAA...the cloud is I wasted an entire evening and probably the better part of today because I am an idiot and lost my keys.

Just thought I'd share

Monday, March 21, 2005

Big Sky Fun

This winter has been a rough one in Montana...our snow fall is well below what is needed and the lack of snow hasn't helped the economy either (Montana's number one industry is tourism). You see, Montana is extremely dry in the summer, even arid,and so we depend on the slow melt of high altitude snowpack to keep the water flowing. Unfortunately the mild winter combined with early warm weather all but melted the snow pack around here and left other high altitude areas in Montana and Idaho also in perilous positions.

Knowing all this, I was worried about the annual Big Sky Urology conference that took place last week down in Big Sky, Montana; Big Sky is about an hour south of Bozeman and 4 hours or so from Missoula. Even before I moved to Montana I came out to play at the conference because my friends (two of which are now my employers) attended the conference sessions in the morning and afternoon with skiing sandwiched between. Big Sky is a beautiful resort and about as close as Montana gets to a Colorado style resort with condos, swanky homes and restaurants and big elevation drops. Our friends Kevin & Heather also come out to the conference, from Michigan, so I was thinking they would be spending their time hanging out in hotel rooms instead of on the slopes. But the snow started falling...and kept falling all last week; by the time I left Missoula on Friday night to join in the fun, the snow between here and Big Sky was falling so hard at times I had to pull off the road because of the white out conditions. In a little over three days Big Sky received over 40 inches of snow.

I arrived pretty late on Friday but still had enough time to gab the ears off og Heather & Kevin and catch up on some pictures of their awesome kids. Saturday after breakfast, Kevin, Karl and I headed up the mountain to get some runs in before the Simmons' boys raced in the grand slalom event. The snow was fabulous...I couldn't believe just a few days earlier I was in short sleeves back in Missoula!

After watching Nick and Alex race, along with Ruby, the daughter of another Missoula friend, Kevin, Karl and I headed up the mountain to do a few quick shots through a tree line and down a nice bump run with great snow. Kevin and Karl were on their tele skis and I was on my board; it was the best snow I've played in all year! We broke for lunch and Karl switched to his board; Kevin took the afternoon off...after 4 days of skiing he felt like a break.

In the afternoon Karl switched to his board and we headed up the Challenger lift to get some big snow and steep runs (up here)...well, Karl got the mountain, the mountain got me; he is awesome on a board and looks like the guys you see in those extreme adventure movies, whereas I look like a duck out of water. I'll admit it, the first run I was scared as all get out...just the entry into the run was steeper than most anything I'd been on all year and we had to navigate a steep pitch full of trees to get to the nose. Karl showed me the way, but only after allowing me to make the mistake of thinking I could lead a line I'd never been down...resulting in me having to hop back up the mountainside to avoid heading down the wrong side of the ridge. We got two long runs in before m legs had enough and so headed back inside for a nice hot tub.

It was a short, sweet trip as we opted to leave Big sky, amidst another snow storm, yesterday morning. It was great to see Kevin & Heather and to play in the snow, even if it was just for a day.