Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Trip

I haven’t updated for a while because I have been crazy busy. My wife and I are currently on a three and a half week trip. We have gotten to see and do some amazing things. We are taking classes in Colorado Springs through the Space Foundation. We have finished up one week of class that was about the Biology of Space Travel. For the class we learned soooo much that I will have to go through my notes to remember it all. A couple of the highlights were riding the Barany Chair. This is a chair that spins really smoothly. They block out all other senses – so basically you wear a blindfold and ear muffs. You have to show which way you think you are spinning. I started out correct and then at some point while I was still spinning I felt like I was stopped, then I felt like I started spinning the other way. Then the teacher stopped me from spinning and I still felt like I was going. It was over 30 seconds before I felt like I was stopped. It was really an odd sensation. It has to do with the inner ear and how it senses directions. Kind of cool because it really made the microgravity flight and what I was feeling make more sense. During class we also designed space suits – of which I was my teams model – build glove boxes like they use in space and designed plant grown chambers. I also go some cinnamon basil seeds that flew with Barbara Morgan on STS-118. I can’t wait to get them home and start growing them.

Me riding the Barany Chair

After class got done on Friday we drove south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had never been there before but it was a pretty city. While there we went to the zoo. It was pretty cool with lots of animals that were on display in a way that made them pretty easy to see. Our next stop was really cool. We went to Meteor Crater in Arizona. This is the best preserved meteor impact site on the planet. It is a hole a mile across and 570 feet straight down. This is where NASA trained the Apollo astronauts on what to look for when they got to the moon. We took a tour that took us a half mile around the crater. It was really impressive. Apparently you can take a magnet and go through the dirt and pick up pieces of the original meteorite that were vaporized and re-solidified into little balls.

Standing at Meteor Crater in Arizona

After leaving Meteor Crater we took off for the Grand Canyon. I had never been there before. We were trying to make it by sunset. We missed it by about 10 minutes. When we first walked toward the edge (Note: I do NOT like heights so for most of this trip I was really pushing myself and getting outside my comfort zone. It took a while but I ended up on a trail that was right at the edge and dropped over a mile into the canyon.) My first impression of the Grand Canyon was that it honestly looked fake. It was so big/enormous/huge/massive that at first I couldn’t comprehend how big it was. We stayed about a half mile from the canyon at Yavapai Lodge. If you have a chance to go to the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend it. The night we got there it happened to be the night of a star party. This is where amature astronomers bring out their telescopes and let people look though them. We saw several different galaxies, and Jupiter. We could see the bands of Jupiter and four of the moons. The next day we spent most of the day at the Grand Canyon. We took a bus ride that dropped us off at several points where you could walk out onto cliffs that were dangling by a thread over the canyon. Seriously, who looks at the Grand Canyon and says to themselves, “you know I think we should put a trail out on that 2 foot wide rock but lets leave the guard rails off. “ Apparently the National Parks Service. Still, the park was beautiful and I am still impressed with the magnitude of the Canyon. I would go back in a second.

My wife and I at the Grand Canyon. This is about as close as I got to the edge.

Yesterday we drove to Phoenix, Arizona to go to the zoo (my wife loves zoos and I drag her to all kinds of historical and scientific places – battlefields, meteor crater, petrified forest, Hoover Dam, etc. – that the least I can do is go to a zoo occasionally.) This one just about killed us. We got there at 9:00 and the temperature was over 100 degrees. Even the giraffes were laying down. Snakes were going, “man is it hot!” Coolest thing at that zoo were the turtles. I counted over 40 turtles in a little pond that you walked over to get into the zoo. That night we went to an Arizona Diamondbacks game. It was way cool. I played baseball in college and love going to games. I tried out for 20+ major and minor league teams when I was in college so I really enjoy seeing other ballparks and how they do things, especially now that I work for the Royals occasionally. We got hooked up with some free tickets and a personal tour of the field. They have an amazing facility. The prices are pretty reasonable (I got a hat and T-shirt for $15). They even had sushi (I passed) and Chinese food. The Diamondbacks won and we had a great time at the game. Thanks Casey!

Today we are on our way to Las Vegas. We will be there for a few days over the 4th of July. Right now I am in the car typing this. My wife is driving and we are about 40 miles from going over the Hoover Dam. I really want to see it and later this week we will be coming back to take the tour. A cool side note about the desert. Right now I am watching 4 dust devils work their way across the desert. Kind of weird coming from tornado alley, the instinct is to go dive into a ditch but they are kind of cool to watch. After I take the tour of the dam, I will post more.

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