Posts Tagged ‘trip’

Thursday 21 (Gardening with Genie)

July 25, 2011

Thursday 21st July.  Woke up to see a truck dragging a large trailer barely making the turn into the siding I was in. -TIME TO MOVE ON!  Headed up towards the San Francisco.  By that evening there was a kinda surreal moment where I was drinking Dawkins wine (given to me by RDF @ TAM), with Ray Comforts watch, while having dinner with the Dr Eugenie Scott.

Hate to be curt about it, but I’ve got to make this entry quick, as Im currently back in LA, and have to get out of the city, and up the back of the Sierra Nevada by dark to do some astro!

 

Friday 22nd, Went to see NCSE at work.  A truly impressive organisation. I have to admit, all I knew about them is they were involved with the drubbing at Dover, but having seen them in operation I can only describe the center and fearsomely fit for purpose.   This is an organization that would be sorely missed if they were to vanish tomorrow.  The group keeps strong tabs on folks trying to get creationism into schools, and has an impressive library of the history of such things.  They also are in tune with the new media, and do an excellent job of taking advantage of all the social media opportunities out there.

 

Saturday 23rd.  Spent a pleasant morning Gardening with Genie, of a fashion.  Turns out that I’m know almost nothing about plant care, but was quite useful for a little help with the plumbing of the irrigation system.  If healthy living is a factor, Genie will outlast us all!  That evening we went to a local meeting of the Skeptic group.  A fun and vibrant group, in the Berkeley area of SF.

 

Sunday 24th.  Improvised some deer deterrent systems with Gene!  Yes apparently SF has a deer problem, especially if your greens are lush!

Later in the day, after many an interesting conversation I took my leave of Dr Scott, and headed on back to LA.  Got to pick up a video camera, then figure after that I’ll head up the back of the Sierra Nevada to where the forecast says there will be some wonderfully dark and still skies.  The dive down I5 is an incredibly empty land (30 miles between gas stations etc).  Lots of sun-scorched yellow hills.  There were bad road works and I was significantly delayed getting back to LA.  In the end found a quiet siding near Lebec, although still within earshot of the freeway.  Really erie with the grey lights of the vehicles moving up and down the busy freeway, with the dark sky above.

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Monday 18th (To California!)

July 21, 2011

Decided to head to California, picked up gas and a burger and got on the road.  A few hours later I was in Barstow CA.  The brakes have been worrying me for the best part of the last 1000 miles.  There has been an intermediate high pitched whine coming from them (front right), especially at speed as if a wire or something is rubbing against the brake hub.  Figured I’d get it checked out the next time I changed the oil.  Long experience has shown that if you are going to get work done on the wheels, the bigger the civilization the better.  Also turns out that one of my video cameras died.  Worse than that, one of the brand new ones died!  It turns on okay, and off okay, but the second you try to turn it on with the screen open -dead.  Turns out there was a canon ‘walk in express repair center’ in LA.  Figured that would be  a good place to kill two birds with one stone.  Spent most of the afternoon rendering, uploading and writing blog, plus catching up on the mass of emails etc that had accumulated in the 4 days I had been ‘unplugged’.   Then as dusk came on I headed out to the south towards San Bernadino, but turned off before hand for a quiet little place called Wrightwood.  I was v. happy to be heading for LA at this point the brakes are sounding progressively more creaky.  I’ve had a good feel around the back of the brakes but couldn’t find anything obvious, further they look to be carrying quite a lot of corrosion.

Tuesday 19th, saved by grace!

Go up before the sunlight hit the car in the little niche I was parked in.  Some great views heading back to the main road!

View from Wrightwood

View driving back from Wrightwood to the main road.  Those little domes look kinda volcanic to me.

Drive through LA was busy, but not too bad.  Got to the Canon ‘express repair’ at 8ish.  They very quickly diagnosed a ‘LCD’ fault.  250 bucks to replace.  When I asked if it was under warranty (it’s only about a month old, quasi professional 900 bucks canon S20 I think), they said yes, but I would need proof of purchase or similar.  The warranty was an absolute no-go.  I had ditched the paper work to the camera before I started on the roadtrip.  Proof of purchase I could do from emails etc, but they didn’t have wifi.  A little miffed I headed out to find a McDonalds for breakfast and wifi.   Took about 5 times as long as I expected to find the correct email.  I get far too many emails! Like trying to find a fart in a jacuzzi!  Eventually found it (bought in beginning of June, just before I came out!). On returning about an hour or so later there was a significant que, and I had to wait about another hour to get it seen to.  When they did, almost as if to rub salt in the wound, they scarcely looked at the email (sigh).  Then of course it was going to take 5-7 days to repair.  GAHHHHHHH.  I had no desire to hang around LA for the best part of a week.  I handed it in anyways, I mean lets be real, as it stands that month old camera is currently junk to me, and without it I am working off my spare camera.  Maybe best contingency plan I came up with was to get Canon to send the fixed camera to NCSE (IF they need a camera), and just to write it off as a donation from my subscribers to NCSE.

Okay, so order of buisness one in LA concluded.  Next, get the car seen to.  I like Sear for car stuff, most notably after TWICE I had Walmarts engine butchers botch an oil change.  Sear is nationwide, and generally Ive been happy with them.  Nonetheless the first Sears the GPS took me to was ‘out of buisness’.  The second seemed to be some great auto place.  Initally I just wanted an oil change and tire rotation, and while they were at it to see what was wrong with the brakes.  Turns out the brakes were in pretty bad shape.  Much worse than I expected.  Sears also kept coming up with these stories about how the wrong parts had arrived etc.  Looked legit too as it was the same guy working on my car.  In the end pretty much replaced the whole brake assembly at the cost of about 550 bux.  Yup it stings, but skimping on car auto if you’re going to drive your car into the middle of nowhere is what I would go so far to call a suicidal false economy (plus new brakes will make my mother happy! 🙂 ).

By the time they’d finished it was about 5ish, and I really didn’t have anywhere to go or any plan, and had no real desire to drive across LA at rush hour, so I found a cyber cafe and finished the TAM blog.  About 9ish I decided to head up to the Mnt Wilson observatory.  I know the road, it was out of the city and fairly quiet.  The drive across LA was a nightmare, even at this time.  When I got above LA, the view was great, but the sky was washed out with the glow from the city 😦

Sunday July 10th (The Old Friend)

July 12, 2011

Up relatively late, well after sunrise, and rolled on down the road to Montrose.  Montrose was a place where I had a spot of bother a few years earlier where driving in the late dusk, only to have a giant truck tire materialize out of the dark where the lights didn’t penetrate.  I didn’t even have time to react, and plowed straight through it.  My only thought at the time was ‘Im going to luck to survive this’ as there was the massive thunk and the car jumped from the impact.  Maybe a second later, and much to my own surprise I still had the steering wheel in my hand and was in control of the car.  In disbelief I carefully slowed down and eased the car to the side of the road, watching in the rear mirror as at least one other pair of headlights swerved and jumped as they hit the truck tire among the smoke of locked wheels burning rubber.  Another guy also  stopped, as visibly shaken as myself, and we chattered for half an hour, telling each other over and over our frighteningly similar stories while comparing the damage to our vehicles.  Mine had fared much worse and was visibly leaking coolant.  That was bad, real bad.  Without coolant the car will overheat and destroy the engine in fairly short order, and I was still 50 miles outside Mostrose.  The guy who had shared my fate with the truck tire decided escort me to Montrose, just to make sure I made it, and get me to a radiator place.  I made it only to find out the next morning there was no real chance of getting it fixed in Montrose.  Further I had realised early on the AC was fracked, although I didn’t find out till later the AC radiator is in front of the engine radiator, and so had taken the brunt of it.  This had clearly caused the AC coolant to evaporate.  Eventually had to drive, very carefully to Colorado Spring to get the car fixed.

However this time all I was up for was to find a coffee shop to upload some stuff.  Spent the day preparing talks, and uploading things like the Phelps interview.  Rolled out in late afternoon towards Durango, and enroute I saw a sight!  An Old Friend from way back, Mount Sneffles.

Sneffles isn’t just one of Colorado’s 14 000 footers, its impressive.  Indeed when I first saw it, my first thought is, I have GOT to climb that thing!  Two days later I did 🙂 and it’s still one of my most fond memories of the West.  You really do feel on top of the world on that mountain, almost on a pillar with the ground dropping away on every side.  Looking down on one side to the jagged ridges of the Sneffles range, and on the other over the gentle hills to other distance mountain ranges of the Rockies.  The hike shattered me though.  You really need a 4×4 with high clearance to make it up to the trailhead (Yankee Boy Basin), and my polite, under-powered, and heavily laiden Little Blue NYer barely made it up the two wheel drive portion of the dirt road (and even that was incredibly hairy and touch and go!).  Still, one of the reasons I’ve been kitting the aerial video rigs up with HD cameras etc, and trying to get stuff sorted for remote piloting even at this obscene altitude is to fly from the top of Sneffles.  However while I hope to get up Sneffles before the end of this year, the time is not now.  I have a conference to prepare for and the I have to get my ass over to TAM (The Amazing Meeting) by saturday 😦 .

July 9th (DON’T BLINK!)

July 10, 2011

Up at about 6 after a terrible nights sleep.  Rolled on down to Cripples Creek, beautiful place, but unfortunately now turned into some sort of gambling resort.  Mind you, the place is pretty, but built on a gold rush that ended over a hundred years ago.  Decided to head out to the south towards Canon.  The GPS kept trying to divert me down a dirt road I didn’t want to go down, so I kept going on the paper map, until it appeared the GPS was right.  However after only a few hundred yards the blacktop ended and I was on a dirt road I didn’t really want to be on with some 29 miles left.. AG!  Clock was a ticking so I decided to keep rolling forward.  Initially it was easy through fairly flat forest, but then the terrain got progressively more impressive, then incredibly impressive.  I just couldn’t figure out what such an impressive dirt road was doing going through the middle of nowhere.

The drive was stunning and thankfully very short of cars coming in the other direction.  This is what I love about America, its not so much the things you know are there, it’s the things you don’t.  Lost and just looking for a way back to the main road, and you come across a gem like this!  For me it was at least as impressive as The Needles highway in the Black Hills.  The difference of course is that one crawls, where as this I only saw about 3 cars on.  However that cuts both ways, and more than once as I drove past sharp looking rocks in the middle of the road I though about how vulnerable my position was.  I had virtually no water or food in the car (I wasn’t expecting to be this isolated) and there was no chance of the phone working in such a deep gorge.  Go off the road here, and you may never be seen again!  I took my time :-), and not just due to the vulnerability, it was a beautiful place.  Rocks at the top were a sort of pink sherman granite-like, then lower down it became sedimentary of some sort.

So who would build a road like this?  I just couldn’t figure it out, it was a phenomenally expensive road to nowhere.  The answer came near the bottom.  Turns out Cripple Creek had been a gold rush town, and so they had built a railway up to it.  Hence the remarkably steady grade, and a road going through ‘mountains’ etc.

Back on the main road I picked up some fast food and headed onto Salida.  There I started to put some of my digital affairs in order.  Most notably to do some preparation on the talk I’m giving, and secondly to catch up with the blog and upload some of the footage I’ve got over the past few days.  Damn was the upload at mcdonalds slow.  Took a couple of hours to upload a 50mb video, and both time crashed just before the end (the connection reset) GAHHH!!  Still managed to get a load processed done though, before heading on up towards Montrose pass.  There was a small and very quiet and secluded siding for the old pass where I stopped for the night, oh… and that bliss of when the engine is turned off and there is complete silence in the forest, and just the gentlest of winds on the skin under the moonlit sky!

July 6-7th (On the Road)

July 9, 2011

Wednesday 6th July 2011

Got to Columbus about midday and hooked up with Ashley and a friend of hers from Secular Student Alliance (SSA).  We had lunch, then I went to a coffee shop to do some work and she went back to the office.  Time lapse with the GPS looked cool, but I was running late and eventually Ashley came to pick me up at the coffee shop.

We chatted for a while, then she decided it was time for me to learn to eat fire.  Kinda fun, and no burns!  Still think it would work with Bacardi 151 instead of kerosene, but we didn’t give it a go.  Pah, prudence!  That evening we went out to the Meadery.  Not sure what strength meade is, but seems like it packs a hell of a punch more than wine, and we were both well hammered by the time we got back to her place.  Drunk blogTV!  Where is prudence when you need it!  I would suggest that she only got me drunk to strategically deflower me of my YT password, apart from its clear that she, having watched the video we uploaded in the cold light of day that she was in no better state to do plot anything than I!  After that we went our separate ways to pass out.

Thursday 7th July, Up bout 9ish and groggy.  Before heading off to work, Ashley suggested I visit Westboro Baptist Church seeing as I drove virtually right past their front door.  Hadn’t given it any thought, and wasn’t sure what the best approach would be?  Sunlight the best sterilant or don’t give feed the trolls.  I sorted out the car etc for an hour or so till the mind felt sharp again.  Turns out WBC were protesting aboutIndianapolis at some great concert thing, but by the time I got there they had gone (even though there were scheduled to be there for another half hour or so).  With the help of Ashley managed to arrange a meeting for the next day.  All that meant was I had to cover another 500 or so extra miles.  Got caught up in some great Tstorm enroute, bad enough to consider stopping on the side of the road.  Always a difficult decision as someone coming up behind, if they see you lights is liable to drive right in the back of you.  Similarly if you keep going, you can aquaplane right of the road.  When the wheels don’t find purchase on the road, you can be in a world of hurt in seconds.  I kept going!  Stopped in a rest area just short of Kansas city.