Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mistaken Identity

As usual, just as I was saying to myself that I didn't have anything to write about (nothing fit for public consumption that is...) I had the oddest conversation last night with a stranger, over text.

It was 12:24am when my phone rang. Caller ID said it was a Tampa, FL number. I don't know anyone in Florida so I didn't answer. Next, my phone beeped telling me I had a new voice mail. Some guy named Alex was looking for Jess. I ignored it. He sounded all of 19. A drunk dial for sure.

Immediately after the voice mail he texted me saying, "it's Alex". The following text conversation ensued:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


For those of you envisioning me as the glamorous jet-setter of Alaska, let me set you straight. I'm not. The job is not. Take for example my current abode in Galena.

This is my bed. Notice the mismatch in size between the mattress and box spring. How's that for glamor?!  


I'm in Galena for five days and groceries here are about 5x the price (at least) of those in Fairbanks. Thinking ahead, I brought my own wine. 

I seem to be the only person in the adult dorm this week. No one will notice. Right?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas? What happened to Thanksgiving?

I don't know how it got to be Christmas already. The last few weeks have been a blur. But to recap briefly, let's revisit Thanksgiving.

Lovely dinner with the ladies. For the first time in, I don't know how many years, I did not play Nertz on Thanksgiving. Just as well, I'm sure, as it is referred to as a blood sport by some folks.

I volunteered to make pies before realizing that I didn't have a rolling pin. This is why, one should always have wine in the house!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Adak Revisited

Further west than Hawaii and as far south as Vancouver British Columbia. Yet, at times Adak feels like a parallel universe. It's a place where you walk your dogs by having them run behind the truck for a few blocks, you park on the front lawn,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Clean Meat

So I'm at the Anchorage airport, enjoying a glass of wine. A couple is seated across from me. The woman's seafood salad arrives. "The meat isn't clean," she says. "I asked for clean meat. The crab is mixed with everything else."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

So You Think You Can Drive

As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for. The last few days I've been lamenting that I didn't have anything to write about on the blog. What to say, what to say, what to say. Things have been rather quiet as of late: no astute snow metaphors about life, no stupid human tricks, and no driving escapades.

Whoops. Hang on there. Driving shenanigans, you say? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plentiful Sunshine

I noticed today that The Weather Channel describes Fairbanks weather not only as "bitterly cold" but also as having "plentiful sunshine". Interesting.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bitterly Cold

I find it hilarious that the weather description for Fairbanks and other Interior locations these days is "bitterly cold". One day last week Fairbanks topped the chart as being the coldest place in the world. Colder than Antarctica! We were all so proud.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Leaving Cheechako Behind

My car has Alaska plates and a plug hanging from its grill. The windshield boasts not one, but three cracks. I'm not sure what I think of all this other than should I be pulled over, the state trooper can't yell at me about needing to register my car. 

The car is looking more like a seasoned Alaskan but does this mean I've left my Cheechako ways behind? That remains to be seen -- it's early in the season yet. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Miss an Island

Here is a companion tutorial to last week's: How to miss your flight. If those steps failed and you managed to make the flight, you can still miss landing at your island destination.

It's simple:

1) Fly 3 hours to your destination.
2) Listen to the pilot tell the passengers that he has one shot to make the landing otherwise the plane is turning back to Anchorage. (Bear in mind that planes only land on this island two times a week. There won't be another flight for 4 days.)
3) Watch from your window as the plane clears the hills and starts to descend over the harbor.
4) Watch the plane getting closer and closer to the ground until you feel the plane start rising again.
5) Witness the pilot turn the plane around.
6) Land at Anchorage three hours later.

There. Now you've spent six hours on a plane and ended up where you started.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Miss Your Flight

For your edification I explain in detail, various methods by which you can miss your flight (or at least come close to missing your flight.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Car Wash

Here's a cold weather tip folks: when taking your car through the car wash ensure that you select the "power dry" option.

Otherwise in 14 degree temperatures the residual water from the wash freezes.  Yes, ice droplets cover your car, thin sheets of ice obscure your side view mirrors, and an interesting crunch alerts you to your mistake when you open the door.

I should have let a moose take care of it for me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

From the Banks of the Yukon

My latest trip was to Tanana, about a 45 min flight northeast of Fairbanks. My road trip partner Susan, will tell you that while driving to Fairbanks this summer, I tortured her with saying "Tananaaahhhhh" every time the word came entered conversation. I thought I was hilarious. I'm sure Susan has a different version of that story. 

Adak Island

Two weeks ago I spent four days in the town of Adak on Adak Island. The island is one of the more easterly islands in the Aleutian Chain. At one time there was a naval base operating here and a population of 6000 people. Now there's a lot of abandoned buildings and a population of 109.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The safety briefing on a Piper PA 31-350 is not the same as that on a Boeing 737-800.

My ride to Tanana.
Instead of hearing, "use your seat cushion as a flotation device"  it's "If we have an emergency landing make sure the emergency beacon locator light above my left knee is flashing."

Translation: If the plane crashes, don't count on the pilot surviving.

And instead of "lights will illuminate the aisle" it's "there's a fire extinguisher under my seat."

Sometimes being able to see everything your pilot does isn't comforting. Like when he drinks his coffee and rifles through paperwork (and no one is manning the plane!) Or when a red light flashes on the dash (with accompanying alarm) and he casually flips a switch before resuming his comfort position of arm draped over the back of the seat beside him.

I played it cool and went to sleep. I refused to think about the fact that I was the sole passenger on the plane. Had the plane gone down, and the pilot not survived, it would have been all up to me. (Notice my optimism though in assuming that I would survive.)

PIlot doing who knows what on the flight back to Fairbanks.

Yes, these small flights are fun (I love take-offs) but there is something to be said for blissful ignorance in coach with your mini-vodka and sprite zero.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

...And we're back

Back to snow that is. The first real snowfall in Fairbanks arrived last weekend. As predicted, my neighborhood is vastly improved with snow! Old cars, wood piles, and rusted empty barrels in the yard are now merely white bumps adding texture and interest to the landscape.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cordova in Pictures

Last week I was in Cordova -- little fishing town on Prince William Sound that is only accessible by boat or plane. The scenery is spectacular. Apparently I brought the good weather as there were unprecedented days of sunshine while I was there. An added bonus was the full moon.

My flight to Cordova began with equisite views of Mt. Foraker (left) and Denali (right).

VIew flying in to Cordova.

One of the glaciers in the area, as seen from the plane.

Elementary school

Fuel tank

Main Street

Angry Fisherman. I stayed at the Reluctant Fisherman Inn.
I'm sensing some pent up feelings.

The decades old, not to code, sprinkler system in my "renovated" room
(which also smelled of mold and dead animal).
Good thing the adjoining restaurant and bar are nice!

So many sea otters!
View of the harbor and town from the harbor break wall.

My view from the bar.
I go to Cordova every month -- I'll be seeing this view a lot!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Dump

This post has nothing to do with my time in Fairbanks, but I wanted to share.

When I was a child, my sisters and I loved going to the dump with my dad. We piled into the front seat of his pickup and off we'd go to the dump. We loved looking through the discarded junk, finding treasures for our playhouse. Sometimes on the way home, we'd stop and get a coke.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back from the Bush

I made my first trip out to the bush this week. Galena, AK is an Athabascan village accessible only by air and boat. Galena is a small village of approximately 675 people and sits on the edge of the Yukon river. And that about sums up Galena!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting for Jack

The fall color around town is spectacular right now. The weather has been what I think of as typical for California in October and November: bright, sunny days and chilly nights (36 degrees this am!) But here we are in the middle of September.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Things Strangers Say

Today, I went to the Pioneer Park Labor Day Celebration with friends.

I was in line waiting to order Souvlaki with my friend Rushell, who is nine months pregnant. We were inside a replica of a pioneer cabin, the building so small you couldn't turn around without accidentally being fresh with your neighbor. We had barely fit inside the door when a woman squeezed by. She was an older woman, with half her teeth missing and the other half decayed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Snow Cometh

As ludicrous as it seems, I am looking forward to the first snowfall. It makes everything look so clean and lovely. It's more than just the beauty though that I'm anticipating. I can't wait for the lines of the parking lots to be covered so you can drive and park however you want! It's a sense of freedom I've never experienced. Disconcerting at first, but once you give into it, boy it feels good!

SLP Corner: No IEPs!

* Warning: this post is heavy on the SLP talk and jargon. Read on if you dare!

I think I may have found the perfect job: minimal direct therapy, lots of assessments and no IEPs! My new job is working for SERRC, a non-profit funded by grants and contracts. There are several divisions to SERRC, and I work for the part that contracts with school districts to provide their SPED needs.

Their needs may be speech, OT, PT or general SPED administrative support. Some districts need OT and PT but not speech. Or vice versa. Typically these are rural school districts that don't have enough of a caseload to warrant hiring a full-time or part-time therapist, so they contract with SERRC.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Crib

I have a new apartment: 2 bedrooms, heated garage (woohoo!) and I'm on the second story. Another apartment is on the first floor. It's decidedly more enviable than the luxurious Jillian Square apartments, yet the neighborhood leaves something to be desired. A snow covering will do wonders for the neighborhood! I can't wait.

Let's take a tour, shall we? (Excuse the mess...)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's Fall. In August?

Seems that I made it to Fairbanks just in time for fall: crisp air laden with the scent of wood burning stoves, warm days but an extra blanket required at night, and leaves turning scarlet and gold. Surely one of my favorite times of year. But in August?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bumps, Cats, and Troopers

3177 miles. Two international border crossings. Two cats that meowed the first two hours (and then some) every day of 7 days of travel. California, Oregon, Seattle, British Columbia, the Yukon and finally,  Fairbanks. We survived with out a flat tire, cracked windshield or having to call UHaul (which was fortunate since I lost the paperwork with the emergency number in case the trailer broke down), and no one was arrested.
Leaving California

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Be Continued...

It's hard to believe that my four month stint in Fairbanks is over and I'm already back in California. It's been odd getting used to dark skies at 9:00 and the relentless traffic. In many ways it feels like I never left. This is both comforting and disconcerting. I've had new experiences and have changed, yet nothing else has.

In August I'll be returning to Fairbanks but this time in a slightly different capacity from my previous position. More details on that come. I'll be driving my car up to Fairbanks. Seeing how well I navigated that small town, it's sure to be an interesting drive. 

I enjoyed my time in Fairbanks immensely. It was just what I needed -- a change in perspective. While there I felt as though I was in a protective bubble, on an extended vacation. It never felt like real life. But the friends I made certainly were real and I look forward to seeing them all again. As for now, I'm enjoying catching up with my California friends.

I know the long Alaska days make summer there special, but honestly, California summers are hard to beat. I've already been camping in the Sierras and I don't think there is any place on Earth that is as exquisite as the Sierra Nevada range. Regardless of where I am in the world, those mountains have my heart. The California coast is also amazing, not to mention the Napa Valley and my patio! So much to do this summer!

Have a good summer y'all and I look forward to filling you in on the details of my next Alaskan stint. Hopefully with tales of ice climbing, dog mushing, more snowshoeing, and of course whatever trouble comes my way.

Magnificent Denali as seen from Talkeetna.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


If you find yourself working on the pipeline in Valdez, AK and you need a place to crash, you can stay at ManCamp. Only $93 a night and your three squares are included!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boys and Their Equipment

Tuesday, May 18, 1971:  my mom wakes up feeling as though she is no longer pregnant. Yet, she is in fact, still pregnant, and in labor.  It's business as usual though on this Tuesday what with two toddlers on hand. Being in labor merely means that there are preparations to be made. Mom spends the day doing the usual chores and taking my sisters on a mile walk to the neighbors in the afternoon. Then, there is dinner to be cooked, children to be bathed and pajamas to be donned before dropping the girls at a friends house on the way to the hospital.

By the time mom and dad are enroute to the hospital, I'm practically crowning. The ride to the hospital is uncomfortable to say the least with dad being upset that mom hadn't informed him sooner that it was "time". They make it though. The nurses tell my mom not to push since the doctor isn't there yet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Misfits, Military and Ministers

I've been told that people who live in Fairbanks fall into one of three categories: misfits, military or ministers.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I work on a military base but I'm not military. My father is a minister but I'm not. Per the dictionary, a misfit is: "a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way."

Which group do you fall into?

Kayaking the Chena River

I didn't tip over, get lost, pee my pants, or get arrested.

Here's a tip for those of you interested in paddling a river. When the fire department says, while rescuing a teenager stranded on an ice floe, that they can't go upstream because the current is too strong for their boat, that probably doesn't mean that you should try paddling upstream on your own power. Yet, that is precisely what I did. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Conversation with a State Trooper

A couple of weeks ago I was pulled over by an Alaskan State Trooper. You know, the ones with the great hats.

I was on my way home from work one day and was driving, I admit, my usual 70 MPH or so. The speed limit was 55. I noticed a trooper ahead of me and he moved into the right lane. I thought he was moving over to make a right-hand turn. I had slowed down but as soon as I passed him, the lights and siren went on.

I pulled over, he approached my window and the following conversation ensued.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Weekend Part 2: Saturday Night

Saturday night was a night of first for me: first time I went to Silver Gulch Brewery, the Big I Pub & Lounge, Kodiak Jack's, and first time I've ever frequented a tattoo parlor (in Fairbanks or otherwise). Sorry, there are no pictures, and trust me, that is for the best.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Weekend Part 1: Friday Night

It was a busy weekend so this will be a two-part post. First, a re-cap of Friday evening and half of Saturday.

The weekend got off to a strong start with Attitude Adjustment Hour (AAH) at The Roundup. I pass the Roundup almost everyday on my way home from Crossfit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bring It

My patience has worn thin. I'm cold and I want sun: cornea burning, blister forming, melanoma giving, burn the soles of your feet walking across hot sand, fry an egg on the sidewalk, bright, hot sun.

Not this dim-watted, low-energy equivalent of a CF light bulb that turns on at 4:30am, acting as if it's on a dimmer switch all day, sliding into the off position at 11:00pm. When the sun sets I want to be able to heave a sigh and feel the relief that comes from having a few hours of coolness in contrast to the heat of the day.
Oh sure, it *looks* like a big ball of fire.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Embarrassment

I wasn't going to share this but what the heck -- I need something to write about.

Y'all remember my mentioning Crossfit, right? You know, that workout where my main goal is to not cry?

Turns out I need a new goal. A more important, more pressing goal. Don't pee your pants. Yes, that's right that. At Crossfit this week I peed my pants.

Thank you.

Reading Corner

I came across some interesting reading materials today. Tucked among the books of harrowing ship rescues, tales of living "off the map" and life in the native villages, there were these gems.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekly Recap 4-10-11

It was a weird week: weather, got busted, moose, death by Crossfit and spring is coming.

Let's start with the weather.

The temperatures have consistently been in the 40's during the day but at night drop into the teens and single digits. What melts during the day, refreezes at night. This has turned the parking lot at my enviable address into a death trap. Even with wearing my boots, I almost fall every time I walk to and from my apartment. Ice covered parking lots are not helpful to the Sister Mary's among us!  

More Signs that You're in Alaska

Here are a few more indicators of being in Alaska.

A dog box on the back of your truck to transport your dog sled team:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ice Park

A few weeks ago I went to the Ice Park. It's an international competition of ice sculpture and this was it's 22nd year. Currently there is a bit of political upheaval as to whether the competition will continue to be held in Fairbanks. I hope it stays.

I didn't have my regular camera with me and had to make do with my cell phone camera. Sorry for the less than clear pictures. They don't do the ice justice but you'll get the idea. Check out the website for better pictures:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chena Lakes

Awhile back, when daylight barely stretched to 5:00pm, and daytime highs topped out at 0 degrees (one a warm day) I went for a trek at Chena Lake Recreation area. In the summer this place is hopping, I'm sure. Nice big lake for fishing and kayaking, beaches for soaking up that precious vitamin D and only 30 minutes south of Fairbanks.

In winter, not as popular.