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RUT-IS-UP https://www.rutisup.com Sun, 28 Jan 2018 02:39:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.12 https://www.rutisup.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/cropped-rutisup-65x65.png RUT-IS-UP https://www.rutisup.com 32 32 Canadians in an American World https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/27/canadians-in-an-american-world/ https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/27/canadians-in-an-american-world/#respond Sun, 28 Jan 2018 02:39:23 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=1011 Sunday: It was about 1130 or 1200 and I was sitting down at the corner round table we always sit at. A bunch of the guys were there eating, but everyone was nearly done when I got there. Before long It was just me sipping a cup of coffee and […]

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Sunday: It was about 1130 or 1200 and I was sitting down at the corner round table we always sit at. A bunch of the guys were there eating, but everyone was nearly done when I got there. Before long It was just me sipping a cup of coffee and Ken to my right eating. I brought my journal down just in case no one was there, and now it had found a use. Ken–a felllow Canadian–and I were talking about what we had planned after we got off the Ice.

The conversation shifted to snowboarding and skiing after he mentioned he was going to go down to Banff after and do some skiing. He worked down at Sunshine for three winters, so I opened up my notebook and asked him for some advice. I got a few good tips. I told Ken my story about Sam Nassey last night.

I was at the Coffee House–now open only as a lounge during Vessel–playing Cards Against Humanity with the boys. At some point after we had abandoned the game and were just mingling around all drunk, I went to talk to a big tall bearded man that I mistook for Ben’s Kiwi twin power plant operator–yes his doppelganger at the Kiwi base is also their powerplant operator. They also were the opposing anchors during the USA vs. New Zealand tug-of-war–Turns out he was one the KBA Pilots. So while I had his ear, I told him how I knew a guy flying for Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions (A.L.E.) down at the Italian Base (Mario Zucchelli Base).

He pawned me off on another Canadian that was based out of that base, and I threw my hail-mary of a ‘do you know so and so’ story. I didn’t even know the guys name, but here’s the story of how I ended up connected to him.

I was in Zanzibar last year in Paje beach, and one of those lazy days I went to the shop to buy some more beers. I was wearing a black hat from Boathouse with the British Columbia crest on it. This tall blonde white dude was like “Hey bud, you Canadian?” He was alone, just sitting on the sandy picnic table in front of the store on this sunny day.

We get to chatting, and he is living in Winnipeg. No Way! It’s exceedingly rare to meet someone abroad from Winnipeg, and after I found he moved there voluntarily, it was perhaps my first and only time meeting someone abroad who had voluntarily migrated to The Peg. He tells me some funny stories and how he works at the Canadian Border in the Winnipeg airport. We become fast friends, and later on in my travels we share Canadian Thanksgiving with some ex-pats in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Anyways, we stayed in touch, and when I was visiting my family in Winnipeg, I hung out with him a few times. He was getting his pilots license, and the last time I saw him he was dating his flight instructor. “I wanna put a kid in her. I told her ‘hey babe, lemme put a kid in ya’ but she wasn’t down”. So when I announced to my friends that I was headed off the Antarctica for the austral summer, he messaged me and told me he knew a guy heading down there. He was working for Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions. He works at the Italian base, It’s pretty close to McMurdo, but you gotta fly. I’ll never have an opportunity to go there, thus I promptly forgot all about it.

Bringing it back to the Coffee House. I’m telling this whole big story to my new friend who works down at the Italian base, but is up in McMurdo for a few days. I realize quickly that everyone in the know calls the Italian base  ‘Terra Nova’, this namesake derived from Terra Nova Bay, adjacent to the base. That has much more of a ring to it than Mario Zucchelli. Most of us only new Italians from when you see them transiting through McMurdo on their way to Terra Nova.

So I don’t even know this far flung connections name, having not thought about it in months. But after the whole story, my new friend says it could be this one guy he knows from Manitoba that he works with. “Sam Nassey, that’s the only guy that it could be”. The name rings a bell, I don’t know how, but somewhere in the deep part of my memory, I know it’s gotta be him. “I feel like that’s him!” I say excitedly. It was strange, I’ve never been so certain of an uncertain thing. I get my new friends email, and then go home. Before I go to bed, I check out if my hunch was true. Sam Nassey, that was the guy! Holy Hannah.

Back to lunch. So I’ve just told this whole story to Kenny, and I realize this one Alberta girl I met in the lounge a few weeks ago is sitting a few tables away from us, alone, at one of the “suicide tables”. So Ken and I get talking about how there’s a bunch of Canadians here, quite a few considering how you need US Citizenship to even work here. “Yeah, I think that chick is Canadian” and I point over to her. “Hey, are you Canadian?” I holler over to her. She doesn’t really notice, but Ken asks her and then she realizes we are trying to talk to her. “Oh yeah, I remember meeting you, you’ve got an X-Ring right?” she says. Yep, definitely the same girl.

She leaves that sad table and comes to join us. We all get talking about all the Canadians down in Antarctica. She’s got a light Canada Goose jacket on with that Canada Goose patch that looks exactly like the United States Antarctica Program logo. “So, who ripped off who? Did USAP come up with the logo first, or was it Canada Goose?” None of us know, but the conversation gets fully Canadian. James joins us, and gets pulled into our Canadian conversation.

Copied from an informative blog post that tells you who the real original is: goo.gl/ejtBdD

Next thing you know, Ken sees another Canadian and gets her to join us. She’s a carpenter from Vancouver Island, and she starts telling us about Letterkenny Boys. As far as I knew it was just a YouTube series, but now it’s an actual show. We had a good spread of Canadian at the table. Vancouver Island, Rocky Mountain House (Alberta), Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), and Winnipeg (Manitoba). We just needed a Saskatchewanite to join us for the full Western spread.

Velcro Vinny joins the table as well, and so we’ve got two Americans and four Canadians. What’s funny is all six of us are American citizens as well, since this is a requirement to be a contractor down here. The Albertan was a beaker, here on a month long “NSF training” program. Some strange student grant thing where they’re out on the sea ice for a month, poking it with a stick. The ice melted a couple weeks ago, so not much going on for them.

It’s kind of strange. 750 people on station, yet still a decent amount of Canadians. All of the small fixed-wing aircraft pilots are Canadians working for Ken Borek Airlines (KBA)–they fly those small aircraft all the way down here!–and then a bunch of us contractors mixed in. Canada doesn’t even have a base in Antarctica! Belgium does, but not Canada? We’ve got some Arctic bases, but out of all the countries, we should really be down there.

So, until they figure that out, we’ll just be Canadians in an American world.
At the bottom of the world.

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Kiwi Ski Hill https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/20/kiwi-ski-hill/ https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/20/kiwi-ski-hill/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:33:10 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=958 My stomach growls as I sit here idly watching the new Blade Runner. I’m sitting atop that plush couch, plugged into one of the three internet connections in the lounge. This is one of the few places in town where you can plug your laptop in to get some Internet. […]

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My stomach growls as I sit here idly watching the new Blade Runner. I’m sitting atop that plush couch, plugged into one of the three internet connections in the lounge. This is one of the few places in town where you can plug your laptop in to get some Internet. I’ve got on my MacIsaac Hall sweatpants (Go assholes) and a gray underarmor shirt.

I’m wearing chucks with no socks on–you can’t go in the galley with flipflops and bare feet and my flops were still wet from the shower I just took–god that felt good. We just spent most of the day out snowboarding at the Kiwi Ski Hill. Here’s how that went:

***

I set an alarm for 10:00, intending to make good of an invite to join some skiiers from the night before. I don’t really like setting an alarm on the only day off I get a week, but what the hell–I like snowboarding. I snoozed it twice, and then decided I ought to roll out of bed and head down to brunch to see if I can catch these guys. They were just leaving and I didn’t expect to make it with them. My knee was still sore from running the 21 miles in my marathon attempt, so it was kind of a deliberate attempt to not go.

I made loose plans to go see the icebreaker with John and Ben, but I knocked on Joel’s door–just across the hall from Ben’s room. Joel answers, backpack with skiis on it and shit looking pretty damn ready to rock. “Ah I was gonna ask if you got room for one more still on the ski trip, but it looks like you’re all ready to go…” I say, asking if I can still come in a real Canadian fashion.

“Well if you can get ready quick, it’s no problem man”.
“OK. give me five minutes”.

I quickly go to my room where my roommate is still snoozing, turning on my lamp to provide a -little- light so I can see what I’m doing.

Quickly quickly, I pack two IPAs in my backpack, and my camera and stuff is already in there from the night before–good enough. I quickly put on my snowboarding boots and grab a sweater and a jacket. I walk down the steps towards the front lobby and handwashing area of 155 and see Joel coming up the steps to see if I’m ready yet–awesome. We all walk out to the truck.

Truckin’ it up as far as we can

The plan is as follows. We load up the truck, and drive as close as we can to the ski hill. We’ll just hike up the Kiwi ski hill and snowboard/ski down and do this until we get bored of it. If we are lucky, the Kiwis will show up and set up the rope-tow. But it’s kind of an invite only thing, but if they’re around and feeling cool maybe they’ll let us use it. So we leave the base, and drive over the transition and onto the snow road. We get to the access road for the ski hill–about a mile and a half long. “Looks like just tracks” says someone, and they’re right. Only tracked vehicles have tried to come down this way. Our driver shifts into 4Lo and we edge up a bit on the snow and go about a foot…not looking good. We nearly got stuck there. We reverse back out onto the snow road. We’re walking in.

It’s about a 45 minute walk on the snow road. We get on crunching down that way, and about 2/3 of the way there we hear a vehicle coming up on us. It’s a Kiwi hagglund and it rolls up past us, a bunch of costumed people waving at us. I see someone I know as well. “They’re definitely going skiing, they have costumes!” I say. A few minutes later and a second hagglund with costumed occupants rolls up. Aww yeah, looks like they are going to run their ski lift!

We get to the ski area, and find that the Kiwis already have opened up their storage container and have set up some plastic chairs in the snow, facing uphill. A guy is carrying the rope up the hill, and rap music is piping out of the container. Everyone is costumed and having a fun time–it all looks pretty awesome. “What’s up guys, we were just gonna do a few runs” says one of us. “Yeh! Come join us guys!” says this Kiwi girl wearing a olive drab flight suit and sunglasses.

Bottom of the hill
Top of the hill
It’s a beautiful continent

Sweet.

“You guys didn’t bring your lift tickets! The ticket is to wear a costume!” they say to us. A minute later a girl wearing a blue pirate dress over her jacket brings us some costumes. “Here’s your lift tickets!” Joel takes these crazy floral pants, Mike has a black and white animal pattern blouse–which we jokingly call Antarctic Camo–and Ryan has a crazy paisley shirt. I put on a woolen christmas elf costume. It looks like we’re all sorted now. They show us where to grab some ‘nutcrackers’ so that we can use the rope tow, and then they give us a safety briefing

My knee is still kind of sore, but this is too cool to pass up. I’ve never used a ‘nutcracker’ type lift, but I get the hang of it pretty quickly. I ride up goofy the first time, grabbing the rope and then flipping the nutcracker shut on the rope pull, and up I go. I’m a little sore after riding, my knee kind of angry. I hang out and a drink a beer for like 30 minutes, just chillin.

There’s a potpourri of costumes here. One guy has a green wig on and a green tail. “I’m a mermaid, I swam in with the ship” he says, referring the icebreaker that has just crunched its way into McMurdo Sound from the ice edge–slowly and forcefully. There’s a man with a giant afro wig and leopard skin blazer. A girl with a New Zealand bike jersey, a dude with shorts and a black russian fur hat. A dude with a black and white vertical striped suit. We all looked cool as fuck.

kiwi ski hill antarctica
The Ski Hill Crew

My knee is feeling better and I’ve got a little beer in me. I decide to try riding up regular, and it feels way better on my knee. I only make it up halfway before falling off, you aren’t supposed to ride up facing backwards. I try a few more times and I just starting riding it facing the other way with my back to the rope coming back on the return. Not the safest, but more practical. When I get to the top I just drop the rope and then lay down and throw the rope over me while I barrel roll underneath. It took me a few tries, but I eventually figured out a good system.

It was great, there was a little kicker and I got some air. I ‘sent it’ down the hill mainly. It was cool. Ryan could not get alpine skis out of gear issue, so he was trying out telemark skis for the first time. It was not going so well. Eventually he was using other peoples skis with this pair of ski boots he found in some building while he was working. With his scavenged boots and borrowing of idle skis, we felt it was appropriate to call him the “The Ski Skua”.

The Kiwi container was pretty cool. The inside was like a bar, with bar stools. There was a fridge and a stovetop. It was really cozy, and they had a thing full of hot water. “D’ya guys want some Tea or Coffee? We’ve got some hot water in here” said Kat the flightsuit Kiwi. She is a glacier guide when not on the ice. The hospitality shown by the Kiwis was awesome, and I opted for some instant coffee.

The afternoon was pretty chill, mainly lots of snowboarding and hanging out. I drank the other beer as well. We all hung out and snowboarded until about 1600. Some people we knew snowboarded down the hill from Castle Rock and saw us hanging out. The Kiwis were going to give us a ride. We were all loading up into one of the green hagglunds, and the Kiwis offered the rest of the Americans that had just shown up a ride. We all piled into the bench seats in the back trailer of the hagglund, and loaded our gear in their gear trailer. Man, these Kiwis know how to do it!

Loading up in the hag
High Occupancy Vehicle

We got a ride to the snow road where our truck was. We passed another American skiier on the hagglund ride back. We drove here with 4 and now we had 10. We loaded everyone up into the truck. 3 in the front, 7 in the back with all our gear. We rode back nice and slow back to the base. Ironically, we passed Ivan the Terrabus (capacity, 50?) which had zero passengers, while we had 10. It’s not often you have more passengers than Ivan.

We got back around 1630. Too early for dinner, but early enough to take a hot shower and put on some sweatpants. And thats just what I did.

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Antarctica Marathon https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/14/antarctica-marathon/ https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/14/antarctica-marathon/#comments Mon, 15 Jan 2018 05:31:04 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=951 “I heard theres an Antarctica marathon” wrote I in an email to my soon-to-be boss. I had accepted the primary position and had lots of questions, this being just one of them. A few months later, and I’m down here on the ice tucking myself into bed, the marathon only […]

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“I heard theres an Antarctica marathon” wrote I in an email to my soon-to-be boss. I had accepted the primary position and had lots of questions, this being just one of them. A few months later, and I’m down here on the ice tucking myself into bed, the marathon only hours away. Here’s the story of that epic day.

The McMurdo Marathon happens every January on the Ross Ice Shelf just outside of McMurdo Station (USA) and Scott Base (NZ). It features a half, full, and ultra running marathon, and a bike and ski marathon as well.

The sound of the default iPhone alarm clock rouses me at 0700. I snooze about 10 minutes and then jump out of of bed, ready to get on with the marathon. The race itself starts at 0900, but we are to meet at the ‘chalet’ for 0830. I’m feeling disgusting and greasy, and it takes a lot to shake off a shower and go straight down to the galley. I need to load up on carbs now.

Granola and yoghurt, three times as much as I usually have. The granola here is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. It can’t taste like shit if you load it up with sugar, right? That’s my strategy for making jungle juice. I join a large round table full of other runners, and we kind of chit chat about nothing in particular. I load up on some coffee, trying to get things ‘moving’.

I head back upstairs to my room and get my running outfit on. I make out with teal Nike Frees, teal tights, and black and neon yellow shorts. I put a gray underamor long-sleeve shirt on and a San Franpsycho toque on my head. For my jacket I use a maroon Marmot windbreaker. I’ve got bluetooth headphones fully charged up, with a backup pair of Apple headphones should the wireless ones die.

Ivan the Terrabus

It’s still only 0800. I hate being too early, but I walk over to the chalet anyways. A few people are hanging around, and Ivan the Terrabus is hanging out infront of the chalet. Soon, everyone starts to arrive. Kelly opens up Ivan, it’s fold down stairs dropping down into the volcanic soil. It’s my first time on Ivan, one of the most iconic vehicles on all of Antartica. It’s an old Canadian vehicle, the inside is all wood paneling with seats on both sides and a narrow aisle. It’s kind of like a school bus, but with like 6 giant tires and sitting 5 feet off the ground.

“Runners get aboard the bus, cyclists go ahead and bike over to Mile 1″.

People I know, and people I haven’t met yet are all seated around me. I’m sharing a seat with Tate, my neighbor from next door, and my buddy Joel is seated behind me. I talk about snowboarding a little bit, but mainly just stare out the window as we make our way to the Mile 1 marker on the ice road. Ivan groans up the steep and dusty hill that leads us up and then down again to”the transition” where Ross Island meets the Ross Ice Shelf, which is nearly 1000 feet thick. It’s upon this ice shelf that we will run our marathon–the same ice shelf that we land our planes on. It’s the first piece of the continent you set foot on.

It’s a beautiful day, almost 34 degrees fahrenheit. You couldn’t ask for better weather. There’s a pee line forming. Everyone’s gotta get a tinkle in before starting. The toilet is essentially a plastic bucket with a screw on lid, inside of a narrow little standing up tent thing. I pee and then walk around a bit. Everyone is congregating around the starting line, and I’m just trying to warm up and stay active. I’m not wearing much clothing. I do some handstands.

Starting line

It doesn’t take long, and soon everyone is lining up. Bikes get to go first. “Three, two, one” <honk!>. The sound of Ivan’s horn is the signal to start running. 60 seconds go by, and all us runners line up. “Three, two, one” <honk>! And we are off!

I’m trying not to get too swept up in the running, so I keep a nice conservative pace. There’s lots of snowmobiles on the side of the trail, and lots of people taking pictures. It’s pretty dang awesome. I’m starting to get pretty hot, and after about mile 4 you see a lot of layers shedding off. I unzip my windbreaker and my hoodie and later on take off my toque.

My pace naturally seems to sync up with Joel’s, and we get to the 6.55 mile turn-around point. All of the volunteers there are cheering us on. There’s beer, whiskey, music, and food. This one dude is up there grillin’ burgers and brats. It’s a fuckin’ party! We hang out for about 10 minutes, eating some carbs and drinking some water. Nice, 50% done. I’m feeling good. Really good.

I take a shot and eat a coconut energy bar. Time to finish this off. We start running back, Joel and I keeping a good pace. Around Mile 10 this girl pulls over to the side of the road and bends over and does some stretches–or so I thought. She pops back up with a trumpet and starts playing some tunes for the runners! I run by pumping my fist to an “Eye of the Tiger” trumpet solo! Hell yeah.

Aid Station 2, featuring burgers.

At about mile 8 I decide that I’m going all-in and running the full marathon. Fuck it. I’ve only ever run eight to nine miles, and I’m already past that. Let’s push it. I get to the half-marathon point, keeping a good pace with Joel. I’m feeling great. “You gonna do the full?” says Joel. “Hell yeah brother!” I say. We have a snack and then get moving. I’m smiling ear to ear feeling great that I’m about to do a marathon. The 6.55 miles back to the turn-around started to get a little tough around mile 17. I start slowing down, my legs starting to hate me. Joel disappears off into the horizon. Soon, he’s on his way back and he high fives me. I’m pretty much limping along. My knee is killing my by the time I hit the turnaround, people still cheering me on.

Logic would dictate throwing the towel in, but I didn’t wanna be a little pussy about it. I took a couple shots of Dewar’s and ate a burger and some more carbs. Slammed some waters. I went into the warm-up shack and got hyped up and said “No ones quittin!” I took off, and kept up a nice pace. After a mile the pain was tremendous–I couldn’t even run anymore. I did a lot of walking and then trying to run again. No bueno–damn.

I see a hagglund going to the turnaround, and I figure if I’m still walking by the time it turns around that I should hop in. I try to get the train moving again a few times, but it just was met with a lot of pain. Bummer. I flag down the hag when it comes near, and the Kiwis stop and invite me in. “We got room on the hot seat for ya” they say. I sit cross legged in the ‘middle seat’ of the hagglund which is just a raised center portion that runs all the way along the middle of the vehicle. The transmission is obviously beneath, and it’s nice and warm. They have a bunch of chocolate and treats, and I dig in. I ask for a beer, but they’re all of of Speights. The girl sitting beside me hands me hers–aww yeah.

The Kiwi hagglund

I ride back into town in style in this beast of a machine, getting some videos popping out of the hatch. These things are bad ass. We pick up some more passengers who sit in the back trailer unit, and then we get dropped off at the hill. We load up in a nice warm van and cruise into town. We get dropped off at Derelict Junction. “Could I get dropped off on the third floor of 209?” jokes some dude.

I take a 30 minute shower and then lay down a bit. Then I head over to the Hut 10 runners party. There’s a big tub of ice water out-front and I watch a few people jump in. God DAMN that looks cold. I say fuck it and don’t do it. I drink a few beers, and then someone has to bright idea of taking the camping chairs out to the deck and just hanging out.

We set up, and it’s just six of us sitting out on the porch staring at those beautiful Antarctic mountains. Mt. Discovery, The Royal Society, and about 100 seals on the ice hanging out by the ice crack.  We sit in silence for 20 minutes at one point, just enjoying nature. How sweet is that.

I couldn’t even get out of bed the next morning.

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Antarctic Christmas Parties https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/14/antarctic-christmas-parties/ https://www.rutisup.com/2018/01/14/antarctic-christmas-parties/#comments Sun, 14 Jan 2018 07:10:52 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=923 It’s December 25th, 22:20. I’m sat in The Coffee House, having just grabbed a horrible glass of box wine on last call. A loud table of galley folks are playing game of Settlers of Catan. I was just in here earlier, also playing a round of Catan. We christened a […]

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It’s December 25th, 22:20. I’m sat in The Coffee House, having just grabbed a horrible glass of box wine on last call. A loud table of galley folks are playing game of Settlers of Catan. I was just in here earlier, also playing a round of Catan. We christened a brand new Star Trek edition of Catan, and I won. According to the rules, I’m to be referred to as the Admiral of Starfleet. Sweet.

I thought it would be nice to write this here, but it’s actually super loud in here with the drunk Catan players—whatevs. There’s a few more hours of Christmas left. It’s kind of strange being down here, at the end of the world. My family sent me pictures of a cutout of my face that they’ve been bringing around town.

So this was a fun weekend. On December 23rd the oft-spoken of “VMF Party” went down…

* * *

It’s almost quitting time, 1725. Why can’t our boss let us leave already? No work is being done. Boom, 1730, time to roll out. I head straight to my room and then head down to grab some chow. I join the boys at the round table.

“Throw some mitts after dinner?” says Vinnie. We’ve been practicing our boxing with each other for the last two days—a nice little workout. “Sure” I say. We eat a not amazing dinner, and then I meet Vinnie down at the Gerbil Gym. They’ve got the boxing stuff down there.

Mitts are thrown, I’m feeling way too exhausted to be useful. I’ve been snacking on Christmas snacks for the last two days. Rachel’s snack laden care package finally arrived. It wasn’t on that LC-130 I saw flying in, but came in on an unexpected “Santa flight” that showed up on the 21st. 5000 more pounds of packages, and 800 pounds of freshies. Hell yeah.

Santa upon a Pisten Bully

This package was loaded up with the good shit. Some of it was stuff I hadn’t even heard of, but it was all fire. Cheez-its, goldfish, beef jerky, Trader Joe’s Little Gingerbread Men, chocolate covered almonds, raw almonds, Hi-Chew, fun-sized CRUNCH bars to name a few highlights.

I wasn’t even that hungry at dinner, I was just eating junk food—uncontrollably. So, I wasn’t moving too fast during our boxing practice. We quickly called it quits at about 19:30 and then I retired to my room.

I took a nice long shower and got a nice outfit on for the night. Floral shirt, black Levi 511s. Kind of the same shit I always wear when I go out. I popped by the ‘rumpus room’ to meet the boys, their dorm room / lounge having become the go-to hub of our social circle.

Drank a little scrumpy, had a few beers. I had to catch up with everyone here. Before long, we’re getting the train moving. We head over to the VMF party around 21:30, a bunch of guys opting not to wear a jacket. They’re a little crazy. I wore a light wind-breaker and I was freezing on the walk over.

The Christmas Party was bitchin’. I nearly didn’t recognize the place. There were Christmas decorations all over the giant garage. There was a santa picture area set up on the back of a Pisten Bully covered in Christmas lights, and I made sure to go and grab a picture with Santa. Jamie was being Santa, and when I sat on her lap she started vibrating. God damn dirty Santa.

Dirty Santa

There was a slide-show on a projector with a bunch of photos people submitted. You just had to e-mail them in and they would get up there…I forgot to do this. Some were a little random, like pictures of peoples dogs. There’s no dogs in Antarctica. The dance-floor was the first time I heard non-live music. Felt good. As much as I love live music, I needed a break.

A little wine-bar area was set up, with lots of cotton ‘snow’ everywhere and curtains and a stage with someone playing acoustic, etc. It was cool to have an alternative area.

Things were getting lit on the dance floor. There was a girl who had her face covered in golden body-paint—whoa, have fun with those sheets tomorrow. It was funny to watch like five guys trying to talk to one girl. One guy was dancing on the DFLOOR with a tight red dress on—ok pretty much moshing by himself. He was headbanging–as much as you can with a shaved head. He had the top of the dress off at one point and was kind of just gyrating his big pink belly around. He was definitely lit as fuck! Perhaps a little inappropriate for a Christmas party—this was much talked about the following day around town.

The party wrapped up around 01:00. I walked over with a big throng of people to Hut 10, but it was locked. So everyone converged into the Coffee House. I had a drink and just watched what we going on. A drunk girl was singing songs, much egged on by other people.

I think I went to bed around 03:00.

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The Gangbang Bathroom https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/25/the-gangbang-bathroom/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/25/the-gangbang-bathroom/#respond Mon, 25 Dec 2017 21:21:49 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=910 “You actually shower in the gangbang bathroom? I walked in there and just noped the fuck out of there”. There’s two bathrooms on the second floor of the dorms in Building 155, high traffic stops serving about 100 people on the floor. One of them has individual shower stalls and […]

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“You actually shower in the gangbang bathroom? I walked in there and just noped the fuck out of there”.

There’s two bathrooms on the second floor of the dorms in Building 155, high traffic stops serving about 100 people on the floor. One of them has individual shower stalls and is in general a pretty nice bathroom. The floors are some sort of blue linoleum, and there’s gotta be about six sinks in it. This isn’t my bathroom.

There’s another, smaller one that is all one inch tiles and has a shared shower situation. It’s three showerheads, and some shitty curtains partitioning individual stalls–clearly an afterthought. All three showers share on drain in the middle partition. This, is jokingly called the gangbang bathroom. This is my bathroom.

The gangbang shower

“Is someone in the good one?” I yell over to the shower area. It took me about two weeks to figure it out. I always took the furthest showerhead from the curtain separating the gangbang shower area from the bathroom–makes sense right? I made peace with the fact that the shower aggressively fluctuates from scalding hot to ice cold. Sometimes every 10 seconds. It’s pretty much the worst fucking shower in existence.

I even stopped showering every day. Sometimes I would wait a few days. During our briefing when we first got on the ice we were told to try to shower every other day to conserve water…so here I am doing my part to conserve resources.

“So, how many days a week do y’all shower” I naively ask at the dinner table.
“Every day man…wait, are you not showering every day?”
“They said you should only shower every other day at the briefing”
“There’s lots of water. That’s bullshit. I MAKE the fucking water. You fuckin’ shower every day. Multiple times a day. We can get that shower going, pull that curtain back. have a good ol’ shower party[…]
“If you don’t shower every day for some sort of water conservation bullshit, Imma knock your ass out in the shower…and leave the bitch runnin’.

He was right, he did work in the water plant after all. I felt deceived by the National Science Foundation, and moreover the dread of having to go toe-to-toe with that shower made me shudder.

Clearly, I didn’t know shit. Then one day–if only to add insult to injury–that shower stall was taken. I had to use the one closest to the bathroom area–son of a bitch. I take my shower, it was a nice, warm, shower. Only near the end did I realize that this was ‘the good one’.  A real, nice, consistent shower. Some things you only learn from experience. I was doing it all fucking wrong.

“You wait for that god damn shower” said one of my friends when I bemoaned being stuck with the shitty shower. Now, I know better. I discovered ‘the good one’. And so I vowed, I’ll wait for it. It’s just not fucking worth it. I don’t care how much of a rush I’m in. I’d rather go without a shower then deal with the Antarctic Water Torture they got going on at showerhead number three.

And from that, I learnt to enjoy a shower every day. Showering every day like a human isn’t so bad when the water temperature is consistent.

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Castle Rock Tanning Club #2 https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/24/castle-rock-tanning-club-2/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/24/castle-rock-tanning-club-2/#respond Sun, 24 Dec 2017 09:36:21 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=876 “He shot me down…bang bang…I hit the ground bang bang…my baby let me down.”  Kill Bill just started. Uma Thurman is beating the shit out of some black chick. I’m just sippin’ some Fat Tire. Mike, Joel, Ken, and some other dude are here. Other dude just broke me off […]

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“He shot me down…bang bang…I hit the ground bang bang…my baby let me down.”

 Kill Bill just started. Uma Thurman is beating the shit out of some black chick. I’m just sippin’ some Fat Tire. Mike, Joel, Ken, and some other dude are here. Other dude just broke me off a piece of Toblerone. “Now that’s a fine piece of ass…looks just like Larissa’s ass” said one of them during a scene of Uma Thurman wearing tight jeans.  A discussion breaks out about Larissa being a masseuse.

“He’s not gay, he just eats his corn the long way”. says one of them. These dirty old men just don’t stop with the jokes. So, where was I with that my castle rock adventure…

* * *

I set my alarm for 10:15…I’m of the philosophy of trying to get to brunch at a reasonable hour. It’s hard to tell what time it is when you don’t have windows in your room. I woke up several times, as per usual. Partly due to drinking last night, and partly from having two roommates.

I throw on some sweats and a black and white palm tree shirt—one of like six shirts in my inventory here. Time to saunter down for brunch. I don’t even have flip-flops here. I had a little preview of brunch around midnight when they started serving midrats brunch. I was sitting at a table talking to some sous-chef who mentions she’s from Russia in every conversation.

The table we sat at was round, wooden, and full of galley chow. I saw she had a polaroid photo of some guy tucked into her clear gel iPhone case. The other girl at the table had a pink clear water bottle full of water—or what appears to be otherwise. It turns out that it’s just vodka. There’s also a polaroid of someone I carry, it’s just in the ID Pouch of my wallet. “He’s down at Pole” she says.

Enough midrats…back to real brunch. It’s 10:45 and I’m sitting at a table with my friends–basically just a bunch of fuckin’ dudes. There’s gotta be like eight of us all around one of those big wooden tables. Cheeses of every kind were out–per usual–and fresh berries—unusual. Got damn, were there ever a lot of fresh berries available at brunch. After I ate my fill I decided it would be tasty to make a berry margarita in my HydroFlask. I mix some fresh strawberries and raspberries, margarita mix, and that god awful Jose Cuervo together in my HydroFlask with some ice. Surprisingly, it tastes good

It’s another Castle Rock day with the Castle Rock Tanning Club (CRTC). Joel, Tim, and I are going out there per usual to do some snowboarding. Some other people raise an interest over brunch, and we recruit some people to slide down on their lunch trays in lieu of skis or snowboards.

People come and go from our busy table, but we agree to “Meet up at the hand-wash at 12:00”. It’s about 11:20 now, and I call it quits on brunch. I get ready, putting on my snow pants and packing my backpack full of goodies: four PBRs, a HydroFlask full of Berryrita, and a flask of tequila. I grab a to-go paper bowl full of French toast for the road. It takes me longer than you would think to get all of that together, and I’m hustling to get a move on.

We make it out the gate around 13:00, late as per usual. There’s a balloon launch planned for today at 20:00. We check-out of the station at the firehouse with less trouble than our first attempt and then head off down the road towards Castle Rock. We’ve got to walk up the hill and out of town again. “Let’s see if we can get a ride, we’re walking past shuttles anyways” says Tim. He runs inside as we pass Building 140, the building shared by shuttles and the post office. A minute later Tim bursts out of the building. “Load up!” he says. Sick, it worked—we’re getting a ride up that treacherous hill.

The Ford E-250 lumbers up the hill as we pass three people on fat tire bikes. “I bet Bernie’s involved” I say as we creep up on them slowly powering up the hill. Upon closer inspection I see a dude with white Oakleys on pumping away—Bernie. Called it.

Onwards. We get dropped off at the trailhead. We march onwards through the snow—much more manageable and packed down from last week. Tim found an NRK-9 strap for me to fashion as a board sling, so I’m not dragging my snowboard in the snow this time. Joel slips on a little ice, we all have some conversation. It’s a two hour hike up to the rock.

“Who’s the lone ranger, walking back” I say as we see a pale man walking our way. “Man, Is that Vinnie? He walks like him”. says Tim. As we get closer to each other we realize, shit, that’s Velcro Vinnie! We ask him what the heck he is doing alone, and the conversation goes as follows:

“Oh are you supposed to bring someone?”
“Did you even do a footplan?”
“Nah”.

We ask him to come up to the rock with us, but he wants to get back for Sunday massage / self-massage class. Sayanora.

Icebridge DC-3 Basler

The first apple passes us by, but we stop at the second one for a little rest and chill-sesh. I crack a cold one and Joel opens a bottle of Scrumpy. I get the speaker going, we drag the chair outside into the snow. It’s a beautiful day in Antarctica, a balmy 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I shed my jacket and hang out in my cover-alls and t-shirt–It was pretty sweet out here. We pop the hatch in the apple and Tim uses a snowboard to prop the door open. We wave hello at everyone going past us.

Onwards. We close up the apple and head up to castle rock. We slog up the hill and up to the rock. We mount it and hang out a little on the ridge, our chill spot from the inaugural discovery expedition. About 15 minutes go by and we see Justin–from brunch–coming down off the top of the rock.  “Hey! What’s up dude, wanna come up again with us?” says Tim. “Yeah, sure”.

Ropes have been set in the rock, leading us up to the top. We get up there about 5 minutes later, finding our promised land awaiting. There’s no one else up here, just lots of rock. There’s a nice flat clearing with some nearly black volcanic rocks. It’s huge up here, you could have a whole camp site here. We set up shop, laying our bags down. Shirts pop off, suns out guns out. It’s nice and warm. There’s a flight coming in at 16:00, so we hang out. Drinks are flowing. We all lay down on our clothes—our own makeshift blankets. Justin brought his own blanket but I just didn’t have the cargo space.

We hear a plane coming in for a landing. It’s NASA’s Icebridge DC3 Basler. It’s painted red white and blue, making it stand out. I grab my camera and snap some photos of the landing. It’s pretty neat.

Groups of people come and go from the top of the rock.  “We don’t bite!” yells Tim at them. One guy was even wearing a big red. Meanwhile, we’re here topless. They look disturbed by our presence. At the edge of the rock we find a little ridge area we can hang out it that blocks the wind. Heck yeah. We end up migrating over there, piece by piece. It’s a beautiful thing. Meanwhile, all these people that are on the other end of the rock kind of stay up in that windy area, afraid to come down to us at the clearing.

“This is the firehouse announcing an uncontrolled landing. FROZEN11 will be landing at 1635.” Nice, looks like we got a little airshow. Uncontrolled landing sounds scary, but that just means that there’s no air-traffic controllers working right now. There was supposed to be some LC-130 Hercules landing today, this must be one of them. We take some photos posing in front of the beautiful mountains—the Royal Society range and Mt. Discovery–taking advantage of this beautiful day.

Brrrraaaappppppppp. We can hear the throaty sounds of a plane coming in over the sea ice. It’s that LC130, greenish with a red stripe on the tail. The Air National Guard flies those. It photographs beautifully, foregrounding the Royal Society Range.

30 minutes later and the same thing again–another LC-130. This time I grab the binoculars and track its landing—it looks even cooler, those binoculars much more powerful than my 55-250 lens. Watching a giant plane land on skis like that never gets old. I think it’s the only large aircraft that has skis for its landing gear.

LC-130 coming in for a landing. It’s got 5000 pounds of package mail for us.

The LC-130 joins two other LC-130s, two DC3 Baslers, and a Twin Otter.

I’m at that perfect buzz, just enjoying the beautiful weather. We’re getting ready to head out now, unsure if we should wait for the balloon launch at 20:00.

The fog gets thicker minute by minute back over the sea ice. It’s starting to come up over the top. The visibility that way has dropped to almost zero. It’s a good time to leave. We pack up our HQ and head back over the top of Castle Rock, to the rope routes down the rock. There’s a couple of people that have just come up—a little late for the party. They’re laying prone looking out into the fog as we depart the rock. Strange.

We climb down, feelin’ pretty tired. We strap into our snowboards and skis. Joel is having trouble with his bindings again. It’s kind of funny to watch, he’s kind of at his wits end with these cheap gear-issue alpine skis.

It’s way clearer than last weekend. Out over the permanent ice shelf it’s clear as day—a wall of fog behind us, now spilling over castle rock. I ride down, looking back at the stark beauty of fog flowing over Castle Rock, like cream over coffee, or dry ice and ice cream like they used to serve at Moxie’s.

Antarctic fog

It’s a nice minute-long ride down the mountain and then it flattens out. It’s what I would call the equivalent of a ‘green’ run in California. It’s not so fun after, hiking uphill until we can get to the next slope. We get over the ridge, and see the beautiful long run down to the ‘Kiwi Ski Hill’ and where the ‘green apple’ warm-up hut is. We peer over at the Long Distance Balloon Facility (LDB) to see if the balloon is launching. It kind of seems like it could be, so we walk out of the boundary zone and to this rock ridge overlooking the ice shelf. There’s some Pisten Bully tracks, so we figure it must be fairly safe.

Nothing is really happening down at LDB upon closer inspection. We strap in and get going down the mountain. It’s pretty fun…as far as McMurdo snowboarding goes.  I slalom down the hill between the flags–having a ball. And then we hit the bottom and that’s over. Hours of hiking for just those two little runs. Still, worth it. I would rate the second run a ‘blue’ or even ‘bluegreen’ on the California scale.

We rest a bit in the green apple (ol’ granny smith), hanging out before our long walk back. It’s about four miles back to base from here. About 1.5 – 2 miles until the main road. We see some shuttles drive by—damn it. They look so close, but they’re still another 30 minutes of walking. Long gone by the time we get there.

More walking, and then we finally are nearly at the main road. A slow ‘delta’ heads out the opposite direction we need to go. I get on the radio:

“Shuttleops, Castle Rock Rec Group”.
“Shuttles, go ahead”.
“Can we get a ride from the snow road?”
“uhhh..well we got a delta coming back from Willy in about half an hour, you can grab that…”.

Dang. So we walk another mile, walking past Scott Base and the pressure ridges. We see a dot off into the distance–that’s the Delta we saw earlier on its way back. We hang out atop some Concrete barriers and try to check out LDB again. Hard to tell what’s going on. Looks like a balloon or something is on the ground. Eventually the Delta drives by. The driver keeps driving. “Shuttle Delta” I say on the radio, and she stops–this lady is in a hurry.

We climb up those rough, metal, drop-down stairs into the passenger compartment. A delta has big fat tires that are nearly five feet tall and really puffy, it’s got like 8 of em, and the driver cab is separated from the back. We climb in, strapping into the bench style leather seats lining the sides. These things are bumpy as all hell and go about 7 MPH up the hill.

A grouchy National Guardman is the sole passenger, looking grumpy behind his Oakleys that they had to stop and pick us up. It strains up and over the hill, and half an hour later we’re back at McMurdo–starving. We drop our shit off and then stop by the galley.

I grab a tray, plate, knife and fork and start walking up to the food line.

“Dude, don’t we have to check back in?”
“What time is it?”
“22:57”.
“Shit.”

Visions of salty search & rescue team members and firefighters paged for no reason enter my mind. I just leave my tray with my plate on it by the food line in the galley, abandoning it on some ledge. We hustle back to the firehouse to check in, and when I go back to the galley my stuff is still there—oooh yeah baby. Nothing like chowing down on some food after a long day. We get news that they rescheduled the balloon launch to another day–perfect.

And I went straight to bed after that.

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Manhauling https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/10/manhauling3/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/10/manhauling3/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:27:18 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=854 “Meet in the big gym at 7:00, the race will start at 7:30”  read the e-mail. Today was the day. McMurdo Station (USA) was competing against Scott Base (New Zealand) in the annual manhauling competition. What’s manhauling? Well it’s like dog-sled racing, but instead of dogs you have humans. Our […]

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“Meet in the big gym at 7:00, the race will start at 7:30”  read the e-mail. Today was the day. McMurdo Station (USA) was competing against Scott Base (New Zealand) in the annual manhauling competition. What’s manhauling? Well it’s like dog-sled racing, but instead of dogs you have humans. Our race route is from McMurdo Station to Scott Base overtop of the Ross Sea Ice. The distance is about three miles.

I got off work around 1730, as per usual. I went down to the galley to get some chow before the competition. It was going to be a three mile slog with me and three others pulling a sled with a passenger and survival bag, a total weight of about 400 pounds. Need some sustenance for this. I see Velcro Vinnie and some of the boys sitting down at one of the usual tables in the galley, waltzing over there with my tray. I’ve got a heftier than usual plate complete with pork, potatoes, some shitty frozen veggies, and meatballs. I take a huge slice of bread– I need energy for this race.

Manhauling
They make good bread here.

We have a little bit of chit chat around the table, having a few laughs with the usual characters. Vinnie and I are pulling the same sled, and we’re an hour out now from race time. I’m still hungry and feel like loading up on calories. I grab a piece of pizza, and then a brownie with some peanut butter pie for dessert. It was amazing, and I didn’t even feel bad about it. I eat just enough food to feel full without getting the itis or feeling like I’ll have a brick in my stomach–there’s an art to this you know.

A few more jokes and I leave the table. I walk down Highway One–the central hallway in the galley building–and stop by the closet that has all of the Yaktrax and foot warmers. I grab some Yaktrax and head upstairs to my dorm room to get ready. Throw on some Nike tights and merino wool long-johns over top. Underarmor wicking shirt, red toque. I pull my Snoop Dogg socks up over my long-johns and pull those Yaktrax over my shoes…let’s do this.

It’s ten to, and I almost forget to grab my GoPro as I head out the door. I run into Johnny on the way over, and we walk down the hill to the big gym. He’s got his camera and he’s ready to document this event. I walk into the big gym to find a scene of chaos and confusion. Lots of people struggling with harnesses and stuff, and soon enough I’m one of them. These harnesses are just climbing harnesses we wear backwards over our chest. I find Coach Kirstin and she’s running around. Whatever, I ask one of of the girls to tighten up my harness and then clip four carabiners together to keep the harness tight around my chest.

Time to race. We all head outside and down to the sea ice, where five sleds are waiting for us. There’s three mens teams and two girls teams. We all line up 100 yards behind the sleds and wait for the ready, set, go! And we’re off. It’s a mad dash up to the sled, and then we stop and clip each other in. After a little fumbling we’re clipped in and running.

There’s four of us running. It’s me, Bernie the 40 year old British punk rocker who works in cargo, Velcro Vinnie the machinist from Kansas, and Kevin the Floridian who work in TELCO. It’s a bit of a slog. We find a tough but not completely exhausting pace and we keep the man-sled going. The first sled of Americans is pulling ahead of us. “Think we can catch up with them?” “Yeah let’s try it”. Our efforts are in vain, we get a little bit of a lead, but no bueno. Those marathon runners are fast–they won last year. No worries, we’re both American teams in the lead.

“Kick it!” yells Bernie. “Punch It!” I yell after. We’re both at the front of the pack, leading the charge. Those other dudes upfront are way up there, but we’re more worried about the Kiwis that are tailing us. From time to time Zeke–our passenger–says “they’re closing that gap!” That’s when Bernie yells “Kick it” or I yell “Punch it!” and we start a burst of running faster. This serves us pretty well.

We come in second, really hitting the gas for the last stretch. I just want to fall over when it’s done. There’s a ton of people waiting at the finish line cheering everyone on. People here are cool like that. We wait for the other teams to cross the finish line, cheering them all on. Everyone finally gets across the line…time for a drink. We keep walking up the sea ice up to Scott Base, soon to be in the bar. I pull open that big freezer door entrance to Scott Base and lead my fellow haulers to the bar.

Manhauling
Punch it

I enter, finding the place swarming with people. I’m emerged in a swamp of heat and sweat, “The Tatty Flag” bar of Scott Base doubling as a sauna. There’s a massive queue to buy a drink. “Tell them you were manhauling, we’re getting every manhauler a free drink” says one of the event organizers. I order a Scott Base Edition pale ale. The drinks here are way better, and all of the Kiwi companies seems to offer a “Scott Base Edition” of all of their wine and beer.

The air in here is stale–I need some air. I walk out of the bar and into the hallway where the wall is crowded with picture frames showing each years crew at Scott Base. It’s almost like the graduating class photos in high school, but with a bunch of people crazy enough to spend a year here. I join Kevin in analyzing the pictures, enjoying some fresh air. The picture of the winter-over crew from 1994 was dressed so 90s that they looked on-fleek for 2017. I have a few drinks, and buy a bottle of wine for take-away. They have way better wine available in Scott Base for when you get sick of ‘slapping the bag’.

I go back into the bar / sauna and notice that they’ve removed the giant bowls of salted peanuts tonight. Tonight is an ‘American night’ at Scott Base which means anyone can show up. On other days Americans need an invite, and the bar is a nice chill spot–with lots of peanuts. I prefer it like this, and immediately understand now why they only let us come over once a week. Us Americans ruin everything.

I’m in a mood for celebrating. I strike up a lot of conversations, both with people I know, and people I don’t. Suddenly,  it’s 10 PM and the bar is closing. Joel and I walk out of the base, expecting to walk home. Oh good, there’s a shuttle…but it’s full. “Hop in, we’ll make room!” everyone says. So Joel and I jump in the big ol’ red USAP Van, sitting on peoples laps for the 10 minute drive back to McMurdo.

Joel and I walk over to Southern Exposure bar to play a couple games of pool. We wait for some Italians from the Italian Antarctic Program finish up on the table. They were the worst pool players I’ve ever witnessed–they took forever! There was a whole table of Italians on their layover en-route to Mario Zuccatelli Base. I played surprisingly well…my roommates back in SF might have a little more competition when I return.

I’m a little tipsy at this point. I end my night playing bananagrams at the Coffee House.

If I learnt one thing tonight, it’s that my roommates and I back in SF have been playing bananagrams all wrong.

 

Photo credit and props: Johnny
Cinematography credit: Zeke

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Castle Rock Tanning Club https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/08/castle-rock-tanning-club/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/12/08/castle-rock-tanning-club/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 21:43:24 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=808 LOUNGE, BUILDING 155 – DAY (PERPETUAL) I’m kind of hungry. Feeling exhausted. I hiked Castle Rock today. I’m wearing a Hawaiian floral shirt and Canadian themed ‘We The North’ pajama bottoms. Susan, Cam, and some other people are all sitting in here watching the new Kingsmen movie–it’s pretty engaging. * * […]

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LOUNGE, BUILDING 155 – DAY (PERPETUAL)

I’m kind of hungry. Feeling exhausted. I hiked Castle Rock today. I’m wearing a Hawaiian floral shirt and Canadian themed ‘We The North’ pajama bottoms. Susan, Cam, and some other people are all sitting in here watching the new Kingsmen movie–it’s pretty engaging.

* * *

My alarm clock wakes me up at 1015. I roll out of bed, pee, and brush my teeth. I talk to the old lady on the phone from 1045-1130 and then head downstairs to the galley for a fantastic brunch. The cheese platter is lit: I eat a Monterey Jack Cheese, a smoked cheese, and some other cheeses. Everything is awesome, I get a nice piece of prime rib with some horseradish. Pita chips (stale), guacamole. Fruit smoothie. Bit of coffee. I shovel it all in quick, I’ve got to meet some IT People for our hike at 1200. I sit down at a table with some friends, telling Tim about my hiking plans over brunch.

“Not sure if I can make it in time” says Tim. I look up at the gigantic Antarctica clock hanging up on the wall of the galley and see that it’s 1149.
“If I’m not at the firehouse by 1205 then leave without me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll stall them a little bit”. I say.

I bus my tray and get my ass upstairs. I’ve got 9 minutes to get to the firehouse. I throw on my Extreme Cold Weather Gear (ECW), and get over to the firehouse. It’s 1200 on the dot when I get there. I walk into the check-out area, only to find out that I’m the only one there.

“Just meeting some people here…checking out for Rutsky”. “Oh, was that the foot-plan supposed to leave at 11?” says the fat man behind the counter, swiveling lazily in his chair to face me. “Yeah, that’s us.” I say. “That ship has sailed. They got tired of waiting, so they went like this” giving me a big thumbs down and making a raspberry sound.” Thanks dickhead, I think to myself. “So you gonna find a wingman to go with you?” he says. “I just happen to have someone in mind” I say, walking out of the firehouse.

Fuck em all, big and small–that’s what my Grandpa used to say. I get back to my room and look up Tim’s extension on the Intranet. It’s just a big long list of names followed by their work extension, room extension, pager number, and if they’re a day sleeper or have a day sleeping roommate–well thought out, simple, effective.

The phone rings a few times and then he picks up.
“Still down for Castle Rock?”
“Hell yeah!”
“Okay man, swing by my room when you’re ready, #233.”
“Sounds good man”.

Before long, Tim knocks on the door. “Ready to rock? “Yeah!”. We head downstairs, making a run through the galley to raid the grab-n-go coolers. I settle on a piece of challah french toast, while Tim grabs a bunch of Chex Mix packets. We descend the stairs from the galley into the main entryway AKA ‘hand wash area’ which kind of this de-facto crossroads that you end up running into everyone at. There’s always a few people staring at the flight information screen like zombies, getting updates on their flights off-continent, to the South Pole, or various other stations and camps. Weather impacts all of these flights and they’re often delayed–day after day.

We see Brittany–the station’s only hairdresser–down there, looking at the flight manifest. She’s on the verge of tears–poor girl. She’s been NonPhysicallyQualifed(NPQd) after saying too much at the medical center, and is getting sent home. She really doesn’t want to go, but it’s not up to her. It’s for something really silly too. She was looking for her name on the passenger manifest, and they hadn’t even updated it with her name–they were really moving fast. “Maybe there’s some sort of mistake”. She’s still kind of in the denial phase. I hold out my arms and give her a long hug–she needs it.

It’s been nearly 30 minutes since I initially got back from the firehouse–and now we’re finally out of there. We walk over to the firehouse and back into the check-out room for the second time today. It takes the guy behind the desk about five seconds to register that I’ve returned with a wingman.

“OK, I’m back. I’m ready to check out”.
“Oh, did you file a new eFootPlan?”
“Uh, no. I already made one.”
“Oh…we cancelled that one. You need to file a new one”
“OK. Can’t we just do it here?”
“Ohhhh no” he says, shaking his head left to right.
“Nope, can’t do it here” he says. He’s really reveling in it. I feel like I’m in an episode of South Park–the Time Warner Cable one specifically.
This guy really is a pain in the ass.

We have to walk back to where we started at Bldg. 155 to log into a kiosk computer. “I’m gonna get some Red Bulls” says Tim. “I got this, I’ll file the footplan” I respond. I log in and file the footplan right quick. Tim still is in the shop. I walk over, and he’s just in the middle of explaining that two of those four Red Bulls are for a friend. You’re only allowed a ration of two Red Bulls a day down here, and the store girl doesn’t fully believe him.

He’s got the bulls, and we’re finally ready to get the heck outta here–It’s 1300. So we set off. I want to grab my water bottle from my office, so we stop at the Network Operation Center (NOC) and I give Tim a tour of the data center. It’s a bunch of servers and stuff, it’s the heart of the station’s network. I grab my sippy nozzle water bottle–one of those ones where you push a button and the nozzle flips up–and we get out of there.

We start walking uphill, out of the station. We walk up past the Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) where Tim works, he wants to pop in and see if he can grab a speaker. We enter, walking through a dark hallway, almost in complete darkness. He tries the office door, it’s locked. “Ah damn. Well, want a tour?” Sure, I say and we open the double doors to the floor of the VMF.

It’s a huge garage, the biggest damn garage I’ve ever seen. The ceilings are like 50 feet tall, and there’s got to be like 12 vehicle bays. This is a place that giant cranes, tractors, and machinery gets worked on alongside the relatively tiny Ford F-250s. There’s an oil room, and it’s just…full of oil. “We go through a lot of fluids here” says Tim. The garage is completely empty on this Sunday–the day of rest for most of the station. There’s a giant tractor engine on the floor of one of the bays, hoisted there by one of two giant cranes that move around the garage by sliding on steel girders.

Part of the VMF

We depart shortly after, walking back through the dark corridor before seeing the blinding brightness of that Antarctic sun. We walk down that muddy road, climbing upwards into the hills and out of town. We pass the haz-waste dump and its big white bunny tent labeled ‘Building 250’. Some barrels ratcheted tight on pallets are on one side of the road. We continue upwards–I’ve never been this way.

Soon, we follow the curve of the road, a giant pile of rocks comes up on the left side of the road. We’re officially out of town now. I glance behind me at the distant McMurdo–shitstained buildings upon beautiful mountains and sea ice–it’s a beautiful day.

We’re getting closer to the ‘golf ball’ a great white radome NASA operates. Other radomes that are hidden by the hills become visible as well, including a big black one I’ve never seen before. We continue onwards, the radomes getting bigger as we get closer to Arrival Heights–a restricted area.

Soon enough we come upon the turn-off for Castle Rock. We cut right, cya later radomes. A few minutes later and the sound of snow crunching under our boots returns–we’re out of the mud. It feels nice.

NASA’s ‘golf ball’ radome on Arrival Heights.

There’s a bunch of icy patches on the snow, and Tim eats shit a few times. A beautiful blue frozen pond is on our left, an ice as blue as my eyes. Past the pond is a ridge surrounding it, over top of which we can see the mountains of the Antarctic mainland–The Royal Society. As we continue upwards, the view only gets better.

The iciness continues to increase, so naturally Tim and I try to run and slide down the icy patches. My big red and standard issue snow overalls are pretty slick, so I slide right down the ice. Tim is less slippery, his denim Carhardt gear offering a little more friction. I record Tim’s slide down the ice, and of course I stop recording right as he eats shit on his way back up–such is life.

We continue onwards, beautiful white snow all around us as we move further and further up the hill. We come upon one of the warming huts, or ‘apples’ as they’re colloquially called. They looks like apples. We check out the inside, finding a bed, desk, sleeping bag, and a log book.

Warming Hut Apple
Warming Hut AKA Apple
Inside of the apple

I peruse the logbook, seeing that the group of five in the distance ahead of was the the ‘RAID drill crew’ (Rapid Access Ice Drill), and then before them were two entries from my original party–those impatient ones. Two weeks ago it looks like Kirsten and Kevin had a wine and pizza date nite. We wonder how many people have banged in here. It’s sweaty in here, my sunglasses fog up quickly.

Castle Rock ahead, with Mount. Erebus in the background.

We carry onwards. It’s all beautiful white snow around us as we march up the hill. We continue over the hill, seeing the huge Castle Rock in the distance. It looks..deceptively close. Small dots ahead of us reveal the true scale of the landscape, ant sized people off in the distance.

To the left is the Ross Sea Ice, and to the right is the white barren Ross Ice Shelf, with the tiny groupings of building in the distance making up William’s (Willy) Airfield and Long Duration Balloon Facility (LDB). Mt. Erebus is off in the background, smoking faithfully like the Marlboro Man. A small little red dot in the distance is another “apple”. We continue onwards, armed with nothing but good conversation.

We talk about life, and more importantly–Mexican food. Tim tells me a crazy story about his boss’s daughter. We continue on like this for about an hour, eventually reaching The Rock. We turn left, climbing the grade up to the rock. The sound of snowmobiles becomes present–how strange. Not long after you hear them, you can smell them. I spy one going up the hill to the base of the rock. We continue ascending up the hill on foot, staring in awe at the massiveness of the rock now that we’re right up on it. It looks like a rock could just snap off and crush me an instant. It’s 100 feet of shear volcanic rock–the same color of all the soil around town. This is just one gigantic piece of dirt.

Castle Rock

We dodge more icy patches, making it up to the rock and finding eight snowmobiles all parked in the snow. There’s a bunch of people wearing big reds standing upon the rock ledge to the right of mighty Castle Rock. We follow their lead, scrambling up the rocks and mounting the ridge. As we get upon it, we see the beauty of the Ross Sea Ice. Wow…it all comes into view, looking so vast and beautiful. I can see the sprawling sea ice, and for the first time I can see where the water meets the sea ice. I can see the ocean, and the mountains on the other side of it: Sharp, stark, and grand.

Ross Sea

There’s this group of people who came on snowmobiles. They’re all wearing their ECW, four of the group members were even wearing bunny boots. Bunny boots totally suck. They’re big, clunky, and exhausting to walk in. Their sole purpose seems to be to keep your feet hot and sweaty. My pair will be under my bed for the forseeable future.

This older fella with the group seems to be their tour guide, which is kind of strange. The whole snowmobiles up to Castle Rock thing is strange as well, but we’re going with it. One of the people in the group has these cool silver Anon snowboarding goggles on, we overhear him saying that they’re “pretty good for finding meteorites with”. Whatever the heck is going on with these people, they must be important.

Surrounded by beauty on all sides, I bust out my camera, taking photos of everything.

Snack time. I dig into my top left pocket–the one above the USAP Logo sewn onto my jacket–to retrieve that piece of challah french toast I took from the galley earlier. I nibble away at that sweet piece of kosher french toast, feeling satisfied.

I’m using my 10-22mm lense for the wide shots, and the 55-250mm for distance shots. It’s all fairly breathtaking. The group of red parka laden individuals lingers, also enjoying this beautiful place. The temptation to venture up further looms, but we have to control ourself a little around these people. Can’t look like we’re having too much fun, that’s simply not allowed down here.

Castle Rock Spot
The spot

There’s this ridge, a little lip off the side of the rock formation, and then a steep drop off, this hill sinking right into the Ross Sea–currently frozen over. Tim lies down on the ridge, his feet slightly over the edge. The lip is maybe a 35 degree slant downwards, essentially a slide right off the cliff. I join him on the lip, him and I both lying on the volcanic rock on the edge of the formation, looking out into the vast unknown.

“Man, I just want to have some of this vodka, but I’m not sure if I should around these people” says Tim. A few minutes of idle banter pass between us before there’s a lull in the conversation. “Fuck it, I’m getting the flask” says Tim.

He gingerly climbs up off the slide, cutting through the group of red parkas to his issued denim Carhardt jacket. I continue to stare out at the scenery, my camera parked to the side of me. A minute later he carefully eases himself back down to a laying position on the slide–flask in hand. He gently places the flask up on some rocks between us. Everything about our position here is precarious.

I feel like it’s as if we’re sitting beside each other at a movie theater, but Planet Earth: Antarctica is playing live right infront of us, a shared flask on the ‘armrest’ between us. Tim pulls out a can of Red Bull, placing it gently on the slide. Miraculously it stands upright, seeming oddly secure. It’s like this ledge was placed here just for this purpose.

Tim perched lying on the lip

We’re completely oblivious to the group of people milling around four feet behind us, the lip we’re laying on shielding us from them–it’s just us and nature. It’s beautiful out today, so beautiful that we’ve long shed our jackets. I’m wearing just a floral t-shirt with overalls on. I’m getting some color, my dark arm hairs beginning to bleach blonde in the sun. I could come back here and do some tanning.

Just then Tim says “Man, we could tan out here”.
He practically read my mind.
“Yeah dude! Castle Rock Tanning Club–CRTC” I respond.

And that was all it took. We formed the CRTC right there. Plans were made for follow-up visits, logos, picnic gear, and tanning cut-outs. Why not get a tan in one of the most unlikely places in the world to get one. The flask and Red Bull gets slyly passed back and forth. We can hear snowmobiles firing up, and not too soon after, we can smell it as well. The VIPs were heading off. As they take off into the distance, two birds appear. They swoop around right near us. Fear sets in–these are Skuas, the scavenger of the Antarctic, and vicious attacker of meal trays. We tense up a bit.

Upon second inspection, these birds are no skuas. They’re completely white and not nearly as large. They’re beautiful. “What the…what birds are these? They’re extremely white!” Tim and I leap up with excitement–well as much as you can leap up when you’re perched on the side of a cliff. I grab my camera–wide lens on–and start snapping away. “I’m gonna get the zoom lens!” I yell excitedly. “Do it!” says Tim as I’m scrambling over the edge back over to my camera bag. I’m fumbling with the lenses, try to get that zoom lens on quick. Twist, click–It’s on. I raise the lens up, and pop off the lens cap. I look through the viewfinder and start focusing…just as the birds fly over the top of Castle Rock…Damn it.

“Ahhh…” we looks at each other with the disappoinment that usually elicits a ‘dang’. We wait about 30 seconds on the ready, flexed in anticipation for their return over the top. I slowly lower my lens–those birds were gone. They must have just come to see what the commotion was down there with the snowmobiles. “Of course they fly away just as I’m ready”.

A mysterious white bird. (Snow Petrel)

We climb back onto the slide, swigging more vodka and Red Bull. I use the zoom lens to photograph some features of the sea ice. I find a lone hagglund driving on the ice, looking like a speck of dust all the way down there.

We laugh it up, enjoying the great weather. I’m suddenly cognizant of the time. We’ve got to be back by 18:00 or else they’ll send a search and rescue team to come find us. I lost the radio back on the trail so I can’t extend our footplan. 16:10 rolls by and the breeze starts to pick up. It’s no longer tanning weather. I climb off the lip, the breeze up here getting pretty chilly with just a t-shirt. I throw on my big red and zip that fucker up.

A lonely hagglund out on the sea ice.

Time to roll out. We walk back down the way we came, passing some skiiers. We crack jokes and take pictures. I’ve really gotta pee–can’t hold it any longer. I’ve forgotten my “P Bottle” so I awkwardly ask Tim if I can use his. There’s no one else around, even though we can see for 50 miles. I unscrew the cap and relieve myself into the bottle, filling it up about a quarter. I put the bottle back in Tim’s bag, feeling bad that he has to carry my pee around with him.

Further on down the trail we come back across the frozen blue ice lake, and I’ve gotta piss again.

“Yo dude…can I hit that bottle up again?” I ask.
“Again?!”
“Yeah dude, I’m dancin’ here”.

I nearly overflow the Nalgene sized bottle, an inch of “head” coming right up to the rim of the botttle. “It’s like I’m at the doctor’s office” I joke. “Leave it on the back of the toilet” laughs Tim.

A black radome

Onwards. We pass another group. “Hey, you guys didn’t happen to lose a radio?” the girl says to me. “Yeah, there it is!” I say excitedly, taking back radio #16, distinctive for its powder blue penguin duct tape wrapped around it’s antennae.

We continue onwards, walking downwards. A black radome and two white radomes are on the ridges around us. Beautiful mountains up on the horizon past that. We slide down the ice again for old times sake and then carry on. We continue down towards town, walking on gravel now, the snow behind us.

 

McMurdo from afar.

McMurdo comes into view as we round the bend, a blight upon the beautiful landscape.
It looks like a shanty-town.

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Antarctic Time Traveling https://www.rutisup.com/2017/11/30/antarctic-time-traveling/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/11/30/antarctic-time-traveling/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 02:55:07 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=795 December 1st, 2017. McMurdo Station, Antarctica, 15:19 GMT+12:00.  22°F I forgot my pager at the office. Sitting here in my dorm room upon a comfy chair I took from another building. We carried it across the station, struggling with it on slushy volcanic dirt turning to mud. My colleague banged […]

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December 1st, 2017. McMurdo Station, Antarctica, 15:19 GMT+12:00.  22°F

I forgot my pager at the office.

Sitting here in my dorm room upon a comfy chair I took from another building. We carried it across the station, struggling with it on slushy volcanic dirt turning to mud. My colleague banged his shin when we carried it up the metal stairs to the dorms.

It’s becoming summer here in Antarctica, where McMurdo Station becomes what’s affectionately termed ‘MudMurdo’. There’s still snow on the ground, but it’s melting. Fleet-ops has cut 5 inch wide trenches into the mud to create channels for the melt-off. Times are a changing.

Time–I’m 21 hours ahead of San Francisco, the place I call home. I hear a lot of time traveler jokes from people back there, and it’s hard to resist a few hello from the future joke myself. But, we’re far from the future. Coming from San Francisco to here, I feel like I’ve traveled back to the late eighties, before I was even born.

Mount Erebus Antarctica McMurdo
Mt. Erebus, an active volcano just off station.

There’s no cell-phones here, just landlines from the eighties scattered in every possible location. They bought the phone system at a discount from a prison in the seventies–too obsolete for their needs. The closest semblance to connectedness is a home-grown pager system, set up at the top of ‘T Site’, a scattering of antennae on top of Crater Hill. I’ve got a pager, and so does half of the station.

I take over the phone of someone in Central Supply to send a few pages, pressing * and then 0 and inputting their pager number and then the call-back number–I scramble, finding it written sloppily in pen on an old piece of paper under gritty plastic atop the phone–8732. A satisfying three beeps lets me know my page has been sent, and I let the handset slam back into the receiver, a simple pleasure from a simpler time.

I stare at the handset eagerly, and thirty seconds later it rings–ringing an actual bell. “It’s Rex” I say as I pick up the handset, my pagee on the other end. Looks like I’ve got to call someone else now. I repeat the process a few more times and in short order I’ve got all the approvals I need. Organized chaos.

“Thanks….Jenny right?” I say to to the supply girl. I’d seen her around the station several times, maybe even had a few conversations. When you live, work, eat, breathe, and play with all 854 people currently on station you get to know everyone in short order. I’m trying to remember one name a day

I start to wonder if I really was joking about time travel.
I’ve clearly traveled back in time…

I just had to go to Antarctica to do it.

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Mendocino Magic – Day 2 https://www.rutisup.com/2017/06/07/mendocino-magic-day-2/ https://www.rutisup.com/2017/06/07/mendocino-magic-day-2/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 02:35:26 +0000 https://www.rutisup.com/?p=748 I wake up at some point in the morning…Is it 9 AM? It doesn’t really matter. There’s people up and at it in the camp-site, and I’m just laying naked in my cozy blue sleeping bag–feeling lazy. Jonny is up, and I can hear that people are cooking something or […]

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I wake up at some point in the morning…Is it 9 AM? It doesn’t really matter. There’s people up and at it in the camp-site, and I’m just laying naked in my cozy blue sleeping bag–feeling lazy. Jonny is up, and I can hear that people are cooking something or another–awesome. I could just lay here a little longer…

Eventually I have to get up. I slip out of my nest and put on my outer-space t-shirt and my blue Billabong trunks. Everyone is getting ready to go down to the reservoir and do some floating. I’m pondering if I should drop some acid. Nicole, Chris, and Dimitri are going to do it. I mull it over in my mind…If I can get some more people to do it I can.

Jonny wants help making the punch, so I oblige him. We don’t have a can opener to open the cans of pineapple, so he just takes a knife and stabs the cans, dragging the knife through the lid–that’s one way to do it. The pineapples are really chunky–it’s basically all pulp–so we have to spoon them into the small opening in the container.

This container is a clear 2 gallon container, pretty much twice as large as a ‘gallon of milk’. The opening isn’t much bigger either. This is a slow process–sloppy pulp is getting everywhere. I roll up a pink paper plate and shove it in the opening, using it as a make-shift funnel. I have someone ‘stuff my pink taco’ full of the pulp, and we get it all in there. It keeps getting jammed up with pulp and overflowing. I discover I need to grasp the shaft of the funnel and violently shake it up and down to force all the gunk through that pink hole–the sexual innuendo of it all is making me laugh, taking my mind off how gross this is. Then we dump in two handles of Captain Morgan’s and look at this revolting drink. It just looks gross. We still need to put coconut juice in there, but at that point someone else starts helping and I slip away and leave them to deal with that shit.

It was like how I imagine it would be working at a sausage factory. You wouldn’t want to eat it if you saw how it was made. Pretty much the same deal when we make jungle juice at our halloween parties.

I have some liquid acid left still, and I had planted to seed with some people yesterday. I ask who wants some, and get some ok maybes from Rachel and Liv. Chris(sy) is down, and Nick is a maybe. I make a breakfast sandwich out of cheese, bread, and some bacon Jonny cooked up. Fuck, is it ever nice to camp with people that love to be organized. I find the marshmellows, placing the bag of them on that burgundy colored bench I’m sitting on. The fire from last night is still kind of warm, although long extinguished. I pull out four marshmellows and put them on the bench, and then bust out the liquid acid.  I put a drop on each one of the marshmellows and hand them out, but the girls want to wait. Chris(sy) and I cheers the marshmellows and chow down. They’re sweet AF.

“I’ll set a timer” says Chris(sy), already tapping away at his digital watch. The race against the clock has begun. I want to hustle to get down there. I start getting all of the shit I need together in my CamelBak, also trying to encourage the girls to take the acid. They’re wishy-washy, better let them make their own decision.

The pond beside our campsite, rich with lily pads

I slackline a bit and then 35 minutes in I am feeling a little tingly–ah here we go. The sense of urgency to get moving kicks in, and we rally the troops. We all starting walking down to the reservoir as a huge crew, someone pulling a cart of stuff. I’ve just got my tripper kit with me…My CamelBak with some beef jerky in it, a sweater, pants, sunglasses. What else does a man need? I start walking down, and then there’s this huge ass hill to get up to the reservoir–aaahhh shit.

I lend my muscles to help, and I grab onto the cooler and team carry it up with Dimitri. Fuck, it’s a total bitch to do, but we make some fun of it. We trade sides a few times. We zig zag up this damn hill with it, taking a few breaks. We finally get up that bitch, and then Nick comes in and wants to help. He subs out Dimitri, and then we set up a kind of makeshift camp by Cannonball Camp, where there are some other people camping.

It’s less than ideal, so I talk to the boys.

“I’m going on a recon mission, whose with me?”
“I’m Down.” says Nick
“Yeah dude. Let’s do it” Chimes in Dimitri.

So the three of us start walking around the lake. We’re doing a recon team schtick, using radio call-signs and all. Nick is Golden Eagle, I’m Red Beaver, and Dimitri is White Russian. We find site ‘Alpha’…not great. Then next we discover ‘Site W’ on account of all the woods…Super steep, but we check it out anyways. At any rate, we’re having a fucking blast. White Russian is on two tabs, I’m on one drop, and Nick is just a little buzzed off of a PBR Tall Boy. We’ve all got a frosty PBR in our hands, and we’re using it to gauge the time. We don’t want to run out during our loop. We find a desirable site near the end of our route, and then we return to base-camp to say where we are moving. The whole convoy picks up and starts to move, but I decide to put some stuff in a cargo tube and float it over–Ojibwe Express style. I kick for probably 25 minutes to transport it, Nickel and C-dog coming with me.

C-dog does the backwards octopus to propel himself, I just kick underwater, and Nickel like jumps up on her tube and kicks wildly with her legs, splashing water everywhere. We all have our own method. We’re taking our time, moving ever-slowly across the reservoir. In the time it took us to get over there, we find out that the group has been invited over to this sweet rock even further across the bay, so we have to move again. I’ve got this Simpsons jelly donut floatie that I’m trying to inflate with my lungs. Every time I feel like I’m getting a good rhythm going some flies land on my shoulder and I have to swat them off. I get frustrated and give up, just walking over to the rock area. I find Liv and Rachel hanging out on a rock just overlooking the water. Liv has a purple flower in her hair, and it looks beautiful. The girls get me a purple flower and we put it in my beard.

It really is a beautiful moment. It’s me, Liv, and Rachel, and I think Chris(sy) as well has joined up later after transporting the cooler. We wave hello to the people that invited us, and they come to talk to us. It’s this petite little Quebecois girl wearing a Batman bikini, and her fairly athletic hippie boyfriend. They live on some land adjacent to this, doing ‘agriculture’, and living in a Yurt type thing that looks like a garlic clove. I mean, clearly they’re growing weed.

Jonny looks like a king, laughing in a huge lazy-boy floatie down there in the reservoir, cup of rum punch in his hand. He’s literally got the floaty for the cooler tied to his floaty–he is the bar. There’s a flotilla of about 10 people in tubes all tied together, and Jonny is trying to get a drink out of that collapsible container full of punch. It looks as disgusting as before, and after seeing him try to handle that flexible container, I can’t help but notice that it looks like a stomach full of bile. He’s loving that stomach juice. Everyone’s having a great time down there.

We chat with the strangers about their fairy tale lives for a bit more, a bunch of working stiffs on their long weekend turnin’ up for the weekend trying to relate to these free spirits. They tell us the realities of their situation, their extremely blue eyes just mesmerizing us.

“It’s cool, but if the wind picks up, we usually stay in town. It’s no joke, if a tree falls over, you’re done” Says the dude, his crystal gemstone sitting low on his chest, suspended around his neck with a hemp string.
“Ah…” We say collectively. It’s a little too surreal a moment for us–you know with all the acid, their unconventional lives and the too blue to handle eyes.
“Well, we’re headed out, it was great to meet you guys”.

We watch the two free spirits leave, that little Quebecois mouse shrinking off into the distance with her yellow and black batman bikini. So long, gov’na. “Were those people even real? They were too perfect to be real” remarks someone.

Five minutes later this strange Filipino chick rolls up and passive-aggressively tells us–with emphasis on the aggressive–“This is our private campsite, and we were promised it would be our own little private area”

Ah shit.
“Oh…we didn’t know. Someone invited us over here”.
“OK well this is our campsite and we were promised it would be private” she’s saying.
“Ok yeah, well we will move”.

I wonder if those free spirits were even real…this surly chick sure as fuck didn’t think so. It’s kind of awkward, not the shit you wanna deal with while tripping. But no worries, we got a bunch of homies in the water. I take my time and get my shit, and then we walk back over to the new old site, the shady one. I try for like 20 minutes to blow up this inflatable jelly donut, but fail. All these bugs keep landing on my shoulder once again, and then I am with Alison and Brittany who are doing girl talk and I just can’t take it anymore. The tube is only a 1/4 inflated, but I run into the water and try to fill the tube up while swimming. I look ridiculous.

I come in hot like a sea otter, swimming into the middle of the flotilla. I try to grab a glass of punch from Jonny, but he protests a bit. “I don’t have any more cups” he says. “What about this empty one you have right here?” I say, pointing at a clean glass sitting pretty in a cupholder beside the cooler

“That’s for the ice”.
“Seriously?”
“OK, blow up that floaty and I’ll give you a punch”.

So I try in vain for a while, it’s just hard when you’re swimming. There’s a vacant premium floaty, looking all firm and buoyant. It belong to C-dog, but he seems to have abandoned it for the moment. I hijack his floaty and use it as a base to try and blow it up my floaty. I float over to Jonny, and that pedigree chum was true to his word.

“Stomach juice me” I say. King Jonny takes that coveted chalice out of the cup holder, and throw a little ice in. “You’ve gotta pour it yourself, but here you go, handing me the stomach. “It’s too pulpy to use the valve, you’ve got to take the cap off.

So there I am balancing on a tube with a 2 gallon collapsible plastic stomach of juice between both arms, and the cup held between both of my feet like a vise. I’m doing some sort of yoga pose here trying to get a drink. It’s a precarious move, and I’m able to pour/squeeze the juice out into the cup. All of my efforts pay off, this stomach juice is delicious.

I get a few sips of that sweet nectar, but then C-dog comes back to reclaim his tube and threatens to flip me if I don’t get out.

“I know you can’t flip me, I’ve got the stomach juice hostage!” I chortle.
Jonny shoots me a concerned look and says “He’s right”.

Chris is there treading water beside the tube, and I still haven’t even managed to blow up my jelly donut tube. I’m laughing uncontrollably. Chris is getting frustrated.

“Dude, don’t mess with me, I’m like a sea otter. I’m gonna flip your ass”.
“Just lemme blow it up and you can have you tube back”.

I can’t stop laughing, which is kind of a blocker when you’re trying to blow up a fucking tube with your lungs. I’m not making much headway on the floaty and C-dog is getting all frustrated.

“At least hand the punch over so someone else can drink it as well”. It seems a reasonable request, I’ve been having fun at this now for about 10 minutes.
So I hand the hostage stomach and my cup of juice over to someone so they can drink it, and I promptly get flipped. I deserved that.

Treading water again, and the tube isn’t getting inflated quickly at all. I eventually have Steve help me blow it up, and he does it in like three breaths. Incredible. “I give a lot of blowjobs” he says gayly and laughs. This guy is awesome.

So there I am, floating around and tied into the flotilla with my jelly donut floaty. We keep drifting into the reeds, and people need to kick. This eventually gets a little tiring, and it’s just me Steve and Chris(sy) doing the work. We start to run out of booze and get bored of this, so I untie from the flotilla, tired of pulling ten people. The girls say ok whatever, we don’t need you boys anyways. They promptly float into the reeds across the reservoir. We all laugh at them a bit. I kick back to shore and hang out a bit. The girls eventually come back, and we walk with them.

I walk with Rachel, and I take off my Birks. Nothing better than walking barefoot while tripping. I do feel some pain when I’m walking on the rocks, but my feet are kind of hobo feet at this point anyways. I try to convince Rachel to de-shoe as well, but no dice. We walk down and then we see King Jonny yelling directions at us.

“DEFLATE THE FLOATIES, PUT THEM IN THE TRUCK. DEFLATE THE FLOATIES, PUT THEM IN THE TRUCK. DEFLATE THE FLOATIES, PUT THEM IN THE TRUCK” he keeps repeating, pointing his arms in a windmill motion towards the F-350 parked at the base of the path. He looks like he’s directing traffic–ok let’s be real, he is.

This is working like a well oiled machine–I’m impressed he has the wherewithal do this after all that stomach juice. I’ve ended up carrying the big yellow floatie Jonny was on. After we all deflate those shits and pack them in, we finally make it back to the camp–hooray.

I hit the slackline, and I’m fucking killing it. I jump in my hammock and just lay there, looking up into the branches. It’s beautiful. I sway back and forth a bit. I eat some jerky and the flavor is just so intense–wow. I hop out in search of some strawberries–they’re the best when you trip. I end up grabbing another beer and I’m just drinking and making that transition from trippin’ to drunk. It’s like 3:30 PM. The sun is out and it’s beautiful so I say “Hey I’m gonna go lay in the sun up on the path”. “We could grill up there” says Jonny.

I helped Jonny move the charcoal grill over and I throw my sarong down on the ground and grab some sun while Jonny gets the grill going–we’re starving. We set the beer pong table up, and slowly people start to come up and hang out. Jonny and I play Dimitri and Brittany, and it’s a decent game.

I’m making the joke about the punch looking like stomach juice, and it seems to catch on. We name the stomach ‘Joe’ and it’s now Joe’s Juice or Joe’s Stomach Juice. That shit is fucking GOOD. I can’t stop sipping it. It’s become a good luck talisman now, as I squeeze the sides of it to release a fresh tropical breeze of pineapple aroma before each shot for luck–my version of blowing on your dice.

It was a shame when you had to switch from the stomach juice to some of that Colorado piss water whenever they sunk a ball. We continue playing, and beat out Nickel and C-dog as well. It was close, but we got them. I’m kind of faded at this point, and we get off the table. Chrissy, Rachel, Nick and Olivia are set up on another blanket beside the Sarong, just laying out now. I come and join them, getting some sun.

I’m staring directly up, and there’s a beautiful set of branches just full of young maple leaves above me. Beside us is a manzanita tree. Two pretty different trees, existing together. I love maple trees, but maybe it’s because I’m Canadian. Everyone is looking at these lizards camouflaged in the tree. It’s trippy as fuck, It takes me a while to find them. You need to wait for them to move, and they do a quick move and then freeze. Wow, pretty cool. I’m laying next to Liv starting up at a canopy of maple leaves and talking about keeping a journal and life in general. I’m saying how I’m going to journal this…That it’ll be a 15 pager (way more than that right now).

Posted up like a mailbox on the trail

Rachel is wearing like all black and has this hat on, and we get her to tuck her pony tail through the back. She looks like a lunch-lady. We’ve got a hat heavy crew, and I like it. I read the back of her hat, and I have to do a double-take. It says ‘J. Galt’ and then an address.

“Hey, who’s John Galt?”
“What”
“Like, who’s John Galt? Why is the sky blue” I say trying to make an obvious reference.

No one really gets it.

“Is that an Atlas Shrugged reference?” Says Chris.
“Yeah dude, that hat says, J. Galt. That’s definitely an Atlas Shrugged reference” I say excitedly.

No one else understands or has read the book, but I nevertheless think it’s mad cool that someone has made John Galt branded clothing. C-dog and I proceed to get into a philosophical debate about Atlas Shrugged.
“It’s anti-capitalist” says C-dog
“No man, it IS capitalism, it’s fighting communism” I retort.

We don’t have much more to say of it, but then 10 minutes later C-dog says “I think you might be right man, I’m thinking about it more, and I think I had it wrong. The book is capitalist”. What a strange turn of events that was, although only C-dog and I could enjoy it.

Jonny is sitting in a little ultralight camping chair beside the grill, and a lot of smoke is starting to come out of it. He’s staring intently at the grill through his sunglasses, but he hasn’t really moved much. He’s sweating profusely–really soaking up the sun. “Is his leg hair burning?” someone chimes in. His left leg is close to the grill, and some of his leg hair has definitely singed off. I cock my head to the side and see that he is actually asleep behind the sunglasses. This motherfucker passed out in the middle of the party, but no one even noticed. He’s supposed to be watching the chicken. Suddenly the smoke coming out of the grill is much more alarming than before.

“Jonny?” I say. He’s dead to the world.
I start laughing “Guys check it out, I think Jonny passed out”. We all start checking it out and he’s still asleep. Someone opens up the grill to check on the chicken and it’s all getting pretty burnt. Rachel moves the grill away from him and she takes over and starts cooking. She really looks like a lunch lady now with the baseball cap on, leaning over the smoky grill.

Quickly this turns into something hilarious, everyone camping with us wants to check it out. I figure he will wake up at any moment now, but this mother fucker is still KO’ed! So we do what anyone else would do. We pose and do a group picture with him sleeping at the front! We keep it a secret, he still doesn’t know we have this absolutely hilarious ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ inspired pic with him.

We cook the chicken and eat a little bit, and then like ten minutes later we see Jonny wakes up, but he plays it cool. He just snaps into it and a few seconds later starts bobbing his head to the beat, feeling like no one even noticed his little nap. We let him keep thinking that.

“Whatup Jonny”
“Just chillin”
“Yeeeeahh have some more of that stomach juice” I say.

So he’s drinking a little more and looking fine, but still waking up a bit from his stupor. A few minutes later he has a bit of a start and says “Where’s the fuckin chicken?” in a panic. We’ve completely removed the grill and served the chicken at this point. Everyone starts laughing and we’re like “Ohhhh Busted!” We tell him how we found him looking like Bernie passed out infront of the burning chicken and just let him be.

Chef Jonny serving up some Zzzz’s

Jonny has another drink, and he’s right back in the saddle. Something flipped with him after that. It’s like he turned into an old British street merchant. “We’ve got the coals, let’s cook all the meat he says”. Suddenly, we’ve got 15 hot dogs on the grill, hamburgers, basically anything he could get on that little 6″ by 12″ charcoal grill.

“Wanna hot dog? This one’s perfect” he says in his Sheffield British accent, pushing a nearly burnt to a crisp dog onto someone. He’s quite the salesman. “Hotdogs? Hotdog? He says, that British accent really sending it home. This guy wasn’t going to waste any food.

There’s some more beer pong, and ultimately most of the meat Jonny cooks ends up in a big metal bowl, aptly referred to as “the bucket of meat”. I give him some grief about cooking all the meat when it’s only 5:00 PM. “You won’t be complaining tonight when you’re drunk and there’s all this meat” he says. He’s probably right.

Some of the girls float the idea of going to catch the sunset up at the reservoir. I’m feeling so lazy, but it just sounds like too good an idea to pass up. Slowly, slowly, people get their shit together–pole pole. The sun is still fairly high, but in about an hour it will probably dip behind those Mendocino mountains. We start to rally.

The whole crew gets it together, and we set off as the sun starts to get a little low. We bring two full bottles of Jamieson with us, passing those two bottles around amongst the group of 15, taking straight pulls. I’m feeling impressed, proud even. It’s not every day you get to go camping with this many people and have everyone down to drink straight Jamieson out of the bottle.

We start to walk up the windy path up the hill to the reservoir, passing that abandoned pumping station. There’s this beautiful Madrone tree on the way up there. There’s a steep AF way to run up the hill, or a windy path. It’s time for a race. Rachel and Olivia start running up the windy way, while Chris, some other boys, and I run up the steep hill alongside a big neglected pipe. We beat them by a landslide.

I look up over the hill into the campgrounds. There’s all these tires that have weed plants growing in them. “Come in overwatch” says Nick in a radio voice, causing White Russian and me to laugh. That was the call-sign for the big eagle we saw flying over the campsite from this same spot. “He’s our eye in sky” says one of my fellow Recon Team Charlies.

It’s decided that this floating dock should serve the best purpose to enjoy the sunlight. Nick and I use a chain attached to it to pull it ashore. “Un, Dos, Tres” says Nick as we time our efforts to pull that thing ashore. We do a few iterations of this and decide that this was ‘good enough’. The whole crew jumps on the dock, and the front part of it sinks in the water a bit. It’s a nice cozy vibe, and we’re all sitting around drinking Jamieson.

This is just way too cozy for Jonny. He’s just a complete hooligan right now. He has a bottle of Jamieson in one hand, and he’s at the end of the dock jumping from one foot to the other, shaking the dock in the water. The old dock is partly submerged in the water as he does this. He’s either trying to sink it or get everyone wet, no one is sure. “No.” “No.” “No.” “No.” Chrissy says to Jonny whenever he tries to open his mouth. She’s had just about enough of his shit today. I’m ambivalent, and C-dog is totally loving it, egging him on an enabling his behavior.

squad

Chris(sy) has his DSLR, and sets up a timer photo to capture us all chilling on the dock. It’s the golden hour of the day, the sunlight just perfect for portrait photography. We all look great.

The sun goes down and Jonny tries to push the dock away. Everyone gets spooked and jumps off. He kind of ruined the moment there, I could have chilled on the dock for a little while now. Oh well. We all head down the hill, ending up near the common cooking area.

It’s twilight, and there’s some groups of people in the outdoor cooking area hanging out, some dogs roam around playing with each other off-leash. Some people are playing cornhole, and our group just sidles up beside it, and the people playing kind of just kill their game, trying to get us to take over. They either have had enough of the game, or enough of being near us. I think it’s the latter.

I lay on this huge hammock made of white tarp stretched between two huge wooden pieces. It’s suspended between two trees. It’s like 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. Several of us are laying in this big hammock, watching all the different dogs play with each other. Nick’s dog Ukiah is facing off with the other dogs, who are trying to intimidate her, but that dog has some steely resolve, completely unfazed by the bigger dogs. “WHAT NOW, WHAT NOW BITCH. WHAT NOW. HUH? WHAT NOW.” I could imagine Ukiah saying to the other dog. Body language speaks louder than words.

Jonny isn’t finished his chaos, He wants to rock the boat–literally. He’s going nuts on the hammock, making it swing wildly left to right. He’s all excited and saying unintelligible British things as he rocks the hammock back and forth. Some people roll off, wanting nothing to do with this. I remain on, and he gets in a bit of a war with Rachel. They’re on opposite sides of the hammock, trying to swing the other one off. Rachel falls off, but has resolve and jumps back on to try to dethrone the king. I’m still laying on the hammock chillin–I don’t mind a little movement.

The rumble begins, and Jonny ends up tumbling off, doing a big dramatic roll onto the ground. All that commotion makes the dogs go CRAZY! They’re all running around in circles, barking like mad. Our group really just rolled in here like a fucking hurricane. With all that pineapple rum, we’re a fucking tropical storm that’s for sure.

After that debacle, everyone walks back to the campsite, but I hang back for a few minutes just to do a comparison of what the campsite is like when we’re not terrorizing everyone. It was pretty calm. Yep, case closed. We’re obnoxious assholes, and I don’t mind one bit.

We get back to the campsite, and Dimitry has his ankle all propped up with some ice. It turns out on the walk back he was dancing, and rolled his ankle RealReal bad. It was swole as fuck.

The camp-fire is raging, and we all sit around drinking and shooting the shit. We’re all a little exhausted from our full day. Rumor around camp is that a live music show will go on at 11:30 PM. A pretty cocky start time, but we’ll allow it. We make smores and drink around the fire until we hear the music fire up across the pond. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it’s happening.

Most of the group moseys back over, bringing the Jamieson and a 30-rack of Coors. The music is being played in this cool raised wooden area, providing a little dancefloor and stage in the woods–hell yeah. The first act is kind of reminisecent of Crystal Castles, and not bad. Then a second fellow riffs on his electric guitar about having “fridge magnets that don’t stick, so I hold ’em up with tape”. He also had a song about “Where the white things roam” as a sort of ode to gentrification.

It’s almost 1 AM now, and they’re going to stop the music. The last guy that comes on stage is just fucking horrible, so that was our cue to leave. The whole squad does an about-face and walks outta there, feeling somewhat bad about leaving in the middle of the set, but ultimately relieved to be out of there.

The fire is still going, and poor Dimitry is still there hanging out, icing his ankle. We have some more drinks around the fire, running out of battery eventually on the speaker. Slowly, slowly–pole pole–people begin to retire. At some point it’s just C-dog and I.

The stars are so incredible tonight, as they were the night before. Chris and I go out to the grass clearing beside our camp-site, bringing out chairs to just stargaze. I’ve got some of the ‘Thai crack’ menthol inhaler, the Thai herbal version of Vicks.

We don’t last long sitting, and we’re quickly laying down and staring at the cosmos. The sky looks milky with stars, you can see the Milky Way a bit. I’m shining my laser into the sky to try to find constellations. There’s too many stars for me to even identify constellations. So beautiful

I pass out soon after that.

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