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Getting You Up to Speed

Hello. It seems that my marketing clickbait worked. Nice to have you stop by. A LOT has happened since I’ve spoken with you last, so I’ll try to be as succinct as possible – starting at the dawn of time. I hope you read this post in my voice.

2021: I was going to open my own brewpub. After raising the money necessary, and years worth of planning, the landlord decided to sell the building instead of beginning a new lease with a new tenant. Then, my twoish year relationship ended. Then, I filmed my episode of Wheel of Fortune and sold my house in Ohio. Started applying to jobs outside of my comfort zone. Decided 2022 was going to be better. That’s the long and short of 2021.

2022: Told myself I didn’t want to pay rent this year. Wanted to say “yes” more. Moved in with my friends Brian and Kassandra. They offered for me stay in their guest bedroom from the end of January to the beginning of June in exchange for redoing their guest house. I said yes. I’m pleased with how it turned out. You should stop by sometime, it’s pretty neat. Got an interview in January for the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch outside of Stanley, ID – population 63. I’ve only driven through Idaho. Got the job! Free room and board and all the hiking I can fathom. I’m in. Finished the guest house the day before I packed to leave for Idaho. Drove to Idaho, worked at IRMR from the beginning of June through a few days ago – September 21. Met so many awesome and fun people who I can’t wait to see again.

A few days before leaving for Idaho, I was contacted for an interview with a company that provides support staff for McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Found out about this when I was in college. First time I applied was 2002, and I’ve never really been contacted about it. I’ve applied 4ish times since then. This time, I applied to probably 15 or so positions. I was finally contacted for the “Beverage Supervisor” position, which was basically what I was doing when I was the GM of the brewery. Had an amazing interview during which I got the impression they already had someone for the position, but maybe they were looking for alternates. I’ve come to find out that it was a pretty big deal that I was contacted about the position at all, because it’s definitely not entry level. Fast forward and I didn’t get the position, but my interviewer submitted my resume for an entry-level job in the kitchen as a steward. A steward is basically kitchen staff assistant (think dishwasher, inventory, cleaning, etc). Works for me! I want to go to Antarctica. Got an interview for that position (after a few follow ups with various people). Had a wonderful interview for that, and I was recommended to talk to the executive Chef as a final interview. That interview was supposed to take 15ish minutes, but it took around 45 and it was a wonderful conversation that got me even MORE excited about the potential of going down to the ice. Toward the end of the interview, he asked if I’d be open to a supervisor position should one open up, and I would be, certainly. He said to keep an eye on my email and a few days later I was offered what’s called an “alternate” contract, starting in mid-October, which basically says that someone’s in a specific position, with an official contract, but that person is qualified for another position – should it become available. Sign me up – I’m goin’ to Antarctica!

Hold up. Turns out you don’t just jaunt down and play with penguins. At that point, the qualifications, testing, background checks start. First was a drug test. Got that sent to me on July 15. Had to drive to Hailey for that one, that’s 1.5 hours away. Passed. On July 19, I received what’s called my PQ packet – or “Physical Qualifications.” That consisted of me getting a very complete physical, full dental exam, and lots of blood drawn for bloodwork. At this point, I’m 3+ hours away from Boise, which is the closest place where I can get all three things done in one day because driving there and back multiple times (on the days I had off, which is Sunday or Monday) over multiple weeks, would hold my paperwork back and thus hinder my possibility of going. So I was able to find an Urgent Care for the complete physical, a LabCorp (in Walgreens) for the blood draw, and an Aspen Dental (chain dentist) to get everything done in one day. So I drove to Boise Sunday night and found a cheap hotel. I was at Urgent Care at 7:15am on Monday for the physical and EKG. Finished that at about 10. Drove down the street to have blood drawn at LabCorp. They needed to draw TWELVE VIALS of blood for all the tests that needed to be done. The nurse said that she hadn’t ever seen a request that included that many vials and she said we might have to do this in two sittings and I said, let’s try to squeak it out of me because I had that day to do it. She was so happy and surprised that I was able to fill all the vials. That was done by 11. Went and got an oil change and a bite to eat before my dentist appointment at 1:30. Very long story short, they wouldn’t sign off on my documentation before I got two cavities filled, and they needed me to come back on two separate occasions to do it. I said that’s not possible, I lived 3 hours away. They said, okay we can do ONE of them, but can you come back tomorrow? I said, with the most prominent puppy dog eyes ever, “okay, but can you help me find a place to stay tonight or I could stay in my car” at which point they said okay let’s try to get both done today. Okay great. $600 later, that’s non-reimbursable because of the way they did the receipt, It’s 5:30pm and I’m done and signed off on. THAT was a hell of a day. Went back that night, overnighted all the paperwork in the next day, and I waited.

Next step was a background check starting on July 26th. They wanted every job and home address I’ve had over the last 7 years. Okay, send it in and they actually CONTACTED people, so I’m glad I didn’t lie. I was surprised at the depth of the background check – even though that sounds dumb.

And then…I waited.

August 22 – got notified I passed my dental exam
August 23 – got notified that I passed my PQ (after clarifying and following up with one thing)
August 24 – got notified that since I’m representing the United States Antarctic Program, I need to complete an Extended Background Investigation which should start “in the next several weeks.”

And then…I waited.

September 16 – got notified that the EBI (that is required to be completed prior to going) started and I had 5 business days to complete it and if I needed fingerprint cards to let them know. So I let them know that the last day I’d be in Idaho was on Tuesday, September 20th – so if the cards could be there by then, I could take them with me when I went to visit my parents in Ohio…before leaving for Antarctica. If not, I’d ask that they be sent to my parents in Ohio. Didn’t hear back. Pack up and say my goodbyes at Idaho Rocky on Wednesday morning and drove to Boise with Amanda, Trelawney and Pat. Got to Boise and received a text from Connie (the GM of IRMR) that FedEx called and they have a package for me that should arrive the next day (Thursday). Commence freak out. I contact FedEx and ask if they could forward the package – they said SURE, it’ll be there on Tuesday the 27th. Stuff is due before then. I fly to Ohio. Arrive after midnight (Thursday morning), get to my parents’ house after staying with Adam for the night in Columbus and start calling local police stations about fingerprints. They said I should just print out fingerprint cards on cardstock and bring them in. I got the correct forms from the FBI website and was working on formatting everything correctly on Friday when mom came down and showed the FedEx that had just got here! Joy! So I ran out to the local police station before they stopped doing fingerprints for the day, got them done (with actual ink!), and took them to FedEx to send them out on the day they were due. Told everybody at the NSF and USAP and anyone involved to be on the lookout. Sigh of relief. All of this is due before getting a flight assigned to me. Oh, and I’m supposed to leave 4 to 5 days prior to my “on ice” date of October 5. I’m not nervous, you’re nervous.

So it’s today, Monday, September 26th and I got confirmation from FedEx that the NSF received my fingerprints at around noon. At 6p I got my flight information. I’m leaving Thursday, September 29th from LAX to New Zealand. At some point after that I’m going to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I’ll be there through the end of February. After that I’m going to do some travel, and I’m not 100% sure to where. After that, I’m going back to Idaho.

Typical ramble from me, but atypical story.

For what it’s worth, it’s not as cold as it is in Stanley, Idaho over the winter – because it’s Antarctica’s summer. 24/7 sunlight. Oh, and I got word that I got a promotion to Dining Lead, which is a supervisor position, because some people didn’t get PQ’d in time. Writing this, it still hasn’t “set in.” I don’t really know what to expect, but I’ve been trying to get down there for 20 years, so now’s the time. Saying yes is feeling pretty damn good this year.

I hope you have some time to check back in now and then. I’m going to try to give updates about what life is like at the bottom of the world. For example: no wifi – only hardwired LAN connections and super slow internet speeds. No facetime/zoom/skype. I can’t airdrop pictures from my phone to my computer. IF you see penguins, you can’t touch them…but if they come up to you, that’s supposedly okay. There’s a full campus of things to do…indoors. Supposedly there is some good hiking as well, outdoors.

Lots more to share soon. If you have questions, post a comment. And you can subscribe to be notified of when I post if you want.

What a trip. Stay tuned.

11 thoughts on “Getting You Up to Speed”

  1. Your Dad and I are excited for you and know it’s going to be a wonderful experience. We’ll look forward to following you. Be safe! Have fun! and we love you a bunch.
    Love, Mom and Dad

  2. Wow! I didn’t even know you could go t Antarctica as a non-scientist or civilian. Sounds crazy amazing. I’m in for the update!! And congrats to you for jumping through those hoops so cleanly.

  3. I only met you once at IRMR (Ellen’s mom) but I am invested in hearing all about your adventures! I don’t know much about Antarctica and look forward to learning first hand what it’s like there.

  4. Hahah! Ellen’s mom! Awesome. I’ll look forward to keeping everyone informed about life on “the ice.” Thanks for being interested and invested!

  5. FOLLOWING! Going to binge-read your posts over my morning coffee. One down and a few more to go.🥰 It is 6:30 a.m. here in Cincinnati and I think I have this blog-stuff figured out. Eager to keep reading!

  6. You are without a doubt the craziest person. I know and I am living the dream vicariously through you. If you want to visit the mountains of Western NC, you are always welcome. There is some good hiking here.

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