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Before we get to the point of the post: Dale’s and my phones are both 907- numbers, now. If you don’t have them, let us know. Our 412- numbers are off, or will be by tomorrow.
I bought the tickets for my flight to and Dale’s, Ella’s, and my flight back from Boston. I’m getting there in the afternoon on Thursday, January 14, and there will be conferency goodness on the 15th-18th. I know Saturday afternoon, evening, and night are full of librarian shenanigans, but much of the rest remains semi-unscheduled. (I don’t think Event Planner has opened up yet. When it does, I’ll know better what’s what.)
After the conference, Dale and I will head back to his parents’ place from Boston, hang out for 3 days, and fly back to Anchorage on Friday the 22nd, with Ella. Sadly, no airline seems to allow chinchillas in the passenger cabin, after all, so we’ll have to trust the cargo people. It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, but I’m fairly hopeful that everything will go smoothly.
We get back late enough on Friday night–and the jet lag will be bad enough–that we’ll probably have to spend most of the weekend recuperating (though I kind of hope to show up to whatever shindig the gamer friends might be having, so they can meet Dale right off :)). I’ll take off Monday–or possibly Monday and Tuesday–to show Dale around town a bit. And then I’ll start back to work and, hopefully, he’ll start interviewing for work.
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.”
First things first, I’ve gotten this question a lot, so I think maybe I didn’t mention it in the blog before: Dale’s moving in mid-January. He’s staying with his parents in Connecticut over Christmas and through the beginning of January. I’m flying out to Boston for the ALA Midwinter conference, which he’ll also be attending (he’s agreed to take charge of book signings, since I’m always too busy to wait in line; also, I’m hoping Exhibits Plus will get him into the NMRT Social :)). And I’ll take a few days of vacation, to hang out with his family, too, either before or after the conference. Then we’ll put Ella into a travel crate, sized to fit under a seat–which reminds me, I should probably poke Dale to get her that crate now and let her get used to it–and fly to Anchorage, hopefully on a non-stop flight.
After that, we’ll try not to spend any money until he’s employed.
I got a new phone, since Verizon up here is terrible, and that contract’s ending soon. If you don’t know my new number, email me for it. Or call my old phone; it’s hooked up until the day after Thanksgiving. Dale’s, too. (We are on the same area code AND the same exchange, this time, which is cool.) Or, I might call you. If you see a 907 number, pick up. If you have tips about iPhones, share them. Dale has a texting-friendly phone, with a keyboard (or he will, once I mail it), because he didn’t want the Internet Everywhere. I did. And, yeah, we have 3G in Alaska, though it’s new within the last year or two.
My growing pains:
I’ve sort of hit that wall that people moving to new places eventually hit, where I know some people and have some friends to hang out with, but I’m not really full integrated into any one group. The best stories all predate me and will for a long time, I know. [I had only just gotten to the point, in the Pittsburgh crowd, where that seemed less true.] And, as wonderful as people have been, I still feel a little bit like an outsider. Although these people are part of my life, now, it’s not clear that I’m part of theirs, yet, if that makes any sense–and, by all rights, there’s no reason I should be: I haven’t even hit the two month mark, yet. (I feel like I should point out, they’re putting in a real effort. A couple of them invited me along and showed me all these cool things in Anchorage, last Sunday, and it was super fun. They didn’t have to do that, and I am super grateful. They’ve been great. This complaining, it’s not about them; it’s about not having what I already know and where I already fit surrounding me, like I’m used to.) There’s nothing for it; that’s just how moving to new places is. It’s not just socially, though that’s arguably the bulk of it: I know a lot about how to do my job, at work, though I’m still not quite “expert” at it. I know most of the people there, though I’m still learning how all the little pieces fit together, between all the departments and individuals and what sits where and… you know, all those things you learn on a new job. I’m still new, which lets me ask naive questions, but gives me a bit of that outsider feeling, too.
In trying to do my job better, I went to a reception for engineers, with the hope of meeting some of the students and faculty, and the feeling of otherness was overwhelming. The students and alumni relations people all had name tags, but there was nothing to separate the professors from the industry people. And, while I have the guts–after a fashion–to walk up to somebody and say “I see you’re a professor of [whatever]. I’m one of your liaison librarians,” it was beyond my comfort level to walk up to somebody and not know whether they were a professor, someone from the Chancellor’s office, or someone from totally outside the school. So I ended up standing around, a lot, and talking to five or six students and someone from, I’m guessing, the Green Party, before I high-tailed it back to my office. It’s hard to describe how disconcerting that was, being the non-engineer–but not really!–in a room of engineers. (“Are you an alumni?” someone asked, not quite grammatically, and I responded “Not of this school.” Which is less than helpful.) It was just super awkward and has kind of thrown me into a funk, I think.
And I’ve had my nose rubbed in to the fact that my politics don’t fit in up here, which I knew, sure, but… In one week, I received three replies from three different representatives (well, one Representative and two Senators), all disheartening. Murkowski used the term “rationed health care” in her reply, at which point I fed her letter to the birds, because I hate being lied to. (They’re enjoying it.) Begich showed he hadn’t read my letter–he assured me most assiduously that nobody will ever be forced to have an abortion, which is definitely not what I wrote to him about. And, when I called Donald Young’s office, his punkass staffer told me he will be voting no on the health reform bill, opting to support the Republican bill, instead. (When I asked “You mean the one the Budget Office smacked down this morning?” he said “Well, I don’t know about that.”) Argh.
On the bright side, although there was more of the whole “I’m an outsider” feeling, I did have a nice time at Bird Club on Tuesday. And they suggested that I could prevent night frights by leaving the birds uncovered at night. I want to get them some sort of ceramic heat-maker, or something, because I worry they’ll catch a draft. But it’s been most of a week, with no night time freakouts. So that’s good.
I didn’t have the social energy to go meet with the campus feminists or attend the amateur radio club, yesterday. But I went to dinner with my friend from the first apartment building, and that was nice.
I’m going to drop off a thing at the gamer friends’ get together, today, because I’m not feeling up to socializing. I’m tired and in a funk (as if you can’t tell) and possibly not entirely well, on top of that. And then I’m going to come home and spend the day regrouping. And tomorrow, too, if I need it (though I need to go by CostCo for a SAD light and some other stuff).
Once I’ve regrouped, I’m planning to go to Drinking Liberally, as well as meeting up with another gaming group for some D&D fun. (If we all hit it off, I’ll have to come up with a way of distinguishing “gamer friends,” on the blog. :)) While meeting more people won’t help me get over the “otherness” thing, so much, it will help me have more to do. I’ve been at work a lot more than 40 hours a week, and I need to have more reasons to leave.
I picked a good time of year to get into the Song of Ice and Fire series, I guess. (It’s winter for years on end, in that world. And winter has been coming for the last book and a half; maybe it’ll get there, in-book, when it gets here, in reality.) We’ve had a longer, nicer autumn than we could have asked for. And all of the snow that’s been predicted for the past couple of weeks has failed to arrive. But it’s time. The radio is hinting at lots of snow. So I need to suck it up and get studded tires, I think. Will it ruin my normal tires to be stored on my porch, under a tarp? Because I have nowhere indoors for them; it’s there or inside the car itself.
Anyway, sorry to be a downer. I’ll come back with a happy post later this week. Things really are fine; it is, as I pointed out, just growing pains I’m going through. And it’s getting darker and colder, and I miss Dale and Ella and old friends and family. It’s not a knock on new friends, even, to be feeling that way. They’ve been nicer and more accommodating than I have any right to expect. I’m just, you know, still trying to adjust. This isn’t the first wall I’ve hit, and it won’t be the last, and I’ll get over them all. I’m adaptable.
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.
The show was named after the main character, you know, not after the town in British Columbia. Dale’s roommate tells me that it was actually in North Carolina. Who knew? (Maybe lots of people. I’m glad I didn’t ask anyone here about the show!)
Canada has Labour Day, which is a lot like Labor Day, only spelled differently. (:)) Again, who knew? So, no fix-a-flat this morning, and a few neat things I might have stopped for were closed. No big thing, but I wish I’d realized. I feel like a dumb American for assuming it was an America-only holiday.
Anyway, I’m about a mile down the Alcan, now. Two places turned me down, once I mentioned that I had birds (because they were out of pet rooms), making this the first motel where I didn’t ask permission. If Google is to be trusted, they’re pet-friendly, anyway. So, good. They’re also the least expensive place I’ve stayed in days, but still have a continental breakfast, coffee in rooms, fridge and microwave in rooms, at least one working washing machine (and semi-working dryer), and free wifi–so they’re also the best place I’ve stayed in a while, as well. I’ll leave them a good review when I leave in the morning. (I make it a general policy not to put a big flashing light on this blog, saying “I am here! I am here!” On the other hand, “I was there! I was there!” is fine.)
Dale suggested that I hang out in Dawson Creek for another day, just to rest and not be driving. I admit, it’s really tempting. My muscles are sore (more so today than many days because there were some pretty high winds), and I’m really very tired in the evenings. A day of rest would be fantastic. But I really think I’d like to get there on Saturday. There are a couple of things I’d like to do on Sunday, quite aside from being finished with the drive and in my new city and all. The longest driving days are pretty much behind me. Watson Lake to Haines Junction (day after tomorrow) is around 370 miles, which is the same distance as today, and everything else is shorter. It’s Monday. If I keep going, I’ll be there by Saturday. I think that’s the thing to do. (As much as it sounds like I am tired of driving–and, yeah, I sort of am–I’m still kind of psyched [and nervous] about this part of the trip. I feel about the Alaskan Highway the way I felt about the entire trip, while I was still in Pittsburgh, if that makes any sense. This is the pretty part, the part that requires preparedness, the part that I’ve been anticipating for so long. I’m intimidated and excited.)
I’ve looked over The Milepost for tomorrow’s trip. It looks like there’s a sufficiently large number of stopping points between here and Fort Nelson. Multiple gas stops, including Fort St. John, which a nice lady I was talking to this morning, who is from the northern territories, suggested I choose as a sleeping place, rather than Dawson Creek. She may have been right, but I was tired and flummoxed–more GPS fun–and ready for the break, honestly.
This evening I’ve done laundry, updated the map, and picked up fix-a-flat and a pair of cheap tennis shoes (I left mine in Madison, to my chagrin, and sandals just aren’t going to cut it for long; also, I toy with the idea of walking one of these 1km trails for a break, if there’s a nice enough day to leave the birds in the car). The weather’s dreary and cold, which I honestly don’t mind. Except for a couple of short spurts of light rain yesterday, the sky’s been clear the whole way. Besides, the car could use a rinse. And it makes me feel properly prepared, rather than over-prepared, for bringing my sweatshirt, light jacket, and medium jacket. :)
The drive today was kind of pretty. A number of businesses north of Whitecourt had “Arctic” in their names, so I guess I’m really north now. Also, for every deer crossing sign (which in Canada look more like deer standing around than like deer being launched by catapults) there was a moose crossing sign, which amused me. As far as the landscape, there was variation between hilly areas with lots of mostly evergreen trees, flat areas with mostly deciduous trees, flat areas with few trees, and hilly areas with what I think must be aspens (which I realize are also deciduous, but they don’t look like what we have in Pennsylvania, for instance). I’ve been describing the views as “alpine,” though I don’t know if that’s the right term. It looks a little like Anchorage, vegetation-wise. It made me feel relieved and, if you’ll believe it, homesick for a place that isn’t even my home, yet.
Photos: some magpies from outside my morning hotel, a raven who was sitting outside McDonald’s “singing” to people eating there, and a stretch of road I thought was visually interesting enough to photograph. (Nothing comes out in the picture like it does when I see it. I want to get more landscape photos, so you can see what I’m seeing. I’ll keep trying.)
Playlist: the rest of Sorcerer’s Stone and some Dr. Horrible and Girl Talk.
I just checked my phone, and it’s still on roaming. I was sure it’d be dead by now. So, neat; I’ll pick up if you call before I leave the service area. I can’t really say when that’ll be, but I suspect it’ll happen tomorrow.
We stuck with Verizon for the time being; the plan ends in November, and rather than change up yet one more thing during the move, Dale and I opted to keep it. (Obviously, he’ll still be in the process of his move when we do change. But it’ll be a tiny bit more convenient, give or take shipping a phone to him. And probably changing to the 907 area code.) Vz has roaming coverage through large parts of Canada, which AT&T didn’t seem to have.
That said, it’s $.69 per minute, and god knows how much per text sent/received. You should feel free to call me if it’s important, obviously; I’ll pick up if I hear the phone, because I’m not sure I can check my voicemail. But let’s not have text chats. Or phone chats. If you’ve got a broadband connection, download Skype (I’m artificialinanity on there) or (broadband or dial-up) catch me on Google chat (coral.hess) or AIM (artficlinanity), in the evenings. We can chat like that.
It looks like I’ve got coverage again shortly after crossing the Alaskan border. Tok is pretty well covered, and that extends outward toward the Yukon, a little, as wireless signals are wont to do.
(This is preemptive. Other than a text forward, I haven’t gotten anything that wasn’t worth calling or texting about. I just wanted you guys to know.)
Anyway, it’s time to pack up the car and get going! Have a good holiday, Americans! Drive carefully, Canadians! ;)
I’m way behind on packing and even further behind on selling things. (Dale called it. I should have believed him.) Seriously, if you know anyone in Pittsburgh who needs furniture, send them our way! If we have any doodads you want, ask. F’real.
This weekend will be spent visiting my dad and DC-area friends, next was going to be our yard sale–but man will I have to get a lot done to make that happen!–and the following is my last weekend on the East Coast, spent with my mom’s side of the family. We’ll probably come back to Pittsburgh that Saturday night, in part for the break from driving, in part to pack the car, and in part to say our 4-month goodbyes. That’s already going to be a tough day–no need to make it tougher by adding a 4+ hour drive.
The Subaru dealer is talking with the bank. My new job doesn’t seem show up on my credit (which isn’t unreasonable), and I refuse to pay 8% interest, so I may well be driving Grover up there. We’ll see.
The vet never called me back. I’ll try to get a hold of her tomorrow. I mean, I think she’s going to say “ship the birds,” but I’d like to hear it before I consider the decision completely made.
I was thinking of switching our phone plan before I went up there, but I think, now, I’m not. We may lose our numbers, this way, but say what you want about Verizon: they do have better coverage through some of the wilder parts of the trip! … I don’t recall whether or not I mentioned this, here, but the main wireless carriers in Anchorage are AT&T and Alaska Communications Systems. Verizon has coverage, but it’s all “extended network.”
(The first is Verizon’s map, and the second is AT&T’s. You’ll note the big hole in both, over the Alcan–for AT&T, that hole covers all of Canada–so please do not freak out if I don’t pick up the phone. It’s safe to assume I will not be Twittering, Facebooking, emailing, blogging, or generally making a lot of Internet noise every single day. While I’d like to blog each day of the trip, that may not be realistic, on a real-time basis–things may be written up on one day and posted on another. I promised Dale I’d do what I could to check in with him every 24 hours, but even that’s not 100% certain.)
Bright side: I’m totally getting an iPhone. :) I promise not to become one of those iPhone people.
Also, I think I’m going to look into Couch Surfing a couple of nights, if I don’t have the birds with me. Only with verified, validated, recommended people, and Dale will have a complete list of where and with whom I’ll be staying. It’s no less safe than a hostel, I figure, and it’s at least as good a way to meet cool people and also save serious funds along the way. Anchorage has a Couch Surfing community, which is pretty neat. Still, I’m hoping I can get a 4-month lease (I found a place, just have to do the paperwork before someone else does) and save myself the trouble of finding crash space for the first few nights I’m there.