Saturday, July 25, 2009

California, Here I Am

I have finally arrived in Bakersfield!

My friend Beth flew into Tulsa to keep me company on my trip. We left last Saturday and spent Saturday night in Albuquerque. The drive went pretty smoothly except that somehow I almost ran out of gas on the highway. I think I had a few gallons left, but the empty light was on, and we were somewhere out in the middle of no where desert (Texas I think) with no civilization in sight. I had enough gas when we passed the last gas station that I didn't even think to fill up again, but apparently they are really spaced out. When the empty light came on I started freaking out, and Beth suggested turning off the AC to make the gas last longer... not the most comfortable thing to do in the middle of the desert. We told my GPS to look for a gas station, and luckily it said there was one coming up in a few miles. We made it! It was a tiny place, but it did the job. Also there was a Dairy Queen next door, and we figured we each deserved a blizzard after that ordeal.

The only unplanned thing that happened on Sunday was the traffic at the Hoover Dam, which is right on the way into Las Vegas. We stopped to take a few pictures and then just kept creeping along in the traffic. The dam was really interesting though. I wish we'd had time to go on a tour. I'd love to go back sometime. We were going to stay in Vegas on Sunday night and continue to Bakersfield on Monday, but we decided to stay an extra night in Vegas. It was my first time there, and it was a lot of fun. We wanted to stay at the Luxor, but we didn't reserve a room ahead of time, and they were booked by the time we got there. So were Excalibur and Mandalay Bay, and we were eventually told that it was because of a huge conference going on. We finally found a room at the MGM Grand. Once we got settled in our room, we met an old friend of mine for dinner at the Paris buffet. On Monday we walked from the MGM (almost at the end of the strip) all the way to the Stratosphere (the other end of the strip). It was so hot, so we stopped in a lot of the casinos along the way. Strangely enough, I think we had the most fun at Circus Circus in the "AdventureDome," basically a huge enclosure with rides and carnival games. We also shopped for quite a while. I wanted to look for some nice sunglasses because it's really hard to find ones that actually fit my face, so I knew I'd be struggling to find a pair whenever my current ones get lost or broken. I decided I wanted a pair of designer sunglasses, so we went around to all the designer stores trying on different pairs. I ended up going back to the very first pair I had tried on - black Armani sunglasses with a GA on each side at the hinge. I love them!! My first real designer item and my only splurge in Vegas. Then we decided to eat a late lunch at the Bellagio buffet, which was amazing. I highly recommend it. There was a lot of seafood, really good meat, a lot of interesting condiments (I tried apple dill mayo and spicy mango ketchup), and a huge dessert selection. Beth and I got seven desserts to share. Each portion is pretty small... we almost finished them. That night we were planning on riding the roller coaster at New York, New York, but it started raining! I didn't know it ever rained that hard in Vegas. So that was unlucky. We went back to the MGM and looked for a blackjack table with a low minimum, but there was nothing open. We checked Excalibur too; same story there. We finally found a $5 table at the Tropicana. I put down $60 and lost it all, unfortunately. First time playing though! It was really fun. But I'm glad I limited myself. I really wanted to see a Cirque du Soliel show, but non of them were playing on Monday nights. I'll just have to go back!!

On Tuesday morning we started driving toward Bakersfield. When we got here, I got settled in my temporary apartment and then went into the shop to meet my manager. I also met some of the other engineers, and everyone seems really nice. My manager gave me time off until this Tuesday, but I ended up going in yesterday to get some paperwork out of the way, and I'll also go in for a little while on Monday to do a commentary drive with the driving guy.

Since I arrived I have been searching for an apartment and shopping for furniture. I finally found an apartment close to work in a new gated complex. I will be the first person to live in my apartment. It is a two-bedroom (I don't think a one-bedroom has enough storage space for all my stuff) with a small but cozy kitchen and a nice master bedroom with a huge walk-in closet. I have spent about 10 hours shopping for furniture so far. Yesterday I finally decided on a sofa, coffee table (plus end tables), lamps, chair, dining set, and mattress. I move into the apartment on August 1st, and a lot of the furniture will arrive the 2nd, so I'll try to post a picture as soon as everything gets there. But I'm worried that I won't have time to get fully situated for a while because my work schedule might be pretty hectic.

I still have a lot to do, but I'm well on my way to getting comfortable here. I hope I'll like it. It's really hot here, but at least it's not as humid as Tulsa.

Come visit me!!

Skidding and Spinning

Before leaving Tulsa I had to complete Schlumberger's Light Vehicle Training (LVT). Most of this was kind of boring: sitting in the classroom or doing commentary drives. For a commentary drive, you drive around town and tell the driving instructor whatever you see going on around you and why you are driving the way you are driving. You're supposed to be showing that you are using the techniques taught in class and that you are a safe, defensive driver. For example, "There's some oncoming traffic so the right lane is safest at the moment, I see a red signal light up ahead, I'm checking my mirrors before braking to make sure no one is following too closely... light is green, I'm scanning the intersection before proceeding, I'm leaving a safe follwing distance in front of me" and so on, as a fairly constant stream of speaking. Actually, after doing it for a while it feels weird to not talk when the instructor says you can rest your voice. But anyway, there was actually an exciting part to the driver training. It was called Advanced Skill Maneuvers, where we learned to avoid head-on collisions and control skids. The training center has a driving course with a big pad that's covered in something that makes the surface really slippery when it gets wet. We each got in a pick-up specially rigged for this, and we got to feel what it's like to go into a rear wheel skid and a front wheel skid. On the rear wheel skid, the instructor said to cut the wheel hard to the side to make the truck spin around. It was actually a little scary even in that controled environment, but it was really cool. Then on the next pass we had to control the skid by gently steering in the direction of the skid to keep the vehicle facing forward. It was good practice because although I've driven in the snow, I've never been in a skid that serious. The Schlumberger trucks normally have antilock brakes, but they were disabled on these trucks so that the wheels would lock up for the skidding. We also learned how to avoid a head-on collision in a non-ABS truck, where steering and braking have to be separate actions. We were taught to brake hard, then turn the wheel quickly while letting up on the brake. We drove through a course where something would pop up in the road for us to avoid. It was really fun, and definitely a good thing to be comfortable with, although I'm still not sure if I'd be able to do it in a panic situation.

Overall, LVT was pretty fun, and it was especially nice to not have homework! It was a relaxing end to my time in Tulsa. The only bad thing is that my roommate Carla had to leave early because she dislocated her elbow and couldn't do the driving! So the apartment was a little lonely for a few days. But we all promised to meet up again at some point, so hopefully it won't be too long before I see her.