Monday, August 31, 2009

From a picnic table by a mountain creek

OK, I'm on battery power, so will be as informative and laconic as possible. The road trip is going great. First off was a nice visit with some of my extended family in western KS. I then drove on to Clayton Lake State Park in NM and saw some dinosaur tracks in the stone layer of the spillway. Very cool place, and oh-so tranquil. I just slept on my picnic table instead of using my tent.

The next day I drove over to Capulin Volcano Nat. Monument, and drove up its slopes and hiked around the crater. The cone stands roughly 2,000 feet above the surrounding high plains, just to give the following picture some perspective. You can see the road wrapping up the side of the volcano.

I then carried on over some great mountain roads to Taos and met a very good friend I made during my previous stint at Pole. He rode in on a motorcycle that had an engine that handily out-displaced my Civic's 1.6-liter monster in line-4. Anyhow, we went out to Wild Rivers Recreational Area, and practically had the whole park to ourselves. We hiked down to the confluence of the Red and Rio Grande rivers (shown below), and the canyons were just absolutely lovely.

The next day I left Taos early, and went to Antonito, CO and rode the Toltec & Chama Scenic Railroad. I was definitely way younger than the average age of the riders in general, but it was gorgeous scenery and a first for me to ride on a train pulled by a coal-powered steam engine. The cinders got a little old after a while, but otherwise it was great, as was the all-you-can-eat lunch. I had some older lady ask how a "little guy" like me could put away so much food. Oh ye of little faith!

Back in Antonito, after the train ride, I geeked out over the house used as Indiana Jones' boyhood home in "The Last Crusade". You can rent it out, and it's even up for sale. Now, it might not be as cool as seeing the building in Petra, Jordan used as the temple housing the Holy Grail, but it still was cool to see another place from the movies.

I will say, that up until I tried to take the photo of my fedora on the mailbox, my fedora was pretty much pristine. Well, maybe it was the spirit of the movies or just an errant gust of wind, but my hat took a tumble and found its first bit of dirt and dust as it tumbled across the front lawn. I'll consider it an auspicious sign of adventures to come.

I'm in Nathrop, CO camping tonight, and will leave not too long after midnight to start the 15-mile hike up and down Mt. Antero tomorrow. The trail head is within about 15 miles of my tent, so it shouldn't take too long to get there. I'll post more as I can, and access to AC power avails. This trip is proving exactly the right balm to prepare me for this next chapter on the Ice.

If you have given up your heart for the Tower, Roland, you have already lost. A heartless creature is a loveless creature, and a loveless creature is a beast. To be a beast is perhaps bearable, although the man who has become one will surely pay hell’s own price in the end, but if you should gain your object? What if you should, heartless, storm the Dark Tower and win it? What could you do except degenerate from beast to monster? To gain one’s object as a beast would only be bitterly comic, like giving a magnifying glass to an elephaunt. But to gain one’s object as a monster…To pay hell is one thing. But do you want to own it?
~The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Blacktop Beckons

OK, due to some unclear reason, my trip to Stanford isn't happening, so I'm now in the final stages of putting together my road trip out west. I'll initially be heading to Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico this Thursday, and will be putting the finishing touches on getting my gear together over the next couple days. I'm really looking forward to a little vacation here before getting back to the everyday work schedule at Pole. I'll be going through some familiar places and seeing some equally familiar faces along the way, but there are some new adventures I've got on the itinerary, as well as all those unforeseen adventures that lurk en route.

I got aggressive about planning this not only because the training trip was called off, but also because it sounds like there is a distinct possibility that my deployment date might be creeping forward as well. I will have a decent buffer of time to work with when I get home, should the deployment be moved earlier, so should still be able to get all my packing and shipping and farewells done in good order. Regardless of all that, this trip should be a whole lot of fun. Yes, I will post here as I can manage along the way. At least one campground I'll stay at will have wifi. Such roughing it!

There are two dogs inside me. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog most of the time. Which dog usually wins? The one I feed the most.
~Native American saying

Monday, August 17, 2009

East coast recap

Well, I returned quite late on Friday night after a nice visit to see some erstwhile colleagues at NASA Goddard and a couple flights back to Kansas. My next trip will be next week, though I have no details about the travel itinerary as of yet. Anyhow, here are a few pics from my trip to the east coast.

"The Green" at Dartmouth College; I felt quite the "prole" while walking around in Hanover. I also think that place must have the highest rate of Volvo drivers that I've ever encountered. It didn't matter much, though. The country is really gorgeous in that part of the world, no matter how far out of my normal social stratification I might have felt.

On Thursday, on my way back to Maryland from Delaware, I stopped first at New Castle, DE. It has enough age to not quite feel like most of the U.S., and almost has a tinge of the Old World to it. I just wandered around the streets for a while in the rain after parking near the old courthouse.

A short way down the Delaware River, I stopped at Delaware City and took the ferry to Fort Delaware (sure creative with the names there, huh?) out on Pea Patch Island. This old fort never saw any battle, but was used as a POW camp for interned CSA soldiers. I'm just amazed that it hasn't sunk into the river, given how soggy the island and the fort itself are. The granite facade was nifty, but I wonder how well that would have even held up to bombardment with artillery contemporary to its time of construction (1859).

I'll be heading west for the next trip, which will be a lot more succinct (I assume) than this past trip. I don't think there will likely be much of a chance to play sightseer, but will work with whatever time I am afforded.

“You can’t stop a man from wishin’.”
~Hogan (Clint Eastwood), Two Mules for Sister Sara

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More from the road

Well, I'm now in Delaware, my 31st state visited, and will shortly be heading over to U Del. for a full day of training on a cosmic ray experiment that will be coming to Pole this coming (austral) summer season. Yesterday I was at U. Maryland, and got to see my old neighborhood after a quarter century's time away. Nobody has fixed the traffic problems here, so I had the usual reaction to the place. {insert expletives here} My connecting flight in New York was delayed 4 hours Monday night, so I wasn't able to hit the hay until 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday. But, I managed to keep my wits together to participate in the training (I assume) and drive myself up I-95 to Newark, DE in the afternoon. Despite having a bookstore right next to the hotel, I opted to just crash early and hard once I made it to my hotel room. I'm feeling pretty good this morning, after breakfast, and will hopefully have no problems getting myself over to the campus.

So, I guess some highlights thus far have been seeing all those forested hill-mountains up in New Hampshire, seeing the tops of the Empire State and Chrysler (is it still called that?) buildings in NYC, visiting the old 'hood in Maryland, driving through the harbor tunnel in Baltimore with a pack of guys riding sport bikes revving their engines really loudly, and driving over the huge Susquehanna River on my way to Delaware.

It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
~Frank Herbert

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Road Work

Well, I've been a bit preoccupied this past week getting details ironed out for a training trip on the east coast. I'm visiting three universities in New Hampshire, Maryland, and Delaware that I will be working with supporting science projects they have at the Pole. I had to get up at 3:30 this morning to start the trip, and am currently craving food in New Hampshire.

It's my first time in NH, and I rather enjoyed the drive up I-89. To say there are a few trees here would be quite an understatement. I kept a weather eye for moose in the boggy places visible from the roads, but no luck had I spotting Bullwinkle.

Anyhow, tomorrow I will allegedly be training with some science folks at Dartmouth College. In the afternoon I have to hoof it back to the airport in Manchester and fly to my old friend Baltimore Washington International (via NYC). If I get a chance to do anything remotely interesting I'll let you know.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go.
~Dr. Seuss