Sunday, October 16, 2011

A little eye candy.

As promised, here are the first of many pics I will post of dad and mines' trip into the bush back in August.  The next few posts will take you to places that are only accessible by float plane, and are some of the most secluded and beautiful scenery I have ever seen.  Some of these, at least the obvious aerials, were taken from the plane window, so the quality is a little obscured, but gives detail to some spectacular glacier and alluvial flow as well as untouched beauty as far as the lens would let me see.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going Down The Road

It was a great night....a highlight of this trip, and a trip indeed!  Since Jerry Garcia died back in 1995, and the Grateful Dead disbanded, several incarnations of the band have come and gone, and we have been there to experience most of it all.  There was Phil Lesh & Friends, the Grateful Deads' bassist and his band of very talented and well rehearsed musicians.  There was Bob Weir the Deads' rhythm guitarist and his band RatDogPlanet Drum was an interesting post Garcia effort by one of  the Deads' drummer's, Mickey Hart.  Surviving former Grateful Dead members would later unite for the first time since Jerry's passing to form The Other Ones, and then a year or so later 'The Dead'.  Each band was unique and they expanded on beliefs, the music and the vibes that the Grateful Dead taught us all.  Although we have been to several of these shows, and have seen at least one show of each band....with the exception of the latter mentioned, The Dead, due to our life in a far away land, and the utter lack of ability to attend.

But this night would be different.  This night would prove to be a night of memories both old and new ones made, awesome music, smiles and all of the incredible vibes and spirit that could only be found at a Grateful Dead concert.  There was always a very profound energy shared by band and audience.  The band would drive the audience, and the audience would return the energized vibes back to the band which would propel the evolving circle into an experience unlike any you could ever experience anywhere else.

Yes, this night in Monterey, California would be special to us and showcased our vacation.  And, on the same stage as the historic Monterey Pop Festival in 1967!  In fact this would be the first time since any member of the Grateful Dead would perform on the same stage since their less than memorable performance 44 years ago.  The scorch mark still sits on the stage floor from where Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire with lighter fluid in front of an audience of up to 90,000 people.  A small venue by standards, the Fairgrounds sits where now exists an airport runway.  This simple presence only amplified the crowds excitement each time a plane would come in just yards above the audience for a landing, about every half hour, which would be accompanied by the crowd clapping and simultaneously roaring it's landing with approval. 

The latest post Garcia incarnation is a band called Further.  With the Grateful Deads' rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh, the line-up of old familiar Dead tunes and some selections brought out of the vault proved to be a show worth seeing.  The bands lead guitarist, John Kadlecik of the Darkstar Orchestra at times can have a very echoed replication of Jerry Garcia's voice and in some songs such as "Morning Dew", just sent chills up our could close your eyes and flash back to 20 years ago.  An incredible feeling.

I would be lying if I said we planned our trip around this show, however, I would be lying if I said we didn't!  In the past, we always tend to kick ourselves in the ass because we find out we just missed a good band or concert, so this time we scanned the web and there it was....Further!  So, we made our plans for the trip around the show!  Well worth it all!  For those who we missed seeing this time around....there is always the next.  Sometimes it isn't easy being on vacation!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wher did the time go?

Somewhere over Canada, it occurs to me….it has been months since my last post!  I believe that only a blogger could truly appreciate the reasoning behind such a phenomenon!  It has nothing to do with writers block, but rather….who knows!  Just really busy I suppose.  I think that burn out creates a level of unmotivation, or ….burn out!  What worried me is how many people are running around  thinking I perished from botulism from the canning experience I wrote about back at the beginning of summer.  About the time our seasonal house guest, Tyler, showed up.  Holy crap…Tyler.  Now there is a story in itself that has completely fallen through the cracks.  Sometimes you just need a break from the things you do, and this summer has been a break from blogging.  Even pottery has kind of taken a bit of a back seat.  Yes, our summer consisted of a lot of hard and diligent work, fishing, a couple of really good trips into the gulf and out into the bush, and some good accomplishment of summer maintenance and winter prep around the compound.

Status report:

We hauled and bucked around 12 cords of wood for the winter, mostly storm and dead fall on the lower property.  It is 97% stacked and covered, ready to go and we began burning fires in the woodstove a little more consistently about two weeks ago.  The temps are falling at night, about down to 21F, and somewhere in the 40’s by day, a lot of clouds, wind and afternoon rains.  The days are getting shorter, which typically after a summer of so much daylight starts to feel pretty weird about now, and somewhat depressing to see it all go.

A summer visit from my family brought some really good memories as pops and I went on an ultimate expedition into the bush!  The day brought some spectacular sights, great fishing experiences for species such as lake trout, arctic char, and grayling.  Dad’s dream came true as the float plane landed at Dick Prenike’s cabin over in Lake Clark.  Flying along the contours of alluvial flow, and spectacular glaciers abound was a definite highlight for us both!  I have craploads of pictures and will post them in a couple of posts to come.

As well as plenty of salmon fishing  locally on the Kenai river and stocking our deep freezer, myself, Jennifer, Tyler and the lodge attendant Jason took a halibut fishing trip out into the Gulf Of Alaska and although they were small ‘chickens’, we did all get our limit and added to our personal stocks.  It was a fun day with ‘the kids’ for me!  And sometimes, ‘the kids’ are a hell of a lot more fun than adult’s!!!  I have to say,, this would be the first time since I watched the documentary, “Food Inc” almost 2 years ago, that I ate at Mc Donald’s after the trip was up.  Tyler, our official junk food junkie needed a Mc Donald’s fix.  Let me just say, the meal was hollow, unfilling and tasted about close to crap as far as “real” food could go.  Yukko!

We got to do some canning through the summer.  As well as salmon we canned some “real” peaches thanks to the contraband smuggling efforts of the folks!  Now, unless you have had the mis-opportunity of eating fruit and vegetables here in Alaska, you could never appreciate what fresh ripe peaches from the Central Valley of California can do to you.  When the box hit the counter in the kitchen and was opened, you have never seen so many hands molest a box full of fruit in your life!  You would have honestly have thought we had never had fruit before.  The same scene occurred when my best friend Brad, Tylers’ uncle, sent some plums and pluotts up!  Produce is generally shipped from the lower 48, unripe and just losses the romance of the phrase ‘fresh fruit’, somewhere along the way.  Just sucks really!  But it is the price you pay, and a worthy trade off for what we do have here in this ‘great land’.  What really sucked, is that after seeing the bruhaha that ensued over who was getting how many peaches between John/Jennifer  vs. Maryann and I, dad thought it from his heart to ship up a lug via the good old United States Postal Service.  Yes, another wonderful story about the complete ineptness of the Postal Service to ‘deliver’.  In short, the first box arrived 3 days late, which turned the peaches into a state of complete despair.  We spared enough to make a peach pie, and discarded all of the rest of the fermenting mess.  The second box never did arrive.  In fact, after the first 9 days, they disappeared off of the Postal Service tracking system,  what was received was a letter from the Postal Service that the second box had expired en route and would go where expired fruit boxes go.  Swine’s!

Tyler.  Now here is a story.  The boy was supposed to live with us for the summer.  What happened was, he lived with us for the first couple of weeks, while the lodge was coming together for the season.  Then, someone came up with the bright idea of Tyler having the option to stay at the lodge for a couple of days to be ‘on-site’ or the ‘on-call person’.  This worked out great as the first customers and guests arrived.  What was to be a couple of days turned into a permanent deal for him.  The benefits:  He pulled the excess heat off of Maryann after hours.  The woman deals with enough almost 14 hours a day and this was a welcomed relief.  This fact alone increased his hours immensely, plus he raked in tips galore!

His first weeks went great.  He was dependable, hard working and staff and guests alike loved his personable ways and unique sense of humor.  He apparently impressed the president of the lodge enough that he began to go on all of the fly-outs as like the on board assistant and fishing bitch for the pilots.  Now, this in itself was incredible.  He was going out into the bush.  He was seeing things that most people only dream of or watch on Discovery Channel.  This all happened in the course of a few weeks!  What followed was unprecedented for the lodge.  He became a certified and licensed fishing guide!  He began to make the flight plans according to his picked fishing locations, and would guide the guests on their fishing expeditions.  Made bank, in addition to hourly wages working on the grounds when he wasn’t flying or guiding, tips, and the on-call person.  Where he was supposed to go back to the lower 48 in August, he actually ended up staying on until the end of September and came back down with us.  The unofficial story is that he will definitely be back up in March to take his ‘river guide’ certification for the Kenai River guides and will be moving to Alaska permanently.

There is so much more to catch up on.  Pictures….  Stay tuned as I will try to be a little more aggressive in my posting.  Sometimes you just need a change of pace.  That is the best I can say!  Take care all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What a grand day!

Some people wake up to Ed McMahon knocking about their door, or a winning lottery ticket while loving up their morning coffee, or experience the sensation of rain on their tongue while the sun shines down upon their head.   In general, I don't really have much to complain about;  Ed McMahon passed many years ago, I don't play the lottery, and seldom in Alaska does the sun shine whilst it rains.

When I woke the other day it was to Maryann waking my extremely burned out butt at 9:15AM....a announce she made a special breakfast for me that would beat even breakfast at the Uptown Motel....not real hard to do...but it sounded great!  So great that I jumped out of bed, technically still asleep, and limped my tired half slept ass to the table.  Yup.  It was definitely worth it and tasted  divine!   And it is a good thing that I started the first 10 minutes of my day with a good, wholesome and rounded breakfast, because even a bowl of Wheaties could never prepare me for what was about to come next.

The Sockeye salmon run hit last week and has been a boom!  I have managed to get my daily limit within a couple hours of wading into the river a couple of different days now and am hoping to make a go of it again this weekend before they all come in and move up the river.  Fish & Game raised the limit to 6 per person per day since the run is so heavy.  This is always gratifying because it helps to ensure our freezer will be stocked for the winter.  With Silvers set to begin their run next month, there is still plenty of time to get some fishing in on the river this summer.

I have an unspoken rule that I never open mail after 5:00 PM AKST/1:00PM EST or on weekends, simply because I will have no way to make a rebuking phone call to whomever any given sender is that I may have issue with.  Coming home after 10:30PM the other night, Maryann, upon her own accord, opened a weeks worth of mail and one of the letters she opened turned out to be a bill from the IRS.  If that wasn't enough, the curious lot that she is or gluten for punishment from my current perspective, she opened the second letter from the IRS which was but a second bill!  Since there was nobody available to hear my rebuke, I immediately emailed our tax accountant to inquire how to deal with this obvious huge mistake on the part of the govt. 

The following morning during my awesome breakfast, the return email confirmed what we had filed, and that since we did file jointly, we could ignore one of the bills.  This was reassuring considering the whole thing was an obvious huge mistake on their part anyways.  The last thing the tax man offered in his email was, "did you pay your 2010 taxes?"  of course I did!  We always pay our taxes.  Not always happy about it but nonetheless we do!  I have been on time with my quarterlies for 2011....this is obviously some kind of plot to screw Americans, seeded by Osama....ehr, ahhh....yeah...that guy in the oblong  HIM.  Nothing could help to buffer the utter shock that came next as I suddenly realized that, "oh shit!!  I never sent the damned check!!!"  Apparently, our spring vacation was more relaxing than I thought it could be, as upon our return, I never mailed the tax check by April 15th.  Let me clarify that....I mailed the first 2011 quarterly, not the 2010 tax check.  To compound this, we failed to meet the July 14th deadline to avoid further interest and penalties, that would be on top of the already compounded interest and penalties.  This due in part that we didn't pick up the mail in a week.  But, keep in mind, even if we had picked up the mail a week ago, we still would have failed to meet the July 14th deadline, because it didn't get put in our box until after the 14th!  Another inept move from the Postal Service, or the IRS....which to me along with DMV are all one in the same.  You figure out the conclusion!

Minutes later after this astonishing realization came the phone call from the auto repair shop.  It seems he was able to put my truck on the scanner and found the problem I was having the day before.

For the past week my truck has been acting up with weirdness. On this particular day which I am about to describe to you, I would finally give in and call the repair shop, describing my symptoms and setting up an appointment for sometime next week when he had time to put it on the scanner.  Apparently, much like the dog or kid who doesn't like going to the doctor, my truck overheard this conversation and began to seriously object.  After the call as I drove down the highway into town, it began to emit some black smoke and each time would seem like it was intermittently accelerating.  I became a little concerned.  Enough so that I figured I should probably pull over when I get into town and pop the hood just in case something had become loose.  As I drove through Soldotna, it became a little worse, and I focused on pulling into the hardware stores parking lot.  As I sat in the left turn lane, I looked in my rearview mirror to see an onslaught of CES emergency vehicles rapidly approaching me, lights flashing, sirens blaring and horns a screaming!  With no warning, my truck began to come to life as the engine would rev and instantaneously lunge at each rev, dumping black smoke.  Next thing I know the guy in front of me is frustratedly throwing his hands in the air because he can't go anywhere, thinking that I am trying to push him out of the way for the CES vehicles coming at us with sheer determination, while my foot is burying the brake pedal through the floor board as my demonically possessed truck continues it's self appointed tirade!  After the emergency vehicles had passed on the curb of the island and in the oncoming lanes, and the guy in front of me got the hell out of my way with an obvious pissy attitude to what I, in his mind, I had been doing to him, I immediately pulled into the parking lot, opened the door...dove out and rolled!  Short of running for cover, I was completely dumbfounded, a sentiment that the guy at the repair shop echoed as he listened to my story on the phone.  "Whewy....hell of a ride!"

The next day, his prognosis would reveal that the fuel module is apparently bad.  Bad news is this is typically a $2000 part.  Good news is that it has happened before and the previous owner of the truck put in an aftermarket part that was modified to help prevent complete failure of the module.   Hmmmm.  Do you think it worked?  The bottom line is $1000 out the door, coupled with a four digit tax bill.....we are screwed right now!

So, one to always believe that there is a silver lining to every black cloud, I open an envelope later on, still in the same day as the rest of the friggin circus, from Allstate and find a check for $275.00!  Joy!!!  It appears that our luck is beginning to turn.  But then it hits me....we have our insurance premium taken out in escrow every month.  Why is Allstate mailing us a check??  So, I call Allstate to find out the answer.  The answer I was given made no sense at all and further confused me.  However, an interesting point was discovered during this conversation.  You see, the $275 came from a reduction in our premium a couple of months back, after I was advised by our insurance agent....'After I was advised by our insurance agent'.  I'm sorry, did I mention that we were advised by 'our insurance agent' that if we were to lower the coverage on personal property in the policy that we could save substantially to offset the unprovoked and unexplainable premium increase we received in June.  So, we took his advice and re-assessed all of our personal possessions, all the way down to underwear.  Thus the savings refunded in the amount of $275.  Herein lies the problem, the agent I spoke with yesterday, after confusing me even more with her explanation of why Allstate sent a check for money they don't technically collect in the first place, she proceeds to tell me that in reducing our coverage for personal property to a new tier, we actually lost the 20% additional dwelling coverage that came with the over excessive cost of the personal property as well as losing a good portion of living expense coverage if we were ever put out of our home for any extent of time.  WTF!!??!!  And our "Insurance Agent' advised us to lower our personal property coverage in order to save money from being jacked in the first place?!  Did I say, WTF!!??!!  Oh, coincidentally, he no longer works for Allstate.....go figure!  So, I enveloped the SOB check and sent it back.  And, we are no longer $275 richer in leau of being thousands of dollars in the hole currently.

"Like sands in an hourglass, so are the days of our lives"!  When life gives me lemons, I am seriously in no mood to make lemonade.  At least we will be having salmon for dinner instead of 'Beanie Wennies' for a while!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Fallen But Not Forgotten

William "TJ" River Emmanual IV

Army, Specialist
Based: Schweinfurt, Germany
1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: July 8, 2004
Samarra, Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: Stockton

Emanuel was killed when insurgents attacked a military headquarters with mortar rounds in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad. The five soldiers killed were members of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

"Words will never express the loss.  Time will never replace the pain."
We love you and are proud of all you did in such a short life. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

No Margin For Error

It took 5 years of talking about "wanting" to do it, 2 years of procrastination and researching the products to "try" to do it, 1 year of "almost" did it, and finally, this morning, it begins.  I sit here and I contemplate the procedure.  I have seen and experienced the results of successful operations, and have heard the stories of less success or narrowly averted tragedy.  Yet, I sit back and watch as Maryann follows to the "T" the proper procedures and safeguards for such, with utter confidence that she won't kill me before my birthday.

Although she has been trained by experienced folk and actual homesteaders, canning is a seriously questionable procedure to me, and, there seems from what I have learned to be no margin for error.  To be able to reap the pleasures of your own canned salmon, vegetables fresh from the greenhouse sauces, jams and other delights for use through the summer or winter is a comforting thought.  It seems to be the way to go if you are trying to be more self reliant and self sustaining.  Thus, the reason we have always wanted to do it!  Hell, if it didn't cost more than our home to invest in, we would have gone 'off the grid' years ago and done solar or wind power!  I....we, absolutely cannot stand to be manipulated and honed by the electrical companies, grocers and the like.  So, it seems perfectly normal  that this whole canning gig is taking place here.  We have always wanted to buy less at the store, and eat more of what we sow....or catch for that matter.

Very attentive during the jarring process....

The way they lie in wait for some fish to fall on the floor, almost makes you feel like carrion!

A ticking time bomb!

Captivated by the sight of steam and a distance....

Besides the aesthetic hazards of canning,  such as a gauge that may be off calibration on the pressure cooker that could create an explosion in your kitchen, there are more subtle cautions that need be observed.  Such as: making sure there is enough propane in the tank so as not to lose flame before the cooking process has completed so the entire batch is not wasted.  The lack of consistent heat for the duration can cause a bad batch.  There's the continual sterilization throughout the process of preparation.  We wont even get into the worst case, that being botulism!  Yes, in rare cases, if safety and caution in following the proper guidelines is not observed, death or injury can occur!  The whole thing has always freaked me out!  So, if you don't hear from me here on the site, ever again.....

Stay tuned.

On happier notes, we are week one into housing our summer guest, Tyler.  Being his first time is Alaska, he was weary of what to expect.  This is what he has learned so far:  There are actually real homes in parts of Alaska....not everyone lives in Igloos.  There are not Wolverines hiding at every corner, waiting to attack you.  As cuddly as grizzlies may look....they really aren't!  'Big Bald Eagles' do carry off 'small' dogs.  He now knows what a 'coffee hut' is as witnessed first hand and that we Alaskans really enjoy these....especially in the winter.  Judging by the way he blurted out, "holy shit that thing is huge!" upon seeing his first moose.... I am thinking he realizes the sheer immensity of such a stoic beast!  Work has been inundating my time this past week so there hasn't been much time for fun, but we are going to make the necessary adjustments for that here shortly!  He's spent the first week working at the lodge, and familiarizing himself with fueling and preparing the float planes for fly outs, getting the grounds in order, and has found time for making subtle moves on Maryann's assistant. 

We also made the discovery a couple of weeks back, after the last post, that what we thought were Tundra Swans on the lake, are actually Trumpeter Swans!  One dead give away was when I got a little rattled, thinking that North Star Elementary decided to have their jazz band recital practice on our lake!  I mean, I am all for outdoor concerts, but come on!  No, the sound I was hearing was actually these swans and I have to say they make some sweet music!  I included a video for you to check out.   
Mind you this isn't our lake but gives you an idea of what we are experiencing.  They seem to be doing the whole mating thing, here on the lake and it appears that there is nesting going on over on the shore within view of the house.  The whole thing is kind of exciting, in a non stimulating way, of course!  That and all of the other activities on the lake are all just way too cool.  This is the time of year we savor and everything in nature has come back to life!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Things they don't teach you in school!

I recived a series of emails today, sent to me by John on his I Phone.  This is what I received, with his text below each Picture:

"The 'P' tool and the start of a chair."

"Five trees and a 'P' tool later."
"The finished product!"
Oh John, spare time is grand, isn't it?!  I am so glad our tax dollars are going to a good education through state funding for you!  By the way....nice view, man!  And a damned fine job on that chair!!  Remember the stump chair I carved with a chain saw when you where younger.....yours puts mine to shame!

Monday, May 30, 2011

News From The Fire Line.

   This is a must see video.  I still have a raging woody after seeing this!

Not sure what's on his back....but he seems pretty happy about it!
Baptism!  The colorful term for those who get sprayed with fire retardant from the air tanker, for the first time!

When he is not on the line, they stand watch looking for spot fires and waiting to be called out.  Did I say 'stand watch'?  And they get paid for this!!

As you can see, the boy is in it up to his knees!  Apparently he has loved it so far and the best times have been on the lines.  He has gotten little time off and is currently in standby mode to be taken to any incidents that spring up either by helicopter or truck, whichever gets him and his team there sooner.  Currently they are in a mop up mode so he is thinking he will be back to the Division Base sometime through the week.  He has had some pretty cool stories what couple of times we have talked with him,, and it sounds like he is looking forward to the next scene!  He is definitely living his dream!  We taught him well.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Fire On The Mountain"

It would be ironic, that as a kid, Johns favorite Grateful Dead song, being the son of two devout 'Deadheads', would be 'Fire On The Mountain'!  Who would have known that years later....

Have you ever been so excited, so pumped with anticipation...your adrenaline flooding your senses that you can't catch your breath to even talk?  This apparently has been a huge problem for John lately.  Going into his second week with the Alaska Division Of Forestry, the boy has called several times to convey unbelievable and utter joy in his new job and the tales which abound his days.  The conversation usually starts out as, "oh my God, I can't talk I am so excited....".  This was the case during his first call, back on Monday May 9th.  He was called out to a fire right off the bat and called to tell me...and believe me when I tell you... he was barely audible!  It sounded like some sound byte from an exorcism movie where the character is frantically
speaking in tongues as his head spins uncontrollably on his shoulders.  Turns out that it was just an abandoned campfire, and the caller made it sound like it was a raging wildfire.  Bummed, yes he was.  But it was priceless getting that phone call!  Since then he has had many minor calls, done numerous patrols, and has been spending time training at the Division base.  He told us today that he is actually taking college courses there at the Division, while getting well as being trained and schooled on more important tasks on his rig itself such as pump to hose ratios, pressure ect.  The kid is stoked!  Keep in mind we haven't seen much of him much less heard from him, with the exception of those uncontrollable moments of incident euphoria, as he has been working straight through since his first day.  In fact he is working at least 4 to 5 hours of overtime daily. 

The whole meatheaded idea of taking time off to go to Cali was on his mind this week.  Maryann finally told him to just can the idea, buck up and get on.  Oh, sure, he was frustrated, but again, he is jeopardizing a dream that he has worked hard towards for many years.  It's best.  Anyways, that whole thing would have blown up on him had he acted on his emotions.

Today he got the 'one hour warning'!

We got another one of those calls from him this morning.  You know, one of the breathless "I can't talk I am so excited" calls.  His commander gave him a one hour notice that they were shipping him off to the fire line on a large fire that broke out Friday near Fairbanks, in the interior.

He was to say the least, beside himself!  Apparently he was originally not  a consideration because he was pushing so many days of work.  By law, they are not allowed to work more than 21 days straight.  So when the commander asked for 3 people, he was unfortunately out of the loop to which he was just devastated.  But then, they came back and said they needed a fourth person and when asked if he was interested, what would you think he would say?!  Funny, all of a sudden a vacation in California took the back seat quick!   It came down to an old fashioned coin toss between him and two other guys, and John won.  And guess who didn't have a bag with extra clothes and underwear to last him possibly a couple of weeks?  In typical John fashion, he never stopped to think they would be sending him that far off so soon into his stint.  Mom and dad relayed his clothes and such from Jennifer and shot out to get him his clothes before they headed out.  All said, he was in good spirits and eager to roll.  They were going to stay the night up in Glennallen tonight and then off to the lines tomorrow. 

Here is the incident link for those who want to follow his adventure:

InciWeb the Incident Information System: Moose Mountain
To the right of the page you can find "Recent Articles" that will update the situation.  As well, at the top of the page are other pertinent things like photos, maps and announcements.

How do his folks feel about this?

When she was hit with the news, Maryann got a little concerned.  Me, I was excited for him!  Sure, things could go wrong, but then look at your present situation and tell me which one of you couldn't find at least 5 things that could go terribly wrong in your immediate surroundings at any given time of day!  You can't learn to ride a horse if you don't get on it.  I have incredible faith that he will be fine.  He needs the training, experience,' and frankly, the 'head on, in your face' exposure to get a taste of what it is he has signed on for.  Like he told us today when we dropped off his bag, he is on a rig with 4 really cool guys who are seriously on top of what they do.  He is not worried at all.  These guys are brethren in what they are all trained to do.  Hang in there Grandma's and Grandpa....he is going to be fine.  Be proud of him and what he is doing!  He has a 'fire' under his ass and has "one speed, one gear...GO!"

On the home front, we will be hosting a special guest this summer starting June 4th.

Many years ago, at an anniversary party for my parents, my uncle Glen, or uncle Honey to those who know him best, gave a speech.  He said that as you get older, you start to learn that if you can count on one hand the number of close friends you have, you should consider yourself lucky.  As I have gotten up there in years since this speech, I now know exactly what he spoke of so many years ago.  This past summer, I was blessed enough to have one of those best friends I have known since high school and have kept in contact with through the years, Brad, come up to Alaska to spend some time on the peninsula.  Coincidentally, it was the first time in 11 years that I have seen him.  This winter he managed to get one of his nephews a job at the fish camp that Brad stayed at last summer.  I was honored when he asked me to keep contact with his nephew while he was here this summer so that he would feel like he had someone close while so far away from family.  The kid is a nephew of Brads and is as good as family to me!

So then, after talking to Brad a couple of times about his nephew staying out at the fish camp, he mentioned his other nephew who was devastated that his cousin was going to Alaska and not him!  Fortunately, Maryann was about ready to hire a position for the lodge to do grounds maintenance, processing and other important tasks equipped to keep the lodge running efficiently.  Hands down the planets aligned!  She found her hire and we decided that he could bunk here, downstairs in the 'Redneck Hilton' or for that matter out in the sauna....when your 18 and in Alaska for the summer, the sky is the limit!  With all of the daylight and things to do it is doubtful he will be spending much time indoors with the exception for some sleep here and there.  It is already affecting us severely.  With sunrise at 5:00AM and sunset at 11:00PM, we are begining to feel the ensuing signs of becoming 'amped' from too much vitamin D!

 The Arctic Terns  arrived a few weeks back and we believe, have a nest just outside the back door at the top of a spruce along the lake.  Our favorites, the Loons, also pulled onto the lake about the same time.  I just absolutely love these two.  They return every year and remain here until fall.  They are such beautiful and majestic fowl to me.  They just hang out on the lake and float about!  It is heavenly to wake up to their beautifully odd calls throughout the night.  I often wonder just what they are saying and what provoked it....  Then yesterday, Maryann's fav's, two Tundra swans, swooned in and have been here since.  As I write, I am looking out the window watching them nest for the night across the lake along the grassy shore.  Earlier, when the one would float off too far away for the others' comfort, it would bellow out a honk or two, which was reminiscent (for those of you who are old enough to remember how young you where with those cool bicycle horns) of a bike horn from back in the day!  It is just too wild!!  Yes, at 10:10PM with the sun still up, there is a menagerie of life on the lake tonight.  We are so blessed to be a part of this and to bear witness to Gods gift! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Young And The Restless

I often wonder.  Amazingly enough, I will always wonder.

The most intensely awesome thing that could ever happen to a parent, happened to us last week.  keep in the back of your head the time table of which I am will help you to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this incredible chain of events.  We have always believed and preached to our son that it is not always "what you know", but often times "who you know" that helps you to progress in the way of finding a job.  He has bared witness to this a few times through his so far young life.  Keep in mind, the follow up to that factoid is that you do have to network and make yourself known in order to 'get in' on any position or to open doors.  This would be the same conversation we would have with him many times in the past couple of years regarding his many attempts to get on with the Alaska Division Of Forestry.  He has been ramped and ready both mentally and physically, has done his minimum training requirements yearly to be ready in a minutes notice.  Just my opinion; the one thing he has lacked, is the effort of making an impressionable presence at the main station.  He has laid the initial groundwork at the start of fire season each year, which for us begins to gear up April, for the severest period of May/June.  After being dormant and covered with ice and snow for 8 months, everything is dry and dead after the melt off, coupled with no significant rain in these few months it is usually a tinder dry time of year.  Anyways, he seems to fail to do those so important follow-ups, and showing his face so the right people get to know him.  This year seemed to start no different.  Except for two things which occurred rather quickly and sequential.

The "come to Jesus" meeting that we had with him in the kitchen several weeks back seemed to ignite something within him.  You could see it in his eyes.  You know, that look which indicates that after so many years of 'the light is on but nobody is home' scenario finally may show that 'somebody finally showed up to the lit house'!  I think it was literally like a couple days after this that Maryann asked the pertinent question to a vendor they use at the lodge, who works at the air tanker base for the Division Of Forestry, one afternoon when he walked in the office.  Simply, "how does someone get their foot in the door at the Forestry Department?"  His reply, simply, "you have to know someone".  No....ya think?  When John heard the replay of this conversation with his mom and the this other fellow, I believe that we were vindicated, as he finally saw that we didn't just fall off of the turnip truck!  We may well actually know what we are talking about all these years!!

Without skipping a beat, the boy put the prior "come to Jesus meeting" with us the other day and this newest development into immediate play.  The next day he was showing his face at the main station and making it known that he wanted in.  This coupled with the prompt recommendation to the right people, by Maryann's friend, put John in the spotlight.   A week later, when John showed up at the station, he got the chance to talk with one of the key players in operations there.  This guy introduced John to the other key figure who commented that he knew who John was because he had been in, almost everyday, bugging him for a job throughout that week!  There is that 'impression' I spoke of.  Bug them until they pay attention to you!  In that conversation with these two guys, John made humor to the subject and stated that he was ready to bring in donuts for the guys at the station everyday if that would get his foot in the door.  The guy looked at John and said, "No, don't.  We are firefighters, not cops" to which they all got a chuckle.  Yes, he pulled it off....he was in!

Two days later, this past Monday, John began his first day.  His dream for so many years, his desire to get on with the Forestry Division was coming about full face.  I have to tell you, the first day on the job, he called me about 10:00AM, just an hour after arriving for his first day at the station and was completely beside himself with utter excitement.  I don't recall such vigor and fervor in as many years as I could remember.  He was hardly audible as he described his first hour gearing up to go out for the day and patrol on the rig.  And coincidentally, every day after the first that he would talk to Maryann or myself, he glistened with the same vivacity!  He has been on many incidents so far and has become quite the little front man on his crew.  He earned himself the nickname, "the bull" by his Incident Commander and has really pulled his weight and shown his worth.  In fact, with most of the week being in a Red Flag Warning, he has put in almost a weeks worth of overtime just in the one week he has been working, so he is anticipating a nice phat paycheck.

Have you been paying attention to the time line, as I suggested earlier?

So, this past Friday, he comes out of the woodwork and tells Maryann that he really wants to go to California in two weeks to see his cousin graduate high school.  WTF!?!  As to not offend, I do understand the precept of such a desire, and feel personally that indeed this is a most important event, and I would typically emphasize the importance of of attending such a family oriented event.  However...WTF!?!

So, in summary, after years of dreaming, years of doing the best he could to achieve his goal, getting his foot in the door by the whole 'not what you know but who you know' principle, being hired only a week want to go run off for a week...right smack in the middle of fire season...and actually believe that your commander will be fine with this and your job will be waiting for you when you return???  It's no wonder some species eat their young!  His feel good logic is, that he will have a huge paycheck after this past week so he can afford it. 

We can only hope that reality and common sense will outweigh his impulsive act on emotions.  I mean, it is sad that he will miss his cousins graduation, I will give him that.  I just hope he realizes that if he blows his ride, there won't be a second chance for him.  They won't just overlook this seasons debacle and invite him back next year!  I guess we were all knuckle heads at one point in our lives, and granted that some of us are still a bit knuckle headed at times, but some of this just seems to me like he is not in touch with reality.  Save the money and go down in the fall when the season winds down and they let you go for the winter.

Will we allow him to make this potential error in judgment? 

He is almost 21.  We can only say what we feel to give him some food for thought, and it is ultimately up to him what he does.  Frankly, I know that it is not a good idea.  Right now is just the wrong time.  Take the money you would spend on an air fare and pay for your cousin to come up and stay with you for a week after he graduates!

On a lighter note, M and I where taking advantage of the beautiful day yesterday and cleaning up the yard and readying the lawns for their summer debut.  Even though it was a restricted burn day and we couldn't burn the debris pile, I did fire up the propane torch and was doing some of the weeds that grow up along the concrete pad boarders on the front patio.  Yes, I was being a scofflaw.  The hose was dawned and we are talking literally burning concrete...riiiight.  Problem occurred when dipshit me got a little too close to the dormant yellowed and dry lawn at the edge of the concrete pad.  Within a flash of a second, the dead grass ignited and began to spread at lightning speed.  I shit myself, cut the flamethrower off and jumped to the head of the small flames to try and stomp them out as I calmly and rather urgently called out to Maryann who was just yards away, "honey, honey, honey, honey, get the hose, get the hose, get the hose....".  She looked up and as well shit herself, because she couldn't figure out what in hell I was doing.  Was I on fire, or was I on top of the fire she thought while running to the hose just feet away.  Mind you, it was all very small scale since we are only talking about inch tall dead grass, and any fire wouldn't have been able to go too far with the walkway, driveway and gravel area bordering the affected area.  It just would have singed that section of my lawn that is trying to wake up and grow back after a long winter.  Nonetheless, it did make for a heightened moment, and my loving wife informing  me that I scare her sometimes.  Really!? lol  When I relayed my story to John later that night, he commented that, "This is the problem.  People, like in my situation, fail to call 911, they just try to put it out themselves and it gets out of control."  Talk about feeling a moment of pride for how you raised him and where he is in life, coupled with embarrassment from being lectured by your son, for a change, instead of being the one lecturing!! 

We'll see!  In the mean time, we will be having a guest living with us this summer and we are a bit excited about it!  Stand by as the story continues in the next post, which I promise won't be weeks away. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wintertime has all began to run.

I still continue to say that no matter how much we love to get away there is really no place better than to be home, here in Alaska.  It is a completely different world outside than it is here! Somehow we managed to totally miss the beginning and what I think is often the worst stages of 'break up'.  Most of the snow is melted away now, although at our place it seems to be sticking around far too long for my desire.  Yes, an avid lover of the snow says this?!  Let me tell you, the sun is out, the temps are up to 45 by day and it is getting light out around 6:00AM with darkness shrouding around is hard not to have the fever!  Hibernation is over, the snow had it's day and it is time to do what Alaskans do; work your ass off by day and play through the night!  Seem unthinkable?

It was just yesterday that Maryann coaxed me into going out to enjoy the beautiful day we were having.  As described above, it was fabulous and felt really good to get outside.  We pulled out the bikes and decided to do some riding between Kenai and Soldotna.  Just before we pulled away in Kenai, I decided to change out of the light over shirt I had on and put on my heavier hoodie.  That would be about the single best decisison I would make this day!  I figured it was only going to be a little jaunt around town and with it so nice out who needs to bundle up?  It turned into a ride to the end of town, which continued on.  About the time we hit the flats just outside of Kenai, I, in particular, realized how much the breeze was kicking up off of the bay, funneling up through the flats and making me wish I had dressed a little warmer for the ride.  Frozen, I continued to rough it out and frankly if I hadn't decided about 4 miles into the trek to pull the plug and head back, we would have gone all the way into Soldotna, I am sure of it.  The woman has become relentless in her pursuit of exercise!

My wish is simple really; sunshine 6 days a week with one day of rain each week so we don't have to water the lawns or wildflowers!  It's not asking much.  The lake is still frozen although it is to the point that it would be foolish to walk on the ice.  Most of the snow is melted off everywhere else and the ground is thawing pretty good now.  It is like walking through a swamp in most places that aren't covered with snow.  You a sloppy 'fart' sound emitted from both sides of your sinking boot, with water squirting out like a pissed clam...  This is break-up!  We are so ready for some spring and yearn for the summer.

When we arrived at the Anchorage airport a couple weeks back, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the seagulls have returned.  Although some people may say BFD, for us, it is a BFD!  It is just another sign of summer on it's way and anyone who has spent a summer in Alaska knows that a summer here is a very exciting and energetic time where nobody sleeps.  We live for summer!  Today we saw several squadrons of ducks in flight on their way to available water....which is lacking with lakes still frozen and thawing slowly.  And we can't forget the pregnant cows!  The female moose are about ready to start dropping their calves here soon.  Although we haven't heard of any incidents, the grizzly bears and black bears are coming out of hibernation now and it is a time to be very aware of where you are and what is around you.  It is the time of year that I like to keep the 454 Casull on my hip or chest when out and about.  Last year Maryann got herself some bear pepper spray.  She is not quit hip on pulling a 'Palin' and running amok with a 12 GA shotgun on her shoulder.  We were hiking up Exit glacier last spring and had a run in of sort.  If walking through patches of snow in sandles seems odd and enough to draw the attention of a curious tourist.....her bear spray turned some head.  She was approached by this guy who commented that she was crazy for walking through snow in her sandles.  He proceeds to ask her, "so, what's up with the fire extinguisher?"  Ok.  Obviously a clueless camper!  Oh by the way, did you notice the scat on the trail back there....dude?!

All in all we are ramped and ready for another good year.  Maryann has her vegetables and herbs germinating in her studio which doubles as a sun room, sprouting and shouting with utter glee.  With about a couple of cords of firewood left from winter, we are gearing up to start hauling up the beetle kill and dead fall from winter and start that sacred stache of heat source.  That comes out to about 10 cords of wood we have burned since late August.  Fortunately, as of now, we are able to burn in the morning for a couple of hours and then again at night for a few hours before bed to keep the house adequately heated which suits me.  I would really like to be able to conserve that last 2 cords.  As of June 13th, it will be officially 4 years since we landed.  Will there be any kind of celebration or hootin annie?  Most likely not.  But it is another notch in the belt, and the beginning of year 5 which is looking to be the best year as of yet!  It was the biggest move we ever made and the best decision we ever calculated.  We love it here!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beating The System: Avoiding the frisk!

Today upon arriving at the San Francisco International Airport for our flight back home, I came face to face with my utter dread for the past 6 months.  The Full Body Scan machine!  Ominously it stood above all of the other old school metal detectors.  As I casually watched the line, as to not draw suspicion to myself, people would just walk right in, throw up their hands as if they were being showered down in a pre-incarceration process, and in seconds were on their way again.  Folks, the whole thing is just wrong!  You can try to argue the point that it is for the safety of all passengers, but I don’t buy it.  For starters, it was just days before we flew out of Alaska, a couple of weeks back, that a solitary Air Traffic Controller was left in the tower somewhere in the lower 48, by himself in the middle of the night, and fell asleep!  WTF??!!  And we are worried about terrorism?!  Pilots with long hours and no rest, airline customers who are so fed up with being treated like less than the ‘paying customers’ that they are supposed to be.  I am more worried about ‘air rage’ or mutiny in that case.

I carefully studied the system that TSA had in place this day.  The answer was simple!  Wait, lets go back….  Before we even arrived at the airport, Maryann and I discussed what we were going to go for….the ‘cop a feel’ pat down or the scan.  If they say that the scan is harmless to us…to me, that is a red flag that they have no idea.  Forget about the privacy issue!  I made a conscious decision that I was going to let some poor unsuspecting TSA operative feel me up and just plain screw with him.  But this would not be necessary on this day.  I detected a simple flaw in their system.  There were so many people flooding into security today that it was difficult for the seemingly confused TSA operatives to keep on top of all that was going on.  I detected a  leak in the main line going into the screening area.  The stanchion’s were down where the two incoming lines merged and then split back into 6 or 7 lines through the screening area.  I mean, not down for like a second or so, they were just down….period!  So, I chose the split in the line that took me away from body scanner line.  Instead, I was able to move myself and Maryann conveniently over to any one of the points away from the body scanner with nobody on watch to tell me different!

Now, as you would figure, I, had absolutely nothing to hide other than my boys which I chose not to share with TSA.  But what bothers me is that anyone who was lucky enough to be there today, who did have something to hide, would have been able to avoid the body scanner at their own leisure.  This can’t be the only time this kind of thing has happened…believe me, I‘m not that lucky.  It was an enlightening experience, and I felt achieved that I was able to avoid what I feel to be an utter invasion to my constitutional right to privacy! 

Other than that, our flight out of SFO was delayed by 40 minutes because like half of the passengers were apparently held up at Security.  More than likely TSA had figured out by now that all of the lines through screening were crammed….all but the scanner line….do ya think?!  So, we, the boarded ones, waited and as a result were late to our connecting flight in Seattle, to Alaska!  When I brought up my concerns to the flight attendant about the possibility of missing our connecting flight now as a result this, she replied, “oh, no worries!”  “Just talk to a gate agent (who we civilians refer to as “Gate Nazi’s”) and they will hook you up“.  Huh?  Hook us up with what?  I mean, if we miss the flight, what are we going to hook up with??  Politely, as to not create a stir like I did last time I flew, with my tainted comments, I pressed her a little…you know, laid out a couple of options, like; Make an announcement when we land that the passengers who are about to miss their connecting flight need to be allowed off first.  Or, at very least find out the time the plane will land  and at what gate so we can figure out our route before we get off the plane this way we can just bolt in the right direction.  Something….anything, but the damned ‘hook up’!

As it rode out, her final answer to our dilemma was to not worry, the plane would land at the gate at 9:30A, the boarding for the connection is starting at 9:30A and we would have plenty of time…..  Really?!  No potty stop, no food, no nothing.  Just bolt.  When we arrived at the gate, the plane was about loaded and we fumbled our way in on time to get into our seats for the earlier than expected departure.  Yup, just like the nice flight attendant stated, there really was no need to worry!  That’s nice….

Other than that the overall experience was typical.  Cramped quarters, corralled like cattle, kind smiling attendants that would snarl at you every chance they had.   Or, I love this one, “Good morning sir” all bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Only to totally diss you when you return the kindness with a smile and “How are you today”, back to them.  Believe me, if there was an easier way to do it, I would skip flying in a happy heartbeat.  I guess maybe I just expect way too much common decency and standard customer service for the money I’m being fleeced of to fly.  That and all of the unnecessary elbows to ass, and body contact sitting in the isle seat freaks me out!  Actually though, I do deserve this one as I choose the aisle seats.  Unnecessary contact is far better than doing ‘the sardine’ stuffed between  two people or ground into the corner of the window for 3 hours. 

We are looking forward to getting back home though.  It was a trip, man.  We accomplished much relaxation and fun times.  But despite it all, there truly is no place like home!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Blank Canvas

This is what I have been staring at for the past ½ hour now….a blank canvas.  Not literally a canvas, but to a writer starring at a blank computer screen…’s damned near the same thing!  I am sitting here, encompassed by complete and natural peace.  With the vast expanse of the ocean before me, it’s creatures and life all in unison to the ebb and flow, one would think it is the perfect place to write.  Yet, here I sit, completely dumfounded with a hint of awe, and a blank computer screen. 

Well, I suppose at this point it isn’t blank anymore!  I mean, we do have this much to read.  As an incoming seagull nearly crapped on my head….how is it that they are like cruise missiles in that sense…I hear a buoy dinging out in the water maybe a good mile or more out.  Have you ever noticed that it is so hard to judge distance when you are on land, peering out into the sea?  I suppose the buoy reminds me somewhat of the shifting tide of life itself.  How when life seems calm and uneventful, the buoy remains still and serves only as a silent and visual reminder of it’s purpose.  Then there are the times when even the slightest shift in the sea can cause it to sound off.

 Like a sentry, it stands the sometimes brutal and harsh waters to warn those within it’s earshot that attention need be paid.  It seems to me somewhat symbolic of life itself.  During times of calm our souls, the center of our selves remain in harmony and balance.  Then out of the blue, a rift in this balance can become overwhelming and thrust that harmony, that peace into utter disarray.  Like all good storms thrown at the buoy in the ocean, this too shall pass.  But not without the memory of it’s wounds.  The affliction and regardless assault on your spirit….on your being.  All of a sudden my canvas isn’t so much blank anymore! 

Upon it lies the moments thought, a pondering glimpse, much like the sea itself, into the uncharted questions of life.  But then again, this is foolishness.  Of course these waters are charted.  There is a damned buoy bobbing about!  Someone charted, someone felt the compelled urgency to warn, and someone was rehearsed enough in troubled waters and it’s co-existence with potential disaster amidst a storm to plop a buoy, right there, into the water.  No, this is by no means the first time….this is no pioneering experience.  Many others and many more have been here…..have navigated this rough channel of the sea.  Once again, at times it seems so serene and calm while others it will be a challenge to ride out the waters.  I feel as if I have stumbled upon some great and time honored wisdom as a chorus of seagulls, gathered closely about, squawk with concur.  Or are they all getting ready to pull flight from their perch and pepper my head with….crap!  If you have never spent time on a beach, take note the next time you do that of all the open spaces for such to transpire, the seagull will almost certainly, always find your head. 

No longer is my canvas blank.  Rather it reflects the random thoughts and observations of the moment.  In this case, the moment is not the time at hand, but rather the culmination of moments leading up to this particular point of time.  Confused?  Don’t feel so left out.  If any of it made sense to me it would be a post rather than a well sentenced menagerie of garble.  But relax….not every writer knows what he wants to say all of the time.  Or, maybe he/she does know but fails the ability to convey it in words that make sense.  In my case, here, right now, I just put the words on the screen in an attempt to sort and search for the point, or a way to tie it all in.  I am not sure if I am just slightly challenged, or if other writers would agree, that the further along you proceed with a garbled approach to making sense, the less sense you make and the more difficult it becomes to follow yourself without straying, to the point of complete failure to hold the readers attention.

There has been a calling upon me.  One of which I have never experienced on such a profound and personal level.  It has brought forth feelings of which I am not sure how to deal with much less effectively express.  I came here today to tell a story, and I have failed.  It has been told me many times, that “you have to work through the problem”  No better  a way to direct confusion, than to try and find the block or obstacle which has created it and ‘work it through‘.  Not always the easiest task!  I had an epiphany once.  All of a sudden the answer to many questions came to light!  It was then that I was able to move on this moment and “work through” what troubled me.  The days and weeks that preceded that epiphany were of silence.  Silence of the heart.  Silence of the soul….silence of a very tired mind.  Through silence, I was able to hear the sound of, and discover the solution. 

For now, I have trouble hearing the voices, trouble returning the calls, indecision on which way to turn too now and how to place my energies….much less, what I will be doing tomorrow.  I am having trouble fulfilling the supposed needs of what everyone wants from me.  Like a good storm, “this too shall pass.”  Like the waves in the sea, there will be calm in the days to follow.  Direction will once again become unobscured.  This is not to say that all will fly in tight formation, and the symphony will chime.  This is just to say that once again, some sense and understanding will be found.  In the meantime, “I” am the very least of my concerns. 

It has been said many times throughout my life, that no matter what you think constitutes a level of difficulty, someone, somewhere is going through much worse.  Although this has always made sense to me and I find it the truth, I have trouble drawing the perimeter of ‘what is worse’ in comparison to ‘what’.  What is trouble to one may be grape jelly to another.  Where one finds death to be the end of the world, another could look upon it as a saving grace.  I have always had a problem finding clarity with pain and suffering.  Some find pain and will suffer from a fallen body while another will find pain and suffer from a broken heart.  Which is worse?  It pains me to see either.  So much especially when one has to do with the other.

Yes, this trip has been clouded by some rough reality and somber emotion.  Shock is a better term.  It has left us dumbfounded and lacking a fair understanding.  It has been a swift reminder that life changes in a heartbeat and all you knew one day becomes a distant faded flash into yesterday.  It has brought awareness to this journey and appreciation for all we have shared in life and all which we hold.  My canvas has been filled.  Much like the rendering of an artists painting, it is simply the perception of  a vision or in this case presence of mind and thought.  Some will see this perception with clarity, will relate to the speak and strokes of the brush.  Still others may tilt their head in an attempt to understand.  In the end, it will be seen for what it is.  One thing though, and this is true, that if you view the work of another, you have taken a fleeting glimpse into their reality.   You have seen a brief moment in time, through their eyes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Aurora!

They are by no means professional....just a pocket digital camera with a steadily shaky hand. . There were some obstructions....keep in mind we can watch a good view of the northern sky from the windows of the back of the house or off the back deck, but considering we are limited on where we can walk without sinking ass high in snow, tree limbs are an issue...  It's raw footage...   But it's live!  Happening right now.....been happening for the last hour now and it keeps getting better!  Reminds us of one of many reasons why we love living here! 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our ultimate roadtrip to the middle of nowhere.

 The sun just slipping behind Mt Redoubt tonight with the ice pack in the forefront..  There was a wisp of ice and snow rising more than likely a few thousand feet in the air right at the peak, caused by the winds whipping up over the backside of the mountain.  It was fabulous!

The day had started out rather early.  Or, maybe the previous day never really ended and it all rolled into one.  We tried to go to bed and probably napped for a couple of hours before it was time to get up at 1:00AM.  The plan was to meet with their garage, which made me feel so dirty at 2:00AM.....and as one would expect we were running a little late, barely able to see straight much less think.  After the brief rendezvous, in the garage, we set out for the early AM road trip to Anchorage.  Let me tell you, a road trip to Anchorage at 2:30AM is very uneventful!  Other then the homemade muffins and thermos of coffee....there just wasn't a whole lot going on!

Our goal to make it to the airport in Anchorage by 5:45AM was successful, where after a bit of a scare (Era Aviation had no confirmation of our booking and it was a full flight....except for the 2 seats that they had to squeeze us in on...thankfully) we boarded our plane and began the trek to Fairbanks.  The best part of flying with Era Aviation within the bounds of Alaska is that they serve you a cookie of your choice and juice for a snack!  As this may sound petty to some, to someone like me who loves 'the cookie' it is utter joy.  After flying a little more than an hour we landed at the tiny Fairbanks airport.  Not near as tiny as Kenai's airport, but it was small by most standards.  I knew I was in for a scene when Maryann turned to me and said, " have to look at this".  As I peered out the window past her, it was like a sight out of some sci-fi flick.

Freezing fog is like microscopic ice particulates suspended motionless in mid air.  It was bizarre to say the least!  As we got off the plane onto the tarmac, where most people would have been gasping for air as it was -35F below 0, I was fascinated with the frozen fog...never mind the fact that my nose hairs froze instantly and face went numb!  the frozen fog was like hovering just high enough off of the ground as to prevent you from seeing within feet of where you were standing.  My second thought was, how in hell I was going to drive in this....I couldn't see as it was on the tarmac!  First thought was, "and why am I here?".  Which brings me to the point of exactly, what we were doing there.

Around here when you mention Fairbanks, most Alaskans simply ignore the comment, say "I'm sorry", or ask the pertinent question, "why would you want to go to Fairbanks?".  There just isn't a whole lot happening in Fairbanks.  In the winter it is cold, very cold, and you only get like a couple of good hours of daylight...on a good day.  Beings that we were there in January, we caught the lengthening of daylight hours, but not by much.  In short, John found a work rig for me on Craigslist.  It is what I had been wanting, and although it came a little unexpected at a time I wasn't really looking for one, it was too good of a deal to pass up with ultra low miles on it and the utility bed that is a super plus.  So after doing a two week 'virtual' run over with the owner through emails, many pics, and having him take it into a shop up there to have it gone through for me, the decision to purchase it was firmed up and Maryann and I went to Fairbanks to get it and drive it back.

In a sense, I feel as if I let my viewing public down by not taking pictures of the journey.  However, trust me, there really wasn't much to take pictures of with the temps at -30F below 0 mid-day, frozen fog suspended in mid air, and little to no daylight to speak of!  You really didn't miss much!!  There was "Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn" south of Fairbanks with a trademark signage of 2 bears humping....probably somewhere I would have liked to have sat and watered down as a pit stop.  But not this trip.  Oh, keep in mind this is a stock photo from the web.  With little daylight, a lot of snow and ice and us just not wanting to stop due to the extreme frigid temps, there was no viable photo opp here folks!

 It was a long and arduous 12 hour drive back home for us, and we were really trying to grind as much road as we could while there was still daylight.  We went through the village of Nenana, where the "Nenana Ice Classic" is held each spring.  There will be more to come on that in coming weeks as the lottery for that event is abound.  We did have breakfast at the northernmost Denny's restaurant in North America!  Believe it or not it was the best tasting Denny's I have yet to have the chance of eating at.  I would go back for some 'Moons Over My Hammy' the summer!  One thing that floored me was how much Fairbankites complained about how cold it was this this I can only say, "really...ya think?!"

All in all it was a good adventure for us with lots of time to talk, and listen, and talk.  Most all of the drive was very desolate, ice covered, and barren.  Maryann was excited to get to see Mt McKinley from a distance as we drove through Denali National Park.  For hours we were literally the only vehicle on the road either direction.  Further emphasis with the minus temps, why we so wanted to cover as much miles as possible before the sun went back down.  The very long day did finally come to an end around midnight as we pulled into the compound and were greeted by 3 very excited dogs!  Bed never felt so good.

On a more exciting note, Maryann has made a conscious decision to run a marathon this coming fall.  Mind you, she has never done anything like this, much less really "run" since her high school days.  She has begun training for it now and once the snow and ice melt in the spring will begin an astringent training regimen through the summer to prep for her day in the sun!  I have included the link for this event.
She will be participating in the run with an artist friend of hers who lives in Pacific Grove, California on November 20th 2011, and she is very excited about what she is setting out to accomplish!  I am sure there will be more info here, to come on this adventure.  We are hoping that she will get the honor and support of family and our close friends,  maybe a chance for us all to spend some time together before and after the race in the most beautiful place one could experience on the California coast!  For now, all I can say is "run Forest, run!"

Many people have been brought to my attention lately, who are going through some very difficult and emotionally trying times.  When I think about how fortunate and blessed we are, it only makes me want to channel constructive time and positive energy to those who need it.  Whether you are a friend from the past or present, a family member, a fellow blogger who is a  "follower" of this blog, or someone who I have been so honored to have been brought to cross paths, you are in my thoughts and prayers and I encourage us all to spend just a little time in our days being more aware of these people who can use some positive energy and prayer.