June, 2003
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© 2003, 2004, 2005
Susan L Stevenson

July, 2003
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June 15, 2003

Chena Marina RV Park
Fairbanks, AK

Our Rating: 8.5
This RV park is located right on a float plane "runway". The sight and sounds of the planes taking off and landing is amazing. We are staying here a minimum of two nights. There's also the chance that we could be staying here for much longer, depending on what we find out at the housing office tomorrow.

Weather: 80 degrees and sunny. Finally - we're back in our warm weather clothes.

Here's the final photo of Steve before he goes and gets his hair cut and shaves off the 30 days of beard growth he accumulated over the last month

Grizzly Adams

Nearly Midnight Sun
Nearly Midnight Sun

Our final stretch from Tok to Fairbanks was shorter than some of our previous days have been. This gave us time to stop a little more often to snap some photos.

Alaska Range
Alaska Range while on the Alaska Highway
Alaska Range Panorama
Alaska Range Panorama

Alaska Pipeline
Alaska Pipeline between Delta Junction and Fairbanks

End of the Alaska HighwayThis marker in Delta Junction is the official end of the Alaska Highway. It is just outside the Visitor Center - a terrific info stop with gifts as well as displays.

Fairbanks is like any other big city. Immediately upon entering the outskirts of the city (and while passing through North Pole - which is just east of here), we began to see businesses we haven't seen since leaving the midwest: Blockbuster Video, Wendy's, K-Mart, etc. It is also congested here - especially after visiting towns boasting populations under 500.

We found our campground and set up. Just then a float plane landed on the "water runway" in front of us. This continued all day and I enjoyed watching each time. Later on this evening, Steve and I met a couple of people from North Carolina and ended up sitting in their RV chatting until 11:30pm. It was impossible to tell that it was late - the sun was still visible on the horizon.

Float PlaneFloat Plane



June 16, 2003

Chena Marina RV Park - Day 2

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!!!!
Brandon is HOME!

Brandon got back to the states on Saturday night! He tried calling me yesterday, but we were washing the camper and missed the call. When I saw the strange area code on my caller ID, I just assumed it was a wrong number. Later that afternoon, I spoke to my sister-in-law, Diane, and she told me that she had a message from Brandon on her machine with the same area code. I am so excited and relieved! Then earlier this afternoon, he called again. We spoke for nearly an hour. Becky is flying back to NC from UT tomorrow night. In the meantime, Brandon is trying to get his paperwork in order (the Marines still don't officially know that Brandon and Becky are married because they deployed so quickly and didn't have time to submit them) He is planning a trip to PA to visit the family and introduce Becky to everyone over the July 4th weekend. He anticipates getting block leave sometime over the next month or so and hopes to drive out to UT and meet his in-laws for the first time. I am so glad he is home! I am also very grateful for all of you who wrote or sent packages or just kept him and Becky in your prayers. You were a wonderful support to not only my son and daughter-in-law, but to Steve and me as well.

Today was a day of necessary exploration. Steve and I drove onto Fort Wainwright to look around and locate the places that he/we will need to visit once he signs into his unit on Friday. Steve also got a hair cut (which he badly needed) and now is sporting the practically bald look I am so accustomed to.

While on Fort Wainwright, we drove into Glass Park - the RV Park located on Post. We discovered that there is a site coming available tomorrow which we can have for a month if we need it. As much as I'll miss the wonderful and exciting views of the float planes landing and taking off right in front of me, I do look forward to a bit more privacy. This campground is in a terrific location, but they stack the campers fairly close together. When windows are open you can hear the activity going on next door easily.

At Glass Park on Post, the sites are treed and the area is wooded. And there is a lot of breathing room between them. There is the possibility that we will be living in the camper for several weeks - if not a month or more - depending on the availability of Post housing. We'll find out the approximate wait time when Steve signs in on Friday. Glass Park also has nice and clean private baths/showers which is a major plus. There is also Internet hookup, but we haven't determined if it's modem or LAN. (Keeping my fingers crossed for the latter). I feel out of touch being away from an Internet connection, and can't wait to get back on-line.

After driving through Post, we took a drive through "downtown" Fairbanks. It doesn't really feel like Alaska to us yet. (I know it will when the cold weather comes) It was comforting to see some of the establishments I am familiar with. But I also saw many businesses and small shops that aren't a part of the big nationwide mix. I look forward to exploring some of them.

Another nice change is seeing foothills on the horizon, rather than tall buildings. And knowing that only a short drive away is some of the most awesome scenery in the country. We still feel like tourists (and have been told that we aren't truly Alaskans until we live through our first winter), and I've picked up countless brochures highlighting activities and sights for the entire state. We hope to see as much of Alaska as we can while we're here. I am glad that Steve and I share that love for getting out on the open road and driving until we can't go anymore. And I look forward to delving more deeply into my photography.

I'm also looking forward to experiencing some of the local events here in Fairbanks. This month (next week) is the Midnight Sun Festival and the Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game. By the way, I think I saw on the news that the recent sunset was at 11:35pm and sunrise was at 2:28am. On June 21st, it will be the longest day of sunlight and then the days get progressively shorter again. Although the long days of sunlight were a bit disconcerting to us at first, we're finding that we are able to sleep through the night without any problems. We did put a piece of cardboard on the front door window of the camper and I stuffed some cardboard in the skylight over our bed and that helps a lot.

June 17, 2003

We are moving into Glass Park Campground on Post tomorrow. This morning we started our day with a visit to the local Denny's Restaurant. I was craving a "Moons Over My Hammy" sandwich and hadn't seen a Denny's in quite a while. The prices here in AK are higher than the lower 48, but there is no sales tax (THAT'S a good thing). After breakfast, we drove back onto Post to see if I could upload my journal entries at the campground using their "free" Internet hookups. When I connected my laptop using their LAN line, I couldn't get online. After talking to the resident "techie" I discovered it was a secure net and I couldn't get on using my personal computer. I asked him if he knew of anywhere in town that could give me Internet access - even if I had to pay - and he pointed me to a few companies; one of them being the local KINKO'S. He cautioned me that Kinko's might charge an arm and a leg for the privilege. Surprisingly enough, it was FREE! Now that I know it's available to me, I'll be able to upload fairly regularly, but since nothing is really going on right now - I'll probably limit my uploads to every couple of days. I can at least access my e-mail free of charge at Glass Park Campground, so I'll be able to keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis.

After uploading, we found the local SAM'S Club here in Fairbanks to pick up a few items. It was comforting to walk the aisles of a store we are accustomed to. We saw a lot of neat things - nice packages of seafood and meats that looked great- but have to remain cognizant of our limited refrigerator/freezer space in the camper. We then traveled along a highway we hadn't explored yet - the long way back to our campground. I've driven with Steve several times since getting to town, and I still find myself losing my sense of direction. It will be nice to get out by myself and explore. I'll be able to do that after tomorrow - after I pick up my car. It arrived here in Fairbanks on June 2nd. I'm assuming my household goods are already here too - just waiting for us to tell them where to deliver them. I hope we get housing soon...

June 18, 2003


The weather has been absolutely beautiful. It's warm during the day- about 70 - and at "night" (what is night?) it goes down into the 50's, which makes for great sleeping weather.

I have been in a blue funk most of the day. It's the 7th anniversary of my father's death and I've been thinking about him a lot - not just today, but since this entire adventure began. I know he would think it is so wonderful an experience to get a chance to live in AK.

We picked up my car... what a comfort to have it again. And how strange it felt to sit in it and drive it. (It's so small compared to the truck) Now I have mobility again and plan to explore Fairbanks on my own until I get used to the location of things.

Tonight we took the dog for a long walk through the campground. I was really hoping to come across the mama moose and her calf that were sighted here only a few days ago. With camera in hand, I kept an eye out for her. I wouldn't have done anything as foolish as approaching her, but just to get a glimpse and maybe shoot a photo would have been neat. No luck.

So I shot a few photos of some wildflowers growing in abundance here (and all over town). And then we walked down to the boat launch on the Chena River and played with the dog for awhile. I took a photo because I wanted to show you what the sky looks like when it's nearly 10pm here.

View of Chena River10pm Temporary Home
Our temporary home...

June 19, 2003

Still at Glass Park on Fort Wainwright

The weather here today is gorgeous! Mid 70's and sunny. It's currently 9:14pm and the sun is still high above the horizon.

Summer solstice is on June 21st - the day with the longest daylight hours. This year the sun will set at 11:48pm and rise at 1:59am - for a total of 21 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

After he ran 2.5 miles on the bike path which circles the campground, Steve decided to sign in today. We didn't have any plans anyway...

He went to the housing office and was told that we will get keys to two houses on Monday. This is a good thing and hopefully it means that we'll be getting a real roof over our head soon. Tomorrow he has to report for PT at 6:20am.

I walked down to the campground office this morning and caught up on some of my e-mail. While waiting to get time on one of the two terminals, I spoke to some fellow campers. There was one couple there who looked really familiar to me. The husband started talking to me about driving up to the Arctic Circle. Finally the wife said, "Aren't you the one we met at the Delta Junction Visitor Center?" Then I realized that Steve and I had spent a good thirty minutes talking to the both of them when we stopped to take photos of the "end of the Alaska Highway" marker. He's retired Air Force and was originally camping at Eielson Air Base, but the 26 mile trip into Fairbanks was really taking its toll on them. So, now they're here at Glass Park until Monday. It's amazing how many familiar faces we have seen since getting here. After making arrangements for Steve and I to meet them for the Alaska Salmon Bake on Saturday night, I came back to the camper to find Steve already home.

We took a walk around the campground (still looking for that moose) and stopped to talk to another couple - he's retired Special Forces who served in Vietnam. They have been living in their 5th wheel for the past 6 years and have crisscrossed the country and Canada several times. Most of their family is still in the southeast (NC), so they spend a lot of time there. He invited us in to look at his camper and we couldn't believe the spaciousness of it! It's huge - 40 feet. He tows it with a Peterbilt truck which is another 23 feet. I don't suppose they've ever driven through San Francisco...

June 21, 2003


Fairbanks celebrates solstice with a huge "block party" downtown. They block off an area about 4x4 blocks and set up tents where you can buy crafts and food. Also there was an exhibit of old cars - ranging from about 1920 to the early 70's. Some of the people even dressed for the era of their car. Steve and I went downtown at 7pm and stayed about an hour and a half. We visited some shops and looked at some of the wares offered in some of the tents. Before leaving, we indulged in a bowl of home-made ice cream with caramel topping. A JOHN DEERE engine ran the ice cream maker - the engine was circa 1920.

Solstice Celebration
Downtown Fairbanks
Solstice Celebration
A little dancing in the streets

Yesterday (Friday) was a lazy day for us. Steve went into work for a little while and when he came home, we decided to take a drive to downtown Fairbanks and pick up some information at the Visitor's Center. We were looking for some hiking maps for trails in the area, but they don't have them there. The nice woman working the counter told us to go to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) for maps highlighting the hiking trails, but they were already closed. We came back to the camper and just hung out the rest of the night. I think being on the move for a month is finally catching up to us...

We slept in this morning, which was very nice. After taking care of some humdrum chores (like laundry), we decided to go to Pioneer Park and explore. At Pioneer Park, we saw some historic buildings (which now house gift shops selling Alaskan crafts, etc), toured the S.S. Nenana sternwheeler, and had a nice leisurely walk. It was a sunny day and it was nice to be out and about. Here are a few photos I shot at Pioneer Park:

Pioneer Park Shops
Pioneer Park Historic Buildings/Shops
Pioneer Park Shops
Pioneer Park Historic Buildings
SS Nenana Sternwheeler
S.S. Nenana Sternwheeler
Captain Steve
Captain Steve - S.S. Nenana

After spending some time at Pioneer Park, we decided to have lunch at the Pumphouse. This restaurant was one we passed everytime we left and came back to the Chena Marina RV Park we stayed at last week. The food was OK; we had the lunch buffet. The waitress was really a great wealth of information regarding hiking trails and Nordic skiing in the area. (We love to hike and hope to do some cross-country skiing while we're here).

Because it was still light out (even at 8:30), we decided to go grocery shopping and pick up a few things. When we left the grocery store at 9:30, the sun was still up and blazing. It's just about 11pm and I'm turning in for the night, even though the sun is still shining....

Weather today: Sunny and 75 degrees. I'm so sorry that all of my wonderful friends on the East Coast are suffering with rain and overcast days... wanna come visit?

June 22, 2003

Weather: The weather today was 61 degrees when we left this morning, but dropped into the 50's when we climbed in elevation. We drove through rain for a short time, but the sun came out again when we got close to Fairbanks on the return trip. The temperature here in Fairbanks is in the high 60's/low 70's..

The day was beautiful and I wanted to explore. We had a light breakfast and jumped in the truck for a drive up Route 6 - the Steese Highway. The Steese Highway is paved until milemarker 44 and then becomes a gravel road. We didn't want to do the entire route (we'll do that at another time), but we decided we'd drive part of the way. There were several creeks we crossed over along the way, and quite a few camping areas (primitive) where a person can spend the night and cast a line in for some grayling or rainbow trout. We'll definitely do that sometime, but the trailer will probably stay home. Some of the trails are narrow and deeply rutted. The truck with its 4-wheel drive did fine, but towing a trailer could be an ordeal. We'll pack the tents and "rough it" instead...

I don't fish (I used to, but it's not a big draw for me), but I think I'd be inclined to cast a line if Steve works on me hard enough. Even if I do, I plan to pack my artists' pencils and sketchbook and spend some time concentrating on drawing. It has been years since I've indulged in my art (besides photography) and it will be nice to get back into it.

The drive was nice, even though we had to follow a pilot car for a couple of miles towards the 50-55 milemarker. We made it to Cripple Creek BLM Campground at milemarker 60 before turning around and heading back. I took a few photos along the way...

Alaska Pipeline
Trans-Alaska Pipeline (milemarker 8.4)
Kokomo Creek
Kokomo Creek

Reflective Creek
Reflections in a clear pond
Chatanika River Tributary
Chatanika River tributary
Kokomo Creek Panorama
Kokomo Creek Panorama- We saw an EAGLE in the trees here!

Tomorrow we get the keys to look at two different houses here on Fort Wainwright. There are some military wives I've been in contact with who have been curious about the speed in which we've gotten keys to look at potential houses. When you sign into a new Post, you get put on the list for the date you signed OUT of the Post you left. Because of this, we got on the May 15th list, since that is when we left FL. In reality, we have been on the waiting list for 6 weeks now...

As much as I've enjoyed camping, I'm looking forward to being in a house...

June 25, 2003

Still at Glass Park
Fort Wainwright

We didn't get keys to two houses after all. There was a mix-up in the housing office regarding availability. Apparently the two houses that were supposed to be ready still need some maintenance/repairs. The bad news is that we will probably be camping here at Glass Park another week (or more); the good news is that Steve is first on the list for housing. I am glad that it is only us living in the camper (and the animals). I can't even imagine how crowded it would be if we still had kids at home to look after. We do feel fortunate that we have a roof over our head. We heard from a guy in Steve's unit that one family spent a month here at Glass Park with a couple of kids and they lived in TENTS! The longest I ever spent living in a tent was two weeks and that was probably my upper limit. But... a person has to do what he/she has to do.

The weather has been nice and the campground is quiet. I enjoy taking the dog for walks in the woods and still keep my eye out for that moose. I haven't seen her, but I've seen her poop(!), so I know she's still around. We've also seen some hoof prints in the sand.

Steve and I visited The Cookie Jar on Monday night - craving ice cream. He got a huge banana split and I opted for a hot fudge sundae. It really hit the spot. We'll probably go back to try some of the food on their menu. Before leaving, we bought a huge cinnamon bun we could split for breakfast and a half dozen cookies. YUMMY!

Steve's been going into work every morning and I've taken short drives into town to explore. Yesterday I had my car winterized. Now I have a plug hanging out of the front. Steve's taking his truck in tomorrow to be done. I can't even imagine how cold it's going to be. For the past 12 years, Steve and I have lived in a fairly warm climate. This is going to be one heck of an adjustment for us.

We visited the Post library this afternoon and I got myself put into the system. I borrowed some books on resume writing. It's time to totally rewrite my resume reflecting my skills in web development/design. I look forward to getting back into the work force now that my schooling is complete. But I'm not ready to pursue anything yet; I want to wait until we're settled into a house. There will be a lot to do once we move in and get our household goods delivered, and I don't want to have to worry about working and setting up house at the same time. As far as securing a job? The employment situation up here isn't the best, but I'm willing to do anything to keep me busy - especially during the long winter days (nights) - even if it's not in the design field.

June 27, 2003

Blue SpruceTowering Blue Spruce






Campground Footbridge
Campground Footbridge & Sedona

After running a few errands, Steve and I drove to North Pole (about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks) to have lunch at a restaurant called The Elf's Den. We saw their menu in the Fairbanks/North Pole phonebook, and wanted to see what North Pole was all about.

In North Pole, it looks like Christmas all the time (it's easy to figure out why). There are decorations EVERYWHERE and even the street light poles are striped red and white like candy canes. Steve and I both agreed that if we lived in North Pole, we wouldn't even want to put up decorations when Christmas came, because we'd be sick of looking at them. I read somewhere that the residents don't even notice the Christmas decor anymore. The Post Office was a large building - probably to handle all the mail which comes to North Pole over the holidays for that one-of-a-kind postmark.

Anyway, lunch was only so-so. We both got meatball sandwiches and there was a lot of bread and cheese, but hardly any meatballs. There are a lot of other things on their menu which looked appetizing, but we're not sure if we'll go back and try having dinner there sometime. The restaurant did seem to be doing a good business, but it could be because there aren't very many sit down type restaurants in North Pole.

When we got back to the camper, we took a long walk through the campground with Sedona. Again, we saw signs of the moose, but that's it. The sun is blazing today and my face is pink after only about 45 minutes outside.

Tomorrow, we might take a drive towards Nenana on the Parks Highway (which also takes you to Denali and onward to Anchorage). If we go, we'll probably only go about 60 or 70 miles and then turn around and come back. We want to explore some of the areas close to us right now for fishing, hiking, and camping possibilities. We plan to set aside a week or more later this year or early next year to really do some exploring.


June 29, 2003

Taku Chief
Taku Chief - this tugboat plied the waters of the Tanana, Yukon, and Koyukuk rivers for many years.

Ice Classic Tripod
Ice Classic Tripod
Nenana is known for the Nenana Ice Classic, an annual event which awards cash prizes to the lucky winners who guess the exact minute of the ice breakup on the Tanana River. The contest has been held since 1917.

When the surging ice on the Tanana River dislodges the tripod, a line attached to the tripod trips a clock located in a tower atop the Ice Classic Office, thus recording the official breakup time. Last year, prizes in the amount of $301,000 were awarded. There are many places throughout the state where tickets can be purchased.

Purple Flower
This was just one of many gorgeous flowers that were blooming in hanging baskets and flowerpots all over town. I have seen flowers that I have never seen before, and can't wait to have a garden someday!

The days are still long, even though they are getting shorter as we enter the second half of the year. Steve and I are quite accustomed to the long hours of daylight and have been sleeping through the night without any problems at all. I do find myself getting up earlier than I would normally (as early as 5am), but I don't mind. I enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning and take Sedona out for her walk while the rest of the campground is still fast asleep.

Still... I can't wait to get into a house! Maybe this week...

Parks Highway OverlookParks Highway Scenic Overlook

Yesterday we awoke to a much needed rain. It didn't last very long, but it has been very dry here and the rain was needed to help with the fire hazard ratings in the area. I wish it would have continued a little longer; the dust levels would have been lowered as well. Steve and I were in a lazy mood and stayed in all day. We cooked a great dinner on the BBQ, and watched a few movies on video that we had packed.

This morning, we woke up to already warm temperatures. I think we reached a high of 82 degrees while we were out exploring. What a difference it is living here with practically zero humidity! I certainly don't miss the hot, humid summers of Florida.

Our exploration today took us along the Parks Highway to Nenana. Just outside of Fairbanks is the town of Ester (pop. 240).

Information taken from the Milepost: Ester was a mining camp in 1906 and once had a population of about 5000 miners. In 1936, Ester Camp was built to support a large-scale gold dredge operation. It stayed open for 20 years, before closing. It opened again in 1958 as a summer visitor attraction. Ester's heydays are relived in music, song and dance at the Malemute Saloon. The Ester Gold Company complex also includes the historic bunkhouse building, which houses a buffet restaurant and hotel. Several artists make their home in Ester and active gold mining is still under way in the area.

Ester Gift ShopEster Gift Shop

We drove the Parks Highway for about 60 miles, stopping along the way to admire the view from the turnouts and scenic overlooks. The sky was a just a bit too hazy to see the high peaks of the Alaska Range clearly, but the faint silhouettes made us look forward to visiting Denali.

Soon, we arrived in Nenana (pop. 435). Nenana is located where the Tanana and the Nenana Rivers merge. The name Nenana is an Athabascan word meaning, "a good place to camp between the rivers."

Information from the Milepost: Nenana thrived as a trading center for the Natives of the region and travelers on the vast network of interior rivers. Nenana boomed during the 1920s as a construction base for the Alaska Railroad. Today Nenana is the hub for the tug boat/barge shipping industry that traverses the rivers of the Interior, providing goods to numerous villages.

Alaska Native Veterans Honor Bridge
Alaska Native Veterans' Honor Bridge
Trestle Bridge over Tanana River
Railroad trestle bridge across Tanana River
Visitor Center
Nenana Visitor Center
Railroad Museum
Railroad Museum - Nenana Depot
Steve and Friend
Steve and friend

Nenana Gate
Nenana gate






Independence Day
July 4th, 2003

We have a house!

Update on Brandon:
Brandon and Becky are currently in Philadelphia visiting the family. Becky is meeting everyone for the first time. His drive from Camp Lejeune, NC to PA took about 10 hours - you have to love the traffic in the Washington DC area; he got stuck in a 10mph zone for about an hour due to construction. I really wish I could be there to welcome him home and give him a great big hug and kiss, but there is just no way I could have left all this unpacking and organizing the house to Steve. He's more than capable, but I (like most women) like to take charge of where things go. I really hope that Brandon and Becky can come visit us later this year, or next spring. In the meantime, I have to be content to talk to them on the phone once a week.

I probably won't be posting for a bit, while I'm trying to get the house together. We don't have a phone yet (it could take two weeks), but I'll let all you friends and family members know our new address and phone number when it gets hooked up.

It's so good to have my stuff!!!!!!!!

I know it has been a long time since I posted. We have been going nonstop since we took possession of our house on Wednesday. It couldn't have come at a better time - the walls of the camper were slowly closing in on both of us. We also knew that if we didn't get into the house until after the holiday, we'd run the risk of having to wait weeks for our personal belongings to be delivered. (We found that out when we moved from GA to NC over the July 4th holiday and had to live on an air mattress for three weeks!) Anyway, as soon as Steve found out we were definitely taking possession on Wednesday, he went to Transportation and coordinated to have our household goods delivered yesterday! It just so happens the moving company was having a slow week and next week would start their busy season. What great timing!

We had more than 10,000 lbs of household goods and it took practically all day to deliver it. As is customary, we ended up with some broken items. Our computer desk is completely destroyed. Steve's weed-wacker is missing. A few pieces of our furniture are scratched. These are things we are accustomed to, but not happy with. Military moves are brutal on your personal belongings. I'm glad that Steve and I are not the type to have all top of the line furniture suites or I'd be really upset. We decided a long time ago that the "good" stuff will have to wait until we're settled in our retirement home. It's not worth the risk.

We have a 3BR/2.5BA corner unit. Our stuff is a bit cramped, but we're thankful for the garage. It's nice not to have to rent a storage unit while we're here, but we will have to build some shelving units to stack our stuff on, so my car will fit in the garage. The house backs up against an ATV trail, as well as the jogging/bike trail, so we don't have any houses behind us. We don't have much of a yard, but we're OK with that. We'd rather have the privacy. Our next door neighbor moved in the same day we did, and got her household goods delivered yesterday as well. Today we met our neighbors two doors down, but they are leaving in two weeks for Fort Carson. That's a shame; they are really nice. They told us that they loved it here, but also warned us of the effect that the short hours of winter can have. Her husband would come home from work and fall asleep on the sofa because it was dark outside. I can imagine how messed up your body clock can get... Here are some pics of the place:

KitchenThe kitchen is galley style, but is accessible from both the front door and the living/dining area.

As usual, Airborne (the cat) is scoping out the place.
Towards the living area
This is the living area portion of the living/dining area. We don't have a formal dining room, so we use the space totally for living space.
Kitchen panoramaPanorama of kitchen looking towards table area.

July 6, 2003

When we took possession of our house, the grass was already getting tall around it. On top of that, there is a cottonwood tree in the next-door neighbor's yard and a portion of our yard is inch-deep in the white cottony pods that blow around like snow in summer. I can tell that Steve is really excited about cranking up our lawnmower. (NOT!) He hasn't had to mow a lawn since he left NC in January 2001. Ah, the joys of yardwork...

By the time I get these last two entries posted, a week will have elapsed since I uploaded. Unpacking and setting up a "home" is the most tedious and backbreaking work I have ever done and I can't believe I was just doing this less than two years ago in Florida. I remember telling Steve then that I never wanted to do it again (of course, we anticipated spending the last few years of his career in Florida). I have expressed those same sentiments countless times over the last few days - and he is echoing me now. I guess this means that we're going to have to fall in love with Alaska and stay here forever!

There is one big advantage to moving to Alaska in the summer months - unlimited daylight. We begin our day by 8am and we continue until nearly midnight. We do take a few breaks here and there - to grab a quick lunch and sit down for dinner. Last night Steve barbecued hamburgers, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes. It was delicious!

It's currently 5:20am and I've been up for a little while. We didn't get to bed until after midnight, so I'm sure tonight I'll be dragging. I'm happy to say the downstairs is pretty much totally put together. Now it's time to tackle the bedrooms. My clothes have been folded in boxes since May 12th. If gravity doesn't pull the wrinkles out when I finally get them hung up again, it looks like I'll be ironing a lot.

Moving really does suck...

Living Room with furnitureFinally! A place to put our feet up. What a challenge to combine living room and dining room furniture into one space and try to make it "work".

July 7, 2003

Pop Pop would have been 93 today

I spoke to both my sis-in-law, Diane and my brother, Steve yesterday. They both said that Brandon and Becky's visit to Philadelphia was a good one. Poor Becky is still wheelchair bound when activities involves a lot of walking, but Diane was able to borrow one from a friend. They all took the train into Center City for the July 4th festivities. On Saturday, Diane and Steve had a big BBQ and lots of friends and family came to meet Becky for the first time and to welcome them both home from the war. Diane said everyone had a great time despite the torrential downpour that surprised them early on and the stifling heat.

I want to thank everyone who attended and helped to welcome Brandon and Becky home. But most of all I want to thank Steve and Diane for once again opening their house to my son and hosting the celebration. I love you both!

It is 6:14am. I went to bed a little before midnight, so I'm surprised I'm already up this morning. Steve's still sleeping, but I'm sure the smell of the brewing coffee will have him up in a little while. The cat and the dog are playing "tag" with one another and if the coffee doesn't wake Steve, the sound of their 8 feet running up and down the stairs soon will. Ahhhhh... you just have to love the peacefulness of the morning.

Steve set our PC up on the kitchen table temporarily - until we either get our desk repaired or replaced. It looks hopeless to us. Screws are bent, dowels are cracked, tracks are bent, and pieces are literally broken in two. We have to follow protocol and have it looked at by a professional to see if it can be put back together, before the claim can be processed in regards to replace/repair costs.

Our list of things which have been broken or scratched is growing longer. Yesterday, we discovered that the lawnmower didn't work because the carburetor had been smashed and the fuel line had been cut by some other piece of lawn equipment. Steve began filling it with fuel to mow the lawn yesterday and it was just pouring out all over the place. He wasn't a happy man. We knew something was going to be damaged when they opened that crate and we saw the way our tools were thrown in. Oh, and they also broke my compound miter saw; the one that used to belong to Daddy. Its worth to me was more sentimental than monetary, and there's no excuse for the carelessness of the moving company.

Today, I'm going out. I'm just running errands, but I need to escape from the confines of this house. I have been looking in tan boxes for the past 5 days and I don't want to unpack another thing (at least until I get out in the fresh air and rejuvenate myself). It looks like it might rain today and even that's OK. Maybe Steve and I will go out to dinner. We both need a little R&R.

Some more pics of some of the rooms which are pretty much FINISHED! Hooray!

Master BedroomMaster Bedroom finally pulled together. Dressing AreaPlay area turned "seating/ dressing area". There's an art to finding a place for everything!
July 10, 2003

Steve's off for his second day at the mandatory Fort Wainwright welcoming activities for new personnel and their families. It's two days of being bombarded by information regarding housing, the hospital, youth services, etc. Today they get to take a bus ride around post and even off post to visit the hunting and fishing bureau (or something to that effect). I was invited to attend with him - and he said that about 50% of the other soldiers do have their wives with them - but I still had a lot to do around here and didn't want to lose two days. Besides, Fort Wainwright is small compared to other posts we've been stationed at. I'm sure I'll know my way around in no time.

I began working on my photo album, which is very tedious but enjoyable for me. It's always so difficult for me to choose which photos will make it into the album. Because I work in digital format, I lay out and print individual photo pages which I place in plastic sleeves and put into a binder. Having a good printer and using the best photo paper is very important and I am pleased with the quality of print I get with our setup.

On our 30-day trip (and in the weeks that we've been here in Alaska), I've shot more than 2500 photos. Choosing five or six to highlight each leg of our trip is difficult - and sometimes downright impossible - but I'm managing. So far I've printed 18 pages and I'm only to northern California. I expect the entire trip will fill more than 40 pages. I have my absolute favorites and plan on having them printed professionally at 11x14 size. My camera has a high-resolution setting which allows a print to be enlarged to about 16x20 without loss of clarity. I mostly used the highest setting throughout my trip. I also saved everything to CD and filled twelve of them already. That's a lot of photos!

It's raining here today. It rained last night for a little while. Even though we didn't hear the raindrops initially, Steve and I could smell it. I love the way the air smells when it rains- so clean. The downside to the rain is that it's dark in the house. All the blinds are open, but without the sun, the inside of the house is somber. I guess I shouldn't complain... in the winter, I'll be living with somberness for months.

July 13, 2003

Hiking path
Hiking path to Angel Rocks

Steve on rocks
Steve standing on rocks

Fishing stream
Fishing stream along Chena Hot Springs Rd.

What a weekend we had... Friday I was invited to join five other wives for lunch for the purpose of welcoming the Command Sergeant Major's (CSM) wife as well as myself to the battalion. We had lunch out on the deck at The Captain Bartlett Inn. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day ( mid-70's). The other wives were very friendly and I felt totally at ease with them immediately. It was nice meeting the women, and I discovered that two of them live in the same housing area as we do. I hope to get to know them all a lot better over the next couple of years.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, Steve and I began putting the second bedroom together - the office - in preparation for Internet cable hookup on Monday. I can't wait to be back on line again! I have felt so out of touch with my friends and family and have a few projects I need to complete before I begin my search for employment.

While unpacking boxes, we were listening to the radio and heard that the weekend weather was going to worsen. Even though it was already almost 2pm, we decided we wanted to get outside while the weather was so nice. I had read about Angel Rocks Trail near Chena Hot Springs and thought a scenic hike would be a great way to spend the afternoon. We filled the backpack with water, our rain jackets (just in case), insect repellent, and my camera and headed down Chena Hot Springs Rd.

Angel Rocks Trail is about 50 miles from Fairbanks, but the drive was a very scenic one. We passed a few campgrounds (no utilities/pit toilets) located near gorgeous rivers and streams and pulled into a few to check out the sites and the fishing. There were quite a few people camping along the banks and a handful had their lines cast. While standing on a rocky shoreline, Steve spied a salmon swimming by. Now all he is talking about is going fishing.

We got to Angel Rocks about 3:30pm. It's a 3.5 mile loop trail which leads to large granite outcroppings. The rocks themselves are less than 2 miles from the trailhead, but the climb is steep in many places and at times a bit strenuous for two people who haven't done much hiking in a while. We took our time, admiring the views along the way. I took about 50 photos most of them from the top of the rocks, where the panorama was awe-inspiring. We got back to the truck a little after 6 and decided to continue on to Chena Hot Springs, where we had dinner at the restaurant there.

Grazing mooseThe drive back to Fairbanks was relaxing and we watched the storm clouds starting to gather in the sky. All of a sudden I caught a glimpse of a moose cow grazing along a stream on the side of the road. Steve turned around so I could get a photo of her. She looked right at me as if she was posing for me. I can't ever imagine seeing a moose and not getting excited about it.

July 20, 2003

Photos from around town and Golden Days.

UAF Lake
Casting a line

Downtown Fairbanks and the duck chute
Downtown Fairbanks for Golden Days

Savoring the nectar
Savoring the nectar

Sorry I haven't posted in a week. I have been extremely busy working on my online resume as well as my "hard copy" resume. I've also decided to create another web site where I can post my web design portfolio for prospective employers or clients to look at. It's time consuming, but I LOVE it! I spend hours and hours working on it and never get bored. I guess that's a good indication that I chose the right field of study.

Yesterday, Steve and I went into town and to Pioneer Park to catch some of the Golden Days activities. We also took a drive through the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus and discovered a fishing lake and terrific bike, walking and ski trails nearby. We can't wait to get back into biking again! The bike trail follows Farmer's Loop Rd. - a road that skirts the northern side of Fairbanks. There are great views from portions of the road and we stopped to take a few photos.

We also drove Viewpoint Drive and Summit Drive, which lead up into the hills to neighborhoods with spectacular views (and the price tag to match, I'm sure). The lucky residents who have homes on the hillside can see clear to the snowcapped mountains in the distance. We fantasized about having a home with such gorgeous views one day. (Hey, everyone can dream, can't they? *smile*)

After our little scenic drive, we went to the flower show at Pioneer Park. Countless AK floral designers entered their creations into the contest. There were several themes you could enter under and each artist did a great job of portraying that theme. There were solid color arrangements of bright orange or yellow - flowers I had never seen before, but which packed a visual punch when grouped together. Beautiful...

We then headed to downtown Fairbanks to catch the launch of the rubber ducks on the Chena River. You could buy tickets with a number on them and each of the ducks was numbered. The winning duck netted the ticket holder a good sum of cash. The ducks traveled about a quarter mile downstream before being herded into a chute where they made their way to the finish line. In addition to the duck race, there were food tents and entertainment and arts and crafts, etc. It was a beautiful sunny day and after almost a week of rain, it seemed like everyone was happy to be outside enjoying the weather.

Today is the Red & Green Regatta. Boats must be built from scratch and each entry must have used DUCT TAPE as part of the project. They are going to launch the floating "works of art" from the boat launch at UAF. We're hoping to get over there to catch the fun. Until next time...

Sunday (Postscript)

Today, Steve and I had plans to go to the Red and Green Regatta, but he got called into work to handle an "emergency". I won't go into details; let's just say one of his soldiers is in some serious trouble. The joys of being a First Sergeant...

So, instead, I worked on my online resume and portfolio. I spent hours trying to get it to look the way I want, and I can't say I'm totally thrilled yet. At least I ENJOY doing this type of thing. The day passed quickly.

Brandon called today. He opened his conversation with "Mom, you're a grandmom". (Now don't freak out - it's not what you think!) He and Becky have decided to postpone their original plans of having a baby right away and have adopted a boxer puppy. They wanted to see how much responsibility there is with taking care of another living, breathing, being. Her name is Pandora and she is 8 weeks old. While we were chatting, I could hear Becky yelling, "Babe... she just threw up on the carpet again!" I couldn't help but chuckle...

Tomorrow starts another week. We have now been Fairbanksans for more than a month. Yesterday Steve asked me if I felt like we were in Alaska yet. When we first got here, it didn't really feel any different to me than any other small city. But yesterday I finally felt like I was in Alaska.

Maybe it was the view of the snow-crested peaks on the horizon when we took the drive up the hill. Or maybe it was wandering between the arts and crafts stands downtown and watching the ducks float down the Chena. Maybe it was watching the man standing alone on the banks of the river with his line in the water, waiting for that bite. Perhaps it's the incessant daylight. Last night at midnight, I opened the blinds and looked out at the sky. It was a medium shade of gray and off in the distance I could still see the orange glow of a sun which still hadn't set completely. Yeah... we're not in Florida anymore...


July 26, 2003

This morning when we saw that it was raining, we decided to visit the museum at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We had read only positive reviews about it. After having breakfast at THE COOKIE JAR (a great little restaurant that we never leave without picking up a huge cinnamon bun and cookies for later), we headed for the museum. On the way through campus, we stumbled upon an overlook with a diagram showing where Denali (as well as a few other mountains) are located on the horizon. Of course, it was too cloudy to see anything, but I made a mental note to return on a clear day. After touring the exhibits, we sat in on an informative talk about the Native Alaskan culture and arts and even stayed after the talk to ask the speaker even more questions. It was wonderful! Here are some photos:
Steve and Kodiak
Steve and his Kodiak bear friend

Beadwork on shoes
Intricate beadwork

Native clothing and baskets
Native clothing & basketwork

It's a rainy day here in Fairbanks and it's also chilly outside. The current temperature is 55 degrees and it's mostly cloudy - as can be expected when it rains. It felt good to put on a sweater when Steve and I went out to breakfast this morning.

Last night we went on a "cruise" aboard the Riverboat Discovery II. The trip was sponsored by the AUSA and military members got two-for-one tickets. The cruise wasn't the typical one offered by the Riverboat. The typical cruise involves stops along the way to visit a dog musher's camp, an Athabascan village, and other things. But a typical cruise also doesn't include food. We didn't get to visit any of the usual places and the cruise only lasted about 2 1/2 hours, but we got a buffet dinner.

Rainbow before the cruiseWhen we got to Discovey Landing, the skies were already looking pretty ominous. We drove through some sprinkles on our way and wondered if the rain would come and mess up the night. The temperatures were cool and I was glad that Steve brought both his denim jacket and his fleece - which I carried. As we waited to board, a gorgeous rainbow appeared on the horizon.

We soon met up with one of the other First Sergeants and his wife Nancy. We chatted a bit before boarding and sat together when we finally did get on the paddleboat. We opted for an inside seat because of the weather and I'm glad we did. We could see those poor souls sitting outside begin putting on jackets and coming Ominous Clouds over the Chenainside as soon as we got underway. It was downright cold! Soon we were joined by another Sergeant in Steve's company and his wife. They are true Alaskans - born and raised here; his wife in a small fishing village (population 200) on the west coast and he in Anchorage. They met in college when they both came to Fairbanks to attend UAF. Although it took his wife a little time to warm up to the conversation, she soon began adding to our comical narration about the sights we were seeing while traveling the river.

Grass Roofed House
House with grass roof
Log Home
Log house with dock
House with Plane
House with float plane

There were incredible log homes - thousands of square feet in size - with their own docks and boats and even float planes. Then there were the smaller homes (with float planes). And then there were the small shacks, older houses in disrepair, and dog mushers homes - with their many dog houses lined up as if in their own little village. It was a "neighborhood" reached only by boat, plane, or gravel/dirt road.

Although the food wasn't anything to rave about (overdone salmon, baked beans, cole slaw - which they ran out of, potato salad, and cornbread - too dry and tasteless), we all had a pretty good time and enjoyed the company and the float. I fully intend to do it again - but this time I'll take the real tour and experience the things we missed out on.

I would also highly recommend a visit to the museum (see photos at left). I fully intend to include a trip to this interesting venue when family and friends come to visit (IF they decide to visit!)

From this point onward, I will be keeping monthly journals.
Click HERE to view my August Journal.

© 2003, 2004, 2005 Susan L Stevenson