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Dale and I are looking into getting a second vehicle*. We’re tearing down an old moldy shed and an outdoor set of stairs, this summer, and we’re doing work on the house, and we’re still in Furniture Acquisition Mode, so one thought is a [small!] pickup truck with 4-wheel drive. On the other hand, gas is $4.50 a gallon and probably not going down soon, so the other thought is “something fuel efficient.” (There’s not anything fuel efficient with 4WD/AWD, so that’s a down side. Recall that Alaska doesn’t believe in plowing down to pavement in winter. And, although the biggest hills are avoidable, it turns out we need 4WD to pull into our driveway from our unplowed alley.)

I’ve always loved little pickup trucks—you know, like Nissan and Toyota used to make—and we’d actually use its hauling capabilities, at least until our house is closer to done**. So I guess I’m leaning that way, a bit. I don’t know if you can buy pickup trucks that tiny, new. I also know that, if you want 4WD, your pickup truck options are a bit limited.

This is where, if you have advice for us, we’d love to hear it. New/Used, specific dealers to try/avoid, whatever. So… thoughts?

*We work in opposite directions from where we live. Normally, it’s not a big deal: one of us drops the other off (which wastes gas and time, but not a whole bunch of either). But he had an 8am meeting and an 8:30am-but-far-away meeting, last week, with more of them coming up soon, and there was no way he was going to get me to work in time to make those meetings; I also work Wednesday nights, which means I go in after lunch on Wednesdays. Which is fine, as long as he can leave work part-way through the day (we eat lunch together); sometimes he has 1pm meetings, which means I’m at work earlier than I want to be and he’s rushed to get back. Also, his work is going to move onto Base, before too long, which is going to limit his ability to leave part-way through the day. I can bus, but it only runs once per hour, and I’m unwilling to take the bus (which is full of sick people all winter) when I’m fighting bronchitis, which feels constant, lately. In the summer, I can bike, but I don’t have the skills, the gear, or the constitution to do that in winter.

**Projects: tearing down the shed (that moldy stuff is NOT going in the back of the Subaru, or any enclosed vehicle), buying or building a new shed in a different part of the yard, tearing down the back stairs, tearing down the front stairs, bringing replacement materials for the stairs home, replacing the gutters, bringing materials home to build a duck house and duck fence, tearing out and replacing the white picket fence, framing and putting up “pink board” in the basement (for insulation), putting up drywall in the basement, bringing home furniture, and various gardening/tree-planting/tree-removing shenanigans.

We have Alaskan license plates on George, now. I feel all self-reliant for getting the self-tapping screws in the right place and managing to drive them in with a Gerber tool, since we didn’t have a front plate in PA. Woot! I’d still like to come up with a vanity plate word/phrase, so that I can get the prettier plates with the Big Dipper and caribou, but that’s for the future.

Our tickets are purchased for the flights to and from Boston (sans Ella’s $100, which they charge on the day of), so Dale and Ella will get here on the 23rd of January. We might go home and nap and then go hang out with people, assuming either of us is conscious enough to drive. He can start meeting folks right away! And someone brought up the idea of having a welcome dinner for him, which I think might be fun.

In other news, we’ve almost paid off the credit cards from all of this moving stuff–by the time Dale gets his last paycheck, we’ll be at zero on that. His rent was almost the same as my student loan payment will be, so I think our finances will balance, even if it takes him a while to find work. We’ll have to stay in the 1-bedroom (or move to a 2-br within the same too-noisy-for-the-birds building) and go without some of the furniture and kitchen things we might like to have, but it’ll all be OK.

Oh, and I have a couple of friends who aren’t going anywhere for Christmas, so I think the three of us will hang out on the day itself, after I’ve done my Skyping with Connecticut family and calling Virginia family. Plus, there’ll be a friendsy shindig on the 26th, as well, with either wassail or East India Company Official Punch (I might have that name wrong) and all sorts of leftover Christmas treats. Fun times!

So, lots of good stuff coming up. And now I’ve got to put in some time making things, so I can send them out as presents. :)

… but I wasn’t really going out on a limb, was I?

Anyway, I have this humongous backlog of photos to share. I think I named them in reverse-chronological order, meaning the “2” or “3” was taken before the “1” on most of them, for those who bother mousing over and looking at photo names. (I do try to make relatively helpful names, or at least ones that amuse me. I mean, a lot of my photos are of snowy mountains, sure, but if there’s some point to the photo, other than “Look at these huge freaking mountains,” I try to put it in the name.)

I took a couple of photos as I was driving through midtown on Thanksgiving; driving in snow that thick is kind of a freaky experience, but it went fine. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’ve been up toward Wasilla, now, though I haven’t driven through the town itself. My boss invited me along to Thanksgiving dinner, which was really nice of him. Everyone was super friendly, and the food was awesome. (And now back to roads — maybe I should have called this blog “Driving in Alaska.”) Driving back down the Glenn Highway that night was a little scary, because, while large parts of it are lit, not all of it is; visibility got low, at times. And given how many cars we’d seen flipped over on the way up, I was–I think understandably–cautious. But I made it home without even going all that miserably slow, except for a few minutes when I got stuck behind a car going 35-45mph. I’m chicken when it comes to changing lanes in weather, but I got over it to get past that guy. :)

I think 70 miles of highway driving was good for the car’s engine; my gas mileage has been up since then.

Anyway, as you can see, I have pictures from before and after Thanksgiving, and quite a few of them show not-too-miserable roads. The before pics show good roads due to heavy use; we wore the snow and ice down to pavement over a couple of weeks. The after pics have good roads due to plowing, because however much snow we got the night before Thanksgiving is clearly beyond the limit at which they plow. (You can get a rough idea from the photo I took of my car the next morning, keeping in mind I’d brushed it off 1/3 of the way through the storm. Also, yeah, I doctored the photo really poorly to hide where I park in the morning, because I’m paranoid. :D) Unfortunately, my picture of the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm didn’t come out all that well; you can’t really see the snow, but the windshield is obviously wet (what’s not obvious is that I took the picture right after the wiper swooshed–it was snowing that fast).

Other photos: I went out to look at the duck pond, now that it’s iced and snowed over. I only saw two ducks, and they didn’t stick around to be fed. (Note the “Thin Ice” sign, the clearly-still-flowing water-over-rocks photo, and the footprints out on the water/ice. People are amazing.) I took a picture of my office, now that I have lights up; don’t bother clicking it, since it’s all blurry–it’s probably a better-looking photo in thumbnail size. :) And I got pictures of those ice lines I was talking about, forming on the inside of the windshield. I don’t know if you’ll be able to parse the picture, not having seen them, but it was the best I could do.

Anyone following the drama of the windshield crack will notice from some of the photos that it’s gotten bigger. But it’s not growing all that quickly; I’m not too worried about it. I think I’ve seen a crack all the way across someone’s windshield nearly every day, up here, which makes my windshield crack look really piddly by comparison.

Oh, and, finally, I took pictures on my way into work this morning. Those photos are from right around 9:15am. It’s now 4pm, and it’s almost as dark as it was when I took those photos. Apparently the four days we took off for Thanksgiving made quite a difference in the amount of daylight we get. Or, you know, it could have been overcast all day. :P

I had a fairly eventful weekend. Friday night was spent baking up a storm (and washing my cheese grater after several incidents–this, by the way, is why I claim to need a Cuisinart), Saturday was spent celebrating a friend’s birthday (the carrot cake and macaroni & cheese were both well liked [and Coral-free]), and Sunday was spent alternately cleaning the kitchen and nursing a headache. (I wasn’t irresponsible on Saturday night, beyond staying out way too late. But I’m too old to stay out way too late and not pay for it the following day[s].)

In a very Alaskan turn of events, I pulled up in front of my friends’ house on Saturday and was about to get out of the car when I saw a moose! I called them, and they said to pull down into the driveway and come in the back door, which I did. I was not really that far from her, in the driveway, but she didn’t seem particularly upset at me. She kept an eye out, sure, but neither of us felt like we were in any great danger, I guess.

Anyway, Ms. Moose proceeded to stand right in front of the picture window, eating leftover Halloween pumpkins, for the next 20 minutes or so. Pictures were taken; I’ll post them when I have them. :) It was pretty excellent. And my friends felt validated, since they’d told me moose eat leftover pumpkins, and here I was witnessing it.

She wandered down the street, later, nibbling on the neighbors’ trees.

Alaskan wildlife facts: Moose mating season is in the fall–that’s a bad time to run into a male moose. The calves are born in the spring–anywhere from 1 to 4, though more than 2 is apparently (understandably) uncommon–so the spring is a bad time to run into female moose. One of the local hospitals has problems with moose calves wandering in through their automatic doors, and staff have to kind of herd them back out. Moose bulls drop their horns every year. Besides pumpkins (:)), moose also eat bark in the winter. You can tell how tough a winter it’s been by which kinds of trees are missing bark; some don’t really have any nutrients for a moose, but they’re filling. Moose have long legs so they can stand in muck–marshy areas, high snow, whatever.

In less immediately exciting (to you) news, the PA registration for the Subaru finally came. It’s on its way to me, now, and then I will be able to get Alaskan plates. Maybe I’m imagining that people are giving me space when following in winter: the PA plates have a really similar color scheme to one of the popular AK plates. I keep doing double takes at other cars, thinking “why is anyone else from PA up here?” :)

I like my iPhone OK–email everywhere is a wondrous thing–though I still hate the lack of keyboard. I’ve been assured that I’ll get over it. Dale’s phone is in Pittsburgh, albeit not with him yet. If you have numbers for either of us that start in 412, they’re only good until the end of the week. And since I haven’t turned my Verizon phone on in almost a week, I guess mine’s really not all that good now. If you call it, my new number is in the message.

Lessons learned: I found out that campus police are wonderful, and Subarus are hard to break into. I started the car and got out to scrape the windows–ironically, it was this weird, unscrapable ice that would have been better removed with the windshield sprayer–and shut the driver’s side door behind me. You see where this is going, but, you might recall, I’d tried to lock myself out (with the spare key in hand), in order to keep the car on and temperate for the birds, during the trip. I’d learned that you can’t lock the door, except with another key. Hitting the door button doesn’t lock it, nor does hitting the “lock” button on the remote. So imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get back into the car, that night. In my panic, I blamed myself, figuring I must have managed to lock myself out, despite knowing that’s impossible. I called campus police (figuring they’d be faster than Subaru roadside assistance), but the officer had a lot of trouble getting the door open. He finally had to use the unlocking tool to force the passenger side window down, so I could unlock and open the passenger side door. Even then, when I’d confirmed the driver’s side door was unlocked, he couldn’t open it from outside. I had to open it with the inside handle. Sadly, there are some scratches on the paint around the frame of the door, and I swear the door edge doesn’t sit quite as flush as it used to. (In the meantime, while all that was happening, I was wearing thin, unsuitable-for-winter shoes, so I had to come home and take a bath, to warm my feet. Dale’s sending me the brown boots I forgot, in this shipment. They’ll look stupid with skirts, but I don’t actually care.)

That car door thing was weird. And unsettling. So I unlock all the doors before I get out to clean the windows, now. Not that I’ve had to, the last couple of days! It’s been a balmy 30+ degrees out! It got above freezing today! Though I keep hearing rumors of rain/snow mix tonight; we’ll see.

I’ve got some pictures on the camera; I’ll do another post soon with those–and hopefully Ms. Moose’s picture, as well! I’ve got some Thanksgiving plans, which is nice. And it’s a short work week, which is also nice. (I like my job, yes, but I also like not going to it, from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. :))

I’m halfway through my bottle of beer (Alaskan Oatmeal Stout–not a bad brew), so I’d best stop writing now, while I’m ahead. And start drinking faster–it’s almost 11!

“As I am an honest Puck… goodnight unto you all.”

It was a slippery, slidey, cold morning. The car’s temperature gauge said 17 degrees. I only spun out once, and it was both expected and unimportant (that is, it was a turn onto a road I knew would be less well cared for, and I wasn’t going super fast–faster than I should have been, arguably, but it’s hard to slow down enough, in time, without getting rear ended). Still, studded tires have moved way up on the priority list.

These are unfiltered, and except for one that I saw was clearly super blurry, you get everything I took, good or bad. (And there’s a fair bit of bad. I was focusing a lot more on driving than on taking photos, honestly.) One’s not from the drive, but I bet you can identify that yourself. :)

I need to go take some pictures from the 3rd floor library sitting room, but I’m always kind of unwilling to stand around with a camera, where the students are studying.

I have to go to the post office one morning this week. Maybe I’ll head over there on Thursday (since I have morning meetings tomorrow and Wednesday), to mail Dale’s phone, and while I’m there I’ll get photos of the duck pond. (The public library and post office are in the same place. With the duck pond. What great urban planning!) Or maybe I’ll be waiting to get tires on, on Thursday. Who can say? Anyway, I will make an attempt to get pretty snowy duck pond pictures for you, sometime before winter’s over. I hear I have a while…

I go to work next Monday! I’m excited! And nervous–the first few months at any new job are stressful, and I feel like I have extra to learn, this time, somehow. But I have a crate of decorations (won’t the other Systems folks be surprised when I decorate for Halloween after work on my first day ;)) and mugs and tea and such, so I’ll be more moved in, my first week, than I was for probably the first six months at BAH.

Other things on my mind: I’m still not unpacked. It’s hard to get up the motivation to do it, after getting so close at the last apartment and having to pack it all back up again. Also, I need more hangers, so a Target trip is in order. I may go after I finish this post, actually; I haven’t left the apartment, yet, today.

I met the group I’ll be gaming with, over the next couple of months. It’s hard to know whether a new group is particularly pleased to meet you, but I was definitely super excited to meet them, anyway. A number of them remind me of people I know and like in Pittsburgh and DC, which is simultaneously really neat and really strange. Dale was impressed that I so quickly stumbled into a group that includes SCAers and [some of] the remnants of the now-defunct [at least, as far as I can tell from Internet research] Anchorage Camarilla. I’m pondering SCA as an activity, though I haven’t decided, by any stretch. (Comment and sway me one way or the other, if you’re so inclined. :)) So I am getting Dale to email me Queen of Spades–a parlor larp [think “host a murder mystery”] by Shifting Forest Storyworks–and I’ll read it over a bunch of times and offer to run it, both because I think they’ll get a kick out of it, and because I feel like my gaming karma’s kind of weak, not being willing/able to run a real campaign of anything (at least not soon). Also, because Mirror Room is much too much for a first parlor larp–I know, because it was mine. :D

So, if you remember, there was what I thought was a broken garbage disposal; it was actually a very messed up set of kitchen pipes, which took the [very nice Cake fan of a] maintenance guy multiple days to fix. I celebrated having my kitchen back by making chili–and then I took a picture, to share with you; note Darth Vader’s head (that’s Dale’s) and my slowly regrowing spice collection. My Facebook friends will already have seen it, but I also carved a pumpkin. The pumpkin seeds came out awesome, and poor Mr. O’Lantern is already wilting pretty sadly; clearly, at least one more pumpkin will be needed. Maybe I can talk a few coworkers into having a pumpkin carving party, so I can make one for work and one for home? :)

I don’t think my solar-powered Christmas lights are quite going to cut it, in the winter. They’re already fading by 1am, now, when it’s light out until 8pm. I may have to supplement them with more conventionally-powered lights. (Anchorage recommends that everybody have white Christmas lights up during the winter, to help brighten things up a bit. It doesn’t look exactly universal, this early in the year, but I’m betting people leave them out after they put them up for Christmas, anyway.) Also, I hear the university rents out SAD lights and gives you those spiky things you strap to your shoes when you have to walk across ice–we’ll see whether that’s just a rumor, soon, though.

Summit Spice and Tea is going to bankrupt me. But I’ve started drinking echinacea tea (and eating vitamin C gummies) in preparation for going to work at the university. I’ve dealt with fewer people, over the last month, than I normally do, and I worry that it’s left me with less immune system than I’m used to, even as I live alone and would have to take care of myself. (Maybe I’ll buy some canned soup while I’m out, as a backup.) I haven’t taken the flu vaccine, but plan to do so this week, sometime. (I guess I should get on that.) And when the H1N1 vaccine comes out, I’m definitely doing that, if there’s no age limit. I don’t function well when I’m sick, and if it comes between going out for orange juice or staying home and doing without, I know which I’ll do.

It’s been getting cooler. I think I saw frost on the cars when I looked out last night, though it may just have been dew. If my weather widget is to be believed, it’ll stay above freezing for the next couple of days, but may dip down to 31 degrees on Thursday night. During the day it’s mostly been in the high 40s, though I swear it dipped down into the 30s when I was driving down to Portage.

My one really important and incomplete moving-related task is dealing with the car. I’m beginning to get a little concerned about it, honestly: I don’t have the Pennsylvania registration, because I left so soon after buying the car–and it never came to Dale, anyway. Sure, I have proof that I bought it, but the registration hasn’t come yet. So I can’t get an Alaska registration, bureaucracy being what it is. And, while I have 90 days, sort of, the PA tags expire tomorrow. The plan is for Dale to register it online and mail me the stickers when they come. I’ll print up the form they give you, to prove that the registration happened. And, as soon as the paper registration comes (Dale will overnight it), I’ll have to go to the DMV to get my AK driver’s license and tags. I could just wait until Dale gets up here, which is only a tad illegal, but I want an AK ID before the end of December, so I can apply for my Permanent Fund Dividend in 2010. Also, I need to call the insurance company, in case something happens, as it is wont to do in winter; I can’t go living in Alaska, when they think I’m in Pennsylvania.

So I’m a little stressed about that car thing. But I hope it’ll all work out.

Never did find my iPod. And I’ve unpacked enough that it’s pretty much a sure thing I lost it for real. :/ So I may go to the Mac Store (it’s not a proper Apple Store, as such, but it seems like nearly the same thing), sometime soon. After my first paycheck, if I can hold off that long.

I didn’t mean to include those photos in this gallery, but there’s no obvious delete tool, so you can see my army of knitted pumpkins, as well! And a not so good photo of my porch at night. :)

(The first part of this was written in the morning. I’ll denote where the second part, written after a rather full day, begins.)

I spent yesterday slowly unpacking the car–slowly enough that it’s on the agenda for today, too–and shopping for various things I needed, like a shower curtain and laundry detergent. (Showering in the morning was an adventure.) I also got a couple of things I wanted, like candles and a pottery mug–my giant one is too much commitment for some beverages, and it’s still somewhere in the car, anyway. :) Target has these candles with wooden wicks. I love them so much. They crackle as they burn.

Anyway, I think the birds are starting to settle in, too. Phoebe’s broken blood feather finally fell the whole way off. She looks a mess and seems a little woozy, but I think she’s healing. I’ve got some vitamin-fortified treats in there for her. Grace is continuing to heal. And Francis is experimenting with his new squawk. He used to be such a nice, quiet bird. They all spent the day being really needy and really screamy, with little breaks for walking around the apartment and finding things to try to chew on.

Part of my shopping was, as I mentioned, at Target. Very standard move-in stuff. But the better part was at the Anchorage Market & Festival. This is the last weekend for it, and I wanted to see it before it ends for the season. That’s where my mug came from. Also, some vegetables that are now in my fridge (including a very large zucchini), some birch syrup, and a salmon quesadilla for breakfast. (I’d been up for hours, playing with the birds and by turns carrying boxes and putting things away. Mostly playing with the birds. And I hadn’t eaten, before I left for the market. Which, by the way, I found from memory!) It was pretty fantastic; I’ll go back when they reopen, next year. I posted this pic to Twitter, and people were amused:texas
I still don’t have much furniture–a Murphy bed comes with the place, and I bought a barstool, so I can sit at my counter–but I’m making do. One of my Rubbermaid-type boxes is serving as a plant table. (The plants may pull through. It’s hard to tell. I should buy dirt and a pot today, for the Christmas cactus.) And I have a couple of pretty things on there, along with the plants, as well. The spices I brought with me–an odd assortment based on their ages more than on what I’d do with each one–are all set up by the stove. It’s nice.

My landlord–or, well, my agent for the property company, who won’t be for long, because she quit (it’s all very confusing)–was super nice. She let me borrow some sheets and a coffee maker and a towel, when I moved in. That saved me buying sheets for a different-sized bed than I’ll be buying in 4 months. And her friend lives on the same floor I do, and we’ve chatted a few times. I think we’re going to breakfast this morning! (Which reminds me. I should wrap this post up and get a shower. My clothes will be out of the dryer soon.)

Looking at my last post, I meant to tell you some other things. One is that the gas station right after you turn off of the Tok Cutoff onto the Richardson Highway (it looks like it used to be a Texaco, and the owner just put together some of the letters to spell “ECO”) is pretty nice. Their gas is the standard high price for gas along the Alaskan Highway System, and they have an outhouse (with electricity!) instead of a running-water restroom (also fairly normal), but the owner is a super sweet guy. We got to talking–in part because I asked him if I could get to Anchorage by dark–and he welcomed me to Alaska and gave me a print of some sled dogs (two of them, twins), drawn by a friend of his who is the Iditarod artist. So I’ll get a frame for that, because it’ll make me happy each time I look at it.

The Glenn Highway isn’t at all like the Alaskan Highway. I had gotten really used to the former–and the Tok Cutoff is enough like it that I sort of lump them in my mind–so I was feeling pretty confident, and then all of a sudden, there were these really tight curves, 30-40mph dealies. It was a little hair-raising, because of course nobody in the opposite direction was going that slow. And just as I was beginning to adjust to that, I got dumped onto the freeway into town. I was totally unprepared for driving in civilization, which was more or less what I needed to do (although there’s some argument about whether anyone else on that freeway was exactly prepared for civilized driving, either, that night). It was all very strange and disconcerting.

The final trip mileage was 4202.6. The last day of that was between 600 and 610; it looks like it never made it to my Twitter stream, and the phone is in my room. I’ll look it up.

(This part is new.)

Today, I went to breakfast at Middle Way Cafe with my neighbor (the friend of my landlady’s I mentioned above). Great brunch location, with tasty (and mostly pretty healthy) food, as well as fresh juices. Then we decided to try picking berries, though that sort of failed–there were a few left, but only after a pretty long walk up a pretty large hill, which we might have tried to do, only we had no cell coverage, and she was on call. Earlier in the season, next time! But we went to get dinner at Moose’s Tooth, where I got a 4-beer sampler. Everything was good, though I got distracted and forgot to pick up a growler. Tomorrow, perhaps!

Around the end of dinner, a local gamer I’d been in touch with over the Internet called, and we agreed to meet and talk about the game he’s starting, which I’ll be playing in. Call of Cthulhu. It’ll be on Saturday afternoons for the next few months (unless that’s when my reference shift falls)! It sounds like a good group of people. And he gave me a whole bunch of advice and tips about living in Alaska, everything from “go ahead and buy that bear bell” to what kind of reel is easiest for newbie fisherpeople to what kinds of people to expect to run into around Anchorage. It was pretty great. I feel like I owe him cookies. :)

The birds are a little less whiny, despite my not giving them as much attention today–because I was out. I think Phoebe’s recovering, and Grace definitely is. They both seem alert (well, as much as Phoebe ever is) and curious and generally more like themselves, though maybe a tad needier than normal. I may ask the vet if I can come in on Wednesday or Thursday, so they have more time to really get situated and de-stressed. As much as I want Phoebe’s wing looked at, I just don’t have the heart to put them in the car. It’s going to kill me to do that to them. And it’s going to make them trust me less.

Other errands: getting George’s mechanic appointment set up, since the 3000 mile mark is pretty far gone. Signing a lease and getting a parking spot officially assigned and calling the utility companies. Getting an Alaskan license and registration (though I may put that off for another week or two), as well as dealing with Geico. Getting a pot and dirt for the cactus. Grocery shopping–and man is it going to be a big trip. Finishing with the car unload, including getting the stuff down from the luggage rack. I’m not relishing that thought, short and uncoordinated as I am.

But I still have two full weeks before I start work. I should be able to get all of this stuff and a fair bit of exploring out of the way before then. (Also, I’d like to look at some Web development books. And maybe tune back in to what’s going on in the library world. The mental break has been great–and will continue to be great for at least another few days–but I’d like to be sharp when I start.) I’m pondering driving down to Seward and/or Homer, after the car’s had its checkup. I’d like to collect some glacier water, which I can do on the way, though I don’t have enough vessels to get enough of it for brewing. (I also don’t have enough bottles. Or other ingredients. But the water’s pretty time-dependent, I would guess, what with freezing and all.) Also, I plan to go to the zoo and maybe the Imaginarium. And the Ulu Factory. And I’ll have to pick up a tourism guide to see what else I need to check out. Dale said he wanted me to “have seen everything, so [I] just share the good stuff,” by the time he gets here.

I’m in Anchorage. In my apartment building, actually. (We have free wifi, but it doesn’t extend up to my floor, it seems. Since I didn’t bring down my power cord–and, honestly, it’s super late and I’m exhausted–this is going to be a short post. I’ve got so much to tell you about! But it can all be told in a later post.)

The American border was no problem. I had to sign some forms, including one promising to take the birds to the vet–which I was planning to do anyway. Grace looks … about the same. Maybe a tad better, because she can’t keep irritating her face. I stopped by Petco this evening and got them a big cage, probably the first of two, since I think the cockatiels need to be separated. The drive back was an adventure, because the road my GPS wanted me to go down to get home (home!) was blocked by police, for some reason. I didn’t put the birds into their cage, because I don’t want to wake them. They’re so very tired. As am I. It’ll be a while before this knee is entirely working.

My plan was to stop in Tok, but I got there around 1pm, Alaska time. Maybe a tad after. It was too early to check in to a hotel, and I really wanted to get the birds situated in–or at least near–our new home. I figured, well, I could drive down to Glenallen and have a much shorter trip to do tomorrow. Or maybe I’d push on toward Anchorage, which, obviously, is the solution I went with. And I called my landlord. And, bam, things all worked out.

People have been so nice. I’m wandering into territory I wasn’t going to cover tonight, but, seriously, people are nice. Beyond talking more about that, I will also have to tell you about my apartment move-in experience (not that I’ve come even 1/4 of the way close to emptying the car, mind you) and my gas station experience and all about the Glenn Highway, which is not really anything at all like the Alaskan Highway. I’ll have to show you pictures–though I got a lot fewer per mile, despite such pretty sights, today, because I was a woman on a mission. I’ll have to give you mileages–all messed up on the car, now, but immortalized (for the week) in Twitter. I’ll tell you about my probable book club and table-top RPG–yeah, fer real, already!

I seriously can’t believe I made it here in one piece. The only damage to the car is that crack in the windshield–which did continue to grow, as it got warmer out, today, but only a centimeter or two–and probably some dinged up paint from all the gravel. I didn’t hit any wildlife (though I think I did see some moose, at the edge of the woods, today). I didn’t get mugged or lost in Montana or whatever other terrible things could have happened. The birds are probably OK–it’s hard to tell if Grace is just stressed or if she’s really messed up, somehow. Phoebe broke a wing feather right before the border, because she’s a genius bird with amazing timing. But she seems OK now, sans really-stressful-but-probably-necessary close examination. Francis is a little blue trooper. He held up the best out of all of us. Totally unfazed.

But, yeah, here I am. I’m going to go out and start exploring and making friends tomorrow. :)

The drilling didn’t seem to do anything. The crack has grown while the car sat in the parking lot.

It’s really very hard to take a picture of a crack in a windshield, and I think the camera was trying to “help” me by focusing inside the car or on the reflection or something. But if you look, you should be able to see both the original chip from the gravel and the smaller hole from the drill, with the crack clearly extending out on either side.

New and improved windshield crack

New and improved windshield crack

That sucks. I hope disappointment is the right emotion, here, rather than worry. (You know me well enough by now, if you’ve been following this blog, to realize that I am worried, too. I’m like that.) I don’t really mind being stuck in Whitehorse, if that’s what this ends up meaning, though that’s still five hours of rough driving ahead of me. I mean, it’s non-ideal, costing me either another night’s lodging and my Sunday in Anchorage or else a really terrible Friday, driving all the way up to Tok, to stay on schedule. Or some combination thereof, if they can’t do the repair that afternoon. I know better than to try driving the Alaskan Highway at night.

Everyone here is so cavalier about windshield cracks. I feel like a wuss for worrying about it. But where I come from, those are considered to be kind of a big deal, or it always seemed to me they were, anyway. You can’t pass inspection with a crack in your windshield. And there are all of those commercials about how you’ll hit a bump and the world will end, if you drive around with even a tiny chip out. (We had a chip in both the Ford’s and the Honda’s windshields, and I kept hearing those commercials and worrying they’d grow. They were itty-bitty, though.) I’m hoping I’m just a sucker for advertising. And a worrier. After all, I’ve hit loads of bumps today–those stupid tiny red signs that say “slow” give you roughly 5 meters of warning and expect you to be going less than 20km/h, I think; I love that they warn drivers, but I wish they did it in a useful way.

Anyway, obviously I’m in kind of a bad mood, now. I had really hoped that drilling thing would fix it nicely and I could stop worrying about this. Sorry for complaining. I hope to be in a better frame of mind, next time I post. Keep your fingers crossed on the windshield front, for me, please…

That’s how many more miles I have to go. (I’m quoting the windshield repair guy. And I’m getting ahead of myself.) Today was, as expected, full of mountains and rivers and wildlife. I saw enough buffalo that I don’t even get excited about the baby ones anymore. Only one individual out of the 3-4 herds I passed was thinking of heading into the road, and it seemed to believe (rightly) that the Subaru was bigger than it was. I suspect it crossed pretty soon after I was gone, though. I also spotted some caribou–one crossing the road and a few along it, including one right on the edge of the road at a slow point, so I got a good look at him. I kept my word about not trying to photograph wildlife; the temptation to do something risky would be too high, and, frankly, you can go look at pictures of caribou and bison yourself. :D

On a sad note, the birds along the Alaskan Highway are either really stupid or really brave. I clocked a raven who wouldn’t get out of the road, even when all of the other ravens (eventually) did–I couldn’t stop in time, so I tried to position the wheels so they wouldn’t hit him, but he was still awfully tall and definitely clunked his head, at a minimum–though he walked away afterward. Something was definitely wrong with him before I came along, but I still feel really guilty. And there were all of these smaller birds that were always so slow to get out of the way; my own birds were getting pissed at me, for all the breaking I was doing. It’s possible that I hit at least one, though I’m really hoping I didn’t–I didn’t hear any hit, anyway. Even a stupid seagull took its time getting out of my way, though he did fly off in time. Is there really not enough traffic to keep these birds with it enough to fly away when they ought to?

On my way up the first mountain, a speeding truck kicked gravel up at me. This wasn’t the first speeding truck, and it may not have been the first gravel (well, it definitely wasn’t, since I heard two or three separate hits from that one truck), but it was a good hit, catching the windshield right near the edge, so that a really nice crack could form. It grew throughout the day, to the point where it was really freaking me out. And, by all [two] reports [from people at stops along the way], Watson Lake is singular among all my many stops in that it does not have a windshield repair place. (Let’s not even joke about a Subaru dealer, either.) It’s tiny. But I asked at the tire place–tire repairs are a big thing along the Alaskan Highway, of course–and the lady said there’d be someone at the hardware store who could point me in the right direction. Two stops later (one to get better directions to the hardware store), I pulled into a lumber yard, and an older gentleman–friendly, just like about everyone else up here–explained to me that he could drill a tiny hole right at the end of the crack, to relieve pressure, and that this procedure often lasts people a year or two. Apparently, there’s a layer of plastic between two layers of glass in a windshield. I had spent the whole day worried that another gravel–or, far more likely, a bird–would shatter the whole thing, and I was happy to find I’d been wrong.

While the gentleman with the drill and the lady at the tire place both agreed that it was better to do something than not, nobody seemed to believe there was any real danger from it. It turns out, people up here drive around with cracked windshields far worse than mine, and it goes OK for them. “Can you see OK?” the lady at Coal Creek asked, and when I answered in the affirmative, she said “Well, there you go, eh?” It seems very probable that I’d have made it to Anchorage OK even without doing anything–and that I’ll still do so, even if this drilling thing doesn’t stop the crack–but I feel a little better, having done something. Whitehorse has a Subaru dealer, so if it’s still growing tomorrow, I’ll stop in there for their opinion. And if it seems all good tomorrow, well, like I said, only 1000 miles more to go. Haines Junction tomorrow (a longish drive–planning to start early and take a long stop in Whitehorse), Tok the next day, and Anchorage the next! Anchorage definitely has a Subaru dealer.

I’m in the Yukon Territory now, but I think the official point where the Alaskan Highway really says “you’re there, for good, this time,” isn’t until sometime tomorrow–there is a lot of weaving back and forth between BC and YT, first.

There was a bit of rain today and a bit of fog. Even with that–and even with the worry about the windshield–I enjoyed the trip. The views were amazing. I only bothered getting pictures for you from roadside stopping places, rather than trying to take them through the bug-stained windows (stained, I tell you! even with 2+ days of rain and a washing every time I get gas, there are visible smears).

Er, one of those is sideways. Sorry.

Also, I’ll get you a picture of the window crack now, after a day of growing and a drill bit, … uh, later. The camera was full (because I didn’t buy the memory stick), and I’m sleepy. :)

The phone really is dead. I turned it off until I get past the American border.

Playlist: Chamber of Secrets–it’s much better, post-whomping willow. And the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack.

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October 2021