Many years ago I worked for the National Park Service as a summer historian on a HABS/HAER project in New York City. When we were finished, the project leader gave me a signed copy of America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Timothy Davis, Todd A. Croteau, Christopher H. Marston, and Eric DeLony). It is a beautiful book, full of detailed drawings and plans for some of the most amazing engineering projects anywhere in America. Over the years, DH would lift the book out every now and then and peruse the drawings. Someday, we would visit Glacier National Park, and in particular, go on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (his bucket list). I always assumed it would be in a car.
A week ago, on the last day of our seven-day Tandem Bicycle Tour of Glacier National Park, we rode 43 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Bucket list indeed! We were on the road by 7:30 AM on a cool clear morning, and 2.5 hours later (it was uphill and we are slow!) we made it to Logan Pass. The parking lot was packed, and a very friendly motorcyclist took us under his wings and offered to let us park the tandem by his motorcycle, on the theory that the only difference between our two wheels and his two wheels was the engine :-)) But then we spotted the bike racks, so we didn’t need him to keep an eye on the Chipmunkmobile after all. After the requisite Logan Pass/Continental Divide photographs, we began the spectacular 45-minute descent. I do not have a head for heights at the best of times, and I was gripping the handlebars so tightly my fingers were cramping. But the scenery!! A couple of drivers ignored the 25 MPH speed limit on a very narrow and twisty road and passed us; one did it so that he could zip over to the very next lookout point, a couple of hundred yards down the road, to take that Special Picture . . . .
I don’t think I can tour the Going-to-the-Sun Road in a car, ever. I saw it from a bike, the ride was a challenge, and it was perfect.
Back in April, after I was chastised by National Park Service representatives for apparently over-estimating the intelligence of the average American adult (as well as the intelligence of the average NPS science communication assistant) by using big words like rivulet, I went into a corner and sulked. And blogged. I then consigned the report to oblivion and went on to something else — and so under-the-radar was the project that no one noticed! Not the Natural Resource Specialist, not the Science Communication Assistant, not my nominal supervisor(s). Or so I thought . . . . until last week, when I received a rather ominous email requesting a “more updated version” for some other unit of the NPS to look at.
What to do, aside from looking really shocked by the turn of events?
1. Ignore the request.
2. Challenge my pancreas to a duel.
3. Clear out my arteries.
I managed #1 for five day . . . . and on Day 6, performed #2 with this:
. . . . and in conjunction with #3, a glass of wine (to raise my HDL, of course).
Thus fortified, I retrieved the report, pretended to be an intelligent NPS specialist of some sort, and decided it is still a pretty fine piece of work. Done!
And I kept all the big words, like rivulet . . . . and garrote . . . .
In the email today, forwarded comments from a reviewer about a project I have been working on for the National Park Service. This project has been shunted all over the map, and in medical parlance, really should have a huge DNR sticker slapped on it. As a measure of its importance to NPS and the original instigator — who was at least a superintendent at the time and has since been promoted — it has been sent on to a “science communication assistant.” Or as DH so elegantly put it, some flunkey.
Anyway, among the comments (occasionally useful, frequently inane):
At times the language is common, in other places it is folksy (see page 21: “Bison: Once upon a time,….”), in others it is scientific (see your highlights) and some of it I just had to look up (see page 5: rivulets and garroted).
Fair enough about the inconsistent language; I can certainly clean it up so that it is uniformly “common” — after all, the work is meant for the general public.
On the other hand . . . . This woman does work for the National Park Service (Yellowstone) as a science communication assistant. Would that be a degree in science (Dr. Science — he knows more than you do … he has a Master’s Degree … in science!)? A degree in communication? A degree in assisting? DH thinks her title means she writes press releases, but I think she might be related to those people who write about the latest medical research without telling you about important stuff like sample size and study design. Whatever it is she actually does, she writes for a living. And quite frankly, I am appalled that she would even admit to not knowing the definition of a “rivulet.”
I suppose I should be grateful that she owns a dictionary.
But the line of the day belongs to DH (a member of the General Public who does NOT write for a living):
“She works for the National Park Service? You mean my tax dollars are paying for her?”