Sunday, May 31, 2009

Draper race and Round Valley perfection

On Memorial Day, Drew and I participated in the Stan Crane Memorial Intermountain Cup mountain bike race sponsored by our bike shop and held right here in little ol' Salt Lake Valley. Seeings as how the course received almost a full inch of rain the day and night prior, we were somewhat skeptical that the amazing organizer Ed would be able to pull it off. We took an almost 2 hour delay to reroute the course, but happily, we were able to race and have a grand ol' time. Above picture credit: thanks Theresa. The reason we did not end up covered in thick gooey mud this time, was again, due to geology. Remember the Five Mile Pass race a few weeks ago? There we were riding across shale. Shale is more or less just clay that has hardened into a rock. Wet clay and expensive mountain bikes don't like each other. The original race course on Monday's Stan Crane race would have taken us up Corner Canyon and onto soils formed on volcanic and igneous rock, generally pretty rich in clay minerals. Instead, Ed and the good trail folks at Draper routed us entirely on the lower trails, which are carved into the 12,000 year old beach formed around the shoreline of Lake Bonneville, the humongous freshwater grandmother of Great Salt Lake. Since these trails are on sand and gravel, they were perfectly ridable only a few hours after heavy rain. See, geology really does touch our everyday lives. Kids, pay attention in that earth science class!

Afterwards, the team put on a rockin' yummy barbecue. Thanks to Steve H and Doug K for grillin' up some fine meat products. I also acknowledge our most excellent team mechanic, Ryan. He just touches my bike and it rides like a new steed.

Friday I tried to repeat last Friday's 50-miler (pic above of the Glenwild and Silver Creek area), but John and I got rained out and had to high tail it back through Park City on pavement. There is nothing less satisfying than climbing and grunting along for 28 miles on rocky trails only to be robbed of the reward of going back down all that elevation you gained on fun singletrack. Pavement stinks.

Drew came home Saturday night. We watched Milk, the movie. It is amazing how little the religious rhetoric and scare tactics about gay rights have changed in 30 years!

Today we had a great ride, after Drew found his shorts that is. We were at the trailhead getting ready to ride when Drew realized he forgot his shorts. So off he went to the Pearl Izumi store ($ka-ching$) while I rode through Round Valley. With no companions to slow down, I took the luxury of snapping a few wildflower pics. They were out in force! I counted at least 15 different kinds of flowers, plus the sage brush was blooming too. The temp was mild and the air smelled as sweet as cotton candy with all the nectar around.

I even noticed something I read about in this guy's awesome blog post. See in this photo below the very fine example of Arrowleaf Balsamroot on the right and Cutleaf Balsamroot on the left? The flowers look identical, but the leaves are very different. Kids, pay attention in botany class too.

I met up with Drew and we had a nice leisurely 2.5 hour ride. That will have to hold me for a while for my Drew fix. I just figured out that in the 30 days between May 27 and June 27, we will have exactly 2 days off together, including today. Given our perpetual state of marital bliss, that just doesn't seem right. If we didn't get along so darn well, I might welcome some me time, but I think these next few weeks are just going to be lonely.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

West Desert field assistant extraordinaire

I've been meaning to write this post for a super long time, but it has just been one thing after the other, so sorry the news is so belated. Here is the short version.

This spring I was able to spend quite a bit of time in Snake Valley, western Utah, for work. I was running an aquifer test in which we pump one well and monitor the water level response in surrounding wells. Here I am on March 6 measuring one of the monitoring wells.

Weather was a little sketchy at times, as you can see here by this snow squall encroaching on one of our monitoring sites.Later on in the season, in late April and with better weather this time, Drew was able to join me on a quick trip to measure the discharge at some of the very important springs. Otherwise, with our wacky work schedules, we would not have seen each other for 12 days. I was lucky to have such a capable and obedient assistant. If only he was that way all the time ;-)

We took turns using the Swoofer Model 3000 open-channel current velocity meter to measure the flows, like I am doing here.

Drew thinks I look sexy in hip waders.

Anyway, it has been a productive and interesting spring for me at work. I'm due to go out again and install permanent monitoring sites in June. I'll try to take some more pics, since I know you all live for these exciting work-related posts.

Long ride, smooth beer.

Friday, Rhandy, John, and I decided to do a long mtb ride encompassing Glenwild, Round Valley, and Lost Prospector trails surrounding Park City. Andy guessed it could be 50 miles, but I figured there is NO WAY we would last that long, and anyway, he promised the possibility of a bail out along that way. The only one smart enough bail out after 5 hours was John.
We started at 11 AM and returned to the cars at 7:30 PM. 6:15 saddle time, 3220 calories, 50.5 miles. Whew. Drew was sad he missed it, but I would have been even sadder to have missed the fantastic Nitro cream ale at Molly Blooms pub at Kimball Junction afterwards with John.

No exploding baking-soda volcanoes here

The week before last I had the opportunity to judge the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno, Nevada (photo of my hotel/casino on the south end of Reno's strip, above) as part of a two-woman team for the Association for Women Geoscientists Foundation (photo, below, of Phil and me judging in the Earth Science projects area).

Over 1500 students from all over the country and the world were competing. There were even 16 students all the way from my home state of North Dakota. I was so proud of them!

The criteria for winning our $1500 cash prize was that the project had to be presented by a girl (grades 9-12) and involve one or more geoscience disciplines. Our winner was a senior from Washington state who did an extensive sediment coring project to identify tsunami-deposited sand layers in a tidal flat in Discovery Bay. From the distribution, she theorized about a 400-year recurrence of large tsunamis there. She was professional and thorough and a fair bit more advanced than several actual geologists I have worked with in the past. The one thing that all 20 or so students whom we interviewed shared was a passion and excitement for science. It was a fun and rewarding for me. Below is a picture of our big money winner, Marley, in the center with our honorable mention $150 prize winners.

One nice benny of the down turned economy, which has hit Reno hard, is that I got a great deal on this (above) sweet hotel room at the Atlantis Casino. This room, complete with fluffy robe and slippers plus a lavish breakfast, hors d'œuvres, and desserts spread in the restricted-entrance Concierge's Lounge, normally rents for $238 per night. I was able to get it for $99, saving the Foundation some cash that will go to other projects and scholarships. I would definitly stay there again.

Friday, May 15, 2009

We will miss her!

My longtime companion had to be on her way today. Flower the Cat had been showing her age of 16 years as of the last year or so. She had never been a very big cat - at her prime she was about only seven and a half pounds. But when Drew and I took her to the vet today she was down to 4 lbs, 11 oz. Last fall, when she started to act old, the blood work proved her kidneys were starting to fail. Today's blood toxin levels were super high. She hadn't eaten for almost a week, was extremely uncomfortable, and no matter how much we petted and cuddled her, she no longer felt like purring. It was time.

The staff at University Veterinary Hospital was great. Dr. Walton came to our house and I was able to hold the poor little girl in my arms. She went peacefully, I think.

Flower found me in 1994 via my great friend Jerda. While I was in graduate school in Missoula, Flower followed a fellow grad student home from school. I think she was less than a year old at the time. The student was allergic, so Jerda, a.k.a. The Zookeeper, took her in. Jerda had two dogs, an alpha cat, and a cockatoo. Flower (not her name at the time) was less than impressed by the crowded situation and was never very happy at Jerda's. As luck would have it, I was naive enough to want a cat. I did not realize the full responsibility of pet ownership, including the trouble I would later have finding apartments, cohabiting with various roommates who had pets, and finding pet sitters. I took her in and named her Flower because she was so pretty, like a flower. I have never regretted it; she was worth every trouble and this painful heartache!!!

You all know, cats have individual personalities. Flower was a princess. She hated all other cats, dogs, and most people (except Drew) and wanted to be pet on Her terms! She was very quiet, and would sit patiently by the food bowl each evening for her serving of pate. She loved to play in paper bags, and like most cats, she was curious.

She was also an exceptional athlete. We once saw her jump from a seated position from the deck railing to the old garage, a distance of about 7 feet horizontally and 4 feet vertically. In her prime she caught birds in mid air. She made my roommate's cat, who was easily 15 pounds heavier than her, run away from home (sorry Cosmo!).

These last few years she was seriously spoiled by Drew. He would pet her and feed her multiple times a day if she so much as trotted to her petting spot or food bowl. He spent many minutes playing "string" with her in "the Tower of Power" cat jungle gym. He always made sure her heated pet bed was working.

For fifteen years, she was my friend and companion. She was there while I studied late nights for my graduate degree and eased the scary move to a big new city and a new career. She consoled me through the loss of my father and several difficult relationship break-ups. Most importantly, she was there waiting to be pet and played with when I came home each and every day to my often lonely apartment or house.

Flower was an exceptional cat, and I will miss her with all of my heart. Goodbye my little friend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moab in May...... Incredible!

The month of May is one of transformation here in Utah. The valley comes to life with green grass and blossoming trees. The mountains stand over us in stark contrast covered white with ice and snow. This time of year is special for Lucy and me. To mark the occasion we now proudly display our newest 2009 bauble on the kitchen sink. As the days grow longer and the sun shines even brighter our solar enabled flower beckons us on outdoor adventures. This free bauble was a gift from the staff of the Wasabi Revolving Sushi Bar located at 675 E. and 2100 S. in Salt Lake City UT. Play this video and imagine yourself in the morning standing in our kitchen with a cup of coffee in your hand dreaming of the days adventures. "Seize the creamer, the sugar, and then seize the day!

The first weekend of May was a wet and muddy experience for the two of us. The second weekend of May was a totally different experience. We packed up the truck and headed down to Moab UT where we spent the weekend mountain biking with a bunch of friends. Alison, Rhonda & Andy, and Heather, a.k.a. "triple-H", joined us for an incredible weekend.

With temperatures in the mid 70's and clear skies we hit the ground running. Friday afternoon we rode the Sovereign Trail system. The sun set as we rode slick rock, singletrack, and sand.

We headed back to the condo south of town where we enjoyed a few growlers from the Moab Brewery. Discussion turned to Saturdays ride and the gauntlet was thrown. Saturday we would ride the recently legalized Upper Porcupine and Lower Porcupine Singletrack Trails. These trails were incredible! By far the most technical and exhilarating trails that Moab has in her arsenal. Setting yourself up to clear one set of obstacles is always challenging, but having multiple obstacles thrown at you in quick succession with split decisions made 30 seconds ago determining your current velocity, trajectory, and survivability will leave you giggling like a kid in the playground who just got smacked squarely in the face by a red rubber ball in a game of dodge ball!

The UPS and LPS trails dump you in to the top of the Porcupine Rim Trail system. The original Porcupine Rim Trail is nothing to take for granted and can leave you looking for an alternative hobby like "Lazy-Boy reclining" if you are not careful. Our fearless group ventured on and continued down the trail. 23 miles of incredible mountain biking ending along the edge of the Colorado River. It was an epic day for all of us!

Sunday we all thought of ways to get out of work on Monday and stay an extra day. It was a short dream when we awoke and realized that we needed to keep working in order to keep our health benefits. We finished the weekend riding some of Moab's easier trails with names like Klondike Bluffs and Baby Steps. It was nice to get out and spin the legs before we headed back home to Salt Lake City UT.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Go Mud Racers

Saturday brought the unofficial start of the mountain bike race season for Drew and Lucy. Since we had preregistered for the race, and since we may not get to do too many of these races this year on account of Drew's wacky work schedule, we decided to race even though the forecast was for heavy rain and 50 degree weather.

Sure enough, it started pouring at 7 AM. The rain quit at 9:30, just in time for the race organizer to reroute us to a much shorter course. Off we went at 11:00.

Boy was it muddy! But oddly fun. Here are some pictures from after the race.

Some people pay to get mud facials.

Do you have to pay for this service, too?

Even those of you that don't know bike maintenance very well can probably figure out that this is not good for the bike.

But in the end it was all worth it. Drew took 5th place. Lucy had her worse showing ever in a mountain bike race...

... but she still had fun, no matter how questionable that may seem from the look on her face...

... or the look of her pretty pink bike.

There were other interesting things about the day. This is just mud, really.