Lubing Volvo End Dumps 4am in Novato

You ever drive by the Institute of Aging in Novato?  If you are headed Northbound on Highway 101 it is sitting on the lonely west side of the Highway, just before the Narrows, all by itself on top of what seems to be a small mountain.  When I was a kid my Uncle Ward used to tell me the Mormons owned that place and it was built to be so earthquake proof that along with 15 Peterbuilt Cement Trucks scurrying back and forth for three days pouring it’s foundation,  cradled into this massive concrete block was a 30 foot slab of rubber larger than a football field.  Someone with a whole lot of money got it built and in a place that Marinites don’t like seeing things built.  The Mormons have a whole lot of money so maybe my Uncle Ward was right.  The thing is,  from far away on highway 101 you can see this lonely castle all perched and fortified by itself like a San Simeon of the North, but if one attempts to drive there, forget about it.  It’s like trying to drive up to the  Laurence Livermore Lab.  If you aint got the magic magnetic badge you don’t get enjoy the drive up to the top.

Well after staring at the lonely fortress for twenty years, my company, Mobile Diesel Medic, was finally issued the magic badge.  That’s the great part about our type of work, we constantly are granted permission to go places that are off limits to others.   We have been on, over and under the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Richmond Bridge, and Carquinez Bridge.  We have been asked to repair hydraulic headaches for Turtle Man Lifts, sitting  900 feet below, between Oakland and Walnut Creek, at the new (fourth bore) Caldecott Tunnel, or cutting into a German electrical harness for a Freightliner Dump Truck in the Devils Slide Tunnel that joins Pacifica to Half Moon Bay.  The reason, for all our cool war stories in these off limit places is simple, people build everywhere and just because the job site is special doesn’t mean the construction equipment is.  All Escavators,  End Dumps, Cranes, Road Graters or whatever the construction equipment is, eventually will break down.  It doesn’t matter if it was built by John Deer, Caterpillar, Hitachi etc. everything will eventually fail.  And when it does  fail, my company, Mobile Diesel Medic essentially have these crazy 20,000 lbs. to 35,000 lbs shops on wheels ready to dispatch in five minutes if necessary, and that is very precious to a contractor that has to rent a crane at $2000 a day, or lube 14 pieces of equipment before 8 am three days a week.

Coming full circle back to the Institute of Aging, we were issued the magic badge because our company was hired to lube all the equipment up on that mountain, for  three months, 3 days a week.  They were building a new massive pit above the original building.  We essentially had to inject 45 pounds of grease into 9 Volvo and Caterpillar Articulating Dump Trucks, 4 colossal Caterpillar Earth Movers before the build crew’s 8 am start time.   This meant a 4 am dispatch time for our technicians.  Strangely no one wanted to volunteer for the 4 in the morning winter shift.  When it was my turn to wake up extra early, to my surprise, standing parched on the gargantuan Cat D-11 Dozer, that also was perched above the original forbidden building, way up high on the lonely mountain, I was in awe when I turned around and saw how truly big a winter sunrise from the east can be.  It was similar to looking out a jet flying way high in the sky.  Growing up on the west coast there simply aint too many places that can compete to a big sky Pacific Ocean Sunset.  But if you got the magic badge, there exists a contender wedged in Novato sitting all by itself between San Francisco  and Petaluma.

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