Welcome to "Our Life"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

Ok so it has been more than a week since I posted. Sorry.....

As I sit here thinking about writing this blog it has dawned on me that it was 2 years ago today that we left Ohio. Wow.....some days it seems like yesterday and others it seems like it has been forever. So much has happened in the last two years. Most of what has occurred has been chronicled here on this blog. The good, the bad and the ugly......

Anyway back to what has been happening. The last post was pretty much about the Iditarod so I will try and pick up from there. I continued to work at the Skwentna Roadhouse part time and Roger spent lots of time on the snow machine hauling freight and also doing tours. I will let him tell you of his adventures. 

I made another trip back to Ohio in March which was unplanned. On the 17th I received a call that my dear friend Louise was in the hospital and it did not look good. She had been battling breast cancer for about ten years with metastasis to the liver and spine. I made arrangements to go to Ohio flying in to Anchorage on the mail plane on the 22nd. I was hoping to get to Ohio before she passed away but it was not to be. As we were at the airstrip in Skwentna waiting on the mail plane I received the call that Louise had passed. I went on to Ohio with a heavy heart to celebrate her life with other friends and family. The one great thing out of that trip was spending time with the grandkids and kids and being there for Easter, coloring eggs with the kids, Easter egg hunts, going to the park and ball practices. I returned to Alaska on April 10th, did a little shopping and flew back out here to Skwentna on the 12th. 

April 14th Roger and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. We went over to the roadhouse where Cindi fixed us an awesome dinner of king crab and halibut cheeks with sides. It was great. The snow was slowly starting to disappear, the river was still OK, not good enough for freighting anymore but still able to cross.

We made a couple of trips down to our cabin to get the "last" of our stuff during the first part of April. I think we may finally be moved in here but we all know what thinking does. We have finally gotten everything out of the totes and put away. My craft stuff is "organized" and I have been able to do a few cards. Roger has been busy working on things around here, getting a boat repaired and usable, cutting and splitting wood, sorting stuff and the list goes on and on. 

The ice on the river went out on April 29th this year. The dogs actually had crossed the river that morning and came back about 2 hours before the ice moved out. Whew.....that was too close for comfort in my book. 

Here are some pictures of our location.
View from the front porch of the house

The above picture was taken standing on the front porch of the house. The buildings from left to right are the "old house", wood shed, post office (way back in the trees, just barely visible in this picture) the cache with the gen shed/workshop behind it.

The "Old House"

The Wood Shed with PO in background
The old house is the Iditarod checkpoint headquarters for Skwentna. This is where the cooking, planning, etc takes place. 

The Cache and Generator Shed/Workshop
As you can see there is still a lot of wood to be split and stacked into the wood shed for winter. 

Roger has been busy pulling snow machines out of the woods around here and amazingly many of them started! 

The Mutts
The picture with Roger reaching up to the window was taken on May 20th. As you can see there is still a small little bit of snow there on the ground. The snow right here had been so high that Hans was able to look at us through the window and we could see his paws about where Rogers hand is. Part of the depth was due to snow sliding off the roofs right there but the snow was deep enough when packed that you could not see this porch that Roger is standing by. The snow in the yard is finally all gone and we are looking at getting a spot tilled up for our garden in the next day or two. I have some plants started and Roger is going to pick a few up in town next week when he goes in to get his fishing supplies. That is something I am not going to get for him! No way no how!!!!!!!!!!

The house with guest cabin in background
This past Tuesday we went down to our cabin and got our boat, visited with the neighbors there and I did my first solo in the boat. Roger had taken our 4 wheeler over to where our boat was and he and Tom got it put in. He then came around with the boat and got me from our cabin with the boat as the trails where MUD, MUCK, YUCK! He had trouble getting through and there was no way I was going to do it as I am not "aggressive" enough on the 4 wheeler so I ended driving the boat around to our landing while Roger brought the 4 wheeler back. And then I drove the boat back up here to Skwentna following Roger in the boat we had gone down there in. That was my first solo in the boat and the boat came through unscathed! I will be using one of the boats to go across the river to get to the roadhouse this summer so I better keep practicing. especially my "docking" and securing the boat. It really sucks when a boat goes for a trip without anyone. 

May you all have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend.  Thank You to those who serve and have served our country. 

Thank you to for taking time to share our life with us. Talk to you soon,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Busy Busy Busy

Ok so it has been brought to my attention that there hasn't been a post in quite some time. Sorry about that.....things have been crazy busy. 

When Roger last posted we had just moved up here to Joe and Norma's place in Skwentna, and I was in Ohio to see the kids and grandkids which had been planned for a while. After Ohio I went to Florida for a week to see my mom and returned to Alaska on February 15th. I hit the ground with my feet running!
I got home to our place on Thursday the 16th and started working at the Skwentna Roadhouse on Friday! February and March is a very busy time of year up here with tourists, snow machine races and sled dog races.

Anyway the first weekend I was home was the Iron Dog snow machine race which goes from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks. About 2000 miles in all. There are a couple of "classes" that the riders can choose from: trail class which is a laid back kind of ride from Big Lake to Nome or the pro class which goes as fast as possible from Big Lake to Fairbanks hoping and praying to be the first ones there. The pro class rides in teams of 2 and both riders have to check in at each check point before they can continue on. 

Roger worked at the checkpoint here in Skwentna helping out and I was working my buns off at the roadhouse cooking for spectators. It was a bit of a challenge since it was my first day really working the kitchen there and I had no clue where most stuff was and Cindi was outside at the checkpoint! But hey we made it through and no one yelled too loud when things took a little longer than normal.

Roger stayed very busy this winter hauling freight on the snow machine and also shoveling roofs up at Shell Lake.....now any of you that know Roger very well should know that he really doesn't like heights! But he did good and only fell off one roof! The amount of snow they had up there was even more than we had and I know that we had 177 inches of snow here! I stayed busy working at the roadhouse and trying to get settled in here. 
River Crew "Planning Meeting"

The first weekend in March was the Iditarod Sled Dog race. The volunteers started showing up on Friday morning and I was kept busy running back and forth to the air strip with the snow machine and sled hauling people, supplies etc etc.... There is a group of ladies from the Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley area called the "Sweeties" that come out and cook all weekend for the other volunteers and the mushers. There is another group from the Tacoma, WA area that come every year called the "Darlings" aka "The River Crew". Most of these volunteers have been coming to this checkpoint for many years and it was like watching a well oiled machine at work the way they got things done. 
Getting Water for the Dogs
Saturday was spent packing down the snow on the river where the dog teams would be and gathering supplies that would be needed on Sunday. By the time we all sat down to the special "Pre-Hersal" Dinner that the Sweeties had planned for Saturday night for Kelsey (part of the Tacoma gang) and her fiance Carter who were getting married later in the month there was 47 people here! And then a couple more showed up on Sunday morning, another vet and the teacher on the trail. 
Putting out the Straws Bales for bedding down the dogs

The "Dog Food Depot"
Sunday......RACE DAY! While the Sweeties were busy cooking and cooking the Darlings got busy down on the river getting the checkpoint set up. This involves cutting through the ice to provide water for the mushers for the dogs, setting straw bales out for them to bed the dogs down on, putting up the checkpoint banner, digging out the steps for the mushers to use to come up to the building for some food and sleep if wanted and many other items that I am sure I am forgetting. 

And then you wait......watching for the first head lamp coming toward the checkpoint out of the night. This night though we had the Northern Lights giving quite an awesome display to entertain us while we waited. At one point there were hundreds of dogs just below us down on the river. Most all the 60+mushers start the race with 16 dogs and usually still have all of them when they get here as it is early in the race. We did end up with 6 "drop" dogs here that are then flown back to Anchorage until someone comes from that mushers kennel to get them. 
A team checking in

The checkpoint was busy busy from about 8:30 pm until noon on Monday. The first musher arrived shortly after 8:30 pm and the last couple of musher headed out around noon on Monday. 

Looking down on the "checkpoint"

Lance Mackey

One Tired Musher!

On Monday morning some of the vets and communications people started leaving which meant getting them and their gear over to the airstrip. All of the comms people and vets, dropped dogs and race judge were scheduled to leave on Monday but the weather turned and the Iditarod air force couldn't get all of them out so we ended up with no vets but still had drop dogs here. We did still have a couple of comms people and a great race judge who used to mush to help with the dogs. We ended up bringing the dogs up off the river on Monday night though as there were some wolves howling in the area and no one wanted the checkpoint to make the news for dogs being attacked by wolves. 

Monday AM Still have a few teams here
And exhaustion wins!

The "Darlings" Getting ready to head home

Finally got everyone including the dogs on planes just after noon on Tuesday and man was it quiet around here! It was a wonderful experience and I am so glad we were here to be a part of it. 

Well I think I will call it enough for now. There is much more to tell about what has been happening over the last couple of months and I will try to post again in the next week or so. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog and I promise we will try to get back in the habit of posting. 
Blessings to all, Myra

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Relocation Experiences

Hello to all from near downtown Skwentna Alaska. Downtown of course is across the river and it is not a town. It is hard to describe Skwentna. It is the name of our Zip Code for the postal service, it has .3 (Point 3) people per square mile according to the census bureau, there is a Roadhouse that has rooms and cabins for rent and they sell food, and an air strip that is maintained by the FAA. The Post Office is in our front yard today. Myra and I have relocated to Joe and Norma's property to take care of it (the property) for an undetermined amount of time. We have nothing to do with the post office.

I am not really sure how to go about telling about this whole experience so I am just going to do my best. I may ramble on a bit or be a little out of chronological order or off by a day or two. I will do my best to be accurate.

Joe and Norma were due to move on 1-2-12, Alaskan weather made sure that did not happen. The arrangements were for the Iditarod Air force to fly out there belongings and them. The Iditarod Air force is a group of private pilots that fly supplies and people for the Iditarod dog sled race each year. Joe and Norma Delia have hosted a checkpoint for the Iditarod every year since it's inception in 1974. It took a few days for the weather to cooperate enough for the planes to fly and be able to come to Skwentna. When they were finally able to get here a few of us loaded our freight sleds and toboggans with Joe and Norma's boxes of items that they were moving and take them across the river to the air strip. It took 7 planes loads to get all of their boxes out on the planes. By the time the last plane took off with moving items the weather had changes and Anchorage got fogged in and no more planes were able to fly that day. Joe and Norma and their two adult kids that were here were unable to fly out. It took three more days before the weather cleared enough for Joe and Norma and family were able to fly out. I think it was 1-9 when they finally reached Anchorage. The Air force had made arrangements for a U-Haul for Joe and Norma's stuff and everything was ready for them to take to their new home.

The day Joe and Norma finally flew out was Extremely challenging for me and others. While Myra and I have not lived here in the bush very long, it was very easy to develop a special relationship with these extraordinary people. Myra and I spent each day with Joe and Norma while we waited on the planes to be able to fly. During the final morning waiting on the planes everyone started experiencing various emotions. There was nothing to do but think, talk and wait. The plane was delayed for a few more hours because of a heavy snow fall and the runway had to be cleared before they could fly in. a very nice face-book post came through that stirred a lot of emotion, saying fair well to Joe and Norma. Then the time came for the trip to the air strip. We got out Joe's snowmachine for him to drive to the plane. After more than 60 years of Bush living this man drove himself to the airplane for what is in all likelihood his last plane trip to town. We all loaded on snowmachines and followed Joe to the airstrip. I could not stop myself from crying on the trip over. I was following an icon, a living legend out of the territory and it tore me up. It stirs me deeply as I type this now. My respect for Joe and Norma can not be spoken. Live well you two, best wishes for a good quality of life in town.

Myra and I did not pack a thing or move an item until the day Joe and Norma flew out. We now only had a few days until Myra was doe to fly out for Ohio. Myra and I headed home and packed some clothes and personal care items and came back up river with the dogs. Hans happily ran the whole eleven miles and Jeff rode on the snowmachine about ten of the miles. Over the next few days we managed to move most of the food and items that should not freeze and we got the cats here etc. Most all of the furniture was left here as well as most household furnishings. We basically only have to bring items we want of our own as Norma left the home almost fully stocked and equipped. We did bring Myra's favorite cooking ware and our recliners. We will bring more items as time and weather allows.
Myra spent the rest of her time here sorting threw the kitchen cupboards etc removing items we won't use and packing them up and organizing the place the way she wants. I spent almost a week in the work shop going threw box after box after coffee can and box after coffee can full of misc. stuff. I now have a work bench to work on and some additional floor space to work in. I still have many boxes and cans to go threw, mostly full of hardware items now. I was barely able to find a tool when I got here, now I have large boxes of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and more. the hand tools were all mixed in with the boxes of stuff.
We will package and label all of these items and put them away. I will be bringing my tool boxes etc on here. I will only leave or take tools to our cabin to do projects that I want to accomplish there.
We have our work cut out for us here for a while. There are several repair and maintenance items that need attended to along with all of the sorting of a collection of 50 years of stuff. Norma has instructed us to treat the place as if it is our own so we will be making a few adjustments around here to become more comfortable.

I have been ask many questions about the "house" we live in now. I will do my best to describe it for you. I will post pictures some time in the future. this is not a "Picture" type of post.
The "New House" is what we are living in. Joe built this home for Norma fifteen years ago. It is primarily log construction with some plywood and lumber on the second story. The walls down stairs are full exposed logs inside and out. they are quite beautiful. The cabin is approx. 26' x 30' and has a full upstairs. The only divided off rooms are the bathroom and a couple of walk in closets. YES Phyllis, there is a well, running water, a flush toilet and a washer & dryer. No, we don't have a dishwasher and I really miss Myra right now!!!! Guess what needs done. For all intense and purpose this is a very modern bush home. There the "Old Home" over closer to the river. Joe had built that one about 30 years ago. That home does show its' age some but it is still functional for today's use. The old house needs work where it is settling. The old house is now the Iditarod headquarters during the 4 day race event that happens here and it has a lot of storage in it. There is a "Guest Cabin" out behind the new house. The guest cabin is very nice inside but the foundation needs re-worked as the building is settling and is becoming fairly un-even. There is a Generator Shed / workshop that is pretty nice. The building is heated by the water cooled generators that are inside and it has a basement area for the water system and other storage. The workshop will be quite nice when I get the shelving built and things organized. there is also Five diesel generators in there and only 2 of them function so some decisions have to be made about the old ones. There is an above ground (approx. 10') cache building for storage. This cache was originally for food and meat items to keep them out of reach of the animals out here. Today the cache is just for misc. storage. Then there is the Post Office building about 200' from the new house, out near the property entrance coming off of the river.

It is different living here as a change from our cabin. We are closer to the river so the dogs detect more snowmachine traffic and react to that. The Post Office is in the front yard so there is traffic right in the yard. As of now there is no Battery system so if you want power the generator must be running and there is no fuel oil back up heat so someone must be here every 8 hours maximum to stock the wood stove or the house gets pretty cool. Those are a couple of changes that I am going to try and make to modernize the house some more. It is not like there is a ton of traffic but, any traffic is more than what we had before so it is different.

I have been hauling freight the last few days and have been gone up to 12 hours. The house has gotten down to 43 degrees one day and that took all night to get the temp back up, of course it was 27 below zero that day. I am going shoveling up to Shell Lake this week and get some more exercise and make a little money in the process.

I have some pictures and stories about hauling freight and the weather etc but that is for another time.

Thank You for allowing me to share with you!
I will talk to you again soon,
Take Care and God Bless,