In The Home Stretch – Alaska

Frozen River - Click To See More Photos

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. To tell you the truth I’ve actually been a little down. I figure it’s a combination of missing my family so much, being so dern cold and being in such a boring city. I suppose I could get out and do more adventure type stuff, but all of that is pretty expensive. Luckily… I’m coming home on Saturday! Hooray!

The weather was actually pretty nice for several days. The temperature rose above freezing for two out of those days. That felt really nice to have a relief from the cold, though it wasn’t so good for driving conditions. It dropped back down to freezing temperatures again today plus it was windy. Now that hurts! Driving has also been very tricky with the roads actually being icy now.

Well, that’s about all for now. I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends in a few days.

Heat Wave In Alaska!

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Not really what you would consider a heat wave, but it has been noticeably warmer than it was. For instance today it is a nice, balmy 14°F (that’s above zero). It is a very nice relief to have this much of an increase in temperature. I can actually go outside without my hat and gloves on and be fine. We also had quite a bit of snowfall yesterday, about 8 inches is the common consensus. That was quite beautiful to see everything covered in white fluffy snow. And it is fluffy… none of that wet, sludgy snow that I’ve heard is common in other areas. That’s about it to report for today other than the ongoing fact that I am extremely ready to come home.

Minus 37 Degrees /crying

Minus 37 Degrees

Ice fog is any kind of fog where the droplets have frozen into extremely tiny crystals of ice in midair. Generally this requires temperatures at or below −35°C (−30°F), making it common only in and near the Arctic and Antarctic regions. (From Wikipedia entry on fog)

Today was cold. When we first arrived it was the type of cold where you go outside and shiver and laugh about how cold it is. Today when I had to go outside I just got angry at the cold. Why is my face burning? My are my hands burning? Why can’t I feel my legs? Seriously, it is no longer funny.

Minus 37 Degrees At Work Minus 37 Degrees At Work Work building at Noon Sun On The Horizon Ice Fog Ice Fog (again)

Chena Hot Springs And The Ice Museum

Martinis At The Aurora Ice Museum (Alaska)

Sunday we headed out of town about 60 miles to the Chena Hot Springs Resort. Many people have repeated that this was a must see if you come to Alaska. Not only do they have the hot springs that you can dip into (if you dare), but they also have an ice museum. This sounded like a pretty cool outing and it did not disappoint.

On the way there we saw a lot more of the beautiful Alaskan country. We even stopped along the way at a park site (closed for the season) and snapped some photos. There was a river there and you could actually see some of the running water. It looked absolutely beautiful next to the ice and snow. The trip was a lot longer than you might expect. You see the highways here aren’t really normal highways in the winter. They’re more like snow-ways. Unless the portion of highway you are traveling on sees a lot of traffic then chances are you won’t be able to see the road. For the most part the highway had a worn spot down the center where you could kind of make out the center line. To either side though the snow got deeper and deeper. So as you can imagine you have to slow down quite a bit when cars are coming the opposite direction. Of course I think a lot of the natives here are used to this and so they don’t slow down or even move over that much. Thanks!

When we got to Chena Hot Springs we checked out the pool facilities first. We could have paid a little and gotten to swim in either a) the indoor pool (fed by the springs), b) the indoor hot tubs or c) the outdoor hot springs pools. What!? Yes. There were actually people that got into their swimming gear and walked outside to get into the springs. Crazy. Needless to say neither one of us wanted to brave that. It actually hurt to be outside WITH my clothes on so I couldn’t imagine doing that. We headed instead outside to take a few photos and then on to the restaurant. It was nice and rustic looking and the food was ok. Not really spectacular for the price, but there weren’t exactly any other options around.

Finally we made it over to the activities building and booked our tickets for the tour of the Aurora Ice Museum. This is actually the world’s only year-round ice museum. Pretty cool (ha ha). We had to wait outside for the tourguide to get there. Nice. When we got inside though I was pretty impressed. You can read a lot about the specifics on their website, but I can tell you personally that it is really amazing what they have done with ice. The most impressive to me was the sculpture of the two mounted knights jousting. There were of course four rooms that you could actually book a stay in at… cough… $500 US per night. No thanks. They of course had an ice sculpted bar complete with stools topped by caribou fur. And if you paid for it (we did) you get to the end the tour by sipping an apple martini at the bar that’s served in a hand carved ice glass. Unfortunately the cold (and coffee from lunch) got to me and I had to take care of some bodily business. So instead of sipping my martini I pretty much threw it back like a sailor and cold-tailed it out of there.

Minus 30 DegreesOf course when I got outside it was even colder than inside and so my trot became a gallop as I made my way to the first available facilities… an outhouse. What’s the deal with outhouses in Alaska? Anyway, this is the second time I’ve gotten to use one here, but this time it was much colder outside. How much colder? It was around -30°F that day. Yep. Cold… really cold. After that we got into the car and headed back to Fairbanks. We’d had enough for the day.

My Coldest Weather Yet In Alaska

Alaska - Minus 25
This is more of a pictorial post. The following are some pictures around my work building (and inside).

View From My Desk View From My Desk View From My Desk

Some Of The Guys In the Office Couple Of Co-Workers Walking Back From Lunch Sign In Front Of Work Building - Minus 25!

Building Where I Work

Yesterday (Saturday, January 12, 2008) was at that time the coldest day that I had yet experienced. It started out cold and stayed cold… about minus 25° F. I was actually working too… yeah on a Saturday 🙁 We have a fairly tight deadline to deliver a release of the product this coming up Thursday so the whole team pulled together on Saturday to get some good work done. I was able to make some fairly good progress on a new customer requested feature. It’s safe to say that I’m getting pretty integrated into the team and I enjoy being around them.

Some of us went for Thai food for lunch and it was extremely good. I’m still amazed that they have so many good Thai restaurants here in Fairbanks. Anyway, it was a neat experience walking outside to get into the car and waiting for the heater to heat the car up in negative 25° weather. This should go without saying, but it is COLD. I’ve included some pictures of the office and the window that I look out from my desk. The picture of AlaskaUSA bank is the actual building that we are in.

Remember the first line of this blog where it says, “at that time the coldest day”? Well, today (Sunday, January 13, 2008) surpassed yesterday. I was outside in minus 30° today. Ouch! I was also in an ice museum / ice hotel where I sat at an ice sculpted bar and had a martini in a hand-carved ice glass. Still uploading all of the pictures though, so you’ll have to stay tuned for the next installment to read about that!

When Will The Cold End? Alaska

Moose Mountain

Nothing new or interesting to tell today, only I think I am about done with the cold. I’m not really all that infatuated with the snow any longer either. I guess that’s just the way it goes, though it would probably help if I had my family with me. I really miss my lady and my children.

One thing new is that our office reorganized seating arrangements. This was to accommodate four additional software engineers from Regis Corporation that are working on the same project as I am. This means that we now have around sixteen developers in the same workspace. Needless to say… it gets a little noisy and chatty sometimes. The good thing is that my desk is right smack-dab in front of the window. Now you might be thinking, “what’s so great about that if it’s dark all the time?” Well, it’s not dark all the time… just most of the time. It starts getting light around 11:00 AM now and is fairly bright by noon. That lasts till around 3:00 PM after which it gets dark again pretty quickly.

Well, thank you all so much for your continued support of my family and prayers for me while I am away. Until next time… cheers!

Snowboarding In Alaska

Jonathan Snowboarding

Sunday my friend and I made our way up to the Moose Mountain Ski Resort for a bit of snowboarding. Oh and before you get the wrong idea the word resort is used very loosely here. Continue story. We were both new to snowboarding so we rented our gear and bought a pass for the bunny hill, aka Moose Meadow… how cute. Well, as it turns out it’s not so cute for beginners! More on that later. One of the interesting things about this particular ski resort is that they didn’t use ski lifts. They used big greyhound buses to run groups of skiers up the mountain. Seemed odd to me and not very financially efficient given gas prices, but whatever works.

Well, we’re at the top of this bunny hill and neither one of use has had lessons. Nobody offered us any pointers either. We strapped our snowboards on, way too far from the slope the first time as it turns out. So we ended up being tired and wore out just trying to scoot our ways to the slope. Of course when we got there the hilarity ensued for many laughs. Both of us had some really exceptional wipeouts. I’m usually a pretty quick student so I caught on pretty fast and was doing quite well by the third trip down. The problem was I think I peaked (pun intended) too early and it seemed that I just got worse. Oh well, I still had a great time.

The views from the top of this mountain were really quite breathtaking. Just beautiful! We were there for the sunset also and the colors that filled the sky were amazing. I got a few pictures which you can view by clicking the header photo above, however they really fail (miserably) to capture just exactly how great the scenery was. Too bad… guess you had to be there!

At the end of the snowboarding day we were both extremely sore and very tired. Dinner at Chili’s and a couple of tall, ice cold beers helped to mend some of the wounds. However the true testament to the physical stresses and exercise came the following day… and actually still to this day. My everything hurts! I smacked my shoulder pretty good on one of my falls and it’s just getting to where I can comfortably raise my hand over my head again. My abs hurt, my backside hurts, my chest and arms hurt, my legs hurt…. I hurt! It is however a small price to pay for such an experience as snowboarding in Alaska.

Oh, and speaking of experiences. During our snowboarding extravaganza I had the rare opportunity to use an actual outhouse at the top of a mountain in Alaska in below zero weather. Nice.

Walking In The Snow – Alaska

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Today I got out with my partner in crime and we drove around a bit. A few people told us that we could find some nice views at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Ok, I’m down with that. So we headed over there and got some nice snapshots. You can view them by clicking the header image above. There was a set of metal steps that went down a path pretty steeply, and we actually walked it. I thought a couple of times that I was going to slip and go flying down the length of the steps. Thankfully that did not happen and instead we just had a good time walking around, freezing our butts off.

Afterwards we took the long way around back to town and saw some truly beautiful sites along the highway. It’s amazing how the snow covering everything just makes it look so beautiful. Dinner at McDonald’s… mmmm. Then we went to the sporting store and I got some snow pants and a new jacket. Why? Cause tomorrow we are going to try and go snowboarding! Woohoo. Of course I’ll be sure to get some pictures up there and let you know how it goes.

Milkshakes In Alaska

Totem Pole In The SnowToday was Thursday (at least at the time of me writing this). Apparently in my office, Thursday is also milkshake day because the ice cream shop nearby has half off milkshakes. Ok… I’m game. And hey, it’s only right over there across the street. We can walk! Alrighty then. So today I bundled up for lunch and walked around a quarter of a mile in the nice fresh powder snow to the ice cream shop. Actually we went into a Fred Meyers first, it’s sort of like a Super Walmart to get lunch. They have a decent deli and hot foods counter and I ordered some chicken fingers and an egg roll. No veggies for me! Then we made our way to the ice cream shop where my boss treated us all to a large milkshake of our choosing. It was really quite fun and I think that the cold is starting to grow on me. Sometimes I think, “Wow, it sure is freezing!” Then other times I think, “Hey, I’m not sweating profusely like I would be in Florida!”