Posts Tagged ‘temperature’

The Wonder of All Things Great and Small

25th April 2011 by Paul

2011 01 29 (10) - Canyonlands - views from Island in the SkyLockheart Basin Trail, Canyonlands, Utah

This morning, as the blackness of sleep lifted from my mind and the feint awareness of day began to wash over me, I became aware that I should make a decision.

The teeth in my upper jaw ached.

All of them.

The frigid cold bit deep into my jawbone, making the nerves scream.   The exposed flesh above my cheekbones stung horribly, and each breath burned the inside of my nostrils.   The discomfort of waking had already visited me three or four times during the night, but now I could sense the early morning glimmer that heralded sunsrise.   But there was an hour yet before I needed wake Helen and begin the ritual of camp life in the cold.   So the decision had to be made.

Should I keep my upper face exposed and endure the discomfort, or bury my face inside the sleeping bag, where my breath would condense in the down fill, and freeze there, lowering the insulation?

Neither held much of a motivation for me, and in the end, I chose a halfway solution which, I suppose, was no decision at all.   Bury my face until my face warmed and the aching stopped, and then expose my flesh again until I could bear it no longer, then, repeat.

In the dark warmth of the bag, hood pulled tight around my face, I drifted into that place of creative half-sleep where great ideas seem to form.   I vascilated between the pragmatic and the idealogical – how to best design storage solutions on overlanding vehicles, and the kind of leadership the world would need to right some of its chronic social problems.

Later, as the sun warmed the tent, small droplets of melting ice water plopped intrusively onto my closed eyelids, waking me from my half sleep.

2011 01 30 (58) - Grand View Point, Island in the Sky, CanyonlandsI rose first, allowing Helen her customary ten minutes of ‘extra time’, and slipped on the chilled day clothes I had lain out carefully the night before to keep the draughts in the tent to a minimum.   I suppose it was the slight smell of woodsmoke from my clothes that awoke my sense of smell, and as I pulled on my trousers, I noticed a faint whiff of two-day-crotch, and resolved to change my underwear before I smelled any more like a feret hutch.

Swinging down from the tent, I unlocked all the doors, took the shovel and headed uphill towards a bluff, where the sand banked deeper, and I knew I’d stand a chance of digging a decent latrine.   A few minutes later, appropriately relieved, I took a few photos of camp as the rising sun began to cast its fiery glow on the mountains across from the canyonlands.

I wandered further afield, exploring the place we had camped in failing light the evening before.   The air was cold, but there was not a breath of wind nor a sound beyond the slight crunch of my own footseps

2011 02 04 (5) - morning views of campsite on Lockhart Basin RoadClambering over broken layers of Moenkopi rock formations, I ventured deeper into the canyon.   As I walked carefully between the rocks, my feet sank into the fine soft red sand eroded from the surrounding sedimentary rock layers, and over 15 million year old.   In places, the ground crunched underfoot, marking my sudden violation of a paper thin cryptobiotic crust that had taken a hundred years or more of microbiotic activity to form.

I became aware that I was in a sacred place.   A place so huge, and ancient, and remote from human life as to almost defy comprehension.   And yet a place so fragile, so untouched, so delicate in its ecology, that the evidence of my presence here would take two lifetimes to erase.

As the sky brightened and turned blue with the rising sun, I took two more photos in memory of my visit, and retraced my steps back towards camp feeling a little ashamed that I had stumbled so thoughtlessly through nature’s display of wonderous patience, perfect design, and harmony.

Turning to look out once more into the harsh, yet beautiful vastness of the desert, dancing red and orange in the early morning sun, with my mind half distracted by the thought of clean underpants, my soul danced and was uplifted by the wonder of all things.

Getting hot (again) in the desert

30th March 2011 by Helen
getting close to the Mexican border - not time yet so carried on

roadside flora and fauna in the Arizona desert

After an excellent hotel breakfast we headed out of California and into Arizona, watching the temperature guage steadily rising along the way.  The road we were on, the Interstate 8, runs pretty much alongside the Mexican border and the scenery was characterised by desert sand and cacti, especially the huge Saguaro growing like a forest alongside the road.

stopping at a thrift store and a chance to offload some more of the excess baggage we left the UK with!!

stopping at a thrift store and a chance to offload some more of the excess baggage we left the UK with!!

We were fooled by last night’s excellent hotel experience into staying at another Howard Johnson hotel just outside Tucson, only to find it didn’t come up to the previous night’s standard.  Still, it served it’s purpose and we finished the final preparation of our display board for the Expo tomorrow.  Trouble with living out of a Land Rover is it isn’t easy to carry this kind of stuff without it getting damaged and needs to be done at the last minute.

A day in town – and more!!

17th September 2010 by Helen

Friday 17th September

This morning I am completely intrigued by the fridge magnets they have on sale at the hotel reception.  This is a small industrial town where everyone seems somewhat bemused by the European visitors in their midst.  It’s not exactly a holiday resort.  Rather like Margate without the seaside attractions.  The hotel receptionist told us they don’t see many Europeans round this way.  Hardly anyone speaks any English and my Russian phrase book was being tested to the limit.  Yet still they have their own fridge magnets showing faded but proud pictures of the power station.  We have bought hardly any souvenirs so far but this was one I just have to have.  Not least because the picture is the same welcome sight as our first view of the town as we came over the hill last night.

The hotel does not have internet access – what should we expect when it doesn’t have hot water.  As far as we can tell there isn’t an internet café in town but we find some internet access in the post office and make contact with the home team to let them know where we are and why, and send some urgent emails to get some advice on what to do next to diagnose Landy’s problems.  In the meantime we debate endlessly it seems on the pros and cons of staying here or moving on to Ulan Ude.  We really don’t want to move because that will put more wear and strain on Landy but we don’t think we can get parts delivered this far out of the city.  We theorise on all the variations!!  All the while though I want to stay here.  I have a gut feeling this is the right place to be.

Once again we are caught up in the black hole of a looming weekend and the time differences between here and the UK.  We have just an hour and a half between UK waking up time and the post office closing time here in Russia and although we have sent our emails we are not hopeful of getting any answers until Monday.  But we are delighted when both Simon from X-Eng and Dave from Ashcroft Engineering come back in record time with advice regarding their particular specialisms.  Paul is now itching to get into work mode on Landy although with the evening drawing in he will have to wait until the next day. 

The really bad news in the advice from England suggests there is a complete log jam of 250,000 unchecked parcels in Russian customs and suppliers have stopped shipping to Russia until it clears.  So the chances of us getting any parts delivered within the next couple of months are next to zero.  Our ‘shall we stay here or move debate’ moves up a notch.  We consider flying to Moscow to get another visa for Mongolia and then going back to Ulaanbaatar by plane or train to collect a parcel before coming back here: at least UPS have worked a way round the Russian customs problem by shipping via China and we already know that route is working.  The cost will be hideous.  It looks like being a long haul to get out of this fine mess we’ve got into.

We get some things from the car to take back to the hotel room, buy some sweet bread and fruit for supper and head back to settle despondently in our room for the evening.  But things are about to take an unexpected turn.

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

Down at the secure car park Paul had already begun to meet the locals.  One, a man named German who used to teach English many years ago but says he is a bit out of practice now, is a builder working at the car park (where they are building an underground car park and workshop for use in the winter when temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees here).  Earlier he mentioned there is a good mechanic who has a workshop next to the car park and tomorrow he will introduce him to us.  Except now, at 8.00 pm, he is knocking on our hotel room door.  The mechanic would like to have a look at Landy now.  Paul goes off to meet Dima, the mechanic, returning at 3.00 in the morning, delighted if exhausted, to declare that the problem was quickly diagnosed by Dima as a shattered rear half shaft and that Landy is all but fixed with just a bit of work to do tomorrow after the shops open and he can buy some gear oil.  The half shafts were replaced before we left, and thankfully Paul had brought the pair of old rear ones as a back up so that we could always at least establish drive to the rear wheels.

Paul was also ecstatic at having been working with Dima, a man he describes as a true artist, a man who truly is a ‘proper’ mechanic who absolutely loves his work.  See Paul’s separate blog – Apprenticed to an artist – for more of his and Dima’s work together.