Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part X

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

You would think that any company that bills its customers and collects money from them would prioritize that part of the business, right?  Or at least not neglect it...

We used a certain freight carrier to a certain location for the first time, so I can't bill OUR customer (and pass the freight charge along to them) until I get the bill from the freight carrier so I know what they're charging us (the rate per mile is sometimes different for different areas, and this delivery was ~300 miles away from where this carrier usually delivers for us, so I don't want to assume it's the same per-mile rate.  The load delivered two weeks ago, and we still haven't seen a bill.

So I called the company's 800 number listed on their website.  Press X for the corporate office and Y for accounting.  Disconnected.  Sheesh!  So I call back, press X for corporate and Z for Accounts Payable, which isn't who I need to talk to, but they can hopefully transfer me.  I explain to the person who answered that I was sorry to bother her, I actually need Accounts Receivable, but [she cuts me off--"it hung up on you?"]...  Yes!!  If you know it does that, WHY does it do that?  Couldn't you report it, and wouldn't they fix it?

She transfers me to AR.  It rings and rings and rings and rings and finally goes to a voicemail that doesn't have any sort of greeting so I have no way of knowing if I've reached the right person/department.  So I hang up and call back.  This time I call the 800 number and press W for customer service.  I explain the situation, they say they'll transfer me, and I once again end up at a voicemail I can't be sure is the right one.  Seriously.  If you're recording a voicemail greeting, include your department so the caller knows they're in the right place.  And if you're setting up a voicemail system, make it so every voicemail has a greeting, not just a beep and dead air.  And if you're setting up a phone tree system, make it so every option gets answered, not disconnected.  Seriously, people.

So now I give up on the 800 number.  I have in my Outlook (inherited from the person before me) a few local-ish numbers for the freight company.  I call one, press Q for customer service, and explain to the person my situation.  She is helpful-ish, and transfers me.  To a number that rings and rings and rings and rings and never gets picked up OR sent to voicemail.  I call back.  The same person answers.  This time I ask her to please keep me on the line until she finds a real human for me to speak to.  

She looks up my account, finds the delivery in question, and says it hasn't been billed yet.  Well, whyever not?  It delivered two weeks ago!  She doesn't know, but she's looking up my billing person, then PMing them.  We spend a few minutes listening to each other breathe while she waits for a response from the person she's PMing, but eventually I get transferred AND a real human picks up the phone on the other end!  Progress!

He says it hasn't been billed yet.  I ask why not.  He says maybe they're waiting for a rate, and do I know it?  Well if I knew it, I wouldn't be calling, as I would have billed MY customer, and would be perfectly happy for the float time before the freight company billed us, but I asked my boss and he said they did quote him (the same rate per mile as our other shipments) and he accepted it.  I relayed this to the guy on the phone and he said, "Oh."  So I asked if he could bill us now, and he said they'd do it today and I'd get it tomorrow (via e-mail).  Was that so hard?  

We have another bill we're waiting for from them, but I didn't even ask about that one, as I was able to bill our customer and might as well see how long it takes them to bill us.  Sheesh!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part X

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

Okay, this might be stretching the analogy, but earlier I said that the product our company sells is kind of like chocolate used in chocolate teapots--it's packaged, but we usually sell by the truckload rather than a specific quantity.  To further stretch the analogy, let's say that when we make the chocolate, we end up with some extra cocoa nibs once in a while, just due to how things work out--they're left over from our normal processes and we don't have an immediate use for them, so we grind them up and sell them in a form easily usable by consumers, let's say as cocoa.  (I don't know much about chocolate, so this probably doesn't hold up, but let's just pretend.)

Since this is a byproduct and not something we specifically set out to make, we don't advertise it much, but through word of mouth, people know we sell it.  And it's especially popular at certain times of year, so we currently have a waiting list.

A customer with about four teeth (literally) came in the door asking about our cocoa the other day, and I said we don't currently have any, but that I could add him to the waiting list, and he'd be the fourth person on the list.  He said sure, gave me his information, and then asked, "So, when will you be getting back to me...later today?  Tomorrow?"  Um, no.  I explained the above, about it being a byproduct and not something we actually made just for the purpose of selling it, and said that it would probably take a month or two before we called him.  "Huh.  Okay.  Well, could I just buy the extra cocoa nibs you don't use in the chocolate, then?"  Did you NOT hear my whole explanation about how we take those extra cocoa nibs and grind them into cocoa to SELL?  No, we're not going to give you for free something that we use very little labor to turn in to a side product we sell for money.  He still seemed genuinely confused as he walked out the door (and believe me, the actual stuff we sell isn't as confusing as this whole cocoa nib analogy).  I think he had about as many brain cells as he had teeth.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Riding at the Rainbow Again

When we parted on Saturday, Shar and I talked about when we might ride next, and that the weather would likely clear up by Wednesday, so when I was getting ready to leave the house, I went ahead and packed my riding gear.  However, I hadn't actually checked in with Shar yet about whether we were actually riding when I saw someone post asking if anyone was going riding near Terrebonne (which is near where Shar lives) and I debated piping up that we might be, but figured I'd leave it to her.  Sure enough, she posted that we were riding and invited the other gal to come with us.  Before long, plans were made, and Shar even offered to load both my gear and my horse so we could leave as soon as I got to her house.

As soon as I got to her house, I checked the tack room quickly to make sure she'd grabbed everything (though I was pretty sure she would have, as I keep the hanging stuff all on one hook, the saddle and pad on one rack, and all the grooming stuff in one tote--three areas to grab).  She had.  So we loaded up the dog and took off within two minutes of me pulling in the driveway.  Our soon-to-be-new-friend arrived at the trailhead (just a few minutes from Shar's house) shortly after we did, and we introduced ourselves, found out she lived only a few minutes from Shar, and on our night ride route, and in fact she'd found one of our lost reflective tail wraps!

We all tacked up and set off.  I wanted to keep my mare separate from this new mare, just in case, so I started off in the lead.  But Arya didn't feel too excited about leaving the trailer, or being in the lead, or just going on a trail ride, or something, and was VERY pokey and kept stopping.  So Shar led, and I followed behind Gina and her mare, keeping a safe distance (and since it wasn't Flash, Arya didn't seem in any hurry to ride up her butt, either, so that was good).

We walked a while, trotted a while, walked (and chatted!) some more, etc.  After a while, I pulled Arya into the front (she walks pretty fast, so this works better for me than having to hold her back to maintain spacing, and is good for her brain, too, to be in the lead).  She was a little "looky," but did pretty well.  We went up the steep rocky non-trail again up onto the plateau Shar had taken me up a few weeks ago, and snapped some pictures.

Gina on her cute mare, Dot, on the left, Shar and Flash on the right.  I told them I couldn't really get them both in the same photo, so Gina was moving over closer to Shar.

Not sure what Shar's doing in this photo.  :-)

And now it's Gina captured in a weird moment.  What can ya do?

On the way back down the (still steep, still very rocky, still not a real trail) hill, Arya kept putting her head down to snag a bite.  Mind you, we're pointed quite downhill, and of course to even reach the food, she has to stick her head between her own feet, and of course this pulls on the reins.  One time, I truly actually felt like I would just sail right over the spot where her neck usually is and keep on going, tumbling down the hill and likely landing at Flash's feet.  The rest of the times, it "merely" freaked me out, but I didn't actually feel like I was moments from becoming a rolling stone, but still.  Highly unpleasant.

We made it down safely, though, and Arya was probably quite proud of how much snacking she accomplished on that little stretch.

We moseyed on back to the trailer, and made plans to friend each other on Facebook and definitely ride together again sometime soon.  In fact, Gina might come to the mock ride on Saturday.

So yeah, that's the next planned ride--marking trail on Friday, picking up trail markers on Saturday, and taking photos and helping out at the ride in the meantime on Saturday.  Fun times!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ride near Smith Rock on part of Cole Loop

Shar and I wanted to get out and do some bigger mileage then we'd been doing lately, and the forecast was for some good weather.  I let her pick where, since she knows way more trails than I do, and she picked a trail we've done before anyway.  That's good, because Arya and I will be more familiar with it (yay, confidence!), plus we can compare our time this time with our time last time.  We were aiming to improve the time, hopefully to at least 4 mph overall.  (You have to have a 5 mph overall average to finish and endurance race, including limited distance, in time.  There's no time limit on the 10-15 mile "training rides," but I'm hoping to be able to finish my first 10-mile ride in the time it takes Shar to do her first 20-mile loop (plus she starts an hour earlier) so I can meet up with  her and we can possibly do a second 10-mile loop together.

I also had the personal goal of trusting Arya with choosing the speed more (I tend to nag at her to slow down because I'm so paranoid and nervous), especially when we were out front, but also to work on regulating her speed when following behind Flash and Shar, so she wasn't riding right up behind him.  Turns out neither were very necessary, so we'll continue to work on those things on future rides.  :-)

Oh but first--I've been having this nagging annoyance that it always feels like my right stirrup is shorter than the other.  I measured them the other day, and it really was a half inch shorter.  A half inch doesn't seem like much, but I can tell, and it's rather annoying.  The other night, I tried punching new holes in the fender, but the leather punch wouldn't reach and wouldn't make a hole big enough, so I'm gonna have to use a drill, I think.  But I didn't have one handy at the time.  I told Shar I'd been thinking that I could just use some kind of padding to raise the other stirrup up half an inch (just put padding on the footbed).  She found me a mouse pad she didn't care about and some duct tape, and I taped it in on top of the existing padding on the stirrup.

We tacked up, I hooked up the heart rate monitor (and almost forgot to put the watch on that shows the readout) and put on some sunscreen, and hpped aboard.  Shar asked  if I was sure I'd put the padding on the correct stirrup, and I said yeah, I put it on the right stirrup.  She said, "Wasn't that the one you were gonna make LONGER?"  Oops.  I've been riding with uneven stirrups so long I didn't even notice that I'd made the problem worse instead of better.  So I hopped off, switched the padding to the other stirrup, and got back on (yay for a handy stump in the vicinity).  And then it really felt wrong.  Ugh.  But I gave it a few minutes, and sure enough, it actually felt much better.  :-)

We walked for a while to warm up, then once we got out of the trees and onto some wide open double track with a mild uphill, we started trotting.  Normally, the first few trots of a ride, Arya wants to GO and it's hard to hold her back from ramming herself right up Flash's butt.  But not today.  She settled into a slow-paced trot, letting Flash move out ahead of her.  Then she broke down to a walk.  I let her walk a step or two, then asked her to trot again.  She willingly did, but again relatively slowly, and again slowing to a walk pretty quickly.  Weird.  I checked the heart rate monitor, and she was barely over 100, so likely not too tired out or anything, plus we'd JUST started our ride.  She had been showing signs of being in heat the night before, so I chalked it up to hormones or being a little uncomfortable or whatever, and just went with it.

As Flash got further ahead, it occurred to me that Arya might break into a canter at some point to catch up.  We were on a slight uphill with good footing, so I decided if she did, I'd let her.  She did, and I did.  This is big for me, because she bucked the last time we cantered on purpose, and then hopped a tiny bit when I let her canter a couple strides on a solo ride.  But she did fine--nice smooth canter, then slowed right down when we caught up to Flash and Shar.  Woo!  Successful canter!

We got to a nice viewpoint and took a break for some photos:

When we started back up again, Arya's heart rate kept climbing and climbing, well past 200.  I was freaking out, and Shar asked me if I didn't have it, would I be worried based on her behavior.  No, good point.  So clearly it's not super-accurate.

Then the trail goes alongside the Crooked River a while.  We were trotting along, and a couple geese flew off the bank of the river, startling Arya and Flash.  Arya took a little sideways step, which raised MY heart rate a bit, but it was over before I had much chance to panic.  We stuck right behind Flash (her comfort zone) for a while.

Then the trail goes up, up, UP.  Probably a couple miles of steady climbing, steeper at first, then gradually flattening out at the top.  I kept my eye on the heart rate monitor (and listening to her breathing).  At one point, she was panting pretty hard, but the HRM read 60.  Um, yeah, definitely not super-accurate.

When it leveled off, we stopped so Shar could give Noelle (the cute dog that made it into a couple photos) some water, as it had been a long climb, and it was still a ways until we got to the next natural water source.  Now that it was relatively flat again, we had the chance to trot.  But Arya was being kind of a stinker.  She'd been slow before, but now she got her second wind or something, plus the sweat running down her face was driving her nuts, and she would NOT stop tossing her head.  So we mainly walked.  Ugh.

We got to a gate, and Shar was kind enough to dismount to open it, close it, and remount.  We knew we wanted to make a left turn to go up the canyon we'd found the prior time, so we turned left, and the road quickly headed UP, much steeper than the prior big hill.  It seemed to go up steeper and steeper, and looked like it would top a hill rather than go into a canyon.  It was getting so steep I was getting more uncomfortable with the idea of having to come back DOWN it.  I really didn't remember it being so steep before, and said so.  We decided to turn around, and Shar suggested traversing across the hill rather than straight down.  Except Arya only wanted to go UP, not DOWN as we crossed the hill, so we didn't make much progress.  And, being off the trail, at one point she ducked her head DOWN, so FAR down, that it really freaked me out having her entire head and neck just disappear.  I got her back over to the road we'd come up, and we made it down the hill successfully, and found the road we'd meant to take.

The above pictures are from early in the canyon.  I didn't get any photos in it.  Oops.  It was quite rocky, but even though she's barefoot, Arya did great.  Except that there's a spring at the top of the canyon, so at one point, there was a trickle of water down through the canyon.  Oh dear.  Arya made it VERY clear that she didn't want her pretty little toes to get wet.  At one point, we were coming down from a little scramble over some rocks, and she was pointed straight at the stream.  I mean, we're seriously talking a four-inch-wide, half-inch-deep trickle of water.  Anyway, so we're pointed straight at the stream, and I'm like, "don't jump, don't jump, don't jump."  She jumped.  But barely.  No biggie, except that we ended up right in a tree.

We continued uphill, and for a little ways, we were able to avoid the stream, then the side we were on narrowed.  For a second, it seemed as if she would scramble over some boulders (totally bare rock), but she finally decided to cross the stream.  Without jumping this time.  Good girl.  :-)

Oh, and speaking of bare rocks, there were a couple spots that was the only footing, and Flash, in his steel shoes, was slipping around, but Arya's bare feet had perfect grip.  Yay!

Anyway, we made it up the canyon, where there was a big spring-fed watering trough.  All the critters got a nice drink, then some grazing on the nice green grass nearby while Shar and I took turns peeing in the bushes.  I even managed to mount up from the ground (slightly higher ground than Arya was on, but still...).

The trail after that is SO pretty, meandering through the woods.  We tried to trot some, but it was often either uphill or down, so we weren't making very good time.  Oops.

Then the trail breaks out of the trees and provides some AWESOME views.

Last time we rode this trail, I was really nervous in these areas, where it was a LONG way down to the valley below, and Arya doesn't hug the uphill side of the trail like Flash does.  I micromanaged her all the way down, trying to keep her on the trail.  This time, I was much more at ease.  I even let her go ahead and slip her hind feet off the trail a couple times.  I think she learned that SHE didn't like that much, as she stayed more in the middle of the trail the rest of the way down (still not hugging the uphill side, but it's progress).  There's a spot where it switchbacks, and the turns are REALLY sharp and REALLY steep, and I was totally freaked out last time.  But this time, I was totally cool with it.  Yay, me!  Now I'm ready to graduate to the REALLY sketchy part of the trail Shar has warned me about.  Yay?

There were some stretches that were a gradual enough downhill that I'd be comfortable trotting them, but every time I'd ask Arya to trot, she do so willingly, then slow back to a walk right away.  She's not ready to carry me downhill at the trot yet, I guess.  Or was just too tired to do it right then.  I didn't want to push her.  When we got off the hill and back onto double-track, it was a slight downhill and we did trot.  There was a bit more head-tossing, but mostly she was doing pretty well.  When we got to the slightly uphill singletrack that led back to the trailer, though, I had to keep encouraging her to get her to trot.  Shar didn't believe me, thinking it was ME that was tired, but no, Arya was the slow one in our pair.  But we did trot quite a bit of it, and made it back to the trailer.  We did NOT make the time we'd hoped to, but we had an awesome day.  Took tack off, picked her feet (which got a few chips on the outside edges, but didn't really take down any hoof wall length at all), checked her heart rate with a stethoscope - down to 60, yay, and that was with trotting in to "camp."  We did nearly 14 miles by my Endomondo App, averaging 3.59 mph (it was running during all our stops, so our moving time was better than that, but at endurance rides, the clock doesn't stop even for the mandatory holds, let alone water stops, so that's realistic.  And we need to be at a 5 mph or better average for actual rides, so Arya and I have some work to do.

Oh, and so the stirrup fix wasn't ideal.  The pad I made was slightly smaller than the stirrup, and I centered it, which left a half-inch or so gap on each side of the footbed of the actual stirrup.  Well, my western fenders aren't turned quite enough, so normally my toes end up just past the outside edge of the stirrup, between the hard part of the stirrup and the first strap of the cage.  Which normally isn't a problem, except with the gap in the built-up pad, my pinkie and fourth toe kind of got jammed in there, which was rather painful.  So I'd make an effort to center my foot, which would work for a little while, then it'd end up back in the crack again, getting pinched.  When walking uphill or on the flat, it wasn't a big deal, but posting or bracing my feet downhill sucked.  So I need to find my drill bits and take care of that before doing a long ride, or at least move the makeshift pad over to the outside edge of the stirrup.

So, parting shots are actually from the day before the ride--got Arya out just to groom her and let her know that not every time I pull her from the pasture means WORK.  I trimmed her beard, which was really shaggy.  Then she and Lil Bit (the foal) got to graze a bit.  Fun times!

Mooooom!  Don't take my picture!

Ooh, what's this?

Happy horses, happy day.  Both grazing and on the ride.

We'll probably ride between now and then, but next Saturday is the mock endurance ride Shar's putting on (with a little help from me).  I'm looking forward to that, but it'll be a long half-day on Friday to mark the trail, then a long LONG day on Saturday to host the event then clean up the trails, but I think it'll be fun.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part IX

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

During the week, we have trucks coming and going, and we're here to weigh them, adjust the loads if necessary, and hand them their paperwork.  But we have an repeat order that leaves every weekend, plus sometimes there's another load or two that just happens to leave on the weekend.  It means we have to be SURE the load is under the maximum weight and balanced property (we do have a tractor to haul it across the scale, but of course the weights aren't the same as with a real semi tractor), put the paperwork in the trailer, and let the freight company know which trailer their driver should pick up if there are multiples on our lot.  No biggie, and my company has been doing it for years.

This Monday, we got a call from one of our carriers that they hadn't been able to pick up the truck over the weekend.  In fact, he wasn't sure when he'd be able to pick it up at all, but he'd update the customer and us right away once he figured it out.  Great.

Then we realized we had ANOTHER trailer on the lot that was supposed to have left over the weekend, and started working with the carrier on THAT one.

Then we got a call from a customer that the empty trailer they'd asked to have picked up from their lot over the weekend hadn't been.  It was an urgent situation, as construction was due to begin where it was currently parked, and they don't have equipment that can move it.  We called the trucking company to remind them they were supposed to have picked it up over the weekend, they said they'd take care of it.

A few hours later, the customer called again--the trailer was still there.  A co-worker of mine called the trucking company, gave them the trailer number, and said they needed to pick it up.  They said that trailer number wasn't where we said it was (but wouldn't tell us where their computer said it WAS, either).  He rattled off a couple other trailer numbers from recent loads, in case there was a mixup on either end.  Nope.  He was like, "Look.  It doesn't matter what number is painted on the trailer--you said earlier you had a driver in the area who could pick it up.  Send him there, have him pick up the ONLY trailer that's there, and we'll be good."  But nope, they wouldn't.  They needed an accurate trailer number, and didn't believe us when we told them the number.  A guy from the customer's site physically went out and looked at the trailer and gave us the trailer number--the same one we thought it was.

The trucking company called a little while later saying that the trailer wasn't where it was supposed to be.  Sure enough, we called the customer and someone HAD been able to move it after all, so it wouldn't get impounded.  Ugh.  But we finally got the driver to where the trailer NOW was, and got it removed.

Tuesday, a driver showed up for the second trailer on our lot (the one WE realized hadn't been picked up, no help from the trucking company).  We told him what to do to get scaled, and he unhooked the empty trailer he brought and started to hook up to the loaded trailer.  Except apparently something was wrong with his tractor, so he took off to a repair shop to get it fixed.

We heard nothing from the first trailer's company on Tuesday morning, but luckily they came to pick it up around lunchtime.

We heard nothing from the company about the second trailer (the one where the truck broke down) on Tuesday.  At all.

Wednesday, we didn't hear anything until around lunchtime, and then we had an e-mail from the trucking company that they were canceling the order.  Um, no.  We have a loaded trailer that needs to get to our customer, who has already been extremely patient with us because it was out of our control, but still.  No.  You will not cancel, you will reschedule.  

Just about then, we got an automated e-mail that they were going to charge us detention (usually charged when a driver spends more than two hours, at either end, waiting for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded) on the trailer that was sitting in our lot against our will due to a mechanical failure of the TRUCKING COMPANY's equipment.  Uh, no.

And then a few minutes later, a driver showed up from that company to pick up a different load (on time for once!).  This trailer actually had two destinations--we can fill it half up with one customer's product and the rest with another customer's product, and for a small charge, they'll go to two separate locations.  We just have to make sure the first customer knows what to unload and what not to unload which is a whole OTHER issue.

Anyway, he knew he was going two places, but had been told by his dispatcher that he was going to [correct first place], then [the place whose order got supposedly canceled because the truck broke down].  WHAAAAAaaaaat?  Seriously.  Who is even RUNNING this trucking company, and can we have some of what they're having?  Wow.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Quail Trail

Shar and I went riding last night.  Now that it's light a little later, we even trailered to a new-to-me trailhead in her neighborhood rather than riding the same old same old trails/roads in her immediate vicinity.

We tacked up, and I also put the Renegades on Arya for the first time to ride in them.  So far she's only worn them when turned out in the arena, but she didn't bat an eye.  But of course I was still a bit nervous about how that would go.  I also turned on the heart rate monitor to try that out again, and I lunged her around a bit before getting on, to try out the boots and get her focused.

We started off at a walk.  Arya looked askance at some trash, but otherwise was very eager to head out down the trail, ears forward.  We looped around on lots of roads out there.  Since it was double-track, we were able to ride abreast quite a bit, but we also practiced leading and following (with a bit of distance).

After a good warmup, we did a tentative, slow trot.  Her boots stayed on and Arya didn't seem to mind them at all, so we did another longer trot.  We took a couple photos of the gorgeous sunset at some point:

Not bad, for a cell phone photo!

The photo is a bit blurry (digital zoom plus after-camera cropping), but it was cool to see the hawk up in the tree

Then, after letting her eat a bit, Arya got a snarky attitude the next time we tried to trot, so we ended up having most of the rest of the ride be walking.  Aargh.  I mean, it's my fault for being a nervous nelly, so that aargh is mostly at myself and a little bit at Arya for being obnoxious.  I really need to get over this whole nervousness thing.  Ugh.  We'll be doing a nice long ride this weekend.  Hopefully everything will be fine and it'll instill a bit more confidence.  One day at a time.

So the boots were absolutely fine, didn't twist, didn't come off, didn't bother Arya a bit (well, she tripped when I lunged her a bit at first, but she did fine on the trail).  The heart rate monitor didn't work again, but I realized the user error a little ways into the ride--I hadn't plugged one of the leads back into the unit (you have to unplug at least one lead between rides so it doesn't wear down the battery trying to transmit to the watch unit).  Oops.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maston Trail

Shar had the idea a while back of doing a mock endurance ride so that some local folks who haven't done it before could practice in a safer, saner, smaller environment.  It's becoming a reality, and so many people are interested that we had to move the venue from Shar's property to somewhere else.  We've chosen Maston Trailhead, as it has ample parking and even a good area for the lecture part of our planned day.

We've only been riding here once, and it was in the snow, so we didn't know much about the trails and what to expect.  We looked at a map and planned out two four-mile loops (there will be a fake vet check in between them, just as there would be a (real) vet check between (longer) loops at a real ride).  We figured we'd go ride them today and make sure they'd work, see where there might be a scenic spot for me to take photos of the riders, and plan some more details of the ride in the actual environment.  Next week, we'll probably go place some ribbons, then the event is the following week, so we'll need to check on our ribbons and place more on Friday.

Anyway...so we showed up, un-trailered the horses, and it took me way longer to tack up than it took Shar because I had to hook up the heart rate monitor to give it another try, read the manual to figure out what settings I needed the watch part to be on (it had been wrong last time, which is why it never worked), and re-strap my pommel bag down (I'd loosened it last week for saddle fitting photos, to get it out of the way), in addition to the usual tasks.  Poor Shar mounted up way before I was done and had to wait for me, but luckily Flash was patient.

We set off on the trail, and remarked at how awesome the footing was (sandy, but not too deep) and hoped it stayed that way.  We easily navigated the trails thanks to the signage and us having previewed the map.  Our ride attendees will have it even easier when we put up the ribbons.  :-)  After a couple of miles, we came to a canyon along the Deschutes.  Really nice view--the photos don't do it justice.

After the first little bit, we went ahead and let Arya lead (she's got a faster walk, but doesn't always like to lead, but our solo rides have made both of us a little more confident), but then her trotting was WAY slow, between just naturally being slower than Flash, being very "looky," and being headed away from the trailer out into the unknown.  When we turned for home, her trots got a lot faster and more purposeful, so that was nice.  We had decided we'd have Arya lead on the first looop, then Flash lead on the second loop (and Arya learn to leave S P A C E between her and Flash--both she and I have gotten very bad about riding super close behind him since he doesn't mind, but it's not a habit we should be in, especially when sharing trails with horses who aren't Flash).

When we got back to the trailer, the humans took a potty break, and I had a little snack.  The horses (well, Flash has learned this lesson MANY times over, so really Arya) got to learn that arriving back at the trailer doesn't mean being done for the day, as we loosened the cinches but left them saddled.

After a quick break, we tightened those cinches back up and got back on.  Arya didn't even blink at us leaving again, even though it was RIDICULOUSLY windy.  In fact, the wind only affected her behavior a couple times.  I was really impressed with how well she did out there today.  We saw bikes (from a distance, and she has seen them before, but still), hawks, and had LOTS of wind.

What she didn't do so well at was the distance thing.  At the walk, I'd allow her to get up close to Flash's butt (or, I admit it, slack off and not pay attention), then make her stop, back up, and stand a minute.  She got a little carrot tidbit when she did it well, and had to back and/or stand for even longer when she didn't do it well.  This, of course, put her well behind Flash again for the next little while, until she caught up and crammed her face right up against his butt again.  Lather rinse repeat.

At the trot, however, she was not quite so compliant, and it didn't seem like a good idea to do that same exercise from a trot.  I tried slowing her down with my seat cues (post slower, sit deeper, etc.), which only worked a little bit and only a very few times.  Mostly, she just wanted to catch up to Flash, which in her mind means close enough to sniff his tail hairs up her nostrils.  So I ended up pulling the reins more than she would have liked, which resulted in her tossing her head a lot, which in addition to freaking me out a bit, also has the added bonus of her having NO idea what her feet are doing, so she trips more.  Fun times.

We did lead out a few times on that loop after all, and mostly she trotted slowly again, but there were a couple stints where she got a nice pace going.  One of which, we were trotting along at a nice clip on a winding section of trail, and the trail turned right but Arya turned left.  Not sure if it was just a coincidence, or if she was actually following the hoofprints that were ahead of us in the dirt, but it was weird.  We're just chugging along, and I'm watching the trail so I can anticipate her turns, and boom...we're off under a tree all of a sudden.  Heh.

Anyway, so we need to work on not following Flash so closely, but she really did do great today.  Next week, we'll be doing the exact same trails, and I really hope the weather is better, and I bet Arya will do great again, too, though next time we'll have a TON of ribbons, so we'll see how that goes...

Shevlin Loop Trail

So far, most of my forays into Shevlin park have been along the center--there's a road and a trail that both parallel the creek that runs through the middle.  I did skirt the western edge of the park the day I was geocaching there, but for the most part, I've stuck to the middle.  There's a loop trail that goes around the perimeter of the park (though still parallelling the creek, up and back, just further away from it) for six miles.

Totally worth it.

This trail was so pretty.  Especially for the dry side.

Oh, but first I've got to tell you how my hike/run/whatever started out.  I left the car, went through a little aspen grove, and then just before I was about to cross the creek, I saw two LITTLE kids wandering.  They were very small, probably 1 and 3.  They did not appear to have an adult with them, and they were headed toward the creek.  As they approached me, I said hi and asked if their mom or dad was around.  The older boy said that his mom was over there, and gestured upstream.  I headed that direction while still keeping the kids in my sight and didn't see anyone.  I headed further away from the creek so I could keep the kids in my sights while widening my search for the adult(s).  I saw a lady go into the restrooms, rather far away, and hollered to ask if she was with some kids, but she didn't answer.  Hmm....the kids had crossed the bridge by now, and I wasn't fully able to keep them in my sights while still looking for their grownups.  Finally, I spotted a couple of women sitting by the river, not paying a whole lot of attention to the kids.  In fact, there was a third kid, equally small, directly across the creek from them, which is apparently why the other two kids were going where they were going.

I'm all for "free-range kids," and not being a helicopter parent, but it really doesn't seem like a good idea to let kids that small wander near a small but fast-moving creek that could easily sweep them away and is full of logs they could easily get pinned under.  Right?  Well, now that the kids were all in sight of a couple of adults, I headed out on my hike.  It took me uphill, so I still had a view of the kids and parents for a while, and at one point, one of the women said she needed to go to the bathroom.  I didn't see the other one anywhere around, so I was worried she was going to head off to the restrooms without taking the kids along, but no, she dropped her pants right there in view of the trail I was on as well as the well-traveled trail RIGHT BEHIND HER.  In fact, just as she pulled her pants down, someone passed right behind her.  Probably not what THAT lady had in mind when picking a scenic place for today's exercise.

So anyway, that was interesting.  But then I focused on the trail.  And it was awesome.  Can you believe the scenery in just the first 2.5 miles of trail?

Not pictured (dim lighting, blurry photos) is the really cool canyon with a much smaller creek that you go down into then back up out of shortly before reaching the bridge above.  It's got HUGE boulders (unusual for Central Oregon, where all our rock is volcanic and usually still attached to the ground from whence it came) and a cute little log bridge over the creek.

The rest of the trail was less scenic, though there was a cool spot where you could look over the side of a hill down at the covered bridge, and in the other direction there was a man-made canyon/gully that a railroad used to go through.  But again, waning light, cell phone photos didn't come out.  Oh well.  :-)  I think in the future, I'll go up the same trail to the bridge above, then take the creek-side trail back--it's more steadily downhill (hardly any uphill at all, and the downhill is all smoothly gradual with no steep spots), and more scenic to boot.

I walked/ran about 6 miles.  Mostly walked, since quite a bit of the downhills were too steep to really run down, hence the different plan for next time.  :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part IX

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

The maintenance guy ordered a part.  The only website he could find it on charges nearly $200 for what is basically the top half of a rubber boot--it's got fabric coated in rubber, and is a sleeve used to hold lubricant onto a joint.  The joint is flexible, so the tube needs to be flexible.

He was trying to find a better deal on a similar part that would work just as well.  He talked to one company about irrigation hoses, and he tried googling.  He was talking about how difficult it is to google, because obviously if you google "rubber boot" or "rubber hose" you come up with a TON of irrelevant results.  When the invoice came, I thought of telling him to try searching by the name they used for it, until I realized the part is called "lube tube."

Yeah, I'm not googling THAT at work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition Part VIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

A truck driver just came in the building through the main door instead of the one clearly marked "Shipping/Receiving," and asked for "Shipping/Receiving."  No big deal, happens all the time.  We pointed toward the area he needed to be in to sign the log, etc.  He pointed toward the restroom and said, "over there?"  No, over where we pointed.  Pointed again.  He started moving toward the restroom.  I got up from my desk and physically SHOWED him where he needed to be.  Okay.

We asked where he was headed.  "Somewhere in California."  Um, yeah, nearly all our loads go to California and it's a BIG state.  The city or name of the customer would be helpful.  "Um, I think it starts with an A."  Well, considering there are cities/towns in California from Arcata to Anaheim, and plenty of places in between, not to mention potential customer names, that still doesn't help, and we have two different loads leaving today, on his trucking company, going to California.  He promised to check when he got back out to his truck.

While he was signing the log, he mentioned that it had been really treacherous getting here today.  I asked where he was coming from.  His response was, "Um, some highway."  Wow, so descriptive, this guy!  "I think it started with an S."  Santiam Pass?  "Uh, I don't know."  

Then he mentioned that his dispatch said he was picking up a trailer that was already loaded, but he didn't see any trailers from his company on the lot.  Considering we have at least two (the two loaded ones, and possibly an empty as well), he's not very observant, but after the interactions we'd already had with him, I think that was the least of our worries.

My boss then gave him the usual schpiel about dropping his empty trailer, which one to pick up (he wrote the number down on his hand, but since my boss kept on talking while the driver was still writing it, I told him with all seriousness that we should probably have an employee check that he picks up the correct trailer), and how to proceed over the scale.  I'll be extremely surprised if he manages to retain all of that information and follow all of those directions successfully (not that it's hard, but I've seen drivers with a few more brain cells to rub together than this guy seems to have fail at following them).

So the guy came back in before driving over the scale, to let us know he was headed there (most drivers don't, since they've been given the directions, but again, whatever).  He gestured in the opposite direction from how they are supposed to drive over it, so my boss reiterated that he needs to drive over the scale while going TOWARD the street.  He still didn't seem to understand, so I also reiterated it.  "Oh, going TOWARD the street?"  Then he proceeded to ask where the nearest truck stop is (oh, about 70-80 miles away), because he needs to have a certified weight ticket.  Well, that's all fine and dandy, but we prefer to weigh them on our on-site scale so they don't drive those 70-80 miles with a truck that's over the limit, then have to drive all the way BACK here to get it fixed. 

He kept mumbling stuff about whether our scale was certified (no, but it is calibrated, and again with preferring them to be the right weight before they leave), and blah blah blah, basically just being argumentative about whether he should even drive over the scale here, which takes less than five minutes, including the time to come back in the building to get the paperwork.  Finally, my boss said that no truck leaves here without being scaled, because we don't allow tickets on loads that leave our lot.  Oh!  That seemed to register with him that we were actually trying to HELP him.  Wow.

Then, after two of us giving him directions on how to drive to the scale at least three separate times, he still managed to mess that up, and apparently backed over the scale (not the best thing for its calibration) before finally pulling across it properly.

To top it all off, according to the employee who came in behind him while he was standing near the driver log, then left immediately, gagging, the driver literally smelled of feces.  So awesome.  But that's pretty much beside the point--I was seriously tempted to call his employer and report him as too dumb to drive, but I don't think you can do that. 

Watch out, folks...these people are driving 40 tons of steel and who-knows-what around at 60-70 miles per hour.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Yet another solo ride!

Showed up to see Arya today with a LOT on the agenda.  First, I had to groom my shaggy pony.  Then I had to try a couple of saddle trees on her and take photos of her from all sorts of angles for a long-distance saddle fitting.  Then I had to take photos of the saddle I'm trying to sell (MORE photos--I've already taken a bunch and posted them on Craigslist and all over Facebook).  Then I hooked up the leads of the heart rate monitor according to the instructions.  Then I'd run out of legit reasons to dawdle, and went to the bathroom.  :-)  When I came back, I put the bridle on Arya and the helmet on me, and really couldn't put it off any longer.

We headed off down the road.  Arya made a half-hearted attempt at her usual shenanigans of heading back home, but then did great at the "barking" dogs (who must've gotten a bark collar, because they were eerily silent yet again), at the turn she'd wanted to head home at before, and at the spot where the trail gets skinny-ish between a fence and a big pile of rocks and dirt.  She didn't even flinch or twitch an ear, just marched on through.

We started trotting occasionally, and she did great--I tried slowing her with my seat (posting slower), but when that didn't work, it was easy to slow her a bit with the reins when necessary.  I also worked on some things I learned in my last lesson with Celena--stopping her when she got too "forward" (concentrating only on the trail ahead of us and not on me), and also making her back a step or three before moving forward again.  She was a pro at this--she clearly remembered the lesson from last weekend, and easily backed (or even offered to back) when I stopped her.

At one point, she wanted to stop and rub her face on her leg, so I let her.  And when she brought her head back up, she'd managed to detach the rein from the bit, so I had just one rein.  So I hopped off quickly, re-attached it, and checked things over.  She had a little rub/cut on her cheek that looked like it was from the new nylon chin strap (purple!) I'd bought her.  Oops.  So I took that off.  Its main function is to keep the bit from pulling through her mouth if I was to pull really hard on just one rein, which I don't do, plus the D rings are pretty big to help prevent that, too.  So I told myself I'd just be careful.

When we got to the same place where she REALLY wanted to head home last time, she made her preference known, but didn't fight my effort to keep her headed away from home at all.  We took a different trail this time, and ended up at someone's unfenced arena where they had a platform and some other arena toys set up, but it felt weird to impinge on someone's personal space that way, so we headed off cross-country at a 90-degree angle to how we'd gotten there.

We went cross-country over a few "ridges" (little humped up areas of lava rock).  She really seems to enjoy going cross-country and choosing her own foot falls instead of just plodding down the trail.

We'd made pretty good time on our last solo ride, so I'd kind of had it in the back of my mind to try to go a little fast this time.  But this cross-country riding was slowing us down (can only walk on the loose sand full of large lava rocks).  When we found the trail, we started trotting more frequently.

The last time I cantered on purpose, Arya started bucking and I fell off.  So I've been a little (okay a LOT) hesitant to canter again.  But she was doing SO well today that I decided that the next good stretch of trail (really double-track ATV trail/road at this point), I'd give it a go.  She went faster and faster, and I let her.  She started cantering, and I let her (probably not the best way to go about it, but whatever).  One, two, three strides.  And I figured that was a good start, and tried to slow her.  She didn't WANT to go slower yet.  She tossed her head a bit, then did a couple hops.  Either she didn't "buck" as hard as last time, or my balance is improving, because I stuck with her.  Then she slowed down to a trot on her own (or I was clinging to the reins for dear life, which might've helped).  I looked at my heart rate monitor, and my heart was racing.  Heh.  (Hers never did work properly during the ride--not sure if I hadn't set the watch up right or what--she was sweaty enough she should've been conducting just fine).

So we stuck to trotting the rest of the ride.  Need to sort out the saddle fitting thing and have her teeth checked, and possibly a chiropractor before trying that again (oh, and lose weight...that might help, too!).

We did some pretty good trotting stretches, though, and felt like we made some decent time there on the sucker-end of the "lollipop" trail.

Then I "let" Arya choose which direction to head at a Y in the trail (not that Y up above though), and of course she chose to head home.  We did some more trotting stretches, except now she really didn't want me slowing her down, and would toss her head to try to keep me from holding the reins so tight.  I'd reward her when she stopped tossing her head by giving her less contact (though still keeping the reins short) and letting her go as fast as she wanted, within reason, though she didn't really try to run away with me (or to canter), so that part was fine.  But yeah, a little bit in a hurry but otherwise things went pretty well.

We crossed the paved road, and she really really really wanted to go home.  I'd already been thinking about this stretch of trail, and while we made good time on it on our last couple solo rides, I'd decided that this time we need to walk it so she didn't get in the habit of rushing home.  And I was even planning to turn her around at the top of the hill and make her go down it and back up it another time--got to get a good butt workout in, and the rest of the trail is pretty flat, so...

But Arya really really really wanted to go fast.  I tried stopping her and backing her, but she wasn't having any of that and started prancing around.  I tried getting her to back up and stand still, but she did NOT want to cooperate, so I eventually got off.  I didn't want that to mean her "winning," so I lunged her in circles and circles and circles around me, right there on the trail.  Even more chance to use the stuff I learned in my last lesson--we also worked on lunging without her invading my space.  She was FULL of energy, cantering around me even though I just wanted her to trot.  Wow.  Not sure what was up with that.  I walked down the trail, leading her, and hope that might cement the idea of us not going very fast.  She was docile as could be at the end of the lead.  I even stopped and backed her on foot, and she was totally cooperative.  So at the next opportunity (i.e. rock and slight hill), I got back on.  She pulled the EXACT same crap again.  I thought of trying to stick with it through the prancing, but she was REALLY obnoxious, so I hopped back off and we walked the rest of the way home.  Ugh, but I have been telling myself I need to do that every so often, and I had been planning to hike after I was done riding, so I guess I was just hiking sooner rather than later.  She, of course, was a perfect angel while walking.  Sheesh!

We were almost home when I saw a truck and horse trailer approaching, and I suspected it could be a friend who lives around the corner from Shar coming home from the play day she took her horse to, and it was.  So she stopped and we chatted for a bit.  That was nice!

When we got back, I needed a good chug of water (I'd had to ration mine the last little while), and Arya got one too (she stuck her face right in the water trough and just drank and drank and drank).  Then I took off the saddle so she'd be more comfortable (and not sweat quite as badly), but took her to the arena for another good workout.  She needs reinforcement that "home" isn't as awesome as she thinks it is.  So I lunged her in circles, more chances to work on those skills.  I had her go over a pole then through the barrel squeeze, which was still set up.  She did fine in one direction, but when I had her switch directions, she threw an unholy fit, bucking and galloping around at the end of the rope.  Apparently I should've worn gloves.  Ugh.  So of course then we had to keep going until she calmed down AND went through the squeeze.  She did, finally.  We did a few more circles each direction without the squeeze, then I unhooked the rope so she could roll if she wanted to.  She didn't want to--she wanted to EAT.

So I took her back to her pasture, where she DID roll, then eat some more.  The end.  :-)  Well, then I put away all the stuff I'd gotten out, met a gal to buy a pair of spurs (I've been borrowing some from Shar), stopped by Safeway to buy lip gunk because I hadn't brought any and was DYING, and then to Mexican for a splurge since I'd burned a bunch of calories and not eaten a whole lot yet.  Woo!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part VIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

I received a phone call:

Me:  Good morning, [my company name], this is Shawna, how can I help you?

Caller:  Yes, I'd like to speak to your manager.  (She doesn't ask for anyone by name, nor does she know what my title is to know whether I'm the person she should speak to or not.  Just automatically wants my manager.)

Me:  May I ask what it's regarding?

Caller:  My name is Catherine*.

Me:  Hi, Catherine, may I ask what it's regarding?

Caller:  My name is Catherine, and I"m calling from the [local newspaper] but it's not to sell advertising or anything else.  May I speak with your manager, please?  (Again, she still doesn't know whether I'm someone she could speak with about her call, and she still hasn't told me what it IS regarding, but whatever.  My boss takes sales calls all the time and actually takes quite some glee in getting rid of them.)

Me:  Sure, hold on, please.

My Boss:  This is [his name].

[Silence, while he listens to the caller]

My Boss:  No thank you, we're not interested.

Turns out she wasn't lying, exactly--she wasn't selling advertising, and technically wasn't selling anything.  No, she was "providing the opportunity" for us to donate newspapers to local schools, by giving the newspaper company money.  So basically they were asking for money, without anything (for us) in return.  Um, it may not technically be selling, but it doesn't endear us to how you handled introducing yourself any more than selling would have, in fact less so since you were very underhanded.  Good try, though.

*  Name changed to protect...well, her.