Snow! What? And the Seven Dorks. {Gilsoned… again.}

The Beagles are Back!

The Beagles are Back!


Let’s rewind some.


New Years Day, Sheldon and Michele came over to show us pictures of their latest dive expedition. To Bon Air!  Julie & I drooled a lot over them (the pictures – not Sheldon & Michele).

Michele also brought some great food and we all got stuffed.


Michele & her daughter were going to drive to Florida next day.  Sheldon & I checked forecast – Major storms warning along her route.  So Michele moved up departure to 9 pm in effort to beat it.  She made it to Kentucky before seeking shelter in motel.


“This is the most January January I’ve seen in years.” – Suzen O.

About 8 inches of powder. Wind chills about –10.


I thought I was all ready for the storm.  The tractor was in garage, gassed up, chains on, and it’s battery on the charger. Pam sprayed on the blade.

When the snow eased up – I set out to clear a path.


1. Droopy

I took a quick pass up and down the drive then cleared off the area next to the garage.  I noticed the blade was sagging to starboard. One of the trunnion pins had disappeared. No point in looking for it in the snow. It would show up in the spring and I had a spare in garage for just such an occasion.

I discovered that the snow blade’s frame had bent, so the spare trunnion wouldn’t go in. The holes were about ¾ inch out of alignment.


Time to quit for the day.


Next morning, I got the frame off and tried hammering it back into shape and torquing it with various levers and things. The frame is quarter inch steel plate.


Six hours later, it was within half an inch.


I quit for the day.  It snowed several more inches over night.


The next day I made another quarter inch of progress, in only 3 hours.  I had the frame C clamped to an I beam and was using 4 feet of 2 inch pipe for about 20 to 1 leverage, resulting in approximately 23.1307440 kilo newtons of force.


Safu and Judy stopped by with some supplies.  Safu wanted to play – so I showed him the problem.  With his extra energy we made the last ¼ inch – and I was back in plowing business.


As soon as they left – I got right to it.  I made about 4 passes at the drive, and was nearly ready to stop for the day, when the Gilson beat me to it. The motor was still going but no movement in any gear.   The drive belt was broken. I shut it down and walked back to the house.


It snowed more. And the wind blew.  Wind chills of –20.


2. Dopey

Next morning we towed the tractor back with the pickup. I drove the pickup, and Julie steered the tractor.  I swear I never got above 50 mph.


The belt is pretty straight forward to replace – 34”x 3/8. In stock at auto supply in Stockbridge.  I was pretty sure they’d have one, cause I had replaced it late summer.


I was back at plowing in under two hours.


After 20 minutes or so – I started loosing speed, and then stopped.  The belt was still in tact, although it was smoking hot. It was slipping like mad on the drive pulley.  I nursed the Gilson back to the garage, by hooking my foot under the clutch pedal and pulling it up.  Just enough tension to move.


Back in the garage it became evident that the source of the problem was the variable speed pulley.  It is a split pulley. The drive ratio changes by moving the halves closer together or farther apart, changing the effective diameter.  But something was buggered up so that the one half that moved was sort of flopping around.


Getting the damn thing off was a major exercise.  Not at all clear from “manual”, which was more of an exploded view and parts list, than a helpful maintenance guide.  I could loosen the set screw holding it to the shaft, but there wasn’t enough clearance to get it off. Eventual, I removed the rear wheels, disconnected the drive shaft, all linkages and unfastened the rear end from the main frame. And then jack up the rear end – or was it the frame? – I forget.


This whole thing really pissed me off! Who ever designed this thing never picked up a wrench in their lives.  No excuse for making something this hard to get at. Especially something that breaks this much. Just lousy engineering.


Anyway, I got it off. The key way inside had broken and it didn’t seem like there was any hope of making it functional.


It was time to knock off for the day.

It didn’t snow. But the wind blew, causing drifting. And – 30 wind chills.


Not wanting to wait a week or two for Monkey Ward to send me a replacement (if they even had it) – and God only knows how much money, I decided to check out boy store in Gregory for a fixed pulley.  I figured that 4 speeds is good enough.  They had a 4.5” pulley that I guessed would be about equivalent to the max of the variable.  I could have gone large, but I remembered Tim Tailor on his hopped up garden tractor.


Re-assembly went pretty well.


One pass at the driveway.  Something wasn’t working right.  The drive belt was vibrating like mad.


Time to quit.


More wind, cold, maybe even some snow.


The problem was the lower pulley.  I got that off.   It had a torque spring hidden inside.  I suppose the reason is to take up some of the jolt when you pop the clutch.  The spring was busted.  The closest the Boy Store in Gregory could come is a 7” pulley instead of 7.5” .  I figured – what the heck – a 9.3% increase in speed won’t be all that bad.  Heck, I might even get the driveway done faster.


It took two more trips to Stockbridge,  to get a new drive belt that would fit.


Back to plowing!


3. Whoopsie

It is necessary to get up some speed to ram into the snow piles.  What had been light and fluffy a few days ago, was now set up like concrete.


With the new fixed pulleys – when I pop the clutch in 4th – its a neck snapper!


So I take a bead on a big drift and zip.  Only this time I nearly go off the stern. I’m hanging on to the steering wheel tight with both hands, and my foot won’t reach the clutch.  My butt is hanging off the poop deck. .  Like what happened to my seat?


After all the snow piles on the sides and a smooth glazed floor,  driveway is a lot like the bobsled runs you’ve seen in the Winter Olympics.   I have some small comfort that there is a stout mailbox (a 4×4 post in 4 feet of concrete – to deter vandals) to stop me at the end.


I took my right hand off the wheel to shut off the engine. The steering wheel turned left and so did the tractor.  The raised blade takes the top of a drift, before embedding in the embankment.  My crotch clears, barely, the gear shift knob (Yeah, though I slid through the Valley of Death – I fear no Evil!), and my belly absorbs most of the impact against the steering wheel (whoof!).  Carbs! Who needs air bags?


All this from a bolt that must have vibrated loose.   Something of a bitch to get it back in.  Not enough clearance to get a socket on it, and with a wrench you can only get 30 degrees of turn – then flip the wrench over for another 30.   More stupid design.



4. Sloppy

But as I backed out of the garage – the steering wheel spun around. And around. And around.  But I didn’t turn.


The bolt holding the steering wheel had snapped at the end of my last ride. An Easy Out and some WD40 to get the stub out. A ¼ 20 bolt and I again have control of my destiny, or at least my immediate destination.



5. Shaky

Back at the garage, I notice that there is an engine mount bolt missing, and two others are loose.  I’ve lost one before. Not sure if the loose engine is causing extra vibrations or the extra vibrations are causing the engine to come loose.   The tire chains on the 4” limestone make for rough ride, along with abrupt starting and stopping.  In any case, it’s time for Loc Tite.



6. Sticky

Somehow I managed to back over our manual snow shovel.    The scoop is poly-something and it cracked in couple places.  The smart thing would be to buy a new one.

I decided to mend it.   Epoxy and fiberglass.  And 5 nights work.  It might hold up through the winter – although even epoxy doesn’t adhere well to poly-whatever.


7. Slippery

After several years and some experimentation I’ve got putting the chains on down pretty good. The first time it took me hours – spreading the chains out on the ground and trying to back up – straight and then trying to tighten them enough to close the links.


Now only ten minutes or so. Jack up one side. Let all the air out of the tire. Then put the chain on and re-inflate. Do the other side.

Which is good, because some of the links bent and I had to bend them back with vice and Vicegrips.


But I wasn’t satisfied with traction.  The wheels would spin too easily, even with my weight. On them

I had some weights – for the tiller attachment.   I bolted them on where the trailer hitch is. It is only about forty more pounds, but since it is aft of wheels, it seems to improve traction.   Down side is that they hang down reducing clearance.  I keep a small snow shovel bungee’d to tractor – just to dig it out.


I finally got us pretty well dug out.



That night we get a call from Judy – have we seen Shrapnel & Little Dog?  Been missing for hours.


Not a good thing. It is going to be another cold one.  Forecast was a sub-sub zero night. To –40 wind chill. Not good at all. None of us get much sleep as the wind howls.


The critters were still missing in the morning.


I figure – what the heck – Niiko and I should go back and check the back towards the stream. I get all bundled up and strap on my cross country skis.


The snow is deep and untracked.  So deep that Niiko has to leap through it.


In the far woods we come across some tracks that could have been made by a beagle.  The paw prints are so far down in the snow that I can’t tell which way they are facing. They run perpendicular to the path.  By watching Niiko I figure out that her track have a similar feature. The leading edge is at much shallower angle than the trailing edge.  I conclude the tracks are headed  west – back towards Judy and Safu’s.  Unfortunately, they head off the path and into the unknown.


The snow is even deeper, with a crusty layer that gives way just after you put your weight on it.  Very slow going, and snow gets up under my gaiters and works it’s way down into my socks.  The trail takes us through briars,  low brush, high brush, up and down hills and around the swamp.


Niiko & I discuss the reward for bringing the animals home safely.  I guessed a home cooked meal, and a ticker tape parade through down town Gregory.  Niiko was hoping for a box of dogie treats.


We lose the tracks a few times, the last time at the end of Safu’s runway.  It’s a long slog down the runway into a stiff head wind.


Close to exhaustion I rang the door bell.  Lots of barking from inside.


“Oh yes. They’ve been home for a couple of hours. They spent the night at the Hanawald’s – under a trailer.  Come in. Come in. You look like hell. What are you doing out there?”


“Just taking Niiko for a walk…”


I called Julie to come and fetch us home.  A hot shower and right to bed.


And then weather turned balmy.  Sunny with highs in the 50’s.

And some rain. A thunderstorm or two. And all the snow melts.


This has been the most April January I can remember.


Actually, on average, the average has been pretty much average.

Now we’re into February.  Who knows?


Get out and enjoy the winter wonder land,


Dave, Julie, Leo, Flannel Dog, Don Gatto Niiko, & Audrey III




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