Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Alaska State Fair

We were lucky that Logan's vacation coincided with the Alaska State Fair, which is i the next town over, Palmer. Yeah, it seems strange that the State Fair would be in a town even smaller than the one we live in, but they certainly have the space for it.

There don't seem to be many places to have a fair up here. There's the State Fair in Palmer and I know I saw a place for fairgrounds on the map of Fairbanks when we took our little jaunt up there a few days ago. I'm not even sure if Anchorage has fairgrounds.

So that would probably explain why the Alaska State Fair was about the same size as the El Dorado County Fair in Northern California. That was the one I went to most of my life.

So here's some differences, and I know the people who understand the most will be the ones who also live in Northern California and have been to the El Dorado County Fair. But this may be comparable to many others across the US.

The strangest part for me was the weather. I'm used to blazing hot sun and wearing my red shorts with the buttoning pocket so I don't loose my wallet on the rides. Sometimes I'd even get sunburned because I didn't put on enough sunblock that morning.

But here in Alaska, I was wearing long jeans, a sweatshirt, and Logan got me one of those winter hats with the long tassels from the ears and I wore it most of the time we were at the fair. And I was comfortable! And it rained for part of the day, but not much more than a sprinkle.

There were more booths and interesting things for sale at the Alaska State Fair. And it was totally crammed with people and wheelchairs and baby strollers. We couldn't walk anywhere without getting caught behind people or almost getting run over by impolite ones coming the other direction. I swear they needed lines painted on the paths and stop lights for each booth.

There were just as many rides and the same ones that you usually see, the Gravitron, the spinning strawberries and dragon roller coasters for the kids, the Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round, the scary ones that spin you upside down. They also had that slingshot one, but I don't remember seeing that at El Dorado.

El Dorado County definitely had the Alaska State Fair beat in the animal department. There were tons of empty cages here, no horses, and a couple of cows. It was mostly rabbits, some chickens, a few sheep, pigs, and goats.

But Alaska had some fantastic entertainment shows. We got sight of a group that played all sorts of familiar songs with a country/Irish style and they danced with exuberant energy while they played their banjos and violins and guitars and such. Complete with audience participation, of course.

We didn't go on any rides or play any games. We mostly just visited booths. By the time we left, though, I was depressed and sad. I missed my family. I know going to fairs is not my husband's cup of tea. He's just not into it. But now I have no one else to go with. I used to go with my friends and my family. Play games with Tiffy, ride the Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round with Myndi, check out the animals with my father, the crafts and projects with my mother, and crash the bumper cars with my brother.

Sigh. This has to be the hardest part about living in Alaska: being so far away from the people I love.

But at least I got my Hawaiian Shaved Ice!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Whittingtons in Whittier

While Logan's brother Ben was staying with us, Logan's boss, Steve, invited us on a fishing trip on his new boat. So we drove to Whittier on the coast of Prince William Sound. (Please forgive me if my nautical terminology is wrong. I am only speaking from my own limited experience.)

Whittier is reached by going through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. It is a highway and a railway tunnel and it is the longest tunnel in the United States (about three miles, I think). There are 20 minutes waits because the tunnel is single lane and is shared by trains and cars. So you have to wait until it is released for the direction you are going. The picture is of the entrance on the Whittier side of the tunnel.

Whittier is a tiny sea town, the "dead end" after going through the tunnel. Unless you are there for fish and fish related activities, the only things to do are some guided tours and some gift shops. But it's so quaint and has many breathtaking views. And the homemade fudge was to die for!

So the three of us went out on the boat with Steve, his wife Karen, and his five-year-old-soon-to-be-six son Dillon. Steve is an extremely experienced guide and we were very lucky to have this opportunity to go fishing our first time with him.

Here are some of the views we captured on Prince William Sound:

Steve had a fish finder on board, which I would suggest for this type of fishing. These guys landed fish after fish after fish. Ben caught the most and the biggest, a halibut that was probably about 40 lbs we guess.

As for me, I was fighting seasickness most of the way. I got an inner ear virus years ago that pretty much ruined carnival rides for me forever. I can't even watch little kids spinning in circles for their own amusement. But I did my best to grin and bear it. At least I didn't puke.

Even if you aren't into fishing, it looked like there were some fun sightseeing trips and the gift shops and fudge are definitely worth a look-see. Here are a couple of pics of the sights around the harbor:

We had also dropped shrimp pots and caught 12 of them. I'd never seen a live shrimp before. They don't look anything like the ones on my dinner plate.

And before Logan squawks that I gave his brother all the glory, yes, Logan caught some fish, too! Even though he hasn't caught any more since that day, lol!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Rainbow Connection

Looklooklook! After all the rainy/sunny days we're had this summer, we finally got a rainbow today!

This gives me a very good feeling for some reason. Like maybe I'm on the right path or something. I don't know. But it was beautiful.

Our Alaska Adventures... Mahay's Riverboat Service

Okay, I'm finally going to start posting about some of the tourist things we've been doing this summer with a few pictures for each one. There will be a ton more pictures on my Myspace page:

So when hubby's brother came up for a visit, we took him to Talkeetna, where supposedly you can see Mt. McKinley on a nice day. There aren't too many of those, so we didn't see the mountains that day. But my parents and aunt and uncle did when they came up for their visit, lucky dogs.

Talkeetna is totally a tourist town. Gift shops and cafes and all kinds of guide services galore. We chose Mahay's Riverboat Service:

They do fishing trips and jetboat adventures. The fishing trips are fairly pricey, but the jetboat trips are affordable, especially if you do the the short one. We chose the middle length one that gave us a ride on three rivers: the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna. The neat thing is where those three rivers converge, you can still see the difference between the waters because the silt is different colors. One is more green, one is more gray, and one is more tan.

The first thing I would suggest is get there early. The three of us arrived just in the nick and ended up sitting in three different seats, all on the aisle where it's harder to see out the window. Especially if your seatmates are wearing big hats. You can see in the pic that we're at the back of the line.

The next thing I would suggest is get a seat next to the window (see the previous suggestion). This way you can take pictures when the wildlife decides to be photogenic. On our trip we saw several bald eagles perched on logs and one nest with an eaglet in it that only the people with really good zooms on their cameras could see. It was amusing to listen to the tourists ooh and aah. I kept a straight face, though. I'm technically not a resident yet, so I'm almost as touristy as they are at this point!

After traveling around on the rivers for a bit, we stop for a little nature walk that includes several old structures used many years ago when it was much colder in the area. These included big lean-to huts, pits covered in sticks which were used as "refrigerators", and beaver traps. The trap was basically a big log held up by another log and when the beaver chewed on it, the big log would drop on its head.

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There was also a tiny cabin with the floor dug out and an old broken sled next to it. The tall structure was where food and valuables would be kept, away from bears and other inquisitive animals. Trappers would have trap lines that stretched for many miles, maybe even 100, so they'd need these little cabins to warm up and stay in while checking the traps.

After this walk, we clambered back onto the boat and traveled up the river (I forget which one we were on at that time) for about 45 minutes to where all the people staying at the Princess something or other would disembark. There were only the three of us and two other passengers left for the trip back, so the captain (who was very cute, BTW) pulled out the stops and we practically flew back to our starting point. We were going so fast, it felt like a roller coaster ride!

I would definitely recommend this outfit for sightseeing.

Next to come: Fishing out of Whittier in Prince William Sound!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Honeybear!

Ok, yes, that's what I call my husband. Anyone who knows him chokes when they hear that.

They gag even more when they hear what he calls me. >evil wink<

We've been married seven years today. I think it's seven. Wait, lemme count...

It IS 2008, right?

You'll have to excuse me, I left my brains in my other jeans.

Yes, seven years. And we've been together for a total of almost 13 years.


So what are we doing for our anniversary?

In all honesty, most likely nothing. One or the other or both of us are always working on the day of our anniversary ever since we got married! So it was a good day to get married, but not a good day to have an anniversary, apparently. Logan is closing tonight, so there won't be any restaurants open by the time he's done with work, except for the all night McDonald's down the street.

However, Logan is very burnt out from working, so he's going to take some vacation time this month and we're planning to take a driving trip around Alaska. Maybe head to Fairbanks, then come home by way of Glenallen. We're not sure yet.

But then, there are changes looming on the horizon as well.

I just completed a training weekend for a program of exercise that I'm very stoked about. They have other programs that I'm also interested in getting certified in, but we'll have to see what comes of that. I start teaching this one in September.

But Logan just planted something in my head. Since he's pretty much supporting me with his job and he misses teaching and practicing martial arts, he's got me convinced to consider opening a dojo here in Wasilla. With me running and teaching most of the classes, he could teach on his free evenings, which would give him an excuse to get off work at a decent time once in a while and a place to squeeze in a good workout for himself. And it would be worthwhile and meaningful work for us both.

There are six schools in Wasilla already and each seems to be teaching different styles, but we're not sure of that. Since Wasilla is growing so fast right now, I imagine there's more than enough room for one more.

But I admit that the idea frightens me. That's a big responsibility and having been raised in California, it always seemed like a legal nightmare to open a small business.

But here in Alaska, small businesses are still the thing. The "big box" chains are only just starting to creep in. They've had the Walmart for a while and now they have Sportsman's Warehouse, and Target and Walgreens will be opening soon. There are even rumors of Costco going in.

But that's it, really. Everything else is mostly "mom n' pop". I don't think it'll be as nightmarish here.

I'll have a lot of research to do. I don't know anything about running a business, though I'll tell you, with all I've been accomplishing just in these last few weeks, I'm getting braver! The weekend training thing really opened my eyes to what I can do.

And then Logan's job may be moving him along farther up the ladder sooner than we thought. But that remains to be seen.

We know that we can't expect the dojo to make any money the first year, especially since we're starting with no equipment. But that's just it; With Logan's job, we don't really need it to.

So for now, I'm going to teach at the club here and learn about what it takes to start and run a business in Alaska. Any advice or suggestions would be most welcome.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Wow, it has been a while since I last posted. But I was frantically trying to study for the ACE exam and see my visiting family during the last couple of weeks.

It just cracks me up (and that's the happy way of putting it), as I have mentioned to my friends and anyone who would listen many a time, that I put soooooo many years into my schooling. My father paid out the money, my husband and I put out the money while we lived with his parents (and I wholly admit that it was mostly Logan's money). I endured many heartaches and setbacks along the way and manged to accomplish the goal of completing my Masters degree.

I also poured years into my martial arts training. 10 years (give or take) in a world of "McDojo" where people get black belts in two years, with buckets of sweat and even some blood a possible fracture or two mixed in to get my blackbelt. And then be promoted to 2nd degree when I was mostly just doing massage, well, that was just a blessing.

And yet here I am,still fighting to get a job in the fitness world where "certification" is king. And my degrees and years of stress mean nothing!

I took my ACE exam today after about a year-and-a-half of preparing off and on. I'm happy to report that I passed.

But now that the excitement has worn off a tad bit, I'm even more frustrated by this whole situation.

I passed because the manual for the ACE Group Fitness Exam was basically my whole college career boiled down to 12 chapters. I'm not sure I learned anything new. And all I had to do was review and regurgitate. Just like all those college tests I slogged through.

>Heave big sigh<

Ah, well. At least I've finally done it. Now I just have to maintain my status and actually get my foot in the business. Follow the money, as my dear friend Matthew told me. I hope this will lead to where I want to go. Right now it's looking like small change, bird food, baby steps, whatever cliche for going nowhere fast you'd like to enter here.

On a more cheerful note, my parents and my aunt and uncle came to Alaska for a visit, so I'm going to begin posting lots of touristy stuff that will interest the people who click on my blog because they see the word Alaska in it. I'll also be putting lots of pictures in on Myspace since I can only put so many in here. So there will be lots more to come!