The weather improved slightly at the beginning of last week. Enough to increase our lunch counts but, since the climbing conditions were still affected by the previous weeks snow, overnight guests were still only a trickle. Because of the good weather, the guys who were planning on coming up to work on the emergency radio came and made their improvements. It seemed a good opportunity to fly down some stuff that doesnít need to be up here, including myself. I got to fly in a helicopter that I havenít been in before; an Agusta Koala. Comfy. I took the lead photo on the descent. After my three minute descent, I loaded the van and drove to Milan where I was greeted by one frustration after another.
I havenít kept the blog updated every Sunday because we have been having internet problems. I have tried everything and, after a call to the ISP, we discovered that it is a problem with the server. We use an old-school dial-up server that we signed up for for free back when the internet was almost unknown in Italy. It was a promotion by the Italian Telecom. Things moved very fast and now, like in the states, most people use a DSL connection. But we held onto the free dial-up service to use with the radio bridge phone at the hut. I also used to from time-to-time when we were having problems with the Iridium satellite phone software at Siple Dome last year. But, after weeks without being able to connect, a few phone calls and a long time on hold, we discovered that they are having ďproblemsĒ with the free service server. My theory is that because it doesnít earn them much money, they just stopped maintaining it in hopes that people will sign up for a pay service.
When I got to Milan, I was looking forward to using the Pandolfiís high-speed wireless to catch up on some stuff but, alas, they were having problems as well. I spent the better part of a day trouble shooting their system with no luck. I determined that it is a problem with the line and finally gave up. I also found out that I had gotten a speeding ticket from back in June that I had to deal with.
Many towns in Italy have started using what they call the AutoVelox. Sounds like some kind of anti-venom doesnít it? What it is is a guy with a camera and a radar on the side of the road who takes your speed and picture and sends you the bill if you are going over. They have somewhat recently introduced a points system to Italian driverís licenses. If you lose all 20 points you lose your license. So, along with an envelope containing the $200 speeding ticket, I received a form to fill out with my license details so they could deduct 2 points.
The catch is that I donít have an Italian driverís license. For a foreigner to get a driverís license in Italy you have to go back to driving school. It takes months and cost hundreds of Euro. I have decided to take the easier and legally questionable route. According to the law, if you are in Italy for more than a year you are required to get an Italian driverís license. But they are not specific about how to count a year. I have decided that since I am never and have never been in Italy for more than a year I should be fine with an international driverís license that anyone can get at their local AAA in the states. Of course these expire after one year so every time Iím back in the states I have to make a trip to the AAA for a new one. Luciís father offered to take the hit for me and send in his license but, in a sort of masochistic way, I am interested in testing the system Iíve been using all these years. I guess weíll just have to wait and see.
While I was in Milan sorting out all this business and getting the motorcycle ready to take back up to Valle díAosta, the weather at the hut had gone bad again. By the time I got back up, there was another six to eight inches of snow on the ground. In the past week we have had one nice day which happened to be the 15th of August or Feragosto; the big summer holiday day. We served a few lunches to people who had struggled up in the snow that still blanketed the trail well below the hut but we had no overnight guests. In fact, today is a week without any over-night guests. We are bored out of our minds.
With no internet either I have been losing my mind. Last night I made a deal with Luci that I would call our Antarctic employer to see if they had received her new dental x-ray if she would call telecom to figure out how to set up our cell phone to connect to the internet. I had spent at least 20 minutes a day over the past three on hold with them waiting to talk to someone to help us configure our new phone. True that we have nothing to do but doing nothing is better than sitting on hold. To make matters worse, there is this horrendous jingle that they use in a new ad campaign on TV and on the radio. At least in commercials you only have to hear it a few seconds every-so-often but when you are on hold with them they play the same ten-second loop over and over again punctuated with a recorded voice saying ďall our operators are busy. We invite you to wait until one is available.Ē Of course, when Luci called she got right through. They made the necessary adjustment to our account and, before I knew it, I was checking my e-mail. Phew. The call to our employer went equally as well. In under two minutes I found out that Luci had been physically qualified for Antarctic deployment. Now we can dedicate our full attention to our boredom.