Iditarod Re-start 2014

This past Sunday (2 March 2014) my family and I were invited to watch the Iditarod Re-start out of Willow, Alaska from a friend’s cabin. The “highway” was ½ mile across the frozen lake from where we were. Most of the group caught rides on the snow machines, while a few of us brave souls walked across the lake. Unlike the lower 48, we have been experiencing unusually warm weather up here in Alaska. That warm weather made for a great day out on the lake. Unfortunately, that same warm weather also made for difficult trail conditions for the teams out on the route. While their were 69 teams on the trail, we only stayed for the first 50. Official re-start was 2pm, and they departed every 2 minutes. With us being further down the trail, you can do the math and figure out why we did not stay for all 69 teams.
One of the many highlights from the day was a girl scout who came by on her snow machine selling girl scout cookies. I have to admit that she was pretty smart in where and when she chose to sell those cookies.

Girl Scout at the Iditarod

Girl Scout at the Iditarod

Below are some of the photos from the day. Some of the mushers have already scratched as I write this while others are still on the trail. Team Zirkle is actually in the top 5 and over half way through the race. Go Allie! While I was routing for DeeDee, (all in pink), I am now watching Team Jamiaca to see how he does. Hey, how can anyone not cheer on a Jamaican competeing in a cold-weather sport? While he is not in contention to win, just finishing is a feate onto itself. The other day, he was even credited with helping out the Mushing Mortician who was injured on the side of the trail. He stayed by him for four hours until help arrived. The Mushing Mortician had been thrown from his sled, knocked unconsious, then a little further down the trail one of his dogs went through thin ice, so he went out to rescue his dog. When Newton Marshall came by, the other team’s dogs were wrapped around him trying to keep him warm. The Mortician is now safe and healthy back at home with a broken leg. Newton Marshall is continuing in the race along with another musher out of Australia (no pics posted of him).
As you can tell, I am embracing life in Alaska and trying to get out and see more and more.

Team Zirkle

Team Zirkle

Team Petit's dogs

Team Petit’s dogs

Team Perano

Team Perano

Team Marshall / Jamaica

Team Marshall / Jamaica

Team Fiedler

Team Fiedler

Fiedler getting a drink

Fiedler getting a drink

Team Drobny

Team Drobny

Team Drobny's dogs

Team Drobny’s dogs

Team Diehl

Team Diehl

Team DeeDee Janrowe

Team DeeDee Janrowe

Our Crew watching the race

Our Crew watching the race

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Where Have I Been?

Last year I started this blog as I was selling my house in Utah and moving to Alaska. I did an excellent job right up to the point where we arrived in Alaska and life started getting real. We have now been here for a year, and I have to say that this past year has flown. We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska on 15 July 2012, and immediately started in on our house hunting, finalizing the sale of our Utah house, and registering the boys for school, and hubby getting acquainted with his new work center. The boys started school while we were still living in a hotel in Anchorage. That was a fun week of commuting twice a day for me. The boy’s second week of school, was a little easier, because we now had the keys to our new home and were able to schedule furniture delivery for that Monday. So, while the boys were in school, hubby and I were directing movers where to place furniture and I was unpacking. It was funny watching the neighbors slow down and stare at this moving truck in the driveway. It was as if they had never seen a moving truck before! At one point I waved from the massive front windows to the family staring on the street. I have no idea who they were, but I am sure that was just one of many walks by our house for them in this past year! But the highlight of the day had to be the septic overflowing and being forced to call the septic guy on our first day. While the septic tank was empty, as per the contract, sometime between the tank being pumped and us buying the house, someone had decided to drop rocks down the pump out pipe, which caused our embarrassing situation. Thankfully, it was resolved before heading out for a pizza dinner with the boys. We survived day one in the house.

The boys are trying to do homework around all the stacks of boxes.

The boys are trying to do homework around all the stacks of

boxes.

Our first introduction to living with a septic tank, and on day 1!

Our first introduction to living with a septic tank, and on day 1!

Making this house a home has been an adventure in itself, and our first week in the house was a busy one. Right out of the gate we had a landscaper meet with us, to see what it was going to take to get our yard presentable and no longer a hazard to anyone’s health. The backyard was a major tripping hazard in itself. We also had to find someone to replace both garage doors, replace two main windows, and install black out blinds, all before winter set in. As if that was not stress enough, our first Friday we woke up to no power due to a major wind storm in the area and fallen trees. Hubby, who had battled the roads to work, only to be sent home once the roads were deemed safe again, stopped by Lowes to pick up one of the remaining chainsaws still in stock. All of this while I was still unpacking and trying to find things. The good thing is that I had packed all of the flashlights in a duffle bag for the van trip through Canada, so I knew where the flashlights were. Where the radio was, was an entirely different story.

One of many trees leaning over after the storm, off to the right of the house

One of many trees leaning over after the storm, off to the right of the house

One of many broken trees from the wind storm

As you can tell by me writing, we survived our home welcoming by Mother Nature and have yet to lose our sense of humor.  By the time the snow started falling, we had replaced both garage doors, both windows, and had the blinds professionally installed.  To say that I was tired of contractors by Halloween would be putting it lightly.  My new garage doors have windows in them to provide natural light into the garage while I am doing laundry.  I thought that doing my laundry in the garage would be awful, but it is heated, and since the garages are extra deep and roomy, it really is not bad at all.  The blinds in all the windows have helped keep the house warm in the winter and kept the rooms dark during our notorious summer nights.  The first three contractors unfortunately were the first of many, not to mention the DIY projects we have engaged in.

We have had many laughs over this past year looking back at the MLS listing and what we had in reality.  The largest laugh was that it was billed as a landscaped, 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house.  The landscaping deserves a blog onto itself, but needless to say, it was far from landscaped.  The second laugh was the 2 1/2 bath.  We walked through the house twice before saying this is it, and the second time through everyone, to include the realtor, was looking for the elusive 1/2 bath.  Third time into the house, with the home inspector, again we were looking for the 1/2 bath.  A year later, we are convinced that someone is trying to bill the utility sink off the garage as a 1/2 bath.  We looked in closets, behind doors, everywhere, and could only find the 2 full baths.  At least we still have our sense of humor.  When we go to sell the house, the history of the house will be funny since we will only advertise it as a 2 bath home.

OUR FIRST WEEK IN ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

Today marks our one week anniversary of arriving in Anchorage, Alaska.  The one thing that I cannot call it is dull.  Since we will be living in temporary quarters for over a month, we are in an extended stay unit on JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson).  My husband works for the Air Force, so we are allowed to stay in there temporary lodging facilities up to 90 days.  Our unit is more like a two story apartment with the bedrooms and bath upstairs and a living room and kitchen downstairs.  It is nice, as far as extended stays go, and it is pet friendly.  Our excitement came on Tuesday morning when housekeeping woke the boys and I up to tell us that we were not supposed to be still here.  Someone, in a different unit, checked out at 5am and the front desk checked us out instead.  When I called, the lady at the desk told me that even though it wasn’t my error, I had to leave since they had already booked my unit out.  Not in this lifetime, I called my husband to tell him what was going on.  His pay grade is the same as a high officer and his boss is the just below the commander’s, so needless to say he has some pull.  He went directly to the manager who straightened everything out in no time and we are good to go as long as we need to be here.  Not a fun morning, but that afternoon we met with our new realtor to start the house hunting process.

There have been a few signs that tell me that I am no longer in Utah.  The first is when I am receiving invitations to pot lucks and they start with the alcoholic beverage list.  Now, I do not really drink and after eight years in Utah, this was my first real indication that life was different up here.  The second is the fact that the sun never seems to set.  I knew that days were long up here, but as the saying goes, seeing is believing.  I have finally found that the sun is practically set around 3 am.  With that said, when you are used to judging time by the sun in the lower 48, you find that you are always late with dinner and getting ready for bed up here.  I am still getting used to the fact that my family is two hours ahead of me.  I am so used to calling on Sunday evenings, that now I am going to have to reschedule it to afternoons, my time.  My final clue that I am no longer in Utah is the fact that Sunday is another business day for so many people.  Everything seems to be open on Sundays up here!

So as I started saying earlier, Tuesday we met with our realtor.  Immediately afterwards we met with our mortgage broker who immediately pre-approved us.  It was scary how fast and easy that process was. Almost as easy as walking into a bank and asking for a signature loan.  The scary part was the fact that we were pre-approved while still owning a house in Utah!  Friday, we called our realtor to find out why we hadn’t heard from her, communication breakdown between offices.  We looked at five houses on Saturday and three on Sunday.  See, Sunday is a normal working day here!  After two days of looking and eight houses, we made an offer on a house today!!!  With fingers crossed we are hoping that they accept.  At times we felt as if we were on house hunters, our conversations were almost identical.  In fact when we told the kids we were going house hunting, they actually thought that there was going to be a camera crew accompanying us!

In amongst our house hunting and excitement, we have managed to do squeeze in some sightseeing.  It is harder than it looks since hubby is working already.  My goal was to make it to the inlet; the reality was we only made it to the shore line when we found Kincaid Park.  Definitely going back there once our bikes arrive.

While the temperatures are cooler than we are used to, it is simply gorgeous here.  It has rained for the last two days, but then that is why it is so green up here.  We are all looking forward to settling down, unpacking and becoming Alaskans.

 

The sun finally starting to set at 12:51am in July 2012

 

Our Road Trip to Anchorage, Alaska Day 7 of 7!!!!

Last night we stayed at the Caribou Cabins B&B in Tok, Alaska.  For those trying to figure out how to pronounce Tok, the O is long as in Toke.  Our cabin was a two-story “A” frame that slept 5 comfortably.  The boys liked it so much that they have requested that we return next year.  All I know is that the bed was the most comfortable that I have ever slept in.  I probably made Mother of the Year, because for breakfast instead of partaking in whatever the main cabin was serving, I let the boys’ heat up their left over pepperoni pizza instead.  Being day 7, they definitely did not want to get up, so I have now promised them a pj only day one day soon.  I figured that we need something to look forward to while we are staying in our next hotel for at least 30 days.

Our cabin for the night, and my very dirty van

The road down to Anchorage was better than yesterday, but the speed limit was the same, 55mph.  As I told my eldest we were doing a double nickel on a penny.  We woke up to mist and soon were driving in and out of rain showers.  The temperatures are way lower than we have been used to.  It is the middle of July and it is the low fifties to mid-sixties.  I am beginning to regret what I have packed in my suitcase.  I have all of these cute sandals and summer clothes, and am wondering if I will ever wear them again.  I digress.  Along the way the van won out on seeing a different animal.  Today I was taking the lead and up ahead in the middle of the road was a large animal just standing there.  As I got closer, it moved off of the road, and was slipping past the guard rail as I approached.   The animal, a wolf.  My youngest would have so loved to have seen it, but he was in a hurry once I passed.  I tried radioing my husband that there was a wolf off of the road, but the radio decided to die at that point.

Note to other travelers, when you decide to use walkie talkies as your form of communication when you are out of cell phone reception, charge it nightly regardless of what the battery level tells you.  I went to charge mine as always and hubby didn’t feel as if we needed to.  Yup, that is why I was pulling the rechargeable batteries out and replacing them with regular batteries in the rain at one of the rare rest stops along the way.

The scenery here is simply breathtaking; photos simply cannot do it any justice.  We skirted around so many State Parks that I know what our future summers will be filled seeing.  The mountains feel as if you could reach right out and touch them!

I knew that there were glaciers up here, but I never expected to see one and never two glaciers from the highway.  I glanced over at one point and knew, without a doubt, that I was looking at a glacier.  When I finally got my eldest attention to tell him, he didn’t believe me.  I told my husband to tell our youngest to look left for a glacier, and once again I was doubted.  Sure enough, I was finally vindicated by a sign down the road.  Don’t doubt me people, I might be a History major, but I am Geography Minor.  The glaciers are about two hours north of Anchorage, so we will most definitely be driving back up to see them up close and personal.

As we heading past this first glacier, the scenery continued to take your breath away, but the road also started turning fun.  I was able to take a few more photos before the road commanded all of my attention.  We drove right past a second glacier, but I had already decided that we will be taking another trip up to take scenic photos and then visit these glaciers.  So, the camera stayed where I put it and I continued driving down 35mph “S” curves for the next 90 minutes.  I did not realize it at the time, but I also left the sun with the glaciers, since the closer to Anchorage we got the harder it rained.  By the time we reached Anchorage, I was wondering if I still needed to find a car wash.  I now know why and how everything is so green here.  Not having to worry about a sprinkler system will take some getting used to once we find our new home.

 

Our Road Trip to Anchorage, Alaska Day 6 of 7

This morning it felt nice to walk a few blocks over for breakfast, so we loaded up the van, both luggage and cats, and then headed over to Tim Horton’s.  For a little while, it felt as if we were on a vacation instead of a massive road trip with a time frame.  The gas attendant who told me about this chain wasn’t too far off of the mark.  Once in line an older gentleman came up to hubby and just started talking.  I figured him for a local character striking up conversations with the tourists, but I never figured him for THE local character.  You see, the gentleman talking to us was Tim Horton of the Tim Horton’s chain.  You would have never guess by looking at him or chatting with him.  He is a real down to earth kind of guy.   Both the food and coffee were excellent.

 

Out of six days of straight driving, we were blessed with the worst roads to date.  The best roads were just after the Klondike Highway broke off from the Alaskan Highway, for a while we had fresh blacktop.  I told my husband that we must have taken the wrong road!  We definitely enjoyed the nice road while we had the chance, because the road soon went from good to bad to worse to are you kidding me?!?  At one point it felt like we were driving a rollercoaster.  The road went up, and then down, then tilted left, then right, then just when you were finding a routine, it through in potholes and huge dips.  At one point, my seatbelt was all that kept me from hitting my head on the ceiling of the van.  No, we were not speeding.  In fact, we said good-bye to any speed at all yesterday; we just did not realize it.  The speed limit (maximum) out of Whitehorse is 90, which equates to about 55mph.  For the most part we were going between 50 and 70kph.

The highlight for my eldest and I was the cougar that we saw and the truck did not.  For those that forgot, my husband and youngest have been in the truck driving lead for the majority of the trip, while #1 Son and I have been following in my van.  Half of the time the truck gets to sees animals that we miss.  So it was nice to see an animal for a change and for it to be a cougar was a bonus.  He was coming out of the forest to cross the road to get to the lake.  As he approached the road, trotting, he glanced at us and gave us a look that simply dared us not to stop for him to cross.  Of course I had to stop; I wanted a chance to really look at him.  So as I practically came to a stop for him, he trotted across and then ran off towards the lake.  The only regret was that the camera was down and this all happened so fast that neither #1 nor I even thought to grab the camera.

Besides saying good-bye to higher speeds (as if 60 mph is a high speed), we also said good-bye to the forests that we were used to.  You can tell that you are at higher latitude when the evergreens start thinning out and you are higher to the summits of the mountains around you.  Outside of Haines Junction we were greeted to the awesome sights of majestic, yet cold, looking high mountains in front of us.  Basically, you head due west until you reach them, then you have a choice; South to Juneau or North to Tok, Alaska.  As they say up here, Alaska is split in half by Canada.  I know, you are looking at a map and it is clear that Canada is East of Alaska.  But if you want to drive from Juneau to Anchorage, you have to drive through Canada first.

North of Haines Junction you start heading into the Boreal Forest.  It feels as if you are driving on an alien planet, the trees look so different.  Not only do they resemble scrawny evergreens, but they are also stunted.  The reason for this has to do with the permafrost this far north.  Regardless of the reason for them, combined with the lakes the scenery is simply breathtaking.

We finally passed back into Alaska, and one more time zone.  The border crossing was just as easy as before, in fact this agent didn’t even seem concerned about half the paperwork I gave him.  He cracked jokes with the boys and asked the routine questions.  The only drawback was the length, but it still went faster than customs at the airports go.

Alaska so far is gorgeous.  I know, I have only driven an hour into the state so far.  We are staying at the Caribou Cabins B&B in Tok, Alaska.  There really isn’t much to this town except for hotels and RV parks.  I think the purpose to the town is to serve as a junction for Fairbanks and Anchorage.  If you are ever here, I recommend both the Cabins, they are great, and Fast Eddies to eat at.  I learned at an early age, if you are new in town ask a local where they recommend eating.  Most of the time, you can’t go wrong.  So, like last night, I asked the owner (a father of two young girls) and this is where he steered us.  We knew we were in for a treat when we pulled up and the parking lot was full and the restaurant was busy.  The food is top-notch and well-priced.  My only regret is that we are only staying one night in this little town.

Tomorrow we arrive in Anchorage and start our next adventure . . . looking for our new home.

Our Road Trip to Anchorage, Alaska Day 5 of 7

Okay, the fun of being on the road has definitely started to wear thin.  Let’s face it, 5 days of driving is a long time, not to mention still having to finish the week out.  This morning’s drive was like a safari of sorts.  Actually, it reminded me of driving through Yellowstone National Park.  After 6 black bears, we stopped counting.  We did see two herds of wild bison and a handful of loners along the roadside, scattered across a couple hundred kilometers.  To round out my vehicle’s count was four grizzly bears.  My youngest saw a wild sheep and both him and hubby also saw a deer.  They seem to be seeing all of the animals in their vehicle.

Brown Bears
(photo courtesy of my son)

The rest of the day was pretty much more of same as day 4 driving.  The scenery as always is great and ever changing.  We only ran into construction once, and that only cost us a ten minute delay.

We made it to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory for the night.  After dinner we walked around town, which was great since our hotel is right down town.  Like last night’s hotel, this one does not provide a breakfast, so we are thinking of walking two blocks down to a Tim Horton’s, which I have been told is like a Dunkin Donuts in the States.  Should be interesting.  At dinner tonight I was feeling adventurous so I ordered the spaghetti and bison meatballs.  I thought that it sounded interesting and when am I going to get the chance of trying bison again?  Big mistake, the meatballs were not worth it.  At least I tried it.

The one thing that I like about Whitehorse is that it has such a European feel to it.  I know it is still Canada, but this was gold rush territory and part of the Wild West for them.  I know not to expect America here, but the complete European feel felt comforting to me.  It so reminded me of my youth both living and traveling across Europe.

Tomorrow we head back into the USA, this time Alaska.  With luck customs will be just as quick and easy as it was the other day.

Our Road Trip to Anchorage, Alaska Day 4 of 7

Today the monotony of the road set in, so I decided to figure out a way to play with my camera while driving.  Not to worry, I was safe and did not take all of the photos.  I figured that the best iconic views of the Alaskan Highway were from the driver’s seat, so since it is a SLR camera, albeit expensive and complicated, I simply put it on automatic, propped it on my steering wheel so I could hold it and the wheel at the same time while driving.  I think I got some good photos today.

View from the driver’s seat

While stopped for a leg stretch about an hour from our lunch stop, we met up with a family traveling from Alaska to Texas.  Where we planned out legs to be completed each day, they were simply hauling butt down south, stopping to sleep on the side of the road.  It was nice to chat anyways and compare road conditions with eachother.

After lunch we ran into infamous Alaska Highway construction.  Now, we have been running into Construction since Idaho, but this one was one of those that you stop and wait forever and then follow thepilot car through the construction zone.  All part of the adventure.

Preparing to stop, thankfully at the top of a steep hill.

Driving through construction

Following the Pilot Vehicle

This “train” went forever up and down and around the top of a few mountains.  For the most part, we spread ourselves out pretty well to avoid the flying rocks from the vehicles in front of us.  Once we cleared the construction we were at the summit and the views were spectacular.  I would have loved to have stopped to take a few decent photos, but hubby had other plans.  It was just as well since we lost almost an hour waiting for our “train” to start.

One of many scenic views

After a while, we ran into road that wasn’t freshly paved, but wasn’t graveling either.  I think that this is also one of the parts of the road that has not been painted yet since the center line, and edge, was missing.

 

Our stop for the night is a lodge right off the Alaskan Highway on Muncho Lake.  We are staying the Northern Rockies Lodge.  Come to the Canadian Rockies to stay at a Swiss Lodge, right on the lake, go figure.  Anyways, the food and staff are both great.  Tomorrow is another long day to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

 

View of Muncho Lake at our lodge