Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!

Welcome back to our blog. 
 I offer my apologies for neglecting it for so long.  When I logged on today, I found a post that I had started on Nov. 12, but never got finished and uploaded.  I was sure that people told me that I would have NOTHING to do when I retired.  I am still waiting for that "nothing" to show up!  It seems we are always checking our "to do" list and finding more things have been added than have been crossed off.  I decided that I would let you know what is currently happening in our lives.  Then I will post some stories and pictures from our "adventures" in the last couple of months.  

For those of you who worried about us moving to the "land of winter and darkness", worry no longer.  We are finding winter here in the Mat-Su Valley to be much milder than it was in Nebraska.  While I was in Nebraska in late November and early December, we had four ice storms in Nebraska.  Each time I called Doug (who was home in Alaska), he could only tell me things like: "It's 47* here.  All our snow is gone" or, "It's 38* here.  I am washing the vehicles." 
I flew back to Alaska on December 14.  Since then it has only reached single digit temperatures a few times.  Most days it is between 10-25* .  Today (Dec. 31) it is 34* and breezy.

Pictures taken from our house on Dec. 22, 2007:

The wind has blown and absolutely howled on a few days since I have been back home.  But after it blows for a couple of days, it quiets down for 4 or 5 days.  It does not blow constantly, as it seems to in Nebraska.  We have had very little sunshine the past couple of weeks.  We can see that the sun is shining on the mountains or on the bay at Anchorage, but not in our valley.  The wind never seems to blow the clouds away either, They just rise up and then they come back down.  This is the way is works in the summer time too.  So the majority of the days are cloudy, yet wonderfully beautiful winter days.  

Pictures of our yard on Dec. 17, 2007:

When it snows, the snowflakes literally float down. No sideways snow!!!  It is a very dry snow.  So when the wind blows, there is no snow left in our yard because we live at the top of a hill.  They say that the snow just wears out and disintegrates from being blown to the south and then to the north when the wind is especially strong.  There are lots of worries and complaints because of the lack of snow this winter.  Snow machines and snow blowers sales are down.  The kids (big and little) want to go play in the snow.  Here are some pictures of the frost and snow on the trees right in our back yard on Dec. 15.

Even though it is cloudy during the days, it is still light.  We do not live in part of Alaska that does not see the sun for several months.  Our shortest day was about 5 1/2 hours of daylight.  That sounds like just a little, but compared to our shortest days in Nebraska, it not that much less light.  We have started gaining back a bit of light each day.  Why, on Dec. 22, we gained back 11 seconds!!!!!  

We have a bay window in our bedroom.  Since we are at the top of a hill, it overlooks our neighborhood.  Now that the trees have lost all their leaves, we can see the lights at each house and all the Christmas lights.  It's so neat to look out that window at night.  It looks like a Thomas Kincaid or a Terry Redlin painting.  You can see the glow from each window of the houses that are nestled in among the trees.  New Year's Eve is celebrated with fireworks here. We heard some going off at the bottom of the hill last night.  We had a ringside seat as we looked out our window.  It should be even better tonight.  There will be lots more fireworks.  (I'll give you a new perspective on buying fireworks in another blog post)  :>)

On Dec. 23rd we went to an Advent celebration at St. Michael's Catholic Church (our parish) in Palmer. We had a hayrack ride and sang Christmas carols. Everyone then gathered at the church hall for chili, cornbread and desserts. The Christmas pageant was held in the church and St. Nicholas was the special visitor to end the evening. It was a lot of family fun and celebration of the reason for the season!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Welcome back to our Great Alaskan Adventure!!!!

Before I tell you about our great adventures on the road, I will give you a short diary of our plans to transport Melanie, Colleen and our Suburban to Alaska. Things didn’t always go as planned. But we did arrive here safe and sound.

May, 2007 – Doug booked passage for Melanie & Colleen and vehicle on ferry Columbia with the Alaska Marine Highway system (AMHS). Planned passage had us leaving Bellingham Washington on Aug.31, getting off in Juneau for 1 1/2 days and then leaving Juneau to sail across the gulf (during prime whale watching season!), with arrival in Whittier on Sept. 6. Melanie then was going to spend a few days and fly home on Sept 11.

August 17- Doug called to let us know that the Columbia had blown an engine and the AMHS had cancelled all passages for the rest of the season while they repaired the engine.

August 18 – Doug spent several hours on the phone trying make new ferry plans. He was able to book us on the BC (British Columbia) ferry system. The Columbia docked in only U.S. ports. Since the new itinerary had us docking in Canadian ports, I was no longer able to transport Doug’s hunting firearms in the suburban as we had originally planned. We had to make other arrangements for those. This trip required us to sail from Bellingham to Victoria Island, drive 6 hours to the northern edge of the island to Port Hardy and board a ferry bound for Prince Rupert. At Prince Rupert we were to board the ferry Kennicott and arrive in Whittier on Sept 6. That matched our original arrival date. The only real change was that we had to drive an extra day to catch our ferry.

August 23 – Doug arrived in Omaha on his way to Houston for a training session. Yes, he was headed south as Melanie & I headed north. He planned to spend the weekend with us and then continue to Houston.

August 24 – We listed the house with a realtor, I shed a few tears, and we closed the house up and left. We had dinner with dad in Grand Island. We came back to Hastings and had the chance to watch our Lady Huskers volleyball team on TV one more time. After the game (about 10:30 pm) we went to the Quality Inn, where we had booked a room because our house was completely empty. When we got to our room, there was an urgent message for us: “Call the front desk immediately and DON”T flush the toilet!” I know what you are thinking and, yes, it was true. The plumbing on our entire side of the motel was broken. Not only was there not another empty room in the motel, there was not an empty room in the entire town due to a wedding, softball tournaments and Hastings College functions!! They offered us two options: Stay the night and use the bathrooms across the common area by the pool, or drive the 30 miles back to Grand Island and stay at the motel two blocks away from Dad’s place (which, as you recall, we had just left a couple of hours earlier). Oh—did I also mention that this was our 33rd wedding anniversary?

August 25- Doug headed to North Platte to help Matt with his kitchen remodeling project and I left for York to meet Melanie. The she & I went to North Platte also. We had supper and spent the night at Matt & Stephanie’s. When you travel to North Platte on I-80, be sure to look on the north side of the highway just before you get to the North Platte exit. There is a person who has quite a zoo at that spot. Look for the giraffe with his head sticking out of the shed!.

August 26 – Doug left for Omaha to fly to Houston and Melanie & I headed west on I-80. Our goal for each day was to drive until we got tired and then stop for the night. Our first short-term goal was the Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne Wyoming. It seemed to pop up just about the time we needed a break from driving!

August 27 - We had an offer on our house in Hastings. We negotiated via phone for a couple of days and settled on a price on August 30. I signed and faxed the purchase agreement from Seattle. Doug signed and faxed from Houston.

August 27-30 – Melanie & I had a wonderful trip. We saw so much beautiful country. Read more info about this elsewhere on the blog.

August 30- We were at the Seattle Market when we got word that the ferry on the second leg of our NEW itinerary had broken a rudder. It was now less than 24 hours before we were supposed to catch the first ferry for the first leg of our ferry trip. (It was the ferry on the second leg of this trip that had broken down). By that evening, they were still doing no rebookings. We could still sail on the Port Hardy Ferry (first ferry) the next morning, but there was no idea at all when we would be able to leave (second ferry) Prince Rupert (and P.S. – there are NO flights our or Prince Rupert – once you are there, your only option is to get on the ferry and return from whence you came!) So if we had taken the first ferry, we might still be in Prince Rupert.

We opted to spend a couple of days exploring Bellingham and caught a flight to Anchorage on Sunday evening. We left the Suburban in Bellingham and I will fly back to retrieve it when I get the “back-in-business” signal from the ferry system. Melanie spent a couple of days and flew home on Wednesday night (9/4).

That is the (not-so-short) story of how we got here. See pictures and read more about our adventures on the road in the blog.

Our new Neighborhood!!

Autumn in our neighborhood – September 11

We were able to move in to our new house on Friday, September 7. It was a nice day. It was a good thing that we decided to move on Friday, as it rained all day on Saturday and Sunday. Rain here seems to consist of a really heavy drizzle. But you don’t have to be out in it long to get soaked.

I took a walk around our neighborhood this week. Fall is definitely here. They tell me that one day the leaves will all be on the trees and the next day they will all have fallen. So I am to enjoy the fall colors while I can. These pictures were all taken in my neighborhood. The one with the red groundcover was taken in the woods right behind our house.

I posted pictures of fireweed earlier. The hillsides were covered with its purple bloom. Since my return to Alaska, I find the tops are grey and fuzzy and the leaves have turned a fiery red. Natives say that when the fireweed is done blooming all the way to the top of the blossom and the leaves turn red, winter is on its way.

I walked by a culvert and looked down and saw these salmon swimming right under my feet! The red body and green head tells you that they are almost ready to die. They turn red from the tail to the head. If you look closely at the picture of the single salmon, you will see another larger fish that is dead in the water underneath the swimming salmon.

Remember that I told you that it had rained the weekend after we moved? Before that weekend, this mountain was not covered in snow. After the moisture, the top of the mountain gleamed with the new snow covering. I imagine that all the mountain tops will “gleam” shortly.

Today when I walked, the view was exceptional. Notice that in the foreground of these pictures, the house and the trees seem sharp and real, while the mountains in the background seem two-dimensional. It almost looks like an old movie, when they had the actors riding horses in front of a fake mountainous backdrop. These pictures were taken from the end of our driveway. You can see our driveway in the picture below (the one with Doug’s pickup in it). So I wasn’t very far from the house when I took these pictures.

Our House

Our house sits at the top of our neighborhood. I am standing up the road to take this picture. Our house is the one in the center back. Doug’s green pickup is sitting in our driveway.
!!!!!!!!!!!NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!!!

This is the front of our new house.

This is the view that we see to the right side of our house(as you are facing the house). (Pioneer Peak and the Chugach Mountains). We see this view from our dining room and the side of the front porch.

This is the view from the back of the house. (Lazy Mountain, Matanuska, Talkeetna Mountains). This view can be seen from the master bedroom, master bathroom and the kitchen window.

This is the view from the left side of the house Talkeetna Mountains, Hatcher Pass). This is the view I see as I sit at my computer.

Road Trip - Wyoming

This beautiful Wyoming sunset greeted us at the end of our first day of travel:

Antelope in Wyoming

Melanie & Colleen having lunch while viewing the Teton Mountains.

At the Visitors Center in Jackson, Wyoming

Arch made of antlers in Jackson, Wyoming

Wyoming Scenery

Road Trip - Yellowstone National Park

I have to use the word AWESOME to describe this day! We entered Yellowstone at the south entrance. Rather than take the west road through the geyser country, we opted to travel the east road along the Yellowstone River. As you can see, some of the views were breathtaking. We saw herds of bison (some of them up close and personal), elk, mud volcanos, sulphur springs, waterfalls and streams. We hiked up and down about 5 short hikes. We left Yellowstone at the north end and drove to Livingston Montana to spend the night. We were tired when we got there, but still excited about all we had done and seen. Our only regret is that we could not spend more time in Yellowstone. We only saw a small portion of it and there are definitely several distinctly different areas that you can visit, depending on which route you take through the park.


Yellowstone River


Sulphur Springs. Note the little puffs of white "smoke" in the river. You could really smell the sulphur!

Melanie overlooking the Yellowstone River

Mud volcanos - they bubbled and boiled. The Dragon's Mouth really acted and sounded like a dragon. You could hear the water "roar" before it came snapping out of the "mouth". As the water came out, smoke came out too. Thus the name....

River Rapids

7 x 6 Elk (sorry about the photo quality--but trust me--he was big!!!)

Another large elk. You have to look closely and you can just see his antlers. He would not cooperate and stand up for a picture. A ranger came by and told us that we wouldn't want him to stand up, as he was a tagged elk and they kept a close eye on him. He can cover a lot of ground in a short time and was known to be rather "unfriendly" to people.

Yellowstone Scenery

We saw lots of areas like this. The trees just look like matchsticks. The are the results of fires in the park.

Herds of Bison

We saw some traffic congestion ahead and then saw that bison were crossing the road. I got out my trusty camera, zoomed in and started taking photos as Melanie slowly drove the car up to the spot where we finally had to stop, as we were surrounded by bison. Park rules say they have the right to do whatever they please. They do not look both ways before crossing the road. They act like the cars and the people are not even there.

The bison started crossing in front and behind us. I was so amazed that they were SO close and SO big that I couldn't even get them in my viewfinder. I finally figured out that (in my excitement) I had forgotten to zoom back (remember when I told you that I zoomed in)? That's why you are only seeing a portion of this big fella.

So I am sure I missed some good shots, but here are a few I did get.