Tuesday, August 19, 2008

High Five

You gotta love highway art! I pass this thing every time I go to the Sierra’s for work. And I always say, “oh yeah, I need to get a picture of that”. Well, I finally did.

Today is a rare day off for me, and I’m actually spending it up here in the Sierra’s. Shaver Lake to be exact. I had a meeting yesterday (Monday) in Fresno at 7:45 am. So I drove down to Fresno Sunday night. Tried not to fall asleep in the meeting, and then we were all off for what SCE calls a job-walk. SCE is replacing the “skyline” (the uppermost wire/cable on the transmission towers [the big steel ones]) with a Fiber Optic cable. This is suppose to help improve the communications that will travel this cable. SCE is replacing this on three of their transmission lines. Of course they told me this only on Wednesday, last. Anyway, they invited four companies to submit bids on the project. (SCE outsources most of their construction work now). So this meeting was for them. Me, the archaeologist and JJ (that’s what I’ll call him) the Biologist were invited just to help give them an idea of what they will be encountering and what types of “things” they will have to avoid. So after the boring meeting that had nothing to do with me, we all got in our trucks and drove off to some of the locations that they will have issues with, i.e. difficult terrain, cultural/bio issues, access (some of the towers they need to get to are in citrus groves and trucks don’t fit). One funny thing, well, it’s funny now was that I was the only one who didn’t have 4-wheel drive. *grumbles and swears about how the rental company continuously screws me over* Anyway, I didn’t have any real problems but since everyone else did have 4-wheel drive, they were driving up the freshly graded dirt roads with lots of rocks and loose soil quite slow. Now if any of you know about 4-wheel driving… when you don’t have 4-wheel drive and have not quite bald yet highway tires…. You need to have momentum to get uphill on loose soil. Needless to say, I think I scared the crap out of the guys in the truck behind me. JJ was in the rental crap mobile with me, so we were having a grand ole time thinking about those guys behind us getting the dirt storm of the century from my constantly spinning wheels and having me stop and wait for the trucks ahead to get farther ahead so I could floor it up the hills. So our day ended in the orange groves east of Fresno, and I then drove up here to Shaver Lake.

Because I technically worked on Saturday (picked up the rental crap mobile), Sunday (driving down to Fresno) and Monday, I have today off, mostly because I will be working up here Wednesday straight through to next Thursday.

So here I am, with a day off in a tiny resort town in the mountains. So what did I do? I slept in till 10:30 of course. I went to the little museum in Camp Edison, which was just built last year. Of course it was closed. Only open from Thursday-Sunday from 11-3. So I decided to drive up to the lake. Parked in the overflow/turn out area and walked around the lake. Well, not very far, the lake is HUGE! I tried to find a spot that didn’t have any garbage nearby, or people. That was an impossible task. My word, there is a lot of trash around the lake, it’s disgusting. You can smell it rotting, yuck! I sat down near the water on a rock and tried to read a book for a while. But then the afternoon clouds came in and I got cold. So I drove back into town and ordered a pizza for lunch (and dinner), and now I am sitting outside at the little coffee shop drinking an iced chai and eating pizza. The lady who owns the coffee shop also owns the little grocery store and wood carving shop that are all connected to each other. I am sitting on the coolest wood patio table. They have some pretty cool outdoor furniture, to bad my sister and I have no money to buy some of it. Her boyfriend owns the restaurant across the street (really good food). Anyway, this is the only place with wireless Internet… I think the only internet in town. So here I am. Not sure what to do with the rest of the day… If I wasn’t by myself it would have been nice to rent a canoe/kayak and go play on the lake. But I didn’t want to go out there by myself.

Tomorrow will be all work and no play till next Thursday, so I best be off to enjoy the rest of the day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No really, I love construction workers

So I'm sitting here in my car at 11:12am writing this (sort of, typing it up later obviously). I'm at the Monterey Presidio, it is one of the language schools for the U.S. military now (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center). Monitoring here is always an interesting experience, most of the time quite boring. Like now, waiting for them to start digging again.

Getting on base is always interesting too. They have a little gate booth looking thing with two guards and a turn out/parking lot with a trailer (now upgraded to a more permanent trailer) with a lovely port-o-potty. I have to go to the turn out/ parking thing and get a blue pass before I can go up to the guards in the little gate booth thingy. They need to see my drivers license, car insurance, and registration. I usually have to explain to the guard in this trailer/hut thing who I am, what I do, why I'm there, who my supervisor is (which when working on the Presidio is the City of Monterey - and who ever the lead engineer is for the particular project). I've met most of the city people and they are all pretty nice.

Anyway, as I was saying earlier......... What was I saying? Oh dear. Once the guard in the hut thing gives me my blue pass (it really is blue) which has all my incriminating evidence on it (I'm sure if they could put my SS# on there, they would). This card has my name, phone number, supervisor, their phone number, make, model, and color of my car, which bldg I'll be at, who gave the pass to me, and how long it's good for (24 hours). I then finally drive up to the two guards in their gate booth thingy and show them my blue pass and my DL, which they look at, then look at me, then back at my DL, then the blue card, then back at me, etc. And finally shoo me away, and I drive onto the base and immediately get lost. This place is a maze. Today was easy though, in that they are working on the main road into the base, so I was already on it! But finding parking, well... let's just say I'm on the dead grass lawn next to the bus route side road. Yeah, I'm parked illegally on a military base.

So, why am I here and why do I love construction workers? Well this is a Presidio which means there is a lot of history here. 1. this is Monterey and indians were everywhere here (still are). 2. The Spanish built the original Presidio (a military outpost) here in around 1768. It's full name was El Presidio Real de San Carlos de Monterey. And 3. the U.S. military took over around 1846. So there is a lot of stuff lying around. The military has a contract with the City of Monterey that basically says when the city is going to do any maintenance/ ground disturbing on the base, they need to have a monitor. And well, we have an open contract with the city, so here I am. We usually get the frantic phone calls at 7am, "oh crap, the sewer line just busted, can you be here 10 minutes ago?" or "oh crap, can you be here tomorrow morning?"

So today this crew hired by the city to fix the road on the base where some cypress tree roots have done a number to the pavement. They are removing the bad sections and repaving. Oh fun. These guys are cool. The crew is usually all spanish speakers. of a crew of about 8 , there is one white chick (happens to have the loudest mouth), one white dude (the foreman and operator), one black guy who talked with me quite a bit, and the rest were latino. They all spoke very good english though, I was surprised. Today's comment was "has anyone told you lately how beautiful your eyes are?" (I'm trying not to roll my eyes here). And then there was the "how do I get a job like hers?" The response from the foreman was, "It's this place called college". I also love how they try to clean up their language as if I have fragile virgin ears. And their idea of cleaning up their language is either saying it in Spanish or not yelling it every third word right in front of me (they do it across the street instead). You can learn a lot just hanging out with these guys for a day.

And I didn't bring a lunch. I should have known better, but usually my job here is done by noon and so I just drive back up to the office. But today, all I have is a small bag of pretzels I grabbed from home and an old bag of Honey Roasted Peanuts from Southwest Airlines that I found in my backpack. Well, it is now 12:00pm and lunch is over, but I'm still sitting on my ass because they are not digging. They have to pave over one side of the road before they can dig up the other side. Oh... I think it's time to get off my ass...

*note that I finally typed this up a week later, and I ended up staying there till after 5pm, ended up being a 11.5 hour day (and only got paid for 8 - sucks being a supervisor sometimes - no overtime pay)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oops, so sorry

So I guess I should tell you all, I didn't go to Nevada. I was pulled off the project by my boss, who said I was needed here (in California) instead. I was bummed at first, but I got over it. I had already bought my tent, camping stove and gas canisters, and lost 8 pounds by jogging and other exercises. Oh well, needed that anyway I suppose.

So instead of being in Nevada (which a report I got from a buddy who is on the project said that it is cold, windy, and other things I should not say) I am spending my summer here:
I'm back in the Sierra Mountains. It seems to be my home away from home. I have noticed that just like everywhere else, the towns here are suffering the recession, just like the rest of us. There are more for sale signs here than I have ever seen here before. The winter season was bad, and the summer season looks to be just as bad. Many of the restaurants in town are for sale, and lots of cabins. The towns up here survive on the tourists and us workers. The reservoirs are at the lowest I have ever seen them, and the fish populations are down as well. It is sad to see. It is such a beautiful place... but maybe the lack of people will be a good thing (for nature anyway).

I'm going back up on Monday (June 9th). I will most likely be up there the rest of June and July. I hope to be able to finish the field work for at least one of my projects... I have two other Sierra Mountain projects waiting for me.

To update you on what I've been doing since the desert experience... let me see... i went to southern San Benito County for a day to survey a creek bed, went back to the Sierra's a few times, did some survey and recording in the Kettleman Hills (cow country) in the oil fields. Had to take an 8 hour class on the thousands of ways I can die in the oil fields. (it wasn't called that of course but that is basically the gist of it) And when I wasn't out, I was in the office typing away and making maps and generally trying to stay out of trouble.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Meanwhile back at the ranch

I’m here in the California desert. Outside of Lancaster and Palmdale (yes, I said Palmdale). The wildflower season was at its peek last week, but it is still quite beautiful and amazing. There are still poppies everywhere, but they are on their last hurray. I’m down here for a ten-day rotation, surveying dirt roads and soon to be dirt roads that will access a new power transmission line (those big steel towers) that will of coarse go to feed Los Angeles. But at least it is wind power; they are bringing power from a wind farm in Tehachapi.

It is only day four, have six more to go. But I have already seen some pretty cool stuff. Tomorrow will be the “jaw dropping” day. We will be visiting and mapping and whatnot at this HUGE village site. It spans more than three miles!!! WOO HOO. Lots of cool things to see.

Here is what I have seen so far… lots of wildflowers, poppies, thistle, linear golden bush, blue dicks (I kid you not, that is there name), forget-me-nots, chia, and many many others. My survey buddy is a botanical nut, so I keep asking her, “what’s this?”

Also, lots of lizards, stink bugs (do not squish them!), snakes (picture is of a Mojave Green – very poisonous), horny toad, and coyotes (one live one jogging amongst the cows, and one dead – most likely hit by a car, his back leg was broken).

The days have been going by fast. The hikes are not too bad. We are in the high desert, so the wind blows constantly (which is good and bad). Good because it keeps the temperatures down, and bad because it keeps the temperatures down. HA! It’s cold in the mornings and evenings, and hot during the day. But this is a good time to visit the desert, not too hot. It will get into the 90’s this weekend, but that isn’t too bad.

Two things I have noticed. Way to many people are moving into the desert. Lancaster and Palmdale blend into each other now. No distinction between the two cities. Suburban sprawl is killing the desert. And there is garbage EVERYWHERE!!!!! People have no respect for the desert; they just drive their crap out there and dump it!!!! WTF? (sorry, really irks me). It is so sad! I usually try to pick up trash I see, but you can’t do that out here unless you have a dump truck following you. My survey buddy and I did pick up some stuff today; someone had dumped chlorine tablets, (you know – urinal cakes). Those are toxic!!!!!!! We put them in a plastic garbage bag I had in my pack and took them to a dumpster. How hard it is to dump stuff in a dumpster. Lazy bastards.

Other than that little rant, I’m having a great time. Wish I had a better internet connection but, oh well. We will see if I can get this to post tonight. Here’s hoping!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who wants to walk across Nevada?

It seems i'm not so good at keeping this blog current. My apologizes. I have been busy with work. Been stuck in the office waiting for the snow to melt in my project areas. I've been helping my co-workers with graphics (making maps and drawing artifacts and site maps, etc.) and helping write reports and trying to clean out and organize the lab which is where my make-shift office is. My word, these people are pack rats!

Over the winter we put in a bid for a huge gas pipeline survey project and... we got it! We are working with 2 other companies on it. The pipeline will start in southern Wyoming go through Utah and Nevada, and end in southern Oregon. My company is in charge of the Nevada portion. My boss wants me on the project which is fine by me. I have been tasked with finding crew. We will have at least 3 teams of at least 6 people per team, and we will set out on our journey. Now this is northern Nevada above interstate 80. We will be 100+ miles away from any city, town, or ghost town. We will be camping for 10 days at a time with no showers, bathrooms, or running fresh water, and then we will have 4 days off. I haven't done this type of camping before, so it will be quite the experience. It will be very rugged terrain and we will be hiking 12-14+ miles per day! Suffice to say, I started jogging and getting in shape.

I've been at it now for 3 weeks, I've lost a whopping 4 pounds and no longer wheeze and feel like I'm going to die from a heart attack when I get back from my run. Granted I still don't go very far, only a mile right now, but I've been pushing myself to go further. I will not be in great shape by the time I leave for this trip, but at least, hopefully, I won't pass out on the first day. I will probably be in great shape by the time I get back though... may look like a twig. *shocking*

Since I will be one of the crew leaders/supervisors I will have to carry more on my back than the others. I will have the first-aid kit, camera, gps unit, paperwork, and extra water in case people run out. There are times I wish I wasn't in charge but, I love my job and so... yeah.

I will most likely be leaving mid April and be gone for at least 2 months. The four days off between rotations, we will be in hotels in either Elko or Winnemucca. Hopefully they will have the internet. I will try and post updates during my times with civilization, but I'm not promising anything.

Now come on, who doesn't want to walk across Nevada?