Archive for December 2009


December 22, 2009

Heads up.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge opened up for the winter season on Friday December 18th.  At the helm of 704 (a.k.a. Plowboy), I went South to Flagg Ranch for my first day live with guests. Five of us deadheaded down at 10 a.m. with a shoveling stop at Moose Falls. I ended up full up with 10 guests coming back. Good first run. On Saturday, I went out to West Yellowstone. Deadheading out and coming back in live. Another good run. Yesterday was a day of training showing my mentoree, Anthony, the ropes of a Bomb. Today was a lazy day off and tomorrow I head South again. Live both ways. Bringing Elizabeth and Steve back in on their first winter Yellowstone trip.


Plowboy at Fairy Falls trailhead

Plowboy salute


雪 の 車

December 19, 2009
Bombardier R-12`s

autos de nieve

Yellowstoner’s Flaming Caldera

December 17, 2009

Howard's Backside

Going on a week at Snow Lodge. We left Houston, Texas in the snow on December 4, Dad’s birthday, at 3pm and headed for Austin. Met up with Rocky and family and ate dinner at Magnolia Street Cafe. After dinner and some hanging out at Rocky’s, we hit the chilly road for Kyle, Texas and the home of the Coats. Left Austin around 10 and hit Kyle at 11:00. Most of the denizens were napping when we arrived. Some roused themselves admirably (Chris and Bret). Others (Jack and Will) were not as heroic. But they would more than make up for it the following morning.  Bret and I ended up hanging out until 4 am. I was up early the next morning with Jack and Will. Watched Empire Strikes Back, decorated the tree, ate breakfast, decorated the tree. Jack hung the Angel. We hit the road northwest just before noon. We made it to Lubbock that evening. Longhorns 13 Nebraska 12 in the hotel room. Made it to Cheyenne the next day. Hit snow and wind in Colorado. The worst of it in Denver traffic. Escaped in one piece and out of Colorado to Cheyenne. Flat tire and Sierra Trading Post the following morning delayed our departure til noon. Drove north in and out of snow and dropping subzero temps. But the roads were good and we made decent time. Rolled into Billings around 7:30pm for a shopping and dinner run on the snow covered roads. After supplying up, we escaped the urban sprawl of Billings and rolled further West on 90. Rolled as far as Big Timber. Got a hotel room there. Up late early to rise. Subzero driving to Livingston to 89 south to Gardiner. Checked in at HR at 9:45am. Directly to work for both of us. The next two nights were spent in the Mammoth Hotel. Rolled to Snow Lodge on Glavals and MC5s on Wednesday December 10. Made the final bus by the skin of our teeth 30 seconds late. Pride in Punctuality. Started snowing and it continues. Wheeled vehicles are out. Tracks are in. We picked up 11 Bombs from Norris today. I head back to Norris tomorrow to pick up some passengers, “four wives and two maintenance men.” Snow Lodge opens Friday, December 18. Skiing has been great. Carl and I broke up Grant’s Pass on Saturday. Stopped a mile from Shoshone Meadows, turn around time already exceeded. Our tracks should be covered by now. I still nurse my blister.

Regresamos a los Estados Unidos

December 3, 2009

Cerro Dragon Despedida

We are back home in the USA. We arrived early Sunday morning after departing Santiago at 10 p.m. on Saturday night (November 28). Our first leg was the Santiago to Atlanta international flight. Our second leg was the domestic flight of Atlanta to Houston, arriving in Houston just after 10 a.m. Central time (three hours behind Chilean time.) My parents met us at the Houston airport. We spent the last 5 days in Tomball readjusting to our (North) American life. I took the GRE on Tuesday. My brain is still recovering. Tomorrow, Friday, we hit the open road west to Yellowstone, where we will be spending the winter working at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. I will be driving snowcoach, and Emily will be working in the ski shop. Soon our transition from southern hemisphere summer to northern hemisphere winter will be complete. We spent our last 4 days in Chile in Santiago and Valparaiso. We had 3 days of Ingles Abre Puertas Closing Ceremony events in Santiago mixed with sightseeing, relaxing, and socializing. On Saturday, before flying out at 10 p.m., we got in a quick day trip to Valparaiso.

Cerro Santa Lucia

Cerro Santa Lucia

Mirador de Cerro Santa Lucia

Our journey home began on Wednesday morning (November 25) at 6 am in Iquique. The night before was spent packing up our Chilean lives until 3 am. The airport transfer arrived at the house 3 hours later. A small van. It already held David, Cushla, and Shirley. Em and I climbed in. Our luggage placed on top. We still had to pick up Ken, Jesse, Lai Nee, and Aaron. 9 passengers and all our 6 or 4 months worth of luggage made for a real tight squeeze. A final half ass farewell from Iquique. The driver placed more luggage up top. I say placed because this is basically what he was doing. There was very little strapping or bungeeing. One green bungee, tow strap, and some hip belts clipped around the rack. We fully expected to lose something on the 25 km trip south of Iquique to the airport. Our expectations were met: first with a dangling pack held on merely by the hip strap. We stopped and the driver “secured” it. Then about half way to the airport, we lost a pack. It went flying off and tumbling down the highway. Luckily, it was not hit or run over by another vehicle, but it bounced end over end down the road. We yelled to the driver. It was Aaron’s pack. The driver ran back to get it off the road with Aaron’s help. The pack cover on it took the brunt of the damage. The pack cover was ripped and torn, but the pack itself looked good. The driver loaded it back up top. We inspected more closely his work. It was not good. Most of the packs were just tetris-ed up there, unstrapped and un-bungeed. The driver did not take kindly to my criticism and fears. He pointed out a little ledge on the back of the rack that was magically holding everything on, including my pack piled on top. He assured me that it was being held on by the other packs and climbed back in the driver’s seat ready to go. I stood dumbfounded, thinking of my sack of bungees I carry when coachdriving. If only I had them now, I could show him a thing or two about bungeeing! But I did not. So we loaded back up and hoped for the best. Amazingly, we lost nothing else on the rest of the trip. We unloaded brisquely and the driver sped off without even a goodbye. He was glad to wash his hands of this group of gringos. Next time, send a bigger transfer or at least one that is equipped with bungees.

Climbing into the future

Torre Mirador de Cerro Santa Lucia

Our Iquique to Santiago flight was uneventful and smooth. An English Opens Doors rep was meeting us at the Santiago airport with transport to the Hostelling International in Barrio Brasil, our home for the next three nights. After gathering our bags, we exited to an array of signs greeting people, but none of them were for us. Fifteen minutes later, we finally found our greeter and headed off to a shuttle bus, but it wasn’t for us. We waited and our shuttle showed up 20 minutes later. On our trip to the hostel, President Michele Bachelet and her entourage roared by us in there autos shooing everyone in their path out of their way. We checked in and settled in our rooms. This time, they set all of the married couples up in our own rooms free of charge, which was a great perk. We had a private bathroom and a TV. We vegged out for a while in the room before heading out for lunch in the Ministry of Education Cafeteria and then taking the Spanish BULATS (Business Testing Language Service) at 4:30 p.m. This was another perk paid for by the program. After the test, Em and I headed out for some sightseeing. We walked to Cerro Santa Lucia. In the 19th century, under the direction of Santiago mayor Benjamin Vicuna MacKenna, the hill was metamorphosed into a beautifully landscaped park. A web of trails and stairways lead you up and around terraced gardens, groves, and 19th century structures to the fortress like Torre Mirador at top. From the Torre Mirador, there are great 360 degree view of Santiago sprawling below on all sides and the Andes to the east.

Plaza de Armas

Adentro de Catedral Metropolitana

After the Torre Mirador, we wound down the back side of Cerro Santa Lucia and out into the streets of Bella Artes. We strolled down to Parque Forestal, a beautiful park along the dingy Mapocho River that runs through Santiago, by the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and on to Plaza de Armas, before heading back to the hostel for dinner and vegging out on some TV in our room. Unfortunately, Em was put down sick later that night with a head cold that had been creeping up on her for a couple days. It finally got the best of her, and put her out of commission for the rest of the night and most of the following day. I was up at 8:30 am the next morning for the days group sessions, but Em stayed home. The first small focus group was worthwhile, with program reps actually listening to and taking note of our concerns with the program. The second large session was not. The Chilean powers that be in the program did not really seem to want to hear the negatives, only drone on about the positives on the defensive. Em was better off in the hostel. Later that night, Em was recuperated enough to make it out for the Closing Ceremony Dinner at the restaurant Buenos Muchachos. It was a good time with some good conversation with some good people. We turned in after a fun night around 2 am.

Pared de iglesia

Old Congress building

Friday morning was our final official Ingles Abre Puertas event, The Closing Ceremonies. It took place at the Universidad de Chile. It started late as to be expected. Speeches were made in English and Spanish, mostly Spanish. Some awards were given. Gifts and diplomas were given to all of us volunteers, 180 plus. The two hours were all viewed through rose tinted glasses. Afterwards, we loaded back up on the buses back to the hostel. Ingles Abre Puertas had officially washed their hands of the 2009 volunteers once we disembarked. Our official duties were over. Our time was now entirely ours. We went up to the room to relax for a while before heading out for some food, coffee, and more Santiago roaming and sightseeing.  That night was spent out in the courtyard of the hostel with the other volunteers for one last night of comraderie. We turned in at 3:30 am.

Faux Terracotta Warriors in La Moneda

Juguetes de los Carabineros

We meant to get up at 6:45 am the next morning to spend the day in Valparaiso before flying out to the US at 10 pm. An alarm clock SNAFU prevented that early hour, but we were up at 8 am thanks to some loud hallway noises. We packed up, stored our bags, ate some breakfast and were out the door at 8:45 am. We walked to the Metro and jumped it to Estacion Central, found the bus station, and headed to Valparaiso for the day. We got a 10:10 am bus to Valparaiso. It is a beautiful hour and a half ride from Santiago to the coast, through the hills of the coastal range. A canopy of verdant green compared to the endless brown of the desert north where we spent the last 4 months. We rolled into Valparaiso at 11:45 a.m. and rendezvoused with a fellow volunteer, Aaron. We roamed the flat section of Valparaiso to Cerro Bellavista. The hills are the draw of Valparaiso. We jumped on Espiritu Santo, one of the funiculars that climbs the abundant hills of Valparaiso, saving people from having to climb up the steep residential streets. Our destination was the house of Pablo Neruda, La Sebastian. The five story nautically themed house is preserved as a museum. The views from the house over the city and sea are beautiful. It is a cool, funky house oozing with Neruda’s character expressed through his passion for collecting and decorating. His study sits on the fifth floor overlooking the beautiful grounds and all of Valparaiso. We roamed back down the steep streets, grabbing an empanada along the way, to the flats and jumped a local bus back to the bus station. We got a 3:45 pm bus back to Santiago. Our trip to Valparaiso was short (4 hours in town) but sweet. I feel I definitely got the flavor of this unique city. In Santiago, we made our way back to the hostel via Metro and foot, grabbed our bags, and jumped a bus to the airport. Bidding a fond farewell to Chile along the way. I will continue to make sense of our experiences in Chile on this blog for months to come. Stay tuned. Chinstrap optional.

Track of Ascensor Espiritu Santo

Casa de Pablo Neruda

Afuera de la ventana de la casa de Pablo Neruda

Calles de Valpo

Caminando con Pablo Neruda