Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Settling In

Memorial Day weekend treated me well. I had four days off of work, and I'm now getting paid. I drove to the southern Black Hills to attend a wedding. The whole fam showed up and we had a good time hanging out. The younger generation of the family got in some good climbing on Sunday and some good partying on Saturday night. The wedding was Renaissance style, which was really entertaining since the wedding party all wore Renaissance era costumes. The reception though was certainly 21st century. The roast pig was abundant and the wine and beer flowed freely. A fun time dancing was had by all. The most exciting experience of the night came on the walk home. My sister and I stayed at the reception later than the rest of the Ohlens so we had to walk back to her cabin a half mile away. It was about midnight, and quite dark by the time we stumbled down the road. We had only walked about two hundred yards when a big black shape in front of us that had not attracted our attention up to that point quickly sprang around to face us. The big black shape was a large bull buffalo so close to us that we could see the moonlight gleaming in its beady little eye which was set in its extremely non-beady head. In a stroke a pure brotherly genius I said "Oh, we better cross to the other side of the street." Apparently I assumed that the buffalo would be unwilling to risk crossing a double yellow line in order to gore us. Fortunately for us, a friend pulled up in a car just as we were executing my foolproof plan. We piled in the back seat and were whisked off to the cabin.

Life at Devils Tower has proven to be interesting, if not as exciting. The locals are particularly colorful. I met the former mayor at the bar. He was so drunk that you could re-introduce yourself to him several times, receiving a shot each time in return for your good natured friendliness. All establishments have at least three or four animal heads mounted on the wall. In fact, one restaurant I ate at was a combo hunting lodge-cafe-gun shop. It's a great experience eating country fried steak with twenty five dead animals staring at you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Still catching up

As per Jeff and E's observation, I will elaborate on a bit of the Vegas trip. It's been such a whirlwind, I've had a hard time remembering what all I did in the last couple months. Basically Vegas amounted to an orgy of debauchery and spending money (I hesitate to use the term "orgy" since an actual orgy didn't happen. But if it ever were to, it seems like Vegas would be a likely place for it to occur). The organizer and several of the attendants of the bachelor party are established businessmen, and have the salaries that go along with such positions. Fortunately another friend of mine attended who is in similar financial status as I am. So, he and I shared a room in the Frontier (home of bikini mechanical bull riding and female mud wrestling - neither of which I saw). The Frontier is not known for its world-class amenities. Nevertheless it was across the street from the Wynn, which is world-class, and the base for debauchery. The base of operations at the Wynn was a suite with one wall comprised totally of windows overlooking the city. The stay was short enough that I was able to pretend that I had lots of money and thus foot the bill for lots of things I probably won't have an excuse to do again in a long time. Some of the highlights were

1. Fantastic and expensive meals at an Asian restaurant called Tao and a steak house called Nine
2. Bypassing a huge line to get into Ghost Bar on the top of the Palms because we were "VIP's" and hence ushered in by men wearing dark glasses, black suits, and ear pieces.
3. Private table at said bar, with a view over the strip.
4. Simply ordering bottles of liquor and having unlimited mixers brought to the table rather than going drink by drink...yum.
5. Limo rides to the clubs
6. Walking through what we later found out to be Vegas's worst homeless/crime ridden neighborhood at 5:oo am passing passed out naked hookers and tent cities before we found a cab (actually that was a low point, but we were all too drunk to realize it at the time).
7. Laying by the pool recovering.

I didn't gamble because I found many other more entertaining ways to blow my money in Vegas. The strip was amazing, in a gaudy sort of way. It was one of three things that made my jaw drop on the whole trip, the other two being the redwoods and the Narrows in Zion. All in all, I had a great time, but 48 hours was plenty. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty contributing to the extreme unsustainability and over consumption of that oasis in the desert. But it was a great time.

On a more mundane note, I'm now getting paid to sit in training. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Devils Tower

I finally made it to Devils Tower. I arrived on Sunday afternoon, after accumulating 4,900 miles over the previous month on the road. It's nice to not be living out of a suitcase, but I certainly wasn't sick of traveling yet. The trip ended on a good note at Brian's graduation from the U of Idaho. The whole trip was great, largely thanks to all of you who I was able to hang out with. I saw some great new country, especially that of Zion National Park. If you ever have a chance to hike the Narrows, I would highly recommend it. Some pictures of the desert portion of the trip are at my buddy Matt's flickr site. I will try to get some pics up soon too, but my computer is down for the count after bumping around in the back seat of my truck for the last month.

Devils Tower has been good so far. I'm learning how the NPS defines "interpretation" and what they expect from interpretive programs. Soon I will get to design my own programs on a topic of my choosing - provided that it fits with the park's broad interpretive goals. Unfortunately, though, my background check is stuck in a log-jam of paperwork in some government office. So, I have to volunteer until the check comes through. I'm hoping it will come through tomorrow.

Living in the park promises to be peaceful. No TV, but lots of deer, rabbits, and porcupines roaming around. I even saw a family of 6 red foxes today. All the little foxes were laying out in the sun by their den.

I'm off to my den now, featuring a bunk bed, a tiny bathroom, asbestos sealed under the floor, and lead paint a few layers under the existing paint. Yum.