The Barkster

31 08 2009

It has been requested that we put up more pictures of our four-legged pal, Sir Charles Barkley II.  As it turns out, Michele took a bunch of photos of the little guy this weekend, but we have not gotten them downloaded yet.  In the meantime, here are a few random ones of Barkley to tide you over…

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The Day of Animals

28 08 2009

I have to say, this past Sunday we really brought the heat.  The H was most certainly O.  Not only did we get up close and personal with some sled dogs, we also saw a mama moose with her baby, and saw the historic driving of the flower truck by Michele.

While the animals were all very exciting, Michele has been bugging me since Monday to post the photo of her driving the flower truck.  Every time she calls, she starts by asking if I’ve posted the “flower truck photo” yet.  Well, the time has arrived.  I’ll start with that, then take you back through the rest of the day.

We got to Chena Hot Springs around 1 p.m., and it was about 80 degrees warmer there than it was last time we visited.  It was on our way to the springs that we spotted the flower truck.  I don’t think it was actually drivable any more, but we didn’t tell Michele that.  We told her how they used it to deliver flowers all over the Fairbanks area every spring.

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After sitting in the truck, Michele said that was the most fun she had in Alaska since her time on the F/V Abundance.  Don’t worry, it was great fun for me as well.

Before heading out to Chena, we had a pretty sweet opportunity.  One of Michele’s friends and co-workers in Anchorage, Lindsey, has a friend named Tom, who just happens to have 13 sled dogs near Fairbanks.  We got in touch with him and visited his place Sunday morning (after breakfast at the Cookie Jar and getting me some new bowling shoes).

There were dogs everywhere.  Turns out, he does not train the dogs for any super-competitive events.  He’s not an Iditarod guy or anything.  But apparently he has some buddies that he competes with around town.  Since he is not a big time serious trainer, he actually lets the dogs have a lot of personality.  They get to sleep in the house sometimes and ride in the back of his truck.  Plus, he has some how convinced them to think vegetables are a treat.

Here’s Tom…

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And here are Tom’s awesome pets…

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We can’t quite remember the names of all the dogs, but we know at least this many: Suka, Rusty, Bear Claw, Eclair, Doughnut, and Charlie.  Here’s one of Michele giving some loving, then me with one of the dogs…

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“Run as fast as the wind, little one,” said I.

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After we got done cleaning all the dog poo off our shoes, we headed on out to Chena Hot Springs.  It was quite a different experience hopping in the hot springs when the temperature was 62 degrees as opposed to -20.  This time, they had a fountain spraying cold water in the middle of the springs.  It was a really comfortable mix of the hot spring water and then cold water on your head.

Here’s what the springs looked like in December (that’s Michele in the bottom center)…

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And here they are from last weekend…

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The water spraying on the left of the photo was warm water that shot out like receiving a massage – very nice touch.  This is a shot of the fountain in the middle…

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And finally, the last of the animals we saw on Sunday.  Moose!  Good ole Eagle-eye Michele spotted the mother moose just off the side of the road wading in some water.  Now, there was a car already parked there, so she had a hint.  But neither Jim nor I saw the moose, so she gets all the credit.  (I think she was still on a high from the flower truck event.)

Anyway, we saw the mom first.  We were on the road side, about 40 feet from her.  Then she went into the woods, and we spotted the baby.  The baby was really cute, with big floppy ears.  Since I couldn’t decide which moose photos were the best, you get a bunch of them – then a quick (and kinda shaky – sorry) video at the end.  Enjoy!

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And now to the baby…

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Saturday in Fairbanks

27 08 2009

We departed the Totem Inn on Saturday morning and started the rest of the drive to Fairbanks.  It’s about 90 miles or so from Healy to Fairbanks.  We didn’t grab any breakfast on the way out, and we found no food until we got to the world famous Monderosa.  Well, I don’t know that it’s world famous, but Michele had been told by someone that we had to check it out.  It was really in the middle of nowhere, but they weren’t lying about how good it was.  Here’s what it looked like from the outside.

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The same lady took our order, cooked our food, and took our money for the bill.  She was impressive, and probably gave us the best service in a restaurant we got all weekend.  Michele and Jim both got jalapeno cheeseburgers, and I got a bacon cheeseburger.  Jim enjoyed his so much, he wanted his picture next to what he called “the truest sign on all of the Parks Highway.”

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Once we got into Fairbanks, we first tried to find they’re nearly unfindable visitor’s center.  We parked near the Golden Heart Plaza, which is pretty much in the middle of downtown.  As it turns out, the visitor’s center is a huge building but also is about 4 blocks from the plaza.  However, there was a very cool monument in the plaza commemorating the partnership between Russia and Alaska during World War II.

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What we liked about this monument was how intricately the statues were designed.  This guy below is just putting on his jacket, and both statues had fur-lined boots.

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Also, the “First Family” statue is found at the plaza.  If you recall, Michele and I hit up the plaza back in December.  Seeing as it was 20-below, we did not spend time perusing the entire park area.  But we did take some photos of the First Family statue.  And you know how we love to compare photos…

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And now, here’s the same statue this past weekend.

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Initially, we had dreams of trying to make it to the Arctic Circle.  Unfortunately, that was not going to happen.  First, the Arctic Circle is about 200 miles north of Fairbanks.  Second, the road is more or less undrivable by cars not specially equipped for the road.  You can take the Elliot Highway for a stretch, but that turns into the Dalton Highway – a highway that is mostly gravel.  Our rental agreement forbid us from cruising in the Accord on the Dalton Highway.  If you watch the “Ice Road Truckers” show, they are on the Dalton Highway.

I found a photo online that will give you an idea of the quality of the road.  Every pamphlet we looked at about the Dalton Highway had a photo of people changing a flat tire.  Oh, and you have to pull off the side of the road any time a haul truck comes by, but you can’t pull too far off or you’ll get stuck or fall down a hill.  So yeah, we decided to pass.

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Instead, we decided to check out the historic Gold Dredge Number 8!  But for some reason, the place was closed on a Saturday at 3pm.  But, we did get a photos of the sign and of the gold dredge.  These things are actually quite neat and very environmentally unfriendly – but they are not used anymore.  You can read more about how they work on this site.

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Since we weren’t going to make it up to the Arctic Circle, we decided to drive a ways up the Steese Highway.  Our first stop was the monument dedicated to Felix Pedro, an Italian immigrant who found gold in Fairbanks in 1902 and started a gold rush.  The creek where he found the gold was just across the street from the monument.  We panned for a few seconds, but had no luck.  Felix took it all!

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The next stop on our Steese trip was at the Chatanika River State Recreation Area.  There were a  number of folks camping in the rec area, and we parked so we could walk around a little.  Some of the leaves were changing all along the highway, and we saw this tree halfway in the water with colorful leaves.

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As you may know, second on my list of favorite photos behind sunsets is water pictures.  And what do you know – here’s one…

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You can see how amazingly clear the river water was.  With Jim’s help, I took another action photo…

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After a nice stroll around the Chatanika River area (and Michele soaking in some sun on the rocks), we headed out for our ultimate destination.

For this final couple of photos, I penned a song to go along with the pictures.  The lyrics go a little something like this:

Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take you
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go

Off the Steese Highway
There’s a creek called Kokomo
That’s where you wanna go to get away from it all

Bodies in the rocky sand
Silver Gulch lager melting in your hand
We’ll be falling in love
To the rhythm of a steel drum band
Up in Kokomo

Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take you
To Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go

Ooo I wanna take you up to Kokomo (Creek)
Well get there kinda fast
And then we’ll take it slow
That’s where we wanna go
Way up to Kokomo (Creek)

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Up next… our Sunday adventure to visit some sled dogs in “training” and Chena Hot Springs!





Toot My Own Horn

27 08 2009

Before I get going on Day 2 of our trip, I decided I would give myself a quick pat on the back.  Below is – what I think – one of the best photos I have ever taken.  Much of it was accidental coolness, but a really good shot nonetheless.  Michele has informed me that the flower is likely a purple daisy.  This was taken on Sunday at Chena Hot Springs.

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The Parks Highway – Day 1

26 08 2009

Our trip up to Denali and Fairbanks did not start or end all that smoothly, but the things in between were excellent.  Our flight was supposed to leave at 12:55 p.m. to Anchorage, but ended up an hour late leaving, which made us about an 1:15 late getting to Anchorage. However, Michele did get some pretty sweet shots from the plane.  This is the Portage Glacier, which is right near Whittier…

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And here’s a shot of the same glacier from the ground while we were waiting on the Whittier Tunnel back in July…

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After a lunch stop at TACO BELL, a running shoes stop for Michele, and a beer pick-up stop at the Glacier Brewhouse, we were on our way.  As has become the custom on here, I will also attempt to educate you on the geography of Alaska while telling you about our trip.  Hence, I downloaded this nice map showing you where we started our trip and where we were headed on the Parks Highway.  The distance from Anchorage to Fairbanks is about 370 miles, with much of it being 2-lane of speed limits around 55.

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Our first stop for photos was at the Alaska Veterans Memorial.  And what natural wonder did we get a glimpse of there?  Denali!

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The height of the mountain – tallest in North America – is 20,320.  It’s odd because when you are close to it, it does not look as big because the mountains in front of it seem large as well.  But when you are a ways from Denali, it seems enormous since you can still see it from 200 miles off but not the smaller mountains in front.

As for the name, there is quite a bit of controversy.  The official name for the mountain is still Mount McKinley, though most in the state refer to it as Denali.  Here’s a quick run down of the naming situation, courtesy of Wikipedia…

The mountain did not get much press until William Dickey, a New Hampshire-born Seattleite, who had been digging for gold in the sands of the Susitna River, wrote, after his return to the lower states, an account in the New York Sun that appeared on January 24, 1897. He wrote “We named our great peak Mount McKinley, after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the Presidency”. By most accounts, the naming was a pure political one; he had met many silver miners who zealously promoted Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan‘s ideal of a silver standard, inspiring him to retaliate by naming the mountain after a strong proponent of the gold standard.

But don’t you worry, that photo above is not the only one we took of “The Great One.”  There were more…

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Oops, sorry – wrong “Great One.”  Back to the mountain known as the Great One…

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And for the sake of comparison, here’s the photo we got of the mountain in just outside of Fairbanks in December.  And keep in mind, we are about 150 miles away from where the Fairbanks photos were taken and the angle was slightly different…

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Here’s one of Michele and me with Denali in the background.  I tried to make us in black and white and the mountain in color, but it did not turn out perfectly.  If you look above my head and just to the left, you can see the mountain…

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While Denali was fantastic, the memorial was not just there in the background.  We took a few photos of that as well…

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And guess what that guy is pointing at?  Hey, it’s the tallest peak…

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One thing in the monument area that was really cool for me was the names of the streets involved.  I was involved in drafting the bill that led to Alaska’s Decoration of Honor for the military who get their names placed on Alaska’s Decoration of Honor Roll.  And, I drafted the bill creating a Purple Heart Trail in Alaska.

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After leaving the monument, we stopped at another viewing point to catch one more glimpse of Denali, as the sun was fading just behind the mountain.  I was really excited to stop once more, as supposedly only 30% of people traveling this stretch actually get to see Denali since any clouds or fogs blocks the view.

Michele and Jim were not as excited about the last chance to see the mountain as I was.  Michele just waited in the car…

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And all Jim wanted to do was play with the water pump…

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But don’t you worry.  I trekked out there with the camera and got some sunset photos.  But really, was there ever any doubt I would pass up a sunset photo???

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Our last scenic stop of the evening was at the bridge over Hurricane Gulch.  Seeing as I don’t walk right up to the edge of places that drop straight down for nearly 300 feet, Michele was the photog for these shots…

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We finally made it into the Denali National Park area around 10:30 p.m. and grabbed a bite at the Overlook Restaurant.  Our day ended with a stop for the night at the luxurious Totem Inn.  For more info on that beauty, click here.  In fact, Michele and I considered just moving there.  The place had 25 cable channels and free internet – so we were just going to get jobs blogging for Entertainment Weekly about the stuff happening on those 25 channels.  But maybe we were just tired and needed some sleep.

Up next, the best hamburger in Alaska and our arrival in Fairbanks!





Good News and Bad News

25 08 2009

The good news is we had an excellent trip up to Fairbanks and Denali.  The bad news is I have not gotten the pictures downloaded yet – so you will have to wait to see how it all went down for a couple days.

Let’s just say… Michele drives a mean flower truck.





Fairbanks!

20 08 2009

Michele has a hearing in Fairbanks on Monday, so we’re going up for a long weekend to one of our favorite places in Alaska.  Anyway, it got me thinking.  We first visited Fairbanks in the summer of 2007.   The high temperature while we were there in June was around 82 degrees.  The sun was setting some time around 12:30 a.m.

Here’s what Fairbanks looked like in June of 2007.  This first photo was taken around 12:10 a.m., and as I recall, Michele was still able to read in the car without a light on.

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And here I am just hanging out by the Alaska pipeline sporting shorts and flip flops…

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Then, we hit up Fairbanks this past December for a quick Christmas trip.  It was, um, a little different.  Then sun was rising around 12:30 p.m. and setting around 3:15 p.m.  And it was freezing!  Here’s some photos of how Fairbanks looked in the winter…

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So this time, it will be about as “normal” as you will get in Fairbanks.  The highs should be around 63 and the lows around 45.  And the sun will rise around 6:00 a.m. and set about 9:45 p.m.  But don’t you worry, we’ll take plenty of photos while we’re there.

And one last bit of fun from our trip we took in December.  Some video!  Enjoy…