Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Retell Value

It's been too long since my last entry so I figured it was time to give my 3 loyal (and not a little bored) readers something new to peruse. I often tell my children, "Life is about the stories!" So I try to experience as much as I can in order to have stories to tell them and anyone else who will listen. That philosophy has served me well. With that in my back pocket I have enjoyed jumping out of airplanes, traveling the world, seeing incredible sights, going unbelievable places, experiencing much of what the world has to offer in all it's God-given or man-made glory. However, living life in such a way as to maximize its retell value can backfire. One could quickly find themselves, for the sake of the story, doing something or going somewhere that might just prove, in 20/20 hindsight, to not have been such a great idea. Enter today, stage left.

Our two youngest kids are spending the night at some friends house. Our oldest was at work most of the evening. That left one child and the need for dinner. So we loaded up the car and headed out. We enjoyed the rare occasion of having only one child with us. Conversation was lively, food was palatable, and this being the summer in Alaska, the sun was still up and shining brightly as we headed home around 8pm.

The drive home was not a long one and we had to pass through a large wooded area between Ft. Richardson and Elmandorf AFB. As is our custom, we drove slowly and kept an eye on the wood line to see if we could spot any wild life. We’ve enjoyed this drive in the past as we have spotted all manner of animals such as moose, fox, ptarmigan, etc. Halfway through the woods we rounded a corner and spotted a very large black bear slowly crossing the road. He didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry so we pulled over to watch him in all his lumbering goodness. But as is the norm, he entered the woods as if he belonged there. And we watched in awe as he perfectly blended in to the point of being invisible. Try as we might, we couldn’t see him only a few meters into the thick forest undergrowth. And as we began to pull away from viewing this spectacle of nature, my good friend “lack of judgment” intervened. “After all,” she whispered in my itching ear, “life is about the stories” and this seemed like a good time for a story.

Only a few meters from where sister bear entered the woods was a gated service road. As we pulled up to it my intentions must have become more than obvious because the background noise that I now know was my wife’s wisdom became louder and louder. Still, the story must be had, so my son and I quickly jumped out of the car and cautiously made our way up the service road. It is important in these situations to walk as quietly as possible so as to increase the chances of surprising said bear and thus ensuring that your offspring are eaten. We continued down the path looking into the area we believed the bear to be until, after about 100 meters or so, we thought we heard something and looked toward the sound. That’s when we spied it…approximately 25 meters away from us on the side of the road we had been NOT looking at. I’m going to go ahead and believe it didn’t see us. At least it didn’t appear to care. It lumbered along and we followed at “a safe distance” which, according to Field and Stream Magazine, is defined as about 36 miles. USUALLY.

This story drew to a close when our little Ursus Americanus began to move toward a housing area on post. We flagged down a passing Military Policeman and he took it from there. Usually such animals are shot with big rubber bullets to make them not want to come around people. And it seems to work most of the time.

So, today I have a story. And happily it doesn’t include my son and I becoming a tasty bear treat.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Backyard Bing

Sometimes, as parents, you just have to wait until the kids are in bed to really enjoy yourselves. Once they are tucked in and asleep parents can, being the adults in the family, enjoy some time together, doing things without the little ones around.

Tonight was such a night. The weather warmed just a touch, we had a short spell of drizzle followed by what can only be described as falling snowballs offering us all the makings of some good old fashioned late night parental fun.

And fortunately, we have photographic evidence.

My wife says he looks like Bing Crosby!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Proof Positive

We left Savannah Georgia on the 12th of December. Exactly 3 weeks later we arrived at Ft. Richardson, Alaska. Upon arrival we checked into the Army lodging and prepared for the required 6 year wait for a home on post. Buying a home here is not an option for us as our home in Georgia has not yet sold so we knew it would be an interesting wait until the housing office could find us a place. Imagine our surprise when I went in the next morning and they handed us the keys to a place for us to look at and see if we wanted to live there. Well, knowing that we are a family of 6, there is usually not much of a choice in these matters. So Tina and I headed over with the understanding that the next three years would be spent in a beautiful home built approximately 15 years before WWII. Typically, a home will only fit our family if the floor tiles are mix and match, creating something of a horrific plaid, and the bathroom is one big rust stain. This is the reality of military housing. However, knowing that we really had no other options, we swallowed hard and drove to what would in all likelihood become our home. The wheels of change move slowly but move they do. What we found is nothing short of miraculous...5 bedrooms a 2 car heated garage and space for all.

Once the tears of joy dried, the reality that we'd be living out of our suitcases for the next 200 months while we waited for our household goods to arrive set in. It's a nice home so we figured we would would have no problem living in a mostly empty house. Then the wheel moved again. Two days later we were informed that our stuff had arrived and was ready for delivery. The next day we had a million boxes strewn about. Still, we had our stuff and it seemed life would soon be normal again.

If I didn't mention it, we're in Alaska. It's cold here! Like Absolute Zero cold! Fortunately I don't have to walk far to work. Even so, if I do walk and leave the trusty Caravan for Tina, I can count on not feeling anything exposed and almost everything not exposed by the time I reach my destination 300 yards away. We shipped my little car the day we left Savannah and anticipated that it would arrive in Alaska on or about April 13th. But that wheel keeps moving. Only a couple of days later, my car arrived. So we drove the 5 miles to the pick up point and got it followed by a nice spin out on the ice resulting from a quick yank on the emergency brake while taking a deserted corner. I do not recommend this. It was, nevertheless, fun. And I have my car.

So our first week here has been nothing short of a logistical miracle. The Army does not move very quickly. But in our case it did. Many times I've told others that God is bigger than the Army. That He can do things the powers that be say can't be done. Like open a beautiful new home the day after arriving at a new post. Or like getting your household goods within a week. Or getting your car delivered 17+ years ahead of schedule. Now I have proof.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yukon, Ho!

We finally landed at Haines Alaska yesterday just before noon and after getting something eat decided to spend the night and get an early start the next morning. As the day wore on I was struck by the absolute beauty of the place. It is simply gorgeous. I walked to the local auto parts store to pick up some tire chains to ensure we made it to Haines Junction today. As I walked back to the hotel I remember thinking, "Man, what a beautiful sunset. Awesome! Unbelievable! Hey wait, it's only 2:30pm!" So it was that we settled in for a long winters nap when no one could sleep. Keeping 4 kids and 2 dogs mentally intact in a small hotel room overlooking complete blackness is no small task. But we did it. And after getting everyone to bed later that evening we got some rest in preparation for an early start today.

This morning, we linked up with another couple headed for Anchorage and began the slow caravan to wherever we could get by evening. The roads were icy so I put on my chains and proceeded to head for the summit. All went well until we broke the 25 MPH mark. At that time the hounds of hell began to scream and they sounded remarkably like something trying to rip my front fender off from underneath. Living in the south for so long I'd forgotten that besides assisting with traction, tire chains produce approximately 3 billion decibels. And once I got past screaming to communicate with my wife riding shotgun, I began to enjoy the scenery.

Remember the time you were driving through the Yukon and you happened upon about 25 Bald Eagles roosting in trees and flying and feeding beside a nearby frozen river? Me too! That was this morning and it was surreal. And it was just the beginning of a day filled with new sights that I have only heretofore dreamt of. We saw Eagles, sled dog teams, scenic vistas that would make Ansel Adams stop in his tracks. We even saw some wild Canadians in their natural habitat. A very exciting day. We passed trough towns like Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, and Tok. All these places make you wonder why anyone would put a town there! At one point the gauge in our car said that it was 28 degrees below zero outside. That's not a real measurement until you actually experience it. We stopped and got out out for a second when it was a balmy -15 degrees and I actually felt my pancreas begin to harden. Within a few seconds, I couldn't feel my brain! So we jumped back in the car, cranked the heater, and within 3 hours began to thaw.

Finally we pulled into Tok, AK just in time to get dinner at the Grumpy Griz Cafe where they serve a pretty mean chicken fried steak. After dinner we got a hotel room, unloade the trailer and got busy getting ready for bed. As I think back on the sights and events of today, one lesson comes clear, rolling across the Yukon. At 28 degrees below zero, nothing in a U-Haul trailer is safe. Shampoo, hand lotion and even air freshener freeze solid. So, tomorrow we head on into Anchorage. With any luck, we'll arrive with semi-gelatinous toothpaste.