The c. 20 hour journey from London to El Paso via Atlanta was never going to be fun, with copious amounts of IPAs making the 9.5 hour transatlantic portion of the flight a little more than bearable. However, navigating Atlanta airport, which should quite frankly come with a health warning, was less-than-enjoyable, what with its non-existent queuing system, its two immigration desks (for two, simultaneously landing 737s), and its laughably shit terminal transfer train. Having ran through the airport I *just* about made my connection for the 2.5 hour flight down to the Mexican border and the city of El Paso, which was to be the first stop of Leg 2 of my tour.
I was kindly picked up at the airport by my friend Kate Giles, the Lloyd A. Nelson Professor in Geology at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). A short drive across the Franklin Mountains, a relatively recent (<10 Ma) normal fault-driven uplift associated with the Cenozoic Rio Grande rift, a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc, two sleeping tablets, and it was time for bed.
9 hours of sleep later and with not a hint of jet-lag, I woke and went for a short run to clear the mind and wake the legs. Kate and I then headed into UTEP, where I spent the morning chatting to some of the faculty, including Gail Arnold, Marianne Karplus and Libby Anthony. Gail gave me a tour around the Butanese-inspired campus (I shit you not), whilst Marianne and I headed to the coffee shop for me to buy an iced mocha. It was nice to be outside walking in the 30 degree heat, having spent yesterday cramped-up on fiercely air-conditioned planes.
The day was not to be all campus tours and iced coffees, however, as I had been asked to give not one but TWO talks! The first was on intrasalt structure and composition, which I gave to a relatively small group comprising halophiles working with Kate, plus some other folks, students and faculty, who were presumably lured in by the offer of free pizza. The talk was followed by a Q&A and more pizza, before I chatted to a group of MSc students about salt tectonics and the American love of firearms. I then had the luxury of a one hour break before I headed down to one of the main lecture theatres to give my second, GSA-supported talk, which this time was on seismic imaging of igneous geology. The talk went well and was followed by an incredibly lengthy and engaged Q&A, with questions flying in from faculty and students. They eventually showed mercy and let me head back to Kate’s, where she and I and a group of students and faculty had dinner and lots and lots of white wine. It was the perfect end to a stellar start to Leg 2. Next stop? University of Oregon, Eugene, OR. After a solid day of travelling…