UPS’s mailbox

I went to the UPS depot in Coralville to pick up a couple of packages they were holding for me, and as I drove into the parking lot, I noticed they had a little rural mailbox with the flag up.

So despite all of their technology and logistical resources they still rely on the US Postal Service to deliver their mail?

First impressions of Vegas

Coming into McCarran Airport, we flew very low over a mountain escapment, revealing the shiny city in all its nighttime decadence. From the plane I could see that there were very many hotels. A lot of them were right near the airport. Doesn’t the noise and air pollution make it less desireable to build there? Then again, these casinos don’t have a problem with light pollution, or gambling, wasting water, and so forth.

There are slot machines in the airport! I wanted to shout out to those playing them while waiting for their flight, “You people are freaks!”

Vegas is a SimCity. It looks like it took landmarks from all over the world and plopped them down on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Speaking of Las Vegas Boulevard, the traffic in the city is abominable. It’s a big, sprawling, new Sun Belt city, designed around the car. The only place people walk around is on The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), and the traffic just crawls down the street.

Vegas is disgustingly hot; the desert surrounding it shows just how uninhabitable the area really is. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day I was there; the seven-day forecast on the local news was all triple-digits. At Lake Mead, a lady told me this was a “cool spell”; they don’t talk about the heat until it gets over 105 degrees.

That’s nuts.

Adventures on Allegiant Airlines

On my flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Las Vegas, Nevada, the flight attendant said, “In the event of a water landing…” which struck me as funny because I didn’t expect to fly over any bodies of water large enough to land a jet in.

Allegiant Airlines flies from small-market airports to Las Vegas and Orlando. They sell drinks and snacks. The flight attendant was passing out menus, asking “Menu? Menu?” but under the noise of the jet engines, he sounded like a tree frog: “Mm-nn. Mm-nn.”

Leaving in a few

I’m leaving for the airport in about in an hour or so. I spent most of the day cleaning the apartment, as I am wont before a trip so I don’t have to come home to a mess.

I’m also waiting for UPS to deliver some hiking gear from Eastern Mountain Sports. The online tracking system says it supposed to be here today but they must be taking their time. That’s what I guess for ordering last minute. Bastards.

L.’s been in a bad mood this week and now she’s mad a me. Which is not how I want things to be seeing her for the first time in forever.

Packing again

I am making two trips in the next two weeks, both to Las Vegas. I’m finally going to see Lore tomorrow night after I get there. I’ll be there for the weekend (a very long weekend made possible by a scheduling quirk), back Monday for a week of work then back on vacation for two and a half weeks. I’ll be visiting Lore again, but also doing some traveling while she’s at work. I’d like to visit some of the parks within driving distance of Vegas.

I’ve been going through my camping gear and getting it ready to fly out tomorrow. Yee-haw!


It was only a matter of time before I got a ticket in Iowa City. Not only are the yellow lights very brief, but many of the main streets have speed limits of 25 mph–not a natural speed for such roads, I think. I usually drive about 35 mph on them and got caught doing so this morning on my way to work. The cop pulled me over. It was quick and businesslike. I was driving too fast and he ticketed me.

Actually I also have a $5 parking ticket from a couple of weeks ago; a failure to decipher the city’s parking regulations. But those don’t count–cost of doing business, right?

Harpers Ferry and Antietam

Here are photos from this week’s trip.

Back from West Virginia

Training at Harpers Ferry was great. I had fun, met a lot of nice people, and learned a lot.

Historic 19th century buildings on a hillside street.Harpers Ferry is a pretty little town. The old part is a National Historical Park. It looks very European, with stone and brick buildings built organically into the hillside and along the river. In addition to the historical park, the NPS has a training center in the old Storer College building. This week’s training was the fifth and final part of NPS Fundamentals program (last year in Grand Canyon was the second part).

Since the motel was in Bolivar, the town right above Harpers Ferry, I could walk to class and down the hill. I took pictures before and after class and during breaks, but I didn’t get to see inside most of the historic buildings.

A broad view of fields and farmland dotted with green trees against a gray sky.Most of the training was excerises in leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving, and the like. On Thursday, our class took a field trip to the nearby C&O Canal National Historical Park to discuss a recent controversial issue. We had some time at the end of the day to visit Antietam National Battlefield. On Friday our respective teams had a final project: a presentation addressing an issue facing the NPS and recommending a course of action. My team did an especially fine job presenting on partnerships.

I got back home around noon today. The airport in Cedar Rapids is so small and quiet compared to O’Hare and BWI. I was out the door–with my baggage claimed–in about ten minutes.


We’re continuing to prepare for this weekend’s event. In addition I have to prepare for being absent most of August.

I’m traveling again on Sunday, this time to West Virginia for a week of training. It’s a follow up to the NPS Fundamentals course I took in Arizona last year. Later in the month I’m taking a long vacation to use up some leave time.
I got out of the office for a while this morning. I did some flower identification in the prairie to prepare for my walk on Friday evening. Then I collected some pebbles for an activity I do during night walks. I’ll give a pebble to each visitor. They have to carry it in their hand. At the end of the walk, they have to put the pebbles in my hat. I mixe them up, then pass them around in the dark. They have to reunite with their pebble by feel. I works pretty well with about 10 or so people.

It’s amazing how much better I feel doing a part of my job I actually like.