Saturday, October 29, 2011

Safe & sound

I made all my connections, and arrived in Christchurch just fine this afternoon. The closest bit was getting to my departing gate in Dallas just as they were starting to board the aircraft. Otherwise, things went just peachy. I seem to have gotten enough sleep over the Pacific that the transition to this new time zone has not been too rough. I've stayed awake WAY longer than in the past, but am fading pretty quickly.

Tomorrow it's on the agenda to get gear in the afternoon, so I will have to figure out what to do with my morning. This hotel is pretty far from the city center, but that place has completely changed. I'll write more on that in depth later.

Now, it's time to let myself wind down.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Frequent flyer miles…Here I come

Well, we have reached the endgame stage here, as pertains to my imminent departure. I have really only a few final things to attend to before heading to the airport Thursday afternoon. I will be winging my way south via Dallas, Los Angeles, Auckland, and Christchurch. Saturday I will be issued my ECW (extreme cold weather) gear at the CDC (clothing distribution center). Then on Halloween, weather and mechanical gods being properly appeased, I will fly to McMurdo Station. The following day, ditto the satiated spirits, I would then fly to Pole. If you would like to see what that looks like, and just how many miles in the air that is, scope out this LINK to the flight itinerary on a great circle mapping website.

I also got to see the new “The Thing” movie this past weekend. While I still like the original John Carpenter remake better, this new film was plenty of fun. I find the social dynamics of the research station crews going through stressful and traumatic experiences about as interesting as the whole alien shape shifter part of the plot. It is also remarkable how little people have to bundle up when they are outside (in the movie), particularly over their faces. But, I suppose it is a bit difficult to emote through a balaclava and pair of goggles.
“To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go. The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the stories of sea danger.”
~Capt. Joshua Slocum, “Sailing Alone Around the World”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Kansas Road Trip

My flight from Seattle to Denver went fine, and the training was informative as usual. It was mostly a review, but it’s definitely to review things like saving peoples’ lives before having to do it for keeps!

Driving back from Colorado, a couple of stops were made along the way. The first was a major mountaineering feat: gaining the summit of Mt. Sunflower. This fearsome peak (i.e. grassy hill) is the highest point in Kansas, and was a very pleasant break from the usual I-70 homogeny. Located in a ranch’s pasture several miles from the Kansas-Colorado border, a nice little marker and fenced-in picnic area reside at the 4,039-foot summit of the 34th state to join the Union.

Carrying on from the top of Kansas, the night was spent in Oakley. The next morning the Fick Fossil Museum was visited, which was a nice surprise. The collection of minerals, frontier relics, and marine fossils was really interesting. Some of the larger marine fossils were top-notch reminders of the old days when Kansas was drowned beneath a great inland sea. Numerous pieces of artwork that incorporates fossil vertebrae, shark teeth, etc. were exhibited that had been done by Mrs. Fick throughout her very artistically productive life.

On the edge of Oakley, there was a giant statue in honor of Buffalo Bill, who never lived there, but took part in a buffalo hunt that earned him his nickname.

The final stop was the lovely Coronado Heights outside Lindsborg, with its neat structures (including a castle) from a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s. The viewpoint is postulated to be where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado called off his search for the Seven Cities of Gold, but even if that is totally bogus, it is still a great place to make a stop. It had been forever since I had been here, and was great to see it was still in good shape.

So, within the month I will be starting another, much longer trip, in both distance and time. It will be interesting to see how Christchurch has changed in the aftermath of their seismic calamities. I see that one of my favorite places to stay, Charlie B’s Backpackers, did not survive the quakes. In the meantime, I will be updating my USA Jobs resume in anticipation of submitting my second application for NASA astronaut, since another astronaut selection cycle will be beginning soon.
"Geologists have a saying - rocks remember."
~Neil Armstrong