The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for December, 2008

Take the Backroads This Weekend

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

There’ll only be one eastbound lane of Highway 16 open this weekend at Burley-Olalla Road. DOT says when a similar closure happened in the other direction a few weeks ago, that it took as long as 30 minutes to get through there. I don’t remember that, but they say it could be even worse this time.  They’ll be paving a detour route that curves around the area where they’ll be building bridges. I go through there every day and they seem to be moving right along on the project.

I wonder if they’re allowed to pave in really cold weather, like they say it will be this weekend.

Anyway, if you’re heading to Gig Harbor or Tacoma, it’ll be a good time to hit the backroads. They’re more interesting than the highway, anyway.


We Used to Memorize Phone Numbers

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Now that everybody has cell phones with address books, memorizing phone numbers is becoming obsolete. It’s weird.

Last century when I was the high school sports guy, before cell phones were invented, I knew the numbers to most of the coaches in the county, as well as friends, family, etc. Now I don’t even know my wife’s or kid’s cell numbers. Why should I when I just have to flip open my phone and click on it?

It’s a good thing that cell phones came along, though I don’t understand why some people can’t get off of them. It’s good because my memory is not as good as it was. I hope it’s what happens to everybody when they get old. I’d hate to think it’s only me.

I try to work out my brain, but it’s not doing much good. I do the crossword puzzle every morning. I’m pretty good at it, but I can still forget the name of somebody I’ve seen every day for 25 years. I play along with Jeopardy. I’m not much good at that. Even the teens kick my butt. I guess some of them aren’t always on their cell phones.

Wonder if that human growth hormone stuff would turn my brain young again. Any other suggestions?


Boingo Takes Over Ferry Wi-Fi

Monday, December 8th, 2008

On Sunday, Boingo began providing the wireless Internet service on Washington State ferries. Boingo is the world’s largest network of wi-fi hot spots. Besides the ferries, it can be found at Starbucks, cafes, restaurants, bookstores, hotels, Sea-Tac and hundreds of other airports.


Where to Look for Veterans Memorials

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Do you know where there’s a memorial to the one sailor killed in Kitsap County during the Indian Wars in 1856?  How about the location of the Civil War Memorial or the Spanish-American War Memorial or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kitsap County?  Or where memorabilia is buried that was left at a traveling Vietnam Wall?
You can find out by reviewing a slide show of Kitsap County Memorials, Monuments, and Other Sites of interest to veterans at http://www.co.kitsap.wa.us/hr/wsolympic/VeteransAdvisoryBoard.htm

Feel free to chime in if there’s one in your community that’s not mentioned.


Free Ferry Rides for Eastsiders

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Now through March 31, the cost of a ferry ride to Kitsap Peninsula will be reimbursed by hotels participating in a promotion. It won’t help us who already live here, except for the money the eastsiders pump into the econony.

All they have to do is go to www.freeferry.com, find a participating place they’d like to stay, and book a room. They’ll have to pay for the ticket, keep the receipt and get reimbursed for it when they pay for their room. I went to the Kitsap Peninsula Visitors and Convention Bureau site and it looks like a lot of nice places involved in this.

Now we just need some joints on the other side to reciprocate.


Book Author Chimes In About Trieste Story

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Steven Johnson, who wrote the book “Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion (Wiley, 2006),” had some interesting responses to my story about the deep sea-diving vessel Trieste that’s at the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport.  Here are some observations he sent to me in an e-mail:

First off, the Trieste II DSRV-1 did not locate The USS Thresher, nor did it conduct the evidence dives. This was done by the “first” Trieste II.

The Thresher and the Scorpion were both found by Naval Research Laboratory research ship USNS MIZAR under the direction of NRL scientist Chester “Bucky” Buchanan who is now 92 years old.

Bucky found the Thresher a year after it was lost — because he had to obtain and outfit the MIZAR for the task since his first ship lacked twin propellers to maintain a straight towing path. He found the Scorpion as well five months after it was lost. He was a pioneer in towed camera and sensor sled technology. It was he and not Robert Ballad of Titanic fame who made the first deep-ocean discovery of a ship wreck.

Trieste II DSRV-1 was brought in to photograph the Scorpion only after Bucky discovered both wrecks for photographic and film missions. It took months of deep-ocean sled dragging and hundreds of thousands of images to locate both wrecks. Trieste II DSRV-1 was only capable of going directly to the location of the wreck after it was found given it’s relatively limited battery power and short time submereged.

Why the confusion?

What is most interesting is that after the development of the original Trieste bathyscaphe by Picard, a second version was built and called the Trieste II. When it was decided to expand the intelligence-gathering activities of this class of bathyscaphe, a third was built but it was still given the publicly-known designation of “Trieste II” even though it was the “Trieste III”. It had greater maneuverability, better cameras and a lifting boom along with a hydraulically-operated, articulated arm.

The original Trieste II is on display on the East Coast.

The improved Trieste II DSRV-1 was intended for missions as part of Operation Sand Dollar (which I believe was an effort to recover various Soviet hardware from the seafloor, including ballistic missile components.) It was based near San Diego.

It was built in a floating drydock hidden by canvas covers so the Soviets would not know its capabilities and the public was never told this was a new craft.

As the “Trieste III” crew trained for its Sand Dollar missions Scorpion was discovered and the newly-completed Trieste II was ordered to prepare to conduct an evidence-gathering dive on Scorpion which it did during the summer of 1969, four months after Scorpion was found and photographed by Bucky Buchanan pulling cameras behind the USNS MIZAR, itself an interesting ship.

Another interesting note is that the first swimming cameras ever developed were designed for the Trieste II’s mission on Scorpion in a crash program just months before Trieste II deployed to the Atlantic. Though they failed due to technical reasons, they worked in shallow water and long-predated the Jason Jr. camera system used by Robert Ballard to photograph the USS Scorpion during the 1980s.

A final note: People have argued with me endlessly claiming the less-capable Trieste II at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC is actually the bathyscaphe that dove to the Scorpion wreck site. They are wrong. This bathyscaphe is at Keyport. (The secrecy of the late 1960s is still working!)

I recently acted as an intermediary to ensure that a flag that flew on Trieste II DSRV-1 during one of its nine dives to Scorpion was presented to the families of the USS Scorpion and is now at the Naval Museum in Hampton Roads, VA. It was present at the last memorial service which I attended.

My book is available on Amazon and most likely at the library. It contains some very excellent data on the Trieste II DSRV-1 provided by the likes of Robert Nevins who commanded the bathyscaphe during its development phase and by the surviving crew members who dove upon Scorpion in 1968.

A Scorpion discussion group on Yahoo is located at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/USS_Scorpion_SSN-589/

It’s all quite a confusing historical mess made difficult by Navy obfuscation of history for secrecy reasons.


Study Up for the Narrows Tolls Meeting

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

This from tolls spokeswoman Janet Matkin:

Four scenarios will be considered by the Narrows Bridge citizens advisory committee during a meeting from 5 to 7 tonight at the Inn at Gig Harbor. They all have an A and a B version of each.

They include:
No change to current rates ($2.75 ETC and $4 Cash)
No change to ETC rate with a corresponding Cash rate needed to meet target ($2.75 ETC and $6.00 Cash)
No change to Cash rate and corresponding ETC rate needed to meet target ($3.50 ETC and $4.00 Cash)
Changes to both ETC and Cash rate needed to meet target ($3.25 and  $5.00 Cash)

Before the bridge opened, the legislature made a $5.288 million loan to the toll account to cover the costs of operation from April 2007 (when the bridge was supposed to open) until July 2007 (when it actually opened). That loan is scheduled to be repaid in the next biennium.

There also is a discussion about including violation revenue in the projections. It’s hard to predict how much revenue to expect from violations because they can be dismissed by the court, decreased by the court, or never paid.

Option A of each scenario does NOT include violation revenue and makes the repayment of the $5.288 million loan evenly divided between FY 2010 and FY 2011. Option B of each scenario DOES include the estimated violation revenue (based on actual amounts received to date) and shifts the total repayment of the $5.288 million loan into FY 2011 (rather than spreading it over two years).


Thanksgiving Not a Good Time to Cross Bridge

Monday, December 1st, 2008

For the second straight year, it was rough sledding on Highway 16 to Tacoma on Thanksgiving evening. The Department of Transportation knew it would be. They figured about 65 to 70 percent of travelers would be paying manually at the toll booths. That’s the opposite of a normal day.

All six booths were staffed, but traffic still backed past Gig Harbor, past the cemetery, past the women’s prison to Burnham Drive, said tolls spokeswoman Janet Matkin. That’s the farthest since the new bridge opened in July 2007.

Matkin said the wait at its worse was 40 minutes. The State Patrol opened the HOV lane to single-person vehicles, as long as they had a Good To Go sticker.

Last year Thanksgiving was also the worse day of the year, Matkin said.