Day Trip to Abilene

Cisco routers are a royal pain in the butt. When I was working remotely in Wisconsin, one of the main projects I was working on (and still am) is getting our 5505 routers upgraded to a newer version of its operating system software. One of the places I attempted to upgrade was Abilene. For some reason the new OS image would not load.

We have what’s called a “crash kit,” which is a Cisco 819 router that runs on the Verizon Cellular network. We have installed these permanently at several locations, but we also have a unit that can be sent out to other sites that go down so it can act as a temporary connection as we get the downed connection up. We sent Abilene this crash kit, and somehow, I was able to get the 5505 router rebuild and able to boot up instead of having to replace it.

Well fast forward about another month and a half or two and we were in the same boat, a downed router at Abilene. Some bad storm had come through and the router would not establish a VPN connection. It did power up but it must have got fried somehow. The person on site that assisted me was actually pretty good with my instructions from last time and already knew to shut down the router, then shut down the modem, then power up the modem, and a little while later, power up the router. She had already done this prior to calling about this. These users are actually a gem to deal with because it makes my life easier to troubleshoot.

Well her efforts proved to not work, so I called the ISP. They could get to the router and could even see that it was rebooted 45 minutes prior. Basically everything was good to go on their end. The problem appeared to be the router itself. This is where Cisco routers are a royal pain in the butt. Basically everything is command line where you have to type in a bunch of commands to configure the router, and if you miss a single command, the router will not come up. There’s no way to actually remote into the router if it doesn’t come up. The only reason I was able to get into the router the time before is the crash kit provided my connection. It takes at least a day to send the crash kit so that’s an extra day they are down. If you decide to configure a replacement 5505 router and send it out to the location to have someone hook it up there, it’s basically a configure and pray that it works. In Abilene’s case, the crash kit router was very slow due crappy Verzion reception and would allow them to barely limp by so we would have to get them a replacement router as a permanent solution.

I had to explain this to my boss. We could send the router out, but the potential it might not automatically connect was a major issue that could create several more days of downtime, and even if we sent a crash kit, their productivity would still be negatively affected. Obviously, less than 2 months ago, they were down, so it was decided I would configure a new router and go on site to ensure they would be back up promptly.

That next day, I got to work at 5:30am and hit the road by 6. The conditions there were pretty crappy with this foggy sort of mist.

Now in the main office, I was told that Abilene office is in the tallest building in Abilene. They weren’t joking about that.

You could tell the building was built a long time ago. The entrance was a bit sketchy. It wasn’t too well-lit and there was water dripping on the floor from a roof leak.

To open the door was very old school. You actually had to step on a mat in order for the door to open up.

While the entrance may have been sketchy, the views weren’t. This office has probably some of the best views out of all the TABC offices, since they are on the 15th floor.

I guess my configure and pray method would have worked in this case. I had correctly configured the router and it came up upon plugging it in. I was prepared to do a lot more work and grabbed this well-worn chair to sit down and do my work on inside the network closet.

I also took care of other IT issues the office had before loading the car back up with some stuff they wanted me to take back. Before I hit the road, I decided to go to the 20th (top) floor to see the views. The views were awesome, although the flatness reminded me of Illinois.

On the way down, since this is the Bank of America building, I did notice a bull they had in the main lobby area next to the bank.

The drive home wasn’t bad and everything had cleared up.

I made it back by about 5:00. When everything was said and done, I had about 7 hours of driving and another 5 hours of working. Definitely made for a long Friday but it was nice to get on the road and go to an office that I had not been to before.

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