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.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pioneer Park, Parka Parade n Puppies

Snowy buildings at Pioneer Park - formerly known as Alaskaland. See how much snow is piled on the roof? Fact: 50 5-gallon buckets of Alaska snow = 5 gallons of water. Another building in Pioneer Park. With no wind the snow just remains right where it falls, piling up.
The snow on the building below has begun to melt, creating a wave effect. Today the temperature was 27 degrees and we could see definite signs of melting.

The sweet children below are the children of Letha, our receptionst. She made the kuspak's for her daughter and son on the left and her mother made Letha's coat modeled by her other daughter. There was a nice article in today's paper...check out the entire article here:

Open water on the Chena River - it's been open all winter because it is downstream from the local power plant.

More drooping snow

Snow piled atop the trailer Brian and Camilla towed to Alaska in July. We've been told that once the snow begins to melt, it goes very quickly, as it is low in moisture content.

Letha arranging her coat on Chanda as her son, Randy, looks on. The coat Chanda is wearing won first place. Her prize was the parts and pieces to make a man's parka.

There were more dogsled races in town this weekend. It's amazing how they are all yippy once harnessed before they get to run, and once they start running they become stealthily silent. You can tell these dogs are absolutely delighted to be turned loose to run! Here are some interesting articles about the race:

Here's a photo from the outhouse races held last weekend in Chatanika, Alaska.

This little gal is all bundled up and awaiting the outhouse races. Every time we go to an activity I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the number of young, young children in attendance. Gotta hand it to the Alaskan parents for their patience in getting the little ones' gear organized, on and off...and on a regular basis.

More mushing competition pix. We watched a movie this afternoon at Pioneer Park and learned that they initially train dogs to pull dogsleds by allowing them to run alongside the dog team for a season. When the weather is very, very cold (by Alaska standards, not Iowa standards) they put booties on the dog's feet to keep them from injury. (They are very similar in appearance to the hand mits worn by newborn babies, with velcro attached to the top.)

More dog mushing. The wooden building across the river is a new bingo parlor. There are three bingo parlors in Fairbanks which are open 7 days a week. They each give away a minimum of $5000 every night.

They went to great lengths to get the snow in the right places for the race. They hauled snow back into downtown, as the race began on the street in downtown Fairbanks. At the end of the street they took a left hand corner where they'd built a ramp of snow down onto the Chena River.

It was a nice 22 degrees at the start of today's race. There were a LOT of people out on/by the river watching the dogs go by. One family brought their cookstove, lawn chairs, cooler, etc., and had a picnic in the snow on the riverbank.

The picture below is absolutely hilarious to me. This girl was at the riverfront awaiting the passing of the dogs. She brought along her pink hobby horse and her stuffed monkey. Here she is shown having propped her monkey on the teeter-totter and is attempting to figure out how to get the hobby horse attached to the teeter-totter. Right after I took this photo she threw down the hobby horse and hopped on the teeter-totter.

Handmade mukluks worn by Letha's children. The diamonds are pieces of fur cut in that shape and attached to the other fur to make the beautiful cuff. The bottoms are made from sealskin.

Hand beaded gloves made by one of Letha's ancestors. Typically these are made from moose hide.
I went to the Festival of Native Arts at the University Saturday evening where they had Alaska native dancers and craft sales. On one of the tables I noticed a purse made from a moose heart. I left it there for someone else to admire and/or purchase.

Awaiting the judge's decision. I told Randy he should get extra points. He was the only boy there and twirled his number stick around and around, entertaining us (or was it fighting boredom?). Either way, he was cute.

Nate holding the second place prize - a fox skin, won by Letha's younger daughter, Chanel, for her kuspuk. When she was given her prize she reached right out and draped it over her arm. I can imagine in Iowa if a teenage girl were given a "raw" fox skin they would not have the same appreciative reaction. Letha can be seen in the background behind Nate.

Here are a couple more newspaper articles I found to be interesting and want to share with you~
The second article (beginning Iditarod ordeal renews...) particularly touched me. You just may want to have a tissue handy~

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nanooks & Laundry

Here is a photo of the huge polar bear that I referred to in my prior posting...notice how small the people are that are standing in front of the polar bear's legs? The Nanook hockey team comes skating between the bear's front legs at the start of the game.
This is the arctic entryway to our duplex with the floor opened to reveal the stairway to the basement, where the laundry is located. Never had anything like this back in Iowa....thankfully!

Laundry room in the basement of our duplex. The washer and dryer on the right work, the other three (four?) on the left hand side don't. The washer is actually the washer Camilla and Brian moved here from Iowa. It was installed in the basement and the landlord purchased it from them when they moved out of the duplex. Landlord purchased this property last summer and states he plans on cleaning out the basement this summer.

Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska, where the UAF hockey games took place. I realize that this isn't anything spectacular, rather I posted it so you can see there ARE venues of some magnitude in Alaska. They even have indoor bathrooms with running water. The sign outside the men's restroom indicates there is a diaper changing station in there. To me, as a woman, that rocks!

This is the UAF hockey team praying before the game begins. Alright - I admit I have no clue if they're praying, but thought that would be nice. Note hockey player #3. He's extra special to me because #3 is my son, Sam's hockey jersey # back in Iowa, and because the player's name is cute Ted E Bear. He's one of their 4 mascots, all bears and cute as can be!
When we attended the youth hockey game at Fort Wainwright a couple of weeks ago one of the players became injured. I was touched nearly to tears to see the opposing team stop in their tracks, bend down on one knee and wait for the injured individual to get back up and moving. If only more of the world had that kind of respect for those who are "down and out".

The Alaska state flag.

Hockey and Outhouse Races - seriously!

Frustration at the appearance of my blogs is setting in. I get them all set up, preview, and everything looks great, then once I post it everything seems to skew out of place. In spite of attempting to put things back where they belong the preview and the final page never looks the same. AARGH! My perfectionistic side tells me that I need to work on it until it's fixed and perfect. My realistic side tells me that as long as I'm on this adventure might as well accept the fact that skewed photos and accompanying texts are part OF the adventure. The purpose of my blog is to allow others a view of the world I'm living in, I guess, and not to be perfect. Hence, hopefully I'm accomplishing my mission.

Speaking of missions, I SOOOO appreciate receiving e-mails and comments from those of you who are following my blog. The amount of time it takes to decide which few (yes, few) photos I'll post, log into here, find the photos on my pc to post, upload, etc., is incredible. Hence you won't be seeing me in any local bars. LOL Like that's on my list of 101 places to visit before I die anyway! That said, please DO keep the e-mails and comments coming. It lets me know that my efforts in posting this have made you smile or some impact on you.

My blog is about 1% of this total Alaskan experience. Alaska is SO much more than an out of place state on most US maps. Everything about it is awesome...the people, the weather, the events, the terrain, the sites, the smells, the sounds, the beauty, the peacefulness, the choices of activities, the pace, the traffic, the comfort, well, you get the "picture" without me taking one. Most people in the lower 48 think that there probably isn't much to do in Alaska, because it's so COLD - which is not true, not true...meaning it's not uncomfortably cold, and there is a LOT to do. Each weekend we have to choose which activity or two we'll be participating in because there are so many, and most are free. Those that do cost are well worth the price.

Alaskans have a multitude number of ways of filling their time. How they choose to do that is just that, a choice. Someone recently told me that there's a lot of chemical abuse and dependency (alcohol mainly) in Alaska 'because there's nothing else to do in the winter'. Hello?! We've found a lot of things to do that don't involve drugs or alcohol, and sometimes have chosen to do absolutely nothing. Yes, Ms. Type A Personality has found herself doing absolutely nothing occasionally.

The local newspaper is chock full of information, such as how much snow is dangerous to have on one's roof-including the data of the water contents of Alaska snow vs. snow we've been accustomed to in Iowa, the entry fee to race in the Iditarod ($5,000+), etc. Be sure to check out the Newsminer's home page at for a peek at "my" world. When I was home a bit back my dad told me that each day he checks out the Newsminer's webcam to see what kind of weather we're experiencing here. How nice to know that we're in each other's thoughts and in a sense "touch" each other across the miles.

The Newsminer recently added another webcam website. I'm kind of excited about it, because it is about 4 blocks from where we live. It's actually at the exact site where I took the photos of the mushers coming into Fairbanks on the Yukon Quest. Had I known there was a camera there, and had I known that's where we'd finally decide to take our photos from, I would have waved at the camera. It can be found at then select Arctic Cam, then select more web cams, then select View of Chena River from Pro Music.

Even though the weather doesn't seem to reflect it today (-26 as I write this), they say spring will come, and that break-up on the river is something to see. Since the above camera is right on the river, I'd recommend you take an occasional peek at it to see how things are moving along down the river.

The Newsminer also has an interesting web page of the "Public Safety Report" which link can be found under the news tab. It gives quite detailed reports of those found in violation of the law. I found it interesting that it is a crime in Alaska for someone to interfere with someone reporting a crime involving domestic violence....which, in essence, means taking a phone away from the victim as they attempt to phone for help.

I've used the public safety report page to notice where the majority of the DUI's occur, and pay extra attention when driving in those locations in the wee hours of the morning (which, thankfully, doesn't happen very often).

We now have daylight about 12 hours per day, with it increasing 6-7 minutes each the math and we gain about 3/4 of an hour a week and it's only gonna increase from here! It's nice to go to work and come home in the daylight. Nate and I delight in knowing that we've "survived" our first winter in Alaska, 5 hour daylight days and -40 temps. Nate commented the other day that Alaska winters are SO much nicer than Iowa winters. I'll agree that they're longer (we've had snow on the ground since September and it hasn't begun yet to melt), but we don't have the dampness, the wind, the windchill, followed by the thawing and ice covered roads, sidewalks and parking lots, followed by snow to hide the ice, followed by rain, repeat again and again. When it's cold here it is just that, cold. The cold stays where it's at, meaning when you open a door it doesn't come gusting in, and it doesn't creep its way up your sleeves, pantlegs, and down the neck of your clothing. I was back in Iowa in February and thought I'd freeze to death out in the cold and windy, windy, wind.

This afternoon we're planning on going to the Outhouse Sprint Races at Chatanika Lodge, about 30 miles north of Fairbanks. I'm excited about it because 1-we've never traveled that far on the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks so new turf to see, 2-I've never seen outhouse sprint races, and 3-I'm not participating in the race via sitting in or pushing one of the outhouses. Here's a website that I found that gives some details about Chatanika: It is a well written blog and expresses some of my personal sentiments about Alaska.

Oh my Gosh - just found where someone posted on the newsminer arctic cam website that not only the History Channel is expected at the outhouse races, but 3000 people too! Great! Nate worked last night and is catching a "nap" before we head up there. Looks like I may be waking him a bit earlier than he expected. Having never been there now I'm wondering how far we'll get to walk from our vehicle to the actual race area....and what kind of view we'll have. Can't risk missing another life adventure that's waiting to be experienced. This blog gives us an idea of what fun we're in for...and what you will be missing:

I took a peek at the above website and it reminded me of something I said to our receptionist, Letha, yesterday. I said that if I do something goofy or look goofy wearing my klompy yes, with a K, boots or a silly hat I don't feel embarrassed about it in Fairbanks. Two reasons: 1-Most other people are wearing klompy boots and silly hats, and 2-few enough people in Fairbanks know me that I don't have any "image" that might get tarnished from being seen in such a manner!

When I think of how we feel about experiencing Alaska, it reminds me of how someone characterized a first-time grandfather when he meets his first grandchild. "they get all sappy". Yup, that's me! Sappy and lovin' it.

Speaking of websites, here are a few more that I found that might be of interest to you. Well, they are to me~ - the gal posting this was involved in the Iditarod this year - the writer of this blog lives 33 degrees north of the Arctic Circle - north of Fairbanks. We haven't yet had the opportunity to travel there, but hope to do so when the road is passable.

I recently joined Facebook, a website where one can locate friends and post items of interest (thoughts, photos, profile info) and connect with them on a regular basis. It's been fun to connect with former schoolmates, former co-workers, current co-workers, current relatives, former relatives, etc. If you haven't joined facebook yet, I encourage you to do so. For those of you who have loved ones that have new generations (children, grandchildren, pets, etc.) it's a fabulous way to be able to take a peek at their lives and bring a smile to your face. It's FREE, too!

Friday night Nate and I went to another UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) hockey game. They played the Ohio State hockey team in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association quarter final game. UAF won 4-0. The UAF fans were encouraged to wear white and the first 2000 fans received a white towel to wave as we created a "blizzard" effect in the 4200 seat arena. My energetic husband really surprised me during the game. He came aross a stray towel, armed himself with one in each hand, and throughout the game regularly flipped his wrists in front of his chest, arms at his sides, making his towels flutter up and down, up and down. That's my Nathan, my ball of energy! Check out the news article about the game.

I was able to practice my whistle a bit more at last night's hockey game. I actually cheated a bit and practiced it at home Thursday night after Nate went to work at 11 p.m....not sure how the neighbors in the other half of the duplex felt about hearing my shrill whistle, but don't really care since their winter activity (drinking) lends itself to loud, profane arguments on a too regular basis. We know way more than we should about "those people" considering we do not have face to face conversations. The saving grace in this situation is that they have a HUGE motor home parked alongside their side of the duplex so we have high hopes they will be moving on come warmer weather. Our landlord permits 6 month leases, and we have our fingers crossed that theirs falls in that category!

Well, time to post my photos. I'll be posting them in a separate blog so as to hopefully not skew things all up with lengthy text AND photos all in one posting. Yeah, right, there I go thinking positive thoughts again!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ice and Moose in Alaska

to the left - snow by the entry to our duplex.

Ice used for the ice festival - harvested from a deep pond.

Isn't this just the prettiest blue ice you've ever seen on a pond?

Ice Sculpture of a couple of turtles.

If you want to see the details closer, click on the photos.

Alaska celebrates 50 years of statehood this year.

Long slides 100% made from ice. Kids of all ages were enjoying them...sorry u can't see or hear them.

These were probably 25' tall.

Nathan - Mr. Carharrt

Camilla at our work as viewed from the receptionist station.

The title of this sculpture is spring.

Momma and baby moose across the road from work today 3-12-09.

Lady on the left was recently involved in a serious accident. She was working as an attendant on a local school bus which was hit by an out of control vehicle. She sustained serious burns and is receiving treatment in Washington State. Please keep her in your prayers.

Courthouse in Fairbanks, AK. Isn't the building and the sky pretty?

Front of the courthouse by the entrance.

Nate in our apartment, getting ready to go to the ice park.

Typical Alaska snow - almost looks fake, doesn't it?

Hopefully these photos and the accompanying text stay where I'm posting them. In reviewing my past postings I find that sometimes the text I type next to a photo ends up next to a different photo.

Tomorrow I send my camera back to Sony for no expense. I really, really, really love that camera and SO want it back. I've tried using a different camera, but it just isn't as easy to use.

We continue to find ourselves amused at some non-amusing things. Camilla can't get over how little things just "tickle" me. That makes me easy to get along with, doncha think?

Today I was VERY excited first thing this morning to see a mama moose come out from behind the building across the road from work. It made its way into the willows and munched away. About 2 p.m. I peeked out and saw not only the mama moose, but the "baby" too. The baby is actually probably 2 years old. They got very close to the road and I couldn't resist taking a couple of photos with my cell phone. Hope you enjoy them.

I also used my telephone to take photos at the ice park last night. That, too, was a new experience for us. We got on our winter clompy boots and bundled up nice n warm. It was only 20 degrees out, and by the time we got home I was sweaty, sweaty. There were many parents and children there, the parents pulling their children in plastic sleds, as well as moms with small babies bundled up in pouches attached to their chests. Alaskans don't let a little cold or snow stop them from enjoying life. Gotta love their gusto!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Winter Marching Forward

We continue to enjoy living in Fairbanks. The longer we live here, the more easily we are amused. Perhaps that's due to the winter weather and spending quite a bit of the past few months indoors. I've found that living here has given way to me doing more and more thinking. I find myself thinking about loved ones left back in the Lower 48, the times we've shared together over the years, loved ones who have passed away, and appreciative for all that I have.

When we moved here we had to pare down to what we could fit into the two vehicles, and I'm delighted to say that for the most part we brought the necessities needed to live comfortably here in Alaska. One thing I didn't bring was a loaf pan. Kind of a funny thing to not bring, but I guess I never thought I'd "want" one. I brought a can of pumpkin from Iowa which stares me in the face everytime I open the cupboard, which has made me yearn for some pumpkin bread.

Mid February I returned to Iowa to attend a wedding and while there made a surprise visit to my parents' home from Thursday-Saturday. I mentioned to my mom how I missed having a loaf pan, so she gave me one of hers. I stuffed some of my clothes inside the loaf pan before putting it in my suitcase when returning home, so it really didn't even take up any space.

Growing up it seemed like the more "things" one accumulated or the most grandiose thing you did made me feel more grown-up. i.e. setting up housekeeping you need a certain amount of furniture to be able to exist, and then when you make more money you feel you need more stuff to complement what you have, and then as time goes by you buy more stuff (perhaps if only in a different color or style), and each time it's like taking another step toward the "perfect" adulthood....kind of like you are always in the process of arriving at being a full adult. You arrive at one stage of owning things, then, in time, move on to the next stage, etc. In a way it's similar to the "he who dies with the most toys wins" mindset. Living with less makes for fewer things that can break or need repairs.

Unfortunately my camera is one of those things that needs repairing - again. It worked just great until I tried to turn it on this morning....and nada. I e-mailed SONY in hopes they will tell me that I can send it back in and they'll repair it for free considering it's only been a a month since they repaired it. If not, I'm not sure what I'll do. It definitely will put me in a position to have to make a difficult decision. I'm praying that they will and can repair it.

Having pared down what we have has made me more appreciate of the things I do have and made me quite inventive when I don't have a specific kitchen utensil. Due to the fact that we don't know how long we'll be living in Alaska we aren't tempted to purchase items other than groceries and gasoline, because we obviously won't have any more room going back than we had coming out.

Last weekend Camilla, Brian, Nate and I went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks vs. University of Alaska Anchorage hockey game. It was held at a large arena, similar to the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. I didn't take my camera along, so will need to share the highlights. Before the UAF team came out a large polar bear was blown up on the ice....okay, that didn't sound correct or at least didn't give the correct visual I was intending. Do over...a large inflatible polar bear was blown full of air and the UAF team skated onto the ice underneath the belly of the polar bear. When they were blowing it up his head was the last thing to rise, and for what seemed like the longest time his head bobbed up and down off the ice, then back down. He looked as if he was working as hard as the men operating the fans blowing the bear full of air.

There were three young men who were shirtless and had the UAF letters on their chest who walked through the crowd to generate enthusiasm. Unfortunately enthusiasm was needed, as Fairbanks lost to Anchorage.

Their mascots were people in polar bear costumes. There were a total of four. They, too, walked the crowds and the children swarmed them like bees whenever they got near. It was cute to see the kids flick the bear's tail as the bear walked away.

We expected there would be a large crowd, so got to the venue about 20 minutes early. During the wait time I decided to try to learn how to whistle like my dad used to when I was driving the tractor during hay baling time and I turned a corner too tight, sending him flying one direction and the hay rack the opposite. (That's a visual I'll never forget.)

Anyway, I tried and tried, and by the end of the game I was pretty close to doing dad's whistle. Camilla laughed at me, as she apparently has been able to whistle like I did for quite some time.
Well, I hadn't tried that whistle again until today, and I forgot how to do it! Drat! I'm not really surprised that I forgot, as it took me FOREVER to learn how to frown at times when I was not actually sad. When I think of this it reminds me of the simple things in life and how Alaska has allowed me to slow down enough to notice and enjoy the simple things and, of course, to laugh at myself.

This past week we went to our first Bingo game in Alaska. For years and years we'd talked about going when we lived in Sioux City, but it never seemed to happen. We had an enjoyable evening and Nate even won a $100 game.

Today Nate and I went to the Big Dipper ice arena (similar to the IBP Ice Arena in SC) and watched two FAHA hockey games. The participating teams are: Anaheim Lady Ducks, LA Selects, Alaska Firebirds, Alaska Ice Breakers, and Northwest Selects. It amazes me the distance some travel in order to participate in activities in Fairbanks. The LA Selects played one of the games we watched. They had a full 6 players on the ice and at least 12 on the bench. Poor Northwest Selects had only 5 on the bench. LA must have sent at least 3 teams, as they had quite a cheering section of young ladies all dressed in LA Selects gear.

Tomorrow we have options of what to do (again). There's the Nenana Ice Classic, the Junior North American Championship Sled Dog Race and many other activities. Check out this website for a complete calendar of activities. Unbelievable all the choices and variety!

Here is a link to "The World's Longest Ultra Race Across Frozen Alaska" which, essentially, is an Iditarod race of either 350 or 1100 miles done on skis, bike, or foot. Seriously~ check it out for yourself. I've clicked through some of the links in this website, too, and found it fascinating.

Outdoor winter activities are in full swing in Alaska. The temp doesn't dip below zero very far, and we have snow, snow, snow! We received 8" last Saturday and another 8" this past Thursday-Friday. If I'm correct we have received about 60+ inches this winter. This past Thursday-Friday the snow wasn't the typical dry Alaska snow. It had some moisture in it, making it a bit heavier. The unplowed city streets have wobbly snowlines going down them and when driving on them the vehicle wobbles and wobbles its way to the main (paved) roads. Friday we had high winds - alright, high for Fairbanks. The average windspeed was around 20 mph with gusts to 30+. It's a good thing the snow we received Thursday was wet, as it didn't blow around nearly as much as it could have, if it were dry snow.

Here's a website of a gentleman who lives in North Pole, AK (about 8 miles southeast of Fairbanks) that contains a lot of information (including his perception of the recent weather we've been experiencing. I think it may be of interest to you~

Jim's website (above) has a link to the following website which explains about the uniqueness of the weather in Fairbanks. I am posting the entire article for those of you who choose to not check out Jim's website.
Alaska Science Forum
June 19, 1979

Air Pollution in FairbanksArticle #46
by Sue Ann Bowling
This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community.
The influence of a particular geographic setting and of certain weather conditions can make dispersion of pollutants especially difficult. An excellent example is provided by Alaska's second largest metropolitan area, Fairbanks, situated within a three-sided basin (Birch Hill to Chena Ridge) within a still larger three-sided basin (the Salcha Bluffs behind Eielson Air Force Base to Chena Ridge). These hills protect Fairbanks from strong winds on three sides. On the fourth side, the south, the Alaska Range and the Coast Range beyond it are distant but effective blockades against wind and storms.
As a result, Fairbanks has, at ground level, one of the lowest wind conditions in the world. The lack of wind allows the air over the city to remain relatively stagnant. A further effect of this highly sheltered location is that Fairbanks is typically clear-skyed (except for summer thundercloud; which often form within the valley).
Without the insulating effect of a cloud cover, heat from the earth's surface radiates directly into space, cooling the ground. When the ground cools sufficiently (as in winter or on a summer night), it cools the nearby, lower layers of air. Then the usual trend toward cooler air at higher altitudes becomes inverted: the air closest to the ground becomes colder than the air at higher altitudes. This temperature inversion is very stable because the cold air is heavier and tends to just sit, inert on the ground. Fairbanks' inversions are considered among the most extreme in the world, with temperatures sometimes increasing 16°F (9°C) with each 100 feet of altitude.
Since an inversion resists vertical mixing of air, any pollution put into the air tends to stay in the layer it enters. Strong winds can break up inversions by mixing up the air, as occurs at Delta or Healy where wind funnels through nearby mountain passes. However, in the highly sheltered Fairbanks basin strong winds are infrequent. Therefore pollutants tend to move away from their sources horizontally and quite slowly--especially near the ground. As a result pollution levels in Fairbanks are comparable with those in Los Angeles even though that city has a population more than 200 times greater.
There is no known way to change the low wind or the inversion layers such as occur at Fairbanks. Consequently, the only ways to reduce pollution are to limit pollution sources. Decreasing auto traffic, for example, or use of care in selecting sites for power plants or other industrial developments will help. The mine-mouth power plant at Healy, Alaska is an example of a site well chosen to avoid buildup of air pollution. The Delta, Alaska area can probably also dilute pollution far better than sites closer to Fairbanks.