Friday, February 27, 2009

Ice crossing, part deux

It was a very long day on Wednesday. After getting up at 5:30 and hitting the road at 6:00, arriving at my destination at just after 10 am, I had a day of meetings:

- First was meeting with my local co-workers about the meeting we were going to have with the client.
- Second was meeting with the client and the contractor representative - this for the repair of the leaning bridge.

Then lunch. At least my local office manager bought lunch for us - instead of being on the hook for my own meal.

- Third was another meeting with the local guys (all two of them, it's a very small office) about the second construction project I would be involved in, though this one only on the periphery.
- Fourth was meeting with the client (same one) and the contractor representatives - three of them this time instead of just one. This was more contentious as we had more challenging issues to talk out. Odd, as installing a culvert is much easier and less technical than the repairs we're doing to the leaning bridge! Then again, it's rather unusual to install a culvert in winter.

We finished up just before 4 in the afternoon. The local manager suggested that I could just get a hotel room and drive the 4+ hours back on Thursday. Certainly, this was an option. However, and this was a big however, I had another meeting an hour the other side of my hotel at 9 am the following morning. Not my cup of tea!

Driving back, I opted to again take the ice bridge. The sun was on it's way down in the western sky. This of course led to a large shadow across the river due to the deep river valley. After explaining to Mr. Minivan that the road would indeed support him, I made my way up the highway.

Being me, this led to me stopping just up the road and taking more photos. It really is a pretty valley. This photo (if you click on it for full resolution) really shows you the scale of the crossing. It would take a mighty big bridge, tucked in the far north-west of the province with very little population, to span the Mighty Peace. Visible on the far bank you can see the river ferry pulled out of the water for the winter.

A few hours later, I pulled into the parking lot of my hotel just over 14 hours after I had I left it.

Sure, winter can really suck at times, but it does lead to some interesting experiences on occasion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crossing the Peace River

It was a beautiful day today. Clear blue skies. Not a cloud to be seen. I got to see both the sunrise and the sunset as I drove. The only downside? Two, actually. 1) it was -37 degrees C this morning and 2) I was on the road at 6 am and got back to my hotel at 8:15 pm, with two meetings and 900 km of driving in between.

Today I did something that was, for me, a unique and new experience. I drove across the Peace River. Sure, everyone drives across rivers every day. Except that I was driving across the river surface, not across a bridge over the river. Of course, it was an ice bridge - which in this case was just driving across the river where the ferry runs when it is not clogged with ice. The nice guy with the grader keeps the surface clean, and there are delineator posts so that people don't get lost.

Yeah, nice day for a drive. I even got to tell a guy, after I drove back across the river, that it was perfectly safe to cross the river and that I, like he was at that moment, was a touch nervous the first time I drove across it as well!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Off to fix a bridge

No great or big post today as I had to go to bed early, to get up early, to take a 4 hour drive to a pre-construction meeting for a bridge repair. Then it's 4 hours back to my hotel (yes, that's a pot-load of driving in one day). Chances are good, if you're reading this during the daytime hours, that I'm behind the wheel of my work truck at 105 kph.

Thank goodness for cruise control!

What will I be working to fix? Well... here's what the bridge looked like from the road. For reference, there really SHOULD NOT be a dip in the bridgerail. EVER.Here is WHY the bridgerail looks so funky - the classic 'leaning tower of bridge pier' pose. An indication that something is seriously wrong with the foundation of this bridge.So, it was either fix the bridge, or replace it. In the interim we closed the bridge. Or rather, we told the County, in the strongest terms, to close the bridge. Which advice the County promptly ignored and continued to drive school buses across this bridge.

Let's see... the safety of our children is how important again? But the bridge is still standing. Why should we close it? It's inconvenient to drive the extra 10 km / 6 mi. to the west to detour around the bridge. Never mind that the advice of our consultant's senior bridge inspector (engineering technologist), their bridge engineer, the government's bridge manager (also an engineer), and heck, the two engineers that the contractor hired after he got the contract are all telling us we shouldn't be driving on this bridge. Let's let Joe Q. Public continue to drive on the bridge.

Yeah, it's the sort of thing to give people in my line of work nightmares.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's K2 day!

Today is the day that Amazon is shipping the first Kindle 2 ebook readers.

As my Kindle 1 has some screen issues... something to do with difficulty reading print on screen when the screen is blurred, or something like that.

Have I mentioned that the Kindle is a most excellent device? Indeed it is... it's helped me re-immerse myself in my longtime love of reading.

I've very excited about the thought of getting my new Kindle from my friend in the states. She's a trooper!

Walking on water (river training 2)

I attended a course last week on "ice safety" all about how to be safe while working on ice. Rather timely, as this week I'm spending a fair amount of time walking on ice to monitor work on my river training project.

As I mentioned, the river is eating away the bank. This photo shows the view from the level of the river, instead of from the bridge. The bank that's been eaten away is directly in line with the abutment:

As you might imagine, washing the abutment away would make it tough to drive across the bridge. Cars don't yet have the ability to hover. The last 'setting the scene' photo that I'll post follows. It's the view of the bridge from past the location of the spur. The trail of footprints entering the frame from the right-centre is approximately where the spur will be centered when everything is done.

While the labourer was walking around, she mentioned that she thought she heard the ice cracking. Well... if it was cracking, then there are issues! The ice is seriously thick at this site - to everyone's relief. But last week when I took these photos, we didn't know that yet.

The last photo shows the layout of the guidebank near the bridge. The painted lines are about 5' past the furthest extent of the rock that we are laying in to protect the new bank. I talked to my engineer about it, as it looks like we're going way the heck out into the channel. The answer? Well, apparently the OLD bank used to be out where the painted lines are on the ice, and the vertical banks to the east were once forest situated well away from the river. To put it into perspective, the river used to run straight through the center span of the bridge (seen above) and it is still aligned perfectly downstream of the bridge.

The excavator in these photos is prepping the area so that there was space to start building the new bank, excavating the toe of the bank and so forth, as I'll expound upon later. Hopefully it takes me less than an hour to upload the photos next time! Stupid slow internet at my hotel...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Training water...

It's that time of year again. Err... right. Not quite. Mrs. Spit would tell you that it's not a particular time of year, it's any time of year. Time for Mr. Spit to be sent off to the middle of some remote part of the province for his job.

This time it's a venture into hydraulic engineering. In the business, what we're doing is "river training" and it's not quite as exotic as it sounds.

Unlike my dogs - well, maybe the Collie, the Mastiff is more 'willful' and not as willing to accept direction - you can't really "train" water. However, it can be directed. When we create structures in a watercourse (i.e. a creek, stream, or river) to cause the flow to be directed to flow where we want it to, instead of where it is tending to do so naturally, we are in essence, training the river.

The project I'm dealing with right now came about as a result of the river deciding (pardon the anthropomorphizing) to leave its normal path and carve out a new path. The problem is that it happened right at the location of a bridge carrying a highway. As you can see in the photo below, this resulted in a long stretch of vertical banks, as the river moved further east and eroded the east bank.

If the river can't be brought back into a more disciplined flow pattern, ultimately it would wash out the road behind the east abutment to the bridge - not generally a good thing.

As a result, we are going to be installing two structures at this site. Upstream we will be placing a small spur, while closer to the bridge we will be building a large guide bank. The spur will take the energy of the river and direct it away from the bank. Then, as the river approaches the bridge abutment, the guide bank will guide the flow around the abutment to ensure that it both flows under the bridge and does not erode the bank further.

More to follow...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter-time blues

Sorry for the delay... I've had a real dearth of topics to discuss. Or rather, a lack of get-up-and-type motivation. Not really the blues...

About 14 months ago, while out in the frozen north, I came across this frozen pond at sunset (about 4:30 in the afternoon or so). It was cool. About -20C or so... but neat to see a red sunset in the winter. The closest town is about 60 km from this site, out in the boonies in the north-west section of Alberta.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Playing with light

I won't attempt to recreate the story behind the ring, as Mrs. Spit did a masterful job yesterday.

As I'm more than a little science minded, I had to take the opportunity to play a little bit. With a focused monochromatic light source* at hand, I had to try my hand at making the engagement ring that Mrs. Spit got 8 years late into a 'sparkly' show.

*read 'red laser' and everything makes more sense.

The most surprising thing about this little experiment was not just how amazingly bright the diamond appears, but how the reflections shoot outwards in many, many directions - including back into the eye of the one wielding the laser! It was truly a representative example of the definition of 'brilliant' - fitting, as it's a brilliant cut diamond.

This photo brought to you by the power of the Canon Super Macro mode on the replacement camera - replacing the one that the low-down-dirty thieves swiped back in November. Sorry for the pixelation - it comes from a massive reduction in resolution for purposes of the post.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Small town, BIG food!

I'm out driving around in north-eastern Alberta today. Driving down the highway I see a sign about "world's biggest pyrogy" and think to myself - "Cool! Haven't seen that one yet!" and turn up the road.

After a slow cruise down Pyrogy Drive... I found this little morsel.

Yes... it's big... That's a 3' high fence.

And the Pyrogy Cafe across the street? Closed. I was more than a little disappointed! I thought I'd have a great lunch in a town of 580 people, but nope... maybe come summer?

Monday, February 2, 2009

That time of year again

Winter. I'm sick of it.

This morning I heard from a friend that Pux-o-something Phil saw his shadow. Pshaw!

In Alberta, we have no such rodents. Other than gophers and they're not good for much.

It's that time of year. Winter feels like it's been here bloody long enough and I'm about ready for it to end. However, I live in the frozen north, so there's lots of winter left. Luckily we get less than our fair amount of snow. You don't have to shovel cold, only endure it.

I'm off for a day of driving in the country, inspecting some large culverts and small bridges. If it were a just cause, it would be inspecting large bridges and NO culverts. That's just my personal bias though, because I hate culverts.

Oh yes, it's a day of slogging around in my winter boots (steel toed), my insulated overalls, jacket, wool gloves, toque and safety vest. I just hope the snow isn't too deep where I'm going, or the air too cold, lest it remind me that winter is a nice time of year.