21 July 2014

And In Closing...

Moving, in general, is not a fun task, mostly because of packing and prepping. Packing involves anticipating space and planning for items that must be used until the end. It's not fun and Kara definitely enjoys it more than I do.

Two weeks ago we began intensively preparing for our exit garage sale. The room quickly defended into a mess as various components of our lives were sent to bins to be discarded at reduce prices. The photograph below shows our living room around about last Wednesday:

Our living room during the height of both packing and prepping for our garage sale. Ugh.
We had the garage sale on Saturday morning at a friend's house in Live Oak and it was a stellar success, though three short bookshelves, my desk and chair, and our tall halogen lights did not sell. That was truly annoying because they collectively take up the most space. Still, we made some good money to help pay for our trip back to Arizona. From there, we will reorganize, pack our collective six bags for New Zealand (carryons are only laptops and iPads due to constraints put in place by Air New Zealand), and travel to LAX to fly out at the end of August.

Me speaking at Researchers Anonymous (Sangye Llamo)
In the meantime, I've been working vigorously to get all of my railroad research done since I am trying to avoid taking too many books with me to Arizona (none are going to New Zealand).

As a part of this research, I was given the opportunity last weekend (July 12th) to speak in front of the Researchers Anonymous group of which I am a member. My lecture, titled Santa Cruz Trains & Researching in the Digital Age was very popular with the group and I was able to show off both some of my research and some of the skills I have used to present that research in my book. The slideshow is available here if you'd like to check it out, and a video may be available soon.

The weekend was also special because the Santa Cruz Portal Cement Company standard-gauge steam engine #2 was on display at Roaring Camp Railroads as a special weekend excursion event put on by the Regional Transportation Committee (RTC). I've gone to a number of these meetings and have been excited to see railroad service returned to Santa Cruz, but nothing was as cool as seeing a real steam engine back on the standard gauged tracks in Santa Cruz County. All of our tracks were frequented by steam engines long before being used by diesel, but the last steam train rode these tracks in 1959. It was definitely cool hearing a new whistle in the hills and seeing this small engine haul a trainload of passengers to Santa Cruz. I just wish it could have become a permanent thing. Here's a photo of the engine crossing California Street in Santa Cruz on its way to Wilder Ranch State Historic Park. The photo was taken by Michael Mistor:

Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company Engine #2 crossing California Street (Michael Mistor)
The photograph below was taken at the south portal of the Summit Tunnel yesterday during a hike with Kara and Henrique. I had heard that the brush across Burns Creek was finally cleared away and I had wanted to visit the tunnel again, anyway. We found our way back to the tunnel and, after exploring its dark and admittedly scary interior (300 feet in near-total darkness), I crossed the trickle of a creek and climbed the hillside to get this beautiful view of the trestle remains and the tunnel.

Summit Tunnel south portal from across the Burns Creek trestle.
I find it quite funny that the tunnel just sits here in the middle of nowhere beside the still-standing pilings of a trestle that hasn't existed since 1941. You can even see in this photograph that the ties jutted out from the hillside a bit creating what I call a hillside trestle (or half-trestle). It was definitely a fun but tiring hike there and back.

I have one last hike planned with a guy who owns a piece of the right-of-way near Waterman Switch. Other than that, though, my days of hiking these old trails are coming to an end. My book is still on schedule, at least, but the first-hand exploration, a part that I have really enjoyed, is not going to be possible from New Zealand, I'm afraid.

Last, I finally sold my car, the "Eggplant". The car served me well and is only the second to leave my care in drivable condition and the first one that I personally have sold. I've only owned it since 2010 when my parents helped find it for me, but it's served me very well. Being a Toyota Camry, it had few technical problems the entire time I owned it, and I suspect the new owners will likewise find little wrong with it.

That's definitely it for now. I'm going to probably do one last entry on August 1st from Santa Cruz County and then I'm off to the greater world beyond. Cheers!

11 July 2014

On a Fantastic Voyage

The news has been leaking out, mostly controlled, for the past nine months but finally I can say it loud and proud: WE'RE MOVING TO NEW ZEALAND! You heard that right. Kara and I have both been accepted into doctoral programs at the University of Canterbury at Christchurch. Kara will be studying English with a co-emphasis on Science Fiction (Dune) and Women's Studies. I will be embarking on a journey through history, exploring the formation of the nation states of England and France in the Late Medieval period. Together, we will also be exploring New Zealand, Australia, and any place else we can afford to travel to during a three-year+ adventure in the lands down under.

This does answer the question some of you have been having about my poor luck finding jobs lately. While I did want to continue working at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San José, I failed to obtain a new position there after the Star Wars exhibit closed on March 23rd. For three months I worked twice a week at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk—hopefully my last sojourn there—conducting history tours for school groups visiting the park. Since then, I have wholly failed at finding a short-term job and, quite honestly, I don't mind. I've been cashing out my unemployment, which I won't be adding to for the next three years anyway, while working on my railroad book. For those of you who have been out of the loop, we meant no offense. We kept a controlled lid on the whole program because of Kara's work—we didn't want to imperil her continued employment.

So here's the plan: we are moving out of our apartment on July 31st and then going to stay at Jenna and Henrique's for two nights. On August 2nd, we move to Mesa, Arizona (Kara's parents' house) for around three weeks. While there, we are going to unload most of our stuff, visit the Grand Canyon and Tucson, and I am going to continue researching for my railroad book. On August 24th, we're heading out to Long Beach and our flight leaves the next day. We'll arrive in Christchurch (via Auckland) on August 27th (skipping a day in the process) and our program begins September 1st!

Being a British-style program, we will have no actual class hours at UC but after the first semester, we will be able to work part-time at the school and get hours tutoring and teaching small classes. Niko, our cat, is coming along too, though getting all his paperwork and treatments done has been an absolute pain in the behind. We are still working on housing and stuff so don't plan to send us anything until we've settled in. Shipping is a nightmare to New Zealand anyway—everything is slow to arrive and costs a fortune to ship.

Regarding my various projects and whatnot, well, I'm going to be reformatting my various blogs (of which, this is the eleventh!):

  • Dynastology will become my dissertation discussion page and will be updated frequently over the next three years.
  • Santa Cruz Trains & the Santa Cruz Trains Update Blog aren't going anywhere. Both are essential to my continued research on railroads in Santa Cruz County and I don't plan to ever end that project digitally, though I do hope to get the two to three books released before too long.
  • Musings of the Great Khan will be updated to envelop all my minor projects such as Monarch Wars, Lost History of Eire, and Boardwalk Tales, as well as new projects such as film reviews, board game stuff, and other items. In effect, it will become my projects page. So kiss those three small pages goodbye as soon as I can move the information over.
  • LEGO as an AfterThought is going away, being moved exclusively to Brick Set where I will continue writing reviews when I feel like it and have the time.
  • Late Night with Zam Wesell I will keep up, but un-updated. The comic has concluded and I feel it is time to let it go. I don't want to erase it from memory quite yet, though.
  • And last of all, The Incredible Crash Dummies was a valiant final attempt at creating a database of Tyco's Crash Dummies series of toys. I never felt Blogger was a great venue for it, and I can only continue to agree with that. That blog will be closed and the material will not be backed up. I have most of it on my computer already in case I ever want to reboot the project.
I think that pretty much summarizes everything. This blog, obviously, will document my adventures abroad in New Zealand and elsewhere. I will try hard to keep it updated and will always post the updates on Facebook. I'll try to install an email subscription service for those who prefer that, and there is already an RSS feature enabled on the page.

I'm going to the land down under, please follow along in my adventures. Cheers!