Day 5 was to Milford Sound

Yep, it’s been a few days, and I still owe you another Antarctic post, but that’ll come soon. Things are busy for a guy getting back into the country and starting school at the same time.

The next morning I left Queenstown and Jamin to fly back to Antarctica. His company was much appreciated. The road south was quite fun, and I put on the music player which put a big grin on my face. It was a windy road that swept alongside a lake shore for many miles. There is nothing like feeling completely in tune with your machine, your surroundings, and yourself. It was a great ride and maybe the best of the entire trip. It was so good I didn’t take any pictures for most of the day.

I pulled in to Te Anau sometime after noon, and after eating at a subway pulled into a camera shop to replace the one that got wet a couple of days back. The new camera isn’t pleasing to use but takes great pictures. I prefer one with more options. Anyway, it was a good thing that day since one of the cameras wasn’t working, and it took the battery with it. My spare camera and battery were running low. That’s not the end of the story, but for now it will be enough.

The camera salesman told me Milford sound was spectacular, but the ride up there would be even better. I wasn’t so sure but looked forward to seeing the sights. It turned out he was right. Just like several other places I’d been the road followed a lake in a valley surrounded by mountains. This place keeps getting better! Now there was time for pictures! (and even a nap in the summer sun)

Actually, this valley completely engrossed me. It was just too beautiful. Tall grass covered a floor carved out who knows how long ago by glaciers. On either side was a mountain face, and following the road either way showed the extent of this valley.

The road plowed on, and every time I stopped it was nicer than the last. This really was the prettiest part of the prettiest country on earth. Believe me it wasn’t missed on my part. I took a lot of photos.

Around every curve was another fantastic overlook and sight worth seeing. As you can imagine the trip took a lot longer than planned stopping that often, but it was worth it. As geologist in training these features were remarkable to me. It was so obviously formed by glaciers. Can you imagine ice that could form this?

And everywhere you looked (not unlike sheep further north) there were waterfalls flowing over the rims of these mountains. And they say after a rain there are thousands of them.

For a while I was detained at a tunnel that separated the fjords from the mainland. It took a while, but there was no complaint on my part. The sun was shining, and that always spells a good time on a motorcycle; add to that good scenery and you’re golden. Milford sound was not far now. I just another corner and…

And it only got better. This place was the real deal. I took lots of pictures the first day and the second even better ones. I’ll just go into a couple for now. Expect the others from the cruise through the fjord soon.

I didn’t forget that I was there 😉

and one of the nicer photos

I’ll come back soon with more pictures. Thankfully the weather cooperated. I hear it can rain as much as 22feet per year there!!!

I like Texas

It sure feels good to be home.  The only thing I love more than traveling is being in Texas.  😀  It’s a wonderful place.

From Dalhart to Del Rio and out El Paso way, well I’ll be doin’ fine on Houston time, and when the sun sets on the Copano Bay, well from way up where the Red River flows, on down to the Rio Grande, I was born a native Texican, and I’m proud to say that I am.

Chorus

Yeah I like Texas, Ain’t it fine here,
Like to pick my guitar down in Luckenbach, and drink that Shiner Bock beer,
Yeah I like Texas, man there ain’t no doubt,
just listen to me ’cause I know what I’m talkin’ about.

Well there’s old dancehalls and little cafe’s, where you can get a taste of the Lone Star State, strap on your boots and have yourself a laugh or two, well there’s no line dancin’ just straight romancin’, that hill country lore is what I fancy, where streams run clear and Lord the skies they are so blue.

Chorus

It’s a two day old burrito on a lukewarm beer to go, on the Sunday side of a road trip weekend, and Lordy I was feelin’ so low, when somebody flipped on the jukebox, and I heard old Bob Wills say, “won’t cha’ stay all night stay a little longer”, so I held on another day.

Day 4, Queenstown

This wasn’t a day of travel. After a long night of partying with the teenagers I was rushed to make the 10Am checkout. Not feeling up to riding away, and wanting to write in this blog, I stayed a while longer. That turned out fine because Jamin was going to be in Queenstown in a few hours. I took that time to upload photos and such. The day did drag on while I wasn’t traveling, but it worked out well because he and I got to hang out.

We had discussed bungy jumping and wanted to to that the following day, but as it turned out Jamin was going to return to Antarctica. So most of the day involved him planning for that. Finally, after dinner, we took the gondola ride up to the highest point in Queenstown for a spectacular view. It really couldn’t have been better. The sun was about to set as we arrived, so that was nice, but also the largest full moon of the year rose soon after. Add those things to an already beautiful scenery, and the it was worth waiting a day to ride away.

Here is what we saw

Gondola ride complete with mountain goats.

The sun was setting, so it made for a beautiful skyline

It kept getting better actually.


And one of me and Jamin.

Here are some artistic shots I took, Jamin trying to climb the glass stood out.

I’d say that was enough sunset pictures, but it really did keep getting better. This is one of my favorites and current desktop.

And then the moon rose. It was big and bright.

And lastly, Queenstown from above. Sorry it’s smeared out.

There aren’t many photos this time. You can see them all here.

He and I ended up hanging out till late.  It was a pleasure to have someone to talk to.  Usually when I travel alone conversation is limited to small talk.  Jamin is now in Antarctica solving some problem only he could do.  I wish him and the rest of the team the best.

Sunny New Zealand

The title tells it all. Day two was one of wet weather. Day three was much nicer. Much nicer.

I woke late, like I’ve been doing lately, and go the information I needed to find my way. The first destination was Franz Josef Glacier, and we’d see from there. I was already in the town named for the glacier, and it was only a few klicks to get there. Signs in the parking lot warned of vehicle theft, so I chose a route that was shorter (and recommended by the hostel manager for being a better view.) Tell me if he was right.


Did I mention I was in a rain forest? It’s green here! I totally love the mountains covered in trees. It’s what draws me to the Appalacian mountains and now here. Add to that a beach just 2 miles away and you’ve found paradise. New Zealand it definitely a must see.

The road from Franz Josef to Fox Glacier is a nice and twisty path that cuts around the mountains and gives bikers something to keep their mind off the scener. VROOM! A couple of times that day I was so engrossed with the road I forgot to look up. That’s the life. At least every time I did look up it was a gorgeous sight.

I decided against hiking up to Fox. It may have been different enough, but there is a famous lake nearby, and I enjoyed a hike around that instead. (glaciers are cool, but after a month of living next to one the novelty wears off). The lake turned out very nice, and the warm sun really refreshed me. There is a spot on the trail called mirror island. During the right conditions the mountains show up nicely in the reflection.


Did I mention I was in a Rain Forest? 😀 The view was great. And although clouds obscured the tops of the mountains I still really enjoyed the sight. A couple at the stop complained. I think they wanted the picture perfect poster photo or something like that. I suggested they buy the poster – that guy probably waited weeks or more to get the right shot. I was happy with this one.

There are several good ones. Here are a couple; and one of me enjoying the view. It’s hard to get out of the “rush to see everything” mode.

Plus a couple of neat things on the trail

And then it was back on the road. Only this road led to the beach 😀

I took this time to read and take a nap. That sun felt great. From here it was a long ride to Queenstown, and I didn’t take many photos (read: was enjoying the road) A Toyota Corrola thought it would be fun to try and keep up with me. The curves posed problems though as I left him pretty easily. He’d catch me on the straight but only cause I didn’t want to speed too much.

The road to Queenstown was paved with good intentions: intentions to arrive early, intentions to take the best route, …. Well, I found myself running later than planned (the afternoon nap seems always to creep in there even though I still don’t plan for it). I made a quick, and wrong, turn in Wanaka, famous for beautiful scenery and aerial adventures. On the way out of town I realized that my tank was low and it was a still a long way to Queenstown. As I slowed to turn around I recognized one of my roommates from the hostel the night previous. His was a German named Alec who was hitchhiking around NZ, and today his destination was Queenstown. It was an amazing coincidence that I had already started slowing when I saw him.

Well, he had way too much gear to carry a long distance, but on his advice I decided to take the other route (the one that saved .5 hours and was much more scenic – the one also he wanted to take). I offered a ride back to town where he could then get a ride in a car. So we teamed up – he with directions, and me with transportation – to arrive back on the correct road and fully fueled. I left him there halfway expecting to see him in the next day or two in Queenstown. That never realized, but I got some amazing riding in in the mean time.

I’m still uploading too many pictures, so here are only a few of the better ones from the beach to Queenstown.

Of course there are more sheep. They are everywhere. This sight really caught my eye, and I even stopped and turned around to go back and get it. There were sheep nearer me, but they were afraid of the sound of the bike and moved away. I just love the snow capped mountain in this one with the warm pasture surrounded by trees in the foreground. There were probably 20 of these – this one being best.

That was taken heading down a hair-pin road into the final stretches before Queenstown. That sight made me pause for quite a while. The camera cannot do it justice; it was too much to capture.

This was the most spectacular ride I’ve had in a long time – it’s really not fair that I get to enjoy all of this. The truth is it’s kind of an overload in beauty. I’ve become slightly desensitized. This post is being written several days after the photos were taken, and today I didn’t even take many. If I stopped for every amazing photo I would only progress one curve at a time and would never get anywhere. You’d need months in this country to take all the photos you wanted.

Lastly, after arriving in Queenstown I met up with 5 kids from Dunedin who were enjoying the weekend in a party town. 3 girls, and 2 guys who were all about 19 years old took me around town and got me drunk. Alcohol was actually cheap (Queenstown is known for highly inflated prices), and I had plenty. The kids were a hoot: one of them, nicknamed ADD – look there’s a rabbit – took 14 Jagerbombs in front of me throughout the night. These aren’t like American Jagerbombs; they fill a tall glass about halfway with Redbull and drop a shot of Jagermeister into it. They were nuts.

I skipped a lot, but in doing so I realized that there is too much to discuss. There will be times in the future to remember them all. Until then you can check out all the photos (about 140 if you can) in the photo album.

More New Zealand!

Oh Boy is it beautiful here. There is no place like this on earth. I can’t believe places like this exist. It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and it doesn’t stop. The farther you go the more you see.

I don’t have time to put a lot of stuff up, so you can get all the pictures from day 2 here, and day three here– there are many. I’ll discuss some of the best ones though.
First thing after leaving the hostel was a ride up the beach to a geologic formation called pancake rocks. I wondered what that meant but soon found out. The ride along the coast was just perfect; I ended up taking too many photos, but they are all worth it.

It wasn’t a long trip, maybe 45 kilometers, but the whole ride was amazing. Lots to see. As you can tell it was cloudy, and on the way north it rained for a couple of minutes. That wasn’t bad – the bad stuff came later.

I got a lot of pictures of pancake rocks, and they are all worth seeing. So you should check out this link. I’ll just post a couple

After that was a quick walk up the Punakaiki river.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my camera wasn’t taking good photos. I had switched because I don’t like to use the newer one on the motorcycle. Well, that turned out to be good (barring the bad photos) because when it started raining I left the camera in my pocket. It doesn’t turn on anymore. The newer camera works fine but doesn’t meter well and the photos are often over exposed. Remember the Antarctica problem, same now. At least they are clearer. I’m definitely getting new camera when I get back. I can’t have bad cameras and travel. DOH.

I didn’t get much more in the way of photography that day. It rained a lot and for a long time. Here are a a couple of the vegetation beside the road. It’s really neat.

and flowers

That was day 2 – minus nearly 3 hours of rain.

I’ll talk about Day 3 next time. My internet time has run out.

Rode Across New Zealand

Man this country is beautiful. I’ve got lots to say and many photos to show. Unfortunately there is only time to upload the photos, I’ve got places to go!

Basically I left early afternoon after many hours of preparation. I had to mail some things home, argue with the airline, get camping gear and a motorcycle. It’s a nice motorcycle too. After initially getting turned around, was super hungry and not thinking straight, I found some food and was on my way. There are only a couple of roads that cross the island, so getting on the right one wasn’t too difficult. The ride was gorgeous, filled with mountains, fields of sheep, rivers and lakes, then on the west side it became rain forest and beach. The whole afternoon was filled with wonderful smells I haven’t sensed in a long time. Antarctica has no smell besides volcano dust and diesel fuel. The flowers, fresh cut grass, tall pines, and humidity made for a pleasant ride.

At the end of the day I wound up in Greymouth. The city isn’t much of one, but there is a supermarket ad a hostel. That worked out well. The hostel’s name is Noah’s Ark, and each room is named for a different animal. It is colorful, and the people are friendly. They all have the same complaint however: Greymouth has nothing to do. There is a river and the beach is nearby, but it’s not the best beach. Supposedly there are some “adventure sports” you can pay to do, but this whole motorcycle trip is one for me, and that’s what I’m going to do after typing this post.

Just a couple of photos. You can find all of them here.

The ride had become cooler and cloudier as I rose away from the East Coast so I stopped to put on some more clothes and take a picture of the sky. I also noticed some sheep hiding behind the bike and thought it would make a nice photo;

The roads here are all two lane, and they become narrow and windy as you go into the mountains. It is a motorcycle enthusiast’s paradise.

Everywhere you look there are sheep

And lots of gorgeous scenery

A couple of last things before I take off again.

At one rest stop there were these huge birds. They are called KEAs and are a mountain version of a Parrot. They are not noisy that I noticed but are ferociously hungry. They supposedly eat anything that will break off in their mouth, including car (and motorcycle!) parts.

And then I reached the beach. It’s pretty, but also dirty in a way. The sand is gray; it’s covered with driftwood and foam, and it was cloudy. I expect that to not always be the case. Anyway, a couple more then I’m gone. Make sure to check out all of the photos in the link above. NZ is really pretty. There should be a couple of good opportunities for more in the next week.

The last one is of some pure white rocks. I wonder how they formed.

I’m off

Picked up the yellow F650GS today, and I’m headed west – to the edge of the country!!!  It’s not that far though.   I’ll take lots of pictures  and be very safe.  When I come back there will be yet more stories I’m behind in telling.

Until then, check ya later!

My first binoculars

Got them right in time too. I bought some for my Antarctica trip but only used them a couple of times. Now that I’m back in New Zealand I was looking forward to clear skies. Well, it took a few days, but finally they arrived.

I’ve never seen the southern sky at night and was really hoping to see the Magellanic clouds. Unfortunately Christchurch is pretty well lit, and with the naked eye I saw nothing except the Southern Cross. That was a good feeling! Also, seeing Orion upside down and Sirius directly overhead was a neat sight. The moon was just left (not right like up north) of the Pleiades. On my own I found NCG3532 and the Eta Carina Nebula. They were near to Theta Carina which I found first. From there I was lost and had to pull out the computer with Starry Night. That helped me find the LMC, NCG 3114, and the names to the others. The SMC is too dim, and maybe clouds were filtering my view.

Anyway it was quite productive, and now I have the great memory of looking at the southern sky. I hope to get a few more viewings in while on my motorcycle trip around the southern island.

P.S., I’ve had a telescope for years. I love it, but it’s not great for travel.

and something else I should have said:

I got some cheapos from Academy: Bushnell 10×42. They are compact as far as binoculars go and pack easily. They seem to do the trick for the most part but as of yet are still untested in good conditions. The LMC was pretty dim (visually I saw nothing).

Looking forward to a couple of days away from city lights. Maybe one day I’ll upgrade, but this is something I’ve needed for a LONG time, and it feels good to have something I can use easily on hand.

It’s not cold!

That was my first thought today after touching down in New Zealand.  For the last month I’ve had to wear winter clothing nearly all the time.  And the flight back was even worse.  They left the heater off in the C130 meaning all of us, probably 40 total, had to bundle up with our antarctic gear.  We looked like a bunch of Eskimos strapped down to a pallet.

It’s nice not having to work all day – although I’ve got more to do for a paper I’m writing.  Lately it’s been a succession of 14 hour days, though part of that was writing.  The plane flew away today full of properly working science equipment.  Dusty, Duncan, and Jack are on their way to Casey Station via Dome C and Dumont D’urville, the French base.  They’ll meet Andy and a couple of Australians.  Meanwhile Scott, Jamin, and I are back in New Zealand enjoying many things: color, animals, fresh food, fresh beer, sandals, and new people.  I’m still kinda jealous of the guys that get to stay down there.  Gonzo is staying at McMurdo for a month, and he’s got plans to enjoy himself.

Well, it’s dark now (DARK?!!!) and bed time for the weary.  Tomorrow is Wednesday, and I’ve got to get this paper submitted which means a little more work.  Also is preparing for my motorcycle trip around New Zealand and possibly making plans for Sydney before returning home.  Got lots to do and sleep required in between.

See you soon with more about what we did and McMurdo Station.  I owe that at least.  The two Antarctica posts were more snow and fun – that’s not what we did for a month!

Best Photos of 08

So for several years now I’ve posted my favorite photos taken in the year preceding. It’s actually quite nice for me because I get to review the things I’ve done, and it reminds me of the good times I’ve had. This year I wasn’t particularly as excited as years past when I was traveling more, but to tell the truth there were lots of good pictures anyway. And in fact I did get to do a good bit of traveling.It was actually a pretty good year. I ended up in D.C. for a conference, KY for new years, New Mexico for school related work, Mexico a couple of times as a guide to out of state friends. I did a drive back from Michigan when Stephanie picked up the jeep her grandmother gave her, and that put me in St. Louis again. I made it to my 10 year High School Reunion, and lastly, the big one of course, I ended the year in Antarctica through New Zealand. But more about the pictures.

First though links to the pictures from years past.

2007 Best photos of the year

and Favorite photos from 2006

I’ll try not to put too many on here. There are a lot of photos that I like, too many to put here. Not all are here for good photography, some are just because they are good memories.


These were taken early on in the year; my birthday to be exact. As part of my job in the paleomag lab we add liquid helium to the cryogenic magmetometer. It’s quite a fun thing to do, but watch out, you can get hurt. First is the valve frozen over, second is the exhaust port with frozen oxygen and nitrogen. Yep, that is an aircicle. Lastly is what happens when the rode we stick on the helium to measure level is waved in the air.

I just love central Texas. I have two images of my state, one is like this with brush and great distances between hill tops. Another is of forested land and green pastures.

This is more of a joke. I took it in Detroit while touring with Stephanie and Thomas. Welcome to Michigan, please park where your vehicle may actually be stolen.

Awe, look at the sunset. This is from Lake Michigan.

From the art car museum. I like reflections, and I like Texas, so my reflection in a tribute to Texas was pretty cool.

I really like this photo. It’s titled “Llano Estacando”. There is a slight play on words there. I took it while on the Seismology New Mexico trip this August. It was quite an experience and a lot of 14 hour days. Photography was a big past time, and many great photos came out of those two weeks.

Again this was taken in NM. Joseph didn’t know I was taking a picture of him. He’s standing in front of a fence we just finished to keep cows out of our seismometer station. The truck is facing us both, but he’s blocking the light of course. It really appeals to me.

From the UT game I saw. We beat Rice pretty bad. For the picture everyone in the stadium had their hook’em horns up.

Another sunset picture, this time in New Mexico. This is one of many awesome shots.

Here’s me in most of my “ECW” gear. The parka is called “Big Red” for obvious reasons. It’ll keep you warm – too warm if you’re not careful.

And what appears to be a blizzard. We’re walking towards the New Zealand Base on Ross Island.

These two were taken just minutes apart. I took them while driving, hence the road. They’re in New Mexico again (like I said, lots of great photo opportunities, rainbows, sunsets, and much more). I really love the clouds in the second, and the colors in both.

This was the moment when I realized I could take photos through my sunglasses. They block 95% of the light, and that is important. The volcano is Mt. Erebus, the youngest and possibly southernmost active volcano in the world. And me enjoying survival training on the Ross Ice Shelf.

Carlsbad Caverns. Need I say more? They are gorgeous.

American flags at the Washington Monument in D.C. Lincoln is off in the distance.

Our plane taking off in Austin. The DC3 was refitted by Basler, and she’s a beaut.

These three were taken on the same hike, but all are worth placing here. First is a view of the Trans-Antarctic mountains (the range is very long, this is just one group) but with a neat for-scene. Second is Mt. Erebus with famous Castle Rock in the foreground. It is maybe the best sight in all of Antarctica. Lastly is a cool shot of the hill down from Castle Rock. I can’t explain why I like it so much.

This one was fun in setting up.

My friend Kuba enjoying Austin, Texas!

I didn’t take this picture or the next one. Johannes took this of my dad playing the guitar in moonlight. It was too cool to leave out.

And this is our team. Left to right on the back: Jack, Martin, Duncan, Andy, Scott, Don, Gonzo. Front: Jamin, Dusty, Me. We’re in front of the plane that carries all of our geophysical instrumentation. I’m going to leave here soon, and a few of those guys will fly that plane for another month on the other side of the continent.

And there were about 100 total. I really like these photos for one reason or another, but not all can be the best. Here are all the finalists of 2008