Last Day in France

I’m sitting at a picnic table at my campsite – I never get a picnic table! My mantra as I look for a paid campsite for the night: “less than 5€, picnic table, less than 5€, picnic table…” Well, got one of those! Drinking a half bottle of Alsace riesling and I’m about to indulge in my pasta, last cube of veg boullion, red pepper, tomato and arugula feast. Rye cracker with brie on the side. I hadn’t had any brie since coming here and it seemed I should check out the real thing – unpasturized milk of course – before I cross the border to España! I’ve been wiggling steadily southwest since leaving Paris and tomorrow I’ll be in San Sebastian, where I’ll be staying with my old roommmate Asier, who I lived with the winter before last in the Catalonian Pyrenees!

Update, now that I’m actually in range of internet: I’m in San Sebastian – Donosti – in Basque! It’s almost midnight and we just finished our dinner with Asier’s awesome family. Vive “not Spain!”

Some photos from between here and Paris…
My first day south of Paris I happened upon an ancient route between there and Orleans. Old road marker.

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Riding one evening amongst the fields. So pretty.

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A quick bite

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Riding along the Loire river, there are limestone cliffs and caves carved into them where wine is aged and sold. This spot had honey and chevre cheese too.

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Chateaus that I would barely catch glimpses of beyond the outer walls were all over the place!

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One of the hundreds of vineyards I’ve passed in the past week and a half.

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I took a wrong turn and this was my dead end.

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A turret?! Stop it, France!!

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I took another wrong turn that day and ended up at this crumbling chateaux

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Why you don’t go to the grocery store hungry. This brioche is literally the same size and weight as my tent. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a tent!”


Irony

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Castle and vines

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Long, straight roads with no cars the day before yesterday.

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Some sammies I’ve made along the way

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PARIS!

Paris is huge and bustling and beautiful and has great food and it’s really fun to ride a bike here. I’ve ridden more than 100km in the city these past few days. I get lost constantly because no streets are at a right angle and street names change a lot. An awesome way to get to know the city. Get lost.

I’m always hesitant to do the tourist thing and see the big attractions in a city, prefering to visit the neighborhoods and check out the “real life” thing. But hey. I’m in Paris. My first day here I rode to see the Eiffel Tower and was so impressed. What a beautiful work of art. I rode all around it and from every angle had a new appreciation for it. Humans sure can create some magnificent things.

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On the flipside, we make a lot of trash too. But I think that’s also pretty. Maybe the person who decided on these clear bags sans container feels the same way about trash that I do.

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Street scenes…

Bike lane

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Ripped poster

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Broken window

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Bar. Closed on a Sunday.

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Tuula’s toilet at her flat in Paris. Literally a water closet!

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À le marché

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Later in the market day, close to noon. Terrines.

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This is a horrible picture of an amazing traditional dish. Tartiflette – basic ingredients: potatoes, cheese, onion, lardons. All cooked on this huge skillet and scooped to order. Simple, rich, delish. Breakfast for me today at the market.

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My market purchases today. Ingredients to make fried egg sandwiches tonight for Tuula and her roommate, Hugo (eggs and fancy butter were purchased prior).

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An American version if Croque Madame, I suppose. Pictured here.

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I hear it’s now passè to take food pics. Oh well. I am in the motherland of modern American cuisine!!! It’s so exciting.

Tuula and I enjoyed some delicious fondue and a salade nicoise.

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The next day I enjoyed a leisurely, traditional French lunch. I ordered the menù – set menu that changes daily. Pouilly-fumè to drink and to start a salade de chevre chaud (warm chevre salad – this is called the entreè here). Bavette grilleè, sauce poivre, frites maison (grilled beef, pepper sauce, pommes frites – the plat, or main cource). Créme bruleè for dessert. The first two were simple and perfect – like the tartiflette! Dessert was not the best example I’ve had, but I had to try this dish in its homeland!

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Today I also tried my first macarons – little, light, delicate cookies with different fillings and flavors – a Pariesenne specialty.

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I visited one museum in Paris. Le Grand Palais. Tuula and I went to a Robert Mapplethorpe photo exhibition. Why not check out an American photographer when I’m in possibly the greatest art capital of the world?! Yeah, I took a photograph of photographs. Everybody’s doing it…

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And speaking of the must-do in Paris. Sit outside a traditional cafe where almost all the chairs are facing the street. Watch people. Drink coffee. Smoke cigarettes. I don’t have any desire to inhale cigarette smoke, or I would get myself a “city pack” so I could really partake in these scenes…

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I leave Paris tomorrow and head south towards Spain! I love this city. And just when I can finally ride “home” without looking at a map, it’s time to go. Tuula has final exams to concentrate on and I am ready for the country roads again. I have most of France to go through which is perfect. France is so great. I’m studying French along the way, learning more by the hour, and yearning to have a better grasp of this language that I have always wanted to learn but have never had a real reason to. I should be riding along the Loire river valley in a day or two. Wine country awaits!!!

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New Zealand – UK – France

This post is a tad belated…

After arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 21st from Antarctica, I began a 5 week cycle tour of the South Island, first with Susie, my roommate from The Ice, then I headed up north to meet up with Dylan in Marlborough wine country. From there we rode south to Wanaka, met back up with Susie, rode up to Mt. Cook and back to Christchurch.

Wine country!
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On the road…
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We picked lots of apples

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And camped under some bridges

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And in awesome spots like this

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New Zealand was so much fun. Dylan and I parted ways at the airport – he back to the long quiet roads of Australia where he had been riding for the past 5 months, and I decided to return to Europe. This time, riding my bike from France to Romania (or that’s the “plan,” but we’ll see where to roads take me)!

I flew into London and took a train to Eastbourne to hang with Lillian and her fam for a couple weeks. It was so nice to be in a house (not a dorm room or tent) for a little while and be able to cook! It was like coming home.

Tea time! This tea house has been around since the 1700s.

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And now I’m in Paris! I took a ferry to Dieppe, FR 6 days ago and took the very long way to Paris, riding on mostly winding back roads the whole way. Along the coast to Ètretat, to Rouen, to Gournay en-Bray to here. Now I’m staying with my friend Tuula who I couchsurfed with in Finland 2 years ago. She then came up to Alaska last summer and now is studying in Paris – perfect timing! I just arrived yesterday evening and in moments will go off to explore the city!

Lunch my first day in France. Baguette, rillettes de beouf, camembert, pomme

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Velo avec baguette à un cemetière

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Me and a field of rapeseed – canola oil plant. These brilliant yellow fields are all over the place!

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Dinner two nights ago, camping in a forest (not many forests left here). I picked tons of fiddlehead ferns and stinging nettle and made veggie soup. Dèlicieux!20140424-120058.jpg

Croissant and a random gorgeous castle.

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La vie est belle!

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Final Hours on The Ice

My flight off The Ice, in a C-130 Hercules, operated by the US Air Force, is scheduled to take off in 5 hours. It has been an incredible first season in Antarctica.

I went camping
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We dressed up
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Here we dine in our little wind shelter. Thor is in the background making his snow cave/trench to sleep in.

I went on a hike up to Castle Rock and snowboarded down
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We had a picnic in an apple on the way
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And got serious on top

Went snowboarding again
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Here’s me standing next to a Delta – big tires

I went snow machining a couple times
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I took a lot more pictures of food
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And of our dated dorm lounges
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I went to South Pole
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I rode a bike around the Pole
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And collected the cleanest air on earth – I’m holding my breath so as not to contaminate it.

I volunteered as a line handler to help bring in and cast of the ice breaker and resupply vessel
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I was the unofficial photographer for the marathon in January
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start of marathon

I saw lots of penguins
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And a dead skua
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Time to suit up in my insulated Carharts, bunny boots and Big Red and fly out of here!

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Pretty things and some beef

These are photos from over the past month or so – things look a bit different now, as with the warmer weather (up to 32 today!) and massive amounts of daylight (the sun BLAZES into my room at 2:00 a.m.) things are rapidly melting and shifting, but they give a good feel of the place…

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View from Ob(servation) Hill a short walk from town. There are lots of crosses on hills here from the early 1900s.
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Looking towards Scott Base and THE Pressure Ridges – seems not right to capitalize them, but they are THE only ones we talk about on the regular here.
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Ice Runway a couple miles from town. That’s where I used to recreate almost daily – now it’s closed for the season in anticipation of the ice melting and giving way to open ocean and… PENGUINS! The new runway is a 14 mile trek on the permanent ice shelf on an often very squishy ice road – yesterday they banned light vehicles and only tracked vehicles and these jobbers – called Deltas – could drive out there. Will snap a more impressive shot of these monsters soon.
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Deltas and dirty melting snow
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Town from above. In a few short weeks we have lost all of the snow on the streets and it is nice and brown and dusty now. It snowed yesterday for a bit, but the sun came out today and melted the dusting away from the dust.
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View back towards Mt. Erebus – highly active volcano with a near constant plume of smoke billowing out of it.
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Science/ weather (?) equipment on the way down from Ob Hill
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Back at sea level, a gorgeous night for a midnight ski (not the greatest skate ski conditions however – see tire tracks).
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So pretty
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My head, Ob Hill and McMurdo in the background
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The next night, around midnight once again, I rode my bike out to the ice runway where I popped into the runway galley to say hi to a friend cooking up the midnight meal for the night shifters (we call them MidRats). The light was amazing.
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Gloves left in the runway restrooms, which are now 14 miles away, along with the galley, firehouse, control towers and all the other portable buildings on skis that support this little runway operation connecting us to the real world and scientists to their camps.
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I co-guided a Pressure Ridge tour
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As evidenced by ice axe
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Penguin!
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Seals – they always look dead. They’ll flap their little flippers sometimes, but mostly they just look dead. We had to detour around three of these dudes just off the path this night. Later this week I did actually see a seal propelling itself across the ice for the first time – impressive how fast those little flippers made all that warm blubber move!

Speaking of fat and meat and beef, after writing that last blog post I got to thinking about our beef situation. The next day I started taking pictures of every beef dish at every meal I attended in the galley. I’m still snapping away, always strapped with my camera during meal times. People don’t get why I’m taking pictures of the food and get a little weirded out about it. If they ask why I’m taking pictures of the food, I let them know I’m really only taking pictures of the beef, in all its many forms. Here are just a few of what will soon be hundreds. I have no idea what to do with all of these photos…
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Prime rib
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“Italian Style Beef Ribs!”
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All beef franks

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food in McMurdo!

Someone pointed out that theme of my blog is “a foodie on a bike” and I haven’t even mentioned the food here!

There are 800 people on station and the cooks prepare 4 meals a day for the population. That’s some high volume. I’ve never spent time in an huge volume kitchen like this and it’s awesome. The mixing bowls are gigantic, the flat-tops tip up to easily transfer food into hotel pans, there are many walk-ins – one dedicated just to thawing food – and on delivery day, when the galley receives the food order from the warehouse across the road, it comes on about 40 pallets and takes multiple people all day to sort and put away.

When I first arrived the most shocking thing to me was the lack of fresh vegetables. No veg that didn’t come out of a can or from the freezer existed. That was a shock. There was bad weather and very few flights for a couple weeks and the government was shut down and friends were getting sent home and everything was a bummer. Then one day, we got “Freshies.” Fresh fruit and vegetables. Lettuce and arugula and bananas and apples and onions and beets and bok choy. My friend Brent got sent home during the shut down, and when he found out he was returning asked if I wanted anything from home. Apples and some serious hand lotion – it is SO dry here. I racked my brain for more comforts from home that I was missing, but all I could think of was a perfect apple, and the thrill of chomping into that first fresh and crispy apple after so long without was just as great as I was hoping it would be.

Luckily, we’ve had regular flights for the past couple weeks and Freshies have been pretty consistent. I get excited when there are salad greens or new vegetables or fresh fruit that I haven’t seen for a while – we had fresh asparagus for the first time yesterday and roasted cauliflower for lunch today. YES!

Real eggs are something else that were lacking when I arrived. Since our first freshie flight, however, we’ve had the option to get up to 2 fried eggs per person every morning for breakfast. There are two egg cooks each morning serving up eggs how you like ’em with a selection of ingredients to toss into the mix. Breakfast is from 5:30 – 7:30 a.m. and I miss it most of the time. I work until about midnight or 1 a.m. every night, so I’ve recently just given up. Sleep is nice. We also just got a super duper quickie pizza oven a week ago and now have 24 hour pizza – that’s a bad idea. I love pizza. Now I can just eat cold pizza and an apple for breakfast in my dorm room. Perfect!

Our bakers are amazing and we have a different fresh-baked bread every day. They also make really tasty sweet stuff and I have told myself that I will only eat sweets on Wednesdays when they make a plethora of fresh-baked and delicious cookies. Then today they make something called a Princess Bar and I just can’t resist. I have two.

I’ve been eating a ton of meat. A beef lover over-ordered a few years ago and we’re working our way through something like 50,000 pounds of it. It’s on the menu for every meal in some shape or form. I rarely eat beef at home and here I am chowing it down when not faced with having to cook raw meat, or pay money for it or decide whether or not to order it from a menu. When it’s staring me in the face every meal I can only think of the juicy savoriness and my animal rights and GMO consciousness goes out the door. Yum.

We have an “ice cream” machine which produces a soft-serve product called Frosty Boy that is definitely not ice cream. We always have vanilla and another creative flavor. Currently Turkish Coffee. Before that was Mexican Chocolate and when I first arrived it was Pear and Bleu Cheese – that one took a while to run through. I don’t like Frosty Boy. It’s a favorite of the station to be sure, but it tastes too fake to me.

Milk – powdered.

Most of the cooks down here are professional chefs. Many have owned their own restaurants and run impressive kitchens. They do an awesome job keeping it fresh and switching it up, and the food keeps getting better as the season progresses. Some days however, it’s just not good. Or maybe I am just totally not in the mood for what is on the line. When that’s the case, I’ll make a Panini for myself instead. Not a bad option – sandwiches are my thing.

I have absolutely no food-related pictures. So here’s a pic of my roommate, Susie, doing a wheelie on the apron at the ice runway!
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Around Town

Some scenes from town and around…

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Beginning of a sunset walk a couple weeks ago outside building 155, the blue building on the right. This is the hub of McMurdo. It houses the cafeteria, (“galley”), offices, barber shop, retail store, dorm rooms, craft room, computer lab, and more. The bar, Gallagher’s, where we have weekly watermelon-smashing-with-sledgehammer parties, is the brown building. From the outside, most buildings just look like brown squares. No signage indicates what’s inside. Open the door, and you enter a bar with 50+ people rocking out and drinking Kiwi beers and whiskey! Or a gym with treadmills and stationary bikes whirring! It’s very disorienting at first.

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Waste is big here. We sort everything, we recycle or reuse everything, and the bins are really colorful.

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Waste sorting area at the end of the hall in my dorm

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SKUA – a scavenging bird that dive-bombs people walking from the cafeteria to the dorms with plates of food – I just heard an account of bird dive-bombing a triple saran-wrapped plate and snapping a sausage right out of the mix! So Skua is also the name of where one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure. In all the dorms there are Skua bins. These are pics of Skua Central – the free Salvation Army or Goodwill of Mcmurdo. I have scored so much from Skua. 2 sweaters, a pair of alpaca socks, white Dickies pants, many pairs of glove liners, a letter jacket for a friend, expedition weight Patagonia long johns, a Patagonia long-sleeve top, baseball hat, numerous mugs, fabric, saw stamp, the same shampoo I use… it’s great. I check the bin in my dorm daily and score 50% of the time. Love Skua.

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In the bathroom at the end of the hall on the first floor of my dorm. Biowaste bucket and Dwell magazine?! I love this place!

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My dorm hallway and bags of linens outside people’s doors

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Sunset scenes

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Water line

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Pretty snow and reflecting sun on the side of the helo operations building

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My awesome fire fighter buddies daisy chaining beer and booze into one of the bars, Southern, the day before we opened a couple weeks ago. The small brown building in the background is the Gerbil Gym, where all the cardio machines are, the two large brown buildings past that are dorms.

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My insulated Carhartt overalls and the brown carpet that covers most of the floors on station.

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My beeper.

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Sea Ice Meets Ice Shelf

And a pressure ridge is born. 

Last weekend I trained to be a pressure ridge tour guide.  It was gorgeous and informative.  Now I can take groups of people out on the sea ice to meander through the pressure ridges and bask in the beauty.  Along a flagged route of course.  This is government endorsed activity after all!

 

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First flag of the route

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Seals relaxing in the sun

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Looking at ice and learning

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More of that… armed with cameras and me, with my back to the camera, armed with a metal probe for testing out cracks and any iffy areas. You’d think everyone in the group would want the poker, right? Wrong. I had to wear a super warm mitten on one hand to hold this stupid thing, and a thin glove on the other to operate my camera. Someone finally asked if he could use the poker and I refused to take it back when he tried to return it. Ha!

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Me and my office mate Katie jumping for pressure ridges!

I’m hoping to take my first group out next week. I’m super excited.

In the meantime, it’s Halloween. Karaoke, horror movies and lots of candy at the bars tonight. A mellow excuse to dress up and eat sweets – tomorrow is a work day! The big party is reserved for Saturday as the majority of the station is off on Sunday. This is the party of the year I am told. When I asked my friend Burke what I should bring to Antarctica, the first thing he said was a Halloween costume. I’m saving that one for Saturday. Tonight I dressed up as “Found” – every item I’m wearing, down to my socks and shoes, has been discarded by someone else and found by me! My counterpart is “Lost” – he also happens to be the awesome photographer, James, who snapped the pics that I’m in. Tonight he was strapped with a map, sandals, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. One person actually guessed what we were! Most everyone else was still confused even after we explained it.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Riding a Bike in Antarctica…

…Sing to the tune of “America” from West Side Story

Today I rode a bike for the first time here!  It was awesome.  It was really windy.  It was cold.  I rode from McMurdo, out on the sea ice to the ice runway – an air runway on the sea ice!  To do most fun things outside of McMurdo here you have to file a trip plan online.  Then go to the fire station and check out and get a radio.  Tell them when you’ll be back.  If you are more than 5 minutes late for check in time, they send out search and rescue. 

 

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On the way out. Super cross-wind. It was around 5 degrees F and -15 F at the time. I was granny gearing it on the flats fighting the wind! Here I get passed by a tracked mobile that probably has some weird name I’m not aware of. Everything has a funny name here, and I’m learning them slowly!

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Planes on the ice runway.

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I imagine that you put heavy stuff on these ski devices and drag them with a vehicle (with a witty name) to where you want to go.

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Bundled up on my bike!

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I am enamored with tire – and track – tracks here. Note them in previous and future posts. They’re so pretty.

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Deep tracks in the snow on the ice with some ground up lava rock gravel for a little color.

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Bike!

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My friend Lena and I went skate skiing out on the same road the day before yesterday. So fun. Afterwards I warmed up with some rock climbing at the indoor rock wall in the gym and unicycle riding! I’m still attached to the wall of the gym where I’ve been learning, but with a lighter touch each time! I’m confident that with another hour or two I’ll be riding with NO HANDS!

Recreating in Antarctica is great.

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The sun is still setting…

I got a new fancy pants camera and it takes amazing pictures, but I cannot figure out how to get them to appear here in a decent size – suggestions would be much appreciated! Click to see them full size. Seriously. Do it! I’m really proud of my new toy and its capabilities.

I haven’t had much opportunity to recreate, but there are some amazing sights to be seen very nearby. Tomorrow I have my first day off – can’t wait to explore. Here are some sunset views from a couple days ago…

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Cable frozen to the ground on the way to Scott’s Hut a short, but very cold and windy 3/4 mile walk from McMurdo

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Snow drift on the hut and ice runway operations on the sea ice in the background

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Cross on a hill beyond the hut

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McMurdo

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En route to Scott Base. Windmills provide the bulk of the electricity used in McMurdo in the summer

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View of Scott Base, Kiwi land, from above. The pressure ridges, my main destination, are the little line you see just beyond the cute little green buildings

The pressure ridges in front of Scott Base, where sea ice meets land. The colors changing as the sun set were dramatic – these were all taken within 3 or 4 minutes of each other. Incredible
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Sun going behind the hills – October 10th, 9:42PM. We’re gaining about 18 minutes of daylight right now, so now, three days later, this is the same view at almost 11PM

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Me – really happy in Big Red on my walk home from sunset spectaclar

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