I had been out of town on business for a week. Friday I started seeing signs of sickness; mainly the fact that I was trying desperately not to cough one of my lungs out. I flew out of Minneapolis around 5:30 PM on Friday, February 29 and should have been arriving at my home in Pensacola, FL sometime around 11:00 PM. However, fate had something else in mind…
Act I, Scene I
“Ladies and gentlemen, flight XYZ to Pensacola has been canceled.” Many emotions burst into existence all around me; dismay, anger, laughter, confusion. Several expletives could be heard among the crowd and someone behind me clapped sarcastically. This could not be good.
The first sign of trouble came when I had previously arrived at the gate. Pensacola 11:00 the sign said. I looked at my ticket… 10:15. Great, a delay. I’m not much for confrontation and the ticket counter looked somewhat busy. I took a seat somewhere in close proximity so that I could catch what was going on. Crew members were missing said the lady at the counter. Check back in 30 minutes. As I sat among the myriad strangers all wanting desperately to get to Pensacola, waves of people crashed upon the counter like the ocean hitting a rocky shore. Wave after wave and always the same reply. We don’t know yet. Please have a seat and we will make an announcement when we have more information. The waves did not stop. Relentless. Signs of wear started appearing on the ticket clerk, her warm smile lost to frustration. She was deflecting the questions and it was very apparent from my vantage point that she just did not have the answers they so badly needed to hear.
After the cancellation announcement the mob rose up almost instantly. Questions were being thrown at the ticket clerk from every direction. Voices raised and soon the mob was infuriated, yelling their protests and threats of law suites. I kept my seat and watched the onslaught. There wasn’t much I could do after all. I don’t understand why they are yelling at her. She didn’t cancel the flight. After several intense minutes the battle worn lady’s insistence that a line be formed produced the desired effect. The mob was broken and a line formed, separated now and diluted by other calm, sane people. The line was very long. I kept my seat. No reason to have sore feet as well as being stuck here. Hotel and meal vouchers were being distributed one by one as they re-booked flights. Several people decided to rent a car and drive through the night. Others made a mad dash for gate E2 to try and catch a flight to Mobile that was leaving soon. The enemy mob still made their complaints known, only they were singled out now. Manageable. Stupid.
Only four more people to go. I take my place in the queue. Just ahead of me a young mother was trying to get her flight rebooked as her son of around three years old watched an animated movie on a portable DVD player. Why did this have to happen. I’m leaving again on Monday morning. I should have stayed in Minneapolis and gotten some sleep. No matter. I walk up to the desk and greet the ticket clerk with a kind hello. I know she’s had a rough night and so I immediately show her that I am no threat. She is friendly and smiles as she clacks away on the keyboard. It always seemed funny to me in movies and on television when the ticket clerks at the airport clack away at a keyboard to find flight information. Amazingly it’s fairly accurate. As she is finishing up the transaction and printing my new boarding pass I ask, “Is their a shuttle to take me to the hotel?”
The question had the same effect as if I had killed her pet dog. She looked appalled and I knew the answer that would come even before she spoke. “I am so sorry to tell you this, sir, but there are no more hotel rooms.” Some huge event is in town and all the hotels in Charlotte are booked. Well, it looks like a night in the airport. I can handle that. “So, when does my flight leave?”
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.
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.
I just wanted to post a quick not to say that I’ve placed a countdown timer on the sidebar for when I’ll be home. Only ten more days! Yay! Anyway, if you are viewing this from anywhere outside of the website you can click through to the site to see the countdown. It’s on the upper right hand side of the main page.
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 âˆ’35°C (âˆ’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.
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.
Of 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.
This is more of a pictorial post. The following are some pictures around my work building (and inside).
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!
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!
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.
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.