Home on the Range

Trip Start Dec 28, 2006
1
15
Trip End Mar 01, 2007


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Flag of United States  , Iowa
Thursday, March 1, 2007

We arrived at four in the morning to a house without electricity; freezing rain covered everything in Iowa with more than an inch of ice before a violent windstorm came through and knocked out power to most of the state.  The weight of the ice coupled with the ferocious wind was enough to snap thousands of telephone poles like raw spaghetti.  Dad found an old generator in the barn and managed to rig it to the power take-off on his tractor.  Running the tractor on idle power provided electricity to the house at the cost of roughly one quart of diesel fuel per hour during the day; he would shut it down to conserve fuel at night.

Meanwhile, everything was still covered in more than an inch of solid ice.  Dozens of tree branches, unable to hold the weight, had snapped during the windstorm and now lay scattered around the farm.  Peter worked to round up the tree branches while I assisted dad in clearing the driveway of ice.  It was so dense and solid to the ground that before I could scoop it away with the snow shovel dad had to first break it up with a spade.  The process took several hours to clear a relatively small area of concrete, but at last on the second day of chopping and scooping the ice was moved to disorganized piles of off-white bricks.

All in all the power was off for about a week, the wind kept blowing, and the snow kept falling...we were back in Iowa.  Peter, now, was concerned with the purchase of a pickup that he could rely on to bring him back south to Louisiana.  He needs to arrive in Lafayette in time to interview for two jobs: controlling machinery in the manufacture of parts for oil rigs in a mechanical engineering company, and alternatively a case-worker position at a non-profit homeless shelter.  It sounds as though he prefers to accept a much lower salary and work at the homeless shelter, both for moral reasons and as a resume builder. 

Personally, I have accepted an appointment to intern at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee starting March 12th and ending in August.  I will be assisting in plant genomics research, basically extracting and reacting DNA to figure out which mapped genes control carbon sequestration.  What that means is this: we all know that plants, trees in this case, take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen while animals do the opposite.  The rapidly increasing levels of carbon dioxide promise to wreak havoc on the environment and global climate, so, quite simply, we need to think of ways to start taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (because, for some reason, our culture refuses to cut down on CO2 production).  The trees I will be working with quite possibly can help us understand how they sequester carbon and give us some ideas about how to reverse its buildup in the atmosphere.

Our trip lasted from December 16th (when we both graduated) to February 27th (when we returned to Iowa), we traveled 7,175 miles in the Silver Bullet (not counting Pete's round trip between Louisiana and Iowa and my flights to IL and Boston), included three oil changes, three new tires, hundreds of gallons of gas, we visited about every friend and family member we know out west, skied on two mountain ranges, gambled in a dozen casinos, partied with a professional poker player, hiked mountains, slept on beaches (and I saw two oceans), narrowly escaped with our lives from a mooing bear farm, visited the Hoover Dam, saw our mom defy death a third time on the operating table, invented a new drinking game (Counterclockwise) and a new ball game (Rickets), tasted the Great Salt Lake, visited eight campuses, reunited with long-lost relatives (okay, not so long-lost, but they are awesome), did the flag pole in San Francisco, met all sorts of hippies (young and old), drove up the northern California coast (a favorite time for both of us, btw), cooked soup and rice on driftwood fires, bowled to our hearts content, slept in a shack built on the beach by "some hippies", met the most talented Spanish guitar player in the world, played every Nintendo console ever concieved, drank all of Microsoft's hot chocolate and cranberry juice, sang karaoke like superstars, played jokes on all sorts of unsuspecting people, took part in every drinking game imaginable, floored the Silver Bullet at 40mph up mountain passes, forged a path in a foot of highway snow, ate some of said snow, slept on couches, slept in the car, slept on the ground, met new people, made new friends, fried our brains, drowned our livers, drove all day and night, rode a carousel like we never could when we were little, and said goodbye to college life (for now).  Looking back on the trip I wouldn't change a thing, and I look forward to doing it again in the future.  I suggest anyone who has ever thought about it to go for it; even if you don't have as many places to stay, or people to meet, it is still worth it. 

On that note, Pete and I would like to thank everyone who took us in, who showed us around, who joined us, and who supported us on our travels.  My parents, Jack and Mary Mommer (for everything, including the love of travel), our brother John (who had to return to Louisiana after Snowbird, you would have loved it man), future Mommer Robin Lemoine (can't wait to get trashed at your wedding), the Belotes: Christy (thanks for the milkshakes!  poody chap chap!), Matt (for showing us an awesome time on the old strip), Angie (for the comps in Vegas), Sara and Doug (who are having their baby soon, congrats!), Jaiman from Salt Lake (is that how you spell it?), Colin, Gail, and Evan Perry and Shannon (for being such a kickass family!), Gary, Sue, Kristen, and Grant Glaze (i'm warming up to Macs, love Nevada City, Reno, and rock climbing now, plus i cry when i think about those wood-smoked steaks) and hairless Jack & family (Costner will never be the same), Mike, Lisa, Adam, Peter, and Patrick Janicki (for introducing us to tree-eating and all other kinds of machines, being our west coast parents, feeding us alcohol and Rubik's cubes, etc.  btw tell Stephanie she's no longer allowed in Boston), the Ruggles (we'll climb to the top next year, Josh), Glaze cousin Aaron (hope I didn't get you guys sick!), Tim and Lisa Anderson (San Fran is definitely a highlight of the trip, and Tim is the greatest cousin in the world!), Erin and Jesus Fernandez and friends (I miss Sunny already, want to sing more karaoke, y Jesus, te quiero mas que las estrallas:), Chris Cheng and Art Devries from U of IL (they love science too), Bill Detrich and other faculty at Northeastern (forgive my tardiness, Boston rocks!), all the Janicki friends and roommates from Gonzaga (your school kicks Catholic ass), and finally, Grandpa Russell and Grandma Hope (so sweet they don't even need sugar) and anyone else I forgot.  You all have an open invitation to visit us wherever we end up! 
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Comments

terry sanderson on

Hi Brett,
I actually just stumbled into your blog when looking for a motel for a friend that was about to get to Dillon and needed a place to stay. When the pics popped up and I recognized Hope and Russ. . .ah was stunned! They are my adorable ex-inlaws and you made them Famous!
I have a lot to catch up on with you and the rest of the Mommers and hope to do so with those that still show up at Snowbird in January. I live in Holladay, Utah now and so expect a visit.
Hope that all the Mommers are finding their Bliss as you and Peter did in your travels. Many thanks for the reports and I hope that you are still monitoring this.
terry sanderson (Shae, Polly and Jenny are my darling daughters!)

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