This is the last of these for a little bit. Last year (2013), I changed a pattern. Normally, each year, I try to go somewhere new for vacation. I try to knock something off the ol’ “bucket list”.
The funny thing about the things I have scratched off the bucket list is that they are usually not as fun as I built them up in my head. “See Stonehenge” turned into “look at a bunch of bored bus and van drivers, see some big rocks, jog around the site quickly because the bus leaves in 45 minutes, and laugh at the Stonehenge hippies”. “See the Grand Canyon” turned into “get completely ripped off by a Native American tribe but have a couple cool pictures taken and a nice drive with a crazy friend” (she is “taking pictures of transmission line towers” crazy and not “let’s kill a hitchhiker” crazy). “See the Eiffel Tower” turned into “get yelled at by an asian tourist and walk down a lot of stairs to have some ice cream”. “Ride the LondonEye” turned into “oh, it is just a really expensive ferris wheel”. Last year, I scratched a different thing off the bucket list…”buy a house”. Turns out that is astonishingly expensive, so no vacation travel this year.
I did travel to some places for work that were new.
Beulah, ND- I stayed in this tiny town for five weeks. There were only two restaurants and one was terrible. I learned more about the people in that town than I know about my neighbors. I felt like I was in the movie “Groundhog Day”. I tried to enjoy myself, but there are only so many times you can walk through the golf course.
Bismark, ND- This town was not bad, but heaven help you if you want to drive more than three miles an hour. Apparently, people who have lived in this town love to sightsee. Now, I know what you are thinking, but the weather was sunny and awesome.
Craig, CO- Want to know what fun can be had in Craig, CO? Neither do the residents. Not a bad town, just not exciting.
Decker, MT- There is a mine in Decker, Montana. That is all. Now, I don’t mean “and stores and service stations”. I mean “hey kids, there’s the mine, now go to school and lose any hope of leaving this town as we teach you all about mining”.
Bairoil, WY- There is a small town outside a fracking (not Battlestar Gallactica slang) gas processing plant. The only thing I truly remember is that the site I was working at (not necessarily the processing plant) had electrical equipment firsts for my reports. Firsts like, “The electrical equipment had bootprints on it. This is not the proper method of inserting and withdrawing equipment.” and “Defective stickers from the last time we tested [nine years ago] were found attached to the equipment. The equipment is still defective”. My favorite problem was “A forklift or similar hit the switchgear since the last maintenance period [nine years ago]. Two square holes are punched completely through the switchgear and provide access for wildlife and weather/dust.” I get safety audits as a project manager. My safety officer wrote “We should never come back to this site” on my safety audit. I actually got talked to by superiors because I did not have the crew leave the site earlier. I didn’t get in trouble for this, I was just reminded that I had the power to make that call. Unlike Beulah, Decker, or Craig, the Bairoil locals seem to feel that outside contractors are “stealing” jobs. I agree with the locals. I mean, sure, you can barely drive a forklift in a straight line and not hit the 4000 Volt switchgear and my job required three years of schooling and then another three years of on-the job training to be a beginner. I am certain we are both equally qualified (by the way, I have driven a forklift. I learned most of the task in about 4 hours). Other towns had people that were reasonably friendly, a bit boring perhaps (sir, I truly don’t care to learn how you clean your laundry). This town did it’s best to make people feel unwelcome (“Here is your oatmeal” “I ordered a hamburger” “Well, that is what I wrote down, it’ll be at least an hour for your hamburger”).
The one thing that always struck me as I stayed in these small towns was that there are waaaaay more men than women in these towns. This leads to the question, “How does a town with fewer women than men stay a town for more than a generation?” The only answer I could come up with was ,”Hmm, no auto repair shop in town. Apparently, if you break down here, you stay here.”
I am the opposite of a travel agent.