Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 9 - Trapped at U. Vic

        On Tuesday I got up at 4:45 from Erins to hit the road towards Canada.  I made great time and crossed the boarder into Canada with ease.  I briefly lost my way and was heading towards Vancouver before turning around and finding the road to the ferry on time.  I had reserved a spot for myself the night before and for my return ferrry that day at 7pm.  The ferry took about an hour and a half to cross the sound to Swartz Bay from Tsawassen on the mainland - I slept the entire way in the car.  Once on land again I drove 20 minutes to the Main Campus of Victoria and ran into my first appointmets at about 11:15am. 
        The night before I had sent attachments of all my background because I had waited to apply to U.Vic until after I returned home.  Right from the start I was told by the geophysicists that my background in geology as well as in math and physics was not specialized enough for the Canadian school system.  They told me about about a student from Bowdoin who had applied last year and he would have had to take a full year of courses at U.Vic to just be qualified to enter the school.  This was a downer but I had not realized how remote the island of Victoria is from the mainland and B.C.  either so I wasn't too dissapointed and I was guessing that the geologists wouldn't be as picky as the geophysisicts which they weren't.  Professor Laurance Coogan bought me a slice of pizza and a frappacino to wake up and I had a wonderful talk with him and Professor Kathy Gillis about opportunities for me there which seemed a little slim due to funding.  The campus at U.Vic was veryDay_9_university_of_victoria_131_01 beautiful.  It was basically a giant circular road with buidlings on the inside and outside of the road.  And there were rabbits everywhere... yup.. rabbits.... apparently somebody must have bred some rabbits and released them nearby only to multiply and multiply.  Professor Coogan said the campus has become a dumping ground for extra bunnies by the local community.  They were everwhere on the campus - like squirrels and they weren't scared of the students at all. 
        After meeting with Professor Gillis I once again drove towards the ferry and airport to go to PGC (Pacific Geoscience Center) where the other half of the U.Vic researches and professors spent their time.  I found it odd that the group was actually separated by miles from each other.  It would be a long drive everyday from the city of Victoria to PGC and would be expensive with gas.  The PGC complex was amazing and was designed for public tours with many geological displays of the coast and live seismic monitors from around the world.  I met with some very prestigous Canadian seismologists such as Roy Hyndman and Gary Rogers along with some of their graduate students.
        When I walked out of PGC I walked into a freakin' hurricane.  It was raining hard - sideways - and the wind was so strong I barely could make it back to my car.  I drove to the Ferries and heard on the radio that one ferry was taking on water on the way to the Island from the mainland and that they would probably be shut down soon.  I went into the town of Sydney and picked up some candy and heard from the clerk that winds over 95mph were being reported across the sound.  The winds came very close to being categorized as hurricane winds.  I drove to the ferry and parked the car in line.  Everyone had left their cars and gone to the the nearby Lands End Cafe to watch the news and wait for the ferries to run.  After about 2 hours of waiting they redeemed our money and sent all of us packing from the docks.   So... I was stuck with no way off the island and the news was saying that it would be just as windy on Wednesday and thursday... great... I'm trapped on an island in Canada!
        I decided to drive back to Victoria and explore the city and perhaps some bars but before I left the area I drove to downtown Sydney again to check out the waves on the shore.   I parked my car near a cement seawall against the crashing waves.  The wind was so strong it was rocking the car and everytime a wave slammed into the wall it sent a barrage of seaweed up over the wall onto the top of my car.  A couple dumb kids in a van stopped to check it out also and got out to test their luck with the waves and almost got taken out!  After I felt my rental car was sufficientlyDay_9_university_of_victoria_131_29 draped with seaweed I proceeded out of town towards Victoria.  The sea was angry that day my friends.  I stopped at McDonalds for some cheap food and then headed downtown.  As I should have guessed the city was pretty dead in hurricane winds and a bleak tuesday night so I just decided to watch "Underworld 2: Evolution" at the city cinema - which was awful... After the movie I found my way back to the main highway and drove back up to Sydney where I found a car dealership.  I drove in, parked amongst the vehicles, quickly turned my lights off and spent the night there in my car, setting my alarm for 4:30am so I could be one of the first in line at the ferries the next morning.   So much for the possibility of visiting Vancouver a bit on Wednesday or getting to ski the Cascades in epic snow... Nope.. I was trapped... hoping that I would be able to get off the island by thursday to make my flight to miami from Seattle!


Monday, January 30, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 8 - U Dub

        Monday I visited University of Washington, nicknamed U.Dub for obvious reasons I didn't catch on to until Erin pointed out the W (dub)... I took a local bus down to the school with Erin at about 8:30 in the morning from her apartment which only took about 20 minutes.  Erin was working temporarily Day_8_university_of_washington_130_10at the medical center there so it worked out fine.  Upon arriving at the School of Oceanography I learnind that one of the professors could not make it because of a death in the family leaving me only 3 people to meet with.  This left me a little time so I went across the street for some breakfast at a campus cafe before my first appointment at 10am.  I met first with a couple geophysicists who quickly determined I would need more math and programming skills to fit into their programs.  At lunch time I noticed the weather was clearing up so I walked around the main campus snapping pictures of the wet buildings in teh sunlight.   U. Dub really has a beautiful campus and it is so big!  I returned to the Oceanography building at the waters edge and met one of Professor Deborah Kelly's students Kris Ludwig who had wonderful things to say about Deb but noted that she probably wouldn't be taking anymore students on for the next year.  I then met with a professor named Paul Johnson who had wondeful research going on studying silica off the coast and glass sponge reefs but again unfortunately he is not taking on any more students because of a lack of funding. 
        I left the University a little dissapointed because it seemed like every professor I hit it off with who works in the fields I'm interested in could not take on anymore students for next fall.  The school also seemed to lack a teaching emphasis when preparing students for their PhD, although I should note that professor Veronique Robigou Day_8_university_of_washington_130_20and other grad students there are working to change that.  I met up with Erin at 5pm after spending an hour or so in the computer lab trying to work out plans for visiting Victoria the next day.  We went back to her place and she made me some wonderful pasta with spicy italian sausage... I'm hungry thinking about it now....  We relaxed and watched some TV.  Eric got home at about 10:30pm and I was out cold by midnight having made tentative plans and ferry reservations for the next morning.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 7 - Relaxing in Seattle

        After sleeping until nearly noon I woke up and Erin made me some pancakes for breakfast.  It felt so good to be in a warm comfortable place overnight knowing that I didn't have to pack up my bags the very next morning.  We took Eric to work and then Erin and I went downtown to the famous Pikes Public Market.  We walked all through it as it rained outside and I bought a 5 dollar chunk of freshly smoked alaskan salmon which was as good as lobster in my opinion.  We then walked across the street and went to the very first Starbucks where I got a Chai and was hit on by a very gay counter boy who asked me what my plans were for the night... haha.  Seattle is a great city.  I couldn't get over how steep some of the streets were.  If it ever snowed there as much as it rained the city would not be able to function at all.  Erin told me they had nearly set a record for rainfall and that the mountains had so much snow that interstates were shut down and massive avalanches were occuring everyday.  Apparently Seattle usually just drizzles for months on end but lately it had been straight out pouring rain for nearly a month (That is probably what caused all the landslides I came across on route 101). 
       Erin and I headed to Ann and Howards for dinner where Ann made a delicious chicken stew type dish.  We opened a bottle of wine that tasted a bit wierd but Howard and I drank it anyway.  I brought my ipod and hooked it up to the TV to show my cousins all the old video footage of our grandparents and family that I had recently dumped onto my computer as well as old family photos that I had taken nearly two years to scan into my computer as well.  Ann really enjoyed it and I promised to make her a DVD of it when I returned home.  While we watched Howard chilled on the porch of the appartment smoking a tobacco pipe listening to music.  At 10pm we went and picked up Eric at the restaurant and returned to Erins place to watch some tv for a bit. 
        It was great spending the day with Erin because I don't get to see her that often now that she lives on the other side of the country.  I think she likes Seattle a lot and being closer to her sister.  It was also great to see Ann and Howard.  I can't believe it has been so many years since their wedding!  But the best part of the day was just being able to relax before a couple more days of intensive appointments with faculty!


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 6 - Oregon to Seattle

        Woke up around 8 and hit the route 20 back to route 101 and the coast.  I was told that I could drive to Seattle in about 5 hours from Corvalis if I took the Interstate 5.  Nope... I wanted to see the coast, ALL OF IT.  Before I left Corvalis I filled up at a gas station and was told by a guy who works there that there was no way I would make it to Seattle around the Olympic National Park Pennisula by midnight.  I took it with a grain of salt and continued on to the coast anyway.
        The northern coast of Oregon was beautiful.  Sea stacks studded the entire coastline.  It was a pretty windy day with lots of sun. The waves were crashing so hard against the coast they were Cimg2043actually blasting up and over the road.  I was driving way over the speed limit because I knew there were not that many state troopers in Oregon to spot me and they were probably on the interstate if there were.  Thankfully I was right and didn't spot one for the rest of the state. The bridge into Washington State in Astoria was huge!  It had to have been well over two miles long across the bay.  As soon as I got into Washington the road followed the shores of many large bays for miles and miles.  It was beautiful and I bet the fishing would be amazing.  The road literally was about 5 feet above the water 90% of the time and I kept passing "entering tsunami hazard zone" signs.  I'm not sure what drivers could do if there ever was a tsunami there because there wasn't any hi-ground to go to for nearly 30 miles!  It is said that if a major earthquake occurs off the coast of washingtonCimg2046 or Oregon it would trigger a very large tsunami that would hit the coast in about 15 minutes.  I kept passing through town after town that I know would be completely wiped out if one occured.  When I got to Long Beach, WA I saw a sign for an evacuation route so I decided to follow it.  The sign led me directly to a beach with full view of the open ocean.  Long Beach proclaimed itself in another sign as "a tsunami ready community" but with evacuation routes leading to beaches I'm a little skeptical of that....  I believe it was the same sign that professor Moran in the Discovery channel show "America's Next Tsunami" pointed out as ridiculous.  After exploring Long Beach briefly and eating lunch in Hoquiam, WA I continued on route 101 which became pretty uneventful until I hit Olympic National Park.
Cimg2058        When I first entered the region all I could see was huge swaths of logged forest, stripped bare but as soon as I entered national forest land it wasCimg2061 beautiful.  The trees lined up into what looked like an endless hallway of green and the speed limit kicked up to 70mph.  I was literally one of 3 cars on the road for about 2 hours.  I wanted to make it around the park before dark so I was driving about 85mph.  The weather was off and on sun showers which left beautiful rainbows all over the park.  At one point I stopped and it looked like the rainbow ended in a beautiful mountain lake.  I stopped at a few beaches within the park Cimg2078for some Cimg2064quick photos but skipped visiting the Hoh Rainforest deep in the middle of the park because I felt I was getting short on time.  I did stop briefly at the Big Cedar tree to take a few quick pictures.  The thing was cedar tree that was nearly as wide as a redwood but it wasn't as tall.  Some of its roots were above ground and if I had time I could easily climb 20 feet up it just by climbing the roots at its base. I Cimg2068walked into the middle of it and looked up to see that the entire interior of it was hollow.  It was so enormous you could probably even have room to build something inside of it!  I made it to Crescent Lake just as the sun was going down and was able to snap a few pictures of the surrounding snow covered peaks.  The larger peaks and Mount Olympus was not visible through the clouds from 101 but hopefully I'll be able to get out there some day and climb it. 
        I then passed through Port Angeles and thought it would be a straight shot over a bridge to Seattle... Nope.  They can build a 2 mile long Bridge over the bay of Astoria but they can't build a bridge from the Penninsula to Seattle.  Luckily I found a ferry port and was able to hop on one at 7:15pm (remember the guy who said I'd never make it by midnight... hahaha).  I was able to get a hold of my cousin Erin at about 7:45 and was at her appartment by 8:15pm.  I had driven nearly 600 miles in under 12 hours at an average speed all day of 48mph.  Before I got to the Olympic National Park my average was 42mph (Chevy Cobalt has a display that tells this) but being able to drive nearly 90mph through the park for over 2 hours made up a lot of time. 
        It was great to see Erin and Eric again and have a warm place to sleep.  They blew up an air mattress for me in the living room and after chatting for a while over a few beers I passed out dead tired.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 5 - Oregon State University

        I got up at around 7:30am and drove down route 20 to Corvalis and OSU arrving there at about 9:15.  OSU immediately reminded me of Bowdoin although there are about 16,000 more students at OSU.  The faculty I met with were great and even walked me to each of my appointments.  They bought me lunch and a cup of tea later in the day.  I had a terrific chat with Professor Anne Trehu about our mutual interest in skiing and learned that there was a large group of skiers heading out that weekend for a ski trip to Mt. Baker. 
        I ate lunch with two of Professor Holman's graduate students - Liz and Meg - at a Thai food place on campus.  Both girls were really nice and told me a lot about the university although they both conduct coastal geological studies which isn't really the direction I would like to go in my graduate studies.  I really like the fact that  everyone at OSU is very outdoorsy.  I noticed that there seems to be an ugly stigma about Scripps at other Oceanography schools.  Everyone seems to agree with what I experienced there - they are the best and they act like it.... At OSU there is tons of collaboration between professors and departments which I think is great.  I also met with two of Professor Goldfingers students and his research assistant who all had wonderful things to say about him (I really hope to work with him there).  By the time I left the school at the end of the day I felt the same warmth that I felt when I first visited Bowdoin.  It was a good feeling.
       Lori Hartline, the angel coordinator that set up my appointments, set me up to stay with Meg and her husband at their house in Albany (Ironic right?) down the road.  Before we left campus Meg asked if I wanted to go with them to a G-Love concert in Eugene.  I know of G-Love and my roomate Ethan Bullard at Bowdoin was a huge fan but I didn't know much of his music so I debated it but eventually said yes.  We picked up her husband and drove to their very nice home they are remodeling and I was set up in the guest apartment on the side of the house.  Her husband walked me over and told me to be careful of the lock on the bathroom door because if shut all the way it could lock a person in.  Well, guess what I did as soon as he left... yup, shut the door all the way and locked myself in!  After 10 minutes of gradually knocking louder and growing embarassment they heard me and he let me out... how embarassing. 
       After I was freed from the bathoom we took off in their Honda Element (I love that car now) to Eugene for dinner at the 6th Street Grill and the concert.  I got a turkey sandwich with avacado in it Cimg2032that was amazing.  I love avacados!  Thank God I went!  I ended up nearly front row and it was one of the best concerts I've ever been to.  I'm a huge G-Love fan now.  His rock, hip-hop, funk style is awesome and it's so much better to see him live in concert.  All of their friends we met at the concert were super nice as well. 
        I passed out from exhaustion in the car on the way back to their place at 1:30am.  Meg gave me a hug before I went off to sleep which meant a lot to me.  My entire experience at OSU was very similar to my experience at GSO and really hope to be accepted there next fall.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 4 - Onward to Oregon

        Thursday was the 2nd day of vacation driving up the west coast towards Oregon.  After I Cimg1962popped in my contacts I got an early start under blue skies at about 8 am.  It was really beautiful to see the cove I slept in under the early morning sun (see picture).  I followed route 1 up the coast for a few hours before it took a turn inland to meet up with Route 101 in Leggett, CA.  I came across a sign that said "Curves - next 35 miles".  What followed was the most unbelievable drive through the mountains I have ever been on.  Every 150 feet there were hair pin turns with 15mph signs posted everywhere.  These turns were sometimes I full 180 degree, crank the wheel and hold on, turns. I popped the itrip fm broadcaster on my ipod and put on my Ministry of Sound electronica playlist and hit the gas!  I was tearing around the corners at nearly 40mph, my body being tossed from side to side by centrifugal force.    Once again I fully endorse the Chevy Cobalt.  It handled the corners like a champ and the tires held firmly.  Only a few times, due to me pushing my luck, did I find myself drifting around the corners with the tires sliding.  I stopped at what appeared to be the highest point in the climb and ran up a ridge to take some photos of the amazing landscape.  TheCimg1975 contrast of colors betwen the green tree tops, blue sky and white clouds sitting in the valley was amazing.  On the way down from the mountains to Leggett I could feel the brakes melting when I hit the pedal because I was still accelerating into the turns having a blast going downhill.  After crossing the beautiful tourquise green Eel river at Leggett I said goodbye to Route 1 for good (or so I thought - See the Miami post).  At this point it was a little before noon and I was still far from the Oregon Boarder so I began to worry a little bit about making it all the way but as soon as I jumped onto Route 101 and saw the 65mph speed limit my fears evaporated as I put the pedal to the floor.
        After a quick Burger King lunch in Fortuna, CA I continued on to the Redwood National Park following the Eel river most of the way.  When I was younger I visited the park with my parents but I was amazed all over again to drive through a forest of 200ft tall trees.  I stopped at the famous Cimg1981Grandfather tree for some pictures (click the photo to check out the specs on that beast!).  Everything out west is bigger.  The mountains, the cliffs, the trees, etc etc.  From a distance it doesn't look that much bigger but then when you are closer you notice that those tiny green trees you were looking at miles back are actually 200 foot tall monsters and the hill you saw was really a 5,000ft tall mountain.  There were lots of tourist shops but once again I was one of a very few people on the road.  I passed by a Big Foot roadside shack that appeared to sell everything and anything about the mysterious monster that supposedly roams the northern califiornian coast. 
    After the Redwoods route 101 returned to the coast and it began to drizzle - appropriate as I was entering the pacific northwest.  In just over 24 hours I had gone from 70 degrees, sun, palm trees and surfers to 50 degrees, drizzle, giant redwoods, and Big Foots!  What a change, and I hadn't even left the state of California yet!  The rain made everything more colorful.  The contrastCimg1986 between the red bark of the trees, the tourquoise blue of the rivers and the deep green of the forest growth was amazing, especially in the misty wetness of a recent rain.  Unlike the suny arid rocks of southern california this area seemed to be overgrowing with plant life.  Every inch of soil was covered with something green growing on it!  Even the trees overgrowing the roadway were litterally covered with green moss and vines.  If it wasn't for the mountainous hillsides this part of the country would be the most fertile place to plant crops.    
        Route 101 quietly entered Oregon and the drizzle began to pick up a little bit.  About 15 miles into Oregon I saw something that I hadn't thought about yet.  Driving through Big Sur I didn't think much about the roadside being built precariously into the very steep mountainside but when I came across the first landslide of many in Oregon and Washington the danger became real to me.  I Tiogalandslide2remembered watching on the news about the record rainfall both Oregon and Washington were recieving and the flooding that went along with it but hadn't thought much about it until I saw the road in front of me buried in boulders and mud.  The picture on the left is what happens in a slide.  I wasn't able to get any pictures of the a few of the ones I saw but they were much worse and bigger than the one pictured.  The first slide I saw was a minor one and traffic was able to move around it but later in the day I saw a slide that blew my mind.  A 100ft section of the road had literrally just cracked and sank down the hillside nearly 40 feet.  Construction crews had piled up gravel in it's place to allow motorists to pass through but I couldn't help imagining what it would have felt like to have been on the road when it happene: driving along, listening to music and then all of a sudden the road in front of you begins to rise into the sky as you sink downward on the mountain towards the cliffs and freezing Pacific Ocean below.  So once again I was alone with no cell phone or radio reception on windy coastal roads but now I was on slippery pavement attached to water saturated slopes that could slide away from the mountainside taking the trees, the road and me into the ocean below.  I unbuckled my seatbelt again....

    In the afternoon I was witness to a gory site.  Two elk ran into the road in front of me and the first one ran directly into a large logging truck which promptly pulvarized the poor animal.  The other elk looked like it was going to investigate or try to cross as well so I honked and steered the car at it to scare it into the woods.  I was shuffling around in the back seat to find something ICimg1997 could use to grab the carcass off the road when a rough looking man in his 40's in a 1980's pickup pulled up, nodded to me (could probably see I was a dumb tourist fumbling to try to help out), walked into the road, threw a dirty pair of gloves on and heaved the dead animal into the woods.  He nodded to me, got in his truck and drove away as if he did it on a daily basis.  One of the reasons I love to travel is encountering interesting locals like him from all parts of the country.  He didn't say a word to me, just nodded and smiled. 
    The Oregon coast in general was less mountainous than the californian coast on route 1 but it was just as beautiful.  Giant basalt rock formations called sea stacks studded the coastline.  some Cimg1995were the size of small houses, others the size of large buidlings.  The basalt magma was created by the collision of the Juan De Fuca tectonic plate with the North American one.  This magma rose to the surface to form massive volcanoes such as Mt. Hood, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helens and also along the coast line over millions of years.  The surrounding earth erodes much faster than these sea stacks so when the waves erode the beach away the only thing that is left are the stacks.  The only place in the world with a comparable coastline is the Southcoast of Australia.  ( a little geology lesson for ya).  Check out the pictures to and the people on the beach to get a perspective of the size of them.   Route 101 along the Oregon coast is not as curvy as Route 1 so I was able to cruise along at 75mph making good time.  Right at sunset the clouds began to break up allowing for beautiful pictures of the coastline and sea stacks against the setting sun. 
        I ended up driving about an hour in the dark until I got to Newport, OR which is about an hour from Oregon State.  It was 8pm and I decided I'd rather just get a cheap hotel room on the coast and then drive inland to the college in the morning.  I pulled over at the Newport City Center Motel because it had a sign advertising $25 rooms.  I walked in with my Boston Red Sox hat on and Cimg2005 owner, a nice asian man in his 40's, gave me a big smile walked into his living room and retrieved the same exact hat off his mantle saying that his son is at B.U.!  He asked me where I was from and we then found out that I was born in the next town over from where he grew up in Buffalo, NY.  So he happily hooked me up with a room for $20 bucks and gave me a couple sodas to drink as well.  The room wasn't big but it was warm and had a bed, which after a long day of driving was all I needed!  I even got to watch Earl and The Office on NBC before passing out!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 3 - Big Sur, San Fransisco

        Wednesday was officailly the first "vacation" day of driving.  When I planned this trip my Cimg1839priority of course was stopping at the graduate schools I'm looking at but as usual I wanted to challenge myself.  So I decided to drive the entire Pacific coast on backroads all the way to Canada from San Diego.   I would remain on route 1 and 101 all the way to Seattle.  I didn't need many maps as it was easy to follow the road signs, but I picked up a couple anyway to locate places of interest I might want to stop at.  I got an early start on Wednesday at 8am and had gotten no further than a mile down the road when I noticed giant dark grey blobs laying on the beach.  I pulled over and was amazed to see hundreds of elephant seals squawking at each other on the beach.  They Cimg1849were all different sizes and I could see babies poking their heads up over their mothers as they fed.  I approached one mother and baby and must have pissed it off because if flopped over and roared at me and took a few flops in my general direction to ward me off.  I moved back quickly because the damn thing must have weighed atleast 1200 pounds. 
    My decision to stop driving last night in San Simeon worked out perfectly because I began to hit winding roads and cliffs just 5 miles out of town as I headed towards beautiful Big Sur, CA.  I spent all Cimg1854morning driving fast, pulling over for pictures, driving fast, pulling over for more pictures and so on.  There were many turn offs in the road for slower drivers to let me pass but that really wasn't needed because THERE WAS NO ONE ON THE ROAD.  From the road side gift shops and hotels it was plainly apparent that this route is a major tourist route but I seemed to hit it perfectly in the offseason, mid-week under beautfiful blue skies.  There was no cell phone reception, no radio stations and I literally kept my seat belt unbuckled in case I had to dive out of my car before it plunged off a cliff into the ocean hundreds of feet below.  For 90% of the drive to San Francisco there were no gaurd rails or protection against flying off the road.  At one point I was looking around and I went off the road, fishtailed a bit towards the cliff then pulled her back in time.  Cimg1860Thank God I was in the north bound lane and not the southern lane closest to the cliffs.  I stopped at a scenic overlook next to a hotel that was known for whale watching and Cimg1879was told by a couple tourists that it was prime time to see whales migrating off the coast.  I stood there for about 20 minutes before I saw blasts of water about a quarter mile off the coast.  It must have been whales surfacing.  Every time I stopped to look at the waves crashing into the ciffs below I could see seals in playing in the surf.  The road was Cimg1894built right into the mountainside and when the ridge of the mountain receded from the road followed in a giant windy turn to follow the landscape.  It was like this all day.  When the mountain receded to far from the ocean bridges were built to complete the gaps.  I saw several artists on the side of the road painting pictures of the landscape.   It was a wonderful start to the day. 
        I stopped for lunch at a Burger King in the city of Seaside just past Monterey.  I then crossed through Moss Landing which is part of the University of Cimg1903California.  It is a marine research center.  The area around Moss Landing was flat and boring and you could see smokestacks rising in the background above the complex.  I'm glad I didn't end up applying to that research center as well.  I continued on to Santa Cruz, CA and stopped to briefly drive around the UC campus there because it was one of the schools I was seriously considering.  The campusCimg1910 was odd.  All the buildings looked exactly like Vermont style barns!  Wierd.  I left the campus happy that I did not apply there and drove along the coast of the city, stopping occasionally to watch surfers out in the breakers.  I hooked back up with route 1 after a mile or so and continued on towards Cimg1926San Fran.  Then I realized that my camera was broken!  Shit.  Oh well, just have to buy another... I drove to a small mall just outside the city and ran full sprint through it to the Radio Shack.  The only camera that was left was the floor model which I quickly bought and bolted back to my car hoping to make the Golden Gate bridge by sunset.  Speeding through the city I made it with about 45 minutes to spare and snapped some great pics of the bridge, Alcatraz, and the city in the background. 
        The road coming down from the mountains north of San Fran was nuts!  It was one of the curviest, steepest roads I've ever driven and with nobody else on the road I was hitting it at ridiculous speeds, squeeling the tires of the Cobalt around every corner (Note: after this trip I fully endorse the Chevy Cobalt - it handled like a sports car.  Thank God I wrecked the Ford Focus).   I Cimg1940made it to one last scenic lookout over Muir Beach before it began to get dark quickly.  I drove as fast as I could trying to get to Point Reyes National Park because I had heard it was a prime place to see whales.  I saw a sign for a lighthouse so I pulled off the highway without consulting a map to go check it out.  I could tell I was heading up the western shore of a large bay and assumed I would be at the beaches and light house right away.  Nope... after half an hour of driving I found myself in the middle of a national park of rolling coastal hills with no trees and nothing in site with light quickly fading.  I decided to head out of there and return to the highway.  I checked a map later and found that I would have had to drive another 30 miles or more before reaching the lighthouse! 
        Once back on route 1 it began to rain and the road got a lot more twisty.  I ended up behind a very suspicious looking white van.  Maybe the driver thought I was the cops or something because he took off down the road at speeds I was scared to drive my coup at!  I trusted he knew the roads better than I so I kept up with him at a distance of course.  It was dark but I could tell that the ocean was still at my side.  All of a sudden around a corner the van was just stopped on the side of the road and I passed by it a little freaked out.  At about 7:15 I pulled over at an intersection to check my map to see how far I should drive.  I noticed that I was still a good distance from the Oregon Boarder which I had hoped I would hit.   Bang!!! Something knocking at my window in the middle of no where!  My heart jumped into my throat.  A cop, with a flashlight.... great... now what did I do.  I rolled down my window and he asked if I was alright and where I was going.  He was a young local cop and was very nice.  I told him my crazy plans of driving to Seattle, although not all that night, and a very worried look appeared on his face.  He told me he was worried about me driving these unfamiliar roads at night in a rain storm alone.   He pointed out, "There's really nothing out here, small town, small town folk.  Most businesses are closed at 5pm and people are usually in bed by 9".  I asked him about hotels and he said the cheapest ones are about 200 bucks.  No way... after a 500 dollar deductable on a wrecked car I couldn't afford that!  I promised him I would stop at the next town, Bodega Bay, to get some gas and he returned to his patrol car that had somehow creeped up on me without me noticing. 
        By now the mysterious van had vanished.  I pulled over in Gualala and the same cop pulled in right after me to fill up.  I yelled over to him, "hey, you really are worried about me aren't you?"  He replied, "Yes, I am, but there is no law stating that I can stop you from driving if you feel comfortable to keep going".  I reassured him that I was wake, which I was because it was an amazingly fun drive, got back in my car and continued on.  After about 15 minutes I could feel myself gaining elevation and began to see large cliffs on the right side of me and blackness on the left.  I assumed that I must be high up on a mountainside with cliffs and the ocean to my left.  I started to get a little freaked out because it was pitch black and pouring.  WHAT THE!??? Shit, I almost died... a cow... a big dumb stupid cow... standing in the middle of the road... I came around a corner and there it was staring at me.  After quickly swirving and skidding a bit ICimg1960 pulled over and took a picture of the animal that almost cost me my life.  Apparently I had crossed some cattle grate and hadn't noticed I was in hillside farm land!  I kept going and could sense that I was returning to sea level again.  I noticed the cattle grate marking the end of the farm land and decided to find a place to crash for the night.  There was literrally nothing anywhere and it had stopped raining so I pulled over at a look out and stretched my sleeping bag out under the stars next to the crashing surf and spent the night there.  It began to rain at about 5am so I crawled back into the car to sleep a few more hours.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 2 - Crash and UCSB

        Well, Tuesday started off with a bang - literally.  I got up real early and walked/pushed through the wind blasting the gated community Audra's mom lived in.  Got to my rental car and, following Audra's written directions, easily made it to the highway heading towards L.A.  Traffic started to quickly build up, even at 5:30am, and I found myself in bumper to bumper traffic for a few miles.  Well, I didn't make it a few miles, I slammed into the back of a huge yellow Dodge Ram.  I saw my hood bend up slightly but the airbag didn't go off so it was very minor.  We both pulled over and looked at our cars.  His truck was perfectly fine while the grill on my Ford Focus was bashed in a bit.  I pulled on the hood and it seemed secure so after I gave him my info we both parted ways.  He was a very nice Mexican dude and shook my hand.  So.... as I'm driving down the road I decide to call my Progressive agent after an hour or so to report my accident claim.  As I'm describing the accident to him and the damage to the car he finally asked me, "So is that all the Cimg1791 drive with a smashed hood in the winds... ooops.  But I had to make it to Santa Barbara by 10am for my appointments!!! What was I to do?  I slammed the hood down on the car and slowly drove down the road to a grocery store where I asked a clerk for help finding some material to tie down the hood.   A kid came out of the store with what looked like floss so I knew I would need something else stronger.  I looked around briefly then found a spare car cellphone charger cord which I then stretched out and damage?"..... WHAM!, the hood flies up and smashes the windshield and top of the car so bad it knocked the overhead light into my forehead.  So, at this point, I'm driving with one hand, on the cellphone with the Progressive Agent while trying to drive looking through a 4inch gap underneath the hood now plastered to my windshield.  I simply said into the phone, "oh yeah, the windshield is cracked too... and hung up".  I pulled over to a gas station and several nice people came out and asked what happened.  I told them it was probably from the accident I got into an hour ago! haha.  The day before there was 70mph winds knocking over 16-wheelers so probably should have known not to drive with a smashed hood.  I slammed the hood down and slowly drove down the road to a grocery store where I asked a warehouse clerk to help me find something to tie down my hood.  He returned after a few minutes with string that looked like floss so I knew it was up to me to find something.  I searched around my car until I found a spare car cell phone charger.  I stretched it out and tied it around the bumper and then through a hole in the hood cutting my hands up on the sheared metal in the process.  Well, it worked, and I drove the next 2 hours looking through a keliedescope window all the way to UC Santa Barbara.  When I got to campus I pulled over to look at a map.  A campus security cop came up to me to ask if I was alright after seeing the car.  I told her I was fine and that I was returning the car to the airport down the road after my interviews at the school.  She gave me a better map and told me a parking garage I could park in.
        UC Santa Barbara was absolutely amazing.  The school has a man-made lagoon built into it and is right on the coast.  There is a mile long beach with 40 foot cliffs that comprises the seaward bCimg1807oarder of the campus.  The school was rated the most fit university in the nation - probably due to giant network of bike trails built into the campus.  If you didn't watch your step you would literally get run down by bikers.  While I was there I even heard over an intercom that there had been a biker pile up!  All the bikes were the old school style california cruisers.  With 70 degree weather everyone was in shorts and t-shirts riding around.  The campus had beautiful exotic trees all oveCimg1793r it such as eucaliptus trees and palms.  The school held over 20,000 students of which 3,000 were graduate students.  Between interviews I walked the perimeter of the campus around the lagoon and out to the cliffs and beaches.  It was basically my dream campus.  Beautiful 8,000 foot mountains in the background and palm trees and beaches everywhere.  I'm not sure if I would be able to get any work done if Cimg1821accepted to UCSB!  Before my appointments I ate breakfast at a campus cafe.  The professors I met with were all very nice although I got the feelinCimg1829g that there was a serious lack of funding to take on new students in the tectonics group there.  Apparently NSF (National Science Foundation) has been skimpy on funding because of our stupid government and this needless war in Iraq.  I had a wonderful tour of the campus by a very californian kid who was doing his senior project on waterless toilets.... I broke off from the tour before it got to the undergraduate housing. 
        All the faculty were very nice to me and happy to talk about their research except for the one person who I thought would be the kindest to me, professor Tanya Atwater.  What a cocky... hold on.. I wrote all this down after meeting her.... ok... What a cocky, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, unkind, cruel woman who apparently finds enjoyment pointing out peoples faults and mistakes.  I walked in to her office thinking she was a kind woman who loved to teach and had a real passion for education and her field.  I left her office thinking that she was the cruelest person I've met in years.  When I first heard about UCSB it was past the deadline and I wrote a panicked letter to faculty and advisors there asking if I could still apply.  I was scared and it was 3am after many hours of work applying to schools.  I must have put down UC Santa Cruz once in the letter and I apparently didn't take time to watch my paragraphs because I was panicked and scared.  Well, she took the time to point out all my mistakes and even felt it was necessary to state that it negatively effected my application.  I countered by saying that I was simply scared and that I have put in a lot of work and that I am ambitious and driven to achieve my goals.  She replied, "it helps to be smart to."  What the hell does she think she's implying... that I'm stupid... She had a really cocky attitude stating that she has the luxury to do anything she wants... Even if she has accomplished a bit in her field, going through life as a cruel heartless woman will not get her far or gain her any happiness.  She said I could have just waited a year, but she doesn't know my family background, my financial background, or my ambition.  She made me feel like shit that day and I think she enjoyed doing it.  Well, all I have to say Dr. Atwater is this: Screw you and your cocky, heartless personality.  I'll make a name for myself in my field and I will do it in such a manner that I will be respected as well as LIKED by my colleagues.  I would really like to call her 7 years from now and tell her how much she hurt me when I was at my most desperate time. 
        Cimg1832The most promising possibility at UCSB is working with Professor MacDonald and his wife Rachel Haymon on data they just collected on a Galapagos Island Cruise.  I plan to stay in touch with them and talk to them over the phone so they will know how interested I am. 
        I returned the smashed Ford Focus to the airport in Santa Barbara and picked up a dark blue Chevy Cobalt coup.  I snapped a couple pictures of my wrecked car and then drove north into the night, stopping at a Burger King in Lompac, CA for some dinner.  I drove till about 10pm and pulled over at a Motel 6 in San Simeon, CA for $43.  I now had two days of scenic driving up the California route 1 Pacific Coast highway to look forward to.   


Monday, January 23, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 1 - SCRIPPS

Cimg1760On monday I flew out to San Diego through Chicago from Albany via a cheap 150$ ticket from United.  I arrived in San Diego right on time, picked up my silver Ford Focus and booked it over Mt. Soledad to Scripps Oceanographic Institute on La Jolla Bay.  I missed my first appointment by 5 minutes but was able to make all the others.  It became apparent very quickly that I did not have the math,Cimg1775 physics, or programming skills to be accepted into the geophysics department, much less work with satellite geodesy as I had hoped.  Unfortunately I had planned all my meetings without knowingCimg1771 there was a large hill separating the geology faculty from the geophysics faculty.  Every other appointment I found myself running up and down the damn hill.  I did not like the fact that the faculty were so separated from each other - There didn't seem to be much interdisciplianry interraction among the faculty and most of the faculty office doors were closed.  The school itself was absolutely amazing and had clear views of the bay, the pier where the research vessel docks, and the surfers in the breakers.  It was certainly a change going from Albany where they had to de-ice the plane in a snowstorm before taking off to landing among palm trees and 70 degree weather.  San Diego would be a perfect place to mountain bike, or surf.  As for Scripps, I think my chances are pretty slim. 
    I called up Kladis who had just gotten back to California that afternoon so I met up with him and Cimg1779his girlfriend Audra in Orange California, just south of Los Angeles.  They took me to Chick-fil-A, a local KFC type fast food place for some dinner as soon as I got there.  Then they took me to their favorite coastal spots and we even jumped on a ferry to an island to explore around.  The houses located in the area were all multi-million dollar mansions perched on the beach cliffs and each house had some of the most expensive cars I have ever seen.  We went down to a local beach that Nick likes and walked around for a bit.  We then drove back to Audra's mom's place in a gated community and took Audra's dog Begonia and another dog they were taking care of, Marty, for a walk around a nearby park.  The park was huge for such a busy populated area, and it even had horse stables which we stopped at to pet the horses.  It was very nice of them to put me up for the night.  I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to start driving through L.A. traffic and I was pretty jet-lagged and tired from the interviews at Scripps so I passed out at about 11pm.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Playing Wing Man

Jonny Hughes came down to Toga last night and we met up with his buddy Mike and headed off to Gaffneys.  At that point in the night I was getting pretty drunk.  We met up with Nick Dier for a few drinks before he had to leave.  Lindy Stumpville came out with a friend and met us at the bar.  By this point in the night I was very tipsy and began to flirt with a group of asian girls at one of the Out_with_john_meg_and_mike_4_asian_chicktables.   After flirting for some time I discovered that the really cute one had her eye on Mike so I put in the good word and introduced her to him.  Jonny was oblivious to all this and was trying his best to hook mike up with Lindy at the same time.  At this point my memory begins to blur but I remember going over to the Bullpen at 3:30 and the giant fat gorilla bouncer wouldn't let one of their friends in.  This caused me to get really angry and mouth off a bit which the bouncer definitely deserved because he was being unreasonable.  I told the bartender that they were about to lose 9 paying customers from their bar because his stubborn bouncer wouldn't let one last girl in.  TheOut_with_john_meg_and_mike_4_asian_chick_1 bartender yelled at the bouncer and with a big grin I watched the fat bastard open the door for the girl.  So, having saved the day I continued to play wing man for mike with the other not so beautiful friends.  I vaguely remember stumbling out of the bar on the way home and waiving to Mike who had his arms full of girls... hahaha.  Way to go buddy.  Jonny and I returned home to my apartment having both played wing man for our buddy.   I heard early today that the girl ended up staying at Mikes and they both had a good time! 


Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Graduate School of Oceanography at URI

I drove down to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island to visit the school on Thursday and Friday. University_of_rhode_island_11905_12005_0 Professor John King had made all the arrangements for me and put me up at the Hamilton Village Inn nearby the college for the night.  GSO was amazing.  The school is very technologically advanced.  Soon after arriving on thursday morning I went out to lunch with two of Professsor King's grad students - Brad and Chip to Twin Willows for a roast beef sandwich and some beers.  They were really great guys and told me a lot about the school.  After lunch, and some gum provided by the guys to kill the beer breath, I met with Mark Wimbush (Associate Dean) and Merideth Clark (student advisor) and I hit it off well with both.  I then met with Professor Robert Pockalny and Professor Roger Larson who told me about their research in the Endeavor deep and underwater superplumes respectively.  IUniversity_of_rhode_island_11905_12005_1 especially enjoyed learning about the Manihiki superplume off Figi because it was so big it created one of the first mass extinctions in the oceans resulting in much of the oil deposits we depend on today.  Neither Rob nor Roger had any funding to take on new students but it was wonderful talking with them.  I then met briefly with Kate Moran (she appeared in the Discovery Channel show "America's Next Tsunami") and spoke to her about her innovative and important tsunami research.  That night I ate alone at the Pagoda Inn chinese restaurant down the road (I hate eating alone), and then got a good nights rest.  On Friday I had a wonderful meeting with professor Yang Shen who could clearly see hShen_yangow determined and ambitious I am.  We really hit it off and he told me about several projects I would be a good fit for such as laying down seismic monitors in Tibet (he liked my hiking background for that project) to helping install a wide seismic array out west called USArray.  He told me about a tsunami warning system he was developing that would deploy a device from the bottom of the ocean where it is moored to the surface to transmit satellite data.  I pointed out that at a far depth it could take a while for such a device to rise through the water - a point he hadn't thought much of yet.  So I think I made a great impression on him.  I then went on a college tour with an Australian student who told me a bout a wooden boat burning ritual at the school that sounded outrageous!  I then went out to lunch with all the GSO faculty to Newport at a cool deli and had a great conversation by myself with the professors, giving them suggestions on how to coax students to going to more seminars.  I leftUniversity_of_rhode_island_11905_12005_2 after lunch and really felt like I made a good impression of myself there.  I learned that it is pretty much the Harvard of Oceanography schools so it would be really beneficial to my career to graduate from there.  Narraganssett Beach is about 4 miles down the road (picture on left) and Newport is nearby.  Providence is only 30 minutes away as well.  Lots of ocean activities to do in the area and you can easily tell by being there that it's a huge tourist area in the summer.  Keeping my fingers crossed!


Sunday, January 15, 2006

University of Rhode Island

MattsgsowithmenuJust finished applying to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Narraganssett Bay campus.  I'll be visiting the school later this week so will have more to say aobut it after.  The school looks very promising and I'm excited to visit it.


Friday, January 13, 2006

University of Hawaii at Manoa

SoestJust finished applying to the Geology & Geophysics Department at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.  My friend Adrianne Oakley from Bowdoin College is a graduate student there.  My very close friend Rachel Seabury has also spent 3 yeas on the remote Islands of Hawaii including Kauai studying albatross nesting areas.  I have been speaking to several faculty members there and may have opportunities to travel to Iceland to study the only area of the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rises above sea lvel or to study the volcanics of the Island of Kauai with a volcanologist.  How amazing would it be if I got to spend the next 5 years of my life in Honolulu?  Click on the link to check out the school.

Kate and Adrian came over tonight to hang out for a bit and watch the Celtics play the Sixers.  Seems like everytime I sit down to watch a basketball game with Josh it goes to triple overtime. Great game but the Celtics lost... oh well... who cares... The X-Games and the Olympics are coming up!!!!


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Big Plans

Well, I had mentioned before plans to visit my graduate schools at the end of this month... after days of planning I finally finalized them.  I was able to get a flight to San Diego on thGraduate_school_toure 23rd for $145, a rental car with unlimited miles for a full 10 days for $270 and my flight from Seattle to Miami for the weekend and then home is free because I used 25,000 of my 130,000 flyer miles with United.  To top that I have premiere seating on each flight because of my mileage status.  The tough part will be the 2,000 mile drive from nearly the boarder with Mexico all the way to Seattle along the historic and scenic Pacific Coast Highway.  I've heard it's the most beautiful drive in all the U.S. and I plan to only drive during daylight to see it all.  It's a two lane road and I've heard rumors of 45mph speed limits and traffic in areas such as L.A. so we'll see if I'll be able to do it!  It will be nice to see my cousins in Seattle again because I haven't seen them in nearly a year.  Here are my Plans.... Click the thumbnail....