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April 17, 2006

Back in Boulder

I finally made it back to Boulder yesterday afternoon. I drove straight to work, unloaded the truck, cleaned it out a bit, and headed home. But there was something weird about my car. It usually looks long to me, but it wasn't. Was this really my car? It seemed small, so small...and when I got in I was afraid maybe all the tires had gone flat. I'm actually not even kidding. I didn't get out to look at the tires, though, reminding myself that this just wasn't the big long tall Ford F250 anymore. This was just my little sedan.

I had to remember how to drive a stick shift. It had only been two weeks, but I had done a lot of driving in those two weeks. The F250 was like another appendage of mine, arm leg ear F250. I made it home fine, and I made it to Wahoos Fish Tacos fine for dinner with my friend Barbara, but I was afraid I was forgetting something when parking. I had pushed in both the clutch and the break, not stalling, and turned off the car. I looked at the gear shift--doesn't have to be in any special gear, I remembered, either reverse or first or neutral, depending. I put it in neutral. And got out of the car. And then my car started to roll. E-brake, E-brake, E-brake! I said aloud, and first tried to stop the car by holding onto the still-open door--which didn't work--and then hopped in, turned the key in the ignition, put the car in reverse, and reinhabited my parking spot. Whew. E-brake. Right.

That was the most challenging part of coming home. Today, I *slept in*, unpacked, and packed for a trip to Bloomington, Indiana on Wednesday. Figured I may as well take care of it. I mean, there are only two more nights between now and then.

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April 10, 2006

Rocks

I got to go back to the sites on Monday. Not that I wanted to, but the job had to get done.
I figured out the mistake at one of the sites, and figured out that the other site needed a repeater (a radio which could 'see' both the site and the 'master radio' where the data were being downloaded). So I hiked up a nearby ridge. I realized up there that I had been so involved with the work that I hadn't looked around much on this trip. So I looked around, and saw a lot of cool rocks.


[Purple shale.]


[Red slate.]


[Cornicopia of colored rocks.]

Then, I headed out. Into the wild gray yonder.

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April 7, 2006

Flat Tire

The trip in Nevada went along uneventfully. Actually, that's not true. Most notably, it included a certain Friday, the day before my field partner, Eric, was to head out, and our supposed last day of the project. We had one site left to install and one site to trouble-shoot, one site to run a test on if we had time, and a storage unit to organize before 7 PM. And, we had to get Eric to his hotel in Las Vegas. We started by running the test at a site, assuming we'd have time. Of course, we spent too much time there getting no positive results. Next we installed the site that needed installing--except for the batteries, which we'd left in the storage unit. Then, we tried trouble-shooting the problem site with no positive results. So we headed to the storage unit, organized it, and threw two batteries in the truck, making it out of there just a bit before 7. Headed back to the site we'd just installed ("SIXM") and put the batteries in. It didn't work. We headed back to the site we'd already tried to troubleshoot. It didn't work. We gave up. It had long been dark, and we still had 2 hours to drive to get to Las Vegas. Then I had to get to another town, just outside Vegas. Driving away from the site, I tried at least to look on the bright side. "At least we didn't get a flat tire out at SIXM," I said, since SIXM is about 10 minutes back a rough road. And then, immediately, I said, "What's that sound?" I thought maybe a branch was caught under our car, and stuck my head out the window as I eased us down the dirt road. "You had to say something, didn't you," said Eric. And he was right. We had a flat tire.

So then there was the ordeal of trying to change the tire--we found the spare and the tools, but the one used to access the spare didn't seem to work, so we called AAA, but they weren't sure how to deal with us since we were inside the California border but were by far closest to Pahrump, NV, in terms of resources, and through mulitple holds and transfers Eric figured out that there's actually a 'key' that attaches to the tool we were using, and the key was in the glove box while the tool was behind the seat, but once we found it we were able to hang up with AAA and fix our problem ourselves. And get on our way to Las Vegas. And then, for me, the nearby town whose name escapes me. I think I made it in at about 3 AM.


[Driving.]


[At the scene.]


[At the tire shop. For them to determine that they couldn't fix the tire.]


[The culprit.]


[Stripey mountains.]

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April 1, 2006

Back to Nevada

Here I am in Pahrump, Nevada. I didn't think I'd ever be happy to see the place again, but yesterday after driving eight hours it was quite a welcome site.

My current 'mission' is a continuation of a project I worked on with fellow engineer Jay Sklar in September of last year. The project is the Yucca Mountain Expansion Project, consisting of densifying an already-existing network of continuous GPS sites with an additional 18 sites as part of the feasibility study for using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage facility. The project is headed up by Brian Wernicke, CalTech, and Jim Davis, Harvard-Smithsonian, and is funded by the US DOD.

Enough background. I am here to install instrumentation on 7 additional monuments, 6 of which are complete at the time of writing. (Don't get me started...) Flying out to join me is Eric, in charge of data management of the network at Harvard-Smithsonian. I pick him up from the Las Vegas airport (ug) at noon today.

My adventure started on Thursday, with the drive from Boulder, Colorado to Green River, Utah. Then, Green River to Pahrump on Friday. The drive from Green River to the Nevada border is spectacular. I stopped at numerous overlooks on the way out in September and took pictures (see September 2005), but this time for the most part just cruised through. I knew I had a long way to go, and I had to get in early enough to do some work before dark. I did stop at one overlook, though, and ran around with the camera to check things out.


I'm staying at the SaddleWest Casino and Hotel. Just for a few nights. This is what I found for security in my room. Is that a bad sign?

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