Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Story

Well, Paco & I have survived our first Christmas alone. Wasn't all that bad, after all, Christmas is just a day on the calender. One thing that I did miss was a real home made turkey dinner with the works...sorry Marie Callender, your turkey w/stuffing & gravy just didn't cut it....not to mention the lack of cranberries!
Christmas Eve, Martina & I went out looking for a place to have dinner. Was rather difficult because most places closed between 4 and 5pm (another reminder that this is a "small" town), but we did find a buffet that was open....a Chinese buffet. We had our laugh (far-a-rar-a-ra- ra-ra--------if you haven't see A Christmas Story yet, I highly recommend it. It's hilarious) So, for our Christmas dinner we had sushi, various stir fries (sweet&sour, teriyaki, etc) with great steamed rice, crab legs, mussels, baked salmon. Was all pretty good.
Another tie in to the movie....I got PJ's for Christmas, I would have died laughing had they had little rabbits on the, but they didn't, they had little sheep. :)
Needless to say, this will be a Christmas I won't forget for a while.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Back on the 20th, even though it was close to zero, I had one of the most fun times in a long time, I went mushing! It was an absolute blast. It was amazing to see the size of dogs (lots smaller than I'd expected) and how strong they are, they must be all muscle!
The fun began even before we got on the
sleds, you see, as the dogs were added one by one, the dog's excitement grew. By the time that both teams were on their appropriate lines all the dogs were barking & howling. Even more amazing was the fact that both teams (6-7 dogs each team) were temporarily tied to a large truck (somthinge like a F150, no rinky dink Nissan or Honda truck) and these seemingly little skinny dogs were about to take off with the truck in tow! I regret not taking any movies of the truck rocking forward as both teams tried to go before we were ready to go!
During the ride, Kathy (the musher) explained the directions she was giving the dogs.....if I remember right, "haw" means left & "gee" means right.
Once we were out on a meadow, our musher's let Martina & I trade places with them! They gave us a VERY quick run down as to what was what (the most important one, the break!), after that we actually got to "drive" the team.....well, not actually, it was more like hanging on for dear life when you don't know what to expect! Kathy actually called out to the dogs and directed them while I was standing on the runners. The picture you see of me, Kathy actually turned around in the sled and took it while we were moving, she even leaned out to get a picture of Martina driving her sled. At one point she asked me if I was still there, she said that in the past, she has had people fall off and not hollered at her that they had fallen off (I guess out of embarrassment). Come to think of it, I bet it made things a tad bit difficult for her being in the sled with no access to the break to get the dogs to stop....I've read that getting the team going is the easy part, the hard part is getting them to stop! Kathy even told me that there has been several times where her dogs have broke loose of the sled and had drug her several miles (she said "I was being drug on my side and cussed the whole way").
At the end of the ride, the only thing on me that was cold was my toes...I should have worn thicker socks! They had nice warm Yurt for us to warm up in. It was amazing how warm this "round tent" was, even with a 1-1.5 inch gap under the door!
If anyone is in an environment where they can go mushing, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I saw the light!!

Hallelujah, I saw them!!! I saw the Aurora Borealis!
Work had called wanting me to work an extra 4 hours, even through I really wanted to go to bed early, I said yes because I want to have some extra $$ for when I go to Nome. They wanted me to stay another 8, but I'd been up since 0630 and had a very short nap from about 3 to 4:30 there was no way I'd last a full shift.
After I got off work, I decided to go to the grocery store that I knew was open 24/7. On my way home I decided to try a different street to get home. It turned out to be a residential area, and because my sense of direction is soooooo screwed up here, I ended getting myself lost. While I was in the process of trying to find my way back to the main road, I noticed something in the sky. At first I passed it off as low lying clouds that were reflecting street lamps, then it dawned on me:
#1 when Martina & I left work we looked at the sky and saw the stars
#2 the color was wrong for the street lamps that they use here in Fairbanks (the orangy colored ones, this was greenish white)
#3 I don't think that Fairbanks is big enough to have that large of an effect on even low lying clouds
And that was when it dawned on me,
It's the Northern Lights!
Somehow I managed to find my way back out (wasn't too bad, lots of people had their Christmas lights up, so I was enjoying those) got home, grabbed my big camera and the instruction book of it, the tripod that I had purchased two weeks ago and headed out to a fairly dark parking lot that I saw when I was coming home.
I get out to the parking lot, get the instruction book out, find the page that tells you how to do prolonged exposure, did the settings it told me and tried to take a picture....nothing happened. Went through the whole thing a second time, and then nothing...I don't know how many times I tried the settings and nothing happened. At some point, it did take a picture, but that was when I had the light on in the car. It was at this point that I rolled the window down and used the window to steady the camera, obviously it wasn't steady enough and I was getting to the point of chucking the camera into the Chena River (it's open at this point because to the power plant that is about 1/2 mile up stream). I decided to grab my baby Cannon and see what it could do. I could actually see the lights on the screen but not on the actual photos, but I decided to wait and see if they would show up on the computer....no such luck.
After using the little Cannon Powershot that I've got, I decided to try the Rebel again. Not too hard to cool down when you are standing in the dark when it's about -10. When I picked up the camera, it dawned on me that MAYBE I need to turn off the auto focus and viola, it was working. I was happy now, but the lights had dimmed quite a bit so I waited a couple minutes and they brightened up. I get out of the car, and realize, I have no clue how to get my camera attached to the tripod! So, now I'm fighting the tripod, on the verge of cussing, again. Then things slip into place and I finally get 3 pictures on the tripod before the lights get too dim for the settings that I some how managed to get.
I'm very happy with the pictures I got. Now I want to see the other colors that can show....like purple & red!
Lessons learned:
1.Read the instruction book!!!!
2.Make sure there is plenty of gas in the car
3.Always were long underwear!!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

It's a Tropical Heat Wave!!!!!

Could 21 above zero ever be considered warm?
You bet your sweet bucket it is!
Never in a million years would I think that I would ever consider 21 above warm.
Though, then again, I've never thought that I'd experience -39 either.
When I arrived in Fairbanks, just a hair over two weeks ago, when I stepped out of the airport most of the signs ranged from -28 to -40 (I've wondered if there is a competition to see who can register the lowest temp). And it stayed that cold for almost a week. We had a gradual warm up and the highs would hover around -20 to -10 for the next week. Then we finally warmed up really good on 12/4...the official temp was 21 above, though, it was my understanding that a lot of the signs in town were saying 26 to 28 above.
So, when you look at the temp difference from when I arrived and from yesterday...that is a temp difference of anywhere between 50 & 70 degrees difference!!!!! (depending on who you want to believe!)
So, in my book, that would make 21 above, warm.
I mean, heck, you all back in Missouri would be breaking out the shorts & flip flops if it had been 10 above and then it hit 60 or 70, right?

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Which would you rather have....single digit temps and lower, or an inch of ice and maybe no heat?

HHHMMMMM....I really don't have to think about that one! Would rather have the low temps! All that ice is more dangerous than the low temps. Not to mention that I absolutely HATE driving on ice!
We got a little snow here in Fairbanks also, but not much. Everyone here tells me that we are behind in snowfall and when I told them of what was going on in the Midwest, they said that you all were getting our snow!!! I'm sure many people would be more than happy to send it this way!!
I just read something on the net that Amerun UE (the electric company that serves most of the southern halves of Illinois & Missouri) is reporting that 520,000 customers are without electricity. Sounds like a repeat of almost 6 months ago where 1 million + were without power for a minimum of 3 days after two powerful sets of thunderstorms rolled through.

The above pictures are from:

I found several pictures I'd love to post, but I'd have to shell out ~$8 @ to the Post Dispatch to buy them...will describe some.

1. Someone cleaning up a downed tree due to the ice....they had on the basics:coat with a hood & gloves, and then had a face mask on. All I can say is "Wuss!!!!" (the temps was somewhere around 30--again WUSS!)

2. Someone shoveling their driveway in flipflops & shorts. O.k.....can we say "Stupid?!"

Well, it's about 1:30 am, no longer snowing. I guess I should get to bed for I want to get up and take some pictures of the thick coating of frost on everything around here when the sun is coming up...that is about 10:22 am... will have about 4 1/2 hours of light......by 12/22, will be down to 3 hours and 42 minutes.