Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Norway blog: part 4

We left Andenes early in the morning. I had been disappointed that I had not planned for a day in Oslo, instead opting to head straight home in one day. The other Canadians were going to meet up with some of the Oslo students on Saturday night. Changing the flights would be pretty impossible.

The flight from Andenes to Tromsø was really cool as the views from the plane were amazing. I usually don't shoot pictures out of the plane window, but I think I got some good ones from the flight. The turbulence near the end of the flight was pretty extreme.

Things got interesting when we tried to leave Tromsø. The reverse on one of the engines was not working, and we had to go back into the terminal. There was always the possibility that I would miss my connection in Oslo to London due to the delay. We waited anxiously, unsure of what would happen (overnight in London/Oslo). My bags were only checked to Oslo, so I would have to pick them up and check in again (there was 3hrs between the original flights). We got to Oslo, and sure enough, the plane had left. Fortunately booking the night in Oslo was now a possibility. I think that Thor made it my destiny!

After checking into the airport hotel, we headed into Oslo on the train to meet up with Cato, Live, and Emilie from the camp. The city had the distinct Euro feel to it with streetcars, cobbled streets, pedestrian only streets, rental bikes, etc... We were debating on where to eat as us Canadians wanted an authentic Norwegian experience, but ha I guess that is easier said than done. There were TGI Fridays all over the place! We settled on this place called Egon. After dinner, we walked around more, and checked out the opera house. Then it was time to head back to the hotel.

I finally saw Avatar on the way home. Definitely did not live up to the hype, but I guess I did watch it on the small screen on the back of the headrest in front of me.

Wow what a trip. It went by way too fast.

What an awesome country. The beer is expensive, but the education is free. The girls are gorgeous, intelligent, and down to earth. People go outdoors to get exercise, and they eat well. The landscape is beautiful.

Most of the Norwegians were SLR'd out. Good thing I came similarly equiped.

I will keep updating as I remember more of the events that happened.

The Norway blog: part 3

Thursday was the big day for the launch. The usual conference room doubled in size with the extra people attending the morning meetings, both ARR staff, and local politicians and press. Soon we were off to our respective stations, to prepare for the launch.

The telemetry group was split further into two groups. One group was in the main telemetry station supporting the professional ARR staff (they don't want to leave this important task up to the students), and another group was in the student telemetry station. I was in the student station, which is basically a simpler version of the main station. I controlled the antenna, making sure that it followed the rocket through it's flight to pick up the signal transmitted by the rocket.

The launch came up quickly, and I was able to track the rocket through most of its flight until just before splashdown.

Now was my opportunity to try and see how fast I could climb up to the col. I forgot to time myself, but I think it took me about 10mins to gain the 250m or so straight up to the top. I don't think that I was the fastest, and I went out way too hard and had to suffer to get to the top. I ran down the other side, and jogged back to the base for a total time of 30mins. I am writing this on Sunday, and my legs are still sore!

After my climb, the rocket group launched a weather balloon to measure the wind profiles, but unfortunately the sensor box fell off just after the balloon was released.

After the post flight meeting, we had an interesting lecture on Near Earth Objects before beginning the preparation for the presentations on Friday. We finished our report just before the farewell party.

The farewell party was fun. I had gone into town after supper to get some Ringnes beer, and the ARR had some Tuborg for us as well.

ah let's see what went down:
-trying to solve integrals
-playing some weird cardgames, and cardtricks
-drunk frigid ocean swimming
-watching the Ariane launch, relating it to our own experience earlier in the day
-trying to sing Norwegian songs
-exchanging culture via-youtube, including gettin' 'er goin' on the Mitchell
-hiding from the night watchman
-chilling in the basement

Friday morning, I made sure that I was ready to rock, no matter how many wobbly pops I consumed the night before. The trip to ALOMAR was cancelled again, so we had time to polish our presentation. The LIDAR at ALOMAR was not operational at the time, but it would have been cool to go up the mountain. The presentation went off without a hitch, but we were experiencing our last moments with the Norwegian groups. First the Tromsø group left, then the Oslo group. After the Norwegians left, we fired off some more model rockets. We then headed into Andenes with one of the grad students, and ate at this restaurant, Arresten, in the old jail. Then we wandered the town in search of some nightlife, but we must have been too early because the places were absolutely empty!

The Norway blog: part 2

The course began on Monday with a presentation about the facility and the program, then a tour of the facility. During the tour, I learned that there was a record time up to the Col on the mountain that I had climbed yesterday. I knew that I would have to see how fast I could climb!

After lunch, we got an introduction to rockets from a grad student who does model rockets as a hobby (hobby rockets are quite rare in Norway). Learning about the stability (the position of the centroid in relation to the center of pressure) of a rocket was useful. Then we had a lab where we made some paper rockets that would be launched using an air compressor. The key was a good fit on the tube, and good ballast in the nose to increase stability.

After launching the paper rockets, we headed into the town of Andenes for dinner at an Italian restaurant.

In the evening, the UofS students "broke the ice" by sharing the Crown Royal they brought from home.

On Tuesday, we had to make the tough decision of which group to be in: Group A: Rocket, Group B: Experiments, Group C: Payload, or Group D: Telemetry. I ended up with group D. We started off with an overview of the process, and soon started to input the correct settings for the equipment. We also used a satellite tracking software to predict when certain satellites would pass over the range, so that we could track them the next day. Originally, there was a trip planned to the ALOMAR observatory on the top of the mountain, but that was postponed until Friday as the steep road up the mountain was icy. The lectures in the evening were on various atmospheric research topics and their applications at ALOMAR, which were interesting new subjects for me.

The rocket group would assist with various demos during the week, as well as use some software to predict the trajectory of the rocket. The experiments group and payload group would build the sensors for the rocket, make sure that the payload is balanced, and analyze the data once it is extracted.

In the evening, we walked into town, only to discover that they stopped selling beer after 6pm.

Wednesday, we had a presentation on range safety before diving into more group work. The setup of the equipment for the launch was completed before lunch.

There had been talk about going swimming in the frigid ocean earlier in the week, but nothing had materialized. I wanted to go swimming, so I went out after eating lunch. I brought along some warm layers with me to the beach so that I would warm up quickly after swimming. The sand was fine and white, and the beach was quite shallow, so I could go out a bit and only be waist deep. I was waiting for the right moment to submerge my head, when I noticed that the waves could be body-surfed. So I did that a couple of times, then got out and started to change, when I saw two of the Norwegian girls (Live and Emilie) from the camp. They were quite impressed, I was a little embarrassed (I was actually just about to drop the drawers because I wasn't expecting anyone to see me on the beach. Good thing I didn't as there was shrinkage!). I decided to go back in, because I wanted them to take a picture of me swimming. After getting out, I dried off with my wet towel and slipped into my warm clothes.

I didn't have much time for a warm shower, so I put on lots of warm layers, but it took me about 1.5hrs to stop shivering. Word slowly spread around the camp.

We tracked a NOAA satellite during the last part of the lunch break, and we got a pretty cool picture after processing the signal!

The hybrid motor and model rocket demonstration from group A was pretty exciting. The motor used N2O gas as well as plexiglass as fuel.

We went out late in the night to watch the aurora. It started off slowly, then dazzled us with shimmering green light.

The Norway blog: part 1

It is always nice to get out of town for a while to go explore a new city, especially when someone else is footing the bill.

Back in April, I found out that I was chosen as one of the two UofA students that would partake in a week long course at the Andøya Rocket Range in Norway, along with students from UofC, UofS, University of Oslo, and the University of Tromsø, as part of the CaNoRock program.

After applying for travel grants, scheduling plane tickets, and hotel rooms the week finally came. After writing a statistics midterm on Friday the 22nd, I headed to the airport for my flight to LHR, and ultimately Oslo. Arriving late in the afternoon, we (I along with the other UofA student) didn`t head into the city. Instead we decided to head straight to the hotel to get some needed rest. The Esso On the Run looked familiar, but with different types of chocolate bars.

My jet lag prevention strategy was to not sleep unless it was synchronized with the final time zone. It seemed to work out pretty well. We woke up to an awesome complimentary breakfast at the hotel: waffles, bread, fish, cereal, yogurt, sausages, home fries, nom nom. I ate lots, and then hopped on the bus to the airport.

Waiting by the gate, the UofS students, Roman and Grant, met up with us, then Eric and Matt from UofC introduced themselves when they heard the word "theoretical" come up in our conversation.

We flew from Oslo to Tromsø, and then to the final destination of Andenes. Andenes is a small 1 gate airport with a military base. We hopped on the taxi that was waiting for us, and soon arrived at the rocket range. We had plenty of free time before the other students arrived, so we decided to go for a hike: straight up the mountain!

It was a little sketchy at the bottom walking over some boulders covered in grass, but I soon kicked it into overdrive and ripped up to the top. I traversed the ridge with the UofS students, eventually getting to the highest summit on the ridge at about 450m from sea level. The UofS students were motivated to summit when I told them that there was a logbook at the top. The weather was moving in and out, and I wasn't sure of when the sun would set, so it was a little risky.

After our adventure we played some Risk. Alliances were formed and broken.

Eventually the Norwegian students showed up, and the first dinner of the week was served: pizza, one of which had Tex-Mex toppings (Norwegians love their tex-mex). After dinner, we started to get to know the other students, but not without awkward silences (6.5 to be exact!).

Monday, October 11, 2010


Another sick long weekend of riding in the books.

Saturday, I raced the GP Jim Horner CX race. It was hot out again, but I rocked the bottle cage with bottle on my bike and unzipped the jersey, so I survived. I got another slow start, but was able to work my way up quickly, and was picking off riders. Then I locked up my rear wheel on some off camber and went down, driving my brake lever into the grass. I got up fine, but I had lost the time that I was making up on the riders ahead, and my gap (that was slowly coming down) to the chasers who were not far behind. After shaking off the post crash jitters, I focussed on not losing any more places, and finished up in 7th.

After heading down to Canmore Saturday after the race, Bill and I decided to go ride Moose Mountain. I have raced the Summer Solstace race on the lower slopes, but this was my first time riding the more downhill specific trails. We rode Sulphur Springs - Pneuma - Special K - Tom Snow/Ridgeback, I was on my Marin Attack Trail! Pneuma is a pretty fun climb, but the last part after the intersection with Race of Spades is super techy! Special K was a good rip as well with some good steep sections and awesome flow. We experimented with a "different" GoPro mounting position. Look at Bill drop me!

Yes, it seemed that riding in Kelowna has made Bill even faster on the descents, but I was able to crush him on Pneuma with my cyclo-cross legs.

Finally, on Monday before we each headed our separate ways, we went for a quick rip at the CNC with some hero dirt courteousy of Sunday afternoon's light rain!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dark Knight

photo: Ken Hurd

That was a pretty fun weekend. Saw Fubar II on Friday, and then I headed off to Calgary with MT for some biking. I could have used a little more sleep. We got there before the race so that we could do some riding at COP. We didn't get there early enough, so we didn't have too much time to ride, but it was pretty fun on the new Marin! That bike provides a solid pedalling platform, and when combined with its lateral stiffness, it accelerates nicely. But when you point it down, the Quad Link soaks up the bumps. beauty. We rode Safari Planet and Dragon Slayer, and manned up for the DH course for our last run. The DH is easily the best trail there.

The Dark Night course was pretty fun, lots of off camber, and it hit up the last couple of tables and berms coming out of the bike park. In the dark it was really fun, and I got into the rhythm of the course really well early on. I rolled in for 9th, which was pretty good. MT was rocking 2 flashes and got some sick pictures that will be posted soon!

I just missed picking up the Pig Keg. I didn't see it until the guy in front of me slid out while trying to grab it haha.

For Oval cross, the legs were definitely feeling the effort from the previous night, but I avoided getting lapped on a fairly short course.

To cap off the epicness of the weekend, we checked out the Bass Pro Shop on the way home. Got an awesome flanel shirt!