31 May 2012

Calgary, Alberta (Day 3)

It's late. It's really late. We only put in 50 more kilometers today than yesterday, but somehow it ended up taking us 50% longer to travel that distance. As you might have already concluded, we had a few setbacks today,  but let's start at the beginning and, more importantly, with some pictures.

From Sitka to Prince Rupert on the M/V Matanuska

M/V Matanuska (at 2am)

Kids in the cabin, snuggling up before crashing.

3-berth cabin.

Seren using her camera.

At the on-board play area.


Some guy fishing in Petersburg.

Another fisherman.



Waiting to go down to the car deck.

Yes, but where does it end?

At the playground in Wrangell.

"Do I look like a movie star?"

Narrow channel.

At last!

Beautiful British Columbia


The Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Glaciers in the Ice Fields.

Mountain goat!

Gravel slides left behind from glaciers that have long since melted.

Off-road trolley?

More glaciers.

It's true, we've encountered some pretty breathtaking views along the way, but as mentioned before, we've had our share of setbacks. Porter is toilet-training while we are on the road and he is doing a super job. The only trouble is that he still has a sensitive stomach from all those allergies and we've had to deal with not one but two cases of spontaneous diarrhea. We've made several wrong turns, resulting in an hour or so of back-tracking (total), and there are frequent pit stops with two little ones in tow. Over all, though, it's been a pleasant drive. We've managed boredom and frustration with remarkable ease and the kids are enjoying all of the scenery and wildlife along the way.

Speaking of wildlife, just today (yesterday?) we saw several black bears, some white-tail deer, moose, a coyote, caribou, mountain goats, and a rabbit. It's almost always too fast to get a picture, but Seren really enjoys seeing the animals that she is learning about in her books.

That's all for tonight. It's after 3am here and we need to get out on the road early in the morning. We're hoping to reach Regina tomorrow night, but we'll have to see how the day goes.

29 May 2012

Prince George (Day 2)

You may note that we have missed posting about Day 1. This is a sort of placeholder post, actually. We are safely (and exhaustedly) in Prince George, BC, having traveled from Sitka to Prince Rupert on the M/V Matanuska. We landed at about 11:30am BC time, were through Customs by noon, and got into the hotel room at about 11:15pm. There will be a post including pictures from the ferry and the car as well as a post including pictures and thoughts from Seren, but those will both come on a day when we're less exhausted. It's been a long day, but there've been some highlights.

  1. Porter made it the entire day wearing underwear with only one accident (too long between towns and he peed himself, but it was a long day with a lot of fluids and he did a great job).
  2. We saw a ton of wildlife. In order, a black bear, a moose, a deer, two more meese, and then, as dusk settled in, a lot more deer. Also, a beautiful old pickup truck for sale that I really wanted to stop for and I'm considering changing our return itinerary in order to go past it again...
Now, time for sleeping, as we'll lose an hour to the time zones tomorrow. It's been a good trip so far, and everyone's holding up well and having a great time!

27 May 2012

incommunicado/it begins!

We're headed to the ferry terminal!

For the next day and a half or so, we'll be unable to check email or other internet stuff and will also be largely without cell phone service. Midday Tuesday, we'll plug back into the world.

Some guidelines for communicating with us until we're in Cleveland:

  • If it's 28 May or 29 May, text us. We won't check email, the blog, or much else reliably until the evening of the 29th.
  • If it's after the 29th, email unless it's urgent.
  • If it is urgent, consider how urgent it actually is. If it's not the end of the world, text us.
  • If it's the end of the world, go ahead and call, but don't forget that we're using AT&T in Canada and we may come looking for cord blood from one of your children in order to pay our phone bill.
Finally, and it cannot be said enough times, we're headed to the ferry terminal! It's starting!

26 May 2012

ETD 30h

I hate all this lead up to a big trip. I think I like this part even less than all the loads of dirty laundry and unpacking that have to be done when we come back. It's the waiting, really. I hate all the hours spent planning, and packing, and cleaning, and checking, and re-checking, and calling credit card companies, and notifying the post office, and everything else we have been doing for the last two weeks just so we can get on the road to the ferry terminal 30 hours from now.

30 hours from now.

Oh, that's the part I like best. Five minutes after we're all on the ferry, standing in our cabin and setting our things down, that's when relief will wash over me. No more worrying, no more calls, no more chasing down loose ends, just the five of us and the adventure before us. Anything left undone will no longer matter. The only schedule we'll have to keep involves scenery and pit-stops. Our days will be filled with lively conversation, listening to music, reading and listening to books, taking pictures, and sharing the thrill of the road with all of you. And I absolutely cannot wait to get started.

There are things I'm not looking forward to, of course. I could do without a hot, humid summer in Cleveland. I'll miss Sitka, especially in June when we'll miss the start of the Farmer's Market and on the 4th of July. I'll miss the salmonberries, too. I'm also not looking forward to all the work that lays ahead, what with cleaning out Nate's house and sorting the contents. A man collects a lot of memories in 82 years and it will not be easy sifting through all the physical remnants of that life and deciding the fate of each item. I don't anticipate the feelings of loss once we get there. His laughter and wisdom will be missed especially when disputes arise. He was, after all, the Great Mediator of the family. But even these things are part of the journey and all worth the time, effort, and money we are putting into this trip.

Well, we're mostly packed now. Nika is excited to go. The kids are ready for the ferry ride. Most of the loose ends have been tied, trimmed, or tucked under the rug. Just 30 more hours to go.


There've been at least four adult eagles buzzing the neighbors' house all day. I'm not sure if this is because of their chicken coop or something else.

Source of the post title: Joseph Franklin's Metric Alphabet

23 May 2012

reflections: closing in on two years!

So I was sitting here, taking a break from visiting with relatives and preparing for travel, and I saw that someone was reading this post. I re-read it and was pleased to see how many things remain true! Here is the original post:

It's been nearly two weeks that we've been here, and I have some reflections to share.

It's amazing to live in a place like this. JoElle and I are constantly awed by the natural beauty of the Sitka Sound, the Tongass rainforest, the mountains, and the weather. We can look out our front window and see the Pacific Ocean, replete with fishing boats, cruise ships, and recreational vessels, Seren gets to watch planes all day taking off and landing at Rocky Gutierrez Airport, and we can walk to the back of the house and see a mountain covered in forest. Beyond the physical beauty of this place, there is so much more going on.

On Saturday, we had to rush through the first Farmers Market of the summer so that we could get over to the library in time for a children's program. I've been to many farmers markets before, but never one where you could buy fresh-caught seafood, sea asparagus, and salmonberry jam in addition to the usual fresh breads, locally-roasted coffees, and fresh produce. I just made dinner tonight out of black cod and sea asparagus from that market, and it was amazing (not intended to be self-congratulatory). Side note: if you like to cook fish and haven't tried black cod, DO IT. It's creamy and buttery and amazing, and almost the same size fillet and cooking time as you're used to for salmon.

We have yet to meet an unfriendly person here. Almost nobody here wears a tie to work. When they say "Alaska formal" means jeans and a collared shirt, they really seem to mean it. The only thing you need to say to get twice the help you were already getting (which is usually already twice what you'd get in the contiguous 48) is that you're new in town. That immediately leads to questions about where you live, how much you like it, and a sincere wish that you'll stick around. I've been asked a few times what brought us to Sitka, but never once have we been asked that in an incredulous tone. The people here know how good they have it, and are simply interested in knowing what excuse you have for living in such a great place.

Seriously, we've been pleased to find almost everything we've found here. Good Asian food and Mexican food restaurants that deliver, electronics shops where you get real help from the knowledgeable staff, great parks, tons of places to walk or run or bike or simply sit and relax and watch the activity around you. The drivers on the biggest road on the island will actually stop of their own volition to let pedestrians cross the street! For a brief while, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to indulge two of my favorite vices here, though. In my mind, there's little better than a good local microbrewery and an old (think Big Lebowski) bowling alley. Before we left, I looked on BeerAdvocate and Google and everywhere else I could, and it seemed like there was a chance that a brewery might exist in town. The other day, we located it! Baranof Island Brewing has only been in business for part of the summer according to its staff, but it is worth knowing of! When I stopped in, they were out of three of the four brews that they normally keep on tap, but their Baranof Brown Ale was almost perfectly balanced for me: thick (not watery at all), smooth, a bit creamy, with plenty of malt and only enough hops to keep it tasting like beer. This is the beer I kept hoping that Prescott Brewing Company would figure out how to make.

I'm still looking for a place to bowl in town. If we can't find one, we may have to build one. Until then, I can settle for a place that's 99% perfect.
Since then, I can assure you that my impressions remain almost exactly the same. I've learned to live without bowling (although Seren is excited about trying again when we're in Cleveland!) and I haven't had as much time for beer. We'd love to be able to buy a house or some land here, but the prices are so high that it's difficult. We still love the people and places and restaurants and local businesses, and the new additions have made things even better. We've also made some great friends, several of whom we never would have crossed paths with in any place other than Sitka.

On the whole, we're doing pretty well here. I wouldn't recommend Sitka to everyone, but it sure seems right for us!

22 May 2012

getting close!

We're getting close to our departure now. About a week from now, we'll be in Canada, starting the driving portion of our road trip. Jo can't wait.

Today is Seren's last day of school. It seems so far away that I can't even remember how it felt, but there was a time when I dreaded letting someone else near her mind. Instead, we found a school that perfectly suits our daughter and a pair of teachers who understand and adore her.

The car has been prepared. Meds have been gathered. Maps came in a few weeks ago. Arrangements have been made for the cats. Netflix has been altered. Our phone plan now includes Canada. Our debit cards won't be flagged for fraud when we go through Canada. The internet will be off while we are away.  We mailed four boxes to Cleveland yesterday and the kids are almost completely packed. We still need to get Nika in for grooming and I still need to suspend our newspaper subscription and we still need to finish cleaning a bunch of things. The parents need to get laundry and packing done, we have a final run or two to make to SeaMart (I intend to get a nice steak so that I can make jerky before we hit the trail), and then we should be done.

Tomorrow, we're scheduled to have Jo's brother and sister-in-law visiting us! They're taking a cruise through Southeast and spending a day in Sitka, and it should be nice to see them. It's a very busy time to be visiting, but if the weather is at all like today, they should fall in love with this place.

Finally, for those of you getting excited over the Copper River salmon that are now being delivered anywhere that Alaska Airlines flies, this was the price board at one of our local processing plants yesterday (and yes, they will ship anywhere that FedEx goes, which is a bit more inclusive than Alaska Airlines). Note that there is plenty of salmon on this board, but also plenty of other delicious stuff - dinner last night was yelloweye, which is as tasty as it is getting rare.

12 May 2012

Seren's first post!

i am excited to go to cleveland to see baba! i also want to go to the zoo, the museum, and the library.

i really really really want to go to a hotel. i like hotels because they give us the food that we want and they have nice beds!

i also want to take pictures on the camera! i am excited to go to niagara falls.

11 May 2012

checking under the hood...

We're going to get this blog rolling again in the next few weeks!

For those who don't know, my grandfather died about two months ago. In the intervening time, it was decided that, instead of spending a lot of money to fly one or two of us to Cleveland in order to attend a funeral and then turn around and come right back to Alaska, we would save up our money a bit and make a family road trip this summer. Our plan is to load the car up with four humans and a dog and ferry to Prince Rupert, BC, then to drive across Canada to Niagara Falls, ON, where we will meet up with my parents and sister for a couple of days. This will mark the first time in two years that all four of us have left Sitka at the same time and also the first time that more than two of us have visited any family members outside of Sitka since we moved here. Our plan for the month or so following our time in Niagara Falls is to help sort through my grandfather's house, preparing the estate for its final resolution and preparing the house to change hands. We also intend to take some time to visit with family and friends in the Midwest. We will then get back on the road in order to return home with a bit of time before school starts back up for everyone.

While we are away from Sitka, we will be taking pictures and video to share here. We will also be posting daily updates from the road and occasional updates while we are in Cleveland and visiting with loved ones.

Over the next week or two, look for some cosmetic changes to occur on this blog! We'll be giving it a bit of a facelift and getting everything ready for a new travel adventure!