September on the road to the South Pole

Monday, 1 September 2003, Labor Day
I'm not scheduled to deploy for weeks, but since today is my first day with the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I thought I'd kick off the latest chapter in my journals today. I leave for Denver tomorrow - Trauma/First-Aid training, winter-over psych exam, "ropes course", and Fire training; all standard for Pole winter-overs. I've been in contact with various people by phone, but tomorrow will be my first chance to meet some of the crew I'll be spending 13 months with. From the one e-mail list I saw, I don't think I've met anybody on this winter's crew on my previous trips.

I did get the chance to mark the last days before the first phase of my journey with some festivities - at the Greek Festival, and by making a road-trip to see Wierd Al in concert. The show was worth the 260 mile round-trip to Cleveland. All his best songs and his best music-video costumes.

Tuesday, 2 September 2003
Off to Denver today. Dunno if I'll have net access on the road or not.

That's a yes on access. The hotel has rooms wired with Ethernet! I'm off to go grab a bite to eat and meet up with some of the other folks here for training.

Met up with Pete Koson, the winter-over site manager, and Larry, an insulation technician. Pete didn't stick around, but Larry and I talked over a late dinner. He has three McMurdo winters under his belt; but, like me, this will be his first winter at Pole. He also used to work at ASA, but we don't appear to have overlapped over the years.

Wednesday, 3 September 2003
After a quick breakfast in the hotel, I got a ride into Raytheon with Lisa, our winter-over safety person. She's in the trauma class with a bunch more winter-overs. I'm still learning names, but it's a great bunch of folks.

At the breaks, I kept running into OAEs from the ASA days - Jesse Alcorta, Tom Vinson, among others.

We did plenty of scenarios in our trauma class, taking turns being rescuers and patients. More of the same tomorrow. Most of us piled in a van and went to Chipotle for lunch. Pete and Sarah (one of the IT folks) had some good stories while we ate. The afternoon was filled with sessions outdoors rather than in the classroom. When I got back to my hotel room later, I called up Kris Vogt, my old boss from a couple of seasons back, and we caught up over dinner.

Thursday, 4 September 2003
Another quick breakfast at the hotel and an early ride with Lisa, Peter and Andrea, a couple of others in the class. We kicked off the day with an outdoor rescue session - our "camping buddy" didn't come out of the tent for breakfast - we were expected to investigate and discover that they couldn't keep any food/liquid down/in, and we were supposed to pick up on signs of dehydration and the early stages of shock it was causing.

I stumbled across Marc Pomeroy's desk during the mid-morning break. He's back with the Program after a few years working on mass spectrometers. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll be seeing him this trip - he works the vessels, and Pole is a long way inland.

Before lunch, we got to see how effective steristrips and Opsite can be in closing and protecting manageable lacerations. It sure beats gauze pads and miles of tape. The other hand-on activity was practicing ankle wrapping/taping.

On the way back from lunch, I ran into Paul Sullivan, yet another OAE I used to work with. Mid-afternoon, I bumped into more CSEC folks - Karen Joyce, Andy Archer and Steve Kottmeier; and I also dropped by Robbie Score's office to say "hi". That's been one of the best parts of being here for training - all the old, familiar faces.

After lunch, we covered splints, putting wrist and elbow and knee splits on each other; and we watched a demonstration of a field- rigged traction splint for a broken femur. About the last show- and-tell thing was a mummy-wrap for hypothermic patients - lots of insulation above and below the patient, and a plastic wrap around it all to keep the heat in.

I tried to organize an expedition to a sushi restaurant just on the other side of the freeway, but couldn't get a critical mass of people assembled. Maybe tomorrow night. I ate at the hotel instead.

Friday, 5 September 2003
Psych exam today - a requirement of all winter-overs, no matter which station. The test wasn't a surprise, it hasn't changed much since 1994. I did cross paths with yet more folks I knew, but only one in the testing room with me - a former galley slave, now lead cook, Suzanne. I wintered with her brother in 1995, and summered with her a season or two later.

After I finished my exam, I spotted a face from my old department, Mac, a telco guy, now doing more computer and less phone stuff. He was sharing his office with Rob, who looked a little familiar to me because it turned out that he used to deploy with VXE6 over the time I was there. I think I'll get the chance to work with Mac again, especially if he spends some time at Pole this summer like he did last summer.

After I was all done for the day, I went to the front desk to wait for the shuttle back to the hotel. Also waiting for the shuttle was Jules, a beaker on the AST/RO project at Pole. She had recently arrived from Sydney, and was in the office for the same reasons as the rest of us - psych, ropes course, and fire training. A couple more folks joined us, Tony, a carpenter, and the comms tech (who used to be a carpenter). We stopped at the local mall for lunch, and decided to meet up for dinner and give the sushi place a go.

While we were frittering away the late afternoon, waiting for dinnertime to approach, Nick, the other AST/RO beaker checked into the hotel (AST/RO, like AMANDA, needs more than one person over the winter to keep things running smoothly). We also added Dana, our Science Tech, to the dinner crew. By the time Lisa brought the van around, we had a group of seven, and we headed out.

Dinner was nice. Nick shared around a couple orders of gyoza, and Tony passed around a baked scallop appetizer. Some folks weren't too fond of seafood, but there do seem to be quite a few sushi fans on the winter crew.

Off to bed - we leave at dawn for Leadville for the ropes course.

Saturday, 6 September 2003
Got up early, checked out, did roll-call in front of the hotel and divvied up into several vans. I got into the huge van that Tree was drivng. I knew some of the folks already, but spent some of the time on the road getting to know the others. We didn't make the best time, between the angle of ascent and a few other drivers who made better speed bumps than moving vehicles. We were the last van to reach Wendy's for breakfast (our hotel has later breakfast times on the weekends, and we left before it began). As such, we had to grab food and run to keep up with the rest of the folks.

We passed entirely through the town of Leadville (elev. 10200', 3109 m) on our way to Outward Bound. Besides the normal things you find in a small town, the number of liquor stores did seem a bit on the high side. There were numerous comments about coming back tonight to sample the selections, but, of course, we never left site once we got there. The other landmark of note was the fish hatchery, which, if I read the sign correctly, was over 120 years old. Outward Bound was a few miles down the road from there.

After parking the vans, we walked down to a clearing at the edge of the grounds for a group circle and some introductory remarks from Ian, the leader. He split us up into three groups that we will be working with for the rest of the weekend. The first activity they had us do was to pair off and learn three things about the other person while we walked to the central part of the settled area. I drew Troy, a Physician's Assistant and former member of the Coast Guard. Troy and I talked for a while, then, once we arrived at the dining hall, we all, in turn, had to tell the group three things we learned about the person we'd walked up with. It was one of many "get to know you" activities we did.

Monday, 15 September 2003   Training in Madison begins
It's a long drive from Columbus, OH to Madison, WI, most of it unfamiliar to me. I managed to get in at a semi-reasonable hour, especially given that I-90 West of Chigago was down to single-lane in patches for resurfacing. I pulled into the executive housing that the University is putting me up in for the next three weeks, and Jeff was already there (he'd gotten there a few hours earlier). It's a nice place, much larger than I'm going to have to get used to in a couple of months. There's a video tape library down the hall from our basement door, as well as a free-for-use computer room. We have an exercise cycle and a weight machine on our lower level, as well as a guest bed under the stairs. I'm in the "kids' room" with two twin beds and a tiny desk, but it's at least five times larger than a room at Pole.

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