How exciting and satisfying to finally be able to do this… Now let’s keep our fingers crossed!!

Go Barack!!

Go Barack!!

I do have one question, though. What exactly is the Boston Tea Party’s platform?

Advertisements

Here in Alaska, everybody goes to Costco. Going for the Big Stockup seems to be the way that people like to buy groceries up here. Maybe it’s like that in the rest of the country and we just don’t know it. After all, we do live with that Old Town Fort Collins mindset, which is a little different than in some places. Anyway, there are actually two (2) Costco stores in Anchorage, and recently, Dan made his first trip to the Big Daddy of big box grocery stores.

He and Eric hitched up their bike trailers and rode to the store. When they got there, Eric put Dan onto his Costco Gold Club Card Membership, (you’re not even allowed into the store without showing your card) and off they went on their spending spree. Of course, Eric, being the Costco veteran was not nearly as overwhelmed by the experience as Dan, who was completely taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the place. It literally is the size of a warehouse, or a jet hanger that could house a handful of 747’s, and not just full of food, but homewares, electronics, big screen TV’s… just about everything the modern person would ever need. It’s really the biggest retail store that Dan has ever set foot in, with long aisles, and high metal shelving that it stacked with industrial/bulk sizes of EVERYTHING. Need black beans? Buy 12 cans to a box. Need eggs? buy five (5) dozen. Need cheese? Buy it in 5 lb. blocks. Or bigger. Need pasta? Buy 8 bags at a time. (Dan was REALLY excited about this one!)

Since TV’s weren’t on the shopping list, the pair headed straight for the food still wearing their bike helmets and clacking on the hard polished concrete floor in their cleated cycling shoes. Dan immediately got lost while getting a sample of pesto on a cracker and tried to text message Eric to see where he was, but soon found him as he went for a little mini pizza sample. You’re starting to get the idea- free samples everywhere!

In short time, Dan and Eric piled their shopping cart as high as they could with all kinds of goodies in large quantities, and proceeded to the checkout. The total bill: $247. Not bad considering the vast quantity of food they bought and the fact that it was to feed three people for hopefully an entire month, or at least some fraction thereof. They wheeled the cart out to their waiting bicycles and, much to the amazement of themselves and a few mildly curious onlookers, packed it into two Yakima Big Tow Trailers (no longer manufactured) and rode home to show Amy their take.

One note- in the world of Big Box chain stores, Costco pays its employees a much higher hourly wage than walmart or sams club, and gives them health benefits and retirement plans. The effects of this are easily seen throughout the store; all the employees are polite and helpful, dress neatly and obviously take pride in their jobs. In fact, Costco’s CEO Jim Sinegal is an outspoken proponent of raising the Federal Minimum Wage. He’s the REAL maverick.

Read the Washington Post Article.

Of course, we still have to go to the store on a regular basis to buy fresh vegetables, so in some ways, it might seem a little silly, but if you’re going to buy cheese, beans and pesto anyway, you might as well get it in massive quantities, which is definitely cheaper in the long run. And besides, that’s just the way they do it up here.

The other night, Dan took part in a game of Bicycle Polo with some of Eric’s friends. Played down on the Park Strip at sunset on Friday evenings after work in the fall, essentially, Bicycle Polo is just like real polo. Ok, so it’s not exactly like regular polo, because regular polo doesn’t involve Wiffle™ bats, a Wiffle™ ball, or pedaling your bike, (cruisers and fat tire bikes preferred) in low gear like crazy across a wet field while trying to avoid (or cause) collisions with other players who may or may not actually have control of the ball.

Of course, “control of the ball” really just means whoever is closest to hitting the ball as it rolls near or under their bike, which is not always very easy, especially to a Bike Polo novice like Dan. You quickly find out why plastic Wiffle™ bats make much more sense than wooden mallets after you bash your bike, yourself or other players with the bat as you ride around the field frantically with one hand.

The only real rule, is that you cannot hit the ball unless you’re on your bike with both feet on the pedals. After all, it’s Bicycle Polo, not Standing On or Next to Your Bike Polo.

The final score? Let’s just say that the team that Dan was on got schooled. Big Time.





To celebrate Eric’s 32nd birthday, we had our first snowfall in town on Monday evening. Only a couple of inches, but it stuck on the ground overnight and hung around almost all day where it didn’t get direct sunlight. And as I write this, I’m looking outside my office window at more white fluries steadily coming down from the sky. Since it was 26-degrees this morning, my guess is that it probably won’t melt anytime today. I guess this means that winter is just around the corner.

A few miles east of us, the Chugach Mountains are getting even more snow and they’re almost completely covered in white above 4,000 feet.

First snowfall at the house!

First snowfall at the house!

Last Sunday, Amy had her first full day off since she started working her two jobs, so we had a chance to get outside and enjoy the great Alaska outdoors for the first time since moving here. We spent the day hiking in the Chugach Mountains with our new housemate Eric.

Dan's two favorite people: Amy and Eric

Parking at the Glen Alps Trailhead, the three of us hiked up and over the ridge below Little O’Malley Peak, across a large flat expanse called The Football Field, and over to a pass that leads down towards the Willowah Lakes. Although it’s just outside of Anchorage, and quite low in elevation, compared to Colorado, the terrain here is pure alpine and it is as ruggedly beautiful and appealing as any mountain area. The accessibility to this kind of terrain is quite literally one of the main reasons that we moved up here.

As is easily discernible by the photos, the snow has started to fall here at the higher elevations. Although we’ve had none in down in town yet, the tops of the peaks have received a healthy dusting and we were easily tromping through five or six inches during our hike. Although by the date, Fall has just started here, in reality, it has been in full swing for weeks, which means that winter is not far off. It’s actually been in the 30’s some mornings, but it seems as if the wet weather is finally behind us. As of late, the sun has been out every day and we’ve seen some really beautiful sunsets over Cook Inlet.

Of course, being Autumn, means that the moose are getting more ornery and more grumpy, especially the males. We saw three moose right at the beginning of the hike, and then as we were hiking back down a long valley on the way back, we came across three more, including one particularly large male with a rather big rack who startled us as we came around a corner.

We immediately turned around and backtracked, but he kept following us up the trail, so we did the smart thing. We ran away.

The moose was very uncooperative, and we were forced to take a rather wet moose detour through a wet, boggy patch of tundra, and at one point, Amy went up to her thigh in mud. Dan was about to ready his camera for what surely have been a great show, but then Amy called out, “Hey guys, I’m stuck!” so Dan did the chivalrous thing and helped her out of the mud, while a young male with tiny antlers eyed us with his ears back. In return, Amy later promised to get caught again in mud another time so that Dan can get the shot.

Eventually, we made it safely back to the trail, and when we climbed back up the valley to the trailhead, we were greeted with an amazing view of Alaska’s Big Three: Denali, Foraker and Hunter, the three tallest mountains in the Alaska Range. It’s not often when you get such a clear view of them all the way from Anchorage, but when you do, you can see just how impressively massive Denali is.

Foraker, Hunter, Denali.)

From left to right: Foraker (17,400'), Hunter (14,573), Denali (20,320')

As we’re finding, mountain biking in Alaska is a little different than it is in Colorado. For one thing, the main obstacles are not jagged rocks and sand, they’re puddles and wet tree roots that crisscross many of the trails. Hitting a wet rood the wrong way can send you down pretty quickly as Amy quickly discovered, as can wet leaves on the paved bike trail, as Dan found out, quite painfully. Both of us are now sporting large bruises on our hips- Dan left side, Amy right.

Last week, Eric led us on a couple of mountain bike tours around the Anchorage trails. Many good ones lie in the forests right in the city limits, and even more just in the parks at the edge of town. With fall in full swing here, the scenery is beautiful, and the hillsides are covered with changing aspens. As of right now, it’s even still light until about 8:30pm, which gives enough to ride after work, although with each passing week, the sunlight hours will diminish.

On our way back to Eric’s house after the first day, we saw a big mama moose and her two youngsters foraging in the woods about thirty feet off the bike path. So far that brings our moose count up to 4.

Except for yesterday, it has rained at least some ever day that we’ve been here, but that hasn’t stopped us from running or biking when we feel like it. We’ve seen actual sun and blue sky a few times, and a couple of really gorgeous sunsets.

Yep, that’s her new title.

Taking her first foray into the private sector, Amy started her new full time job this morning at an executive search firm right in downtown Anchorage. Funny thing was, she hadn’t exactly applied there.

She’d sent her resume up a few weeks ago, and when we got to Alaska, she went for an interview. The company was so impressed with Amy’s skills and personality, that instead of trying to farm her out to another employer, they offered her a job!

The pay is quite good, and more importantly, she really likes the job. Her duties revolve around researching potential candidates for employers- doing background checks, calling references, researching stated degrees and past employment, and then writing final profiles that will be passed on to the clients, who are the potential employers. Amy likes her new coworkers and she is thrilled about working in a highly professional company work environment. (Read: No more school district politics.)

She’ll continue to work Saturdays and some Sundays at The Sport Shop, at least through the fall. Gotta get those pro deals, right!

Now if we could only find a place to live- we’re still crashing in Eric’s basement and existing with the minimal amount of clothing and personal items.

Anchorage has a great system of paved bike trails that weave around the city, including a 12 mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It begins right downtown and passes through the marshes, mudflats, forest and cliffs right at the water’s edge along the Cook Inlet. In the winter, the bike trails are used as cross country ski trails, and not only are they popular exercise trails, they are extremely useful for just getting around Anchorage on your bike, since riding on the street means navigating lots of traffic. In the non winter months, the trails are always full of bikers, walkers, runners and cross country skiers training on their roller skis.

About halfway down, the coastal trail passes right by one of the runways at the Anchorage International Airport. It’s one of the busiest airports on the Pacific Rim, and you can watch the planes come in one after another as they prepare to land. The trail is so close to the runway, that if you stand in the right spot, the jets are only about 100-feet over your head right before they cross over the fence and touch down. It’s really impressive, and quite exciting to watch, especially the 747’s, which are huge, and very loud!

Another fun feature on the coastal trail is the planet walk. Small displays that feature models of the sun and all nine planets are spaced in relative size and distance from each other, starting with the sun, right downtown, with Mercury, Venus and Earth within a few blocks of each other, and Pluto 12 miles away at the other end of the trail.

The other day, we rode our bikes along the trail and of course giggled when we passed Uranus. “Hey look, there’s…” We didn’t quite make it to Pluto, because we had to turn around when we came upon a moose standing on the middle of the bike path. She was drinking water from one of the rain puddles on the trail. Moose are apparently a pretty common sight on the trails, and they always get the right of way.

Wasting very little time, Amy found herself gainful employment within twenty four hours of our arrival in Anchorage. Our first morning in town, we drove straight to The Sport Shop, a store that sells active/outdoor clothing for women. The owner, who is one of Dan’s clients, hired her right on the spot. The job will be part time and thus will allow Amy to continue to look for additional work in the legal and or research fields. As some of our friends can attest, working outdoor retail can be an important rite of passage and a great way to get gear discounts, however, it does have its limitations.

She starts Friday at noon after yet another job interview that she already has lined up. Go Amy!

Now we just need to find a place to live…

 

We camped in our reclining plastic chairs on the deck of the M/V Columbia, the largest of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry boats, and enjoyed spectacular views and clear weather for two out of three days on our trip up the Inside Passage. Amy described it as a cross between camping and begin on a cruise ship. We met a few interesting folks, watched a couple of movies and heard some fascinating nature lectures by a young forest ranger who looked a lot like our friend Jonas and sounded just like our other friend Darrin. What an interesting mix, we thought, especially since Jonas and Darrin are such good friends themselves.

The entire journey took 65 hours, during which time we stopped in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburgh and Juneau, and our final destination, Haines, where Sampa, Amy and the Toyota all entered Alaska for the very first time. From there, it was a long, but very beautiful two day drive across Northern BC, Southern Yukon, and Eastern Alaska, across expanses of broad valleys full of tundra and aspen forests, all of which were in full autumn color. We saw very few pine trees in this part of Canada, and learned that millions of trees here have also been decimated by the pine beetles. Entire forests have been wiped out, and after talking with a local man about the matter, we learned that recent variations in winter temperatures have very little to do with the infestations, as we have been told are the reasons back in Colorado. Any comments on this from our forestry friends?

So here we are now, living in our friend Eric’s basement in Anchorage, Alaska, and asking ourselves the burning question:

“Now what?” 

Therein lies our adventure, since we really have no idea what will happen as we begin our life up here, although I have a pretty good feeling that there are lots of pictures to take, and a great rewarding job to be found for Amy.

We’ll keep you posted.

Quick note from Sampa:

“Although I weathered the weeklong trip like a true adventure kitty, I am VERY happy to be out of the truck.

“Meow.”