Saturday, April 30, 2005

Grand Canyon

On a Friday evening (29th April) at around 6 PM, Seb, Jonah, Sundar and our manager from India Suresh, drove out of Colorado Springs, heading towards the Grand Canyon. Earlier that week, I had booked our stay at the Best western Hotel in Williams. 

Suresh drove most the of the way. Seb, Sundar and I, at the back seat played - "Tom Dick and Harry", "Hang man" to kill time. At around 8:30 PM, we stopped for dinner near Springer, New Mexico. The town was so small that it had no good restaurants open at that time. So, we headed back to a truck stop we had noticed earlier on the way. Settled in for what ever was available. Otherwise, the drive was uneventful. We took turns to drive and reached Grand Canyon at around 6 in the morning. 

Drive: Colorado Springs to Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Start: 6:00 PM
Distance: 796 Miles
Expected Time: 11 Hrs 20 Mins
Reached at 6:00 AM.
Actual time taken - 12 hrs.

We decided to drive directly to the canyon to watch the sun rise. The view from there was magical. As the orange sun rose up on the sky, it unveiled to us the vastness of this canyon. One could easily and happily get lost in them. It was enormous and gorgeous. It was also interesting to note that when we were driving to the canyons we mostly had flat land, but when we got to the viewing point it was a sudden dip of several thousands of meters. That was an incredible feeling. It was like the opposite of climbing a mountain, if you know what I mean. 

On our way back, an incident happened that remains till date as a joke among us. Seb was driving and four ravens flew across and one was hit by our car and probably killed. Well, that part was sad but then we bullied Seb for killing one of the only four ravens in Grand Canyon. 

When we arrived at the hotel we requested to check in but the receptionist told us that it was not yet time. But our watches showed that it was past 8:00 AM. So, we argued. We realised only then that we were on a different time zone. We had some breakfast and then checked into the rooms. Nevertheless, our disappointment with the delay, that was specially displayed by our manager got us two king size rooms for the same price. 

After lunch at a Pizza hut, we headed to the Canyon again. We took several trails to viewpoints like Yaki point, Navoja point and desert view to get some glimpse of this magnificent natural structure. 

We wanted to walk down the canyon, so we tried walking down on Kaibab trail, which apparently was not the trail we were looking for. Someone guided us to a trail next to Bright Angle lodge. So we drove till there and went on a short hike down the canyon. However, we could not walk all the way down, it would take us more than 8 hours and normally is a two day trek with a halt at the base. Convincing myself that someday I would return to do it, we returned back as it was getting dark already. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jewel Cave & Devil’s Tower

Next morning, on the 24th, we woke up by 6 AM and got ready, finished our breakfast at the motel. I tried some delicious waffles. We left to Jewels cave at around 7:50 AM after checking out from the motel. 

Drive: Keystone to Custer.
Start: 7:50 AM
Destination: Jewel Cave, Custer, SD.
Distance: 34.9 Miles
Expected Time: 47 Mins
Reached at 8:45 AM.
Actual time taken 55 Mins.

Sundar was in the other car. Attic who had come with our colleagues was his senior and he took this as an opportunity to rag him for fun. 

The cave was very interesting with its intricate formations. Jewel cave is said to be the third largest cave in the world. That is something interesting about America. They always market things well. A small stream runs by and it might be turned into a scenic view point. Everything had to be compared with the words best. 

After this, we drove to the Devil’s tower in Wyoming. 

Drive: Custer to Devils Tower
Start: 11:00 Am
Destination: Devils Tower
Distance: 96.4 Miles
Expected Time: 1 hr 42 mins

While driving a turkey came my way and I came to a screeching halt. I was at high speed too as we had taken a different route that passed through some remote locations. 

Reached 1:00 PM
Actual time - 2 Hours.

So, there stood a devils tower magnificent and as though reaching to the sky. We saw a few climbers almost reaching the summit. I wished to explore the summit too. Devils tower have unique structure. It has a gear teeth like flutes cut on them that appear impressive. 

We bid farewell to our friends from North Dakota and drove towards Colorado at around 2:30 PM.

Drive: Devils Tower to Colorado Springs
Start: 2:30 PM
Destination: Home
Distance: 464 Miles
Expected Time: 7 hrs 19 mins

We had lunch at a place called Gillet in Wyoming. When we reached Denver, it began to snow badly. I had to concentrate a lot while driving. We had dinner at Woodlands restaurant in Aurora. We had some interesting experience here. 

When we entered the restaurant the server asked - « Are you coming from he movie? »

And we honestly replied - « No we are coming fromMr Rushmore. » 

Later we learnt that there was a new Rajnikanth film that got released and there was some offer with movie and dinner package. So, the hotel was filled with Tamil fans of Rajni. A big buffet was arranged. 

We reached home by 11:00 PM. 
Actual time taken- 8 Hrs, 30 Mins (Lunch, Dinner, Snow)

It was a great drive, great trip and it is always nice to meet old friends. I was happy to meet Vinayak and Reddy here in the US. 

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mt Rushmore and Cosmos, South Dakota.

After postponing this trip three times, the day finally arrived. The plan to see Mt Rushmore originated during my discussion with our new receptionist. She had talked very high of this place. While discussing this with our colleagues in North Dakota, they seemed interested as well. So, we planned to meet midway and turn this into a reunion. My friend Vinayak booked the hotel and I booked the tickets for one of the caves. I was all excited about this trip.

On the 23rd of April, at around 4:05 in the morning, we left Colorado Springs and headed towards South Dakota. It was going to be a long drive but not as long as our previous drive to Chicago. 

Drive: Colorado springs to Keystone
Start: 4:05 Am
Destination: Super 8 Motel, Keystone, SD.
Distance: 440 Miles
Estimated Time: 6 hrs 44 mins

Jonah drove first. We reached Fort Collins at around 7:00 AM and had our breakfast there. I changed to driving next for few hours. As we crossed Colorado border and entered Wyoming we realised that there weren’t many people around. In the maps I was carrying, in the order of maximum population Wyoming was 50th, that is the last. While discussing this, Sundar understood that the population of Wyoming was only 50. So, he and I started to count. After covering a third of the state we found only half the number roof people outside. The drive was filled with cows, deers and vast plain lands with no houses. 

On our way, we also came across a place called Lost springs which had a population of one. But there were two houses there and for us it seemed like the most populated place in the state thus far. The drive was enjoyable with fun talks. We stopped at Wheatland, Wyoming for lunch. This is where Sebastian realised that he had forgotten to bring his wallet and thus in it remained his drivers permit. Nevertheless, we took a risk of allowing him to drive. Technically you still could if you have a valid permit. A lesson we had learnt after, I had washed my temporary permit with my cloth. 

We reached Custer at around 10:30 AM and saw directions to Super 8 motel. Map quest directed us to take left but the the motel board pointed left. Anyways, we headed to the motel and found at the reception that we were in Custer and not Keystone. We had to drive another 45 minutes. On our way, we did pass through Mt Rushmore and got a first glimpse of the monument. 

We reached the motel at 11:15 AM and the Bobcat guys (Our colleagues who worked at Bobcat division in our company) ad not yet arrived. They arrived by 12:15 PM. 

Reached at 11:15 AM
Actual Time Taken - 7 Hours, 10 Minutes (Including Breakfast)

When our friends arrived we were happy to see them in the foreign land after a long time. Vinayak, Reddy, Shashikant, Ajith and their two other colleagues Vijay and Atiq. 

We checked in at the motel and had some pizzas for lunch. We immediately left to Cosmos- the mystery place.

According to mapquest cosmos was an hours journey form he motel but Ajith told us that the had seen a board on their way. So we followed him and it turned out to be only 15 minutes form our motel. A second mistake from mapquest.

Cosmos is a strange place. It defies gravity. A spirit level was used to demonstrate that the ground was perfectly levelled. But when two people stand opposite to each other their heights are strangely increased or reduced depending on which side they stood. 

Then we entered a crooked shaped room where you can balance at an angle and a ball that would run downwards will move upwards. We tried to find a logical explanation to this but failed. Instead enjoyed laughing at each other standing slanted inside that room unable to stand straight. 

Next, we drove to Mt Rushmore. Here is the famous carvings of four US presidents. We jokingly called it « Chaar Mundi » (Four heads) The larger than life heads looked magnificent. We had a small show at the museum that showed clippings take during the construction. 

After that, we headed back to the room. Got together in our room and played cards. We played bluff. At around 8 PM, we drove to Rapid City and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a great time laughing and chatting. 

I came back to the room to catch some sleep while others went to watch the night lighting at Rushmore. They returned in 15 minutes with an interesting story.  Sebastian was driving and he was pulled over by a cop for having his high beams on. And then he was asked to produce his permit. Trouble! But luckily, the cop verified his date of birth on his database and confirmed, gave him a warning note and left. 

It had been a long tiring day. So we retired to bed soon. 

Friday, April 22, 2005


Three days of training on Reliability was fun. It was in a hotel and for lunch, I had to always edit the lunch menu and request chicken sandwich without chicken, fish or any meat. For dinner one evening, we went to PF Changs. I wanted to try martini, but I had no clue which flavor to try, so I asked the waiter. He like in the film Hum Dil de chucke sanam (Hotel scene in Italy) started admiring some specific flavor, so I just picked that. But I did not really like it, because of the cream and coffee flavor added to it. The food in PF Changs was good. I visited there again when one our our team members left and we had a team lunch. Bill was a good mentor to me when I joined and with his 16 years of experience he was an asset to the team. But he was retiring to pursue his passion - Training dogs. He shared some of the pictures of the contests where the dogs that he had trained had won prizes.

Another very experienced engineer Fred, is a good friend of mine. While discussing with him, I got to see some of very old documents from our company; signed by that of our owner and his son. It was an interesting peek into history.

Whenever I needed a break, I would stop at Sai Mart to chat with Nagendra, and he as always had interesting stories to tell from his previous adventures. I would listen to his stories so attentively and with full of enthusiasm. He is surely one person I shall miss when I leave. He even offered me a job at his store. $5 an hour. I denied it though.

One day, a colleague, Paul and I went to meet a supplier at Boulder, Colorado. We left as early as 5:45 AM and had Garden omelet, hash browns and orange juice for breakfast at a truck stop near Denver. It was a 2 hour drive from home. I was pretty impressed by the facility they had, for Metal injection molding, almost automated with very few people seen at the work area. It was pretty neat.

Next we went to another supplier nearby and had lunch with them. There were discussions on outsourcing to Bangalore and layoff’s in Detroit; also Japanese cars taking over US market. I took it as an information rather than feeling uncomfortable.

Paul is very interested in knowing about India. He loves Indian food and even prepares them at home including preparing of garam masala from scratch. We usually discuss about the cultural differences between our countries. I explained to him some of our superstitions and possible scientific explanations for them. 

One evening, Nagendra, Seb & I went to I135 Exit. It was a cultural shock but was fun.

On 10th of April, a blizzard alert was called for. We had a day off from work obviously and Peggy called us specifically to tell us not to go out. Jonah and I bothered the least of all this and took it lightly. We thought Americans are too scared always and we must be fine. But when I got up that morning and opened the window, I saw a mountain of snow outside. Entire locality was under the blanket of snow. It was one of the most beautiful sights.

Well as if this wasn’t enough, we realized that we were running out of grocery. So we had to make a quick trip to Albertsons for some basic stuff. Jonah and I took out a bed of snow that had covered our car. Everything went fine; we reached the shop, bought stuff and got back to the car. As we were taking the turn out of albatross road on to the main road our car tires got stuck in the heap of snow and just kept spinning. Jonah tried pushing, but it didn’t help. Luckily a guy stopped to help us out. We got on to the main road and slowly made our way back to the apartment. At the point where we had to turn to get into the apartments, we got stuck again. Few people stopped to help but nothing worked, finally a guy came and towed the car. We thanked him, returned home and swore never to take such warnings lightly.

Next day, the snow cleared by around 12:30 PM, so we were driving to office and saw a guy struggling to get his car out of the parking lot. Like three musketeers, we parked our car and walked towards him to offer a hand. After struggling for few minutes, we simply had to get back embarrassed and unable to move the car by even an inch.

On 15th, Seb and I went to Denver in the evening. I had to go to a temple for Ugadi. It was a north Indian temple, I did not like the atmosphere much but it was the best I could expect, in this far away land. We then drove to Airport. Our colleague Sundar arrived; one of his bags got misplaced and was to arrive to our house only next day. We had dinner at Woodlands hotel in Denver and returned.

I now had company during walks. Sundar loved to walk too, so I was happy. One evening the colours were vibrant and the pikes peak looked brilliant from the cotton wood creek park, right opposite our apartment complex. I just love Pikes peak more and more these days and cotton wood creek park is my favourite place for walk.

One afternoon, we had a team lunch at an Italian restaurant called Biaggi’s and I disliked the food I had. It was hardly eatable for me. I think it was some type of eggplant lasagna or something. 

Rest of the time, I was busy planning for another trip with our friends in Bobcat (North Dakota) to Mt Rushmore and Devils Tower.