Monday, June 28, 2010

The 4400 mile haul

This last leg of the trip put me over 25,000 miles in a little over two months - approximately the circumference of the earth! I was lucky to spend the last 2800 with one of my best friends.
We found a lot of beautiful lakes
Slept by the Kootenay River
Watched some mountain goats along the Icefields Parkway
Stopped by Lake Louise
Made a run to the Athabascan Glacier in a rainstorm
Enjoyed the clear air thereafter
Saw Athabasca Falls in the summer, versus April
Took a "scenic" route, as if the drive as a whole wasn't enough
Met cyclists Houston and Sue from Missoula after a fox chased them down the road
Got rid of a few blood-sucking mosquitoes
Followed some honeymooners on their trip of a lifetime
Soaked in an empty Liard Hot Springs 3 meter deep pool
Wandered about Watson Lake's "sign post"
Lounged on the best free car camping spot
Noted the last night of darkness for awhile
Watched the Lemond-start of the 24 Hours of Light bike race
Drank up the sunshine while it lasted
Tucked our tent away in the trees for one last night
And sent one last SPOT from the driveway! Home at last.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Biking at 9,000 feet

After hauling my bike about 5300 miles, I finally got the chance to use it. ;)
I knew this was a potentially dangerous situation, as I got a bit altitude sick in April when I was hiking in Boulder. But, people have been taunting me with stories of Colorado trails for about 7 years now and there was no way I wasn't going to go check them out.
Felix took me out to Golden Gate Canyon State Park in the foothills of the Rockies on Saturday afternoon for an easy ride. I hadn't been on my bike for two months, and barely got to exercise for the last two months except hauling my suitcase up and down motel stairwells and an occasional run.Felix and his buddy Lou checking out the trail map.

I had a throbbing head from the trailhead onward up to 9,000 feet, but wasn't willing to say anything because it felt good to be back on the bike, let alone back on dirt and rocks and not bundled up in winter gear. I was able to figure out where my threshold was when my head was REALLY pounding.. we were almost at the top by that point. ;)Our easy ride turned into 3.5 hours... but that was bound to happen! My lungs were happy to roll down along the fast pavement on the way back to the car.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The End of V2

VORTEX2 ended on June 15, the day before the big tornado outbreak in SD (go figure)!Now 60 days on the road, I am slowly making my way north to Alaska. I am completely exhausted, but still very happy to be out here on the open road. Yesterday I had a cop at a gas station say "Those are Oregon plates?", "Nope, Alaska.", "Wow you are a long ways from home!" Yeah I guess so. Funny thing is, this whole summer hasn't felt too far from home, since for the most part I have been with old friends or new ones. It's not such a scary big country afterall. I do look forward to going back to my cabin in the woods, taking a nice long run on the trail while running from mosquitoes (uh, maybe I don't miss that detail..), and commuting to work. That, will be nice. I guess the stress of defending my thesis so soon is keeping me from wanting to be back there. Normally Alaska is somewhere where I look forward to something, but instead I am dreading something, and have nothing planned except to work. In a little over a month I'll be roaming free.. or roaming somewhere else? That door is wide open. But until I get back up there.. it's still playtime. ;)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A tornado in the road


After missing out the other day, I got my chance today. I really didn't expect to see anything, and neither did anyone else.

But today, with three days left, it all happened.

We started our chase early.. which normally evolves into a good thing. Not too much sitting in parking lots, bs'ing, playing catch.. the activities that fill the void for an hour or two. No one seemed too optimistic until we saw the very promising skew-t (vertical profile) for Perryton, TX, where we waited to target a storm.

South of Perryton, we encountered quite a bit of flooding from storms that had already rolled through.
We also passed damage at Bryan's Corner from a tornado that ripped through the day before.
All of a sudden while on the way to a travel target, we had a target storm. It didn't look great at the time, but it was early, and we were actually targeting a storm before it produced a tornado, instead of targeting it after it produced, which is what usually happens. We stayed on the storm for about two hours before it started getting interesting.
Gabe and I decided since the storm was not producing any tornadoes yet, that we would do our storm relative "mission" in the storm core. The core is a ton of fun - fun as in zero visibility, big hail (sometimes being launched at many mph), and some adrenaline rushing winds and the wonder of what the heck are you going to emerge out into. Go figure, while we were in the core, the storm decided to produce a really nice tornado. We couldn't get out of the core in time to see it.

So then, with a limited road network, we launched forward ahead of the storm to see what we could see. We were going down a road southward, turned back northward.. then Gabe had me turn back once more. Someone reported a tornado, and just as my buddy Kiel said over the radio, "rain wrapped tornado on the ground", Gabe and I were trying to figure out where exactly this twister was. I was convinced it was just ahead of us to the right, and he in the meantime convinced me that if there was a tornado, it would be in a mess of clouds beside us. Gabe said, "we're fine, we're getting west winds... Uhhhh, why are we getting west winds???" All of a sudden, we're still driving forward, and a rain wrapped tube slightly darker than the other sky comes rolling across the street where I pointed at a few seconds beforehand, about a 1/2 mile ahead of us. A big swirling ball of rotating cloud emerged, as the tornado crossed in front of us. It zipped across in about the time it took for me to realize what has just happened, enough time to bust out in laughter.. both at the mistake that Gabe made, and the monstrosity of what a little tornado could look like so close up. Then, not seconds later, one of our vehicles coming flying by. What the crap?!!! It was the most awesome 10 seconds of my short life, far from what I ever expected to see upon waking up this morning. Instead of being afraid, I just busted out into laughter instead. Here is a video I posted of the TWISTER. It's very choppy but at least it gives you a bit of an idea.

Best day ever. I was also proud of my official 20,000 miles driven since this all began on April 20th. June 13, with two days left in the project, was a good day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three illuminated funnels

Had a bad day chasing while everyone else had their best day of the project, due to my vehicle getting (nearly) stuck in the mud and very behind on the storm.. we missed two beautiful tornadoes and big hail. But at least we got to see three funnels illuminated by lightning on the way back to the hotel. Can't be all that bad right? My morale, however, has shot down substantially with everyone else talking about it. We have four days left and that may have been the last good storm that V2 will see this year. I don't know why I am so upset about this.. I guess knowing that I won't likely be storm chasing again.. or not knowing if I will ever get the chance to. Alaska doesn't get storms like these.