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.

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.

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