Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stay warm and dry

I joined the USGS August 14, 1978 with the Eugene, Oregon office. I spent the Friday before starting the following Monday in the Portland, Oregon office with the personnel specialist becoming a USGS employee and civil servant with the US federal government. I was then a "civil servant" and relished in the role representing the public in my job and work with the USGS. Linda and I went back to Eugene where we found a house to rent to get ready for Monday.

My first few days with the office was sitting at a desk, getting organized - meaning getting my own streamgaging equipment tested and ready, reading manuals and becoming familar with the place and people. I spent most of the first month on field trips with the three other field people learning the basics of stream gaging and producing the data (called records then). I learned three different ways to service gages and making discharge measurements.

I wasn't until the late fall where I got my own field trip (Willamette River trip from Eugene to the headwaters in the central Cascade Mountains) after going on the trip with the lead technician to learn the gages and work. And it wasn't until the winter when I got my first real experience streamgaging in cold, rainy weather. But Linda helped getting what she thought was a good rainsuit. And I thought too.

Well, my first field trip entirely in the rain was interesting. I hate being wet. I don't know why, some childhood trauma or some such thing, but I hate being wet. Anyway, but Friday afternoon the raincoat was shredded. The seams tore and leaked and the pant ripped. The whole rainsuit was junk, plain and simple, and after the last gage on Friday I was thoroughly wet. I drove back to the office and put the stuff on my desk, and said I would clean out my truck Monday.

But just after bitching about my rainsuit, and Mikey (lead technician) listened with a smile of knowledge and experience ("Been there, done that."), the boss walked up to me and in a callous tone said, "There is no excuse for being wet or cold.", and walked out the door to go home. That pissed me off.

So, the next day I went to an outdoor recreation store in Eugene and bought a new (then) technology Gore-Tex rainsuit for $100 (remember it's 1978 prices). It was plain and simple. No pockets, minimal seams (sealed), and totally rainproof. I also bought some good wool blend long underwear and an English wool fisherman's sweater.

I spent the next years in the field with the Eugene office being warm and dry, and only my hands got wet. I have never regretted the money spent then, and all of the clothes are still in use. The sweater still fits and works great. The underwear has been replaced with synthetic wool-blend ones but I still wear them in very cold weather. And the rainsuit?

Well, its survived through the four years in Oregon and five years in Arizona before the seams leaked after washing and resealing and the Gore-Tex began delayering (bubbles) on the inside. But it's sits in the emergency clothing back in the Van to use if and when it's needed. It still does a great job except in downpours and long periods of rain. For that I upgraded to a new rainsuit.

In 1988 I bought a North Face Expedition Rainsuit at their store in Seattle ($750 in 1988 prices). It has a lifetime warranty and has done weeks on end in the rain and cold and I'm always warm and dry. I couldn't be happier with it. It doesn't work well in warmer rainy weather but I have other raincoats for those period, but once it's below 50 degrees, and especially below 40 degrees, it's a godsend.

And so my advice to anyone who works or wants to be outdoors is the same, "Stay warm and dry." And I am quite comfortable and warm no matter the rain.

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