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Fire and ice – Texas and Alaska…. A minds journey

August 13, 2017

….it wasn’t a heavy snow falling that made it hard to see more than a couple car lengths in front of me but the wind that accompanied it blowing in near gale force that gave it the look of a blizzard, but combine that with a road that was essentially a 65 mile ice skating rink and you have another interesting drive to town for supplies in the winter of my Alaska.

I don’t know what prompted this posting…. maybe opening my front door everyday for the past few weeks and having it feel like opening the door of an oven that has been set at 350 for hours or today looking at my weather station and reading only 77 I erroneously thought going outside would be a nice change only to be engulfed in what felt more like a steam bath with its 98% humidity, whatever the reason as I sat drinking my morning coffee and looked out at the falling rain my mind wondered back to one of my semi-monthly winter drives to town for supplies from my cabin in Alaska.

I am sure a number of you have seen the ‘Ice road truckers’ television series but if you have seen more than one episode you know the producers attempt to hype the possibility of imminent disaster on each journey. Well I am hear to tell you a good bit of that danger is just the reality of any drive here in the interior of Alaska in the winter.

Once the snows start to come with some regularity the woefully understaffed road crew do not try and clear the road to the asphalt but merely scrape the top heavy layers down to the combination of super packed snow and ice. Now when the temperatures are warmer than 10 below zero the heat from the many big rigs tires running the highway melts that surface and in short order refreezes as solid ice. So in essence even I am a ice road trucker when I make my trips to town.

I learned quickly that you do not just hop in your vehicle and make the drive when you are out of something, but watch for the best weather on the day of your drive. You also make sure you have your own personal emergency kit stashed in the back seat consisting of a shovel, rope, blanket, extra uber-warm cloths, water and food. Only then do you venture out for a long drive in the dead of winter in Northern Alaska.

The drive that in warmer months takes 45 minutes can now stretch from an hour and a half to two hours, depending on road conditions. Having to drive over a number of 2,000 foot hills during the trip is where the drive becomes the most ‘interesting’. On a couple of drives, during my first winter living in my cabin, I learned that one does not really want to use the breaks when rounding mountain switchbacks. On two occasions I ended up doing a 180 and was thankful no traffic was around when they happened.

After learning the hard way I only used down shifting not breaks when descending the many hills I crossed, and maybe that’s why my truck at 68,000 miles still has its original breaks. Yes it is a more tense ride on these trips but the scenery that has been transformed by the snow from its lush summer green is now a vast landscape of black and white that in its starkness is just as beautiful.

So though I sit

trapped in my bubble of coolness in the heat

my spirit reaches out and remembers

those bygone journeys

through the vast and austere beauty

of a land called

Alaska

 

*** Then again some days I never left the cabin ***

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2017 12:49 pm

    It is always lovely, reading your posts and i love the pictures you share. I have never been to Alaska but i love it, It’s like i know it through your blog, it’s like I have my own stories of Alasks.
    Stay safe!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. August 13, 2017 11:48 pm

    On the Kenai these last weeks, I’ve been watching the weather stateside and being totally grateful I am up here. It finally stopped raining and I’m wearing a long sleeved flannel shirt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 14, 2017 11:06 am

      Kris..I to miss those August days when I wore a flannel shirt. I guess I wouldn’t complain if I like sauna’s but I don’t and today is another 98% humidity day.

      Like

      • August 19, 2017 1:44 am

        Not liking. Cuz that sounds YUCKY!!!! Today, it feels like a September day in Tillamook on the Oregon Coast!!! Pouring rain and chilly.

        Like

  3. Jon permalink
    August 14, 2017 10:07 pm

    We’ve had a nice run of pleasant weather here in Mn. the last 10 days or so. Raining here & there about an inch last night. Actually wore a light jacket yesterday morning.
    Those pics remind me of our trip up there 2 years ago already.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. August 16, 2017 1:05 pm

    In the past week and a half our weather has turned very cool with daytime highs struggling to reach 65° F and sometimes not even making 60° F. Very unusual to see a week plus of such weather in early to middle August as this month is Talkeetna’s second warmest after July. I’ve even thought of firing up the Toyo a couple of mornings which would be a first for any time in August. You might be glad you left when ya did, Pete, as because of the budget situation ADOT is doing even less work regarding the roads. Almost all construction has ceased and last winter the main roads were in the worst shape I can recall. We normally see the borough grader making a pass on the back roads ’round here in mid-June and again in mid to late August; as of this writing the last time I saw the grader was in mid-April. If the cooler temps hold into this winter I’m thinking the road maintenance will be even less satisfactory than last year and that could well spell trouble for anyone driving Alaska’s roads in the interior and south central regions.

    Like

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