Monday, November 26, 2012

and...I'm spent

So, the final pre-home stop of note was the Grand Canyon.  It felt strange to not go hiking down to the bottom, but it wasn't in the cards for this trip.  Neither was heading to Phoenix to hang with Mr. H's band (sorry).  

If you look closely, you can see a suspension bridge over the Colorado River.  I recall the grating on the bottom looked like it disappeared when I ran over it as a boy.
 This was quite the change of landscape from the Antarctic Plateau for a year without a break.
It wasn't all big empty spaces and tranquil quiet...
Eventually the sun set on our visit there and the shadows grew long upon the canyon.
On his moon landing:
“It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you're standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it's like.”

~Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut

Back in the US of A

Now for some pics from the domestic portion of the trip home from Pole this year.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

The Angels Flight railway that was originally built to save the rich folks that lived on top of the hill from having to walk to do their shopping, or so I gathered from the volunteers at the Union Station information desk.

The Million Dollar Theater which was used briefly by the crew shooting Blade Runner.

Just across the street from the theater above, the atrium of the Bradbury Building, which figured large as a location for the filming of Blade Runner.

The skylight roof of the Bradbury Building atrium, sadly with no giant blimp sporting geisha video advertisements flying overhead.

The main hall in Union Station in Los Angeles, which coincidentally was another Blade Runner filming location.

One more post should take care of the trip home.
"I need ya, Decks. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old blade runner, I need your magic."
~Bryant, Blade Runner

Taupo & Chch

{That title sounds like some cartoon character duo.}

Bungy jumping above the Waikato River in Taupo, NZ.

The rapids immediately above the falls on the Waikato River.  These aren't the rapids that will be used in The Hobbit; those are further downstream.

Huka Falls immediately below the previous rapids.

The new Cashel Mall in Christchurch, with all the shipping container stores that opened up in late 2011.  It seems like folks really gravitate to this area, not only for the social scene but also for views into the "red zone" of what used to be the central business district (CBD).
“The only real depression is a depression of individual ingenuity.”
~George Daynor

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Spice...I mean pics...must flow

I made it home in the wee hours of Thursday morning, getting off at the nearest Amtrak station I'd always wanted to actually use for travel.  The L.A. stop and Grand Canyon were both really nice, and the train proved to be a slow but much more comfortable way to travel than airplane (and definitely Greyhound).  Anyhow, I've gotten to see a nice chunk of my family thus far, not to mention eating two Thanksgiving dinners (one at home and one on the train in the dining car).  I'll do several posts now to share the photos from the extended trip home.

This was the ridiculous vehicle new to McMurdo since I was there last, which carried a planeload of us into town.  We still used Ivan the Terrabus to go back out to to the C-17 for the flight to Chch, so I'm not sure where the crimson beast was off to that day.

Rotorua's (NZ) geothermal pools were an olfactory experience, for sure. 

 And, if you watch TV, you've probably seen this place a bunch in recent weeks.  This is the Hobbiton set, with Bag End (the Baggins' hobbit hole) at the top of the hill to the left.

It's seen up close here, minus any "G" rune indicating a burglar lived there.

Any (little) body home?

The pond and bridge were much bigger than I expected.  The pictures probably look a little hazy due to the rain falling at that point of the tour.

And just because, another look back up to Bag End from the Water.

More photos to come, but that's it for now.
“Next to seeing land, there is no sight which makes one realize he is drawing near home, than to see the same heavens, under which he was born, shining at night over his head.”
~Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast

Monday, November 19, 2012

not quite the same "longest day"

Yeah, this November 19 has not been quite as "long" a day as June 6, 1944, but it's certainly lasted a few hours more than normal.  We arrived in L.A. about the same time we left Christchurch earlier that "morning".  Though I only managed a few hours of fitful sleep, it still felt morning-ish upon arrival in California.  We got to Union Station and some good suggestions (and a map) and are enjoying downtown L.A., which is a lot different than expected.  This was posted using free wi-fi next to the Angels Flight little railroad/funicular, which is picturesque with its Halloween orange and black color scheme.  We've seen no stars, but have seen some much-filmed locations.  Last on the list is the Bradbury Building and Million Dollar Theater, which figured large in Blade Runner.  Anyhow, we've a few more hours to kill before getting seats and boarding the train this evening.
"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."
~Theodore Roosevelt 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

penultimate Kiwi day

We're back in Chch after a nice day of travel down from Wellington yesterday.  Saw a couple movies and Prince Charles on Friday; Argo and Looper and he was just driving by with his motorcade (like when I saw his mum drive past in Oslo in "01).  Not much on the "agender" here today but eating some good food and enjoying the sunny (if windy) spring day.  There's lots of music down on the new Cashel Mall, as well as free Wifi.  Super Shuttle picks us up at an eye-wateringly early 3:50 tomorrow morning, so it will be an early bedtime this evening.  Trip chapter 2 to commence shortly, with the longest November 19 of my life crossing the date line headed east.
“Five hours' New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm."
~William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Sunday, November 11, 2012

not working...and that's OK

So, a few days of liberty have really felt like a much longer respite from the status quo at NPX than they really should.  After some quality time with a maimed Chch and a day at the pools/spas (had a massage courtesy of a gift certificate), we flew to Rotorua yesterday and visited the Tolkien filming location of Hobbiton this morning.  They're still doing additions to the area as a result of the new Hobbit movies that wrapped filming there a year ago or so.  It's really pretty countryside, and the hobbit holes are pretty cute.  I stood at the front gate of BAG END!  Anyhow, pictures may or may not get forwarded depending upon the internet situation.  It's mostly been a pay as you go affair thus far, so some of the visuals may have to wait.

Bandwidth has been mostly spent trying to actually make reservations for the rest of the way home.  Thus far, we've lucked out with getting things when we want them.  But, Chch is pretty full this week for the Cup and Show horse race/drunken debauch (not sorry to miss most of that), and the last two nights before an early (6:30 AM) flight to Sydney en route to Los Angeles have yet to be acquired.  Once in LA, we'll be getting across town to Union Station and hopping on the Amtrak Southwest Chief train overnight to Williams, AZ.  From there it will be a quick trip to the Grand Canyon's south rim for the day-night-day, and then back to Williams and on another really early train (another SW Chief) the rest of the way home.  I've wanted to do the train from the coast for years, so this is striking while the iron is hot.  It was a big relief when USAP travel didn't mess around with us (fees, extra charges, etc.) and we got what we wanted.  Anyhow, it's a lot less exotic trip than 2 years ago, but there are things like school and job interviews (still pending word from Houston) that might be more necessary investments at this point. 

From Rotorua the road heads to Taupo for a day-night and then to Wellington for several days, where a catch-up with a cryogenics technician from a past year will hopefully come to pass.  It's then the ferry and bus back to Chch, and with luck there will be someplace to stay once there.
"This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun."
~Clark Griswold, National Lampoon's Vacation

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the outside...there are living things

OK, so the world here in New Zealand is still livable and lovely.  We got in fairly late last night and spent the night at the hotel right by the Antarctic Center/CDC.  The last extraneous stuff has been shipped homeward and plane tickets for the big leap across the pond have been retrieved.  It's now for some internet booking for some of the remaining fun bits in NZ before heading back to the States on 11/19.  But, before all that excitement starts, it's a day to enjoy Chch and make a few more plans.

The general plan is for some fun on the south and north islands of NZ, which will be followed then by the flight across the pond, and then will be followed up with a little different means of getting from Los Angeles to home.  More as it develops.
"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. "
~Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Pause" still depressed

We're just hanging out here in McMurdo still waiting for our C-17 to take off from Christchurch.  Tempting fate, plans have begun to be made for the trip home as of later last night, so we'll see whether that has any butterfly effect on provoking a response from NASA or a delay in this flight.  At least I haven't pulled the sheets from my bed yet.  Anyhow, it's pretty much stay calm and carry on until we get a transport time to the airfield.  Last night we did "bag drag" and checked the last of our gear, so we're traveling light with just carry-ons from now until we meet back up with the rest of our stuff in Chch.
"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."
~Thomas Jefferson

Monday, November 5, 2012

One step...complete

So, that plane did get to Pole and safely carried us north to McMurdo Station.  We rode to town on the new big red trailer vehicle thing they had to widen the road down to the sea ice to accommodate.  I have yet to freak out due to being around more people, and was more just annoyed in the galley last night with the lousy traffic flow in the food service area.  There have been a few familiar faces, but not loads.  I just had a shower and am getting ready to start getting down to brass tacks on figuring out how to get home, or at the very least where I'll stay Thursday night on.  The weather is nice here and it certainly feels warm.  A year where I was and you'd think it was too.
" steps get on the bus, baby steps down the aisle, baby steps... "
~Bob Wiley, What About Bob?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

SK11 mission P004

Yup, skier one-one mission papa zero-zero-four is headed this way after a 3-hour delay (mechanical) in McMurdo.  The weather is gorgeous here at Pole, so barring any further deterrents, it will make it here about 2pm.  This has been a busy morning with room cleaning and packing, laundering bedclothes, checking in on the projects at work, serving as an observer for the emergency response drill (SO glad to be at the end, not the beginning, of that experiential arc), assisting with moving more food into the station (food pull), and the last few miscellaneous errands before heading to the flight line.  Getting rid of my radio will be the last, but certainly will be a pleasant one after being on-call for over a year.

This all seems pretty routine.  It's funny how anticlimactic it is after such long labors.  The transitions are abrupt and come with little fanfare.  One morning you're at Pole and a couple hours you're back in the land of rock and soil and liquid water.  After a couple days of sleeping and trying not to get sick in McMurdo, you're thrust back into the green world in New Zealand and whole chapters of planetary options open up once you step out of your big noisy metal tube that carried you there.
"It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."
~Frank Zappa

Saturday, November 3, 2012

another try tomorrow

With the flight canceled on Saturday, the last couple days have been busy here at Pole.  There has been some turnover for Team 2 and the ERT in general, but the drill was postponed until Monday morning.  Last I heard the LC-130 I (and a bunch of other folks) will leave on is planning on a 8:00 AM departure from McMurdo, which means it would likely arrive here-should weather and mechanical gods (Vulcan/Hephaestus?)-smile upon us.  Not leaving was OK with me; I'd rather be here on a weekend than McMurdo.  I also got to have a nice chat at brunch with an ex-NASA flight surgeon that is the next doctor here at Pole.
"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
~Benjamin Franklin

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Maybe" did not come to pass

Soooo, I guess the LC-130 that was supposed to come to Pole this morning had a mechanical problem, which extends the stay of 20-some winterovers (humble author included) until likely next week.  The wind is blowing pretty stiffly here this morning, which has our visibility down a fair bit.  There has not been any update about when we might depart, but I'm not sweating it.  I've filled my morning with the usual work, and have just been filling out new versions of cargo forms for some retrograde shipping of science media on DVDs and hard drives for a couple of my projects.  At some point I'll take my last bag of stuff and depart the station.  It will happen when it happens.  That's one upside to having zero travel plans: there's no sweating a deadline to get back to the World!
"Patience. Use the Force. Think." 
~Obi-Wan Kenobi

Thursday, November 1, 2012

(Maybe) penultimate day almost done

Today was one of those late-season turnover days that really take the stuffing out of a (summer-) winterover.  It seemed like I was running here and there all day long, with big additions to my schedule by other folks coming out of the blue.  Hopefully I'll be able to get my three boxes mailed without issue this evening and be rid of them until I get home.  I opted not to check any luggage, so skipped bag-dragging (and got called later by Cargo to verify I really didn't have any).  I just jammed the last of my stuff, minus some ECW bits and the despised Big Red parka in the one orange duffel bag I have left.  It actually all fit, which was a nice surprise.  I suppose what feels like a giant carry-on for me is par for a lot of other people.

And, no; no plans for travel home yet.

I don't feel too toasty, but I know I'm tired.  I'm sure it shows up some in my appearance and in conversation, but what's a guy on his 367th straight day of work to do?
"The only certain freedom's in departure."
~Robert Frost