Monday, January 26, 2009

A ring of fire...huh?!

The conversation leaving the dinner table, 10 minutes ago: "I hope it was just a burp, I don't know if I am ready for all of this." Replies: "Honey, we live in the ring of fire!" Me: "yeah, I know, but...ugh."

The only ring of fire I ever knew of was the one sung by the late Johnny Cash. And he was singing of love! Now when we signed on for this adventure, we were very well aware of the fact that we were moving right into volcano ville, otherwise known as "the ring of fire". That didn't bother us...much. The last eruption of Mt Redoubt, across the bay (the one we flew over, Scott and Phyllis), was in 1989. A guy could figure that the chance of another one in his lifetime is....well, slim! Now, today I find out that we are currently in a level 'orange' which is one level off of red. Now, level red just has a red triangle with '!' in the middle of it. Hmmmm. Doesn't take much to imagine what '!' means! We have boxes of food stocked, plenty of water....even firearms and ammo for a possible apocalypse....or Russian invasion...but tomorrow we are off to get pantyhose and dust masks. Yes, pantyhose and dust masks. Use you imagination... Just not sure we are ready for this! Stay tuned, like I said after dinner, "hopefully it is just a burp". Mom, dad, we may be flying down to see you sooner than you thought....and I don't mean in a jet!! Here are a few links to check out. Our personal U.S.G.S coorespondant and activity monitor, Diane, will no less be all over this! We love you Diane, for looking over us!!

OEM Home

Alaska Volcano Observatory - Activity

Mount Redoubt (Alaska) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Fire sky sunset near the end of the deep freeze.
Gives a slight appearance of the Aurora.
Spectacular fire sky!

After a considerable length of time since the last post, and the debacle of the cold snap, I have decided that once again I can find some sanity and comfort in writing. Good news: It ain't cold anymore. Bad news: We may have to take up ice skating! Yes, after two weeks of bitter sub-zero temps, we had a warm up folks. I mean warm. The temps were in the mid to upper 30's by day and just at freezing by night for a week and accompanied by some rain. This turned everything into one big mess. Gravity, my nemesis, once again found me the fool. Everything was icy, looking like glass, and slicker than.... well, it was just plain slick! Maryann donned her traction devices, and since mine never surfaced after the move I decided it was a good time to buy another pair. We sanded the driveway, walkways, and just walked litely everywhere we went. About 2 nights into the ice age, I was out splitting kindling after dark at the edge of the deck. Fool. I was carefully making my way back to the door with the kindling in hand, and before I knew it the world turned sideways, I was horizontal, and could feel a breeze going past my head as I leveled out on the deck with a 'thud'. Now, you would think that with a house full of wife, kid and dogs that someone would come running. Dogs were oblivious, Maryann was toileting about wondering "what was that sound" and John was home, but the lights were obviously not on as he was on the computer, oblivious to my demise. In the end, they finally did come to my sore rescue, and I was alarmed as I staggered into the house that one of my shoes was missing. Yes, two shoe...? Apparently it had flown off somewhere across the deck during the flight... Hmmm. Mind you, this incident happened before the sand and salt, and somewhat prompted it's important role here at the compounds ice rink. That said, I am fine and thankfully staying on both feet these days!

We woke to a reasonable size earthquake Saturday. Mind you, it is not uncommon to have 100's of earthquakes through the week at any given time, but they are so small we nary feel them. And, I think in a sense that you get so used to the slightly bigger ones that you just get used to them and don't feel them much. But this was a 5.7 and centered around 100 miles southwest of us. We felt it!

Maryann and I made a date and took an overnight down at the bakery. After the gluttony of the 'Christmas' season, one would think that this kind of punishment would be unspeakable. But, nonetheless we needed a respite. Good news is I was good. Now, Maryann is always good....not so much me. But I was good! And in normal Greg and Maryann fashion, we made 2 days and 1 night feel like four, so it was worth it and we had alot of fun. We had quite an experience while we were there. Without getting into a lengthily or political story of it, we witnessed an unusual sight, as hundreds of Eagles flocked the spit (in Homer....remember, the "spit") for a memorial feeding. A long time resident of the spit, who through the years has felt it her duty to feed wild Eagles in the winter, thus making their dependence on humans for food and the lack of fear for humans apparent, had passed away a couple weeks ago. Friends held a memorial for her, and a "last supper" of sorts for the birds, now that she is gone and there is nobody to feed them. Now, despite any personal feelings of this generous and humane act of narrow mindedness...did I say that!?.... it was a once in a lifetime experience to be so close to so many of these magnificent and huge creatures. To have a Taradactle fly just a couple feet past your head (and literally feel the hair on you head fold as it goes by) and watch it swipe a dead fish off the ground or better yet catch it in mid flight, is to say the least, incredible. We did get some pics that we will share. Truthfully, there is a huge debate on this whole feeding issue, and if they stop feeding before summer, many of these now human reliant birds will suffer hunger. So there is a movement to keep on feeding them until spring, but alot of people are up in arms over the whole thing. Mind you, there has been nothing stopping them in the past years from doing what Eagles naturally do in the winter, this travesty has just upset the balance of nature and man a bit. Other than that we are great, life is good, our savior and his side kick has come to our rescue, and just may save the world from going to hell in a hand basket! Ok. Stay tuned for the on going adventures!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

1/7/09....A very special day....

Felt unusually tired today. Couldn't wake up, just kept dosing off. Finally got out of bed at 7:30AM, checked the temperature, was - 35 below 0, sat in front of the fire trying to warm up, had an eggnog latte with Maryann and watched 'Desperate Housewives' from 8:00AM to 9:00AM. Went out to start the truck to give it it's half hour to warm up, figure "screw it" it is cold out, it is gonna be a late day. Truck is deader than a doornail....again, for day two in a row. Jump it with Maryann's truck, it starts, as I am going to shut off her truck I notice a puddle of antifreeze under her truck. "Oh sh^*!" I say, and get my cardboard crawler. Slide under her truck on 4" of ice with a mere layer of cardboard between me and it, check, see that her water pump is cracked. Yea, I say! Slide back out, go into the arctic entry of the garage where the heater is, to melt the ice off of my facial hair, warm my stiff legs and try to find feeling in my toes again. Set there for 5 minutes. My truck, still running, nowhere near warm. I go inside the house to sit in front of the fire. 15 minutes later I go back out, open my truck it is cold in the cab even though it has been warming for 40 minutes now and the heater is set on high. "Oh sh^*!" I say again. I feel the radiator, it is warm so I know that the thermostat in the engine has not froze. Decide to take it out to the road just to see if maybe it needs a little encouragement to get itself going. Spats, sputters, and spits all the way down the drive. Back it up to the garage again and park it. (Too numerous expletives to conscientiously mention at this point) I go back into the arctic entry (from here in we will refer to it as the 'warming hut') and try to find feeling in my body again, and melt the ice off of my facial hair once more. 5 minutes later I go back out to my truck. Now the heater is finally warming....thank God. Get in, shut the garage and take off down the driveway. "Oh sh^*! I say as it sputters and spits down the drive again. I back down the drive to the garage again. The garage door is open "what the..." I say. Turn off the truck, try to shut the garage door with the button on my visor and it wont shut. Check to make sure nothing is blocking the track, nothing is. Try again this time using the button on the inside....nothing. Fuming, I go back into the warming hut. 3 minutes, go back out to start the truck it wont start....again. Go inside the house. Flip out, rant, sit in front of the fire, warm up go back out. Get my voltage meter in the garage to check the battery to make sure it isn't dead. The meter is so cold it wont work. Put it back into the garage. Go to Maryann's truck who I know is home for the day and, hey, she cant drive it anyways because the water pump is cracked. Pull her battery....pull my battery, put her battery into my truck. Start the truck, truck starts. Back into the warming hut to let things warm up again. 5 minutes, I go back to put my battery in a milk crate with cardboard on the bottom so I can put it inside the truck, so it wont freeze in the back of the truck. Pull out of the drive, get out to the road....runs great. The computer needs a certain amount of voltage to run the trucks' systems.....obviously, it wasn't happening with my battery, is obviously happening with Maryann's battery....were cool. Go to the auto parts store in Kenai, have Mark test the battery. Mark says the battery is so dead it won't test, he needs to charge it for a while. He charges it, I leave to go about my day. Go to the hardware store in Soldotna to get materials that I need, they are out of what I need. I have to go all of the way back to Kenai to get the materials, and then back out to Soldotna again. Spend the next 2 hours working out in the cold at one of my 4-plexs, not sure what the temp is but judging by the thicket of ice on my face, it is bloody cold. I am weather proofing bad doors. Woman next door to the unit I am working at comes out says, "oh, hi sweetie...are the people who live...oh there you are..." She proceeds to tell dude who is renting the unit and is standing inside the door talking to me, while I am miserably cold working in front of her, that his dog is urinating around the parking space in front of her door. Can he please clean it up because the baby plays in it. "OH, sure, no problem he says". Thank you, she walks away and goes back inside her unit. I am thinking (somehow I am thinking because the synaptic activity in my brain is now down to a minimal operating level) "yeah, right lady. How in hell is he gonna clean up ice embedded dog urine, when the ice is so thick ya cant even split it with a hammer." "....and furthermore, what are you letting your 1 year old infant doing crawling around on the ice when there is actual snow right around the corner to play in....oh, and, doesn't your little dogie urinate on the same ice....I know he does cause I watched you let him do it just 4 days ago...., and what forensics expert do you have determining who's dog urine is who's?!" At this point it revels to me why it is that I will never live in a communal apartment like situation....ever.... unless they are a group of old hippies on alot of land, I just can't do it. I finish my work and drive to my next job. I left the truck running as I was working mind you, because it is so cold out that vehicles freeze and won't start if you don't plug them in or keep them running. So I am now warming as I drive along. On the way to the next job I stop to get heating oil in my two 5 gallon cans. I pull up to the oil shack, pull the cans, put them on the dock open the spouts and get back into the truck and wait for the filler guy. And wait. Now they are always quick to get out when people pull up to the oil shack. I am worried that it is so cold that maybe he refuses to come out and fill my cans! I go into the office. "Oh, he will be right there." They were obviously all huddled around the coffee maker and didn't see me. No big. "If this is the worse thing that happens to me today" I tell myself, "I will be lucky". Get my fuel, pay for it, and go to the next job. This one is indoors. I am elated....except when I have to run back out to my truck back and froth to get things. I keep the truck running the whole time. Finish the job, head back to the auto parts store in Kenai to get a prognosis. I walk in the door....Mark sees me and shakes his head back and forth. I pull off my babushka and bow my head. The battery is dead, and cannot be brought back. I buy a new battery, and load it into the passenger side of my truck, get into the drivers side, and proceed to start the truck. It won't start. "Oh sh^*!" I say. I go back into the store and ask Mark if he can check my wife's battery, which is in my truck, because "as unbelievably against all odds as it sounds, it may be dead", I tell him. He puts on his coat, grabs his tester and comes out. After breaking the ice off of my facial hair for the 23rd time today, I pop the hood. He hooks up his unit and begins a diagnostical test. His unit tells him my wife's battery is dead. "No way!" I tell him. "It cant be!" I say. He gently laughs and says this is what his unit is telling him. I ask him to double check his unit. He says that sometimes his unit can malfunction in this kind of cold. I tell him my unit does too....we laugh. He goes in. I pull my new battery out and go to my small toolbox in the back of my big toolbox in the back of my truck. I pull out the small toolbox. It has been breached and is partially open. Half of the tools are missing out of it. They are no less scattered about the bottom of the big toolbox, that the little toolbox was in, in the back of the truck. "Oh sh^*!" I say. I go back to the other side of the big toolbox and get a crescent wrench out of the tool tray and forgo the mess of tools in the bottom of the big toolbox in the back of the truck. I start to take the connectors off of the terminals of the battery. "Oh snap!" I say. One of the connectors is a butt hair loose so I tighten it. I go and try to start the truck. The truck starts. "Woo-hoo"! I say. Maryann's battery is not dead after all. I go in and tell Mark his unit is questionable, but I am running and gone. I leave. I call ahead to ask that the fire in the sauna can be started, because I have been out in sub zero temps all day, and I am cold to the bone, and just want to seek warmth. No problem. I get home. Have to carry all of the stuff around to the side garage door because I cant open the roll up garage door, because it is still doesn't work. I go in. I eat dinner. I get naked and run excitedly down to the sauna. I got concerned when I went to open the sauna door and found ice on the door knob. "Oh sh^*!" I say, as I open the door. There is no warmth. There is no fire. It went out! After re-clothing myself and 15 minutes with a blow torch, literally, I finally get the fire going. I walk into the sweat lodge portion of the sauna, and there is a rock hard frozen pan of water sitting there, with the bottom of the pan concaved. "Oh dear!" I say. I take it back into the house and begin this post. 45 minutes later I go down to the sauna. It is warm. I dump the ice in the pan on the rocks. Steam, bliss, I run back up to the house, ask Maryann if she is gonna join, she says quit positively "hell no", I get naked and run back down to the sauna. Fast forward.

I had a 2 hour sauna, am wiped out, warm to the bone again finally, and ready for bed. The end of a very special day! There is always tomorrow. Good night.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cold snap....make ya snap!

Mama moose behind the sauna.

One of the babies....still not far from mama!

We are in the midst of a cold snap. We are at day 10 of "bitterly cold" sub zero temps. The days have barely creeped above -15 below 0 with the night time lows as low as -32....below 0! Mind you, most days the sun has been out and abundant in the short time it traverses the sky, but it is just too cold to want to do anything. The woodstove has been packed on the hour daily and through the night to maintain warmth, and we have given in to keeping the furnace on periodically through the day and night to keep the temp in the house steady. Mind you, with heating oil prices dropping, we are much more open this winter to using the furnace a little more. Which is a blessing because the poor folks who converted to or have natural gas got sticker shock as natural gas went up 22% last month! Ouch, baby! We finally caved on Saturday and had to get out. We dressed for an attempt at warmth and loaded up the dogs to go out for a 'sunshiney happy day' walk. Fools, we are I tell you. We went to Nikiski High and parked in the parking lot. We walked, as the dogs frolicked ahead of us, around the entire school....the dogs frolicked but only for the first 5 minutes. Now this little swary of utter bliss lasted all of about 9 minutes total for us, a brisk walk at -21 below 0. You know it's bad when you circle the school, and the dogs, totally stressed out by now, notice that the truck is now in front of us, not behind us where we left it, and make a bee-line for it when they hear that it is still running. We approached the truck with Kenai waiting obnoxiously to be let in! A dog wanting to forfeit a walk! Cherokee the big fur ball teddy bear head that he is was completely unaffected by the extreme cold. His wolf instinct and thickly coat allows him to endure the cold, and in fact most times he digs a hole in the snow and lays in it for a duration. Then Sunday morning we were all laying around the family room listlessly pulling our hair out, and Maryann noticed a moose outside the window. Then another....and another. Turns out mama got knocked up again and is showing. The 2 little cute babies....aren't all that little anymore! Kenai of course was beside herself running from window to window as they moved across the back of the house, telling us in distressed concern all of the time that we needed to let her out so she could make them go away. Or whatever it is that she intends in her feeble mind to do with them! As they eventually grazed off towards the back of the garage, another adult moose and a calve came up from below, and the 5 of them quietly wandered off into the thicket! Too cool. No snow since Christmas yet, but we are hopeing for some towards the weekend. Jonh is avidly seeking a more full time run of employment now that he is getting out of school at 11:30AM from here on out. Maryann is getting back to the grind with her home office now that the "Christmas" season is over. I included a bevy of pics from the moose-capades as well as my journeys about this morning. As beautiful and peaceful as it was out (I was the only one out), I endured a hurtful -32 below 0 to give you a peek at the world around me. No pity needed here....just enjoy them! Hope all is well and everyone is stressing out like me, for all of the foolish self-indulgence and gluttony that we cast upon ourselves the past 2 weeks. Oye! Be safe and stay warm!

Beach in Kenai overlooking the ocean...which is frozen!

Sunrise over the Tidal Flats.

The Kenai river....yes it is frozen with only a
glimmer of water in the foreground.

Mt Redoubt on the right with Mt Illiamna to the
left. This is not the beach we are overlooking...
it is the bay...frozen!

An Air Force E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft taking off from
the Kenai airport, just a couple hundred
yards above my head! The rumble warmed
my otherwise cold ass!!

The AWACS jet flying out over the frozen ocean.

A good day to live, overlooking the ocean
from a bluff.