Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

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Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Long weeks

Ten hours a day, six days a week is very tiring. Today our actual field time was only a little over 6 hours. During that time, we covered 2.1 miles of survey corridor, which was mostly going up and down small hills. There was also the usual poison ivy, ticks, chiggers, and biting gnats. My crew also had their first snake spotting (not me personally) and someone was almost chased by an aggressive, protective mother cow.
Our two crews have surveyed roughly 25 miles of the 180 total. We've recorded 5 or 6 archaeological sites and 3 or 4 historic-aged standing structures. My crew has also recorded a stretch of old Route 66 (mentioned in the last post) and foundation remains and artifacts related to an abandoned oil boom town that was originally an early 20th century black community.
We've been earning our OT. I think we're all tired and sore. We all have various bug bites, rashes, blisters or tender spots. Actually, one of our techs has been out all week with severe blisters on her ankles and achilles. The doctor even gave her antibiotics.
So tomorrow my crew is doing two miles just south of the North Fork of the Canadian River. The other crew found 3 prehistoric sites in the same setting to the north, so we're hopeful to find something cool and interesting. Either way, it will be a long hot day.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Go here for some kicks

old Rte 66 roadbed
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
A portion of the old Route 66 roadbed crosses our survey corridor. Interestingly, it shows up on Google Maps, even though it's not an active road and a lot of it it destroyed and overgrown. We recorded the location for the client and took a few photos.
I uploaded a few more pictures from the project so far onto my Flickr page.
Woke up this morning to heavy rain and thunderstorms. Right now it's sunny, but we're waiting until noon to give all the storms a chance to pass or break up before we try and go into the field. I drank too much coffee to take a nap, so I'm finally getting to catch up a bit on photos and blog. I'll probably even tap on my thesis a little bit. And this is all at least partially on the clock.
I don't think I mentioned that I got a performance review right before we left for Oklahoma, where I got a bit of a promotion and a small raise. I'm now officially a crew-chief level archaeologist, rather than a senior field tech. A lot of added responsibilities, but I'm happy.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So busy

I've been working like 12 hours a day. Throw in showers and eating and just keeping up with basic day-to-day online stuff and phone calls, and it doesn't leave much time to get a good night's sleep. Especially if the tornado watch alarm goes off in the middle of the night again. Last night was actually the first time we've gotten any of the rain and storms that have been pounding Oklahoma, as they've been passing to the north or breaking up before they get here.
I've been walking somewhere between 4-6 miles a day. My legs and feet are a little sore, but only my left big toe has been suffering in the steel toed boots so far. They're actually rather comfortable and only feel heavy late in the afternoon.
We haven't found much yet. One small 1940s-50s trash dump in the middle of the woods, one recently abandoned 1930s house, and one area that may be the remains of a 1940s WPA workcamp. That one we're not sure of yet. Nothing prehistoric in the slightest.
Last weekend we stayed at the worst hotel I've ever spent the night in outside of Mexico. Some of the well-seasoned field techs who've been doing CRM work for years and years said it's the worst place they've ever seen. So if you somehow end up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, DO NOT stay at the Cinderella Inn. Keep driving, sleep in your car in a better part of town, or something.
I'll try and expound and get some more photos up tomorrow, as the Benadryl is starting to kick in.
Where in the hell am I? Stroud, Oklahoma. For 2 more weeks...

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dressed for success

Oklahoma survey gear
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
So this is me in all my safety gear (aka Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE). The hard hat has a styrofoam insert inside so that it resists side impacts as well. It also makes it heavier and more uncomfortable. I'm glad I went ahead and got prescription safety glasses, although the side shields mess with my peripheral vision a little bit. My boots (not in the picture) are about as comfortable as one would expect from tall, steel-toed boots that aren't really meant for hiking around in. The fishing shirts are nice, and I don't know why I didn't get some of those sooner.
Still trying to learn the ropes and get the hang of all the new protocols here. Had a short field day today and only got a small section done. Apparently, access issues have been a big problem, as most landowners would like 48 hours notice before we survey on their land. This is a little more advance planning than normal, but we'll adjust as best as possible.
Making this short to try and get some sleep, but there will be some interesting stuff soon...

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Oklahoma or bust

Well, we got the go-ahead to go to Oklahoma, starting tomorrow. It has been an insanely stressful insanely busy last couple of weeks, and that's without even dwelling on my thesis. Right now, I'm waiting for the last of my new lightweight, wicking, long-sleeve field shirts to dry. I bought 4 of them, since I'll probably be needing to wear a new one every day because of poison ivy. I also bought a kick-ass pair of waterproof, steel-toed boots (which I can't find on the Red Wing site to link to), and prescription safety glasses. It's all stuff I will need again in the future, and we got a stipend towards the boots.
Looks like we'll be staying in small towns as close to the pipeline corridor as possible. I think the only requirement is that the hotel has internet access. I'm not so excited about this, as I was hoping we could stay at one central spot (preferably one in a decent-sized town with a real grocery store and a movie theater).
I have not had time to review our standard operating procedure documents, so I'll probably be doing that on the trip up tomorrow and in the hotel room later. The client is very specific about how they want things done as far as recording things.
Anyway, there will be some updates from Oklahoma, although they'll probably be pretty brief. I'll be trying to finish my thesis on our Sundays off, and maybe if I can squeeze in an hour here or there. And I'll be in Austin for a week in mid-June for a break.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Crazy already

We're not actually going to Oklahoma until next week, and it's already crazy. We endured 2 days of safety meetings last Thursday and Friday. They fed us well and we got some overtime for the drive back, so I can't complain too much. This week, there's lots of logistical things and practicing with the fancy GPS units that we won't even get until tomorrow afternoon and trying to get everything that's pending done before half our office leaves. And I still have to go to Louisiana and back, which will eat up all of Wednesday and Thursday.
Plus the thesis, which is not going to be done by this Friday. And my poor kitty has a urinary tract infection so we have to watch her closely and give her special food so we can sneak in the medicine. She's in the painful "working it out" stage so she's trying to go to the bathroom like every 15 minutes and not drinking much water. I ended up buying some low-sodium chicken broth (and watering it down) to get some liquids in her.
This weekend, we went straight from Houston to a co-worker's wedding weekend at the Canyon of the Eagles lodge and nature park. It was a nice place to spend a weekend with a bunch of people, although all I really did was drink a lot of beer and go to the wedding and reception. The park was nice and there's a place to take a cruise or do kayaking. I will try and get out there again sometime.
So this weekend I need to spend time with my wife (who is currently out of town again), try and hang out with my friends, go to Chaos in Tejas on Saturday night, see Prince Caspian with said wifey before I leave. Oh, and pack for a long trip.
I also need to buy some long-sleeve wicking shirts and fancy steel-toed boots, and maybe try and get some prescription side-shield safety glasses. But I might try and find some time for that during the week. Too bad I can 't get those at some place open past 9.
I don't know if it makes you tired and stressed out, but just writing this made my shoulders tighten.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's getting closer

Tomorrow we head to Houston in the afternoon so that we can start our two-day safety seminar and kick-off meeting for the big Oklahoma pipeline job (I'll be calling you, St. Murse) . They're putting us up in the Renaissance Hotel near the Galleria and feeding us breakfast and lunch. I think we might even have to get paid overtime for our drive back Friday afternoon. I'm definitely going to be one of the three crew chiefs, overseeing 3 people on my crew. I apparently have to take an online CPR class at some point in the next couple of weeks (paid, of course).
We may be leaving as soon as the 19th. I was told there's going to be a rotation of 2 weeks on, 1 week off to prevent burnout. Of course, this means one crew will work the first 4 weeks. That might also change if we somehow are unable to field enough crew members to have a 4th team.
So yeah, I'll be summering in Oklahoma, very soon. There might be a BBQ before I go.
Did a short survey today in San Antonio. I think it took longer to drive there and back than it did for the actual survey. In addition to the usual golf balls (I think I might have blogged about this before) I found a golf club today. So we gathered up a bunch of the golf balls and smacked a few of them off the top of the hill. I actually got a couple of pretty good shots, but I think the extent of my golfing career will be limited to mini golf and the occasional driving practice in the field with found golf balls (I kept the 4-iron)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Peek a boo!

Originally uploaded by texasrobo
Yeah, we finally saw a gator Wednesday. We knew it was a possibility, but it was pretty exciting when we finally saw one. Definitely glad that there was a 5-foot high levee between us.
Later on that night, I went and ate one of his kin. First time I've had alligator. It was pretty yummy, kind of like a chewy chicken with just a hint of fishy flavor. The restaurant we ate at was good, but I'll blog on the food blog about that some other time.
We've already worked a 40 hour week, and still have a long day tomorrow (since we decided to just go ahead and drive back tomorrow after work). Haven't found a damn thing. Lots of driving, too. The truck has satellite radio, so it's not bad at all.

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