Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Father's Day 2013

Three Sundays ago was Father's Day, which we spent camping at Coal Mine Lake 5.  All the other lakes had awesome and interesting names but I guess they got bored by the time they got to that one.

It was really nice being able to spend the day with Dad, unexpected due to the fact that we live on opposite sides of the world now.  Last year I was in Australia and he was in Ireland, so I was only able to send my love from a distance.  This time, Alaska was the place to be.

Anyway, Father's Day in Alaska, 2013, started early in the morning, with the sun already high in the sky (as it never bothered to set), with a breakfast of sausages, blueberry pancakes and eggs (for some), and then Dad and I went four-wheeling, all on our lonesome, into the back of beyond.  We randomly chose which tracks to turn on to, we forded a river, and we stopped to catch our breath on rocky outcrops from which you could see the Alaskan mountain range, and patches of snow, and pretty Alpine flowers, and the Alyeska pipeline trailing into the distance.

And although I had remembered the day before, I totally forgot that it was Father's Day, and didn't think to mention to Dad how much I enjoyed being with him, or how much I loved him.  So this is about ten days too late, but Dad, you are the most amazing father I could ever have, and I love you an incredible amount, and if you would like to move to Australia, I have a spare room, and you could even bring Mally with you if you like.  I've even got a garden for Meg.

    Bond... Michael Bond :)

I love you, Dad !!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Musings of a traveller

Mosquitoes are not allowed through security.  Unfortunately, it seems that mosquitoes have not read that memo, as Fairbanks International Airport is swarming with the bloodthirsty pests.  From opening the car door to a swarm, the check-in line (see, in America do as the Americans do, hence 'line' instead of 'queue', for the uninitiated) is infested, and even airside I am forced to keep a look-out.  

I am lucky enough to draw the short straw with my check-in agent.  She cannot process my UK passport, saying that bother 'Great Britain' and 'Northern Ireland' are not working on her machine, and calls over someone to advise.  I suggest 'United Kingdom' which apparently hasn't entered her mind, and even then it takes awhile.  The next question is 'do you have a return leg' to which my answer of 'this is my return leg' appears to throw a spanner in the works.  I can't remember it being this hard before, but it is 0430!

In the airport store, they sell moose turds, 4 for $1.95.  You can even get them 'gold plated' for a little extra.  


I'm not a tourist, even if I do buy moose figurines from Rika's and jade carvings from Denali.  That's different, as obviously I'm just trying to support Whitestone, although at a reduced price.

Minneapolis airport is quiet, and I manage to wangle my way into the Delta lounge with my Velocity card, although later, in LAX, a guy isn't permitted in with a day Virgin Australia card because it is a Virgin America lounge.   Am confused with this as I am using a VA card myself.  Ours is not to reason why, and all that...

(Back to pre-Minneapolis, as my ever inconsistent mind is skipping ahead recklessly, I slept the entire 5 hours from FAI - MSP, surprisingly as I usually barely sleep at all while flying!  this is usually a good thing when actually operating...)

A couple of episodes of The Wire get me to Los Angeles, although I'm not particularly impressed.  It takes me until the end of episode 2 to really figure out what is going on, and despite the engine noise, if it had been a normal episode on TV, I probably wouldn't have bothered.  The pilot episode of a series should get one interested, which it didn't, but the fact that I had purchased the series on iTunes kept me going.  That said, I am now up to speed and happy to watch episode 4.

I am pleasantly surprised to find that Los Angeles is very well organised, with a shuttle bus dropping me at the right area, and I easily find the lounge.  Easy = asking where to find it...  Unlike a man, as a woman I do not find it beneath my dignity to ask for directions...

The lounge is packed.  As previously mentioned (out of turn) I get in with my Velocity card, and find all seats taken except one at the bar.  I hadn't intended to have anything to drink, but it being a hard life, I order a glass of red wine.

It is then that 'Mr White Horse Down' (not his real name) sits beside me, not because he wants to sit beside me, but more, apparently, because American TV bores him.  I wonder if he finds this surprising, as Australian TV is also particularly dead, and he sounds English...  whoops my bad, he is actually Australian and from Adelaide. He sounds like Uncle Rick, who doesn't sound Australian at all. 

For some reason, we start talking, and I start waffling on about flying, and community, and various other unrelated things.  I don't know why I'm so effusive, is the one glass of wine so very un-inhibiting?  I forget that I am tired of sitting down, and perch on the edge of my bar stool, waffling on about Ireland, and Whitestone, etc.  He tells me that he works in special effects, and shows me scenes that he worked on in action movies and in Harry Potter with the Horcrux.    

Did you know that the American version of Harry Potter is edited differently from the rest of the world?  The American version has blurred out a particular kissing scene to make only the heads visible, as apparently if the torsos were shown, the movie would have had to be rated differently.  Violence is OK, it seems.

(As a quick explanation, just so you know, White House Down is an action movie just coming out about the White House, and paramilitary invaders, a little like Black Hawk Down but at the White House and without any Black Hawks... just the Down part.  And no, White Horse Down was not a typo.  Wouldn't you like to know?)

After this, I get talking to a different guy who works in naming/branding companies and adverts.  Forgive me if this isn't 100% accurate!  I get introduced to a new TV series, Battlestar Galactica, which I promise to watch.  Perhaps I will even review it, for the purposes of this blog.

LAX-BNE is good, although long.  I have 3 seats all to myself and so can spread out and sleep.  I eat my way through as many apples, dried mango slices and pieces of beef jerky as I can possibly stomach before arriving in Brisbane, as I know they won't be allowed through security.

I would also like to comment that people are weird.  I know this blog post is going on and on and on a little like the member of the conservative party in Monty Python, but really, I must insist.  I'm not going to go in to that in depth right now, but it's true.

Brisbane Customs force me to go to the quarantine part as I check dairy foodstuff and wood on my declaration form, and then they say that they don't actually want to look in my bag after all if I'm sure that I bought it in a shop.  Okay... I did.

And back to Monty Python... Stalingrad?  You wouldn't have got much fun in Stalingrad, now would you, Mr Hilter?

Bored now.  If you're still reading, you probably are too, so bye, and next post will be Alaska pictures - promise !


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Questions with O&L

Today, I had a question/answer session with Olivia (4)and Lindsey(2): Here they are:

Olivia first:

Q: what do you want to be when you grow up?
A: a sister

Q: what are you afraid of?
A: Nothing

Q: what is the hardest thing to do?
A: to get sissy on the swing
Q: funnest?
A: go camping
Q: baddest?
A: to hide when your mom doesn't want you 

Q: What is the best thing in the world?
A: that you came here

Q: what makes you mad?
A: apooya (???)

Q: If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
A: throw it in the trash can

Q: what is the meaning of life?
A: nothing

 Q: what do you want to name the new baby?
A: Watermelon

Q: who loves you the most?
A: Dadda!

Q: What is your favourite colour?
A: purple... and pink

Q: What do...
A: There is nothing more I wanna say !!!


Q: what do you want to be when you grow up?
A: i wanna be a dad

Q: what are you afraid of?
A: Im afraid of um... when i was with suzie and john-mark there was a buffalo and he was eating me

Q: what is the hardest thing to do?
A: ummmm i dont know the hardest do
Q: funnest?
A: bein in the sandbox
Q: baddest?
A: hit you. and if i bits you, that's naughty.

Q: What is the best thing in the world?
A: bein in the sandbox!

Q: what makes you mad?
A: anything

Q: If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
A: id put it in ummmm in my bank!

Q: what is the meaning of life?
A: God is the meaning of life

Q: who loves you the most?
A: You

Q: What is your favourite colour?
A: blue

Q: What do you want to name the new baby?
A: B I N G O and bingo was his name O

Monday, June 17, 2013

Camping day 2

Saturday did not finish when we went to bed.  Having sat around the campfire after fishing, until about 0130, we went to bed.  Olivia woke up shortly afterwards, quite distressed from the heat and her bug bites, and apparently did not settle until 0500.  I had brought ear-plugs, and slept from around 0300, although 'sleep' is perhaps too strong a word for it.  My thoughts are with poor Laura who was really awake with little O!

Meghan sleeping with her glasses on... (normal)
I got up later than most, just in time to take Nicholas for a quick four-wheeler ride, and then return for a breakfast of coffee and sausages.  The others had eggs, but I'm sure most know how I feel about that by now!  After breakfast, we played scrabble again (Jessica had just discovered the game, so we had to play it repeatedly...) and then went four-wheeling.  This time it was Chris, Laura and myself.  We went a different direction to before, finding the same river to ford at a different place.  Chris got stuck at one stage (not in the river) and we had to tow him out with my machine.

We got back from the ride hot and sunburnt, to find Dad, Adam, Jessica and Nicholas canoeing in the middle of the lake.  I immediately suggested to Chris that we swim out to them, so we shed most of our clothes and ran down to the lakeshore.

By lakeshore, I mean marshy weedy gooey stuff that you sink into past your ankles as you wade out into the lake, and kick off swimming earlier than you really should just so that you're not touching the bottom any more.  We swam and played tag around the canoe, and then Jonathan, Rebekah and Meghan came out to join us, and it was really good.  Every now and then I'd look into the black water and feel a shiver of fear wondering what was underneath.  That's me and deep water, and all there was in the lake were rainbow trout!  (I think)


Lunch was hot dogs - I don't know why I'm describing all the meals, but I guess it's just something to blog about!

After lunch, Dad and I took the atv's out again, going the same way as we had in the morning, but we went way way further.  We had had to come back in the morning because someone needed a drink.  It wasn't Chris, Laura or me.

After that, we packed up and came home, and no one got hurt on the trip.  I'm quite surprised!

Dad cooking the hot dogs, with a typical Jon Bailey shot

Chris sitting on an atv with Olivia

Camping day 1

Last night, I was wrecked.  It was a good tired feeling, a feeling of having accomplished something, but with nothing more to show than a good bit of sunburn and aching muscles.  An early night was had by all, although reluctantly amongst the smallest, although they needed it perhaps more than anybody!

The weekend started at a relaxed pace, on the road no earlier than 1100.  The big boat was piled with our stuff, plus the twelve of us, making it look like we were leaving for weeks, not just one night.  I guess you still require the same amount of camping gear for one night as for many!  The drive to the campsite on Coal Mine Road should have taken about forty-five minutes, except that one of the lids blew off one of the tubs, and when we (the blue van, with J&R) went back to find it, we decided to wait for Adam to finish work so that he could ride with us.  About an hour later (wow) we were on the road again.

The tarmacadam ended at the highway, morphing into a dirt strip that ran up to and under the pipeline, getting bumpier and ruttier the further we went.  As we were off-road, and travelling at about 5mph, Jude Chris was released from his car seat and perched himself on some of the luggage, the back of his head knocking rhythmically into the window over every bump - but totally unconcerned.

Finally we arrived at where the ute (are they utes in Alaska?) was parked, with a four-wheeler missing from the flatbed trailer.  Soon, however, Chris screamed towards us with clouds of dust and revving of craziness.  He and Adam took some of the supplies back to the cabin and we waited for rides.

The track to the cabin was just wide enough for a four-wheeler, so we abandoned the van and all clambered aboard, howbeit uncomfortably!

The campsite & cabin

At the cabin, unpacking (for what it's worth) didn't take long, and after a nice cold beer to reward us for our hard work, we went four-wheeling.  I drove with Dad on back, Adam drove alone, and Jonathan drove with Rebekah.

Chris, building a tent , and below, Jonathan & Jude

The three smallest, running to check on the growing camp-site
Being my first atv drive of the year, I was slightly more hesitant than the boys, especially as I had valuable cargo and didn't want him to fall off!  However, by the time we reached the coal mine (40 minutes later?) I was happy to go at a reasonable pace.

At the coal mine, there was a large rusted piece of machinery, full of bullet-holes.  Some were massive, almost an inch in diameter.  We clambered up the long arm of the machine, I presume which used to be some sort of moving ramp to put the coal on.  Then onto the main body of the machine, where I snagged my jeans on a bullet hole and managed to tear them.  Quite annoyed about this, as I bought them in Ireland, and they're my favourite jeans (Mum, I'm going to have to get a new pair sent out !!!)  I should be able to patch them, I hope.

Jude Chris went wild in the cab, to the concern of most, standing up into one piece of metal and then falling down into another, reaching towards sharp bullet holes and being pulled away at the last minute.    That child must be headed towards being an Explorer or something !   Jonathan found a geocache and added to it, although I'm not sure what he wrote.

Jude 'exploring' (at the cabin, not at the mine)
We climbed the sliding sides of the coal mine, we drove through river fords, and on the way back, to let Dad drive, I rode with Adam.  I'm not not saying I don't trust my father, but as he has never ridden an atv before, I chickened out...  I would probably have been safer with him - thanks Adam for driving insanely fast, almost throwing me off at one stage, and reducing my tailbone to dust.  OK maybe I'm being slightly dramatic.

After the drive, we played scrabble, and then had dinner, which was grilled pork chops and chicken breasts, with crazily good potato salad courtesy of Laura, and marinated grilled vegetables by Rebekah.  Mmm!

And in the evening, we went fishing.  We didn't actually catch any fish, although Chris had managed to catch one while the rest of us were four-wheeling earlier.  We did have a good time drinking rum and coke, smoking cigars (not me), and listening to music.  The lake was as still as glass, the sun keeping its face above the horizon even after midnight.

And that was the end of the first day...  More to come !!!

Chris & Adam doing crosswords

Scrabble with Rebekah & Laura

Nick with the fish 'he' caught

Dad just taking it easy...

I have no coal-mine photos as I refused to take my new phone on the atv's.  I'm sure Dad and Jonathan have loads, so if I can, I will 'steal' some off them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sometimes, writing a blog entry on an iphone isn't as appealing as it usually is, and sometimes I just don't have the oomph to write anything anyway.  And sometimes I promise I will write a blog and then I feel like I have to and I'm like MEH, which to me is the best way of expressing how I feel.  Although right now I feel MEH-OW-MEH-OW with the MEHs being how I feel in between swallowing which is the OW part.  I need a new set of tonsils.  I'm so over these ones it's not even funny.

I just finished reading somebody's blog about bacon chocolate chip cookies, and much as I love bacon and also love chocolate chips and cookies, and in fact chocolate chips and cookies combined together, the idea of all 3 in 1 just makes me shudder.  Not.  Good.  I do like bacon with pancakes and maple syrup, so maybe I would like a bacon cookie... I dunno though.

I'm writing this blog entry on a computer, by the way, in fact on C&L's macbook which has only annoyed me about 10 times since starting the first paragraph.  Actually it started annoying me before that, when Pages wouldn't open and Gmail wouldn't let me write the blog entry as an email.  So I had to laboriously open up blogger and search around in my mind for my password.  So much work.

I need one of those sucky hoses that dentists have in their surgeries to stop people wanting to swallow all the water and bits of tooth that they spray in their mouths, cos that way maybe I wouldn't have to swallow either.

I was going to post about Anchorage, but I did put some pictures on Facebook... so I'm sorry that some of you don't have my facebook account, but I don't know you anyway so... it's a hard knock life.  Maybe I will post some photos on here.  Maybe I will, and maybe I won't.

The best word to describe Anchorage is 'maelstrom' or rather, the Anchorage trip rather than the place itself.  6 adults and 6 children, of which 2 smalls were sick, there you go.  Nuff said.

I also now want to watch Person of Interest, and as I have technically blogged (not anything interesting, mind), I'm going to go watch it.  Cos I can.  And who's gonna stop me?  You?  I didn't think so.

TTFN !!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chris: right, stay inside the car because this is a real Alaskan residence, and you might get shot.

Ten minutes later:
Olivia (4): is it for real life that people shoot you here, or is it just pretend?

I think she should be more afraid of the number of mosquitos humming around us. They're bigger than the Australian ones, but it's strange how something so small can make my heart beat faster and make me struggle to cover every scrap of my skin with clothing. Hoodies are a wonderful invention. Why did I choose ankle socks? What if the mosquitos get in under the bottom of my jeans? AAAHH!!!

We're picking up a second-hand table saw on our way to Whitestone. This is truly an experience, as the table saw guy either lives in a run down caravan with boarded up windows, or a little wooden shack covered with a tarpaulin. If you look closely, you can pick out the door. Hence my brother's comment.

Every time Chris opens a car door, the three of us inside go on high alert. Meghan (10) shares my mosquito allergy, so I can appreciate her concern, although I'm pretty sure the siren-shriek isn't going to scare them away!

On our way now to WSF, Meghan is reading, reminds me of Sarah, and she doesn't appear to be affected by car sickness either.

Olivia was kicking up a stink in the car...
Chris: Olivia! Who's in charge?
Olivia: Auntie Kate!!!
Chris: Wow!
Me: Oh yeah! High five!!


Tonight, I gave out the presents, telling Nicholas that he had two because last time 'how come the girls got two and I only got one???' - expected a reaction from RKB and I got it ! He was thrilled with the dinosaur and gliders, but immediately upset that the first glider didn't glide. Stupid designs, I agree. Maybe next time something remote controlled? haha.

I got to build lots of lego, bounce on the trampoline (and try to prevent Olivia getting squished by the maniacal JMB kids) , throw an American football with Jessica (attempt to, anyway) and drink wine, which is always good.

Now, the day is over and I should go to sleep. I like jetlag this way, because I'm awake in the evenings, but it is tough getting up in the morning ! It is also 2330 and still light outside, which is odd.

Did I mention that Jude Chris beat me up? The child isn't even two, tough as nails and a little monster. Initially he was shy, that lasted all of two minutes, and then he was all over me, squeezing my neck with his chubby little fingers, poking his fingernails deep in my eyes and butting his head into my stomach. Did I mention drooling? A LOT?? Wow. I then told him it was nap time and asked if he wanted to read a book... his reaction?

...to push me down on the floor (he is persuasive, for 20 months) throw his blanket on me, give me a doll, and charge headlong out of the door. He was NOT pleased when I retrieved him. Wow.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Flying over to Alaska! and the nasty old 737-400 on the SEA-FAI leg, with some nice old airplanes in back!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

This is it!  The long awaited Alaska trip is just hours away... one last sleep and it's off we go!  Strange to be flying out of Brisbane around 1100 and be arriving in Los Angeles at around 0700 the same day...  not quite relativistic travel as per Ender's Game, but does this make me younger but older at the same time?

Hugely looking forward to seeing all the family, and will be sure to take lots of photos and do my best to blog while I'm over there, although perhaps I should re-name this thing The AK Report?

Here's to hoping I actually have packed everything that I need...