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The phone line from Hell

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I am so sore tonight. This is the second night of dealing with the phone line but at least it works now. Tomorrow is part 3: fill the trench, all 200 feet of it. Five years ago the mountain we call Skyote was a blank slate (well, it was a trashed slate with 50+ abandoned cars, a completely blown up ex-meth lab, and no utilities except for the various cut electrical lines that tapped various neighbors' power lines. We bought the place, sent the riff-raff packing, removed all the crud, and started fresh. The Phone Company wanted a mint to run a line from the nearest pole to the house site - it is over 2000 feet up a mountain - so we settled: they would run 300 feet for free but we had to dig the trench and place conduit. This *is* a mountain and there is a reason why it is a mountain; the ground is very hard, mostly granite, decomposed granite, and a little sandstone, very little sandstone. So, digging that ditch even with power tools took a very long time but it got us a box by the side of our driveway about 1600 feet away. For a couple of months we used to drive down from our trailer at the house site to our "green acres" phone. Eventually this got to be a very old routine, so I ran a phone cable from the house site to the phone box, cross country, through the woods, down a nearly vertical ravine. Most of the cable just ran across the forest floor and detritus fell atop it to give it protection. At the bottom of the run, about 200 feet needed to be buried because it was in plain sight and subject to the raw elements, except the cable had to run across the driveway to get to the phone box on the other side. Alas, the road people forgot to do the under road conduit, so for a while we worked up a makeshift over crossing, tying the cable onto two redwoods on either side of the road. That work for a year but the cable slowly started drooping. Eventually the road crew got around to punching an underground conduit using a device known as a "gopher", and so some friends and I rerouted the cable through there. Done, but someone did something wrong.

Five years later, one of the phone lines developed a hum, small at first but over a period of a few months the line became unusable. This weekend I ran a bunch of diagnostics to determine where the problem break might be located. It was not in the topmost 1000 feet, thank the stars, as that would have been a miserable rappelling effort. The lower part of the cable though on sloped ground is accessible by foot.

I ended up unburying the 200 feet of cable only to find the break was close to the conduit. Someone five years ago,  nicked the cable when the trench was filled in and over that time water slowly ate away at the exposed copper wires. It is ironic that the 'protected' portion of the cable would be the part that broke. With a bit of prescient knowledge, I left the lower spool of cable intact five years ago, so it was a easy (well, not so easy) matter to pull a hundred feet of additional cable through the woods, 30 feet at a time, to draw a fresh section through the underground portion. Now all three lines work again. Tomorrow I have to bury the stuff - carefully. That should last another 10 or so years.


My temperment:
sore sore
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On May 29th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC), insomnia commented:
The amount of work that goes into making your place comfortable for modern living is really something. I hope you get a chance to live there again soon, so that you get more of the benefits of your labour.
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On May 30th, 2005 08:28 am (UTC), elimloth replied:
The 'comfy' but difficult to maintain ammenities are the external connections: phone, internet access. Everything else seems fairly straighforward for a country home. I think the phone line would have been fine had not a single mistake (the cable nick) happened 5 years ago. Fortunately, I do get to live there albeit a few days every 6 weeks or so.
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On May 30th, 2005 08:41 am (UTC), elimloth replied:
That's a good question; will wired telephone service exist? I think it will continue to exist in places that have difficult to 'light up' topology: heavily forested areas, mountains, narrow valleys, or places out of sight or coverage from the emerging stratellites. The cable is direct buried (at least the fist 200 feet) then it runs on the ground through the forest that surrounds our house, so yes, there is room for expansion:
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