Best to check out the website to the right if you want a more comprehensive rundown of the event but I will certainly enjoy giving you the highlights here. Saturday morning starts with a prologue time trial up Mars Hill which ends at the Lowell Observatory. (A time trial is where riders are sent off individually every few minutes.) I've never ridden this short stretch of road but most riders would describe it as "intensely painful." The strongest climbers will complete the hill in about two minutes but most people are well off that pace. For many riders this is the first time they have really pushed themselves in the seven-thousand foot altitude this year and I heard more than a few athletes say that the steep hill and thin air affected them well into the next stages of the race.
While I didn't have anything to do with the prologue up Mars Hill I was privileged enough to help set up the second stage that occurred on Saturday; the downtown criterion. (Roughly a "crit" is a loop that is less than one mile each lap. Riders go off in their respective categories (women, men, youth broken down into skill levels) and ride the circuit for a set number of minutes anywhere from about fifteen minutes up to forty minutes for the men's Category One and Two. If the leaders lap you then you get dropped and get your sorry butt off the course.) So, this downtown crit was just over half a mile and TC really pulled a rabbit out on this one. M0st of downtown Flag had to be shut down and the permit process took six months to complete. This portion of the event was arguably the most successful and highly noticed race that Flag Biking Org has ever put on. There were people all over the place, most businesses were booming downtown and people were wandering over from an art fair that was down in Wheeler Park. I actually don't have words to describe how great it was. . . it's the sort of thing that Flagstaff needs more often and the city will be crazy to deny the permit for next year.
Sunday brought another brilliant stage on the NAU campus. The course was a loop about two and a half miles long which means it is titled a circuit race instead of a crit. Once again riders compete within their specific categories. There were about eight different categories. Unfortunately, the roads weren't closed to traffic so that made volunteers very important for traffic control and there were also five NAUPD or FPD at different corners to keep people moving. Funny, the speed limit on most of the NAU campus is fifteen miles an hour but some of these riders were traveling AT LEAST twice that fast on the flat and downhill portions of the course. My role was to help organize volunteers and generally act as a runner over the whole course in case someone was injured or needed help in some way. This stage didn't draw nearly as many people as the downtown crit but it's understandable because of the location and longer course length.
The last stage is actually the easiest in terms of planning and volunteer coordination. A road race with three different lengths depending on what category you race. The longest route is eighty-four miles. The race started at Upper Lake Mary and turned around way out at Clint's Well to head right back pat Lake Mary. There is a little up and down to the race but TC truly showed his most devious side when he conceived (or just approved, I don't know) the ending to the race. The riders must make a right turn off the main highway and finish the course with a two mile climb (similar to Mars Hill) up to Marshall Lake. An ending like this makes a big difference for the racers and truly the race was decided in that last climb.
Unfortunately, I am usually not working at the finish line and I don't really keep track of who is winning unless I happen to know who they are (highly unlikely) but if you want to see the results you can find them on the race website. Also the team that FBO is most highly linked to is Summit Velo which has the majority of it's members down in Tucson with the remainder up in Flag.
Well this was probably pretty disjointed. . . I gotta admit that I'm a little tired after the drive from FLG to PHX and the flight from PHX to FLL. It seems my life has been reduced to a bunch of acronyms. I guess it could be worse, my life could be reduced to a bunch of limericks and haikus.
Flickr is down at the moment but I'll get pictures posted soon. . . and maybe a video posted on YouTube of a guy who crashed on a corner during the downtown crit.
On to better and weirder. I present to you the heavily armed octopus!
I must admit that I'm not really sure what's going on in this photo, even though I took it only yesterday. This fine display of beast adapting to man's ways is on display outside the maritime museum outside of Penmarc'h, France. I really don't even know what else to say about it. The word "silly" comes to my mind for the first time in quite a while.
Onto the travel! Looking forward to some classic travel fun tomorrow. It took my buddy KB three tries just to get out of Brest last week. Brest to Paris is a one-point-five hour commuter flight, People! and it nearly wrecked him. Similarly, BB's initial flight was Tuesday morning but the brakes were apparently not working on his plane in Paris so he ended up getting home on Friday. . . and don't forget that these flights are going backwards in time, not forwards. SO! What will be my travel fate tomorrow? Will the gods shine their favor upon me and cause me only to worry about the lack of legroom on the plane? ? ? or will I be doomed to suffer through the French for another week?
Well, that's it. Probably my last post from France. I'm sure I'll have something to bitch about after the flight home so until then. . . just keep rememberin' the good times.
Drove quite a bit today. . . my last free day in France. Drove South again to a different peninsula that I haven't been to yet. Found some interesting points on the water and did a few things but as usual the weather was a bit of a downer and to be honest I'm gettin' pretty tired of just being here. One more day of work tomorrow and then I fly back to Miami. Already have a sushi dinner planned out with my roommate. Can't wait to have sushi again. But I've got two more possible dinners here so I suppose I should make the best of 'em.
Caught the FA Cup match yesterday between Manchester United and Chelsea. Match ended in a 0-0 tie but in the second overtime period Chelsea ended the scoring drought with a nice give and go lead by Drogba. Not my favorite player but it was a clean goal and a helluva way to end a good match. Lookin' forward to getting home and catching a baseball game and maybe the end of the NBA playoffs. Though I'll probably only be able to stand a few minutes of it cause I'll be yelling at the screen the whole time. "Travel, travel. Foul, palming, travel, you suck!" Or something like that. Maybe I'll have to do a little research on Euro teams and just pick one to follow. Maybe somebody well known but not at the top. That'd be like looking at baseball and choosing to root for the Yankees. Can't believe I just soiled my blog with that name. Go A's.
I suppose I'll stop procrastinating now. I still have a few manifests and other paperwork to get finished. Tomorrow will be busy enough without me being unprepared. Jebus, it's like I was a Boy Scout or something. Oh yeah, managed to lose my old Cali cell phone. Okay, maybe it got stolen onboard the cruise ship but I doubt anyone would be dumb enough to steal a phone that doesn't work overseas. If it doesn't turn up I may be in a slightly bad way in terms of phone numbers. Might have to send out another choice mass email asking people for their info. Don't you just love those?
Off to pretend that I'm productive.
That wasn't so bad but the next one may put people off their lunch a little.
Thanks a lot, Uncle Lee. That's all I needed. . . to be uglier.
On a better looking note the Real Gnome done went and created a little Gnomie Jr. of his own. Congrats to Ang and Dave on their new baby boy. I can't wait to see him Memorial Day weekend. www.onespeeder.com
Well, it's my last weekend in France. I've got a little work to do on Monday but I'm free today and tomorrow. Probably gonna take a drive down to Penmarc'h and maybe back up through Pointe Du Raz. . . see if I can get some quality pics of light houses and whatnot. I might call one of riggers who worked for me tonight cause his family owns a couple of restaurants and a bar. He's about my age but has a girlfriend and a kid and another one on the way. Quite the opposite of me in that regard. I don't even have a dog. Hell, I don't even have a houseplant.
Last interesting tidbit for the day; I couldn't get some of the containers shipped yesterday cause they found a WWII bomb in the harbor and they are taking it further out to detonate it today. The Germans used Brest as a U-boat station during the war and I guess the Brits and Americans bombed everything so thoroughly that they still find undetonated ordinance every once in a while. Fun.
The Constellation pulled away early this morning. I last wrote on Tuesday and now it's Friday. Can anyone guess what the days in between were like? Believe me though when I say that I'm not complaining but rather just trying to truly appreciate how nice it is not to have the weight of a hundred-thousand tonnes of cruise ship on my shoulders. 'Cause you know, I ran the engines, the hotel, the dock, the bridge, the galleys. . .EVERYTHING!
Okay, my part is only a little one but it's a little more integral that the hotel replacing duvets that are only 2 years old or carpet that's newer than that. Hell, I think my old mattress was more comfortable than the new one! Irony (said in a sing-song voice).
As I get a few more pictures uploaded I'll try to tell more stories from the last month for you logistics junkies but as of right now I have reverse and tangential logistics to worry about. Gotta get five containers back to Miami, one to Copenhagen and one to Denmark. And of course the one for Copenhagen isn't packed yet, so there goes the afternoon. Then I need to get three pallets to Norway, five pallets to Sweden, one pallet to Germany and two pallets to the Millennium when she comes in to Barcelona. Now if I could just figure out a way to deliver all those pallets myself and spend a few days in each place after delivery. All in favor of me becoming a truck driver in Europe say, "Aye-aye!"
Must still be a little loopy. Had a decent time last night after a fairly good day of work. Ended up at one of the bars on the ship with a VP, the hotel director, the project manager for the new gift shops, the lead project manager for new build operations and some high-up cat in Environmental and Safety. Nothing better than finally being able to let down your working guard a little bit. Of course we still talked about work but we all felt pretty good about the job we had just finished on the Constellation so we were able to vocalize manure about other jobs we had been on.
I suppose these things ain't gonna ship themselves. Paperwork abounds and I am bound by it. . . for the moment.
Unfortunately, the material was a little too sensitive to use the claw in this picture. . . that was reserved for the old mattresses.
I can't tell you how many boxes there were of sheets and duvets and bed covers and pillow cases and sheets and sheets and sheets. As my father would undoubtedly say, "A sheetload of sheets." Pretty impressive that they could do it and pretty unimpressive that I couldn't get a single one of those containers up to the top deck where the unloading would be easier. I'm gonna go ahead and blame the wind but we all know that a first rate logistics manager would have figured out a way.
In other news I scored three free beers on the pier today. I was rewarded in true truck-driver fashion by two different truck drivers. The first driver who ponied up the suds was the last truck of linen for the day and there was some serious question as to whether or not we were going to get him unloaded in a timely fashion. His paperwork was stuck in customs with the agent and I had about a hundred guys for the unloading waiting inside a spare forty-foot container during a decent rainstorm. I'm not kidding, unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me today but there was an empty container right next to the truck we were waiting to discharge so BB had the idea to open it up and let the guys wait inside. Awesome idea, crazy result. Literally one-hundred guys waiting inside a forty-footer. Strange days.
So, point is that customs clearance came through just in time and the housekeeping crew rocked the virtual Casbah and had that bad boy unloaded in less than an hour. Truck driver was so happy he stopped me in the driving rain before he pulled away and planted two cans of Grolsch into my hands. Sah-wheat.
Last beer was scored from an Italian trucker who arrived after five o'clock with mattresses. . . yup, mattresses. Anyway, we initially told him he wouldn't be discharged till tomorrow morning but pity was taken and we found a few extra guys to offload him. Some dirt, a good sweat and two empty (now full) containers later and we had one happy trucker on our hands. . . I dunn gone and gots me a Birra Meroni for that one. The Grolsch was warm but the Meroni was cold and it was the last stitch of real work I did today. It's the little things, ya know?
Guess I'm leading up to the inevitable statement of, "Boo-hoo. Woe is me. I'm tired and want to go to bed." But I ain't singin' no drinkin' song from "Jaws" and I'd really rather be up and kickin'. Too bad I have to be responsible for a while longer. Million things more to write but my eyes tell me that this is probably getting too long for my limited readers. Not that my readers are limited. . . except in number.
Time for a Grolsch. Cheers.
And now it's time to fall off my soapbox and use the contents to shower instead of holding up my ego.
Today is Sunday. I can't say that it's been a rough day as far as work is concerned but just being around the same people in such close quarters for so many days is starting to get a little old. Need to spice things up a bit so I might head into town tonight and see if I can magically catch the Warriors playoff game. Doubt it'll happen but a man can dream and I've heard of this new device called a Sat&Light that is supposed to be able to pull images from the air and put them on any tv on Earth. Crazy. Now how do you say, "Golden State Warriors Basketball Rules, " in French.
And now that I've typed all that I just looked up the time of the game and Six O'Clock PM in Utah is about Two O'Clock AM here. . . so maybe I'll just check the score when I get up in the morning. How does that sound? Good? Good. Bon (good in French).
Actually at this point I'm already forgetting about learning more French and thinking about my German. . . or lack thereof. The next scheduled dry-dockings are in Hamburg next fall. Similar situation to what I'm in now with two ships going into the same dock, one right after the other and having similar work done. I doubt I'll be there the whole time for that those two but it has occurred to me to take a beginning German class this summer (if I can find one amongst the Spanish classes in Miami) and try to make myself a serious asset on the next dry-dock. Just a thought.
Well, there's quite a few more thoughts up there rattling around but most of them probably ain't worth the grey matter they take up. Irregardlessly, I should probably go have a shower and a beer to try to eliminate some of those rattles. Maybe I'll try ringin' the ol' madre to wish her a happy Mother's Day first. For those of you who haven't already done so I strongly recommend it. . . cause even if you don't love it, she will. Damn, jumped right back up on that box again and didn't even notice.
To answer a little quote from Family Guy that only a few people will get. . . . . . ."Yes, it is lonely up here on my pedastal."
Pretty decent day today. Still a lot of wind but got plenty done. Gonna be in a bad way come Tuesday though. "They" are trying to shove the remaining mattresses down our throats on the same day that we're receiving the five containers with linen. Poor hotel people will be carrying cloth all day long. Sort of have a day off tomorrow. Get to sleep in and then all I have to do is review my exit strategy for the end of this availability and make a list of what is going to need to be shipped where.
Thinking about taking a drive somewhere. . . we'll see. As of right now I'm still planning on staying the weekend after the ship leaves next Friday so I'll have plenty of time to go somewhere. Might hit up Le Havre cause mi madre says that's where some of our great-great-great-somethin'-or-others departed from when they left Germany and came to the states. Could do Paris but it's about a six hour drive.
Ended the rigger's workday by splitting a case of beer with them, the crane op, BB, assistant superintendent engineer, Fred and a few other randumbs. I ended the work day a little early for the riggers and crane op and we all just sat around right on the pier drinking beer. Briefly reminded me of that scene in Shawshank Redemption when they're drinking beer on that roof and are able to forget they are imprisoned men. Thankfully my cabin is a little nicer than a prison cell at the end of the day. . . but I did say it was just a brief feeling.
Looks like I'm staying in tonight. Read a little, maybe watch a flick. It'll be reeeaaaaallllll nice to sleep in tomorrow. If I were more dedicated to this whole web 2.0 thang I'd stay here in the conference room uploading photos onto Flickr. It ain't gonna happen.
KB says murrr.
Fred is a typical French guy, near as I can tell. Without Fred my time here would have been much more difficult. Case in point, in the picture here Fred is standing next to what? You guessed it, Admiral mattresses. This picture was taken when he and I were moving about two hundred of these delightful beauties within the warehouse because the roof had started leaking right above the middle of the pile. Don't think I've shared this story yet but trust me, that's water at Fred's feet.
Today provided the strongest and most constant winds. Thankfully not too much rain, but the wind made up for the lack of the other. Won't bore people today.
This picture is actually from the Millennium but the ships are almost identical so it don't much really matter, I s'pose.
Tired. Rainy and windy today with a chance of hard work. My pretty white coveralls have become a color somewhat darker and everything from my waist down is still drenched. Have I mentioned that the "uniform" for drydocks is either white or blue Celebrity coveralls? I look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man in my whites. Suppose I should go take a shower or something sensible like that.
Just wanted to do something a little dumb, so I did. Bought a plane ticket to Flagstaff for Memorial Day weekend. Last year I was there at the same time because the Summit Center Classic is that weekend. Four stage road bike race in various parts of Northern Arizona. Good times. Anyway, the race director is my old college roommate so hopefully I'll be able to help out. Anyway, get back from France on Tuesday, leave for Arizona on Friday. . . culture shock here I come.
Got another semi-unexpected truckload of mattresses today. The eighth. We've now got a thousand mattresses on board and another six hundred still in the warehouse. Also loaded about forty rolls of carpet today. . . and it's a good thing we did them two at a time like Noah and that ark because it was lookin' to rain so hard we would have had to get back on the ship to survive.
Tomorrow morning the yard is doing another interesting steel project. Lifting eight new crew cabins onto the bow in one fell swoop. Gonna be a pretty big piece of steel up in the air. Try to have pictures at some point but as usual the connection here probably won't allow it.
Off for shower, dinner, beer. . . yes, in that order.
There are quite a few objects, items, equipment, materials and supplies that are difficult to get on board cruise ships. Every item has a solution if there is enough time and a little bit of translation from English to French.
20' Containers (like the one being loaded into a truck in the picture). These are the handiest items around. Subcontractors like to build workshops in them and then pack them full of materials which makes them high priority moves when the ship first gets dry. There were two boxes already here at the shipyard waiting to go up for USS (www.uss-us.com) which is a contractor installing a new AWP (Advanced Wastewater Purification) system.
The first two boxes were no problem. Deck eleven, port side, facing each other so the guy who runs 'em can build a little roof between the two and have a pretty good sized workshop. The fun ones were the boxes that needed to be landed on the bow. This class of vessel has a heli-deck on the most forward part of the bow and it's only rated to handle four and a half tons. Another sub (MSP) is installing new crew cabins on the bow just aft of the helo deck. Their 20' container weighed over three tons so that pretty much maxed out the bow. Enter Sea Level Marine. These subs are refurbing the gift shops and also have a container that needs to be onboard.
You know, I just read this and realized that it's crap. Guess I'm not a good story teller at all. I'll try to shorten things up.
Right now there are four 20' containers on deck eleven, port side and one container on the heli-deck on the bow. There is another 20' container on it's way that will need to be unloaded (swap out one of the boxes on deck eleven for a time) and one more container (currently lost in the stellar shipping system we use) that has gym equipment in it. This will have to be dropped on the pool deck (deck ten) AFTER the new Bolidt flooring is done drying. This class of ship is made so that deck eleven is only a partial deck and open in the middle where the swimming pools are so that loads can be dropped over deck eleven down onto deck ten. Most cruise ships have a similar setup somewhere on the top decks.
If you've never heard of Bolidt you should take a look at it. It is a synthetic flooring system that is poured onto the existing deck and cures almost completely smooth. Then they cut lines into the deck which are filled with a black grout-like substance and sand the whole thing so it looks like teak decking. Pretty slick, needs re-sanding in five years and is expensive as hell. (www.bolidt.com)
The mattresses. Not sure where I left off with these. There are two-thousand mattresses (unknown to everyone until just before they started showing up). Right now we have eight hundred on the ship, six hundred in a warehouse about a mile away and six hundred (hopefully) still waiting in Italy. The reason I insert hopefully is because I am trying to halt the last six hundred in Italy. Worked it out with the hotel director that they will be trucked to Helsinki in June and put on board when the ship comes through that port. Score one for me. The eight hundred that are on board got there with those magical 20' containers. Rented two containers, got support from the hotel side on the ship and on the pier, load the containers with new mattresses on the pier and throw 'em up on deck eleven where a conga line of hotel workers unloads the new and backloads the old. Drop container number one and load number two, reverse process on the pier and repeat. Probably took less than four hours to do the eight hundred but it completely ties up the crane cause it's easiest to leave the box hooked up on deck eleven while they are unloading and backloading.
The six hundred in the warehouse will require a little extra coordination. Need to hire local stevedores to load the mattresses into trucks at the warehouse because ship's crew can't work that far away from the vessel. Stevedores load the new onto trucks which drive to the shipyard, which are then unloaded by ship's personnel and put onboard in the previously explained manner. A fifty-three foot trailer takes two hundred and two mattresses so we'll need three trailers. Hoping to move them all in one day to save on the cost of the stevedores. Will probably cost around three thousand Euros for an eight hour shift of the stevedores.
Gonna have to split this post up cause I still have to tell you how we load all the materials for the new AWP system (aside from the container on deck eleven) and maybe I'll tell you how we're going to get five truckloads of food stores onto the ship on the tenth.
If this post were any drier it'd be jerky.
This last weekend I did get a little more time to enjoy myself and there were interesting goings on as well. I was privy to a seafood dinner that would have made Poseidon weep, taught BB cribbage and played some pretty good games, possibly enjoyed a tasty beverage derived from grapes and/or barley, was awakened by a rather soothing fire alarm at four am and caught some nice views along the coast to the West and North of Brest.
So the Constellation came into dock this morning at seven am. She's still in the water but they're finally settling her on the blocks and she should be dry by three am. Unfortunately, it was a holiday here in France so I achieved a lot less than I should have on the logistics end. . . but it was foreseen by all. Wish I could think of something interesting to write but all my thoughts seem to revolve around PO numbers, gnomes, target arrival dates and the joy of finally getting a good cabin on the ship.
'Suppose I should mention that I made friends early with the Hotel Director and secured myself a cabin on Deck Eight this time, as opposed to Deck Two on the Millennium. Balcony and all, baby. Sah-wheat. I'm off to enjoy it a bit.