Beginning with the very moment our newly minted self-hosted site was public and visible, I knew a time would come where it might go down unexpectedly, or would crash. I take the recommended measures of backing everything up on a weekly basis. In fact, I have a program that does it automatically. I also try my best to keep the site updated. That said, there is always a little niggling of fear hiding in the farthest recesses of my mind. What would I do if the site went down?!?
I’ve only taken the very basics of website design and maintenance classes, and I still have to ask my son and husband questions like, “Remind me again what FTP stands for?” Yes, I was able to get this site transferred, up, and running, thanks to YouTube. HOWEVER… I am the first to admit I have a lot to learn.
On Halloween, WordPress released a new version, and I immediately updated. When WordPress releases a new version, all of our plug-ins to keep the site looking nice have to be updated. Some of those plug-ins release updates right away, and some take a bit longer. I update as I’m notified and it’s a very simple process – two clicks and I’m done. Since I am on the site all week, I keep the site running without a problem. Last week though, I was not online much. I had blogged ahead of time, and because I was so busy, I didn’t check-in much after Wednesday morning. Thursday was Thanksgiving, then my family packed up and left for a camping trip.
All was fine until Saturday morning when I noticed Amanda had tweeted something about a white screen on the website. I looked myself and sure enough, the site was blank. That’s odd, I thought. I figured it would sort itself out and that it was a host issue – something I can’t really control. I went about my day because dang it, I was wine tasting and looking at property in the Paso Robles area.
Then yesterday morning, I checked again and the site was still blank. That’s when I became very concerned. The site is down. What in the hell am I supposed to do from here?!? I tried to push the thought out of my mind and enjoy the morning before we left. I kept thinking about it, knowing that I was going to have to fix it, and I had no idea how. Good times, right? Then Amanda sent a text right around noon, as we were leaving. She was nervous, and I was pretty much captive as I sat in the passenger seat of my F350 while my husband towed our trailer and headed for home. I didn’t know what I could do from the middle of nowhere, but I started reading websites to see if I could troubleshoot the problem.
Given the very little I know about websites, the one thing I kept considering was that maybe I’d missed an update for a plug-in. That will make everything go haywire, and maybe that’s what the blank screen was about. I didn’t know for sure and kept reading. There were a lot of very scary things that it could have been – like we had reached our memory limit, or perhaps a database failure – two things I didn’t even know could happen. Their symptoms though were a little different from what I was seeing, so I was hopeful it was just the plug-ins.
So I sent Amanda articles to read via text message, and in the meantime, since I was not at home, I didn’t have access to the fifty different passwords it requires in order to get into our freaking server and control panel. I’m glad it is so heavily guarded, but holy hell there are too many to know! We were sending codes and new passwords and learning different emails – it was a genuine mess and a very long sordid tale, and Amanda kept saying she didn’t know what to do and I was firm in return, “You HAVE to do this. I am in the freaking middle of NOWHERE.”
Finally, triumphantly, Amanda got it sorted. The problem was a stupid plug-in, which she deactivated. Presto! The website was once again visible and working. Amanda saved the site! She says she can’t do the website stuff, but I have news for her: YES YOU CAN, BECAUSE YOU JUST DID IT.
The thing is, we are not Duran Duran. We don’t have a team of people ready and able to do the work. We ARE the team. Our lives are not glamorous, and sometimes, shit goes really wrong. That was never clearer than this weekend.
And then…without much warning, my family truck dies while driving south on the 101 from Paso Robles. The funny thing is that normally, we take the 5 home, which…if you’ve ever seen our Daily Duranie tweets when Amanda and I are driving up north from my house, you know it is desolate and in the middle of nowhere. That central valley is hot, dry, and empty. Along the 101 though, is fully populated. It’s town after town, with many more services available.
All was fine, until it wasn’t. We were on the highway, in the right lane but still ON the highway, and the truck announces that it is done. Finished. Not going any damn farther. Never mind that my entire family was in the car, along with our dog Gizmo and a 31-foot trailer in back of us. We kind of glided up the off-ramp as I started wondering how long it will be before we were hit or something terrible happened. (I think in terms of worst-case scenario, because typically in my life -that’s pretty much what happens!) Just as the truck made it to the top of the ramp, we saw that it was a gentle downward slope from there, and so we were all yelling, “Come on truck!”. Our hope was that the trailer made it up and over the top so that the momentum pushed us down the hill to a safer spot, and as luck would have it, there was a huge pull-off spot in front of us. We coasted down the hill, Walt parked the truck, he and Gavin jumped out, opened the hood, and I started wondering how we were going to get home.
I asked Heather where we were, and she told me we were in Orcutt, California. A bell rung in my head. I know someone! My touring buddy, Lori, lives there, and so I text her. She answers back, and not only is she in the city, it turns out she’s housesitting at her moms, which is honestly right around the block from where our truck has stranded us!
Graciously, Lori picked me up so that I could get to a car rental agency. Thank goodness there were no photos, because I was mess. Our plan was to have our truck towed to a nearby Ford dealer, and the trailer towed to Lori’s mom’s house. (It is a pain in the ass to figure out how to get that damn trailer home, I have to tell you!) So, we made it home.
It was quite a weekend, I must say. When things like this happen, I can’t help but wonder if anyone in DD has these kinds of mishaps. I can’t imagine John Taylor and Gela breaking down in the middle of nowhere (and surely not with a trailer!) Or Simon troubleshooting a website. (Maybe Nick, though!) All I know is that today I am doubly grateful to be at home, in my house, struggling to get a blog posted.
The site still isn’t working perfectly. I’m having trouble getting it to edit properly, but I think that’s a WordPress thing and not a site thing. I hope. I just don’t think I can handle another White Screen of Death for a while!