Ah the alliteration is all to easy when in a place called Fargo that has temperatures that are … refreshing might be a nice way to put it. This week has been a different one for me I guess, corporate travel is all well and good but when the pillows are horrible and there are elephants upstairs, ugh.
Monday was a nothing day. It was supposed to be my flex day but of course there was work to do so I went in. I guess the only reason I signed p to the work week flex thing is so that I can use it when I want a long weekend and or it suits me. This week, it wasn’t necessary. Tuesday we headed to Fargo. This is the place that Dan says I spent a month in Fargo one night. And that Morgan considers a home town, but he doesn’t live there. We left about 1330 so Mark could be at the airport for his 1400 phone call. When I headed home to pickup my bags and put the car in the garage it turned out that Bobby was there. I drove up the drive and saw my garage door open WTF, I’m positive I closed that. Yeah, I did, I’d told Bobby to come any time she likes during the week, of course the time she arrives was the time that I happened to be home in the middle of the day. Quite the funny. We had chats while she continued cleaning and I threw my bag together. Absolutely lovely lady, I’m so glad she was recommended by the girls in the office. Plus she’s a good cleaner too – perfect!
So we headed out on Tuesday afternoon. Arriving in fabulous Fargo bout 1830. I can assure you that was not the best time to arrive – it was cold! Maybe its my thinned Pilbara blood. Maybe it was because there was a breeze. But I’m darned glad that they decided that the carry on luggage would be delivered to the baggage carousel. Oh yeah, that was funny too. The plane we flew in was tiny, I mean about 16 rows of two seats a side, tiny. I’ve flown in smaller, but I wasn’t really expecting it here in the USA. Because the plane is so small you can have your normal carry on luggage but it is taken from you at the gate and loaded into the plane as it won’t fit in the spaces above the seats. Now that was funny to me. Apparently they usually make you wait by the plane for your bags but due to the weather they took pity on us and we got to wait in the terminal. (The forecast: note these temperatures are in Farenheit and do not consider wind chill)
Wednesday morning we woke up to snow. Just a light dusting but Mark is vehemently against snow, and particularly driving in it. I was surprised that he decided to take the wheel and drive us up to Oslo. Oh Oslo, now that was an interesting town! We headed about 1.5 hours north of Fargo to meet with the guys at Gowan Constructors and Farming. Yep – the signage on the property includes their roots of farming. In the reception area they have a lovely array of draft horse models that apparently belonged to Old Man Gowan, the Company founder. I was almost too distracted looking at them to notice the now company boss, Milt Gowan. Ooops. Of course to these people having an Australian in the middle of what can only be described as the US equivalent of the back of Bourke is a huge novelty. Why are you here, what do you do, it was brave of you to come to the States for work, do you have a family, how did your family take it, etc. I’m not sure that brave is the right word, its what I enjoy. I suspect that female, engineer, in construction, is enough of a novelty for these people – and then I talk funny too. Lets put this in context for you though…Oslo is about an hours drive from Canada, it has a population of 330 people (in 2010 according to Wikipedia). Do have a look at the link and the info from the census – fascinating (to me at least) stuff. This is the Red River (the one that is big and scary and floods the whole area) in winter – most scary part at the moment would be walking on it and falling through the ice. And the tiny houses in the town…so cool! I can only assume that the size is to reduce heating costs, though I was surprised that they’re weatherboard.
So a good meeting done and we headed back to Fargo. This time the sun was coming out and it was not at all warm but it was at least nice in the car, protected from the wind. We popped in to have lunch then went to a meeting, turns out that my calendar was entirely messed up (timezones I guess) and we weren’t ten minutes early, rather we were fifty minutes late. Poor form. Totally my bad and poor form. Oh well, we got the last ten minutes and heard a couple of interesting things actually. Then headed back into town for a financial board meeting. That was ever so slightly more interesting than when watching them online. But only slightly, and it was a short one so that likely helped. Anyway while at the first meeting there were cars that were plugged in, to keep the engines warm enough to move again at the end of the day. Seriously, like a caravan park there were posts at all the spots with a power point. Not sure you can quite see it in this photo but it sure was odd, and scary to me that it gets that cold (power cord running down off the front of the ‘truck’). One of the first things Milt said was that this has been a very mild winter. This may be true but to me this is by no stretch of the imagination able to be considered mild.
Thursday we started with a chat with the boys at IBI. Interesting chaps those. Decent sized operation. They told us all sorts of great things about the local conditions, and of course were similarly intrigued by the Aussie woman sitting in their office. Not sure if they initially thought secretary or similar until they read my card, but they did ask my role and looked surprised when I said that I will happily go work on site, etc. I’m glad I met both these companies as if we team with them in any way I’m sure I’ll be calling them for inputs regularly, having them know who I am is usually a big help. Face for the name and all that.
So the local lads told us about load limits being enforced generally between March and May, as the soils defrost they move so you cannot have heavy loads. Testament to the mild winter, load limits are already coming in now this year. The load limits can get so severe that a cement truck can get down to a maximum load of three cubic yards; hardly seems worth sending the truck out to me. IBI said they have a stop work policy when it gets below -10F. For all those playing at home that is -23C. Apparently after three weeks of not working the boys will start getting ansty for more work and money so they adjust their policy and they’ll work down to -20F (-39C). Madness. Sure, that’s hard work on the machines at that stage, but hell, they can’t go without a wage for that long! Ugh. Insanity. The Gowan boys didn’t mention that sort of restriction, just that they’ll work year round. Now these temperatures don’t include wind chill…it seems to often be windy here (though it wasn’t on Thursday), and that wind will cut through everything. This is what Friday is like at 10am – with the ‘RealFeel’ temperature approximating the wind chill. Thats right, -26F (thats -32C), there is a good reason I had my run inside on the treadmill this morning.
We also went to the board meeting for the diversion. That was interesting. There was a huge fanfare about the Colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers being there. I guess he doesn’t attend most of the board meetings, though realistically the Corps has the real say whether these projects go ahead or not, they lobby government for funding and provide all sorts of approvals for anything and everything involving water. Amusingly the Colonel was all suited and booted in his uniform for the meeting, then while we were talking afterwards he wandered off and got changed into civilian clothes. I know the Americans highly revere their army lads, so I was surprised he didn’t stay in his uniform.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn, funny quirky place. There are little signs and photos all over the place. I like those sorts of things. We had a couple of nice meals. I’d mention Spitfire and the Blarney Stone Irish Pub as good places for food in the West Fargo area. Blarneys professes to be an ‘authentic Irish pub’, but of course it is huge and has televisions all over the place…I doubt that is particularly authentic. Actually, I’d make a place like Blarneys my regular if I found it in the vicinity of my house. Spitfire had an impressive collection of awards and trophies for their various meals; me being me I had to wonder whether it was first of two style. We spent a little time in the library between meetings Thursday (warm place with wifi, Mark hasn’t worked out the cafe option yet but I’ll teach him), the third photo is a surprising one to me – banning books? What the? That’s just plain wrong.
Aside from the immense cold, the other thing that strikes me about this place is just how darned flat it is. I didn’t notice for the first day because it was snowing but as that cleared up….wow. Just vast expanses of white flat. To get mobile reception they have to have towers all over the place, and even then it is super sketchy.
So I guess I’m at 1700 odd words, so we’re getting into long post territory and Ben likes shorter posts 🙂 With no guidance on my poll that I did a couple of weeks ago, you can have as many posts as I feel like! I’ll send this one out into the ether and see what adventures I can get in to while returning to Denver and this weekend. I hope you’re all much warmer than I will be shortly when I venture outside to the car *shudder* will be all too appropriate.