Monday, August 6, 2007

MT Work Week 2

This is
the end of my 2nd week working with portable MT systems throughout
the Northwest. Each run is ~20 days
long. After 10 days Jen and I go to
service the site and then after another 10 days we remove it. Neither takes more than 2 hours but we have
to drive 2-5 hours between each site so the days are very long. We are lucky if we get to a motel before
8pm. So far most of the work I’ve been
doing has been in Eastern Washington. The land is pretty much all crops and high desert brush. The crops seem to be mostly hay and
wheat. Around Yakima there is a ton of
hops growing as well. I can’t tell you
how many tumbleweeds I’ve seen and massive 200-500 ft tall dust devils kicking
up the very dry soil into tornados without clouds. We have driven by many fires and landowners seem
to be genuinely really scared for their crops this year. They are very weary of our presence on their
land due to the catalytic converter of our unleaded truck that could catch a1023800873_cf73e9285c_b

field a blaze. It’s been so dry that
Minnesota has declared a federal  drought
disaster and most of the crops are lost. I’ve been here over two weeks now and I haven’t seen a cloud in the sky
in Eastern Washington! It’s hard to
believe from the dusty dirt we dig through that anything can grown on this land
but it does…1023874259_5cbd3587d2_b
amazingly, with the help of water from the great Columbia River
that flows all through the land in deep canyons cut into the high eastern
plateau. The ice age Missoula floods
that unleashed the waters from an ice-damned lake in Montana swept across
Eastern Washington to the sea. This lake
was much bigger than the great lakes are now and it deposited tons of nutrients
into the soils of Eastern Washington which accounts for the rich soils now out
here when water are added to them.

I feel
like I have driven every part of Eastern Washington now. The towns are all very small and positioned
in the middle of nowhere. You literally
drive over a hill… and boom, there’s a town tucked into some trees. Everyone must know everyone in these
towns… Halfway through the week Jen
and I had to drive all the way across the state to meet Trey outside of Seattle
and drop off the 4 portable arrays we had pulled out of the ground for him,
then drive all the way back the next day. We took a route through the cascades on the way back which had great
views of the high Cascades. On Tuesday
Jen and I were able to stay at Coulee Dam and1023889659_19b70ca93a_b
got to see the laser show on the
water pouring over the damn at 10pm. The
movie was totally propaganda for damming the Columbia. True it provides the most electricity of any
dam in the U.S. but it also flooded all the ancient fishing grounds of the
Native Americans in the area. This
resulted in entire nations starving to death or turning to booze and drugs to
ease their pain… The many dams now harnessing the power of the Columbia
resulted in the death of thousands and thousands of Native Americans… They touched on it in the movie but
certainly 1024701406_21a227cca9_b
didn’t portray the full extent of the casualties of the damn. The laser show itself was pretty cheesy and
the unicorn flying around halfway through for no reason had Jen and I cracking
up.  The next day we got to see the dam in the
daylight as well as some crop dusting planes flying around the local
crops. It was a massive dam and
definitely a feat of engineering to construct.

week we have seen a bunch of animals, insects, birds, etc.  One
we had a large red tail hawk sitting on a fence post curiously watching
us. We had a large fox run in front of
the truck at another site. Jen saw a coyote
up on a hill but I missed it. We1024676790_cc8a13fca1_b
also seen a ton of deer. They seem to be
at almost every wooded site we go to. Driving to one site we encountered a bunch of wild turkey in the road in
front of us. The silly birds began to
run in front of the truck and it 1023821001_5cf236aae4_b
seemed like more and more were joining the
marathon in front of the chase truck from the sides of the road. It was only after I honked a few times that
they decided to scatter into the woods. At one of the sites this week Jen and I were able to go swimming in both
a beautiful mountain river and in a local lake.

At the
end of the week Jen and I had to return to Yakima because she1024724012_2dbe2b2ba0_b finally was going
to get her much deserved two week break from the project. One of the last sites we went to had been
completely burned 1023878741_b0e2dab25b_bjust a week before Trey had
installed the site. It looked like a wasteland of charred
ground. Check out the picture of Jen
walking over the burned ground. It was
blatantly apparent why landowners are so worried about fires during these
months. On the way from the site we
encountered a
lost milking cow running down the side of the road. It had clearly broken out of a fenced in area
but when we pulled over and tried to get near 1023875743_ef17aaef53_bit to check its tags it ran away
and wouldn’t let us get near it. It was
pretty terrified. When we
got near
Yakima we drove into the remnants of a giant fire. The sky was black with smoke which was
traveling over the mountains with the wind patterns in a thin layer. The sun was setting through the smoke which
made it look like the sky was on fire.

Friday I got to work with my new partner… a 40yr old named Jeff. He apparently is getting paid more than me
because he’s an operator and I’m a field assistant yet I know more than he does
about what we are doing and have been teaching him since I met him. He is paid more because he has 10 years of
consulting experience but it’s clear he doesn’t know a thing about the science
behind the work. He seems nice enough I
guess but he smokes which is a worry to me out1024739930_9b37690789_b
in the fields in Eastern
Washington and I’ve already had to tell him to put his cig out and hide it when
landowners came up to us to chat at one site. He seems to have a blatant disregard for how Jen and I have been
proceeded with the sites and because he is best friends with Trey (who got him
the job) he thinks he can do things his way. This morning his actions pretty much told it all…. He had installed
Sirius satellite radio in the truck and was playing “sex talk” very loudly from
the truck as little kids were walking around the parking lot with their
parents. I reached in and turned it down
and told him about the kids… he said, “I don’t give a fuck” and turned it back
up… great… this is the kind of person I’m going to have to spend two full weeks
with… basically babysitting an immature 40yr man who will give GSY a bad
reputation. I forsee some personality
conflicts in the future. 

we drove to a site which had been chewed up by coyotes so we had to spend a
little time fixing it. On the way home
Jeff was driving like a complete asshole with road rage, gunning it all the
time. I was in the back of the truck
typing up directions for him because he doesn’t seem to be paying much
attention to what needs to be done in the field and I don’t have much
confidence in him as the 1023926701_a39aad3285_b
operator of the NIMS… funny that I’m getting paid less
yet teaching him how to do it. Anyway,
we get pulled over because he had doubled the speed limit and was tailgating the
car in front of us. This was all amusing
to me. On the way home we drove1023915983_84b4fe9f7e_b
Rainier National park and took some unbelievable pictures of the massive
volcano. I asked Jeff to pull over about
3 times while he ignored me so when he actually did I decided to go for a walk…
all the way back down the road to get the photos I had wanted. I told him “if I’m too long come and get me”
which he did. I can’t wait to climb Mt.
Rainier. Maybe next summer.

you’ve actually read this far… good for you. I’ll post another update next week. I’m looking forward to my Continental Divide trip on the 18th
and I can’t wait to see Emily again when I head back to NY for my cousin Erin’s
wedding. I’ve been pretty much saving
all my per diem for a new MacBook Pro this fall. I’ve been eating soups and stealing all the
fruit and muffins from the hotels for my lunches. J. Talk to you next week!

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