In Alaska – First Impressions

Captain Bartlett Inn

The Trip Up

Well, the trip up to Fairbanks, Alaska was… looooooong! I met up with the other programmer in training in Atlanta so I at least had some good geek company while hopping different flights. I even met some people in one flight that lived in Alaska and they had some good suggestions and offered some rather, ummm, interesting conversation. Apparently the retail store chains of the world are spying on us and attempting to usurp our human rights…. ok.

In the stops in Anchorage and Fairbanks the planes didn’t actually pull up to the terminal. They just got close and then lowered down the portable stairs. We had to walk to and from the plane outside. It wasn’t a large distance but it was first taste of the cold weather. All in all I thought, that’s not so bad. The air was pretty dry compared with Florida and it wasn’t cutting me through to the bone. We met up with our contact in Fairbanks at 1:55 AM (yes, it was extremely nice of him to come pick us up at that hour) and had our rental vehicle warmed and ready to go. My colleague had driven in the snow before so I let him have the honors.

We are staying at The Captain Bartlett Inn. Now if you look at their website it looks really nice, right? Well, it probably was 50 years ago. Let’s just say that this hotel has seen it’s better days. Oh well, it’s a bed to sleep on and I’m not footing the bill so it is nonetheless appreciated.

First Day

Remember that little thing I said earlier about the cold not being so bad? I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. It is C-O-L-D… COLD! If I’m outside for more than a minute I can feel my nose hairs freezing together and they get all crunchy. The worst part is my face, legs and hands. I think the shoes and socks I got are doing pretty good with keeping my feet warm and dry. Nevertheless, it is cold.

We got to work and started on our adventure with the new company. They are in the third floor of a bank, which is different for me. I’m in a large room with about fourteen other people working. Most are engineers but there are also some QA (quality assurance) people, human resources and other logistical type personnel. The people are extremely friendly and very helpful. Of course I didn’t actually do any work the first day; mainly I just filled out paperwork and read through an employee manual. Fun.

For lunch my supervisor and several of the other engineers all piled into two cars and headed to lunch. What did we have? Thai food. I love Thai food. But in Alaska? So asked if there were many Thai restaurants in Alaska. Apparently yes. So I’m sitting in a Thai restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska with a bunch of Northern geeks. The Thai food was exquisite, the staff were all dressed in traditional looking garb, it was dark and snowy outside. I thought to myself… I really am in a different world.

Happy Birthday Aubrey!

Goofy Franzone TroopIt’s my beautiful bride’s birthday today, so I would like to wish her a Happy Birthday!

I remember one time when Aubrey and I were dating during our days at Pensacola Junior College. We had gone to a recital at the school and she rode with me. It was time for me to take her home which was over the I-10 bridge East to Milton. We were talking about this and that and I said somewhat jokingly, “Hey, let’s just run off to Tallahassee!” She said, “OK, let’s do it.” So we drove right past the exit to Avalon Blvd in Milton and headed East. Of course both of us had enough combined common sense to know that this would not be a good idea. We only rode as far as Crestview and then turned back. It was kind of exciting though to think about being young and impetuous and running off on an adventure together.

Well, baby we did finally make it to Tallahassee! And beyond. Life with you has been the greatest adventure I could ever have hoped for and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Happy Birthday, baby. I love you.

Countdown To Alaska – Fun Facts

Anchorage, Alaska
For this installation of Countdown To Alaska I thought I’d share some interesting facts about the state.

  • State Capital: Juneau (map)
  • Largest City: Anchorage (map)
  • State Population: 670,053 (2006)
  • Population Density: 1.1/sq mi (The least densely populated state)
  • Land Area: 663,267 sq mi
  • Median Household Income: $57,071 USD
  • Alaska is the largest state in the US in land area and is over twice as large as Texas
  • Alaska has more coastline than all the other US states combined
  • Alaska is the only state whose capital city is inaccessible by land (no roads connect Juneau to the rest of the state)
  • The area that became Alaska was purchased from Russian interests on March 30, 1867. The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory on May 11, 1912 and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959.
  • The name “Alaska” is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning “the mainland”, or more literally “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed”.
  • The climate of the interior of Alaska is best described as extreme and is the best example of a true subarctic climate. Some of the hottest and coldest temperatures in Alaska occur around the area near Fairbanks (map) (this is where I will be staying in January). The summers can have temperatures reaching into the 80s°F (near 30 °C), while in the winter, the temperature can fall below -60 °F (-52 °C). Precipitation is not much in the Interior, often less than 10 inches (250 mm) a year, but what precipitation falls in the winter tends to stay the entire winter
  • The highest recorded temperature in Alaska is 100 °F (38 °C) in Fort Yukon (map) on June 27, 1915
  • The lowest Alaska temperature is -80 °F (-64 °C) in Prospect Creek (map) on January 23, 1971
  • Spectacular displays of the aurora borealis (“northern lights”) are visible on an average of 200 days a year in the vicinity of Fairbanks. (Don’t worry, I will be getting pictures)
  • State bird: Willow Ptarmigan, adopted by the Territorial Legislature in 1955. It is a small (15-17 inches) Arctic grouse that lives among willows and on open tundra and muskeg. Plumage is brown in summer, changing to white in winter. The Willow Ptarmigan is common in much of Alaska.
  • State fish: King Salmon, adopted 1962.
  • State flower: wild/native Forget-Me-Not, adopted by the Territorial Legislature in 1917.[34] It is a perennial that is found throughout Alaska, from Hyder to the Arctic Coast, and west to the Aleutians.
  • State fossil: Woolly Mammoth, adopted 1986.
  • State gem: Jade, adopted 1968.
  • State insect: Four-spot skimmer dragonfly, adopted 1995.
  • State land mammal: Moose, adopted 1998.
  • State marine mammal: Bowhead Whale, adopted 1983.
  • State mineral: Gold, adopted 1968.
  • State song: “Alaska’s Flag”
  • State sport: Dog Mushing, adopted 1972. (<sarcasm>No… really!?</sarcasm> I wonder if they have rentals?)
  • State tree: Sitka Spruce, adopted 1962.

I hope you have enjoyed reading some of these interesting tidbits of information. I certainly am enjoying getting to learn things about a place that is so entirely different than my home of Florida. Many of these facts were garnered from the Wikipedia Entry On Alaska.

Countdown To Alaska

I have formally accepted a position with Rogers Software Development, Inc. based in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is a work from home position doing computer and/or web programming… pretty much what I usually do. The interesting thing here though is that I am required to be on location in Fairbanks, AK for one month to complete training and I suppose to get thoroughly integrated into the company. So, I will be gone for most of the month of January. This is of course a very exciting adventure as I have never been to Alaska, but I will definitely be missing my family while away.

Anyway, I wanted to start a post series leading up to my departure. In these posts I’ll be sharing different things I have discovered in researching my destination. For this initial installation I bring you the ArcticCam. This is a webcam located in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner building in Fairbanks, Alaska and it overlooks downtown Fairbanks, the Chena River and the Cushman Street Bridge. My wife actually found this site, so many thanks to her. Now that I know I am going I check it daily just to see what it looks like and how cold it is there. My first reaction upon loading the cam was, “Wow, that just looks cold!”

Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska from ArcticCam.com

At the time this was taken it was showing 21 ° F, which has been the warmest that I’ve seen it since I started monitoring the site. The image has been cropped down slightly so click through to the site to view the full picture and the latest image.