Monday, September 29, 2008

It ain't all fun and games...

living in Alaska (although I'm sure my blog sounds like it is).

Although I've been officially "unemployed" for almost a month now, I have had an exhausting schedule. (Well, maybe not exhausting but I have been busy.) It takes a lot of time to gather stuff to pack, re-pack, try to ship and have the box over the weight limit so I have to tear through the tape and take stuff out, re-pack the box, pack some more, re-pack, try to ship and have the box over the weight limit so I have to tear through the tape and take stuff out, etc.

In fact, for the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about how I felt like Cool Hand Luke when he had to dig the dirt out of Boss' ditch, then move the dirt out of Boss' yard, then dig the dirt back out of Boss' ditch, etc. (Paul Newman -- you rocked and I loved your movies!)

Anyway, we shipped 40 or so boxes, each weighing 50-69.75 pounds. Meanwhile, Robin has been working at his normal speed (ultra-high gear) and his normal hours (plus another 5 or 10 each week). One of the recent projects he's been working on was the chip seal project, where they were laying down tar/chips/road stuff to make the road surface better and last longer.

One of the challenges with this is that the road temperature was supposed to be a minimum of 60 degrees, not an easy thing to have in this summer of 55 degrees. (They have a really neat temperature gun tool thingy for this and I want one!) The road surface was also supposed to be relatively dry. Again, never an easy thing in a rain forest.

It was really cool to see the barge come in with all the chips on it and see them offload the equipment.

Take a look at the pictures from the project.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Twists and turns

As usual, life in Alaska continues its unpredictableness. We changed our plans a bit and we're not moving to Biscayne after all. We're going someplace even better -- and even more remote (in many ways) than Gustavus!

Instead, we are headed to Dry Tortugas National Park, a tiny island 70 miles west of Key West. We get to live in a fort built in the 1800s. Part of the time, we will live in an apartment in Key West, where I can participate in the area's love/hate relationship with chickens (I would be on the "hate" side of that fence).

This is, however, contingent upon Robin's background check clearing. After 27 years with the park service and recently getting his security clearance from the Coast Guard, TSA and FBI, the park service has deemed that is not sufficient and that ~they~ need to do a background check on him. (My fingerprints from March never did clear -- I think they lost them.)

Anyway, lots of snorkeling, fishing and kayaking is still in our future ... only it will be on an island that is a 2 hour ride from the mainland instead of 15 minutes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top 10 tips for picking a good bucket

We plan to move only things that fit in our truck (plus the 30-odd boxes we've shipped). Obviously, we have had to scale down, thus our business at Robin's Retail and recent garage sale. We did a test-run on what we're packing in the truck. Robin insists on bringing some of his "favorite" buckets. So far, we have room for two.

Here is what I have learned about what makes a good bucket:
  1. Doesn't have any holes
  2. Can hold at least 150 pounds
  3. Has a locking lid
  4. Has a sturdy handle
  5. Has a watertight seal
  6. Can be used as a seat
  7. Doesn't stink and you can disinfect it
  8. Is raven-proof (Robin has a habit of leaving buckets with good bait or fish in them unattended)
  9. Are at least 15" tall
  10. Previously held chemicals known to be toxic to humans (chlorine, de-chlor and other fun chemicals Robin uses at work)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bizarre events in Southeast Alaska

Even though there are no stores and nowhere to go and not much to do here in remote Alaska, there is never a dull moment. Each day is an adventure. In typical Alaskan style, you never know what each day will hold, no matter how much planning you do. For example,
  • Ranger Rick: One day a couple of rangers stopped by looking for a few fillet knives and a work table. (Where else but Robin's Retail would they go?) Anyway, of course we had plenty of knives and plenty of work space. The rangers confiscated 9 halibut off some fishermen who were fishing in the park without a license. (They donated the meet to a local church.)
  • The Killing Fields: The annual moose hunt was Monday, all 6 hours of it. Yes, the moose season in Gustavus is literally 6 hours long, lasting from 6 a.m. to noon. Robin went out for a few hours of it but got tired of all the traffic. Hunters were tromping all over the place so he went home early. (I chose to sleep in.)
  • Graffitied Gustavus: One day driving to "town", we noticed that the local brown bear statue was no longer a brown bear. Someone had painted it into a panda bear! (It looked fantastic.) I wanted to get a picture before anyone repainted it. Robin wanted to wait till we were headed home, insisting it would be fine to wait. Of course, by the time we headed home about an hour later, the owner had already put a tarp over the graffitied statue, hiding it from view. It was repainted by the next day and was the talk of the town.
  • Fun fundraising: If a school wants to raise money, what else is there to do besides have a car wash on a Saturday morning? Well, same with the Gustavus school ... never mind that it is almost always raining, no one washes their car and it was ~really~ pouring that morning.
  • Armoral and aluminum: Putting Armoral on an aluminum skiff really is never a good idea, as one Sitka resident could attest -- if he was still alive. Unfortunately, one of our acquaintance's fondness for shining up his skiff was what led to his demise. (Another one of our acquaintances was the Coast Guard pilot taking part in the search.) Read the story.

UPS in a remote area

I ordered something recently that uses UPS as their delivery method. Normally, neither FedEx or UPS deliver in most areas of Alaska. Instead, they both send it to the Post Office and the Post Office forwards it on. This makes for some longer delivery times and some interesting delivery stories.

When the rain calmed down and I was finally able to check the status of my delivery, here is what the UPS site said:

"Your package has experienced an exception.

Your shipment is currently within the UPS network; however, an unforeseen event has occurred which could result in a change to the Scheduled Delivery Date.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The latest family crisis...

Is my brother, the skydiver. An experienced skydiver, he decided to take up base jumping a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it's tough to find a legal place to base jump, one being the bridge near Evel Knievel's jumping place near Twin Falls, ID (see my post on The road to hell runs through Idaho from my great road trip last summer).

If you can't find a legal place to practice your sport, you go to illegal places, such as a cell phone tower outside of St. Louis, MO (near my brother's home). Unfortunately, cell phone towers have power running through them, perhaps not the safest place to base jump (if there is such a thing as a safe base jumping place).

I'm sure you can tell where this is going.

Let me just say that my brother is one lucky SOB.

While base jumping off said cell phone tower, his chute deployed wrong and the wind sent him back into the tower's power lines. He was electrocuted, knocked unconcious and left hanging in the lines. Fortunately, he was basejumping with a buddy, who happened to have his cell phone on him (and obviously excellent cell phone reception), who called 911.

The resuce team, fire trucks, ambulance and helicopter arrived, taking at least 45 minutes to extricate my brother and transport him to the hospital. (Meanwhile, his buddy was arrested.)

Now, my brother is in the burn unit, having undergone surgery yesterday, awaiting skin grafts and recovering from his first of many surgeries. But, he's conscious, talking, heavily medicated and in a lot of pain.

In his drugged state, he did say that he is giving up basejumping (but not skydiving).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Robin's Retail

Robin's Retail was the place to be, with all sorts of stuff flying off the shelves.

We had a garage sale and what a crowd! But, where else in Gustavus can you buy such products as coffee makers (we had 3), battery-operated lanterns (we had at least 6), foot/pedicure spas (2) and many, many, many more multiples of all sorts of essential items no one should live without. (When I say "we", I mean pack-rat Robin!)

The great deals drew shoppers from up to 9 miles away, with literally wall-to-wall people. We had three $1 tables set up -- what a hit. At one point, there was even a traffic jam and people had to walk from two driveways away!

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and it was a (relatively) warm, (relatively) sunny day. By the end of it, shelves were bare and so were the tables.

See pictures of this big Gustavus event.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The next chapter

OK -- nobody can tell Robin's mom about this because we are gonna surprise her in person !!!

We are moving to Florida! Biscayne National Park, to be exact. We plan to live on Adams Key, a tiny island near Elliot Key about a 15-20 minute boat ride from the mainland.

Reportedly, everything on Adams Key was completely destroyed in 1992 by hurricane Andrew. In the 1800s, it also served as a base for the pirate "Black Caesar".

We'll have plenty of snorkeling, fishing in warm water, kayaking and lots, lots more fun stuff to do.

We booked our ferry and are on the southbound Malaspina, the same ferry where we met, on October 14.

IMPORTANT: Remember, nobody can tell Robin's mom about this!