The road to work...

Frozen as it may be, it is the road that I must travel. Honestly, I didn't know that you were allowed to drive when there was ice on the streets! Ha! You think I'm kidding? Not at all! In the south, when it snows, the city officials, news broadcasters, and of course your mother, will beg you not to get out in your car! I, being a "good" little southern girl have pretty much followed those rules all of my life. I remember only one foolish attempt at driving after a freeze and that was a very short trip! During the other snow and ice storms I encountered I sat happily at home sipping hot chocolate, putting together a puzzle and making sure everyone was warm in the treacherous 32 degree weather! (By the way, it's 11 degrees tonight!)


In Alaska, you just slip and slide along until you reach your destination. No one even thinks about staying in, slowing down or using the snow or ice as a reason not to go. Much to my teen-agers dismay, the school buses keep arriving to pick up the kids and take them to school. Snow days -off are unheard of! They don't even believe in "delays" up here! Actually, it usually doesn't get any better throughout the day. There is almost always ice on the roads! Oh well..there is something to be said for keeping up the pace.







At least you don't have to sit up late, watching the last news broadcast, to see what counties have declared closings for schools. (Did you know there aren't any counties in AK?) Or get up early to see if there is a chance of a little patch of ice on an overpass somewhere in the area which would cause havoc and more tragedy than they are prepared for. In which case we should all just stay home!



I had no idea there was a part of the country that just slips and slides their way through the snow covered icy road on their usual journey. I for one have learned to be quite the slider. The first thing you learn is of course:


DO NOT HIT YOUR BRAKE!

Guess why??? Simply said, because you will not stop. You will just slide and probably end up in a sideways manner. At that point you are out of control... A scenario that I try to avoid!



There have been a few close calls where my heart stopped beating and I think that I forgot to breathe for a few seconds. Like, the first day that the temperatures rose up to right above freezing with several inches of snow on the ground. Snow, that beautiful white stuff begins to melt at that point, but quickly freezes with the very next cold breeze. That leaves you with nothing but a sheet of ice across what used to be known as the road! I thought the snow was tricky to drive on and just getting used to it too! Oh well, if I'm in for an adventure at least I am positive that I will not be disappointed!


As for intelligent, knowledgable or thoughtful tips on driving in the snow or on the ice? I have only one. Don't, not even for a second, think that the stuff beneath your tires, even if it just looks like snow mixed with the sand, is not slippery. Slippery enough to slide you right through to the medium, or the other side of the road, even when that is not where you were heading!


Frozen and Beautiful!

Winter in Alaska!

Winter is here and right outside my livingroom window! It really is a beautiful sight to look at and yes, it is such a peaceful scenery. The thing is...when you have somewhere to go and it is 6 below ZERO and you are used to 60 degrees in November, it is quite a transition! Walking out the door is really no big deal, the first minute or two is a piece of cake as well. Then, about the time you think you have this under control, your nose starts to feel extremely heavy as the frost sets in on the little hairs inside and the tips of your ears begin to feel tingly and a bit painful. You grab your scarf and pull it up around your chin and try to cover your mouth and nose, but it's really too late. The wonders of the cold have set in and now have every part of your extremities well aware of their predicament. At this point you have one of two options....head for the indoors, quickly I might add, or endure a great amount of frozen pain. For me, I head for cover-the closest heater vent or fireplace will do!!! It is soooo beautiful from behind a glass window isn't it?

Shake, Rattle & Roll!


Sitting in a fairly large conference room at the corporate office for the company I now work for in Alaska, we had been going through our workbooks diligently. There were eight of us gathered around a large group of tables all pushed together with two people sitting on each side. It was a variety of different people going through the company training class for new employees. Of course in that kind of group there is a wide range of ages, personalities and everyone with their own life story.


We had played a couple of ice breaker type games and learned some things about each other. It was amazing how diverse we all were. That is one thing that I will have to get used to up here. People have such varied backgrounds and history’s here. However, there was one young girl from the south like me! We didn’t have very much in common but we immediately connected when we began to talk about our love for southern football!!! We exchanged a hearty “Roll Tide” and laughed as everyone else seemed puzzled! It was a very warm moment for me and actually made my day even though it sounds very insignificant. It was a sweet feeling of home and I just don’t get too many of those these days!


About an hour into this meeting we are all getting settled and making a little progress in our workbooks. As I’m sitting with both hands on the table listening intently to our quite animated and interesting instructor, I am startled by the sudden movement of the table. Beneath both my arms the table began shaking and moving. I look to the corner in front of me and the large black cabinet that holds the electronics for the presentation is noticeably moving about on the floor and about that time I realize that I can hear the windows behind me rattling and shaking as well. I quickly look around, wide-eyed with expectancy of an explanation from someone in this room. Just then, the guy who is sitting to my left announces to us all in his very authoritative and knowledgable voice: EARTHQUAKE!


Wow! What an experience! As quickly as it had begun, the shaking stopped, and all was calm once more. Of course now, the room was buzzing with giggles and chatter about what had just happened. A few minutes passed and then our instructor lead us back on track and we all turned once again to our work books. Just like that, it came, it went and we moved on. In an unheard tone, under my breath so that only one could hear , I whispered a “thank-you”, knowing that in that instant life could have changed drastically for any or all of us sitting in that room that day.

Note: On August 20, 2009 @ 10:19 am (GMT-Alaska time) an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 was felt 31 miles away in Anchorage, AK.

Busy, Busy, Busy!





Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I haven’t updated my blog in months! I have been a little busy this summer with moving to Alaska and all though…give me a break won’t ya? I know I promised that I’d keep you updated and post pictures, so I’ve been writing in my head and snapping shots every chance I get….honest! I don’t have long but I thought I would post a few lines and some pictures and then go back to where I left off next time I post.



When we arrived in Alaska, we had just left a southern heat wave where we were facing 95 to 97 degree days for weeks with the heat index well into the 100’s. I was actually looking forward to the cooler temps. Even though people in Anchorage were sweltering with the mid 70’s they were getting I was feeling no pain! Shorts and flip flops were the going thing first of July. If only that had lasted a little while longer! By mid-month it was back in the usual summer 60’s with rain expected most days.



The rain is not anything like I’m used to here. In the south when it rains you can expect downpours, flash flooding and most of the time thunder and lightning. Up here, it just kind of drizzles. It doesn’t cause the temperatures to drop or an increase in humidity, it’s just wet.






The Alaskan Railroad

There is just something so romantic about trains. I don't know how to explain what or even why that is or is it just me?

As we drove along the Turnagin Arm, south of Anchorage, we were joined by an Alaskan cargo train.

This train intrigued me and I wanted to follow it to wherever it was going. We watched as it weaved in and out of the curves of the mountains.




We Stopped to take pictures when it ran beside us along the edge of the water.
We even had to pull over when we got too far ahead and almost missed that friendly wave from the engineer as he chugged along above us and then disappeared into the trees.
I wonder what he thought as he threw his hand up to give me a warm "hello" and if he realized that I had stood patiently on the edge of that narrow road for quite awhile, as the traffic hurried past us, just to get a closer look at him. (Here I am, as I wait intently, for the engineer)




Here you can see the cars for quite some distance being pulled along to some unknown destination. It reminds me of the storybook that I read countless times to my young boys years ago, "The caboose who got loose". They would sit and listen as I told about Katy the caboose and her adventures with such wide eyes. Sometimes it seemed that I could almost hear the little wheels (of their minds) spinning. Such an adventure, and in my book, quite romantic. 

        

Moose on the Loose!!!

One of the most intriguing things about Alaska is of course the wildlife. It was amazing to me how everyone just accepts the fact that there are moose grazing on the side of the road and even signs reminding you that they are in the area. The possibility of finding a bear in your trash can is a common incident as well! Now, that was something that I hoped I did not encounter, but obviously some friends were having trouble with in their neighborhood. The family had to order a special trash container from the city that is "bear proof". I really wanted to go and take a picture of this special container but I felt I might be pushing the tourist thing just a little on that one! (I could just picture my very gracious host rolling his eyes at that request!)

I did, however look out my car window as we pulled up to a stop sign and find a moose grazing right there not 10 feet away! He didn't seem to mind the noise of the traffic and none of the drivers seemed to care or even notice him. I wasn't quick enough to get a picture before the light turned green, but the next time I spotted one off the road we did a u-turn and went back for the shot.


Here's another shot of a moose who is making himself at home in a well populated neighborhood, helping himself to breakfast! Now, that's a big moose!



Here in B'ham we get all excited when we see a wild rabbit, possum and especially a deer!
It really is a "Big Wild Life" there...

Yes! It is Beautiful

The one question everyone wanted to know, “was it as beautiful as everyone says?” Of course it is! It’s Alaska isn’t it?


In Anchorage there are mountains on every side and everywhere you look. In the middle of spring there is still snow covering the very tops of everything that I could see. Yes, even I, the "southern girl" loved it!


The air was clean, fresh and always cold, but the sun was warm and always up! I didn’t see the sun set during my stay, however I was assured that it did go down while I wasn't watching.


The snow at the tops of the mountains were busy melting in the warm sun causing lots of small waterfalls along the bottom half. Actually, the melt down can cause some flooding problems in areas, but most of that was cleared up before my visit in May.







Oh, YES! Breathtakingly beautiful!



Avalanche!



















Driving south along the winding road that lay at the foot of beautiful snow capped mountains on one side and the edge of the waterway on the other, about 15 miles south of Portage, we are detoured at the entrance of a tunnel and the road is closed. The tunnel’s opening is visible and open, but obviously something is going on at the other side. We pull off into an off road parking area to get a better look.



We watch as a small red helicopter takes off from his perch barely hanging on the side of the mountain. As he comes and goes we can make out a long line that has been attached underneath and we assume he will be carrying something from within that tunnel very soon. He seemed to be working busily, but whatever his task at hand it seemed to be moving quite slowly!


















 


Later we stop for coffee and hear conversation between tourists about the incident. It seems that in late March an avalanche crashed upon a 64 car Alaskan cargo train burying with snow at least 10 of its cars. It was mostly carrying building supplies and none of the 3 train crew were hurt. A second avalanche the very next day hit the Whittier tunnel that we were now unable to pass through because it remains closed 6 weeks later!

The long long ride...

The average person may not realize this, I know I didn't until I was forced to come face to face with hard cold facts of reality: there is no easy way to get to Alaska! From Birmingham I have to take 3 different airplanes with a total of over 3,000 miles of flying and no less than a 12 hour day. Exhausting to say the least!


Along the way I encountered so many different people all going so many different places until I made my way to my last boarding gate to Anchorage Alaska. This group of people were much more focused than the tourists and vacationers that I had stood beside earlier in the day. These travelers understood the long ride ahead of them and for everyone on that plane, this was the final destination. There was no connection to be made or a next stop.

There was no causal dress of tank tops with hopes of warm weather, shorts or even sandals. Most of these travelers were on their way home it seems to that "Big Wild Life" in Alaska. It was almost calming to me to feel their sense of peace to be on their way home after their visits to the lower 48. I was not sure what to expect and this was definitely uncharted territory for me!


At the end of an extremely long and draining day of hustle and bustle, I found myself exiting the plane into a very warm and inviting airport. Maybe the most interesting and prettiest that I have ever visited. The walls were laden with so much history, harvested animals were displayed in glass cases and even an airplane hung from the ceiling. It was immediately apparent of the deep pride and sense of satisfaction in the rich heritage of the Alaskan people.


I wish that I had taken the time to get more photo's at the airport. It almost seemed like I was in a museum. Instead, I rushed off to meet my friends, and they whisked me away into the daylight, even though it was after 10 o'clock at night! (That would be
1:00 am in Birmingham!)

So, my childhood sweetheart looks me up...

So, my childhood sweetheart looks me up after 30 years and he lives in Alaska! From the moment I hear myself say his name again I am taken back to a time when fairy tales really can come true. To a time when nothing can keep you from making dreams become a substance that is tangible, exploding with life and everything you imagined they would be. You know, those days when life was a clean slate and we were so innocent and oblivious to the games, to the disappointment, to the sound of dreams shattering…

After a rendezvous in the south that seemed to pick up exactly where we left off at seventeen years old, I’m invited to Alaska! You might be one of the many who have always hoped to visit that magical place of snow capped mountains, rugged tourain with mysterious tales lingering along every path and rumors of gold in every town. This girl? No! I have never had a thought of going to the coldest state in the nation! Why the heck do you think I live in Alabama??
Determined to see my prince charming though….off I go!

Once upon a time...

Once in a lifetime your knight in shining armor
is your very first love.

Once upon a time you thought
he’d always be waiting.

What should have been,
could have been,
but wasn’t.

Not very often,
but sometimes,
he comes back for you…