Tuesday, November 23, 2010

little bit of this... little bit of that

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy.  I have been to Ohio a couple different times for work.  Lindsy went on a retreat a couple of weekends ago so Kennedy and I spent that weekend chillin' like villains. 

When Lindsy got home Sunday, our water heater went out.  So she had to shower at work Monday morning.  I ended up taking off pretty much the entire day, thinking I would have to buy a new unit and meet a plumber at the house to have it installed.  I called Lindsy's electrician step dad for some advice and he told me some things to look for and try.  When I connected the hose to drain the water heater, nothing happened.  So the thing was filled with sediment and I couldn't break it free or pound it out, which means I was going to have to move the whole thing filled with water.  When I opened it up, I also noticed that the insulation was soaked, so it was leaking as well, and that is why our house had smelled like cat piss for the last few days.  Well, fortunately, Lindsy's boss had an old electric heater they had replaced.  So I drove down to Nicholasville and picked it up.  I brought it back, took out the old and put in the new, completely on me own!  Ok, well, Jim talked me through the whole thing through about 20 phone calls.  Aaaaand....  I may have dropped the old tank in our bonus room and spilled it all over the floor...  but it was a minor mess and I ultimately accomplished the entire task myself and only spent about $10 bucks to do it!  Maybe I am finally living up to my name.  I am the Toolman.

Well, the next weekend, Lindsy was supposed to go on a scrapbooking retreat, but, ended up taking a different kind of retreat.  One that requires a green gown that ties in the back.  Some bowel issues during the week turned into an all out ralf-fest Thursday night.  She was up all night in the bathroom.  The next morning, I had to take her to the urgent care to get her some fluids and something to help her stop puking.  A little about my wife....  She does everything 100%.  Everything.  Even getting sick.  Once she starts puking, she will not stop until she turns herself inside out.  So, we had to do something to stop it.  When we got to the urgent care, they took her vitals and found she had pretty low blood pressure and she couldn't stand up w/o chucking again.  They called our midwife and she wanted us to go to the hospital so they could monitor the baby.  So, no fluids, no drugs.  We then had to go to labor and delivery.  They hooked her up and eventually gave her something to curb the vomit machine.  Turns out, the dehydration had caused her to have some small contractions, but the baby seemed to be doing fine.  Her midwife still wanted her to stay overnight.  So....  I went home with Kennedy so I could be awake enough to handle them both on Saturday.  I went back and picked up Lindsy the next morning and she was much better.  It took her several days to fully recover, but she was back to her hard-charging self soon.  Still, not the way envisioned our weekend going.

This past weekend, I spent all day Saturday watching Kennedy and doing yard work/cleaning.  Kennedy and I raked the backyard, which as small as it is,  you wouldn't think it would have all that much, especially since I had already raked it once.  It did.  I ended up with our lawn/leaf can packed full and ten more lawn/leaf bags. 

Here is my slave labor...
Slave Labor

She was going pretty slow, so I let her try with the leaf blower... that was a hoot!  She was blowing leaves out of the pile, but it was so funny, I didn't mind (plus the wind was blowing them out of the tree as fast as I picked them up). 
More Power!! Argh, Argh, Argh....

It wasn't all a hardcore labor camp...  She had some fun too!
Fun and Games...

So, our current trip to see Lindsy's family for Thanksgiving should offer a welcome reprieve for both of us.  We are currently pit-stopped in WV at my parental units place for the night.  Peace out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So apparently, I can't use X-Large pictures or they get cut off....   so now you have to look at the bottom half of the last post again because you couldn't see the right half of them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Montana (and I don't mean the discontiued minivan)

You will have to bare (bear? I’m too lazy to get a dictionary) with me for a few paragraphs throughout this post. I am probably going to regurgitate a lot of stream restoration-specific principles and terminology that could either bore you to death and make you want to pull your eyes out with one of those little ice cream sampler spoons they have at Baskin Robbins or fascinate you and inspire you to get out and enjoy, appreciate, and learn more about the natural environment. I can’t imagine how it would do anything other than the latter, but for those in the first category, this book has pictures! So, I guess, if you want to miss out on an incredible education of river processes and analysis, you could just scroll down and look at the photos and captions. But I know you will want the whole drawn-out scientific explanation behind every detail captured within the photo, so you will want to read all of this. Actually, most of the pictures are just “shiny objects” that caught my eye. In conclusion of my introduction, let me say this post is going to be fairly long (30 pages) (J/K) So, sit back, grab a warm cup of cocoa, draw your blankets tight, and prepare for an unforgettable blogging experience. Here we go!!!

At the end of July, I was able to attend a professional training course called River Assessment and Monitoring. It is the 3rd of 5 levels of training offered by Wildland Hydrology, a leader in stream restoration through extensive research, design and implementation. This class focused on techniques/methods of assessing the condition of rivers. We look at bed degradation or aggradation; bank erosion; changes in pattern, profile and cross-sectional dimension; and sediment competence and capacity. The class lasted two weeks with 1-2 days of lecture in class, 3 days of field work, and about 4-5 days of data analysis and presentations. We basically have a class day, then go in the field the next day, analyze the data we collected the next day, then present our analysis the next day and do that through 3 cycles. So there was a lot of work, a lot of late nights in a rustic conference center out in the middle of nowhere. Oh, but it was in the hills of western MONTANA.

I flew out of Lexington early and would have missed my flight if it hadn’t been delayed for more than an hour so the flight crew could finish their McBreakfast platters. I landed in Chicago with just enough time to sprint through the entire airport knocking down old-ladies and punting infant-filled strollers and carseats out of my way. (I did have to sprint). They were literally closing the doors when I got there. So then I flew into Seattle, which, let me tell you, is a beautiful approach… wow. Grabbed some lunch there and then caught my plane to Missoula. The Missoula airport is pretty small, I mean there wasn’t a little guy shouting “de plane, de plane”, but there was more rental car places than depart/arrive gates. I stepped out into the hot, dry air and thought all things were right in the world. Not even the HHR (a cross between a minivan and a pt cruiser) that enterprise gave me could bring down my excitement. I picked up some groceries for the week and headed out to Lubrecht Experimental Forest a sort of “campground” for forestry research in conjunction with the University of Montana. On the way, I spotted a forest fire in one of the neighboring forests (something you don’t see everyday “back East”).

So here is some background on the stuff we were learning…
Much of the condition of a stream is based on a departure from reference conditions. Reference conditions demonstrate the geomorphically stable form for the type of stream that is located in the surrounding conditions of a watershed. It might be easier to explain geomorphically unstable; that would be one some or all of the following: a lot of bank erosion, aggradation or degradation (rising or lowering) of the channel bed, significant changes in the channel substrate (the rocks are getting smaller/bigger); and too frequent or not frequent enough access to the floodplain at bankfull conditions (bankfull is typically understood as the incipient elevation on the bank where flooding begins, also, the bankfull discharge is responsible for the formation, maintenance, and dimensions of the channel as it exists under the modern climatic regime. A bankfull event typically occurs every 1-1.5 years.)

OK, I promise it will get a lot less technical from here, with more pretty pictures!

The first field day, we (in teams of about 8) surveyed a “reference reach” that exhibited stable conditions for the type of stream we would be investigating later (a C4 stream type; if you would care to learn more about stream classification, please post your name and address in the comments section and I will flood your inbox with fascinating literature). This reach was in a forest about 1.5 from our accommodations. Of course, the field day had to be cold and rainy since I didn’t bring any waders, intending to “wet wade” the whole trip. It was pretty stinking cold walking waste-deep in the stream for the first couple hours, but once we got surveying and walking around a little, it warmed up. I was better off than the guy wearing sandals and swim trunks. Here are a couple snapshots of our reach.

Look at that beautiful bankfull bench on the right!
We then worked hours and hours and hours consolidating and analyzing data, filling out forms, and preparing a presentation (which happened after every field day). Besides a slight mishap with the water surface on the profile, the presentation and all went well.

On field day two, we went to a sight 2 hours away. It was a sight under special attention from the EPA for clean-up. An old mine slurry pond had failed and sent tons of metal-laden sediment throughout the valley below and really jacked up the stream there. So the prior year, the class had set up all kinds of monitoring apparatus like bank pins and scour chains. We were going back through and measuring everything they did exactly the same way they did it to see how things changed.

Yes, that is my fat finger.

Look at that tiny culvert. No wonder the stream has issues.
OK. Bankpins are pieces of rebar (the stuff you see sticking out of concrete sometimes) that are driven horizontally in the bank until the end is flush with the bank. When you come back to measure it, you can see and measure how far the bank has eroded and get an idea of erosion rates based on the time interval between visits.

Example of an actual bank pin on one of my projects.

The re-sruvey of the bank to measure erosion

Scour chains are chains that are driven into the bed of the stream vertically, ending flush at the channel bed. Same type of principle where you come back later and see how much chain is exposed/buried to know if the channel is aggrading or degrading.

 This shows how the process works

The chains are installed so that the last link is at the surface

You can see the chain at the bottom

Despite being screwed by crappy work from the previous class, our presentation was a much heralded success of which we were proud. At this stage, we learned (I reviewed) a sediment transport model built into my company’s RIVERMorph software. It basically takes a cross section (reference, impaired or designed) and routes bedload and suspended sediment data through the cross-section and tells you whether that cross section has the hydraulic properties to adequately pass the amount of sediment that is coming at it from upstream. If your channel doesn’t have enough capacity, then sediment will drop out and your stream will aggrade and then vice versa. It’s a pretty nifty tool that can be applied to almost any stream, even if you don’t have sediment data readily available.

Anyway… On the third field day, we went to a farm where the farmer wants to fix his crappy (literal) stream. It had a lot of “hoof shear” from his cattle. On this day, we installed our own bank pins and scour chains and surveyed it all so that the class next year could do the same thing we did on field day 2.

This is Dave Rosgen teaching us how to use a bedload sampler

These are two of my teammates installing bank pins.

This is part of our reach.  You can see two bank pins on that vertical bank on the left

Here we are collecting and analyzing a bar sample.  Determining the gradation of material being moved through the stream.
On Saturday night, they took the class to a little bar and restaurant up the road (up the road = 45 minutes in MT) called Trixi’s where we were able to let our hair down a little, relax and enjoy some incredible prime rib. Mmmm….

You know it's going to be good when a border collie meets you at the door.  He had free reign inside too.

This was the view from the front door of Trixi's

On Sunday, we had a day off. I decided to go up to Glacier National Park for the day with a few other people, so we headed out early and drove the 4.5 hr or so to get there. On the way we saw some of the most beautiful country…

Flathead Lake


Look how clear and blue it is!?!

Random Barn...  Because I am random

The following are a selection of the photos I took in the park, mostly along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

You can't tell by my face, but I am ecstatic...

This is Lake McDonald... beautiful..

Look how clear the water is!!!!!

This is the McDonald River...  oooo...   aahhhhh


Again...  so clear!

No creeks are this clear in the East, and especially not rivers.

This is what a riffle looks like from under water...  oooooo..... aaaahhhhh...

That place was gorgeous. Breathtaking. I wanted to hike a couple small trails while were in the park, but a random rain/hail storm popped up when we reached Logan’s Pass at the Continental Divide, which discouraged my weak-stomached fellow travelers. I would love to take Lindsy back there and spend some more time in the park…

We finished up at noon the last day and I headed back to Missoula and had lunch with a local DEQ guy who attended the class (a fellow baseball fanatic). After that, I decided to get some hiking in before my flight left that evening. I went to the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area within the Lolo National Forest near Missoula, MT.

I hiked Crazee Canyon Road to the top of Mt. Sentinel (about 3.5 mi straight up one way) which overlooks the town of Missoula.

That is Mt. Sentinel in the background with the Clark Fork River in the foreground.

Here is the view of Missoula from the top...
Here are some photos I took along the way…

A tree that survived a fire

If you look closely above the island, you can see people floating down the river in tubes...

When I got back to the car, I bathed in leftover bottled water, changed clothes and splashed some cologne on. Then I grabbed some dinner and headed to the airport.

The trip was amazing and a lot of fun. I wished KCT and Lindsy could have been there with me. We will definitely have to go back. I recommend Montana to anyone who loves being outdoors and seeing natural beauty!

Hopefully you have enjoyed your educational experience. This was better than a PBS special, huh? You thought this was the Discovery channel for a second, didn’t you? Nay, it is merely my simple life as a blessed child of God.

In parting… I will leave you with a few photos of the Blackfoot River. (yes, the same one from A River Runs Through It. Yes, that is where the title of my blog came from. A great movie!!)

Tell me those don’t make your day brighter!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Well, after an exhaustive study and review of extensive data, I would like to report that Late Night Cheeseburger Doritos do actually taste like a cheeseburger. (At least to me anyway). If you close your eyes while eating one of these chips, you might forget it is merely one chip and think you are biting into a cheeseburger that has Doritos as a condiment. While mixing two of my favorite food items into a space-saving, budget friendly delicious little pseudo-triangle seems like a great idea, I find myself desiring, rather, to have the two items separately. In my humble opinion, the two tastes get slightly muttled, thus reducing the full satisfaction of two of the best tastes in the world. Now, having said that, I am one of those people who generally does not mix their foods. More often than not, I will even finish one item before moving on to the next; especially when dealing with cheeseburgers. So, there may be a slight bias in my reporting of these results. They are of satisfactory taste to me (translation: I could eat a whole bag in ten minutes); however, I feel the same about most food items that come in a bag.

Now that I have that off my chest, I need to rewind and pick up my life where I left in the summer, if I can remember back that far. The annual entire family vacation occurred the week before Independence Day this year. We went back to Edisto Beach to stay in a mac-daddy house that supplied ample room for all families, including separate accommodations for each couple, as well as a bedroom where all 4 girls slept in their own tiny individual beds. That made bedtime routine interesting a couple nights, but it was kind of funny and cute to see them all lined up in their beds like the brady bunch or something and I think it was a great experience for them.

The weather was gorgeous for the most part. The last few days it got windy and made things interesting. Everybody got a nice exfoliation on the beach from the sand-blasting we took. It made some nice waves though! While we were violently pounded and I almost lost my shorts a few times, it was great fun. Several waves made it past the fortifications that the little girls had constructed and managed to knock the littles ones over and drench several unsuspecting sunbathers. Although funny eventually, it shortened our beach time.

Once again, it was a fabuloso week with the fam and we had a blast. We found out about the pregnancy on the way down to the beach. The great news sprung forth from a Dollar General bathroom. While incredible news, it greatly limited Lindsy’s ability to let loose at the beach.

This blog doesn't even come close to doing justice to the week, but I could share a million pictures and stories... so.. sorry. I'll leave you with this...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's been awhile

I realize it has been 5 years since I last blogged. I haven't posted since my death-defying bicycle trip that left me scarred for life. Literally. You may have actually forgotten who I am... Allow myself to introduce... myself. Life has been pretty busy over the last two months. We have had some major life events on top of vacations and work trips. Anybody who reads this probably has already read my wife's blog and knows most of the stuff that has happened, but I will try to give my spin on things. I will probably break things up into separate posts just to make reading easier, and you won't have to sit here for 2 hours reading. I guess I will go with the big elephant in the room first.

WE HAVE ANOTHER IN THE OVEN! We are at 12 weeks and Lindsy and I got to hear the heartbeat on Tuesday. There is no more beautiful sound in the world. Well, a sleeping baby is a pretty good sound too, especially after they have been crying for 4 hours. We are super excited and very relieved as well after the loss of our prior attempt this past spring. Lindsy doesn't want to know the sex of the baby until delivery. That seems a little a little crazy to me, but I can live with it. Lindsy had a litte more nausea and sickness with this pregnancy, although she has gotten past most of that. She is handling things like a trooper as always. Be sure to check her blog for pictures and updates. Hopefully we haven't completely forgotten how babies work. I am sure it will all come rushing back as soon as we hear the screaming! HA! I am sure Kennedy will be a big helper too. In true male fashion, I do not know the exact due date, just that it is early April. I think.

Well, that is the first catch-up post. I will try to post another soon, although this will be another busy week of work and travel, as we are going to this weekend NC for K's birthday. The rest of my life is consumed with studying for the Professional Engineer's Licensure Exam coming up at the end of October. It is 8 hours of pain, agony, and suffering at which I am supposed to remember every detail I learned in college, and a little more.

Stay tuned for more exciting posts. New and Improved, with pictures!

Peace Out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mountain Bicycles

So, about the title of this post... My brothers-in-law... brother-in-laws... my wife's sisters' husbands (BIL) invited me to join them on their 2nd annual mt. biking trip. And I agreed, despite the fact that I have not ridden a bicycle since I was about 10, much less pedaled straight up and ridden straight down. But it involved camping, so I said yes like a giddy little school girl. The location of what was nearly my final resting place was Douthat State Park. Located in the mountains of Virginia just off of I-64, this lovely park has a little bit of everything; including an abundance of trails designed to maim and punish novice mt. bikers such as I. Here is a map of the trails, and below that, what they really looked like.

Yeah, that's right, straight up and down the sides of mountains. I have a lot of new found respect for people who can do this. Anybody who has seen me lately knows that intense physical activity is not my top priority, so I basically pushed a bike around alot that weekend.

So here is a rundown of the activities. Carl set up the whole thing and is a master planner. He got there on Wednesday and Kevin joined to have a day of "hardcore" riding before the newbies arrived. So Carl and Kevin rode Thursday. Steve got there on Friday afternoon and went for a ride with the guys. I didn't get there until about 9 on Friday night. Just barely in time to set up a tent before dark.

Here is a picture of our campsite. To the left is Carl's Taj-ma-tent. It is basically as big as my Master Bedroom. You can walk in and remain standing. Carl and Kevin lived it up in here with padded flooring, a fan mounted to the ceiling, a clothesline, and two cots. Steve and I slept on gravel. And I use the term "slept" lightly. But, at least it was shelter and it wasn't unbearably hot. I probably kept the wild animals away with my snoring.

Since it was a national holiday, we had to celebrate. I am, of course, talking about National Doughnut Day. So I brought along the food of honor.

Doughnuts go with everything, apparently even Miller Lite.

Saturday, we started with a nutritious, energy-packed breakfast. Grits, bacon, and eggs cooked in bacon grease. Carl is a master chef as well.

After the grease solidified in our arteries, we went for our first ride. After we pedaled up about a 1000 ft (and when I say pedaled, for me, that means pushed), we took a break, had a snack, drank some water, layed down, took some oxygen, started an IV drip... Here are some pictures on the way up...

So, although it was hard, and I failed miserably, it was fun and it made me sweat like an ice cube in the sun. The downhills were hard to navigate as well. Even my experienced BIL's had to push some downhills. Although, at one point, an old man flew past all of us around a hairpin turn while we walked and basically laughed at us and told us to pull up our panties. On the way down, I discovered something about myself that I didn't know about..... myself. That is, I have apparently lost any sense of balance that I may have once had as a younger me. On the way down, there were several areas that were tricky to say the least and I managed to mismanage one such area (OK, it was probably the easiest part of the downhill). I gently rode my bike off the bath and proceeded to steer it straight into a tree, subconsciously thinking it would stop my forward motion. I was subconsciously wrong. The tree merely deflected my forward motion. I then proceeded to flip off the bike and roll down the hill, head over heels. The bike followed me, bounding high over my head. When at last I came to rest, I was no worse for the wear, except for a gash on my shoulder. I was fresh out of the "Dorah the Explorer" band-aids I stole from Kennedy, so we stuffed some leaves, sap from special tree roots, and a various assortment of herbs in the gaping wound and it healed immediately.

It is still scabbed over, but I'm sure I will get a super macho scar out of it, and that is really all that matters.

That afternoon, most of us were pretty wiped out, so we went to the beach on the lake to relax a bit. We took turns riding around the lake in Carl's kayak and, being the engineering nerd I am, I took the opportunity to go look at the spillway for the dam holding the lake. It was pretty cool, there were two spillways with a wetland between the two and the faces of the spillways were fashioned out of stone blocks; not very common.

When we got back to camp, two “nature girls” working for the park dressed like girl scouts came by to show us some of the local wildlife. One girl had a garter snake they had just caught, and the other girl had a little bug magnifier case with a giant Carolina Wolf Spider in it. For those of us who are deathly afraid of Spiders; those of us who bolt straight up out of bed screaming because they are dreaming spiders are dropping on them from the ceiling fan; those of us who nearly fall down the stairs at work in front of the secretaries to avoid the tiny spec of dust in the air that could, in some universe, possibly resemble a spider hanging from the ceiling; for us, that was not good. I calmy asked her to please lie to me if she had to and tell me that she didn’t catch that here, meaning the park. She quickly replied with a smile not to worry. They caught it at the park office, not our campground. If I hadn’t started sweating and trembling, I might have punched her in the throat. For those who do not know what this spider looks like… here it is.

This is pretty close to life size.

That evening we just hung out and had BIL fellowship over a wonderful dinner of "walking tacos" and Reese's S'mores. MMMM..... The next morning, we had one more ride. Steve left a little early because he is a girl. Actually, his knee was jacked up pretty bad. As far as the ride goes, I was spent from the previous day. It wasn't as much of a climb (I still pushed most of it) and it was a much better ride down. I enjoyed it alot more. Kevin and Carl rocked it out, of course.

So here we are one last time.

It was a great weekend (although I felt like a little girl in a man's world) and I can't wait for next year!