Tuesday, December 28, 2010

As many folks do, we headed south for the holidays this winter. When I say this, you may be thinking south as in Margaritaville. Remember where we live; south is just about anywhere away from the Arctic Ocean. We find ourselves in Palmer, AK as the guests of one sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Ironically, we did not journey to warmer weather. In fact, for the first several days in Palmer, the temps were decidedly colder than Barrow (however, the wind was quite calm). We've had an eventful visit with dogs in tow. Even my sister from California joined us. And even though we are miles from our current home in Barrow and our former home in Juneau, Husband still ran into people he knew! First there were the folks at Christmas Eve service who originally hail from this area but lived in Juneau for about 20 years. On Christmas Day we joined several folks at the Community Dinner in Wasilla (mostly to see Husband play in Tuba Christmas). 'Lo and behold, he's sitting next to the father of a fellow musician from Juneau! This is why we always say Alaska is a small town.
Also at the event we spied Bunny boots. Haven't seen these in awhile. Actually, we noted several pair. Thought you'd be interested in them. They are mostly worn these days by oil workers on the North Slope as they are really, really warm when you're standing around. Once you start walking, there is some issue with breathability, so your feet become a bit soggy. Also, there is the fashion conundrum...can you really wear white after Labor Day?
Me and Sister

We've really been out and about the past few days. Yesterday, Husband and Sister and I drove north toward Glennallen, where I lived for a few years in the '90s. We went as far as Eureka summit where we stopped to have lunch. The Eureka Roadhouse was the first roadhouse on the Glenn Highway (according to their sign).  The most memorable point of that venture was the Christmas tree they had in which they had hung antlers...caribou and moose antlers. Don't think I would have thought of that even if I did have a few spares hanging around the house. On our way back to Palmer, we stopped at Long Rifle Lodge for coffee and pie.

At Long Rifle Lodge
Roadhouses, in my experience have the most fabulous pie and/or cinnamon rolls. Since it was the afternoon, there were no rolls, but the pie was all that I expected. Who needs a famous bakery when one can pop into a roadhouse on the highway (provided you are near the highway)?

You know, we don't drive much in Barrow. Really, every place we need to go is no more than about 7 minutes away. So, it's been fun taking long drives. Today we headed toward Mt. McKinley (or Denali as it is known by Alaskans). We had heard the Mountain was "out." We stopped at the Talkeetna Lodge for lunch (another Roadhouse). Husband had the special, "Clog Your Arteries" biscuits and gravy, while I had quiche and sister had a salmon pasty, which was tasty! 
Tip of the Mountain to the left.
If you've spent much time in the area, you know that the Mountain is often covered in clouds. You rarely get a full view of it. Today was an exceptional viewing day. We stopped a few times before noon and got some great pictures. But by 2:00 p.m., the clouds were closing in and the top of the Mountain slowly disappeared. 

 Lastly, I threw this picture in because I took it into the sun at midday. I've been told that is the exact wrong direction to shoot, but I seem to get some amazing results when I go "against the grain." It is just this mindset that epitomizes the spirit of those of us who have adopted Alaska as our home.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Visions of Igloos Danced in My Head

A couple of things I learned today. 1) It appears that standard equipment in everyone's truck is a tow strap or a tow chain. 2) Don't EVER leave your cell phone on the counter when you leave the house. 3) Not ONE person in Barrow will drive by you when you're stuck in a snow drift.

How, you may ask, do I know this? Oh, just guess.

In my defense, I was distracted. You see, I saw this igloo in someone's yard. How cool is that?! It's not as though it's a common sight. And look at the construction! It's really fabulous. Then there are the colored lights that rotate onto it. So, I was thinking, "gee I'll have to get a picture and write about it on the blog' and WHAM! into a huge drift drove I. The drift was right in the middle of the plowed road and it was a biggie. The snow was plowed up to the hood of the car, though there was escape in the rear of vehicle. However, it was clear I couldn't get the car out myself. And...I had left my phone on the kitchen counter. Along came one truck. He got out and looked to see if he could attach his tow chain. Determining that wasn't a good idea, he and his wife offered to drive me home. Beauty of a small town, I just told him who I lived by and he drove me right to my house. Off Husband and I trek to the car to see what we can do. We got to the car to see about pushing it out and along come two other trucks.

Both guys have tow straps. One of the guys just went for it. He figured if we were gentle we'd be okay with hooking the strap to whatever doohickey he found under the car. Just like that, I'm out of the drift and back on my way. Thank-you to all of my fellow Barrow citizens for your help. It is true if we don't help each other we will die. It was -31 (with windchill) during this adventure, by the way. Shortly after my adventure, the plow came by to clear the road.

While I was out doing errands today I was also thinking about all of the things that appeared during this season that I wasn't really expecting. For one thing, folks here take the whole house lighting exercise VERY seriously. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving, the festivities began. It was as though a light went off (heh, heh). This is one of the best examples. Now, think about it. No matter what day they put up these lights it was mighty cold. It hasn't been above 0 in weeks. I get to drive by this house every day and since it's dark most of the time, it is always a cheerful sight.
No one turns their lights off during the day...I mean, why would you? The other big surprise to me was the city lights. This, I really wasn't expecting. You do expect it in big cities, but we are just a small village. How fun when these appeared! Sadly, the biggest disappointment is that the Post Office is still closed on Saturday. You can't even get in the lobby. It's sad because it's holding one of my packages hostage! I ordered in plenty of time, but the vendor delayed shipment and now I can't get to the package even though I know it's in there! So, we'll leave for Anchorage/Palmer tomorrow without it, but the most important things will be with me...Husband, Raven, and McKinley! And we'll get to spend time with Raven and McKinley's aunties and uncle. What more could we ask for?

A Tree Grows in Barrow

For us, decorating for Christmas is a big deal. When we moved here, I had to make a few decisions about what to bring. So, instead of the 8 boxes of Christmas decorations and schwag that we had to work with in Juneau, we have ONE box. It's mostly lights. I'd been told white Christmas lights all winter would provide a cheery aspect to the house during the long days of night. And they do. In fact, Husband came up with a brilliant idea for hanging the lights in the window, making the living room look like a winter wonderland.
Speaking of light.. In light of our lack of light, our friends who live on Bainbridge Island in Washington sent us a little care package that arrived last week. Funniest of all were the directions about growing mushrooms...a whole catalog. Humorous, yet useful as well! Also, two book lights for our reading pleasure. Quite practical as we read in bed frequently and when we fall asleep with bedside lights on, the dogs wake up in the middle of the night and think it's time to get up! So, many thanks for those special and useful items! Also got a couple of books, which are always appreciated as we don't have a bookstore here, though we are frequent flyers at the library.

The best was yet to come, however. One day last week, I mentioned our lack of decorations to one of my co-workers. Turns out a tree had been donated to our office by an organization in town. It was to go to someone "who could use it." Hello! Here's what's funny, though. We have ALWAYS had a freshly cut Christmas tree. We've ALWAYS put candles on our tree and we've had a candle tree lighting party each year. This was an artificial tree and I wasn't quite sure how Husband would react. Turns out, just like any Christmas-loving person would react. We just love having a tree in the house. It's beautiful! It's in great shape and even came with directions for assembly (which were in the bottom of the box, so we didn't find them until after assembly). Just some twinkly lights and our tree (because I didn't think we'd have a tree, so I didn't bring ornaments). It's perfect! The spirit of giving is alive and well in Barrow!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Weather Outside is NOT so Frightful

Today it was almost too warm to wear my very fabulous parka...seriously. This is a scary thought. It was 2℉. You can see why I think this is scary. The unseasonably warm temperature (shocking to say, isn't it?) coupled with little wind made for a very pleasant day...what we see of it, that is. I know you're wondering what it really looks like on these days when the sun doesn't rise. We have a little "daylight," from about 1:00 p.m. -1:10 p.m. Just kidding! We still have about 2 hours before "it's all NIGHT" (in the immortal words of my song).
"Tell me again why I'm wearing clothes, now?"
This picture is taken at the height of the day. The dogs are wearing their arctic clothing, complete with Muttluks. They don't like the Muttluks any better now than they did when we tried them on in Washington, but it can be too cold for their paws without them. The coats have reflective strips which is essential once the daylight leaves us.

I am reveling in the warm weather, because it was a bit chilly this past weekend. It was the first time I've every had my eyelashes coated with frost. It's not the first time I've been in weather like that, it's the first time I had to totally remove my protective eyewear because I couldn't see through the foggy lenses, though!

A not-long-enough visit to Arizona cured the lack of sun blues over Thanksgiving holiday. It takes a good 17 hour day to get to Tucson from here. Our trip started in Barrow at 10:00 a.m. A quick stop in Anchorage to change planes, another stop in Seattle with enough time to get coffee, then on to Phoenix, where we rented a car to drive to Tucson. We got in at about 3:00 a.m. Worth it! The sun was shining brightly in the sky! Who noticed that there was a frost warning the next morning?! Go figure...we go to Arizona and they have a cold snap! It wasn't cold all the time, though and we did get some sun! Enough sun, anyway to make my glasses go dark!
Got to share some blog with Abbie. What fun we had! And check out this house with a million lights! We go by every year. Wonder what his electric bill is? Wonder if he ever lived in Barrow and never got over the 65 days of night?