After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One week later

Nathan finally arrived Thursday, July 24 around 3 p.m. It was sure good to see him!

We’re becoming familiar with Fairbanks, but haven’t really gotten settled yet. Everything at work is brand new which translates to office chairs are still in boxes, no office supplies, and computers need some tweaking before fully functional. Nate spent Friday putting together office chairs for several offices, I got my computer set up so I can link to my files in Sioux City (pretty amazing that I can link to the files I “left behind” over 3000 miles away just like I’m sitting in my former office), and I went shopping for office supplies with two other gals. It will be a luxury to have more than one stapler and one box of paper clips.

I located the post office and was able to retrieve our first mail received here in Fairbanks. Our car insurance company switched from semi-annual to annual premium because they don’t sell insurance in Alaska. In the process of changing from semi-annual to annual premiums they also changed the policy numbers. Nate paid the premiums before we moved; however due to the policy # change they refunded the $ he paid and sent us new bills. We received multiple pieces of mail pertaining to the overage and bills due…so the mail wasn’t really that exciting, however did necessitate time and phone calls back to IA to figure out why we were getting bills and receiving checks and so many different policy numbers were involved.

I learned from the locals that we can pick up our mail at the PO anytime between 7 & 7, however the service window doesn’t open until around 10 a.m. during the warmer months. In the colder months they say that the window doesn’t open as early, to allow the homeless time to vacate the premises.

Friday evening we took the evening off from unpacking and went to dinner with Brian and Camilla. We checked out a Mexican restaurant and it received our tummy’s seal of approval. After that we stood in the parking lot of the News Miner and smiled and waved to my parents, Sam and Sam’s dad back in Iowa. We connected via cell phones and chatted while waving at them. It felt pretty strange to be waving at a building – they could see us, but all we saw was the building and tiny camera. I felt kind of goofy having done the “web cam wave”, however Camilla informed me that Saturday she did the same thing for the same people. Assessment: Alaskans stand in parking lots waving at buildings and Iowans sit in front of their computer watching for people silly enough to wave at buildings.

We turned in early as Saturday we needed to get the U-Haul unloaded and returned.

It felt SO good to turn in the U-Haul, as it had become a symbol of still being in transition, not to mention me having to drag it around with me wherever I drove, as we didn’t have the tools necessary to detach it from Nate’s vehicle. The flip side of that is now we have all these boxes and boxes and more boxes cluttering up our tiny apartment. Thankfully we have a place we can store some of the unnecessary items. It isn’t climate controlled, so we have to sort through everything to ensure everything we store can withstand the -40 temps that occur.

We checked out the local Farmer’s Market Saturday. Many crafters have booths there, too. Nate had a buffalo hot dog and I had a vegetarian pita, both firsts for us. We did some exploring and ended up finding a free picnic I’d seen the free picnic advertised on the website of the local newspaper but had no clue how to get to it. They offered buffalo burgers and reindeer sausage as well as other “normal” Midwest foods. These were firsts for us, as was having a picnic in a cemetery, where the picnic was located! I’m thinking/hoping that this isn’t the norm for Alaska. The cemetery was very nicely landscaped and surrounded by many 60’ tall evergreen trees. There was an article in the News Miner about the unusual location for a picnic.

We bought a microwave, as ours in SC was built-in. It has a browning unit in it, too. I was surprised that a unit this sophisticated was only $85. We went to the Salvation Army store and purchased a quilt for our bed which perfectly matches our carpet and drapes for only $7. My thrifty side is loving these bargain prices. Our supposed love seat is a drab army green-we found a color-coordinated throw also for $7. Woo hoo!

Thursday the fax machine ran out of ink at work, so I had to run to Office Max. On my way there I noticed what I thought was someone’s horse walking along the highway…on second notice I saw it was a MOOSE! My first moose sighting in Fairbanks. I was so excited to see it, however to save face was careful to share that with the southerners (what we Iowa and Nebraska natives call ourselves).

After three days of beautiful 70 degree weather it’s been rainy and about 54. Sunday night we received 3” of rain. I’m told that last summer they had sun, sun, sun, and nice temps, and only 2-3 days of rain. Somehow this summer is the opposite. I’m not really minding it, as it’s more tolerable than the heat and humidity of Iowa.

We attended church with Brian and Camilla at the only Methodist church in town ( Sunday. The church holds probably 100, and they have 3 services. Last week 208 folks attended. There was a lady from the church who is relocating to Kentucky and they had a farewell for her today. It brought back memories of when we were on the other “side”/back in Iowa and our church had a going away potluck for us. It was different to be strangers in church, yet good to finally be in Alaska. We went to lunch with Brian and Camilla and then worked more on unpacking/situating things.

We’ve decided to get cable so that we can have TV reception in the living room/kitchen and internet access. Trying to determine when the people I’ve been using their WiFi connection are logged in is frustrating to say the least. I didn’t have any internet connection all weekend..felt like I was gasping for internet air and at times wondered if I’d survive. LOL It will be installed Friday night, so no easy connection to the internet until then.

I spoke with our tenant Sunday and the electrician still hasn’t been to our house to do the rewiring. She contacted another electrician who gave us a bid. Unfortunately it comes with obstacles – he needs 50% payment prior to doing the work and needs the shed unlocked as it has electricity in it and we accidentally brought both keys with us to Alaska. Time is of the essence as we aren’t able to receive any rent until the wiring is completed and inspected and the 1st of August is rapidly approaching. Monday I got up at 5 a.m. to call IA and learned that the original electrician has taken out the permit to do the wiring. I phoned our tenant today and she indicates it’s all done – well, except for the bill being paid to the electrician!

We bought the local Sunday Newspaper so we can feel somewhat more connected to what’s coming up in the community. Casting Crowns, a well-known Christian band Nate and I heard in concert in Council Bluffs, IA will be in concert here this Thursday night. The state fair will be held here the first week in August, so we must check that out, especially the backhoe rodeo. We’ll have to see if they have as many things on a stick as the IA state fair.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One down, one to come!

Wow - has it been since last Thursday that I last blogged? I'll try to catch you up. Friday was an exciting travel day. Besides going up one side of a mountain and winding back down the other side all day long, we got to see some wildlife. We saw 3-4 black bears, 3-4 brown bears, several deer, moose, bison, and elk. I was most excited to see the bears, as I'd never seen a bear in the wild. I tried to take several pix as I drove along - haven't had a chance to look at them yet.

Saturday was another windy, rainy day, and the absolute WORST on the Alaska Highway. (Highway is really an overstatement, as it is a two lane road, through towns, gas stations have the old fashioned-not pay at the pump gas pumps; lots of dips due to frost heaves, occasional patches of gravel, and a lot more dips.) I would watch Tonya's pick-up to see how high they were bouncing over the dips to determine how much I needed to slow down. The road was so windy and bouncy Sunday that I got carsick! Once we got through the border back into the US we just knew the road would get better. We were wrong! It got MUCH worse. For probably 40 miles we were on short patches of pavement separated by long stretches of pot-holed gravel areas. We were able to only go about 40 mph through those areas, splish-splashing our way along.

We made it to BGH about 6:00 p.m. Sunday, July 20..exactly one week after I left Sioux City. I got to see my new office for the first time. Everyone that's seen the building says it's huge, and they are so right...all 77,000 sq ft of it.

Camilla and Brian met me at BGH and they took me to our apartment. The exterior of the building (actually like many in Alaska) looks run down - paint peeling, curtain upstairs flapping out an open window, etc. We went in and met my landlord. He showed me to our apartment. It is small, 2 rooms 10 x 14, but very clean. New carpet and freshly painted white. Turns out the love seat he told me is in the living area is actually 1/2 a couch. And the 1/2 bath is more like 1/4 bath...I can sit on the toilet, wash my hands, and stretch out my toes to touch the shower stall! On the positive side, the bathroom is right off the bedroom, so in essence it is a master suite! We have two windows facing the west. The kitchen cupboards are very narrow, not even wide enough for my plates...just a bit wider than a loaf of bread. Nate and I will have a lot of togetherness time, as the living area is a combination kitchen, so when he's watching TV and I'm in the kitchen we'll be about 4' from each other!

I was told by the landlord that wireless internet works in the apartment, as some other person pirates off someone in the neighborhood. Cool, I thought, I won't have to pay for an internet connection. While that's true, there's also a drawback to it. That person doesn't stay connected all the time, so I am not in control of when I have internet access. Just one more thing to learn to adjust to.

Sunday night I opened up the U-Haul and was unpleasantly surprised to see how much road dirt, water, and oil had gotten into it. Boxes were covered with this coating of dried oil, coating my arms and clothes when I touched them. Nice! Once I got done digging a few things out I tried to lock the padlock, and it would NOT lock. I didn't sleep very well, wondering if someone would try to get into it and steal stuff. Thinking I was just being stupid, I texted Camilla and told her of my plight. She and Brian stopped over on their way to work Monday morning, and it was not ME, it was the lock. I towed the U-Haul to work and back Monday and Tuesday, as 1-I feel more comfortable having it parked in the BGH parking lot, and 2-they tightened it so tight at U-Haul in Montana that I can't budge it off!

When we unloaded my van and threw everything in the U-Haul things got all jumbled up. The important things we packed in easy to get to places in the van ended up in the very FRONT of the U-Haul. Fortunately I had packed several shirts and pairs of pants so was able to wear clean clothes for work and something different today. I wanted to do laundry Sunday evening, but didn't have change to do laundry.

I went to the store after work Monday to buy a new lock and got change so did laundry Monday night, as hadn't yet found my clothes in the U-Haul or Nate's vehicle. $1.75 to wash and $1.75 to dry. I had to wait to use the washer; as soon as the other gal's wash was done I rushed and put mine in....then she put hers in the dryer and ran it, then left it in there for another hour. I started to take hers out and put it on top of the dryer (is that proper ettiquette or not??) and it was quite damp, so stuffed it back in the dryer and waited an waited. Wouldn't have been so bad, but I had my sheet (top sheet I wrap myself in like a cocoon since I can't find the bottom sheet) in the wash and needed that in order to go to bed!

I came across the tiny (5") tv last night and started it up. It is SO quiet in the apartment without a TV or radio (haven't come across a radio yet). I was surprised that Dr. Phil was on at 10 p.m. Seeing him on TV at that time made me feel like it was late afternoon. The sun's position here at that time was about the same as in Iowa in late afternoon, too, which didn't help any in letting me know it was bed time.

Camilla called this morning asking if I needed her to lead me to work this morning. I told her I'd try it on my own. It is SO cool....I drive two blocks east, then 8 blocks south, and back another 3-4 blocks west and I'm there! and NO TRAIN TRACKS!!!! Eat your hearts out all you Sioux Citians! I can actually leave home and have a good idea what time I'll arrive at work, unlike Sioux City.

There are close to 40 employees who began training this week. We had a retreat, where we got to know more about each other, each other's names, etc. yesterday and today. Tomorrow we begin "official" training. Those coming from the south (Nebraska and Iowa employees) have had the majority of the training, so will be doing odd jobs such as putting together beds, desks, chairs, etc. I have an office job and there's office work to do, so will be doing my job.

Over lunch hour today I went to the post office and got our personal mail. It is downtown, on 3rd Avenue, and my apartment on 22nd Avenue. In the future I can probably come home for lunch and get the mail at the same time.

The natives have spoken with us about the things we need to know about the -40 weather. They also warned us to not go to Chena Hot Springs under the Aurora Borealis, as there is some Asian culture who believes you will conceive under the Aurora Borealis, so they take advantage of that belief, and are found any and everywhere, doing their thing at the springs. They also told us that we MUST cover our mouths when it is -40, as that cold air can freeze one's windpipe. They gave us advice as to what kind of hat to purchase (one where only one's eyes are showing), buy the BEST gloves ($80-120), and boots. Here we thought we were prepared for cold weather. Guess not!

Fairbanks is unlike any other city I've ever seen. It's common for people to have tarps hanging from their homes, eaves hanging off of the houses, boarded up windows, parts of houses repaired with particle board, multiple non-running vehicles parked around homes, and many have semi trailers (without the wheels) parked by their homes and apartments. I'm assuming these are used for storage space.

If you'd like to take a look at Fairbanks, check out website. Their web cam shows a street that runs 2 blocks east of my apartment. I've been watching that web cam ever since I knew we were going to be moving to Fairbanks. On my way to Camilla and Brian's place Sunday night we drove past it. It is funny, but I felt as though I'd arrived! Well, I know I had, but it was like poring over vacation brochures and being anxious to go to a destination, that destination for me was the parking lot of the News Miner!

I heard from Nate today - he made it into Juneau on the ferry, drove the van off, stayed overnight, and drove the van back on. He is to be in Whittier (close to Anchorage) around 3 p.m. Thursday, July 24th, then will drive the 7 hours to Fairbanks.

Fortunately the U-Haul guy gave me until July 26 to get the U-Haul returned. I'm hoping that Nathan will be back in time to finish unloading it, as he packed boxes HEAVY so HE could carry them. My degenerating lower spine doesn't like it when I carry more than a few heavy boxes a day. Further, once I get them into the apartment it is difficult to find a place for everything. I'm getting creative, though, in deciding what can be done about that. I will get some boxes that will fit underneath the bed and 1/2 sofa/love seat, and have a 6' wide closet in the living room that can be used for storage, too. I thought about pulling the dresser in the bedroom away from the wall and storing boxes behind it, but couldn't do that because I moved the bed away from being squished up against the wall to facing north-south so we can both get up at night to use the bathroom which, of course, is adjacent to the bedroom. (notice how I'm staying positive here??)

I went to the $1.50 store tonight to buy some much needed storage baskets and a silverware holder. I should have purchased some dish detergent, as haven't come across mine yet.

Camilla and Brian took me to the store Sunday night to buy laundry detergent and I also bought a few grocery items. Cheap bread was $1.70/loaf and 18 eggs $2.60. I bought the eggs thinking that hard boiled eggs would be tasty and convenient. So far I haven't come across the pots and pans in the U-Haul. Further we don't have a microwave (ours in SC was built in) so need to get one of those. I'm waiting until Nate gets here so I get the size/kind HE wants....and with the hope he'll split the cost!

I heard from our tenant in Sioux City that the incredible winds Sunday night tore out the middle flowering crab tree in our front driveway area and that water poured in one of the basement windows. She also reports hearing a "chirping" sound in the kitchen and can't figure out what it is. Neither can I, as I don't ever remember hearing that sound before. (She checked and it is NOT the smoke alarm.)

She also reports that the electrician has not yet been there. He was to have been there a week ago today, but said he was busy and would come Friday, then Tuesday, and now is saying not until next week. She is going to try to find someone else to do the wiring, as I can't receive a rent check until the wiring is finished.

I think this pretty well brings you up to date. I plan on posting pictures from the trip up here in the near future, and will continue to keep this blog updated.

To those of you from Iowa who have contacted me, I thank you SO much. It is nice to hold onto the "old and familiar" while so far away from Iowa - home to me all my life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emotions = Normalcy

I made the long 14 hour drive to Edmonton Wednesday. Driving through Calgary was something I don't want to do again...4-5 lanes of traffic going up and down mountains and around curves for what seemed like miles and miles - actually it was kilometers! I had about a half an hour of pouring rain...fortunately Nate had put Rain-X on the windshield. The radio kept saying there were thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches somewhere, but I didn't really have time to look at the map to see if they were near me.

I didn't have directions as to how to get to the motel, so called. A nice young man gave me directions which I quickly wrote down as he spoke and I drove...I thought he'd never quit giving directions. All in all he gave me 15 turns to make from my location! He told me to turn on 63rd Avenue, but it skipped from 61st to 65th Avenue. When I realized this problem, I took off into a residential district with a narrow, winding street with vehicles parked on both sides in hopes of returning to 61st Avenue. The blocks were not ordinary blocks - they were more like 12 blocks before the next intersection. Here I am driving my Iowa vehicle and Idaho U-Haul around in this neighborhood at 11 p.m. Fortunately it was a nice neighborhood and no one seemed to notice. Sometimes it's nice to not be noticed.

I finally arrived at the motel and got checked in. The desk clerk asked me if I needed a room similar to Tonya's (2 beds), and I said that it was just me staying, so one bed would be fine. I must have looked quite frazzled, as when I got to my room, it was a suite. Sweet! After getting my room swipe card I went out to the car to get my belongings. I layed down my swipe card and instantly it slipped between the passenger seat and center console. With the car loaded from top to bottom, side to side, there was no way I could move the seat, and no way my fingers would begin to fit down there, too. So, back to the desk to the nice desk clerk for another key card. This time he secured it in the folder and gave me two. might think he had me pegged as irresponsible?

I was delighted when the desk clerk told me that they had Wi Fi, however my room was at the far end of the building and the WiFi didn't reach that far. So...I took the night off from my blog. I'm still coughing and choking from my bronchitis/virus I had a while back, so stopped at a grocery store and bought some Cough Stop. (All products in Canada are in English and French.) I took it before going to bed and noticed that my mouth felt kind of numb. That gave me the impression that this stuff was really going to work. Well, it did, for about 30 minutes, and I was up choking. So much for that! Maybe it had to do with the fact that it said to take 1 tsp of it and I didn't have any spoon so swigged "some". Perhaps tonight I should gulp my dosage?

When Nathan and I were together earlier in the trip, I told him that this time we can't say we didn't pack something/left it behind, because we literally have 99% of what we own with us. The problem now is where to find it!

Funny note - when the customs guy was inspecting boxes in Nate's vehicle he opened up the box for our shredder which I had labelled SHREDDER AND NATE'S UNDERWEAR. The bottom of the box broke out when Nate carried it to the car, so he put some heavy tape around it. Possibly the customs agent thought the taped box was a tip off by the tape, so he cut through the tape and opened it up. Bet he was disappointed to find SHREDDER AND NATE'S UNDERWEAR in it!

Wednesday when I went through customs it took me less than a minute. The man asked me several questions, took a look at my passport and driver's license and bid me to have a safe trip. Perhaps he thought a woman traveling alone, pulling a U-Haul from Iowa to Alaska isn't worth messing with. More realistically, he probably saw in the computer where I'd been through the border the other day and was approved then, so figured I would be okay to enter Canada again. (The first time I went through the border the man asked me when the last time was that I'd been in Canada, which was probably 7-8 years ago, so I hadn't been through the major scrutiny that I had to endure on Monday.) Tonya said that they had to get out of their vehicle and go into the same building as we did. The customs agent looked at their passports and told them to drive into the big garage. The man felt around in their belongings and told them to be on their way.

I received a phone call today from a couple of "my" gals from work. It was so good to hear their voices, hear their sympathy and words of encouragement. I also received a couple of e-mails from others...everyone is saying how brave I am for going through all this. I have stopped to wonder if they are saying that and thinking how "dumb" I am for going through it all!

We had only a 7 hour drive today, so didn't leave until about 2:30 p.m. Tonya did laundry as they've been on the road a week now and were needing clean clothes (understandable). It actually worked better for me to leave so late. When I leave in the early morning I get sleepy and need to pull over for a rest 2-3 times a day. I am definitely an afternoon/night person, as have no problems staying awake then.

We went to a bank and exchanged some cash for Canadian money and bought gas several more times. Today we drove through about an hour of heavy downpour through the mountains, up and down, curve after curve. I plugged along with the best of them, keeping up. Nothing is gonna stop me from making it to Fairbanks...I've gone through too much to not get there now. Guess my stubbornness is paying off. :-)

We saw a little wildlife on today's drive - a coyote ran across the road in front of Tonya's truck, got to the ditch and turned around and glared at us. I also saw a couple of deer. There were moose "warning" signs many, many places but guess they were too shy to show their faces. Or maybe they were smart and nestled under a pine tree forest nearby rather than out in the downpour like we humans were?

Nate is waiting in Bellingham, Washington (north of Seattle) to see if he can make it on the ferry tomorrow to go to Juneau. He wants to go so badly that even though they asked him to be there are 3 p.m. he told me he's going to be there at 8 a.m. and wait for them to call his name! At this point it is uncertain which of us will make it to Fairbanks first. He will if he has to fly from Juneau to Fairbanks (if they can't get him and the van on the 2nd ferry leg of the trip), I will if he does get on the 2nd ferry, as the ferry trip takes about 5 days if I recall correctly. (Friday-Tuesday)

It's kind of funny that Bob, the BGH president & CEO mentioned to me many months ago (way before I even considered going to Alaska to work) that they have a ferry that one can ride up to Alaska on. Maybe that should have been heeded as a warning? Nate and I considered both of us taking the ferry ride, but when they had only one opening (mid Sept) for the 2008 season, we figured we'd better not do that. That's when we decided to go opposite directions.

At the present time, I am in Ft. St. John, Britsh Columbia, nearly directly straight north several hundred miles from Nathan. I am finally beginning to feel like I'm making progress towards getting there. I ONLY have 26 hours and 1400 more miles and I'll be there!

I'm letting Tonya do the navigating for the trip. She tells me we have a 13 hour day ahead of us tomorrow. It's nice that the sun doesn't set here until about 10:40 p.m., so we can drive late in the day (when I'm more alert) and still see where we're going.

Today I finally began to feel emotions which, I guess, is a good thing. This has been so wearing on me that I had lost my emotions for a few days, maybe even weeks! Emotions = normalcy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Alaska Bound - I think!

This will have to be quick, as I'm operating on my computer battery and don't want to run out before I get this posted. (no 3-prong outlet in the motel room)

Here's the update. Thursday evening Nate and I worked on clearing out my office until midnight, then I went back again Friday and finished up some things from 6:30 a.m. until noon. We then packed the remainder of Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday until 5:55 p.m when we FINALLY got out of Sioux City. It ended up that the vehicles were full, as was our trash container outdoors, so we ended up reboxing things we absolutely NEED in AK and put the remainder in our basement to store.

The first night went great. We stayed in Jamestown, North Dakota. The next morning we were in our motel eating breakfast than who would I spot there but Tonya, a co-worker, her husband and two small boys, who are also going to Alaska. She informed me that their car broke down about 3 p.m. Saturday so they had been stranded in Jamestown all day Sunday and that morning (Monday) were hoping to find out the fate of their car. I spoke with her today and they ended up having to get a different vehicle!

Monday when we got into our vehicles Nate noticed he had a flat tire, so we had to get that fixed. We drove on some more, and I developed a HORRIBLE headache, so we found a chiropractor and I got myself adjusted - literally. We headed out for the Canadian border, good to go.

We hit a major glitch at the Canadian border when going through customs...apparently when they asked Nathan how many times in his life he'd been fingerprinted he didn't recall the correct number, and they informed him that due to some matter on his record that he would not be allowed to pass into Canada. They said they had found something on his record, but would not divulge to him what it was that they found. What the heck???? They told me that I could go on ahead, but there was no way I was prepared to do that without Nathan. I had yet a 40-some hour drive ahead of me - and do it alone? That would require a bit of thought and planning. They also said that Nathan could get records from the states he resided in the past 10 years stating they did not feel he would be any "threat" in Canada, however this process would take a minimum of six months to a year!

From that point forward we felt like we were being held as criminals, as that's how they treated us. Anyway...they kept our passports and driver's licenses and told us to drive our vehicles into this huge garage and park our vehicles one behind the other so they could search them for contraband. We complied and they told us to have a seat at a table.

One man began to search Nathan's car and another mine. The guy opened up Nathan's tailgate on his Highlander and the Domino game began to tumble out of the tailgate like chicklets falling all over the place. What a way to start! Nate and I scrambled over and picked up the pieces. The guy proceeded to pull out our one piece of travel luggage and ran that through the x-ray machine. He also asked whose laptop was in his car and placed it on the table in front of us. They then began taking boxes out of our carefully (fullly) packed vehicles. About 5 were taken out of Nate's, and about 3 out of mine. The fella inspecting mine put them all back in mine and was done in a short amount of time. The guy doing Nate's left those boxes and my laptop sitting around and informed Nate 'you may put your stuff back in your car'. Great - how was it this puzzle fit together the first time????

We got everything in there and they told us that we were to make a U-turn and go back around the building where we could get our passports, which we did. We then had to go through US customs to re-enter the US. They had us park our vehicles, leave them unlocked, and took us into a building for further questioning, emptying out all pockets and my purse (individually they did everything to us, so neither of us could have the benefit of knowing what the other was going through) and gave us back our passports and driver's licenses. When we got outdoors two nice Customs Agents told us what our options were to get to Alaska...Nate could fly (what would we do with his packed vehicle?) or we could drive through the US and Nate could take the car and himself on the ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Whittier, near Anchorage, then drive to Fairbanks, about a 6-hour drive.

We decided we'd take the US drive/ferry route for Nathan and that I would leave my options open. We headed out across the US, backtracking for the quickest roads and stayed last night in a small town in Montana in a motel - $35.00 for the night. The room was large and even had a refrigerator and microwave. The bathroom was small you could sit on the toilet and wash your hands while sitting there without even having to reach. The towels and washcloth were thinner than the thinnest kleenex tissue. Alright, maybe I'm not appreciating the convenience of it all!

Today we headed out for the west coast. At a rest stop I called about the ferry and found out that they had room for only ONE vehicle for the remainder of the 2008 season. Nate can go as a walk-on ($547 for him alone) nearly any time. We booked the last vehicle space, which isn't until September 13, so we have to leave a vehicle there in Washington until then. He will catch a flight to Fairbanks so he can be at work on the 21st. He'll then have to fly from Fairbanks to Seattle September 12 to drive the car on the ferry, ride the ferry to Whittier, and drive the vehicle to Fairbanks. This process will entail about 5 days' time.

We stopped when we got to Billings, Montana to decide when and where we would split up and I would head up into Canada. It was decided that I would get into Canada and head for Edmonton, Manitoba and that venture would begin today, as in immediately. I called Tonya to see where they were and she said that they planned on staying in Edmonton the next night (Wednesday). I did some research and learned they were 9 hours from Edmonton and I was 11 hours from there.

We rented a U-Haul trailer and moved everything out of my van into the trailer. Thank God Nate had the forethought to get a trailer hitch on his Highlander in the event we decided/needed to pull a trailer. Nate headed for Seattle and I headed for Canada. It was a tearful time, leaving each other on what was to have been a trip together, but frankly we were both too beat to even tear up. There were several hugs and comments about hating to leave each other.

I drove a couple of hours and found a REAL dive motel...but I got it right on my route (there are miles and miles and miles where one can drive and not go through a town out here) AND it has free wireless internet. The bathroom here is compact as well, only with this one the toilet faces the wall and one doesn't dare stand up too quickly or you bash your head into the wall! The wallpaper is peeling off the walls and there isn't any air conditioning, the light above the bed is one of those circular fluorescent (kitchen) lights, but it's a room and I'm tired. Probably not worth the $53 I'm spending on it, but what can one do when you're too tired to travel 40 miles on to the next town and hope they have a vacancy!

I just received a call from Tonya that the four of them made it over the border with no problems and have motel reservations in Edmonton, Canada for tomorrow night, where we will meet up to travel together to Alaska.

I heard from my daughter, Camilla, today, and they have arrived in Fairbanks and found an apartment today. It needs painting, so she and Brian volunteered to help with that in hopes of getting into it before Saturday, the date the landlord said he could have it ready.

This brings you up to date. It feels like it was months ago we left Sioux City. Mileagewise I should be just about to Alaska, but due to all our backtracking that isn't the case.

It feels good to know that we once again have a solid plan, and that God has kept us safe thus far. I have been in phone contact with my parents and kids to let them know where the heck we are and how they could help...looking up phone numbers for us on the internet, etc. I don't know what in the world people ever did without cell phones!

Please continue to keep us all in your prayers. This journey has been much greater than we ever's so good we can't see the future or we'd still be sitting in Sioux City doing the same-old thing we have been for several years.

Drop us a line if you have a chance and let us know what's happening in your (hopefully) peaceful world!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Final posting before leaving

This will be our final posting before departing for Alaska. I am feeling much better...still have the sinus thing going on, the fog in my head has dissipated, allowing me to think more clearly, which REALLY helps in knowing what I'm doing and doing it more fluidly. The bad side of it is that my emotions have returned, and what a mix of emotions. The sadness of leaving the wonderful people I work with, our family here in Iowa, the toil of continuing to sort through things and pack boxes, and the excitement of the new life ahead of us.

We aren't really ready to move, and I don't really have time to be blogging now but this is somewhat my indulgence, barometer if you will, of how we're progressing, and that this moving stuff will finally some day come to an end.

A brief synopsis of our progress:

-we learned it takes 12 days for mail from SC USPO to arrive at Fairbanks USPO. Talk about snail mail!

-received the pricey estimate from the electrician. He's to call tonight to arrange getting the work done.

-everything worked out with the lady we wanted to rent to - she will be moving in July 15.

-got new Verizon phones so will be keeping local SC numbers while in Alaska. Our batteries on our Sprint phones went dead a few hours after charging and figured if we went with Verizon could call both my kids for free. Now to learn how to operate the new phones. We have text, too, and I am enjoying that. Just checked in with Camilla and Brian - they are in Jamestown, North Dakota, 300 miles from Canada. I get excited thinking of their venture northward...can only imagine the excitement I'll feel when we're finally on the road.

-Received the report that Peaches, our cat, we sent to live with Nancy, hasn't adjusted yet - he still hides out behind the hot water heater or clothes dryer or stove and hisses at Nancy when she walks by. He does sneak out to eat and is using the litterbox, so will survive. Nancy is wishing Brittany's cat, Yvonne, would only follow suit and hide. Yvonne is extremely vocal and absolutely everywhere - especially wherever you are! We just may have to stop by one last time to see Peaches before we leave. On second thought, that would be too sad. Leaving him once was tough enough.

-The support staff had a nice reception for me at work. The punch fountain was beautiful and the cake absolutely stunning. It will be hard to leave "my" gals. So far I've not broken down and cried at work...however with today being the last day I probably won't be able to say that much longer.

-got through a HUGE pile of work at BGH last night - my goal is to not leave a lot of things undone...that was one more to mark off of my list, and it felt really good to have it out of the way.

-went to the hospital to see my employee who suffered severe brain trauma in her fall a couple of weeks ago. With the exception of being gregarious, she was her same "old" self. It was SO good to see her doing so well and gives me peace in knowing that she will be okay. We all had concerns she might have some brain damage from her injury, but she tracked with me in our conversation 100% of the time. God is so good in his healing and in our friendships.

-have decided we may not make it out of here until Saturday or Sunday. Nate and I are trading vehicles today so he can begin to pack my mini van. Still have a few more things to take to Goodwill and to the church before we have completely purged ourselves of all the stuff we don't need to/can't take.

-received our tax incentive check from the US IRS...just in time to spend it on gas, food, and lodging in Canada! How's that for stimulating the US economy?

-received my Alaska Airlines credit card - hopefully will get enough miles that we can make it back down to the lower 48 (that's what you all are called to Alaskans) for a visit occasionally.

Not sure if we'll have the time or access to blog while we're on the road. The digital camera memory stick is empty and ready to go. With both of us driving not sure how many photos we'll be able to take enroute, but will do my best. I'm sure my son, Sam, reads that as "mom will take photos of insignificant stuff and LOTS of them". When Nate and I went to San Diego for a weekend mid-May before he lost his job with Frontier when they left SC I took ONLY 750 pix, so you probably get the idea!

Well, gotta get ready to head to last day here in SC. Think I'd better have lots of tissues ready as I'm tearing up now!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hiccup in timeframe

Well, there's been a major hiccup in our timeframe for departing for Alaska. Mid June Nathan came down with a cold and wouldn't you know it, he passed the germ on to me. To make a LONG, painful story short, my body decided to do some development on the cold germ. I ended up with double ear infections, sinus infection, bronchitis, and a virus. I saw the doctor twice this week and was initially told to be off work for two days, then at second appointment was told I needed to take the rest of the week off of work. Yeah, like I have time for that! They told me if I didn't, I'd jeopardize the germ continuing to develop in my weakened system, creating an even longer recuperation period.

What a total bummer. Here I was stuck in my messed up home with stuff pulled out of closets, drawers, and cupboards, boxes everywhere, and unable to do much that required my head to be tilted down or to lean over or it felt like my stuffed head would topple me right over. And, of course, my BGH workload didn't get any attention either.

Due to this disruption of progress on the moving front we decided to leave for AK 7-11 rather than 7-9. This will give us two more days to pack and hopefully lessen the stress level of getting out of town. We don't start work until 7-21, so that should still get us up to Alaska in time.

A brief synopsis of the week:

-the bathroom exhaust fan was installed

-housing inspector came and inspected the house - he found only one problem - we have a 50 amp electric service and 100 amp is required. We are awaiting a bid from the electrician.

-made it to the local sheriff's office to be fingerprinted for our AK jobs (anyone working in AK has to be fingerprinted)

-found a photo of the manger that was mistakenly donated to Goodwill. Now they'll have a photo to go on when looking for ours.

-received notice from the City that we are to cut our weeds. Clueless about what weeds we needed to cut had the city inspector give us his opinion of what needs to be cut. He admitted he's not a botanist (neither are we) and said that anything that's a weed that's over 12" tall needs to be trimmed. Nate pulled anything not actively blooming in our wildflower area and we are hoping that will keep the City off our back.

-still await our post office box assignment in Alaska. (It was mailed Thursday, 6-26 and they still haven't received our application.)

-received notification from the IRS that we should be receiving our incentive check (or whatever it's called) soon. We're hoping we receive it before we leave for AK, or they may never find us!

-Nate touched up some areas with a coat of fresh paint - wow - what a difference!

-learned that our new health insurance really DID take effect 7-1.

-learned that the local Toyota company still hasn't received Nate's engine heater. They are now hoping it will arrive July 10. Now that's cutting it short!

-learned that the plumber did NOT get the leak below the bathtub fixed. And Nate just paid that bill!

-learned that when I sleep in the recliner (as I have for the past 3 nights) that I don't choke and cough ALL night and Nate is able to sleep better.

There has been a lot of interest in leasing our home, however nothing has been finalized. A lady called and stopped by who expressed great interest in renting, and we feel very comfortable with her. In our opinion she would be the ideal renter. She is willing to agree to us storing items we can't take with us in the basement. Due to her financial situation she isn't able to pay the full asking price, which just covers our mortgage. We did some math and realize that while on paper we will be losing money, she has expressed an interest in nothing short of a year's lease, so we would know that she would be here and the place wouldn't sit empty or require refurbishing before we were able to rent it again.

Monday she plans on going to our leasing agent's office and completing an application. We are SO hoping that everything goes according to our wishes (now isn't that just being selfish!) so we'll know SHE is our tenant before we leave for Alaska on Friday.

I am beginning to feel better, however still have a LONG way to go before I'm 100%. My sinus pain is bearable, the severe headaches accompanied by violent hurling have gone away, my aggravated muscles have begun to heal allowing me to get up out of a chair like an able human being rather than a feeble old lady, and I have faith now that we will be ready to move on July 11. I'm praying that my thinking clears even more, as it continues to be a bit fuzzy due to the pressure it's receiving from my swollen sinuses.