Yesterday was grey and windy right off the bat. The entire sky was cloudy for the first time since I arrived. And the wind was biting. You could really feel the change in the absence of the sun. I needed a coat, but in my rush to grab breakfast, and the knowledge that it has been beautiful for the last ten days, I left it in my room. Oh well. Just keep your body moving, and get inside as quickly as you can.
That’s the easy part around here. My Vehicle Maintenance shop is about 130 yards from the dormitory where I am staying. It is all uphill, but it is an easy grade. I covered the distance in about four minutes because it wasn’t worth my time to look around. Those of you who know me understand that I am not a stickler about time, but I do hate to be late, and getting out of the cold will inspire timeliness even in the most lazy people. Once I was in the office it was warm and I even took off my sweater so I wouldn’t over heat. The task I was set for the day involved gathering all of the pieces of replacement parts for an industrial size power generator. This thing must be huge. Some of the parts I was gathering weighed nearly 5 pounds a piece, and even the gaskets I found were almost 2″ in diameter. There were 2 filters the size of a footlocker when set down side by side. There were 36 pieces of solid stainless steel cut to measure – six inches long and about 2″ diameter – and the one box holding all 36 weighed nearly 60 pounds. I thought my arms would fall off hefting it over the sidewall of the truck bed. Silly me couldn’t set it down on the bumper in order to lower the tailgate, so up and over it went. And was this a normal truck? Of course not…There are no normal trucks on this whole continent! A Ford F350 with tires up to my navel. Five total boxes of stainless parts, the two filters and a dozen more bread loaf sized boxes weighing nearly 6 pounds a piece. Well over 350 pounds of “it’s the new guy’s turn”. All of it for one big generator. Mind you this is not me complaining. Oh hell no. I was finished pulling it all together and brought all of it back to our office in just less than 2 hours. This is me bragging now. My boss said “I didn’t think you would finish so soon.” Denise is a woman of few words, so I was very happy to hear those few all strung together.
The rest of my afternoon would be easy.
I’m not in the habit of taking pictures while I work. I have tried hard to focus on the job rather than these posts. I would have liked to show some photos of this endeavor, but I think I’ll need to clear that with my boss first. My coworker Amy D. who I look forward to introducing you to, has a terrific sense of humor, and seems to get mine also. That is a relief. Most of you know I take a bit of getting used to. Amy has helped me a ton in figuring out all of the locations and programming issues with the computer. I owe her big-time! With that being said, I was happy to take that particular project when the boss asked me to. It’s a good thing too. Amy is about 5′ 3, and weighs a whopping 100# dripping wet. But that woman can drive a truck. She said that she learned to drive when she was 9! I guess this is one advantage to growing up in a small town with some unpaved roads. Which leads me back to taking pictures. With the truck bed loaded, it was “Fearless Amy” who jumped in the drivers seat and drove me and the goods over to the power plant to unload it all. I didn’t say anything about this tiny woman behind the wheel of such a big truck. I didn’t have to. She had a smile screwed on her face the whole time and made light of the fact that she couldn’t reach the pedals if she sat with her back against the seat. I did offer to put the wheel chuck on the seat behind her so she wouldn’t slip back into the cushions. No, she didn’t try to hit me.
Wheel chucks are an issue here. None of the roads are paved. The run-off from the snowmelt would undermine any pavement as badly as the floods in Colorado did this summer, and do it every year. Why? Because this entire base is built on the volcanic dust thrown out from Mt. Erebus. This live Volcano is about 40 miles away and is still active. In fact in February of 2013 he showed seismic activity that was recorded 300 miles away. I’ll get the details and fill you in later. The reason I bring it up at all is because of the condition of the roads. Now, I am no geologist, and will very likely get some of these words wrong, but the situation is this: Since no plants grow here, there is no vegetative matter decaying into the soil to help bind it together. It has no clay like attributes. It is very much like sand in how it lies there until you step on it and then it slips away. I have even taken a picture, which I will soon post, of moving a rock the size of a softball 3/4 buried in the dirt, with my toe and with almost no effort. The ash that binds all the rocks together has zero grip. So with unpaved roads, really loose ground under daily repair, and the fact that the only level parts of this base have a building sitting on it, every vehicle has wheel blocks – or chucks – attached to them somewhere. You can get used to that.
What I can’t get used to is this. All vehicles are public access and free to use and return. Trucks, Vans, Snowmobiles, ATVs, Forklifts and road graders. Just leave the keys in them, turn them off, and for Pete’s sake chuck the wheel. The next man who needs to use it doesn’t have time to hunt you down and beg for the keys. He’ll bring it back to where he started.
And so will I. Like I mentioned in the tag line, I missed a day of writing to you because last night after work I joined with some new friends to make decorations for the Christmas Masquerade ball. It was fun and silly and we had a blast. It didn’t end till after 9:30pm. So I decided to go to bed instead of staying up too late writing. Now isn’t that a change…me doing the responsible thing with my free time!