Friday, November 9, 2012

October Crazy Part I

Phew, it's November.  I love October- I was born in it, it's when fall really starts in, and it has Halloween!  But this month was CRAZY.

I had a good birthday.  I celebrated with a coworker after our last day of fieldwork, drank wine with some new friends, and had dinner with my cousins.

The boys were so sweet.  We played soccer for a while outside and Luke kept telling me I was allowed to cheat because it was my birthday.  They may look small, but they're really good on the soccer field!  Thus my cheating :)

After my birthday and fieldwork, I went to a conference for work.  The night ended with a lot of drinking.  Engineers know how to let loose...

And then the real crazy started.  As of last Friday, I had worked every day for the last 20 days on one restoration project for work.  Many long days, many weekend trips to the office, and another two (crazy stressful) days in the field.  Somewhere in there the giants won the world series and a stressed hot dog worked to finalize some last minute things on Halloween.

But as of last Wednesday at 2am (so I guess Thursday), the reports have been submitted!

But I want to share a little bit more about our crazy field work, because the office stuff isn't terribly exciting (and other than above, there are no pictures of it).

So the goal of our field work was to install a velocity gage to measure storm events.  The trick is that the logger box (where the data is actually stored) needs to be dry, while the gage has to be under water, and the two are connected by a cable.  Normally, this is no big deal, but where we wanted to install this gage was in the middle of a BIG creek.  So to keep the logger box dry, we had to have it up 30 or 40 ft above the creek bed on top of a bridge.  And the cord needed to be fastened so it wouldn't flap around and rip off during large storm events.

We tossed around a couple of ideas- repelling down the side of the bridge and drilling to keep the pipe (which the cable would sit in) against the pier.  Using a giant ladder to climb up and drill the pipe to the pier.  But we decided the safest way to do the install would be to lower a metal plate down to the pier from the top of the bridge which would connect up to the pipe and be fastened by four cables that we would drill into the pier.

This was STILL going to be insanely challenging.  The bridge was scary- very little room to stand and cars flying by.  We didn't know if we'd be able to stand in the water or if we'd need to be drilling into the pier out of a canoe.  And we didn't know how big the top of the pier was- it was still about 8 ft down from the top of the bridge, so super tricky to measure.  And it was an elipse- no happy square or circular pier.  Not helpful.

And leading up to the trip was crazy too.  We had to hire a traffic company to close down a lane of traffic on the bridge so we wouldn't get taken out by a car. And apparently, no one rents canoes anymore.  FYI, kayaks are in, canoes are out.  And car rental companies won't guarantee that your SUV will have a roof rack on top (which one would need to carry a canoe/kayak).  And no one sells large sheets of metal.  Ridiculous.

So we went with a kayak, and somehow managed to get a roof rack, and decided wood would work for the top of the pier.

Roof rack on the massive beast that I got to drive up to the site.

On Monday morning (after arriving Sunday night), we woke bright and early and headed to Home Depot.  We bought all sorts of hardware and wood and pipes.

We spent the day constructing our wood-pipe contraption.

It was a masterpiece.  We had our wood base, which was re-enforced with metal, with our "diving board" on top that held the flange that would connect to the pipe.

It was a little later than we had originally planned, but we were ready to install.  It ended up being commute time which made it a little more crazy.

We were so close to the cars!
We set up a cross of pipes down below to give the gage and cable some extra stability for the high flow events.

  We took some last minute measurements...

And then we went for it.  James and I lowered the contraption down, while Damien waited to hook everything up from below.  But as we lowered it, it became instantly obvious that our wood base was way too small.  There was no way the cables would be able to hold the contraption and keep it from falling off the pier.  James and I hauled the heavy piece of $*^! back up, and got everything off the bridge as quickly as we could.

James and I returned the kayak while Damien waited to check in with the traffic guys.  We kind of left him on the corner of the freeway, and later he told us he had been approached by a transient and asked if that was his tent back in some bushes. haha

To recover, we went to sushi.  The guys split some things including this beautiful display of sashimi.  What pretty colors!

I had my sushi usual- avocado maki.  But this place made it look like a flower!

Lastly we split some fried ice cream- I think it was green tea?

We headed back to the hotel and debated what to do the next day.  We had some other tasks to complete as well, and both the guys needed to fly out around 7:30pm.  We decided to go with a simpler technique that would be a little less stable under a 100 year storm (because the water levels could be close to the top of the bridge), but we were willing to take that chance.  Then we went to bed! 

(To be continued...)



  1. contractor kinda guy, aka. dadNovember 9, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    another great post. maybe you need a contractor kinda guy to help make it work. haha

    1. Everything I knew in Home Depot I definitely learned from you! I even told the guys it was probably a bad idea to be sawing the treated wood without work gloves and face masks- totally saved them from cancer ;)