Saturday started with a groggy feeling. I had agreed to go on a hike today with Terra, out to a place called White Bluffs. That meant meeting Ed at about 8:30 this morning by the office in the centre of the complex. I think that Ed was a little worse for wear than I was though! We headed down to the strip mall where AT&T is, where we had planned to meet whoever else might be coming.
Whilst Ed went in search of a hat to cover his head from the sun, I went in to Starbucks and got some sweet, sweet coffee. T texted ahead to say she would be late, and that it might just be the three of us, and Jamie. Either way, a walk is a walk. We gathered in the Starbucks, one by one, and all sat with a coffee, a pastry and our heads in our hands. Once Jamie was done, we all piled into his car and made our way north to the White Bluffs. We passed mostly through farmlands on the way there. Long straight roads.
We arrived about 45 minutes later, after one or two wrong turns, and unenthusiastically left the car for the cold morning air. The White Bluffs are north, next ot the Columbia River, just across from the site that used to be Hanford town, before it was knocked down to make room for the Hanford plants. All except the school building, the only concrete structure in the town.
We started walking up towards the bluffs along the gravel road, and continued for about ten or fifteen minutes before turning off the beaten track to head upwards. The soil here was more like a compacted sand, but was so loose underfoot that, when walking up a steep side, you could just make your own footing. The bluffs were sort of tiered, topping the first layer only revealed more up above. At the top of each layer though, there were shelves of green grass. It was a little strange to see.
At the top of the second tier, instead of a shelf right there, it was down below us a little – a rich, vast meadow in the middle of the desert, built up at the sides. T bolted downwards. Ed carefully made his way down, Jamie confidently descended, and I sort of clung to the side and inched uneasily towards the bowl. Still on the side, I could hear clearly the conversation that the others were having as though they were right next to me. The still air, the silence of the bluffs and the natural amphitheatre were really quite a combination.
The grass was a nice break, and we stopped for water before heading up the third tier. This time, it was a little steeper, a little softer underfoot, and exhausting. But it was the last layer. At the top, we stopped for water and to admire the view over the river. Carrying on behind us was a small rise. Ed and I explored that direction to see what lay that way. On the other side, we could see a whole load of specks in the desert – all old nuclear plants, now decommissioned. Ed told me about how he had visited them once, and how they would have worked without computer controls, no event logging, and no sort of digital readout. It sounded like a job to plan and build, and certainly stressful to work in. Over the river, looking back where we walked, we could see the roads that used to define Hanford, and off in the distance, we could see the vitrification plant – a big block on the desert, trying to redefine the area. We could (well, not me, I’m kinda blind) see one of the LIGO end stations too (X-arm). I couldn’t see, but I had hoped that my camera could do a better job. By now, the day had warmed up, and the sky was all blue, and reflected in the deep blue of the river.
After fifteen minutes of rest, we headed along the top of the bluffs. There was a track skirting the top, and we just walked. It wasn’t exactly clear as to how, or where we were going to get back down, but that was a worry for later. The rocks up here that cropped out of the side were not stable at all. We stayed well away. I used this chance to catch up and chat with Ed, which was nice. He’s a lovely guy. We carried along the top of the bluffs for about half an hour before deciding that we needed to get down.
The sides were pretty steep, and now the soft sand only served to loosen the footing. Slowly, we all made it down to the basin on the second tier, where we found a slightly more shallow path down.
Back at the car, we just all piled in and tired and hot, we sat quietly as Jamie took us all home. It emerged, though, that TJ, one of the operators at LHO was having an Easter beer hunt – each person brings a 6-pack of beer and hides them around. Then, everyone runs around and picks up beers they find that others hid to fill their 6-pack back up, followed by a barbecue. That was on my to do list for the afternoon.
Back in Richland, we all got dropped off at the car park. Terra gave me a lift as far as a bike shop in town that I’d been eyeing up. I inquired about a used bike, so that I could ride it into LIGO, then ride to and from the arms, without having to hassle others for a ride. They had a bike for $150, but my bank was awaiting an injection of dollars, so I had to leave it for the day, and walked home. Terra, Ed and Jamie had all headed back to the site for the afternoon while I was making my way home, so I used my afternoon to chill. Shower, food and make in roads about getting a lift to TJs this afterrnoon.
At some point, I got a call from Vinny, quite out of the blue. He said that he had lost something, and asked me to look for it in his room once I could get into his apartment. Before long, Nutsinee came by to take me over to TJ’s. There, TJ’s we arrived late for the hunt and the barbecue, but there was still food left. Everyone had settled into board games – and TJ and Christine had more than just a couple! We started off by playing Pirate Munchkin, the game of munchkin with a pirate theme. It was confusing, and it took an injection of Christine, a seasoned player, to really get the game moving.
At some point during that game, Ed excused himself to pick Tega up from the airport. Tega was Ed’s postdoc at Sheffield, who is going to be moving in with me, and staying until June. We carried on playing in Ed’s absence, substituting somebody in his place. After that game was won, we started watching the other table playing Observe!, the LIGO game created by Jamie. It’s a long game, and it’s still in beta, but it looked playable. And ultimately enjoyable. TJ had one of those Amazon Alexa devices, that responds to voice commands. It proved good for entertainment during the evening, but I still think they’re a little creepy.
Then, at last, we moved on to Quelf, described as the awkward game. I will always remember Jeff playing the one eyed mime, trapped in an invisible box with two feral weasels. It was a very fun game, and we didn’t finish until about 1am. Ross and I both got a lift back from Nutsinee, and went back to our own apartments.
Thanksfully, Sunday was a much shorter day. Joe couldn’t skype, because he was with his family for Easter Sunday. Instead, I stayed in bed until about 10am, before heading out to breakfast with Nutsinee. At JD’s Diner in West Richland. I had waffles, se had grits. I tried grits. I do not like grits. I stuck with my waffles. Then, we visited the neighbouring town of Prosser. It was only about 30 minutes away, and a pretty drive, especially on the return journey.
I maintain that I am not a good photographer.
When we got back to Richland, Nutsinee wanted to head to the Caterpillar Cafe to study, and I fancied that. We stopped by the apartment to grab my laptop, and grabbed Hang in the process. Then, off to Nutsinee’s to grab her things.
We were at the cafe all afternoon. I used the time to write the blog, the others studied.Time passed, wavy lines, doobly doo music. At about 6, we jumped in the car and went for dinner at the chinese place down the road, and headed back to the cafe.
At about 8, Nutsinee dropped Hang and I back home to call it a day. At home, we got a chance to talk to our new housemate, Tega. He seems like a really nice guy. I guess you’ll read more on him over time.
Not all days have to be exciting.