Friday, December 3, 2010

A Puzzle

These two pictures were taken 1200 miles apart from each other and one was taken four days after the other. See if you can figure out where each was taken. I'll post the answer under comments in a few days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Houston We Have Landed (a week ago).

I captured this pix of the grandkids a few minutes after Jayden found Sarah under the covers in his bedroom. The kids had no idea we were bringing her along.

We have been in Houston for a week. Along the way I had some of the g-kids do a contest to see who could grimace the meanest face. This was the winner and everyone else tied for second place. (Decision of the judge is final). It's hard to get them to grimace when their natural disposition is sweet.

We all went to San Jacinto, TX where the decisive battle of the independence fight was fought. I highly suggest you see it if in the area. The monument is higher than the Washington Monument in DC and the local history is inspiring.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Kind Hearted IRS

I posted a while back about our IRS problem. The IRS said we filed late. We didn't.
Every two weeks last summer we got pushy letters (one to each of us) threatening to attach property if we didn't pay the 10% penalty. I wrote and called them several times. Finally a sympathetic ear said he would check the little box that we would agree to pay and that would stop the letters. I responded that we were not agreeing to pay because we filed on time, and asked him to check our past history. He checked and said we have never filed late but his record only went back a decade. When we arrived home I went searching for my mailing receipt for the 09 tax returns. The Post Office receipt includes zip codes for where the mailings went. I mailed the IRS a copy and drew arrows to each zip code with explanations of what they were for, and highlighted the mailing date. Then for six weeks I heard nothing. Finally a "Dear Taxpayer" letter arrived saying they were removing the Failure to File Penalty, and to expect an adjustment letter in approximately three weeks. (I'm cynical. I wonder what they mean by "adjustment?") I'm glad I asked for a receipt. Without that we would be assumed guilty and have no way to prove otherwise.

Friday, November 12, 2010


There has to be a good caption for this pix.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nuts, I Wanted a Fishing Boat.

Over a week ago I called our Alaskan neighbor, Leah, because she owns a kayak rental business. She returned my call yesterday from near the arctic ocean where she is helping lead a polar bear expedition in the off season. (She said temps range -30 to -40F where she is presently located and added, "The polar bears love it." She didn't sound like her teeth were chattering. BTW temps in Gustavus are +40 to +45˚F.) I asked her about an ad I saw earlier for two kayaks. She said the prices were good and told me how to evaluate them. Then I checked the ad again and saw the seller had cut the price in half since his previous listing! Takers may have been few because he lives a long way from water. Off we went on a drive out to the desert. They weren't in fabulous condition but both looked seaworthy. I really wanted one about 17 feet long for ocean kayaking. These are slightly smaller. The shorter one is 13 feet, and the long one 15 feet in length. They will do well on the Salmon River, or getting across a bay to fish for sockeye salmon in Bartlett River (fifteen minutes by kayak versus a 2.5 mile hike). The small one only weighs 50 pounds and should fit me ok with a little rudder pedal adjustment. I am also pleased to have an extra one for guests! (Ya listening Jon? ;-) Hopefully we will have room in the 5er to get them both up to AK next spring.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I am posting this in honor of my granddaughter Sarah. Now much older, she gets separators on her teeth today for her second set of braces and I am sorry she has to go through all that again.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


You might have to click on this one to enlarge.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Special Day

Tonight we had salmon. Not just any salmon. This one was caught about 150 feet from our cabin door. I sat at the table and called it salmon with dreams. The dreams part pertains to grandkids. Today our oldest three grandsons, ten or soon to be ten, ticketed to come spend a few weeks with us next summer in Alaska. :-) I have often thought that our years enjoying the cabin will be limited by our age. Our children and grandchildren will hopefully be the long term recipients. To that end we want to walk them around the Great Land (the meaning of the word Alaska) and get joy from watching grandkid's as they experience this place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breaking Away

My energies are always looking for things to complete the cabin. We have been back only 16 days and already we accumulated one medium size cedar chest that will make a neat coffee table, a nice old rocking chair, a dehumidifier (Couldn't pass it up for the price), a new gas range for the kitchen (a story in itself), an old mirror with an arched top, two bathroom vent fans, a recessed light fixture for the bumpout, and two almost new toilets (gotten for us by a contractor friend who is doing a bathroom remodel-Thanks Dale). I had to park a buggy outside to make room for all this stuff.

Mom's new in-the-box Kitchenaid gas range for AK.

I hope to decorate part of the loft ceiling with old signs. My favorite: "Explosives" in a diamond shaped sign. I think I found five at yard sales since we returned to Calif. Two different folks who heard what I want them for retreated to their garages and emerged with second signs which they gave to me gratis. If you see any wierd or interesting old signs that cost almost nothing......

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cabin Interior

You have seen pictures of the outside of the cabin. Here are a few shots of the inside. The great room has a cathedral ceiling reaching up 22 feet and the back half of the building is a loft with rooms under.

This is Paulette's bumpout. The main front windows will be just to the left out of the picture. A bench seat will be built across the entire bumpout a little below the window. Paulette wanted an area with a big window where she can lean agains big pillows and read or do cross stitch. The bumpout only adds about 18 square feet of living space, and for that small amount is a LOT of extra work and expense. Paulette was so into the Alaska retirement that I wanted to do it for her. It is built, and adds a nice custom feel as well as making the great room seem larger. The elongated octagon window will mount in the bumpout side wall.

The 36 inch wide hallway is to the left. The picture is taken from the great room, and the "L" shaped kitchen will be part of the great room on this side of the first wall. There will be a partial overhang of the loft over the kitchen. The mud room/laundry room is just beyond with the windowed back door. Beyond the second wall will be the lower bedroom with two 4x4 windows.

This looks a little more like a painting than a window, but is the central window of six that will be in this wall facing the river. The windows will basically cover most of the wall, extending fifteen feet wide and to a height of fourteen feet. (I didn't notice all the plastic trash in the yard when I took the pix. It was used to cover lumber piles and protect the roof during construction.) The view looks somewhat narrow at the moment but should be fantastic with the whole wall covered (opened?) by large windows. They will let in lots of light.

The "L" shaped stairway to the loft will fit where the ladder currently sits. A landing for the stairway turn will be directly under the elongated octagon window. Behind the ladder on the other side of the wall will be the pantry. Behind that, difficult to see except for the window, will be the bathroom.

A look up into the loft from the 20x20 great room. The loft area is wide enough to divide into two bedrooms, but for now we want to keep it open as a combination visitor sleeping area and sitting room. With all great room windows installed the loft will have a fantastic view of the river. After this picture was taken I built a wall to enclose a very small second bathroom back in the left corner of the loft.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once Again

I want to again express my gratitude to Kent and Ben who came from SoCal and gave freely of their time to help me do the bulk of the framing and get the walls lifted and rafters in place in Alaska. I couldn't have done it without that vital assistance. Also special thanks to Gene who donated almost all the windows you see.

Yesterday we unpacked the basics from the 5th wheel while it was near the Mentone house and then parked the 5er out back. We were done by the time the temp hit 102˚ (Eventually hit 112˚yesterday). My next few days staying where it is air conditioned will be spent entering five months of financial records into the computer so I can simply print out tax info at the end of the year.

Speaking of taxes, while in AK the IRS wrote saying we filed late (we didn't) and levied a 10% penalty they say we must pay. Letters come every few weeks (to both of us) threatening to file a lien on our property if we do not pay. Their attitude seems to be we are guilty unless we can prove innocence. When we got the first letter I wrote back asking for their evidence and stated we filed on time. I included that this could have been avoided and lots of man hours saved if they had simply looked at the dated sticker placed on the envelope by the USPS. They have furnished me no evidence so far, only a letter saying they are conducting an investigation. If you mail tax forms I'd suggest you get a mailing receipt.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I had hoped we missed the heat of summer. But we pulled into the old homestead Sunday early afternoon to an exceptionally hot summer-like day. The temperature reading on the back porch thermometer when we arrived was 107˚, and is currently 109˚. That temp is unusually high for late September. Eight days ago we were in a 25˚morning and chilly days; an 84˚ temperature differential in a little over a week. Our house was hot and the A/C ran for over two hours straight to pull the inside temp down.

We are a bit ragged from all the travel and need to unload the 5er (which can wait until tomorrow morning) but otherwise well. We lived in the 5er for five months and five days and were quite comfortable. I'm back to the iMac and some speed on the internet. Lots of paperwork and catching up to do over the next week after a great summer in Alaska.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Post til Calif ?

We are heading south this morning at our leisure after a great time with E and J and especially the grandkids in Portland. Abie is such a good baby, which E needs with Brynne. Paulette and I nicknamed Brynne "Scooter 2." She is super active and runs (doesn't walk) everywhere.
After 6000+ miles of northern latitudes Jack ran me (er, the truck, not me) through the carwash. I had forgotten how nice the truck looks when it is clean. Thanks Jack. The 5er still looks like it has been through a war showing a dull exterior with dirt, grime, and even mold. Those paved but semi-rough roads found every loose nut and bolt on the trailer. I had to add three screws to one fender as it was separating from the rig when we exited Canada, and tighten lots of other hardware in Portland. But I'm not complaining. The trip was fantanstic. I'm already planning and accumulating cabin construction materials for next spring. The weather while we have been in Portland is about like summer weather in Gus so very comfy for us. Unless we have a problem along the way I won't post again until we are in Mentone, which should be early next week. M&P

Monday, September 20, 2010

Run for the Border

We pulled out of Fort St John, northern BC, Canada in morning twilight and some fog, and took a shortcut that, though very hilly, saved us about 25 miles. The truck outside temperature reading was 25 degrees, and stayed between 25 and 28 for two hours. I decided to keep the heater going in the trailer while we traveled to keep the water lines from freezing. The outside temp eventually rose above freezing three hours after we hit the road. That evening we looked for a decent RV park but saw none, so kept going. We were a bit bushed so decided to take the next one we came to. That one turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The rate was very reasonable, and the campground nice. The snooty (he's Canadian) owner winters in the Palm Desert area. His little eatery, with him as waiter, cook, and dishwasher, served great food, and the dessert of wild berries and homemade black cherry ice cream was fantastic. We put his place in our logbook for future reference. Next morning we were on the way early again, and the roads were great compared to the far north. We made good time and crossed into the "lower 48" early afternoon. U.S. Customs/Border guards decided to pull us into secondary inspection. I guess Paulette looked suspicious ;-). They confiscated our tomatoes and bell peppers, much to Paulette's chagrin. They were purchased in Juneau, in the good ole USA. Go figure. Paulette suspects the customs officials wanted salad for dinner.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Headin to Jerusalem by way of Jerico

The title denotes a round about way. We have to head north and east for over a day before we can start south.
The motorized barge out of Gustavus was also towing someone's boat back to Juneau, along with our rig aboard. When I went to greet the rig in the early morning the barge was parked in the harbor and I noticed the small boat they were towing was on it's side and had partially sunk while the barge crew slept (After seven plus nighttime hours of conveying our rig across the inside waterways). The small boat's motor was submerged in salt water. When I awakened the captain he was in disbelief until he looked over the rail. We finally got our rig that afternoon. Two days later, Wednesday about midnight, we got on the ferry to Skagway. We got a few hours sleep lying on bench seating in the closed bar/lounge of the ferry, where we figured it would be quietest. Thurs AM we offloaded and began the steep climb up White Pass out of Skagway. The road this far north is rough in places from winter after winter of frost heave, necessitating many slowdowns to navigate the irregular areas. Darkness overtook us that evening after only about 400 miles of progress. Few dare drive at night up here because of the large wild animals that may wander onto the road in the dark. We camped overnight in a provincial park campground. The host called us British Columbia senior citizens when we registered and gave us a half price deal. I told him our true residence and he said, "Tonight you are from B.C." Next morning we awoke about 8AM to 28 degree temps. I was grateful we slept that late because the previous night and day were short on rest. The camp host told us they already had their first snow which reached all the way from Ft. Nelson down to Hope, but said it would be melted by the time we reached Ft. Nelson. Next morning travel through two Provincial parks was beautiful on the winding road with a lot of up and down. The scenery and wildlife viewing were awesome. Again we saw caribou, also many bison and a half dozen bighorn sheep. They come down to the road to lick the winter salt from the pavement. One group of caribou started running alongside the truck. The pix is a bit fuzzy as both the animal and cameraman were in motion and he had to pay attention to driving with caribou running on both sides of the rig. (No animals were endangered in the making of this photo ;-) The big feature was the fall colors. On the way north spring had not arrived yet. Now fall was in full display. We ogled and pointed for hour after hour at vistas and rich fall colors with the sun on them.

After Ft. Nelson the road turns south and improved a lot for about a hundred miles. Then we hit road construction. A few months are all the good weather they have to do road repair in the far north. I didn't count the number of flaggers or stops, or the time it took for a pilot car to lead us miles and miles across soft roadbed. I could feel the trailer bogging down as I tried to pull its wider wheelbase over areas cars did not compact. My least favorite was several bridge repairs with complete stops. Rivers are in valleys and often the ascent up the mountain from the bridge had me in second gear for miles after the stop. They don't reconfigure the mountain much for these roads. Some of the grades here are 10%! An hour before nightfall we made it to Fort St. John, a bit tired after a fairly long day with only three pit stops. I fueled and am ready for tomorrow. Paulette found our missing map tonight, which will help greatly as our northerly map doesn't go much south of Ft St John.
After all the driving activity Gustavus seems weeks behind us already.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Exit Strategy?

Sept 12. Sunday morning we awoke to temps in the high 30's for the first time. The barge is scheduled to pick the rig up this afternoon, assuming all goes well. This is not like a ferry. They do not operate on a regular schedule. Any mechanical breakdown or other problem and every load gets pushed back. Rural Alaska is like that. We are comfortable with the way things work here. That said I am optimistic I will leave for Juneau today. I will go with the rig on the 7.5 hour sea voyage. Paulette will fly over tomorrow morning. Then we have numerous things to accomplish in Juneau before catching the ferry north. From Juneau we must go north about 350 miles before we can catch the Alaskan Hwy east, and finally turn south after about two days of mostly easterly travel. If you missed our blog about the scenic trip up you can find it in the posts from last April.

Update: Fabulous weather again today. The type that makes one not want to leave. At the last minute the barge owner asked me to fly instead of go along with them. Go figure. It seems to me almost the whole departure schedule has been fraught with this type of last minute change. One wonders what will be thrown at us next. But we are flexible. On the upside a friend from Gustavus was flying his airplane over to Juneau and offered us a ride. So we are in Juneau as of 7PM Sunday and have their internet for the moment. I am sure I will sleep better here than on the barge. The barge and 5er are suppose to be here in the morning. Sweet Sherri is loaning us her car tomorrow so we can begin the errands before the rig arrives.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Alaska...

Sept 9, 2010
The barge owner forgot to write down that he was going to take us out at our appointed time. He apologized and said he will work us in. Consequently we are in a bit of flux. He could call any day and say he will pick us up within hours. We are basically ready to go on short notice. If you don’t see any updates for a while we are possibly on the way to the lower 48 via the Alaskan Hwy. We anticipate about a week to get south to Washington State, assuming all goes well along the route. Our objective is to get across the continental divide as soon as possible as weather can be a problem there any time after late September. Then we can be a little more relaxed as we travel.

I’ll try to update IF we have internet available. Our cell phones don’t work in Canada so if you try to call us please leave a voice mail on my cell as we can’t get Paulette’s mailbox to work.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Whitehouse

Below are the requested pix from the restaurant windows at the lodge. In the second pix the cloud obscures snow capped mountains. On a cloudless day it's hard to beat this view while enjoying a gourmet meal.

September 2, 2010
We awoke to a cold damp fall morning and true to forecast we had hard rain all the previous night. Neither of us slept well, which is unusual for me because I enjoy the sound of rain on a roof. In the morning I was eager to see how the cabin fared under that amount of rain. First I walked the outside to see where spatter hit the exterior, then literally climbed into the stairless opening where we will install a door, and walked the walls from the inside, paying close attention to areas around the windows. I saw lots of spatter on the window’s exterior, but witnessed no moisture anywhere inside. We didn’t have much wind with the rain, but this was a good first test of the “dry” ability of the cabin. I am very pleased. As I stand back and let my senses absorb the project I am lifted. I know I had help for eight days, but other than that the feeling of accomplishment at what these two hands have done is very satisfying.

I was thinking the pleasant days of summer were gone. But mid-day after the rain moved on we had a cloudless sky and nice temps. If only it would last another month.
The Coho salmon should start running any day now. There is anticipation because this is the biggest run of the year and a decent grade of salmon and if possible I want to stock our small freezer before heading south.

Sept 4. A few recent pictures:
The one window facing the river will be complemented by five more in future years... we hope.

I built one last interior wall to separate the mud room from the kitchen this morning. Early afternoon Duane came and helped me lift the 165 pound picture window into place. That was the final window we brought with us. Perhaps next spring we can bring the next seven windows that will complete the glass. Only one last door and hardware remains to be installed this year. We will have five days to organize and move items into the cabin that will remain here for the winter (lumber and roof for the porch, some tools, ladders, electrical, and a few plumbing items). Plus separate out items that we want to transport south. I am not anxious to leave, but the weather is slowly changing and it is time to begin our migration.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Bear" with Me.

September 1, 2010
To answer your questions we plan to head south via Skagway, AK and the Alaskan Hwy on September 17. Any later than that and we risk possible “weather” going over the mountain passes in Canada. We will be pulling the 5th wheel trailer. If all goes well we should be enjoying burritos in SoCal about early October.

When we first arrived here in early May we heard geese migrating north every day. Yesterday I heard the honking of geese moving south. My California background has trouble getting use to the fact fall arrives here in late August.

Monday we took the day off. Completely off! This was the first total day I have taken off since May 8 (other than the kidney stone trip to Juneau). We visited our back yard, a wonder called Glacier Bay. The boat trip up-bay took all day and we saw a lot of amazing scenery and wildlife. Close to the glaciers (I think there are twelve of them up-bay) where they have recently retreated the ground is somewhat a moonscape of nothing but barren rock and sand. A bit farther away from the toe of the glacier moss and a few other plants have had time to take root. A bit farther and the landscape turns brushy. Approximately ten miles away from the glaciers and spruce and cottonwood trees are growing. What amazes me is our present property looked that barren only two hundred years ago; nothing like the lush forest that surrounds us today.

A forty foot adult whale died from unknown causes and the tide beached the carcass half way up Glacier Bay. The body has become a buffet for bears and other critters. That is where I took the following pictures. There were four brown bears near the carcass. This is a case where the food chain goes from large to small instead of the other way around.

The cabin is coming along and nearly dry. I have all the windows in but one. I still need to finish a roof trim area, seal around the windows well, and install the two doors. Somewhere in the next 10 days I hope to build a few more interior walls as well. I have been waiting for a rainy day to do that interior work. I guess I know where I'll be tomorrow because the weather predicts 100% chance of rain.

The Marjorie glacier put on a show for us. The boat crew said it was the most active calving of a glacier they have seen all summer. I chanced to have my camera in movie mode when I saw the first ice begin to fall, and captured the following sequence. The ice face of the glacier is several hundred feet tall, and the thunder sensation of hundreds of tons of ice falling into the bay is more awesome in person than the audio can convey.

Well.... I thought I'd share the video but can't make it work. Nuts. Perhaps if I have more time I'll try again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lots of Change

August 29, 2010
We notice Gustavus changing. The tourism season is over. Only a few stragglers with cameras wander the main haunts now. Glacier Bay lodge is set to close in a week. The cruise ships we see going up-bay in the distance will soon depart for points south. The fireweed bloom is over. Local folks say when the fireweed bloom reaches the top fall is only a few weeks away. As if to endorse that fact the cottonwood tree’s leaves are turning yellow and have begun to fall in the driveway. After long summer days (18 hours of daylight at solstice) it now is dark at 9PM, and each day seems noticeably shorter. I don’t know for sure how many minutes we lose at this latitude. One person told me five minutes per day. That would seem about right. We should lose close to another hour of sunlight in the next two weeks. Ole Sol would rise well north, sweep south in a large ark during the day, and then set well north again at night only a few months ago. Now it rises and sets more noticeably to the south. A year round resident here reminded me moose season begins in only two weeks. I guess we all tell time in different fashion.
The ridge cap is on the cabin roof. I did ride the ridge while Paulette kept watch from below. The physical position was tough on my osteoarthritic hips so I only managed to install ten feet a day. The last day I felt a bit less discomfort so did the final 18 feet and was relieved to have the top done! Only one rake eave edge remains and the roof will be finished. All the sheeting is on the cabin sides. What an adventure getting plywood up the ladder 22 feet and then nailing it under the gable. I could use a safety harness on the roof but under the gables I had only a tall ladder for a platform. Half the cabin now has the moisture resistant barrier installed. When the other half is wrapped I can install windows and doors and weather seal them as best I can with what I have. If that goes well I should have time to do a few more interior walls before we leave. The cabin is now completely enclosed and has a personality. I think we are both very pleased with the shell that will be our home.
Glacier Bay National Park is offering a special to local residents. Tourism is so slow they will allow us to go up-bay for an eight hour cruise to see the glaciers for half price. Paulette and I plan to do that if we can discern which day will be nicest. I’ll miss the nice dinners at the lodge when it closes. We tried to go up about once every other week and have a relaxing meal while looking out the entirely glass side of the restaurant at some of the greatest scenery on the planet. I wish I could describe it to you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Weather Pattern

Some wild raspberries grow on the meadow end of the property. They are delicious.

Two days ago the weather here must have entered the fall rainy period. We get some rain most every day now. Fortunately most of the precipitation seems to come at night, at least so far. Temps are a little cooler too, especially at night, but days are about right for working. I'm back to doing full days, but seem to run out of gas about three o'clock in the afternoon. After some M&Ms and a brief rest I go back to plodding on what needs doing. Most of the work now is high altitude. The roof has trim to finish and about 3/5 of the ridge cap needs to be installed. It bugs my bad knee to ride the ridge to install the cap, but I have to get it done, so I do one piece a day. You can see the gable of the front needs sheeting and then moisture resistant barrier (Tyvek). I have to push the plywood pieces up the ladder while dragging the nail gun along. I must make 50 trips up and down a day. The number of steps for that height is 17-19. The benefit is I had to get out my leather punch and put a new hole in my belt to hold the pants up. I don't have a clue what I weigh. I simply know I am two notches slimmer than in May.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Construction for Dummies

We are behind schedule, but even so the progress we have made since May 8 is truly amazing. When we originally walked on the property we saw nothing but dense forest. One month and 92 trees later we had a driveway and a building site. Another month produced a foundation and sub-floor. The remaining framing took most of another 30 days. (The interior walls still need to be done. And some sheeting on the exterior to keep out the weather this winter.) Even with the medical setback I am amazed at what we have accomplished compared to when we first walked on the property.

Paulette took this of me installing roofing this afternoon. The black plastic covering the roof to my right remains to be roofed. To that add the ridge cap and the rake eave flashing. Two to three days should do it if the weather holds, but I don't feel very confident riding the ridge to put on the ridge cap. We'll see whether I can work up the gumption.

These are the tools used to build the cabin. Amazing. Plus I had a few ladders. Imagine how they did construction before power tools.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I think I'm back to about 90%. I put in a full day today, Monday, but am a bit tired tonight. There is a lot of pressure to get the roof buttoned up as the weather could go into fall rains any time. Hopefully if the weather cooperates I can finish the roof in the next few days. If the weather doesn't cooperate it will be a bit longer.

I'm passing "gravel" from the remnants of the large stone. The pain is nothing compared to the large stone. Doc wants to analyze the pieces to see what kind of stone in the hope we can head this type of thing of in the future.

The weather the last 5 days has been excellent, perhaps the best of summer. Sunday was so nice we took a walk along the beach. Kids were playing in the 45 degree water (!) and having a great time. Pink Salmon have started to run in the river by the house. The run is sort of skimpy this year. I guess they had a poor run two years ago so not a lot of new salmon were born to support this year's run. But it's nice to see. No bear or moose sightings, though we did observe that a bear tried to get in the trailer while we were gone the two weeks. Fortunately it didn't succeed. But there were muddy paw prints on the outside walls around about 2/3 of the trailer. No scratches though. The reason is we had some wet garbage left in the trailer when we left to Juneau, and the bear smelled it.

We are doing well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

On the Mend

Doc removed the stint yesterday, and about six hours later I started feeling much better. The process was iffy for a while as the doc could not find the stint with the scope due to swelling and said he might have to take me back into the hospital for general anesthesia. I groaned at that prospect and in my discomfort urged him to try again while I silently and fervently prayed. Fortunately he snagged it that time. I'll be passing "gravel" for a day or two, but that discomfort is minor compared to the pain of the large stone. We will be on a small plane about 2PM heading for our "remote" home. Our host here in Juneau has been nothing but gracious, and we are grateful beyond words, but there is nothing like your own space, and I'm anxious to get back to work in a few days.

On the fun side we unknowingly were mentioned in a contemporary song!!! (Have we been in Juneau too long?) Click the title above and it will link you to another blog, scroll down to Asher's Song, and click play. The words are below the video on that blog. Don't have your sound too loud at first because another little voice comes into the background a bit loud. I smile but realize it's also an evidence we have been here more than a few days... and it makes me miss our own grandkids.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Man of Constant Sorrows

I woke up this morning with that title from a song from Oh Brother Where Art Thou going through my head. Go figure.

Last Thursday they did the surgery. After nine hours in recovery without much improvement they decided to admit me to the hospital. I spent two more days hospitalized. Then two in a house for out-of-area people next to emergency trying to get back some semblance of normalcy to the organs that had been traumatized. Monday we are back on the floor at Mick and Sherri's home for a few days. I am improved but not back to normal by any definition. Thursday the stint is suppose to be removed. Here's hoping that goes ok. My body doesn't need any more trauma and the clock is ticking on getting the roof finished.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life as a Pile

Before the kidney stone hit I took a picture of the small assembly of tools used to build the cabin. They are few. It is remarkable what one can do with a few good tools. Amazingly, I have gone through about 15,000 collated nails with the nail gun during construction.

Thursday AM I go in for the surgical procedure. I'm not looking forward to it but realize the alternative would be worse if this goes into sepsis. No one is surprised there is a tussle with insurance. We are out of our HMO area and they so far haven't approved treatment. I reason with them that people don't stay home all the time. The person in customer service is nice but only a messenger. They hide the person who makes the decision so you can't talk to them.

We arrived in Juneau with basically the shirts on our backs and two toothbrushes. So Paulette got to do a little shopping. She got herself some nice simple outfits. She grabbed a package of new underwear for me. Next morning when I showered I went to put some on and knew there was something wrong. They were size 42. I can normally wear 36.

I think of the stacks of lumber we had when we started the cabin. There were about six of them that stood 3.5 feet tall. Today we are down to a few small piles with almost no lumber left in them. I think of what I am going through in light of that. Sometimes life deals us a pile and we get to try to make something constructive of it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Phone Charger

Hannah Ewing (Hoshide) had exactly the same cell phone as Paulette so loaned us her charger. (Thanx Hannah!) The phones are back on line as of Monday AM (unless we must turn them off at the hospital).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just a Stone's Throw Away

The title above has some meaning. Thursday evening I went into severe pain in the right kidney. Every pain med we had available would only dull the pain a little for a very short time. Finally I couldn't take it any more and Paulette called 911. The village EMT's were great and sat with me the rest of the night while trying to get med advise through calls to a Juneau hospital or friends. Unfortunately being remote in Alaska not much emergency medicine is available, but they did what they could for me. They got me on a small airplane first thing in the morning and we were at the hospital ER in Juneau by 7:15. Three hours and a bunch of tests later they had a diagnosis of a large stone that had barely left the kidney. By then the stone quit moving and though I felt like I had been dragged through a knot hole backwards I was experiencing only twinges. ER doc advised not to go back to Gustavus until the stone situation is resolved or I could be in the same situation all over again. After what I went through for twelve hours he didn't need to reason long with me. The one urologist in town was out of town for the weekend. Long time friends Mick and Sherri were nearing the end of a construction project put us on the floor (it's Alaska where friends help no matter what the room) and I have a urologist appointment for Monday morning. I feel like a time bomb waiting to go off at any moment, but now will be near ER med help and an IV pain killer if the stone moves again.

I had a few pix of the cabin progress ready but we left with only the shirts on our backs (and Paulette grabbed our toothbrushes). So no pix but I have about 1/3 of the roof done. We knew there was a downside to being remote in Alaska but our general health is good so we expect this is a temporary glitch.

We have our cell phones but no chargers and our batteries were low when we left Gustavus. I apologize if some of you did not get personal calls and thanks to Elisabeth who offered to spread the word to family. I turn the phone on a few times a day and check for voice mail. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. mel

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eagles 6, Ducklings 0

I saw a bit of red when I walked to the bank of the river this morning. It was a moose with a tracking collar. To the left of her is a dark spot in the grass that is the ear of her calf. This is the first moose we have seen in about a month, but did find tracks in the yard yesterday from a large moose that walked through in the night.

A mama duck of a kind I have never seen before has eight ducklings we have watched develop. She is crafty and shy, but the story is that of predator and prey. The number of ducklings goes down every few days. Last I saw there were only two left, and yesterday I witnessed an eagle after those two. If we don't see the remaining two within a few days I figure it is eagles 8, ducklings 0.

My wrists are quite arthritic after using the nail gun for the past month. They ache especially at night. I sometimes wonder whether I have bitten off more than I can chew. I backed off on the roof until I felt more comfortable with doing it. Instead I have been putting up sheathing (plywood on the exterior) for the last three or four days. It "ain't" easy jockeying 50 lbs of plywood eight to ten feet in the air. I have about two days more to go to finish that, mostly smaller pieces, but also more trips up and down the ladder, which bugs my knee. Variety being the spice of life I went back to roofing prep today, and built scaffolding on half of one side of the roof this afternoon. It won't let me get very far up the roof, but will let me do the lower edge a bit more safely. The latest pix taken this morning:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Ain't As Good As I Once Was

Finished sheeting the dormer roofs this morning. Wrapping that up took about 3.5 hours today with the old guy and mid-aged neighbor alongside part of the time. Next step will be putting on underlay and then the metal roof itself. We are nearly at sea level so I can't blame the altitude for being tired. Other than that everything is perfect.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hitting the Wall

July 10, 2010
Yesterday, after two months of long sub-arctic days of aggressive construction with only one partial day off for a kidney stone, I hit the proverbial wall. I was on the roof putting up plywood sheeting. This is a very steep 45˚ 12/12 pitch roof. Muscles one doesn’t realize they have are engaged. One cannot relax up there. The distance to the ground is almost twenty feet. I was tied off in a safety harness left by Kent just in case I slipped walking on the 1.5 inch cleats. That way in a worst case scenario I would only fall a few feet before the rope caught me. The whole roof was finished other than three full sheets and two half sheets of plywood when it happened. I simply was out of energy. I tried resting a few minutes on the steep pitch, which is impossible, so I made my way to the side dormer and squeezed through into the loft. I felt drained and jittery. I sat down a while and my energy did not return. So I pulled the plug on myself. Rain was expected that night and I had hoped to get the building “dry” and was disappointed, but realized to go back up was out of the question for me. I would be risking injury. Then my neighbor who is eighty (83!) said to get the building dry was extremely important at that point and wanted me to give him the harness. I resisted. Another neighbor said the spry old guy could definitely do the last few sheets. He went up like a monkey, tied off up top, and completed the nailing. The next morning I saw him splitting wood and he commented his legs felt like jello. After my earlier five hours on muscle alert at the same task I knew exactly what he meant. I ache in places I didn’t know I had. I feel like every muscle needs a vacation. Gratefully at the end of the day plastic is pulled over the sheeting and the building is somewhat dry except for a few spots where the plastic tore a little. The next high altitude circus act will be to complete the dormer joists and sheet them, then install underlay and the metal roof. I’m not looking forward to either task at the moment. In a few days I trust I will be feeling stronger.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Dream Is Alive...

I barely finished my floor sheeting when Kent and Ben arrived from SoCal. We got busy the next day with framing the walls. That day unfortunately it rained hard all day. We were hunting for rain gear wherever we could find some.

Seven days later we had the tough stuff, except for roof sheeting, done. Now I need ot do lots of blocking, finish sheeting the roof, and get the metal roofing on. A small problem is my knees have been bothering me. My left knee is swollen enough to be noticable through the pantleg. We pushed pretty hard for eight days. I'm going to hopefully be able to slow down and let the knees repair for a day or two.

The front of the house will be six large windows. This view is from the loft. The great room below has a similar view but at a decreased angle. This is one of those pix you need to double click to get the full impact through a larger picture.

Wednesday Ben and I went fishing in the river for an hour. Ben caught a nice Dolly Varden, about 22-24 inches long. He had a blast. I think he caught about eight an hour, mostly a bit smaller than that nice sized one. We released all the smaller ones. I too had one hit my lure hard and break my line almost instantly. (It's old line.) I found it very relaxing to get out and kick back for those minutes. I have done zero fishing and only build since we got here. And it is nice to know the river has fish. :-)

Paulette kept us well fed during the last week. Kent hoped to lose some weight and I doubt that happened.

Ben and Kent are headed back to Calif and I'm lonely without them. I now face a lot more work. It is nice to have someone call down a board length, have it cut, and hand it up. Without them I'll be doing the climbing, measuring, climb down, cut, cart the piece back up, and nail in place. I'm very very grateful for the two of them who gave so freely to come and help. Words cannot express my appreciation fully. Thanks so very much Ben and Kent!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Step Out On the Dance Floor

The rain quit for a week and I got the floor joists installed, and today finished nailing down most of the subfloor. I estimate we are half way to having the cabin "dry", that is, able to keep the rain out so we can work under cover. We have come a long way in six weeks.
We finally got the trailer moved to the property so we could unload the building supplies. We lived in the small forward portion for over two months. I'm a bit tired from unloading 4000 lbs of building materials from the 5er by myself, and hoisting 2000 lbs of plywood flooring onto the joists as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

Two full days were needed to dismantle forms and get the pieces back to their rightful owners. Then two days ago it started to rain and hasn't stopped since. The temperature is in the low 60s, nice for working. I need to wear rain gear and rubber boots. I can't complain. We have had excellent weather since we got here. And the rain is needed.

People who summer here started migrating in a little over a week ago. The variety is surprising. Folks from Kentucky, Arkansas, Washington, and even Holland. With the influx the wildlife seems to have disappeared. I haven't seen moose or even tracks in a week now. No bear sign either. I suspect when people come with their dogs the wild animals head out of town.

Gustavus tow truck.
Who would have thought we'd see this going down the street in the boondocks of this "off the road grid" Alaska town. It's a forklift moving that vintage VW bus. I inquired about the bus. It was the owners original car when he and his wife first got married and he hopes to restore it some day. It still has the original curtins. In the process we got a dinner invite from the owner for tomorrow night. That's Gustavus.

We saw the temps in the lower 48 states in a newspaper today so are enjoying even the rain.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whistling in the Dark

A bit more progress. We have the stem walls pretty much formed and hope to pour the second batch of concrete in a few days.

At the risk of making all the offspring paranoid about allowing the grandkids to come up for the summer......

Each morning when I drive onto the property I look for evidence of what has traversed there since I departed. Some mornings I see strange tire tracks; local folks checking out the progress. Moose tracks are common every few days. Yesterday morning I saw some different looking prints and got out to investigate. Dropping to one knee I observed black bear tracks. After a quick look around to make sure ursa major wasn’t still in the vicinity I proceeded back to the truck and got a camera and tape measure. The rear prints measured over nine inches long, claw to heel. A neighbor was intrigued by the size too. He said they were probably made by a very large black bear as the brown/grizzly bears seldom come down toward town. He tells me moose especially like the area where we are building, and they often see the same moose year after year. (I can’t tell the difference.)

Wolves are elusive. Occasionally they are heard, but almost never seen. Three times recently wolves have taken down moose calves on the outskirts of town or within earshot in the National Park. Realize town is not like a typical city block. There can be dense forest for hundreds of yards between dwellings. The local wolf exposure sequence goes like this: Residents hear wolves howl their eerie call from several directions. Then the sound concentrates on a single location and the crashing of a fight, finally ending in silence. A day or two later, when someone ventures out to see what happened, they find a dead prey. This time of year the victim is usually a moose calf. Moose often give birth to twins but it is not unusual for only one to survive because the adult can only protect one calf at a time. Such is the wilderness saga.

When we first arrived Paulette had a cautious fear about remote Alaska. One can easily get the impression there is a bear behind every tree and a moose around every corner. Then one sees kids playing and riding bikes like anywhere else in the lower 49 states. Gradually the coexistence of wild and human is realized. Paulette actually walked several blocks up a forest road to get water the other day while I was away working on the cabin.

Finally, I wear an old set of pants for work, and another newer pair for relaxing. Yesterday I wore a second set of work pants so Paulette decided to wash the first, not realizing my wallet was in the cargo pocket. Nuts. My wallet doubles as a file cabinet for important phone numbers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bullwinkle and Son

Observation: You know you are reading a small town newspaper when the obituaries are on page 2.

We hadn’t seen any moose in a week and thought they had perhaps headed for the high country for the summer. When I got to the property this morning I found a large moose track only six feet from the foundation forms. I walked to the river talking on my cell phone and saw a brown blob on the other side in the tall grass. It was a reclining moose. I stayed still hoping to observe, but she had already seen me. After a minute she stood up and to my surprise a small calf did too. The calf couldn’t have been more than about a week old. They wandered away in the opposite direction. I was tickled to see them at less than 100 feet.

We (three volunteers and myself) did the first pour of concrete this morning and Paulette came by in the afternoon with Liz. I took them to the river and was talking about the cow and calf moose when Liz said, “There’s another one!” Sure enough, a young bull walked into the river. He knew we were there but came towards us walking in the river anyway. Then Mr Moose did an about-face and trotted away. I saw him later in the neighbors yard. Then in the evening we saw the cow and calf again in the same place, only this time Hawkeye saw them first.

When we first started this project I had a question-slogan: How do you eat an elephant? Ans. One bite at a time. That is what I attempt to do. I try to do something, make some progress, every day. Sometimes it is small progress. Other days I feel a lot of accomplishment. A kidney stone slowed me down for three days last weekend. I haven’t passed it but am back to only twinges. I am grateful for mostly good health and the neighborly advise, and counsel on how to build here.

Gustavus Hood Ornament

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Helter Skelter in Gustavus

I cut some of the big logs into rollers and we sometimes sit and relax by the river in the evening.

Getting the foundation square and level.

Our next door neighbor Ernie milling some 2x4 on his saw mill for me.

Animal story: A neighbor had guests sleeping in two-man tents on her deck. In the morning a moose decided to investigate. The college age guys got a surprise when they poked their heads out the tent door. There stood the inquisitive moose. Fortunately they were elevated enough so the moose just looked at them and did not attempt to climb up on the deck. They slept in the house after that. And we hear reports of a mother black bear and two small cubs in the area where we are building. But so far no personal sighting. I saw my first fisherman on the river. I walked to the bank and talked briefly to him. He had a few fish, the biggest an eighteen inch cutthroat trout. And informed me his son caught a steelhead the previous day.
The first portion of lumber came so I started building the foundation forms. I procured rebar locally. It was left over from the power plant construction and I got a great deal. Plus no freight to get the rebar here. I am adjusting to the freight costs mentally. I chaffed at them at first looking for alternatives. But have come to see the transportation fees are part of living here. On the other hand I am trying to persuade Paulette of the necessity of eventually getting a boat so we can get ourselves to Juneau and shop. ;-)

Gustavus Fund-Rasier: I stopped at a lemonade stand run by three kids, ages about seven. I asked how much for lemonade. They said five cents. I bought a glass but realized I didn’t have any cash. To that the kids responded that the lemonade was free. I smiled inside that these kids had a giving attitude, and dug into the ashtray until I found some change. I asked what they were going to do with the money. One said, “We are going to donate it to Gospel for Asia.” I bought a second glass and took Paulette back too.
Gustavus Traffic: There are more cars than I remember from previous visits. Also a good number of bicycles and quads. Tomorrow is Paulette’s birthday and I decided to get her a bicycle. She is elated about the idea as many of her aquaintances ride around on bikes to visit each other.
Gustavus Weed Control: On the way to the post office I saw a guy riding his personal residential mower to cut weeds alongside the road. He could only do about a 30 inch swath. But he seemed to be riding in style doing his part for the upkeep of the community. That’s the way things seem to go here. Taxes are low because they don’t have public workers and many do upkeep themselves.

Gustavus Stop Sign: Most of the stop signs are regulation red and white octagons. A few are small old hand made wood signs.

Gustavus reminds me of what small town America 60 years ago must have been like. Many have a cart before the horse attitude. Yesterday we got power to the lot. The project was a big deal with a trencher and a lot of underground cable. The next day one of the installers asked if I could go into the office and do the protocol for service. I enjoyed that. They already gave me power and then asked me to come and give them billing info, deposit, etc. Plus the well driller augered and installed the well casing without any deposit or contract from me. After two weeks I still don’t have a bill from him. He is waiting on a simple switch to finish the installation.
One evening Paulette was using free internet while parked outside the closed library with no one else around. I decided to walk up to the post office and check the mail. When I was about 200 yards away I heard another car pull in the gravel and park beside her. That time of day in California I would have been concerned about not being with her and her safety, but not in Gustavus. I proceeded to the Post Office.

We are not quite locals. This is a copy of the Gustavus phone book (one page). They only publish once a year so it will be a whole year until we are included in the listings.