BootsnAll Travel Network

Articles Tagged ‘Italia’

More articles about ‘Italia’
« Home

End of Antarctic Season and Travels

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Mt Paterson Summit

Italy. Friends and family keep asking about my blog and why I haven’t posted lately so here is a brief explanation.  We had an immensely busy Antarctic season during which we had very poor communications. After we finished the ITASE Traverse to South Pole Luci and I packed up all the equipment to ship back to McMurdo and eventually we ourselves hopped on a LC130H back to Town. But not before taking victory in the annual South Pole round the world race in the heavy equipment division with our Cat Challenger55 forks.   No sooner did we arrive back at McMurdo were we swept up in the excitement and confusion of an aircraft recovery mission. About the same time we were driving the last few KMs to the South Pole on the other side of the continent, a Basler DC-3 had just finished a botched take-off procedure which rendered the plane useless but with no injury to the plane-load of scientist and crew on board. It was decided to send down a team of mechanics to try to get the plane to fly north before the end of the summer season.  In order to accomplish this task they needed to have someone organize a camp to work out of. This, of course, is where Luci and I come in.    

Since, at the time, it was semi-secret I didn’t want to publish anything about it and when we finally got camp set up we were plagued by the same Iridium data problems that have dogged me at other camps. By the time we got back to McMurdo it was old news and my mind was already in NZ. Luci and I bought a van in NZ back in September and were looking forward to enjoying the last days of summer. We bought little inflatable pack-rafts and were eagerly awaiting spending some time on a couple of NZ’s amazing rivers. But, as luck would have it there were problems with shipping and the boats arrived only a few days before we were scheduled to fly to Australia. Just enough time to give them a go on the Rakaia River and the scare the pants off of Luci and on Lake Rotoroa where she had a painful encounter with a wasp…make that five wasps. So now she gets anxiety just thinking about them.

At this point I had already gotten out of the habit of writing blog entries.  I have never properly learned to use the software that my host site uses as a blogging platform and uploading photos was becoming very time consuming.  Luci loses patience with me immediately at public internet cafes and since I was still trying to sooth her frazzled nerves from the Rakaia trip, I let her have her wish.  While she went up to the North Island to hang out with some of  her Yoga friends I stayed south and spent my time boating, kiting and climbing on my own. I had one of my most memorable times in NZ in a campsite frequented by a very diverse group of on-the-cheap, world-traveler, outdoors people near Aurthur’s pass.

After getting the van stored and our NZ affairs sorted out I met Luci at the Auckland airport and we flew to Australia where we were hosted by a good friend of ours from our days at the WAIS Divide camp in Antarctica and his wife. He is an American and she a Kiwi. They met in Antarctica and now live in Launceston, Tasmania.  She is a world class chef and he is working on a career in commercial diving.  We had the most relaxing time during our stay which consisted mostly of visiting local sites, doing a bit of boating and diving, and talking about the future.  We also spent a considerable amount of time sorting out some of our travel details for our up coming trip to Thailand.

Our next stop was a long weekend in Hong Kong to visit another couple of friends. She was a high school classmate of Luci’s who we coincidently ran into in the queue to board the daily LHR LIN city hopper that has become the staple of our jet-set lifestyle. Apparently it has become a part of hers as well.  She was returning from HKG on an apartment hunting mission and was preparing for marriage in the coming months. He husband is another Italian who is in the petro-chemical industry. They moved permanently to HKG after they got married last May. We had a great weekend of dining and absorbing the massivity of Hong Kong.  They were excellent hosts and by some miracle I was able to speak the most fluent Italian right-off the plane (sometimes it takes me a bit to get back into the habit).

After these friendly visits we were on our own in SE Asia.  The original idea was to do a bunch of floating on the Mekong river but after Luci’s adverse reaction to moving bodies of water, this plan was later modified.  The new plan found Luci studying more placid forms of art in the discipline of Thai Massage.  I, on the other hand, rented a motorcycle and tore off across the northern Thai landscape in search of good rivers and good times. Being the end of the dry season the rivers were not at their best and, since I am crazy but not stupid, I decided not to brave what I did find solo.  I did have a couple of genuine village experiences after getting lost about 70kms down a dirt road on what I though would be a short-cut. We had a very enjoyable time around Chiang Mai in which we made many friends and which culminated in a two-day float down the Mae Kok river in our pack-rafts which did nothing to boost Luci’s confidence in moving bodies of water but floating past bathing elephants definitely has its allure.

After very long deliberation we chose to go south to Thailand’s southern beaches instead of to Laos and the Mekong river.  We went to Railey Beach near Krabi. As usual, the beach didn’t do much for me, but the rock formations and the islands were stunning.  We spent a week in a bungalow with another diverse community of on-the-cheap, world-traveler, outdoors people. In fact it was the ones in NZ who recommended this place to me. Luci got to try some flat water in her Yak after a few days of coaxing and I think she realized that it is a lot more work than floating down river.

So now that vacation is over, it is back to work…oh, right we quit our jobs here last summer.  Last summer we opened Rifugio Boccalatte and then turned it over to a friend/colleague for the indefinite future.  I can’t say that I don’t miss it but Luci certainly doesn’t. And, since I am on a “make-Luci-happy-and-you’ll-be-happy” campaign, I feel great about dropping seven summers of my life in the lap of someone else…I guess.  Anyway, last summer I spent my spare time working on my motorcycle which somehow blossomed into getting paid to work on other people’s motorcycles and to lend clout by virtue of my Americaness to Milan’s only custom Harley Davidson shop. I found myself spending my days elbow deep in Softtails and Fatbobs contemplating the many meanings of the words “Golden Rod”  through a line of acquaintances which ultimately finish once again at an old high school friend of Luci’s. The job didn’t pay well but I enjoyed the come and go as you wish schedule they allowed me and the opportunity to learn a more colloquial Italian language. I was looking forward getting my mind off of my alpine days under the fairings of iron horses only to discover upon our grand reentry to Milan that there had been chaos in the shop culminating in the departure of the head mechanic. Ironically, I was offered to come back at a better pay-rate even though the lead mechanic was my guide to the world of motorcycle mechanics.

I still go in to work most days but the shop feels about as guided as a headless horseman. I enjoy the work but there is an air of impending crisis and I don’t feel great about getting too tied to the business end of this muzzleloader. So what do we see on our horizon? Well here are the certainties: we are going back to the Antarctic as usual in October.  We will be working directly with a research grant associated with the ANDRILL project in McMurdo Sound. This contract will only take us to the beginning of December but we are presently trying to link up another contract with Raytheon to finish the season.  At the moment we are making all of our medical and dental visits in order to physically qualify for deployment. A couple of very good friends of ours are getting married in the middle of July and we have been invited so we are planning on being in the States at the beginning of July. It could be my first 4th in the USA in over 10 years and it would be Luci’s first in her lifetime. As my grand-pap might remind me, I could soon be enjoying my first fifth on the fourth in ten.

And what of our immediate future…? In lieu of our current employment situation we are considering doing what we do best: keep moving.  I recently bought the Lonely Planet-Western Balkans Guide with the idea of riding the motorcycle down to Greece to the WRC race.  If this pans out I will try to keep you posted. 


Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Luke & Luci

Finally the Antarctica Blog is back in action from a four-month vacation. So much has happened in these four months since we got back to Italy. This year’s Italian chapter started with a lot of employment drama followed by sporting drama and has ended with an exclamation point of family drama (!). Italians do drama like no other. By the end of this week we’ll be back in Maine for Luci’s first August in the US and my first in eight years and first ever (it seems) unemployed.
Upon arrival in Italy, Luci and I were eager to sort out our next Antarctic adventure. We had been in brief contact with our employer about a forthcoming contract and were expecting to have one at any moment. In the meantime we took what is turning out to be our annual motorcycle trip to Sardinia to see the World Rally Competition. We rode down through Tuscany and fit in a trip to the Island of Elba before arriving on the Island of Sardinia. This year we convinced Luci’s parents to meet us there for the race and to spend a couple of days on the beach. Here are some highlights:

Castello Voltoio? WRCPandolfus Aquaticus

The employment drama began as soon as we got back. As I think I may have mentioned in earlier posts, we are not managing Rifugio Boccalatte this summer. An opportunity arose for us to get a break from the hut with the idea of picking it up again next summer. But, in the end, after a lot of thought we have decided not to return to our home on the Grandes Jorasses again next year. It was the bureaucracy that finally drove us over the edge. Every year the regional government comes up with some new regulation that must be adhered to. This year they decided that all hut keepers in the region must take a course to learn how to do the job they have been doing, in some cases, for decades. And, of course, they are offering the 48-hour course over six weeks starting in November…no exceptions. It seemed like a sign.
But, that didn’t stop us from opening the hut and training our replacements which we did in the middle of June. We are very interested in some sort of continuity since we have dedicated the last 6 summers of our life to the place. At the same time we were opening the hut we were still eagerly awaiting news about Antarctic contracts. They left us hanging for a long time only to let us down with a thump when we were told there would be no place for us in the program this season. It was an emotional time. No sooner had we effectively quit our summer job did we lose our winter one.
Since we had no desire to start trawling the bottom of the HR barrel for contracts Luci and I resigned ourselves (for a second season in a row) to the fact that we would be spending a winter in New England. Which is not an altogether bad scenario. In fact, we were quite looking forward to a long overdue winter on the slopes. But we figured it couldn’t hurt to make one more try for an Antarctic contract. We had heard that the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition based out of the University of Maine was looking to hire their own support staff for the upcoming season. We did a little research to find some contact information and shot them our resumes. In a weeks time we were on our way back to the Ice; I as a light mechanic and Luci as cook on their 1200km heavy traverse to the south pole.
Over the next couple of weeks we did our dental and medical exams to get physically qualified for deployment and prepared for our return, first to the States and later to the great southern continent. We had our last appointment the day my parents arrived for their second visit to Italy. This time they were here a bit longer than the last and were here in July instead of April. We did some hiking in Valle d’Aosta and visited the “Art Cities” of Tuscany as well as just relaxing on the terrace here in Milan. Here are some highlights:

Luci and Parents Modena Firenze Siena Parma

After my parents left, Luci went to Greece with her parents on vacation. I had been working on and off in a friend’s motorcycle shop since we got back in April and decided to stay behind to work. It is a custom Harley Davidson shop (a rarity in Italy) and to have a real, live American hanging around the shop is a boon to business. I am definitely more of an enduro-sport rider myself but I really enjoyed helping out translating manuals and placing parts orders to the states as well as learning everything there is to know about HDs. My friend is really a motorcycle genius and it shows in his work. They have placed well in pan-European contests and won first place at the biggest biker festival in Italy for their newest bike. Here are a couple of the bikes that they have built this year:

Di Luca Golden Rod di Toni Fontana

Both our arrival and departure was punctuated by family strife. The day after our arrival Luci’s grandmother broke her femur. It is the second femur she has broken in the past year. The day Luci and her parents got back from Greece (last Monday) she broke her wrist. The day after, when Luci’s parents were up checking on her grandmother, her grandfather had a stroke which put him in the hospital. He died yesterday. He would have been 96in September. The funeral is tomorrow and Thursday we’ll be back in the States. The end of a very eventful summer season in Italy.

Building Camp

Saturday, November 11th, 2006
Downtown WAIS Divide Camp Now that our put-in is nearly over and we have slid into the standard Antarctic work schedule (six days of work; Sunday off) I can keep updated more regularly. The Carps ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, June 5th, 2006
IMG_3903.JPG I passed the motorcycle safety course, got my permit and got the motorcycle endorsement on my international drivers license. Now Im more legal than usual to drive my ageing 1991 Honda Transalp xl600vm. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Motorcycle to Greece

Thursday, May 12th, 2005
Caminata.jpg Busy week getting the bike (and ourselves) ready for our trip to Greece. On Saturday we took at trial run today south of Milan to the foothills of the Apennines. We loaded the side ... [Continue reading this entry]

Garda Adventure

Monday, May 2nd, 2005
Garda Sunset.jpg As promised, here is a story about motorcycles and sailboats. Busy week here in Milan. Luci and I did our medical and dental exams which involved running all around the city to ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tim and Patsy in Italy

Monday, April 25th, 2005
Burano Street.jpg This is the first new post I have put up in a while (with the exception of the one from the 4th of April which I wrote then but posted today) on ... [Continue reading this entry]

Holland Houseboat

Thursday, September 9th, 2004
Prinsengracht houseboat.jpg Back in Milan. In many ways it is very nice. We had a very gradual increase in city size before returning to this metropolis. After leaving the hut we ... [Continue reading this entry]

On the Ticino

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004
Sul Ticino (5).JPG This is our last week in Milan. We have been here over a month and since my brother Jesse left it has been somewhat uneventful. I am ready to get ... [Continue reading this entry]


Thursday, June 10th, 2004
Venezia (21).JPG The original plan was to go visit another one of Jesse's friends who is studing in Florence but Luci and I convinced him to go to Venice. Florence ... [Continue reading this entry]