We're up pretty early and, before long, Peter and I are sitting in the Estes Park public library while Jusko and B.K. are off hunting The White Whale—a multi-pitch trad route.
Peter's looking for places to stay and jobs to work in the Salinas Valley of Steinbeck fame. Like my cousin, he's taking a gap year (which I think is a swell idea), although he's using his to learn more about and work with immigrant populations in the service of Christ. This latter part isn't something I learn about Peter until today, when I hear part of the story. Later on, I'll leave a CouchSurfing reference for him and learn more.
For me, the morning is a good collection of successes for work. Around noon, I head out for breakfast. The Egg & I down the street beckons and I step inside its awning to read the menu. Inside, a crowd of people swarms towards the door—more and more of them—blocking my entrance. An old, larger guy with a cowboy hat squeezes out and says, "Come with me." So I do.
He points around the corner and I see that some woman has managed to punch the front end of her mini-van into the building right beneath a large window, just missing a collection of news-dispenseries and another car. The people inside are not trying to prevent me from having breakfast, though they are succeeding. I thank the man and head across the road.
Breakfast then, is a large salad with a chipotle dressing within a few feet of the the Estes Park river (I don't know the name, but, if you ever go there, you'll know the one I'm talking about).
Back to the library and, a few hours later, Peter's ready for a walk, though it takes some convincing to get him to eat anything: he's trying to save money. Armed with bananas and yogurt, we leave the store and head in the direction of a castle-thing I've seen on the hillside. Not far up the road, there's a sudden wave and a shout and Jusko and B.K. pick us up.
As we walk up to the castle thing (which turns out to be not all that exciting) they tell us about the climb and the words: "best climb of my life" come up and are used seriously. It was smooth, it was easy, it was fun. Despite a run-out.
|Then we hit the car and head up to camp: time to pack things up. Unfortunately, on the walk in, I forget to pick up trashbags. For the past five or so days we've been camping here, I've been amassing caches of trash. There is SO MUCH broken class in this campsite and I've gathered it into little mounds. But now, it seems, we'll have to leave those mounds behind and hope that someone else packs them out.|
I don't know who you are GlassBreakers of the World and I don't know why you Leave Your Glass Behind.
But I Don't Like It.
By 6:40PM we're in sight of Denver. The bus leaves at 7PM.
Jusko is driving and at this point I learn something new about him, though it doesn't really surprise me since I've continued to learn new things about Jusko since I met him: Jusko used to drive race cars.
And it's under that skilled hand that we work our way into Denver, arriving at the Greyhound station at 6:55PM. Peter and I jump out of the car and run into the station.
Once I'm sure he's in line, I begin looking for the bus he'll be getting on. Jusko and B.K. show up carrying his stuff. The bus is located and the driver says he's leaving with or without Peter. Peter makes it through the line and we get a hand in the bus door just as it's closing. A moment later, the bus pulls away with Peter on it.
Inside the bus depot, we do massive high-fives.
A short drive later, we're walking up to Mifin's house. If ever there was giant of a man, this is he. Mifin dwarfs me, both in terms of height and musculature. A recent immigrant to Colorado from Minnesota, he's working at a power plant here.
We talk about this over supper and I learn some interesting things. Mifin's plant was designed to run at ~400 Megawatts at all times, but, with wind and other sources coming into play, they usually have it running at ~300 Megawatts. I wouldn't have thought this would be a problem, but Mifin says it can be damaging to the plant. More damanging, though, are the load fluctuations. Wind, especially, is an intermittent source. Mifin says, "You can't store power and people get angry when their lights go out."
Wind can drop off suddenly and that decrease in power needs to be made up by a coal plant almost instantaneously or your lights will flicker. When Mifin says the plant's supposed to be run at 400 Megawatts all the time, he means it. Running it at that power means a certain amount of coal continuously being fed to the furnance, a certain amount of steam being sent through the pipes, etc. This is a huge operation and it doesn't turn around on a dime.
Fluctuations in power levels equate to fluctuations in heat in the furnance which lead to expansion and compression of the pipes running through it. The picture in my mind is of a tall shaft filled with pipes coming in one side and leaving out the other. These pipes don't like to expand and shrink—it leads to leakages. The plant usually loses about 1% of its water, but when that value creeps up to maybe 3–5%, someone like Mifin will cut through forty or fifty of those pipes, repair whichever one is leaking and then weld them all back into place on their way out.
So that's one of the downsides to renewables.
Later on in the evening I walk a mile or so through the darkened streets past the other Night Folk to an aging house a few blocks from the capitol. The door opens and I'm suddenly hugging Danifen—our first meeting in over a year.
The next hour or so is a tour of the house and then a conversation in which we try, in vain, to catch up on the past year. We'd spoken once by phone while I was in Seattle—Vivle and I were in a bookstore considering the mechanics of pop-up books. And again, months later, when I was relaxing in Tulane University's student center. We're both difficult to get ahold of and, judging by Danifen's blog, our conversation would have traversed topics for which there were no words or resolution. So for the past few months our only exchange had been messages I'd leave of piano music I would play.
Of course, the mark of good friends is that friendship transcends time, place, and even large life changes.