Saturday, March 29, 2008

Professional Skier

Yesterday I got out skiing as I do most days, but I wanted to ski a little longer than usual. I had been waiting until all my errands were finished and going about an hour each day. Yesterday I made an effort to make sure I'd have enough time to ski for two hours (I started getting tired 90 minutes into it).

As I was enjoying myself in Kincaid Park I was thinking how I've become a professional skier. I'm being paid to sit on call, which means from the time I get the call I have two hours to get to the airport to fill in where they need me. But they haven't needed me all week and I've been skiing every day, so I must be a professional skier!

It has all the perks of being a professional athlete, minus the negative things like: steroids, pressure, groupies, training through the pain, pain in general, etc. And I never say I'm going to work out or train, I'm always "going skiing."

So as the days get warmer, the trails get worse. See if you can pick out the good from the bad trails below:

I really liked the warning sign to the right on this trail. It was supposed to warn of an upcoming downhill, but as you can see now serves a dual purpose.

A lot of what you see is dirt-ice. There is no traction on dirt-ice. Not good.

Here is a movie from a day later when I'm water-skiing:

So as I was skiing along I kept checking my cellphone to make sure I was in coverage. I was always at a couple bars except for a couple of valleys. To account for this I would rest at the top of the hills in order to see if I had missed any calls.

I got a call from my wife telling me that we had found renters for the summer for our house (HUGE relief!), so I was growing confident in my system.

It was all going so well until near the end of my two hours (around 3:20PM) I heard the dreaded beep which means I missed a call. I checked my messages and it turns out the company had called me 20 minutes ago! This is very bad as I'm supposed to return their call within 5 minutes or they treat it as though I didn't show up for work (a no-show I think they call it)! Very bad for a new hire on probation such as myself.

The company was very nice about it, she understood Anchorage has spotty cellphone coverage as long as I could make it to the airport by 5PM. I raced back to my car, threw the skiis into it and was driving out of the park in less than 20 minutes (now physically tired, emotionally panicked and sweating like a one armed ditch digger).

As I was leaving a mama moose decided that would be a good time to escort her calf across the road! I yelled out my window at her and she thought it best not to mess with the crazy car yelling at her.

I not only made it to the airport in time, but I was at the gate by 4:10! And that's WITH a shower!

Then of course, as is usually the case in my industry, I had to wait another 2 1/2 hours before we could take off. The passengers had been boarded and deplaned twice by the time my crew got there. Then the gate agents couldn't come up with the correct number of passengers once we had boarded. Three of them kept coming up with three different numbers. Once the circus was over and we got out of the gate everything else went smoothly.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Are you aware??

So this week I've been sitting around a lot as I haven't been called for a trip yet.

Here is a photo from my honeymoon last fall. I don't remember which harbor it is, do you know?

I enjoy biking a lot in the summer and have been involved in building and maintaning mountain bike trails back in Minnesota. I just bought a trail guide for anchorage and can't wait for June when the trails open up!

The following is from the forums (which I haven't been keeping up on through my winter of training: there were 10,500 unread posts when I logged on!):

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I think I like Hawaii : )

The way my trip works is we got into Lihue last night at about 8 PM and today we leave again for Seattle at 9 PM.

So last night I tried my first Mai Thai and it was mighty tasty. It was pretty fun night. Except for the locals who I asked about surfing and were convinced I needed $80/ hour lessons. They didn't seem interested in just renting me a board (I learned to surf when I was a teenager).

I wanted to stay up late so I'd sleep more today to prepare for the red eye back to Seattle. I didn't sleep as much as I wished, but I have managed to get one nap in.

When I woke this morning I ate my breakfast looking out at palm trees and a mountain while listening to Air's Moon Safari. Not a bad way to make a living.

I did manage a 5 mile hike along the beach today and I'll be posting pix later because the flowers here are gorgeous!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anchorage workout

Today I went x-country skiing for the third day in a row. The place where I'm staying (my crash-pad) is about a 5 minute drive from Kincaid Park.
Here is how it's described by some locals:

Kincaid Park
Accessible west on Raspberry Road or via the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Kincaid Park has 43 miles (69 km) of maintained trails throughout 1,400 acres (566 hectare). Runners World picked this park as one of the country's top 50 running trails. Kincaid Park is one of only two Nordic ski areas in the U.S. certified for international 5K, 10K, 15K, and 30K competition.

It's been really nice getting back on the skis (having not skied all winter). Today I had a big adrenaline rush by shooting down "little" niagara, an intense downhill, followed by my moose encounter. I looked to the side of the trail and there was a moose watching me from 15 yards away (they blend into the foliage pretty well). I slowly backed up and she went back to grazing.

I've been warned to stay away from these big ornery critters, and then my captain on tonight's flight shows me a video where he is feeding one an apple through his kitchen window!

Anchorage completed

Hello from Anchorage!

After 2400 miles in my Saturn two-door, I got in around 7PM Alaska time. The place I'm staying is nice, but I have 4 room-mates. 2 of them are only here a couple nights a month, but the rest of us are on call, so I expect we'll be here most of the time.

The drive went well today. No dead birds. Here's another picture of perspective:
When I got in last night the temps were OK, but this morning it was bitter cold. I put my camel-back in my car at the motel, went inside to eat, and 1/2 hour later the tube was frozen!
If I had realized it was going to get so cold I would have plugged in my oil and battery heaters overnight, but the mighty Saturn started anyways.

The road into Anchorage is really amazing cutting through the mountains. Almost my whole trip (probably 2200+ miles) was on two lane highway.
I felt a kind of relief getting back into the USA even though I still had 7 hours of driving left.
I really lucked out with the weather. If a person made that trip in a storm, it could take well over a week.

Here's a movie a couple hours out of Anchorage with some unintentional Verdi:

Anchorage drive drei

These are taken on the ALCAN

So I made it through the Yukon today to Destruction Bay (after two phone calls to Capital One to get the card working again. Later I will find out that they did attempt to call me when they turned off the card, but my phone doesn't have coverage outside the USA).

Destruction Bay is next to the biggest lake in the province which is letting out some eerie cracking sounds. No snow on the lake, but everywhere else.

Sorry, this one is sideways so you may have to adjust your seated position: P

Saw more moose and caribou today, but I'm not so good at imitating Allen's voice of rut so they won't come near me for a photo.

This morning I had pancakes and bacon before I left Dease Lake. I was in this all in one store with the locals. They were really nice. It reminded me of a doughnut shop I used to skip school to go hang out at in Stillwater.

I managed to takeout another bird today and this one left some bloody remnants on my hood (which stayed there for over 500 miles because none of the gas stations had any windshield cleaner. I finally wiped it off with some hot water on a paper towel from a men's room).

The drive went well. I started off in some snow this morning, but it wasn't too bad and only lasted a couple hours. Here's a video and a picture of my start:

The ALCAN feels a little too much like I-94 at times after being on the Cassier. But the scenery continues to impress.

I should only have 10 hours or so of driving tomorrow.

I brought some books on tape and the only one that I've really enjoyed is Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. I keep listening to this 30 hour novel, but I wish it was abridged because the story is good but meanders into dullness a lot.

Anchorage drive day deaux

This is the gas station at the start of the Cassier Highway

Today went pretty well. Got another 11 hours in. Same amount as yesterday, but each day I end a little sooner so less dangerous DDT, (dark driving time).

Tonight I am in Dease Lake, BC which is about 2/3 up the Cassier/ Highway 35.

As dusk came, there were 2 moose on the road, and a family of 5 caribou a little later on. I only hit one animal today, thankfully it was a little bird.

This road has been really fun and as you can see it's in pretty good shape. I love that it's very twisty and hilly for hours on end. Reminds me of New Zealand but I can't drive as fast because of pockets of ice and large animals. Still pretty fun.

My Capital One card decided to shut down (theft protection) so luckily I had enough loonies on me to get by for a while today (the only phone at the gas station where it was denied was a satellite phone).

If the weather keeps up I should be in Anchorage on Saturday afternoon.
Here's a little big of the scenery next to a big lake listening to Tom Petty:

Day one of Anchorage drive

I'm in Prince George at the Hi-way 97 motor inn. Today was a good drive.

There was some great scenery just north of the border.

Took some moving pix. Even tried out the helmet camera. I hope you don't mind the Rolling Stones in the background:

The only wildlife that got in my way was a coyote who thought it wise to run in front of me. She made it.

Tomorrow I'll be attempting the Cassier highway shortcut to shave a couple hours off of travel time. The truckers (OK, one trucker, but he was very enthusiastic!) I've been talking to all say it's in good shape.

One part is gravel, hopefully it's not slushy.