Stories from the e-mail file. For a number of years I would send out
e-mails to family members, mostly about growing up in Wynnewood, Oklahoma and
some about living in Alaska, others are political comments, religious comments
etc. Most are of no redeeming social value what so ever.
1. Wynnewood Cotton Gins
3. Getting Smarter
4. Good Saturday
5. Another Week
6. Dry Spell Over
7. Swamp News
8. Monday Morning
9. Early Morning
10. North Country
11. Installing gauges in truck
12. Alaska Trip Recommendations
Beep, beep. This
e-mail contains nothing of any value. beep, beep (remember the sound the
trucks make backing up) Warning
Fall was in the air, the ground was white
as were the leaves of the many large trees growing in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
The window and door screens at the house were white and everything in sight
was like wise coated with the new white layer. Snow? Not quite,
just the fuzz and lint emitted by the numerous large cotton gins in town.
It was September and the cotton crop was being harvested.
Growing up in the Cultural Capital of the
USA, at times I wasn't sure that when I died, did I want to go to heaven or
just return to Wynnewood. It was just that kind of a place to be a kid,
just like Huck Finn growing up in Hannibal Missouri. Only thing was the
Washita River (pronounced Wah sha taw) was several miles from town, normally,
and required a bike ride to reach it.
Every time I visit Wynnewood, which is
seldom anymore, I wonder where they gin all the cotton we wear today.
Not too many cotton farmers remaining in the area. Cotton, if you have
never been around it much, is very hard on the soil. Long growing season
and badly depletes the nutrients from the dirt. It tends to be very
labor intensive or very costly to use the modern machinery to harvest and
transport the cotton bolls to some location to be ginned into a usable
product. Would have to suspect most of our cotton comes from some other
country these days. When we are in Mexico, especially where irrigation
is available, we see large fields of cotton growing. Cheap labor is the
key to profitable cotton farming.
Dealing with some recent health problems
has gotten me thinking about growing up in Oklahoma and does that effect my
health now? I remember that we used to go with the idea that if
something didn't kill you within 15 minutes, it was probably safe to use and
be around breathing the fumes, etc. This was the philosophy we followed
on breathing the air containing the cotton lint, the fumes from the large oil
refinery in Wynnewood, the poisons and other chemicals we used on the farms
and around the house.
I know that Pat's mother, Vi, has said on
several occasions that she feels Jess's using chemicals around the camps where
they worked was what caused the onset of his Parkinson's disease. From
what I have read she could very well be correct.
Even though I know it will never happen it
would be of interest to me and I am sure others for some one to do a study of
the health of people living in Wynnewood. As I think back to the
problems some of my buddies I grew up with have had, David had a heart attack
at age 20, Leonard had to have a bypass surgery at age 45, Jimmy died of
cancer at age 16, Johnny died of Parkinson's or MS at age 24, and on down the
list of names. The one thing most of these guys had in common, other
than running around with me and each other was where they lived in Wynnewood.
Wynnewood is built on a hill rising up from the Washita River Valley, the hill
running generally north to south and probably a total rise of a hundred feet
give or take. The prevailing winds in the area are out of the south in
the summer and out of the north in the winter. Because the refinery was
located on the southwest corner of town most of the fumes released in the
refining of petroleum products stayed on the west side of the hill and moved
to either the south of town or the north. We lived on the east side of
town and believe me the fumes got terrible there sometimes also. But all
of my friends mentioned above lived on the west side of town or north or south
of town on that side getting the constant blast of chemical fumes.
Many times I remember Dad saying that it
smelled like money to him. The refinery fueled the economy of the area
so no one ever said anything that I ever heard. After farming died in
the area as the main source of income for most people, the refinery was seen
as a gift from God. Still is to most of the folks living there.
There is no doubt in my mind that the
refinery plays a big roll in the health of the local population but it is a
slow change and easy to ignore. In this, Wynnewood is no different than
other towns in the US or around the world for that matter. Mexico City,
with an estimated 26 million people is a perfect example of pollution at its
finest. Great city, better yet a grand city but you need to take your
own air with you when you visit.
As a kid I am sure I went to school more
than I remember doing. We got out of school everyday at 4:00 and I was
free to run and jump most days till 6:30 when supper was served at the house.
Dad ran the auto parts store till 6:00 and Mom would have supper on the table
when he walked in the door. (just like I do for Patti now) On the
weekends after the chores were done or church was over, I was again free to
find my own entertainment. Most evenings when the weather was nice,
after the dishes were removed from the table for Mom and sister Barbara to
wash (women's work in those days)(ah, the good old days) I was free to leave
home to be with my friends. We would usually find something to do, being
it kick the can around town, liberating watermelons from trucks on the way
through Wynnewood, hanging out trying to look cool at the local RexAll Drug
store, and hundreds of other diversions of life.
We had seasonal activities also, sledding
if we got a snow that winter, attending sporting events at the high school,
bike riding around the area, going hunting or fishing on our bikes or going
down to the cotton gins to play. Back before legal liabilities became
such a big thing, no one seemed to mind us being in the buildings and around
the place. Just "don't break anything" was the usual
admonishment from some employee. Just watching all the cotton wagons
lining up to unload was a pleasant event at times. Trucks and tractors
would be line up for seemingly miles down the road waiting their turn.
Some of the farmers would get bored and would let us kids drive their trucks
and tractors in line while they went somewhere to relax. I would guess I
was 8 or 10 years old when I first got to drive in the line. Many of the
black farmers would bring their cotton in with horse or mule drawn wagons.
They would let us kids hop on with them and visit. The wagons were
unloaded with a giant vacuum cleaner like machine. A large flexible
hose, two feet across, was lowered into the wagon and the cotton was sucked
out into the main gin building. Sometimes we kids were allowed to get
down in the cotton wagons and direct the suction hose around. (I think
these workers may have read the story of Tom Sawyer and white washing the
fence) During the season they ran day and night seven days a week.
When we got bored we could always go hang out at the gin. (kids of today just
think they know how to have a good time)
The cotton storage buildings were huge,
most approximately the size of a football field, some with railroad tracks
running through the center and out the other end to the next building.
My guesstimate of the number of these building there in Wynnewood would be
around 50 give or take back in the late 40s or early 50s. If the weather
was bad these buildings were great places to play football, softball, bike
ride, have rock fights, etc. But as the soil in the area was depleted
and the price of cotton fell due to the increase in synthetic materials like
rayon and nylon, the building were not maintained and soon started to fall
apart. They were so wide that it didn't take much deterioration of the
roof rafters for the building to collapse. The last time I was in
Wynnewood, there was either one or two of the old building remaining and they
are on their last legs of standing.
A cotton bale weighs approximately 2,000
pounds. They would be stored until the gin could sell them and then they
were loaded on railroad flat bed cars and shipped out. The gins had
specialized equipment for moving the bales and loading them on the rail cars.
Many used tractors with long "gin" poles sticking out the front with
a winch cable to lift the bales. At the end of the winch was a large
claw that the operator would drop down onto the bale and it would grab the
bale and he could then pick it up and move it. Some of the operators
would let us kids help place the claw on the top of the bale and then ride on
the bale as he moved it. (hanging on for dear life as the bale swung
on the end of the cable.) Then once it was placed on the rail car we
would unhook the claw and the operator would head back to the storage building
for another. We would have to run back. Great fun. Suspect
this activity may have been the main reason for the formation of OSHA and its
safety standards of today. This and child labor laws. Some of the
operators would give us a nickel (enough to buy a soda with) or a free chew of
tobacco. Even though it made me throw up every time for years I kept at
it until I could chew and spit with the best of them.
joe b. (getting old and the good old days are upon
It is impossible to watch TV or read the
newspaper without being bombarded with information about security. Since
September 11, it has been a much talked about subject. I just hope more
is being done about the subject than just talk or making surface changes.
To listen to the man that used to be head of security at the airport in Tel
Aviv that now works as a consultant for Logan Airport in Boston, we haven't
made many meaningful changes. His general comments are that the USA
likes to talk tough about making meaningful changes to airport security but
doesn't want to offend the traveling voters using the airport services.
Remember the main job of our elected officials is to get reelected and to keep
their plush positions. As actor, movie producer, Mel Brooks said in one
of his movies, "It is good to be the King." Think maybe that
line came from the History of the World, Part 1.
Security has always been around. It
has just never effected so many Americans before this time. I remember
the first time I ran into it in a way that stuck with me. This was in
1961 when I was starting my sophomore year at college in Ada Oklahoma. (35
miles away from the cultural capital of Wynnewood) That year the college
had 9 new students from Panama. These were the first and only foreign
nationals at East Central State while I was there. What struck me as odd
was seeing for the first time, young people accompanied everywhere they went
by armed bodyguards. I had classes with several of this students.
The bodyguards would walk them to the classroom door, would take a quick look
inside, the student would then enter and the guards would remain outside
the door until the class was over. Out of class these 9 kept to
themselves and I never saw them on campus other than for class. Never
did know why they needed such protection and from whom.
When I attended USC in Los Angles, the
situation was the same except it involved Iranian students arriving in
limousines, guarded by Iranian bodyguards. I got to know some of them
and most indicated some kinship to the then ruler of Iran, the Shah.
In Ouray while affiliated with the
sheriff's department, we would rent out ourselves as personal security
consultants. (bodyguards) You were expected to be available instantly
but yet not be obvious. It paid extremely well and at one point in time
I entertained the thought of doing it full time. There is a school in
the Aspen area that is a bodyguard training facility. Privately run and
very expensive. Tends to serve as an employment agency at the same time.
If you want to work for the rich and famous that visit Colorado, then it helps
to have graduated from that school. Some of the newly rich and famous
folks that wanted an obvious bodyguard would request that we show up in
uniform. As deputies we all automatically had concealed weapons permits
by law and could carry class 1 weapons. (full automatics) The really
rich (old money) wanted you to blend into the woodwork when you worked for
them. They also required you to sign a secrecy agreement that you would
never discuss working for them or who you saw or what you heard said. At
one of the big wedding a number of us deputies worked as
security, perhaps at times we got a little carried away. We were
instructed to make sure no one but invited guests were allowed on the owner's
property. In addition to checking guests arriving by car, we also had to
check those arriving by helicopters. The father of the bride had
chartered most of the helicopters in Colorado for the day to ferry guests from
the Montrose airport directly to the ranch where the wedding was taking place.
It was fun to require some of the rich and famous to fork over identification
to prove they went with the invitation. I think more of the well known
country western singers use their real birth names than do the well known
Some of these folks made some sputt about
being required to show ID. "Don't you know who I am"? was a
regular quote from some. My standard reply was,"I'm not interested
in who you look like, I want to know who you are." You have to keep
in mind I am the same person that didn't know who the movie producer Oliver
Stone was when I met him at the Ridgway rodeo. I can mention his name
since I wasn't working for him that day. The ultimate country bumpkin
must come to his mind if he ever thinks about that day.
Anyway security has expanded in this
country from an individual need to a collective need of all of us after
September 11. The above all came to mind last night when I heard Dan
Rather read that the Bush administration had announced that all National Guard
troops would be pulled out of all airports on March 27th. Strikes me
there would only be three groups that would consider that issue important,
terrorists, guard personnel and the airports. Did that really need to be
announced on national TV?
I remember how after the 100 days war with
Iraq, it was revealed that Iraq got much of their military recon information
from watching CNN news. Also much of their communications from military
commanders in Baghdad to the field troops were carried over US phone lines and
satellites. Of course the commanders had to pay long distance charges to
the US phone companies so I guess it worked out OK.
Sometimes I truly believe that the book by
Joseph Heller, Catch 22 wasn't such a farce as I first thought when I
read it 30 or 40 years ago. In addition to a lot of loony
nonsense in the book, the gist of it was that a group had formed a private
army, fully equipped that countries could hire to fight wars for them.
Sometimes two rival countries would both hire this private army and the army
would then fight themselves. We are not far from that scenario right now
in Afghanistan. The USA paid for and designed the cave systems that the
Taliban are using to hide and gave them many of the weapons they are using to
fire at American troops and our allies. By helping them run the Soviets
out of Afghanistan, we allowed them to capture many Soviet weapons also.
Of course, parts are not easy to come by on old Russian weapons. You can
bet the missile that brought down the US helicopter, killing seven Americans,
wasn't designed or built in Afghanistan. Most of the Afghans on both
sides of the conflict are equipped with rifles designed by the Soviet designer
Anatole (?) Kalashnikov (sp), rifle version 47, better know as an AK 47.
(AutoKalashnikov) When first issued to Soviet troops, this marked the
first time all foot soldiers in a major army were given fully automatic
rifles. Widely thought to be the finest combat shoulder arm ever devised.
To borrow the slogan of Timex, the AK 47 will take a licking and keep on
joe b., feeling secure (at least here in my house)
3. Getting Smarter
As I have mentioned on several occasions before,
as a kid growing up I had this idea that I would get smarter as I got older.
Seemed to me as a kid the grown ups had all the answers or at least they
claimed they did. Forget now how many times I had to write, "The
word of the Wise is sufficient." Even while writing this a zillion
times I wondered who got to decide who was wise? Guess my teacher that
made me write it was the one that would decide. Sometimes I think that
my "smarts" reached their zenith in my mid 30s. Been downhill
ever since. A few items I may be better at but not many.
Just this morning, for example, I decided
to change out a couple of the kitchen electrical outlets. Added or
replaced outlets 100s of times in my life time. First go to Home Depot
and buy the outlets. Bring same home. Plug a light into the outlet
to be replaced and turn on. Go out to the breaker box, locate the one
that says "kitchen outlets", and turn it off. Return to
kitchen and verify that the light has gone out. It is now safe to work
on replacing the outlets. Change the first one, all goes well.
Move tools to the second outlet, remove cover plate, grab old outlet and pull
it out of box, quickly recognize that tingling sensation and pain running up
your arm, turn loose of outlet and wildly shake arm into the air all the time
dancing around the kitchen yelling loudly. Calm down and go find the
cat, Elliott, that was a witness to the show. Convince Elliott that it
is OK to come back into the kitchen. Return to breaker box and find
second breaker that controls some of the kitchen outlets. Replace
I do have a good excuse though, don't we
always. My electrical test meter is at the house in Stuart.
Actually have two but haven't seen my good one in years so have to
assume it is in storage in Colorado. Remember one time my father in law,
Jess, told me that he had used power tools for 40 years before he managed to
cut the end of his thumb off with a radial saw. While hanging the
outside Christmas lights over the weekend, I was driving a nail into the eve
and turned to say something to Pat. Not at all a good move. It has
been at least 10 to 15 years since I have had such a black thumb nail. I
had forgotten how important my left thumb is to me in doing lots of stuff.
Couple of more days and it should be recovered enough to use it some.
December is certainly one of the better
months for me. I love the Christmas season though I admit I don't do as
well with the weather so balmy. Don't remember ever having a white
Christmas while growing up in the cultural capital of America, Wynnewood
Oklahoma. After 35 years of snow on the ground in Alaska and in
Colorado, I miss not having any. Have you ever heard a Christmas song
about sand and sunshine? No they are all about snow and winter time.
Ouray had by far the best Christmas snows. Sometimes it seemed that the
flakes were so large you could almost hear them hit the ground. Plus it
was warm enough to go outside and enjoy. (see how I have already
forgotten the drudgery of shoveling the white stuff)
Now that December has rolled around again
it is time for me to start considering my choices for new years resolutions.
This is one of those times it is so good to be me. The only hard part is
deciding which of the many areas I want to work on improving. Plus I get
to decide myself. Suspect Pat might pick a totally different set of
resolutions I should be considering.
Perhaps as a family we should start a new
tradition. Sort of like exchanging gifts, except we could exchange
resolutions. We could draw names and then that person would receive,
anonymously I should add, five resolutions of needed improvements. This
was probably already tried by the Hatfields and the McCoys. Bad idea.
4. Good Saturday
Nice day. And productive also. Pat and
I got most of the lights hung on the house here in Crystal River this morning,
ventured to Home Depot to buy a Christmas tree and she is now off down town
looking for some other decorations.
What is so wrong with tossing dwarfs?
Seems that Florida has a law that prohibits, in any place that serves alcohol,
the throwing of dwarfs. Now I am sure your reaction is the same as mine
on this. This is something that needed a law to address?
Apparently some legislator felt it was a problem and got a majority of the
state legislature to agree with him. Now then the interesting part is
that a Tampa radio DJ that goes by the name of Dave the Dwarf on his rock and
roll show has filed a law suit against the state claiming that the law is
discriminatory. It only keeps dwarfs from working in bars in the game of
people throwing. You can still toss fat people, tall people and any
other but not a dwarf. His legal argument is that dwarfs have the same
mental capacity as average height people and they should be able to decide for
themselves if they wish to be tossed or not. I have this funny idea that
he will win his law suit. Singling out any group of citizens for
different treatment is headed for trouble in this country. Suspect they
will have to criminalize the tossing of all people if they want to stop dwarf
Also read that the American Civil Liberties
Union has their underwear in a bunch again over the government's plan to try
foreign terrorists in military courts in the country where they are caught.
I can't imagine the extra cost and tying up our federal court system to bring
foreign caught terrorists to this country for trail. Talk about a set up
for more terror and demonstrations that we would see here in the old US of A.
I am not sure but what the rules for military trials don't give just as fair a
trail as does a civilian one. Military trials seem to cut out a lot of
the legal wrangling that we see in civilian court rooms. If a person is
found guilty why should the punishment be allowed to drag out for years and
The terrorists sure didn't worry about the rights
of the people they killed on the airplanes or at the WTC attack. I guess
I don't understand why foreigners in this country are given the same rights as
is a citizen of the USA. While we have all read in the Bible that we are
to turn the other cheek to an adversary, I don't believe I have ever read
where it says you should stick out your neck so he can chop it off.
Brand loyalty is so important to companies.
They promote slogans that they hope you remember and identify with as you
shop. Everything from sodas to cars to who knows what. It is hard
for a company to get people to switch. For at least 30 years I bought
only Craftsman hand tools from Sears. Lately I have switched over to
buying hand tools from Home Depot. They have a store brand called Husky.
What caused me to switch? Home Depot Husky tools have a life time
guarantee. (just like Sears) However Home Depot came up with a slightly
different twist. They also guarantee Sears and Snap On tools even though
they don't sell either. You can take a broken Craftsman wrench into Home
Depot and they will give you a new Husky wrench for free. Was enough to
convince me that Husky must make good tools. So far I have been
Sometimes it is hard to stay with a brand
of product. Farm tractors come to mind. Growing up I was always
partial to J.I. Case tractors. One of the farmers I would work for was
Roy Rice. Roy had a large farm about 35 miles NW of Wynnewood outside
the town of Maysville. Roy mainly grew alfalfa for a money crop and then
he did some row cropping for animal feed for his farm. The years I
worked for Roy he maintained three tractors in working condition, a John Deere
Model 80 diesel, a Minneapolis-Moline G904 propane and a J.I. Case diesel (
about a 90 HP) with an enclosed cab with air conditioning, stereo, power
steering, etc. Normally Sammy Harris, Randy Rice and myself would work
for Roy during different times of the year that he needed extra help. He
paid on time, furnished us with room and board and his wife was an excellent
cook. Up at 4:30 AM, breakfast at 5:00, chores done by 6:00 and then a
foot race to the tractors. First one there always took the air
conditioned Case. The other two could fight over the Deere and the MM.
Normally the second one would take the MM as it had an electric starter.
The Model 80 Deere had a gasoline "pony" engine that had to be
started first and then this little engine would turn over the large diesel
engine and soon it would start. Normally once you got the Deere running,
it was not shut off. Too big a process to get it started again.
Sometimes we would use one of the other tractors to pull it and get it
started. Also after a day on the Deere it was easy to see why farmers
called them "popping Johnnies." Two cylinders, about the size
of dinner plates moving about 800 to 1,000 RPMs but they would out pull the
two bigger, more modern tractors. They had a strange rhythm when they
were idling along or not under much of a load. Always sounded to me like
it was going to die at any moment. Suspect part of my hearing deficit is
due to that tractor.
Also spent some time with an old Ford 8N.
Interesting little tractor. Four cylinder gasoline engine, 25 horsepower
give or take as I remember them. Still see them around the farms being
used. One of those tractors that farmers just keep rebuilding and using
for small jobs. My first tractor to use was an old Massy-Ferguson, don't
have a clue to the model of it. It started on gasoline and then you
switched it over to run on kerosene. Had two fuel tanks. Was built
sometime during the 30s and was not real dependable, at least the old one we
had on the farm.
Then later I drove a Fordson Major for
awhile. As I remember this was one of the English built Fort tractors.
All I really remember was that the owner of it told me that hydraulic oil was
cheaper than new hydraulic hoses. It leaked like a sieve. Today
the EPA would impound it for being an environment hazard. When Patti and
I owned the farm in Oklahoma, one summer we rented a Case crawler tractor to
doze some of the blackjack oak brush. It was a fun tractor that was easy
to drive. Was also the one I mentioned that I dozed up the bumble bee
nest with on the back side. However in the line of crawlers, it is hard
to beat an old yeller Caterpillar. Put a few hours on one when we lived
in Alaska. What a feeling of power those things give you.
Anyway most of the brands of tractors that
I was familiar with during the 60s are now gone or at least have a new name.
Big consolidation of brands took place in the 80s. White Motor company
bought up Oliver, Cockshutt and Minneapolis-Moline. Ford bought up New
Holland. The German company Deutz bought up one of the brands but I
can't remember which one. Fiat bought up Allis Chalmers along with
Hesston Manufacturing. Only John Deere seemed to be strong enough
financially to hold off take overs. Farmall changed hands as did Massey
Ferguson, Case and others.
joe b. thinking about the good life
on the farm
5. Another Week
For the first time in many months the temperature
outside the house is lower than inside. Forecast for last night was for
a record setting low. Projected to reach 52 degrees inland from us.
The close proximity of the Gulf has a moderating influence on our
temperatures. The drop in air temp should lower the gulf water's temp
and cause the fish to become more active. The fish behave much the same
as I do when the temps get too hot. Time not to exert too much effort on
either's part. They try to find a cooler spot (deeper water) the same I
look for an air conditioned one. With the north wind yesterday, our
humidity dropped significantly, the sky was blue and it felt good to be
outside. Normally if we get a blue tinge to our gray sky we feel
fortunate. The humidity has the effect of holding in the pollution
created. This can be seen when a person turns off a ceiling fan that has
been in operation for several months. The leading edges of the blades
will be covered with stuff, sometimes a quarter of an inch thick. This
is in a house that is shut up all the time with the air conditioner running.
Makes me curious what the insides of our lungs must resemble from the
Florida - Makes me wonder. First we
cannot figure out how to vote in an election, then we cannot figure out how to
count ballots and now we are finding that we have been teaching terrorists how
to fly airplanes. Pilot training is big business in Florida. Many,
many foreign students attend Florida Flying Schools. Cost is about half
of learning in Europe or Asia, a good climate for learning (no having to beat
the ice off the tie down ropes in the mornings) and being the state is so
multicultural, foreign folks can usually find a "home" group of
people to worship with, socialize with and speak their home language.
Whether you are German or Saudi, Florida can make you feel at home. A
number of the east coast areas of Florida have French language radio stations
as well as French language newspapers for the large number of Canadian
"snowbirds" from the eastern provinces. There are over 400
physicians, originally from India, practicing in the Tampa area.
The St. Pete Times had an article in it
this morning interviewing a man of middle east ancestry asking the question of
how long do you have to live in this country to be considered an American.
He had lived in the Tampa area for over 40 years, he and his four brothers had
all been in the US military, all had become US citizens but this past week he
and his family faced a lot of discrimination for their Arabic heritage.
Too often, I feel, we look at a person that appears to be of Asian heritage,
middle eastern heritage and we think foreigner. Not in a favorable
manner either. Too often, we as a group, only consider whites and blacks
as true Americans. Many of my friends that consider themselves to be
Native Americans would add a different twist to that story. Sure hope it
isn't going to take several hundred years for the newly arrive immigrants to
fit in and be accepted as Americans.
I liked brother in law Ivan's comments
about how the churches of this country have a major obligation to help solve
"our" problems with intolerance of others. We have all heard
it said that the most segregated time in America is on Sunday Morning at
11:00. The next time you are in church look around, I hope you see some
people that are not the mirror image of yourself. Chances are you won't,
I don't. And what does joe b. do about it? Absolutely nothing but
complain that no one is doing anything about it.
Looks like it may be a good day to go
6. Dry Spell Over
Strange how even a small hurricane can make a
person totally forget the long dry spell we have had here in Florida.
Hurricane Gabriele is due to hit the coast somewhere south of the Tampa area
sometime today. Since we are north of that area, chances are slim that
we will see much of the heavy rain and wind. The rain falls the heaviest
on the south and east side of the storms. With the rains of the last
week or so, most of the soon to be effected areas are already water logged and
so this storm will lead to wide spread flooding. Today's newspaper had a
page on this and past storms. I was surprised to learn that the fourth
most deadly hurricane to occur in the USA hit in New England in the 1920s.
Would never have guessed that. The Galveston Texas storm of the 1920s
came in number one with a loss of lives exceeding 8,000. At least TV has
done one good thing for all of us coastal dwellers.
We are under a heavy cloud cover at this
time so it will be awhile before it gets light. Pat just took off for
work so I need to plan something to do today with my time. My air
machine continues to shorten the time I need to sleep. Most mornings
now, I am awake shortly after 5:00 AM and lie in bed waiting for Pat's alarm
to go off at 5:30. As attractive, sweet and charming as my dear wife is,
she is not someone that you should awaken before her alarm go off. A
different person if that should happen to her.
With all the tragedy in NY and DC still
unfolding, I have tried to give some thoughts to other items in my life.
The terrorist attack can completely envelope a person's thinking but life for
the rest of us still must go on. With good old 20-20 hindsight, I just
wish that the USA had been as diligent at promoting democracy around the world
as the communists were at promoting their beliefs on the way a government
should function. I still remember hearing Lyndon Johnson speak about the
domino theory of communism in southeast Asia. If North Viet Nam is
allowed to remain, soon all of south east Asia will be communist. Of
course they remained and as we can all see, the rest of south east Asia didn't
become communists. Most remained dictatorships, then and now supported
by the USA. One of our governments main propaganda against Cuba was
their attempt to spread communism through out Central and South America.
I just wish we had been as active at trying to spread democracy to the people
of the world. If we had, perhaps the situation in the middle east and
the resulting terrorism could have been avoided. There really isn't a
true democracy in the middle east other than Israel. I don't know if
there are any of the 47 countries of the world, with a majority of Muslims,
that enjoy a true democratic form of government. Most of the Arab
countries of the world that we support, treat their citizens in a manner that
most Americans would find totally unacceptable. Only the few at the top
realize the benefits of all the oil they sell. As long as their leaders
can blame us for their problems, the people don't turn on their own leaders,
the real problem causers.
If anything good can come out of the attack
on NY and DC, I hope it forces us as Americans to realize that we are all of
one race, the human race. People of every ethnic background, skin color,
gender, religious background, etc. bled red blood, hurt and died in this
attack. If nothing else, we Americans have got to get along and do a
better job of supporting each other and seeing to it that all have an equal
chance to enjoy the American dream. Enough of my preaching.
When a person retires, besides never
getting a day off, finds that small decisions can become larger.
Yesterday, while at the store to shop for shampoo, I came face to face with
enough choices to confuse. Since I tend to be a "price
conscious" shopper (on some items) an artificial price of $1.50 was set
by me for a bottle of poo. This limited my choices somewhat.
However I could still pick from most colors of the rainbow. My shower is
sort of a light tan tile so the color was important. Then it was a
matter of deciding what I wanted my hair smell to resemble. Did I want
to smell like a pear, an apple, a banana, mountain spring fresh, and many
other choices. I considered how I thought of myself and decided that in
reality I was a mango man. Nice color, golden, and at a price of $.94
for 15 fl.oz. it seemed to fit the bill. One poo containing a "coal
tar" product sold for $7.95 for 12 oz. I am not sure that anything
contained in coal tar is something I want to put on my head.
It would appear that soon I am going to
have to reformat my entire hard drive on my computer and start over.
Still believe it was the copy of Internet Explorer ver. 6 that did the evil
deed to my operating system. Not even sure how I got that program on my
machine. Suspect it came up and asked me if I wanted to upgrade and I
said yes. It seems to have trashed out my Windows and made it very
unstable. Turns out that ver. 6 was a beta test version and many folks
reported problems with it. I had to get ver. 6 off my computer and go
back to ver. 5 but the damage was done. Hate to start over, especially
with the problems that I had with my cable modem internet connection for
awhile. Considering the possibility of taking the processor to a
computer shop and having them check out my chips at the same time and have
them do the reformatting.
7. Swamp News
News is probably somewhat of an exaggeration, more like joe b. reminiscing
about his childhood and other items of little general interest. This
Wednesday has already started out to be a good day. Humidity is down
somewhat today, about 75%, but only because the temperature is up. Forecast
is to be in the low 90s by mid afternoon. I have had a good learning
experience and it is only 11:45 AM. This is that no matter how hard you
push on it, a number 2 lid will not fit on a number 8 Tupper ware container.
They look like they should fit but no way.
Patti is off to work again today. Takes
me a few days to get used to having the house to myself again during the week.
Does have some advantages, I can leave the lid up all day if I want,
shower when I feel the urge, throw my dirty clothes in the floor (at least till
about 4:00 PM) and then shape up time. It is hard to imagine how slovenly
I could become without her help and guidance. With both daughters out of
the house it has placed the full burden of care on Patti.
I also have additional time to fall back
into childhood memories of growing up in the cultural center of the universe.
While some of my memories include my brother Bill and sister Barbara
mostly I think of childhood as me being an only child. With the two
siblings being older, they and I led different lives. Do remember that
they would be around on occasions to torture me somehow. Sister Barb
claims they made me a stronger person and that was their only purpose in the
treatment. Remember a couple of times that Barbara got very angry with me
over some small oversight on my part. One night, it had to be before 10:00
PM as that was her curfew time, her date for the evening had just walked her to
the front door and as they stood there making small talk I decided to be a part
of the group. I turned on the porch light and while leaning on the side of
the open door proceeded to play paddle ball. (the paddle with the rubber ball
with a rubber band connecting the two). This guy, don't remember who he was,
finally gave me a quarter to go elsewhere. Always one keen on being aware
of where I wasn't wanted took the quarter and vanished. Still, to this
day, don't understand the behavior of Barb when she later came into the house.
Something had greatly agitated her I guess. Maybe something the guy
said but she took it out on me.
The other time was not too long after I learned to read quite proficiently
and found this book on her desk. So I read it, very interesting. How
was I as a young brother to know that the name "Diary" was not the
name of a newly published novel? When I started to give a book review of
this epic tale, Barb again exploded into uncontrolled hysteria mostly aimed at
Barb, as she developed into a young adult,
had a strange habit develop in her life. This being hat shopping. Now
as any of you know, Barb is not a wearer of hats. Perhaps a warm winter
cap as appropriate but not the kind of hats worn by women of my mother's
generation. Hat shopping became a major part of her decision making
process. When she was in a quandary as what to do in any given situation,
she would go hat shopping. All day long sometimes. Trying on one
after another. Going to a different store and repeating the process.
When she finally made a purchase, you knew she had solved her problem.
As far as I know she never wore any of the hats she purchased. The
entire process never make any sense to me but it worked for her. As a male
I guess I was just not intended to understand such goings on of the female mind.
As many of you know from my past e-mails of
growing up in Wynnewood, that Saturdays were one of my very favorite days of the
week. This was when most of the farmers and ranchers would come to town to
spend the day, shop and see friends. In the years, when I was a pre teen,
our parents owned an auto parts store on main street. This was one stop
many of the farmers and ranchers would visit almost every week to pick up any
need parts or products for their machinery on the farm. The store had a
large recessed area in the front that led to the large double doors going into
the business. Along the sides of the recess were stools, benches, chairs
and overhead was a large circular fan. This was one of the favorite
gathering spots of a number of the men. Many of this group were
outstanding story tellers. A major form of information, history and
entertainment prior to TV. Many the hour I would spend squatting over in
the corner by the door listening to these most amazing tales that a ten year old
had ever heard. One of my all time favorite story tellers was a rancher by
the name of Hack Wilburn. He and his wife, Marie (a school marm) owned and
operated a ranch on down the road east of where we lived. Hack was the
stereotypical cowboy. He dressed and looked the part at all times. When
Hack was in a standing position with his ankles touching, I do believe a full
grown hog could have run between his legs. He was the most bowlegged
individual I have ever known. Hack was born in Indian Territory, prior to
the state hood of Oklahoma and had lived and ranched around Garvin County all
his life. Since he was a child he had spent most of his time on horse back
and therefore the shape of his legs. They had molded to body of his ride.
He was in his late 60s when I got to know him well. Anytime I needed
a horse for any purpose, I could borrow one from him if we didn't have one at
the time on our place. Some of ours were not well trained like the mounts
from Hack's ranch. He made his living buying and selling and raising
cattle and horses. A trained horse from his ranch was a thing of beauty to
watch work cattle. It is hard to believe that an animal as large as a
cutting horse can move so quickly until you are ridding one, not paying
attention, and a cow bolts and your horse follows leaving you setting in thin
air, for a moment prior to hitting the ground.
In one of my future e-mails I will try to relate some of the tales I remember
from the front of the store. Some may have been true and others I have
heard, slightly different, from different story tellers. Sort of like I
tell people, lots of my true stories really are.
8. Monday Morning
Every time I send out an e-mail with Outlook
Express I wonder how many extra people will receive the note. Last time
I sent one out to Pat's siblings the program somehow added a friend's name
from Ouray. Sure makes me careful as to what I say.
We got back from Stuart late
yesterday afternoon. Friday morning saw us heading down to see Jodi and
John for the weekend. It is just about a four hour trip from Crystal
River to Stuart. We can get on the turnpike about 35 miles from here and
ride it to the Stuart area. Friday night John and I headed out on to the
water about 9:00 PM to do some fishing. Had a lot of fun and caught a
number of fish. Caught my first snook on a fly rod that evening.
Wasn't exactly a world record but would have been enough for breakfast had we
kept it. The season is close to keeping them now but 99% of the time we
do a catch and release type fishing anyway.
As we departed the dock and
headed out into the bay and inlet area, I was thinking that so much of life we
just take for granted. As John put the boat up on plane in the darkness,
we were both assuming that the water continued on and on ahead of us in the
same general configuration or conditions. You don't expect to have holes
or peaks to be unannounced in front of you. Likewise we expect life to
be much the same. I assume my life today is going to be much the same as
yesterday but there could be some surprises. Just like there could have
been some obstacle waiting in the darkness for us. Some boat anchored
without lights or some other surprise. But there wasn't last time or
this time so I have to assume there will not be one next time either.
This is why it is so important that everyone follows the generally accepted
rules of the road. Don't pass on curves or hills, don't anchor without
lights on the mast, wait your turn in line. Like the book said, all the
stuff you learned in kindergarten. Now as we all know there are going to
be some acts of God thrown in just to keep life interesting. As in when the
garbage truck was turning into the Brooksville subdivision and the steering
linkage broke resulting in the truck running over the Rolling Acres sign that
announced where you were located. Of course some maintenance would have
prevented the situation.
I can remember driving my snow
machine down many a frozen river or winter trail without a head light.
Normally I tried to keep them working but they would choose to go out at their
own timing. One trail in particular, across from the village of Koyukuk,
that crossed and island and then split, one trail headed up river to Galena
and one headed north up the Koyukuk River was fun to drive in the evenings.
With the moon light on the snow it wasn't really too dark so when the
headlight ceased working it wasn't a big concern as I roared through the aspen
groves, up and down creek beds and across lakes. Coming into one
particular birch grove of trees something told me to slow it down. After
coming to a stop, I grabbed a flashlight and shinned it ahead. Sure
enough lying across the trail, about three feet off the ground was a fallen
birch tree. At that height it would have first removed my windshield and
secondly me from the machine. I had ridden that trail dozens of times
before without incident but this time was different. The meaning of all
this? Wear your seat belt, wear a life jacket in boating, floss every
day, live a good life and bad things can still happen to you and people you
care about. Don't do these things and you can almost guarantee that
something will happen of an unpleasant nature.
We did a lot of house looking
in the Stuart area while there this weekend. Major prices for homes.
Made Ouray look not quite as bad as before. The Stuart area seems to be
caught up in severe price escalations at this time. Whether or not homes
are selling for the asking prices or not is another question.
9. Early Morning
Looks to be another day in paradise or no changes
in the swamp from last report. We did get one small rain but not enough
to not still water the yard out of the canal. Rained about enough to get
the driveway wet was all.
Have been prowling around the
net this morning, while Pat is on the phone with Jodi. Sure nice to be
able to use the phone and surf at the same time. Selene is due over this
way sometime today. She said morning her time so it will be at least
mid-afternoon for me. Her schedule and mine have been different since we
went to Mexico. She thrived on the Latin schedule of dinner at 10 PM and
the discos starting at mid-night. I never made the time switch
successfully. She never changed back. It is a good thing as most
of her summer classes start at 6PM and go till 10 PM. Some of the
engineering classes run till 2:30 AM. So her idea of morning and mine
are some what different.
Back to the surfing the net, I
was just on the site, newsminer.com which is the Fairbanks newspaper site.
It has some fun information at times. Tends to give the cranky old gold miner
version of the news. It has an arctic cam that can be viewed. It
was 5:30 AM there and the sun was just coming up, a beautiful view of St.
Catherine's Catholic Church, the Chena River Bridge and my all time favorite
hardware store, Sampson's. Brother in Law Dale and I have often talked
about Sampson's. It has been in the same family since the gold rush
days, I have heard. Over the years they have dragged other buildings in
close and connected them to make more room. They have absolutely
everything know to mankind in the hardware line of stuff. Much of it is
well over fifty years of age. Nothing is ever thrown out and they would
let me as a customer, wander through the back rooms for as long as I wished.
I don't think I would be exaggerating to say that there were at least 20 rooms
on the back of the main store. Parts for old mining equipment, old gas
lamps, oil heaters, cook stoves, gas refrigerators, and on and on. Don't
remember ever going there and not being able to find what I wanted. The
closest I have seen to Sampson's is a place Dale took me to in Bellingham
called Hardware Sales. It is similar but generally newer, smaller and
cleaner than Sampson's. For some reason when Dale and I get together, we
tend to end up at hardware stores, just to prowl. Wilma and Pat never
seem to want to go with us for some reason. Probably afraid that they
would get too excited.
At least a couple of times a
week I hop on the sites for the Fairbanks paper and the one out of Montrose
Colorado (montrosepress.com). Used to check out the Rocky Mountain
News out of Denver but haven't recently. Think it was RMN.com but not
I find it totally fascinating
to be able to sit here in the great swamp land and via my computer can read
what laws are being considered in the Alaska Legislature. What
committees they are in, past votes taken and all sorts of other stuff.
Can watch bears munch a few salmon in season. What ever a person wants
seems to be available twenty four hours a day on the Internet.
This time I hope this only goes
out to those in the families. I keep two group files set up in my
address book. One called Joe's and one called Pat's Family.
Somehow after I typed in the addresses of Pat's the program, Outlook Express.
decided to add all the names in my address book to that group. I am sure
I hit some wrong key to cause it but I have no Idea. Sure a lot of folks
I had to e-mail to tell the to disregard the previous as I didn't really
consider them to be family. Pat's family folder has been checked a
couple of times and now appears to be staying with just the names I put into
it. Good thing that I blind carbon copy myself on most of these to the
normal AOL e-mail account plus that way I also get the pleasure of hearing,
"you've gots mail."
10. North Country
Just got an e-mail from niece Jo Ella Miller
letting all of us know where she was headed. Off for several weeks of
work in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Jo Ella just recently graduated
with her Master's degree in Theology from a college in Vancouver B.C. and is
affiliated with the Anglican Church. They, a group of folks, are off to work
with some of the local churches in the Whitehorse area. Sounds like a
good trip for her and her companions.
This reminds me of when I was
somewhat her age, slightly younger if that was ever possible, and headed north
to work in Nome Alaska as a 5th. grade teacher. I remember the thrill of
leaving the cultural capitol of America, Oklahoma, and heading off north to be
on my own for the first time. Just below the thrill level sat the fear
level. (what am I doing?) In the final days of college I had interviewed
with a couple of Oklahoma school districts and with the FBI. One of the
Oklahoma schools had offered me a job teaching 6 classes of high school
history for the princely sum of $3,600 a year. $300 a month before
taxes. The only problem was that my car payment was $225 a month.
$75 just didn't seem to be enough to live on after paying for the car.
Right at the end of the semester, I got a call from the superintendent
offering me the job in Nome at twice the salary. After the bleak college
years I couldn't imagine how I was ever going to spend all the money Nome was
offering. Only took about three paychecks to figure it out. Ever
since it has not been a problem at all spending the entire amount earned plus
some usually. My first plan was to drive my new 64 Chevy to Anchorage
but after driving a far as Montana, to see sister Barbara and husband Allen in
Missoula where Allen was attending law school somehow I decided to fly the
remainder of the trip. I had my dog with me so I put him in a crate and
flew him back to Oklahoma to mom and dad, parked my car at the farm of Allen's
parents and headed north on Pacific Northern Airlines out of Seattle.
Arriving in Anchorage, the town was still in rubble from the Good Friday
earthquake of four months prior. Parts of the airport were shut down
awaiting demolition and rebuilding. My flight to Nome didn't leave until
the next morning. Since I didn't feel that I had money to spend on a
hotel room that night it was off to look around for a flat spot to get some
sleep. Lots of people sleeping in the airport as many of the hotels were
still closed from the earthquake damage. Early the next day I boarded
another Pacific Northern flight on a four engine Constellation aircraft.
I am sure this plane was much older than I was at the time. About thirty
to forty five minutes out of Nome the pilot came on the intercom and announced
that he was going to be shutting down one of the engines due to some problem.
He assured us their was no problem unless he had to shut down another one,
especially on the same side of the airplane. I still remember that I was
setting by a window on the port side, left for you land lubbers, and watching
the propeller slowly coming to a complete stop as the pilot shut off the fuel
to it and feathered the propeller into the wind. Later, after living in
Nome for several months, I learned that this particular plane seldom made it
to Nome or back to Anchorage with all four engines still functioning properly.
About Christmas of that year, 1964, they replaced the plane with some other
and it wasn't long before Pacific Northern as gone from the scene as well.
Must have been about this time that Wien Airlines started coming into Nome.
Believe that Alaska Airlines is now the major carrier into Nome. The
next year I moved on to the village of Marshal located north of Bethel on the
Yukon River. That year Alaska Airline, still flying Cessna 180s, took me
from Fairbanks to McGrath to Bethel where I caught a Wien Grumman Goose to
Marshal. The Goose was an amphibian and therefore landed in the Yukon
and the post master came out in his river boat, tied up along side the plane
and loaded passengers, and unloaded passengers, mail and freight and the boat
returned to the village and the Goose went on its rounds of other villages.
This was my first experience with a "big" river. The Yukon is
over 1/2 mile wide at Marshal. I had always considered the Washita
(pronounced Wash A Taw) River just out of Wynnewood Oklahoma to be a big
river. This river and the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma were
my ideas of large and impressive land forms until I made it to Alaska for the
first time in 1962. Of course that year when we flew to Nome to see sister
Barbara we were on a Fairchild F-27 and even from the altitude that plane
could reach the Yukon looked somewhat small. Mount McKinley however
towered above us off the left wing when we departed Fairbanks. F-27s
were such a treat to fly in as a passenger. Cannot imagine what it was
like to have to fly one of those underpowered beasts day after day.
Never could find anyone that would let me fly one of them.
Installing Gauges in Truck
Several weeks ago I decided that
I needed to install some gauges in my 2002 Dodge pickup with the 5.9 Cummins
engine. After reading information
on several of the forums on the Internet, I decided to go with an exhaust gas
temperature gauge (EGT), a fuel pressure gauge (FP) and a turbo charger boost
gauge (boost). Future plans are to add a temperature gauge for the automatic
transmission but I have to find a spot to locate the gauge.
The boost was chosen mainly to try
and increase my fuel mileage when driving, the EGT to make sure when pulling
loaded that the exhaust manifold temperatures remained below 1,300 degrees which
is were turbine damage starts from what I have read and the fuel pressure gauge
was to monitor the fuel lift pump pressures which can be a problem with this
After checking several sources on the internet and in catalogs, I chose
to go with www.genosgarage.com
, a business located in Georgia. They
carried several brands of gauges and I chose Di Pricol for the EGT and boost and
a Westach for the fuel pressure. (mainly because I wanted an electric FP gauge
and the Pricol was mechanical.
The gauges arrived in good time, delivered by UPS and
contained both installation instructions from the manufacturers and from Genos’
technicians with some common sense do’s and don’ts.
After reading the directions many times, unusual for me to do, and going
out to stare at the engine, I felt I was ready to tackle the job. Picked up a 1/8NPT tap to put the threads in the manifold
after drilling the hole. This was
somewhat nerve wracking as I knew if I screwed this up I was looking at an over
$500 bill to get the manifold replaced. Some folks told me to put the probe in
the exhaust pipe but most recommended the exhaust manifold for truer readings of
Out came the drill, with a new pilot point bit of the recommended size.
Put a big blob of bearing grease on the drill area to catch metal drill
shavings and went at it. Was much
easier than I had anticipated. Lowered
a pencil shaped magnet into the hole to pick up any of the shaving that had
fallen into the manifold. Next took
the 1/8NPT tap with lots of grease on it and tapped the threads into the hole. Used the magnet again to clean out any loose metal.
Screwed in the fitting and then the probe.
The probe needs to end up about ½ way into the manifold but not touching
the bottom of it. Tap the threads
and try it, then tap some more until you get it where you want it.
boost installation was quicker. It
uses a hollow bolt that replaces one of the bolts in the aluminum intake
manifold on the driver’s side of the engine.
Only caution was to be very gentle when tightening the bolt (18 ft. lbs
max) to keep from snapping it off. Then
attach the small plastic tubing and run it inside to the back of the gauge.
The fuel pressure gauge was easy but time consuming to install.
I had purchased, along with the gauges, a 18 inch long rubber hose that
was designed to screw on to a test valve on the injection pump and then to the
FP sender. The FP sender had to be
mounted to something attached to the engine so that it would shake at the same
resonance of the engine. Once the
sender was mounted, it was a matter of running a wire to ground and a wire to
the back of the gauge inside.
All three gauges require a 12 volt power
source for both night lights and for proper operations. It has to be a power source that is only on when the key is
on. This I found a place to tap
into the power directly in front of the driver at floor level. Not sure at all what the wire was also powering but it works
just fine as the gauges draw very little power.
Good instructions came on how to remove the plastic cover on the A pillar
where the new gauge mount will go. The
new one actually mounts over the original factory one after all the tubes and
wires are pulled through there and attached to the new gauges. The new mount comes only in basis black so I got some spray
paint that matched my dash and put several coats on it and let dry.
I was pleased with the way it turned out and all three gauges worked the
first time. Total working
time was somewhere around four hours.
12. Alaska Trip
Alaska recommendations and other thoughts
While my recommendations are what my wife and I enjoy doing
on our trips, to/from Alaska, others will have different preferences.
For a first or second time trip to the Great Land, I
consider it to be a “get acquainted” venture. Alaska is so large, covering so
much territory, that it is best looked at and thought about as being at least
five different areas to visit.
It has been written that if a person drives on all the
paved highways of Alaska they will see approximately 5% of the state, add the
gravel roads and the total seen goes up to about 10%. To many people, visitors
and residents alike, this is what constitutes Alaska to them.
The vast interior of the state, centered around the
Fairbanks area, is the Alaska of Jack London, of the gold miners of ’98, of the
severe winter weather and the hot dry summers. It is the area of the state, in
most parts, under laid with permafrost which brings large boggy areas, stunted
tree growth and many rivers and creeks. Gold was what made this part of the
state famous and the remnants of this mining activity are still visible today.
This is the area of numerous hot springs, Chena, Manley, and Circle to name
three. Most of the rivers in this area are slow moving, some very large and
long such as the Yukon.
The old miners claimed that to really understand Alaska you
had to spend a winter living on the banks of the Yukon and if you did survive,
you would never be able to leave Alaska ever again, at least not in your mind.
South Central, the Railbelt, the Banana Belt are all names
used for referring to the area of the state around the Mat Su Valley, Anchorage
and the Kenai Peninsula. Anchorage developed as a service center to the
military build up during WWII, the Mat Su was a planned farming, homesteading
community and the Kenai came about more as a commercial fishing area and later
as a playground for Anchorage. In my opinion Anchorage is just another large
city that could be anywhere and fit in fine. The similarities to Seattle are
great IMHO. It is just smaller in size, has about the same climate due to the
Japanese ocean current and is dominated by the military presence. A strange
situation is that Anchorage is the largest Alaska Native village in the state.
More indigenous people live there than any other town or village in the state.
Even though during my working years in Alaska I had to
spend a great deal of time in Anchorage, to me it is so un-Alaskan that I never
grew to like or enjoy it. People living in other parts of the state tend to
make fun of Anchorage residents for thinking they are living the Alaska life
style. The standard comment about Anchorage is that the best thing about it is
that it is only a 20 minute flight to Alaska from there. LOL
In Anchorage a visit to the Alaska Cultural Center is a
must. Anchorage is a good place to stay to make day trips to the Mat Su Valley,
including Independence Mine State Park north of Palmer. We especially enjoyed
staying at the Anchorage RV Park (now closed and turned into a mall) We
now stay at the Homestead RV in Palmer and do day trips from there.
We like to watch the float planes land and take off at Lake
Hood and at Merrill Field, where my wife got her pilot’s license. Anchorage has
some beautiful bike/jogging trails, nice parks scattered throughout town, shops
and several campgrounds. Night life is abundant, everything a person could want
I would say. A club, for every taste or lack there of, is open somewhere in
town. There are two universities located here in town, U of A, Anchorage and
Alaska Pacific U, a private school.
South East, the panhandle, is the coastal region from
Ketchikan up to about Haines/Skagway. A land of giant trees, fiords, rain
forest, fish and lots of wildlife. The summer of 2004, we took the ferry trip,
for the first time from Skagway to Bellingham Washington. What a great
experience. Somewhat costly with the RV along, but well worth the cost to us.
Since it is public transportation and not a cruise ship, it is somewhat plain in
décor but very comfortable. Our cabin was fine and the food served on the ship
was good and reasonably priced. Highly recommended trip, at some time, for
West Central is best known as a commercial fishing area,
both sport and commercial exists here. This is the area around Dillingham up
toward Bethel. Over all this is a region that very few people ever visit as
tourists. Very few Alaska residents will ever venture out this way either.
Alaska residents, as a group, really don’t travel much in their state. Many
will claim they do but what they mean is that they drive around all the road
systems in the central part of the state. Some might even venture off the roads
in a boat for short trips, while others, especially bush pilots will wander the
state. It has been my experience that to find an Alaska resident that has been
to Barrow, to Kotzebue, Nome, Bethel, Dillingham is virtually impossible. When
Alaska residents get vacation time, most head outside to where they have family
or head to Hawaii.
Most Alaska residents live in the Banana Belt region of the
state and Alaska’s population is the most mobile of any state. According the US
Census data between 1995 and 2000, the last official census date, over 56% of
the population moved either into or out of the state. A politician’s dream come
true. The state’s population is much like a parade. The section of the
population that considers themselves to be Alaska Native don’t fit into this
movement in and out so the non-native group would actually be much higher on
moving. Much of this is due to the movement in and out of military personnel as
well as those up for a couple of years of adventure.
The Kenai Peninsula gives me mixed feeling. As Anchorage
has grown in population over the last 40 years that I have been going there,
more and more of this population growth uses the Kenai as a playground. On
summer weekends, the roads and campgrounds can resemble a Los Angeles freeway
and I find the crowds are not what I love about the state. The Kenai has some
of the most beautiful rivers, lakes, glaciers, forests and mountains anywhere on
the road system. For many years we owned property on the Kenai River, just up
stream from Soldotna and finally sold it because of the crowded conditions both
on the roads, in the stores and on the river. Some visitors feel that the Kenai
was the high light of their trip, so again different strokes. The boat tours,
the fishing and photo ops are outstanding. A visit to the Kenai is mandatory
for a first time visitor though to check it out for themselves. Some people
fall in love with a town or spot and go back repeatedly on future trips. Homer
is our favorite place on the peninsula, especially camping on the Spit. Combat
fishing at the Russian River is one of those experiences that some fisherman
enjoy and others are appalled. The fish caught there are fine eating and not
too hard to catch a few red salmon.
The last and most diverse part of the state, to me, is the
Arctic and the Bering Sea coastal areas. Much of this area has not changed for
time gone by. People still hunt and fish, gather wild plants and berries, speak
an ancient language that isn’t European in origin . The land of the Eskimos,
the polar bears, seals, whale hunting still takes place, for food in the homes
and many others that come to mind when one thinks of Alaska. Very few tourists
or residents ever visit this part of Alaska. I am always surprised at people
that will visit Alaska 3, 4, or 5 or more times and never travel to see the
north and western parts of Alaska. To even come close to understanding what
Alaska is all about, a trip to the Arctic/Bering Sea region is mandatory at some
time in ones life.
All routes to and from Alaska are long. The majority of
the roads you will be on are paved two lanes that I would rate from good to very
good with some areas of road construction. Just slow down in the construction
areas and where the frost heaves have damaged the roadway. Some folks try to
drive at Interstate speeds and damage their RVs, which always seems to come as a
surprise to them and they try to blame it on the roads. Most of our trips on
the Alaska Highway have been round trips from Alaska outside to the lower 48 and
back. Most of our trips ended up going through Oklahoma to visit my parents and
then on to Florida to visit with my wife’s folks. We have used the East Coast
route, up through New York, over into Canada and across, we have used the West
Coast route through California but most of our trips have been through the
central parts of the US. We have family in Bellingham so when we go see them we
use the western Canadian highways to get to Dawson Creek but other wise we
normally swing over to Colorado and north crossing the border at
Coutts/Sweetgrass. We have never had much of a delay there as we have run into
north of Bellingham trying to cross the border.
Things to see and do on the way, excluding the lower 48
places. Drumheller, AB has one of the finest dinosaur museums that I have ever
visited. It is located just west of Calgary and worth a visit. In Calgary,
sort of a cowboy town in many ways, there are lots of places to visit, such as
the former winter Olympic site, etc. In Edmonton you have the “mall” which on
one trip we spent 3 days there as our daughters loved the water park, and all
the other things to do. Not like any other mall I have visited as I read it is
the number one visited tourists attraction in Alberta.
To the west are the national parks of Banff and Jasper,
just spectacular. Sharp jagged mountains, many glaciers to view and photograph,
lots of wildlife to view. Just south of there is the Waterton Peace Park which
is the Canadian part of Glacier Park. Radium Hot Springs is worth a visit. (I
enjoy hot springs) Then on north to Dawson Creek and the start of the Alaska
Highway. The Rocky Mountains are off to the west the entire trip until you get
into Alaska. Very low elevations and no bad passes to have to cross. We like
to stop in Liard Hot Springs for a day, Watson Lake and the other towns along
the way. Whitehorse is fun and lots to do there with great campgrounds
available. The summer of 2004, we found the campgrounds filling up by 4:00 PM and
I plan to make reservations, on future trips, the day before. Some people
claim you don’t need reservations anywhere, but I differ in opinion, after the
2004 summer. Prior to that I might have agreed with them. It was so hot that
summer in the Yukon and Alaska. It was 94 degrees F when we stopped in
Whitehorse and the same when we pulled into Fairbanks. Lots of RV air
conditioners going. There is always some place to spend the night but it may be
a pull off or a store parking lot. Since we don't care for either of those
places to "camp", we make reservations as soon as we know when we will be at a
In Fairbanks ride the riverboat Discovery, drive out to
Chena Hot Springs, Photograph the oil pipeline, visit an old gold dredge north
of town, pan for gold, visit the Ester area west of town, tour Alaska land (now
called pioneer land) spend some time at the museum located at the University of
Alaska. Just enjoy the frontier atmosphere and attitudes of the locals here.
Then south on the Parks Highway, stopping in Nenana for a
short visit and on to Denali Park. Continue on south to the Mat Su and to
Anchorage. Then to the Kenai Peninsula, to Soldotna, Homer, Seward, do some
fishing, touch glaciers, etc. Then back to Anchorage for a day or so and on to
Glennallen and south to Valdez. A stop to visit Chitna, is fun along the way.
Valdez has several boat tours if you haven’t already done enough on the Kenai.
Not a bad tour in Valdez. You can no longer tour the oil loading facility
across the water from town due to security. Valdez is one of the most
non-tourist spots on the water IMHO. It can get somewhat crowded during salmon
runs from all the fisherman but you don’t get the large crowds of people from
Anchorage for the most part as they are all on the Kenai fishing.
Then start heading back north to Tok and back to
Whitehorse. A side trip to Dawson City is fun. It gives you a taste of a long
gravel road, somewhat like the Alaska Highway was before it was paved. The trip
to Skagway is just outstanding for scenery and a visit along the way at
Carcross is enjoyable. (good camping available) Ride the train in Skagway, walk
the shops and spend a couple of days and head back to the Alaska Highway or take
the ferry over to Haines and up the Haines Cutoff to Haines Junction and back
down the Alaska Highway or the Cassiar Highway if you want to do the western
route back south. Stop and see the bears and salmon at Hyder/Stewart on the
Alaska is so large it is impossible to see it all. We
owned and tried to wear out 5 airplanes plus numerous RVs and boats trying to
see the state. My wife and I are both pilots and have flown, over/to, many
places in Alaska. With our jobs we traveled extensively throughout the state.
For 17 years I averaged 3 to 5 air flights a week, many with me as the pilot.
Travel guides and books – While the Milepost is still the
best book for a mile by mile description of the trip, watch the ads/narrative
descriptions, as they are written by the business owners and some have very
active imaginations of what they would like to have their business resemble.
Bell’s Travel guide is good, smaller in size. For camping
I prefer the Church book of Alaska Camping, very honest reviews of the
campgrounds. Anything else you can read about Alaska before you go will help
you be prepared for what you see or where to go to see what you want to see.
After your first trip you will know what you want to do and see much better.
Are you mainly interested in the history of Alaska, the wildlife, bird watching,
hiking, boating, mountains, glaciers, fishing, etc.?
As you can tell I love Alaska, after living there for over
25 years, and still consider it to be home, even though I have come to accept
that it is doubtful that I will ever return to live there, just to visit in the
future. Now if we could take our grandsons with us it might change things. Not
much of a chance of that happening.
Campgrounds we like and enjoy:
Jasper NP – Whistlers CG run by Parks Canada – Large
and beautiful, rustic setting, lots of wildlife wander through the CG
Yoho NP - Kicking Horse Cg -Parks Canada
Whitehorse YT – Hi Country or Pioneer CGs
Tok – Sourdough CG and Tok RV Village, our current
Fairbanks – Rivers Edge CG (in 2009 it was needing
some TLC) Santaland Cg, in North Pole is now closed.
Anchorage – Anchorage RV Park (closed for commercial
development) Ship Creek is probably the best remaining CG in town.
Palmer - Homestead RV Park is now our choice of a
place to stay in the Anchorage area.
Portage Glacier - A very nice federal government
campground located here.
Homer – Heritage RV on the Spit is nice by has
gotten too costly IMHO. Some campers enjoy the city owned campground. No
Homer Spit RV Park - Private, at the end of the
spit. Need reservations at times of salmon runs.
Valdez – Sea Otter CG (on the water( now closed by
the city owners) and Bear Paw CG.
(they have two parks and the adult one is very nice and on the water)
Seward – Stony Creek CG – Nice, of the large gravel
parking lot type campground as are many in the north.
Trail River CG - North of Seward, newly refurbished
and fits all sized rigs, US Forest Service
Carcross YT – Montana Services CG – new and in 2004, the
rates were $11.60us for full hook ups.
Skagway – We stayed at the Garden City campground – All
three in town are OK and are all somewhat crowded during the summer.
Paxson – the forest service or BLM campground just a few
miles in on the Denali Highway is one of our favorite places to camp. No
services but beautiful and some times full of mosquitoes .
Liard Hot Springs Campground – fills up early in the day
during the summer.
White River Campground – YT – great views and an excellent
salmon bake on site. (now closed - 2009)(open summer of 2011 by new owners)
Any of the Provincial or Territory operated campgrounds are
good and tend to be in scenic areas. Very few with hook ups but normally not
needed in a normal summer. (weather wise)
Any of the campgrounds run by Parks Canada are excellent.
Some recommended books, to read before hand and to take:
The Milepost – Mentioned above.. While it is becoming
bloated with advertisements, it is still the most information available on
Alaska Highway travel and the approaches to the highway. I currently have
32 yearly editions, of it in my collection. And will be getting the next
one as soon
Bell’s Travel Guide –
www.bellsalaska.com – smaller in size, family operated business, good web
site. Many of their publications of specific areas can be obtained free of
charge at northern businesses.
Church’s Guide to Alaskan Camping –
www.rollinghomes.com – most honest descriptions of campgrounds that I have
found. 3rd edition just published – updates on their web site.
Frommer’s Alaska Guide book – current edition – lots of
Alaska for Dummies – one of the standard “dummies” series
which I enjoy.
While I have several hundred books about Alaska and
northern Canada, the above are the ones I go over just before a trip north and
take with me.
Have fun in the great land, it truly is appropriately