Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Portage Lake, Drive, Homer

This morning we drove 1 mile up the road to Portage Lake which has a very nice visitor center with a great movie about the glaciers and the ice – very well done! After the visitor center we hiked up to Byron Glacier. It was a ¾ mile hike – however we started a the visitor center parking area so it was ¾ mile road walk added in. I didn’t care, the scenery was great and the traffic wasn’t so bad. Mom and Dad weren’t as thrilled. The glacier was really neat. You could see the deep blue color changing as the light changed. It was also quite chilly – the wind coming off the glacier was freezing! Nature’s AC!

After the walk we had lunch in the visitor center parking area, then started the drive to Homer. Homer, AK is on the Kenai Penisula – it’s all the way down! Jeff Corwin says that it’s the Westernmost spot in the US that you can drive to – sounds good to me!

It was about 150 miles and it took a long time – about 4 hours. The road was 2 lanes and windy. At one point the speed limit was 65!!!! I couldn’t even make my MH go 65! When I did get up to speed I hit a “frost heave” – it’s when the road freezes and thaws and it buckles the asphalt – anyway the MH was shaking in about 6 directions at once. It was then that I decided I would go 60 and everyone could deal with it. At the beginning of the drive the scenery was magnificent! It was so hard to watch the road and the mountains! I’m glad we get to go back that way, maybe I’ll be more comfortable with driving then and can enjoy a bit more. By the end the road was a bit less scenic, and I was finally feeling comfortable behind the wheel of this thing!

We arrived in Homer around 6:00. Just before we entered Homer there was an overlook where you could see the Homer spit way out into Katchemack Bay! We stopped there for a while for pictures then came into town. We secured a campsite right on the beach! It’s a really cool beach – rocky, not sandy. The water is frigid so no one swims, and it’s a bay so the water is calm, no big waves. It is a tidal bay though so the water goes in and out with the tides. There are snow capped mountains all around. We have seen at least one bald eagle, apparently there are many more.

One really cool thing about Homer is that you can really see the motion of the sun and why it doesn’t really get dark. When we arrived the sun was straight out from my MH – which given how late in the day it was, I would have assumed that was west. As the evening went on though the sun sank off to the right and finally “set” about 10:30 pm behind the mountain. It’s still not dark (I’m writing this at 11:30pm) and the sky behind the mountains is pink and yellow and orange from the sunset! In the morning, the sun will come up behind me. It’s so open here that you can really trace the movement!

Better get to bed,….the sun will be up in a few hours! Tomorrow Dad and I are going Kayaking in Katechmak Bay for part of the day, then we’ll explore the shops on Homer Spit.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Getting the RV, Turnagain Arm, Glaciers

While my dad’s wifi card does work, the connection is unstable and very slow! I’m hoping to be able to post this in the morning (Mon, 8/30). I’m not going to be able to post pictures till I get home, unless I can find a faster connection. Hard to believe we are "camping" when we have our own little "hot spot" and all 3 of us have laptop comptuers! Ahhh technolgy! :)

Alaska is pretty amazing! We are on the Turnagin Arm headed to the Kenai Penisula. It looks like the Alps! There’s water and mountains and glaciers and all kinds of really cool stuff! The campground we are staying in has a glacier right above it. The glacier is quite cool, it changes color! This afternoon, when the sun was shining brightly, it was glistening white, however this evening with a blanket of clouds touching it, it was a deep blue color. My pictures don’t do it justice!

Turnagain Arm is a tidal bay that reaches very far inland. When the settlers first came to Alaska they thought it went all the way through. However, it didn’t and they had to “turn again”! Hence the name.

We picked up the motorhome from Great Alaskan Holidays mid-afternoon. They provided a brief orientation video - not really enough if you don't know anything about motohomes but good enough for me! My parents asked a thousand questions - some of which stumped the management! They have probably not rented to a compulsive RV owner before! Overall Great Alaskan folks were really nice and they seem to running a 1st class operation!

My motorhome is quite cute! It’s tiny. I could not imagine being in it with 5 other people (supposedly it sleeps 6! HA!) Driving it isn’t too hard – hard to see what’s around you, but otherwise it drives real nice. Hard to get used to the “rear view mirror” only providing you with a view of the bathroom door! It has big mirrors though so I can see all around me. Inside is nice, but it has a lot of little "quirks" that my parents motorhome doesn't have.

We are staying at the Williwaw camp ground; it’s a National Forest Service campground in the Chugach National Forest. After dinner we went for a walk here at the campground. Just about 2 miles on a flat trail around some ponds and streams – had great views of 2 glaciers. We started at 7:50 pm and finished ay 9:20 – it’s was still broad daylight! In fact it’s 10:30 as I write this and I don’t have any lights on in my RV! It is slowly getting darker so I’d better get to bed!

Tomorrow it’s on to Homer!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Arrived In Anchorage!

After a very long day I have arrived in Anchorage! I am not writing this from my parents motorhome in Centennial Park Campground in Anchorage. It's probably 65 - 70 degrees with no humidity! It's sunny and cool and breezy! My parents have told me that there is a resident mamma moose and her baby who frequently stroll right by the motorhome! I can't wait to see them! :)

My flight left Dulles at 7:30 AM which meant that I needed to be there by 6:00 am to get through security and whatnot. My "favorite cousin" Lisa was quite generous in agreeing to take me to the airport at this ungodly hour of a Saturday and allow me to park my car at her house for the two weeks therefore avoiding paying parking at the airport! i was up at 3:45 and left by 5:00 - I arrived in Anchorage at 2:00 local time (6:00pm EDT) after a stopover in Salt Lake City.

My friend friend Kristen sold me on the vitrues of TiVo. I got my TiVo in October and don't know how I ever lived without it. One really cool thing about TiVo is that with a wireless adapter your TiVo can connect with your home wireless network and this then allows you to transfer anything you have TiVoed to your laptop and take it with you anywhere! I downloaded a whole bunch of stuff before I left and have over 13 hours of my favorite TV right in my computer! This was so nice during the last hour of the flight when I'd finished my book (my 3rd for the challenge and one of 4 I brought with me - too bad it's a library book, I have to haul it home!), the movie (Premonition - not bad, hard to follow though, kinda weird) and had all the snacks and beverages they were going to serve me so was getting antsy...I pulled out the computer and had my pick of my favorite shows! I love TiVo!!!!! :)

Am meeting my friend John from OK and his family for dinner. The wireless network seems to work so I should be able to blog a lot! :)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Great Alaskan Motorhome Adventure

As many of you know tomorrow at the crack of pre-dawn I am heading out on a big adventure! A few years ago my parents decided to retire as Gypsies. After much research they purchased a large diesel motorhome and have been doing a lot of traveling. Last summer they toured the Canadian Maritimes with a caravan group. This year they decided to drive the Alaskan Highway, and I'm going with them - well for 2 weeks anyway.

While their motorhome is 36 ft long and for a vehichle it's huge, there simply isn't enough living space for the three of us. We are all rather set in our ways and we need our space. We have done it but it really is cramped. In order to solve this issue, I am renting my own motorhome! I have rented a "class C" motorhome from Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. A class C motorhome is your typical "camper" with a truck cab and a bed over the cab. The one I rented is 22 ft long and claims it sleeps up to 6. I can't even imagine living with 5 other people in such a small space! I'm quite happy that I will have it all to myself. I have never driven a motorhome before, but I have driven trucks and vans that are similar. They rent these things to any Tom, Dick, or Harry that comes along so how hard can it be? Come back on Sun and hopefully I'll let you know!

I'm really excited about trying out RVing! I have always wanted to like camping but being out in a tent has never really worked out for me. I get scared when I can't see what's outside and I hate being in a tent in a thunderstorm. The motorhome is differnt because it's hard sided - it would be hard for an animal to get in! Also it's hard sided and a bit safer during a thunderstorm - unless a tree falls on it or a tornado comes along! It's also nice because there is a bathroom (no shoes and a flashlight!) and a kitchen so no worries about starting a fire or using a camping stove. If all goes well on the trip, I might consider investing in a small RV, I could go out to Shenandoah National Park and hike then spend the night and hike the next day, I could go visit friends and stay in their driveway, I could go on short trips up and down the east coast - it sounds like an exciting possibility.

Here's a loose itinerary so you can follow along on a map if you so choose:

Week 1
Saturday July 28 - Saturday Aug 4
Arrive in Anchorage
Visit with John and his family
Check out John's airplane!
Turnagin Arm
Cook Inlet
Chugach National Forest
Portage Glacier
Homer, AK
Sea Kayaking
Hiking in Ketchamak Bay State Park
Kenai Fijords National Park
Seward, AK
Nature Photography boat ride class
Hiking to Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield

Week 2
Sunday August 5 - Sunday August 12
Denali National Park
Hiking near the visitor center
Ranger lead hikes
Mt. McKinley? (here's hoping it's clear!)
Denali Highway - we may or may not drive the full 127 mile length, it's not paved and quite rugged, sounds like fun to me but might be too much for the MHs)
Denali NP sled dog kennel
Glenn Highway?
Copper Center?
Wrangall St. Elias National Park and Preserve?

The adventure begins tomorrow! I hope you'll join me! I plan to blog when I can and post pictures from the day so check back often! My dad has a card for his cell phone that makes it a wifi hotspot so hopefully I can get on frequently.

It's an early morning tomorrow to get to the airport so I'm heading to bed - gotta get used to going to sleep while it's still daylight anyway! :)

Destination Shopping

I love a great grocery store. When I visit my parents or my grandmother I can go visit their Ukrops. A trip to Ukrops is quite exciting! Ukrops is fun because they have all sorts of fun stuff - prepared foods, a very nice produce section with all types of fruits and veggies, a nice salad bar, special products you can't get elsewhere. I thought Ukrops was the greatest. That is until Wegman's opened. That place is amazing! They have everything under the sun. They have a food court! They have a cookie bar where you can pick your cookies and mix and match. They all sorts of prepared-cook-it-yourself foods. They have the best low-fat veggie cream cheese that reminds of the veggie cream cheese from Marx Hot Bagels in Cincinnati. I would go out of my way to go to Wegman's. Then I discovered Whole Foods. I like Whole Foods for all the same reasons as Wegman's, but shopping at Whole Foods feel like I'm buying nutrious food, something about it being super fresh and brightly colored and prepared for me makes it easier.

Until recently though none of these fabulous stores were near me. It was always a field trip to go to the fun stores and it would be an all day affair. So I lived with my little Giant. It might not be as flashy or as bright or sell healthy organic food, but it was cozy and I think I know every checker and manager there! Enter Harris Teeter.

The area where I live is somewhat up and coming. They are building new houses by the dozen and there are more and more people. Out by one of these new developments they built a brand new Harris Teeter. It opened on Wednesday. I have been there twice.

I'm 100% addicted. One of my favorite parts is the salad bar. On Wednesday when I was there I got some spinach salad. It was a yummy combo of fresh spinach, blueberries, raspberries, mandrian oranges and red onions. It was so yummy I needed more. I went back today. They didn't have that spinach salad. This time they had a traditional spinach salad with hard boiled egg, carrots, mushrooms and onions. It looked soooooo good, bright green, and fresh. It was really yummy too! Tonight I got some fruit also - it was the best pineapple I'd had in a long time. Another favorite of mine is the bread slicing station. They have loaves of bakery fresh bread and they pay an employee to stand there and slice what you want. This means I can get backery fresh bread and portion control! If I slice it myself I usually make the slices really big and eat them, pre-sliced I'll only eat 1 or 2 slices. Also, they had mini loaves, so I can buy less.

I'm so thrilled that at long last I have a super grocery store near me to shop at all the time! Rumor has it Wegeman's is coming in 2008...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Well I finished Harry Potter!!!!! I can't believe I did it so quick - and did two projects for my grad class, went to class all day today, and ran errands all day yesterday...amazing feat! Amazing book. Amazing story. I can't wait now to go back and re-read all 7 in order. It will be awhile though because I need to let this one digest first.

One thing I have been asked a lot today (by non-Harry fans) was if this one was better than the others and which one was my favorite. I can't really say because all 7 come together so nicely. The 7th book was the end of the story, there's nothing about it that makes it any better than the rest. Now that I'm finished I can say with certainity that all 7 books come together to be one unit of literature, now that we have the end of the story the others no longer stand on their own. I'm wondering if that's why I was able to read with such speed, such a desire to know what was going to happen - it was like the end of any good novel when the action picks up and you are about to discover how it all fits together.

My fav part (no spoilers, don't worry) was near the end (I promise no spoilers) when Molly Weasely called another character a bitch. It was totally justified and it fit what was happening perfectly (hell, I would have had some even choicer words...Molly was being nice) But still, I couldn't believe it. There in big bold all caps was the word bitch. In a children's book for crying out loud. I'm surprised no one has banned the book based on that alone.

The blogger seems to have fixed itself. Maybe Peeves is messing with me?

Although I did discover that I'd accidentally pasted my "library thing" as part of my post template, maybe that was screwing stuff up? Or maybe it was Peeves.

What's up?

I have been playing with my blog layout! Susan told me today how to make the strikeout text and I fixed up my list of books for the challenge.

One strange thing though is that when I look in the layout editor it shows the challenge picture on top of my list, when I click "preview" from there it shows up correctly. However, when I click "view blog" it has the list on top. What's with this? How do I fix it?

The other issue is line breaks...I like to leave lines between my paragraphs, I think it makes it easier to read. On my post about Drop City I put in line breaks, but they don't show up. Again, they show up when I click "preview" in the layout, but not when I click "view blog". I have gone into settings and did that line break thing...but it doesn't show up. The breaks are written in HTML, but they don't show up. Again...what's with this?

Ok..back to Harry...150 pages left....I have heard the last 100 pgs are the best of the book...can't wait!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finished My 1st Challenge Book

I finally finished Drop City by T.C. Boyd! This was an interesting book, I enjoyed it, however it was a "chunkster" and the writing was quite dense. While the plot moved along I would find myself egar to keep reading however my brain was too tired!

Basically the book is about drug using, free-loving hippies who move their commune from Southern California to Alaska because of some legal issues. The book begins with 2 different, seemingly unrelated stories, one of a hippie commune and one of a bush-man hunter trapper in the wilds of Alaska. The two stories merge and and become one with both parties learning from each other.

My favorite part truly spoke to why it was a good book for this challenge. At one point one of the characters says to his wife "get your ulu ready." The average reader from the lower 48 wouldn't know what a "ulu" is, thanks to my aunt who lived in Anchorage, I not only know what a ulu is, I own one and use it almost daily! I did get a bit stymied in my comprehension though because in the book they were talking about the garden when they mention the ulu and since I use my ulu mostly to cut veggies I thought they had a huge crop of veggies! I was very wrong, ulu's traditionally are used for prepping game!

I highly recommend this book to just about anyone, it was a good story, well written, fun to read.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thunderstorms, Undressing on the Highway, and Fireworks

After doing so serious sleeping in this morning I decided I wanted to go hiking. It was a bit warmer and more humid today than it had been but I knew the weather was only getting worse. There was a 30% chance of severe thunderstorms this afternoon also, but there's been a chance of thunderstorms every day all summer, so I didn't think much of it. Since I was getting such a late start I decided to go someplace relatively close - the AT in Ashby Gap near Sky Meadows state park. Also, I liked the idea of an out and back hike because if the weather did get bad it was easier to turn around and walk back. I decided to hit the new Harris Teeter in Bristow first to grab some lunch. Then it took me awhile to find the trailhead - which is a good thing I think...keeps out the rif-raff! It was 2:00 before I got to the trailhead and close to 2:30 before I got to trail since I decided to eat some lunch and had to put on my boots and everything.

The goal was to hike from Ashby Gap to the Sky Meadows State Park boundary - it was about 2.8 miles so round trip it would be close to 6 miles. I start out from the parking area - going downhill, crossing RT 50 and into the woods - it was sunny and hot although the shadow of the trees made it cooler. I was climbing up the hill working up a pretty good sweat, but not out of breath! I was getting in the groove and enjoying myself. Then it started to rain. It was a light shower - I hardly even got wet because of all the leaves on the trees. Hiking in the rain I enjoy - it cools you off and the air gets cooler and it smells so good! This afternoon when the rain started coming down the forest seemed to come alive - birds flying and chirping! While hiking in the rain is a-ok, hiking in a thunderstorm is not ok at all. I love a good storm when I'm home or otherwise safe, on the trail, I'm terrified. The sky didn't look at all threatening, in fact the sun was out and I could see blue sky! So, keeping a close ear on the sky I continued. Murphy's Law was going through my mind - if I keep going the weather will be bad, if I turn back the weather will do nothing and I'll miss a perfectly good hike in the rain. I forged ahead, the rain came down harder. When I got to a little clearing in the trees I got a good look at the sky, still looked OK although there were some darker spots. I kept going. Then I heard thunder. It was off in the distance, but it was thunder. I did an about face and started back to the car.

I moved pretty quick getting to the car. The weather still wasn't horrible - in fact the sun was peeking out in places. Again I was thinking, this is nothing, I'll regret turning around. I could hear thunder in the distance and that spurred me on to keep going. When I made it back to Rt. 50 I could really see the sky in all directions - it was looking quite ominous, in all directions. Turing around didn't seem so silly now. I ran across Rt 50 and kept running up the hill...it was only 0.2 of a mile back to the car, but it was uphill...I moved at a very quick pace (thank you maxair!). As I was making my way up the hill it started getting very dark in the woods. The rain had stopped, but the thunder was getting closer. I rounded a corner and had a visual on my car - still had to go up just a bit more, but I was almost there! As I arrived in the parking lot there was a huge clap of thunder right over head! yikes! Glad I turned around.

I quickly removed my boots and started home. As soon as I got on the road, the rain started. The sky was looking very scary and it was raining really hard. Not upset at all that I didn't forge ahead.

I drove back out 50 to the road that goes to 66 (I don't know the name of it but the speed limit is 45 and they mean it!). I was enjoying the trip back listening to my iPod, singing along and drying out from the rain/sweat. I was on the entrance ramp to 66 when I reached over with my right hand to scratch my left shoulder. As my fingers made contact with my shoulder I felt a sharp stinging, like a bee sting! I instantly knew that somehow a bee or other stinging varmint had gotten in my shirt. Remember that I'm on the entrance ramp to an interstate at this point - I can't exactly react to the bee or I'd get smushed by the on-coming traffic! Luckily, bees are about the only thing I'm not allergic too so I clenched part of my shirt in my hand and got myself on the highway and up to speed. Then I set the cruise control so I could see about getting my shirt off. I did successfully remove my shirt while driving 70 mph, without removing my seat belt! Now I was wearing a sports bra, which is not much different than halter top so....(now of course if you have seen my "spare tires" lately you'll know that halter tops are not an article of clothing I should be wearing!!!). I decided to just leave the shirt off - more exciting that way!

As I made my way closer to civilization I decided I did need to wear the shirt - way too self-conscious about my spare tires. I shook the shirt out and did manage to get it back on while driving, but I did have to unbuckle the seat belt. A few minutes after I put my shirt on, I saw the bee buzzing around the passenger seat! Glad I got him out of my shirt!

As I pulled into my neighborhood the sky was looking ominous. As soon as I got home I went to check the weather on the computer. There was a large, ugly looking storm right over where I'd been hiking!!!! And there were both severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings for the county where I'd been hiking!!!! Turning around was exactly what I needed to do.

When I got home it looked at though my whole neighborhood had gathered at the end of the court for a little 4th of July get together. I quickly showered and put on my ancient Old Navy 4th of July shirt (I think it's from 2000) and grabbed a chair and headed out for some fun and fellowship with my neighbors! We had a lovely picnic and it was fun to chat and hang out! As soon as it got dark our local pyromaniacs started setting off fireworks, some legal and some illegal (in VA anything that goes airborne is illegal). Some other folks in our general neighborhood had fireworks as well so it was quite a show! Some people on the next court over even had what looked like professional fireworks that they set off for what seemed like hours! It was way better than going into DC! When the show was over we all just picked up our chairs and walked home! :)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Baby Brandon

One of my good friends just had a baby on Fri and I got to go see him, and hold him this afternoon! He's just amazing! Babies have got to the best things ever! :)

Check out the mohawk!

Look at that adorable face! :)
So strange to think that when I saw Kristen on Thurs he was inside, then on Friday he's out - he hasn't changed any since then, he's just out here now! Pretty cool!

15 Minute Mile!

Raise your hand if you were traumatized in high school PE class when it came time to run the mile? I HATED the day, each quarter it seemed, that our PE task was to run the mile. Me, I couldn't run 20 feet much less a mile. 4 laps around the track, that was it. Except those laps could have been a million miles long! The goal I remember, was a 15 minute mile. I'm not even sure I could have done 1 lap in 15 mins. Well today, nearly 15 years after high school, I ran a mile in 15 mins!!!!! What an accomplishment!

Now, before you go thinking I'm going run marathons or anything....while I did run a mile in 15 mins, they weren't consecutive minutes! I was on the treadmill and did 3, 5 min intervals where I was jogging at 4 mph!!!! We'll work on extending the time I can run and shorting the rest interval, but I was running for a 5 solid mins, 3 times during my 45 min work out!

I do need to take a moment to thank my sponsors without who this athletic feat would not have been possible - Glaxo-Smith-Kline, the makers of Advair and whoever makes Maxair asthma inhalers (even google doesn't know!) - as the treatment of my allergic and exercise induced asthma has dramatically increased my endurance when it comes to anything even remotely athletic!