Tag Archives: friends

Minneapolis Auto Show

1948 Chevrolet Official Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

Spent some time with A Sponsor and two of his low level employees at the Auto Show that is taking place in downtown Minneapolis.

It should come as no surprise to anyone, that the classic car section was my favorite part of the show. Not counting the mini-donuts.

VW Double Cab Transporter

A wonderful Diamond T

Brit’s Pub, an Auto Show Tradition

Before the snowfall

Climbing Murphy Dome
Climbing up Murphy Dome

Post Script: A Happy 5-0 to one of our sponsors: the President of Minnesota Expedition Outfitters.

Walk-In Freezer

Fifteen Below

The hardest part about leaving Alaska’s Interior in the winter, is returning to the Interior in the winter. Especially, when you rely on a wood stove for your heat source.

It was in the vicinity of -22F outside when I unlocked the cabin door. My ride from the airport was in a car with a thermometer that stops at -22, and my outdoor thermometer finally gave up the ghost around September.
The thermometer inside the cabin clearly read -15F.

Stoke that fire

The plan:
Get a fire going in the wood stove.
Start the truck, and let that warm up.
Add firewood and plug in the stack robber.
Drive to the store to pick up enough groceries to get me through a day or two.
Return to a slightly warmer cabin, add firewood, turn on the heated mattress pad, then walk over to the neighbor’s for dinner.

Stack robber

What actually happened:
I left Alaska in such a hurry that I forgot to have kindling ready.
First step was to put on a hat and warmer gloves. It was 6pm.
Second step was to split some spruce for kindling.
Once the fire was going, I went out to start the truck, but my neighbor did not plug it in like I requested. For the first time, my Chevy did not start.
Plugged in truck.
Returned to cabin to add firewood and plug in stack robber.
Walked over to the neighbor, and casually mentioned my truck did not start.
Borrowed neighbor’s warm car to drive to town.
Returned with groceries to a cabin that had warmed to -5F. Progress at 8pm.
Added firewood.
Walked over to neighbor’s for a strong cocktail, and dinner.
Returned to my cabin at 10pm to add firewood and crank up heated mattress pad to a level I’ve never experienced before. The cabin was now at +20F.
Went back to neighbor’s for another cocktail.
Returned to my cabin at midnight. The air temperature was +55F inside the cabin. Tolerable. I filled the wood stove, and went to bed exhausted. I had been up for 23 hours. Love travel days.
Was awake by 7am. The cabin was now 65 degrees. The water jug on the counter was starting to thaw; those on the floor were still solid blocks of ice.
It total, in took 36 hours for the cabin to truly heat up, reaching all nooks and crannies, and for walls, furniture and a fully stocked wood pile to stop radiating cold.
Chevy starts up immediately after being plugged in overnight.

Ban The Plan

So I have this friend who is an excessive planner. If he ever got a tattoo, it would be of a calendar. He’s the type of guy that buys his Franklin Planners five years in advance, and follows them on Facebook. He subscribes to the app “What Happened on This Date 10 Years From Now”.

I have another friend who is visiting the area. The Excessive Planner bemoaned the fact that the visiting friend could not make plans with him months in advance, because he had to remain flexible. Upon hearing this, my feelings for the visiting friend went soaring. We’re talking Denali heights.

To celebrate the news, I went out and bought a planner for myself. It’s getting cooler out now, and I’m going to use it for firestarter in my wood stove.

Fighting to make life loose-goosey again.

I may have to make up a t-shirt.

Of Marten and Men

Lake Time

Quartz Lake

I spent three days last week with some friends out at Quartz Lake. As the pictures show, we had beautiful weather. The two shots above make a great panorama, but I have no idea how to line them up properly on here. Most of the pictures on this trip were taken using the WideLux, and I have not developed the film yet.

Something on our end of the lake seemed to attract a couple of large raptors. At first, we had a bald eagle flying at tree top level above our fire ring. Then a golden eagle took over. Three times it flew down to the shoreline in front of us, only to climb again with empty talons. Twice, it landed in a tree top directly over our heads, surveying the situation. We did have a dog along, but being a mastiff, I doubted that the eagles were interested in her.

An American Marten

After an afternoon of hauling a dock out into the lake to get to the boat, I was relaxing at the campfire ring with my bare feet up on the rocks. A marten had been zipping about the camp, and at one point, the little weasel charged my feet. It looked determined to take a bite out of my toe. When it was within inches, I simply raised my legs in the air, and the marten ran off to the edge of the clearing.

We had two moose feeding in the reeds off the shoreline, and a camp robber landed on my arm, even though we had no food out. Two red squirrels were chasing each other around the camp. One ran all the way to the end of the dock, only to return with the second squirrel right behind it. At one point, the first squirrel ran in front of us and up a tree. The second ran into the circle, looked up at me, and jumped up onto my leg. A quick flick of my leg sent the squirrel five feet up in the air as an offering to the eagles. They declined the offering, and the squirrel skittered off under the deck.

To top it all off… the rainbows were biting.

Practically practical

I was at a fish fry tonight. Fresh caught halibut and salmon. One of the wonderful perks of an Alaskan summer. I was suppose to go on the trip out of Seward, but the recent rains had my schedule so out of whack, that I had to cancel.

At one point tonight, the conversation took a particularly nasty turn, and someone admitted that they were looking to sell their pickup truck to get a “more practical vehicle”. I shook my head at the absurdity of such a thought, and at the exact time when a friend of mine said, “Well, don’t look to him for advice on ‘practical'”, while pointing at me.

I would have been hurt, if it wasn’t so accurate.

Another friend said, “I don’t know… he has that old Land Rover and he drove it all across the country and down to Mexico and back. Seems pretty practical to me.”

I thanked him for the support, and admitted that a Series Rover and Practical go “almost hand in hand”.

The friend who knows me better then came up and quietly asked, “Has he ever been for a ride in that old Rover of yours?”

“No. He doesn’t have a clue.”


Flashback Episode Part III

Skagway Main Street
Skagway, Alaska

After hiking the Chilkoot Trail, I stayed at a B&B in Dyea and explored the Skagway area for a few days and took in the July 4th celebrations.
Skagway is a peculiar, little town. In many ways, it is two towns in one. The downtown, historic Skagway is now mainly tourists shops all owned by the large tour companies like Princess and Holland-America. The old buildings still stand, but for the most part, they no longer house the businesses they were intended for. Call me sentimental, but I’d rather see hardware sold in the old hardware store, instead of knick-knacks and t-shirts with a picture of a giant mosquito and the words “Alaska’s State Bird”.
Just outside of the core town, the legitimate businesses lie. By that, I respectfully mean, the ones that the locals use in their daily lives. I’m sure some swing by the Red Onion for a beer and a meal from time to time, and I am also sure there are a few other worthwhile businesses that escaped my tour, but for the most part I don’t see the locals buying too many made in China, Alaskan license plates with their name stamped on it.
Skagway made me think of the old company town, that had another town grow up right next door… one that supplied all the items that the company town couldn’t or wouldn’t supply. I started to think of Alaska Skagway and Tourist Skagway as modern day versions of what Kennecott and McCarthy might have been like back in the day.

Skagway Early 1900's
Broadway Street, Skagway – Early 1900’s

As I walked around Skagway, I ran into the Crazy Eights doing laundry at the laundromat. We agreed to meet up at a bar/restaurant right in the middle of Tourist Central. At the time, the town was pretty quiet, and getting around was rather easy.
When we were eating and drinking, the bartender came up to us and asked if there was anything else we needed ASAP. He explained that the cruise ship was due to dock soon, and the place would be so busy that it would be best to get any order in now. We saw the logic in this and doubled down on the beers.
I had never seen anything like the sight after the cruise ship docked. A tsunami of people came upon the town. It really was a wall of people coming up the main street. Suddenly, there wasn’t any available space in the bar, and true to his word, we only caught a glimpse here and there of the bartender. It was pure mayhem.

Skagway Mainstreet and Cruise Ship

A few hours later, the crowds disappeared just as fast as they arrived. A couple of toots of the ship’s horn, and the town was eerily silent. Crazy to deal with that on a regular basis.

Skagway Snow Plow Train
The White Pass snow plow train in Skagway

I ventured out to the Skagway Gold Rush Cemetery just a little ways outside of town. The notorious Soapy Smith is buried out there, as well as Frank Reid. Both men were fatally wounded in a shootout on Juneau Wharf in Skagway. I spotted Soapy’s grave first, then followed the trails that weave throughout the cemetery. At one point, I ran into a group of tourists who had not been able to find Smith’s grave. I found that odd, because they had just passed it, but I directed them anyway. One woman argued with me, because none of the graves had the name of “Soapy”. I explained that his first name was Jefferson, and the woman actually called me “daft”. “Everyone knows his name was Soapy,” she exclaimed to what was probably her husband. I mean seriously, outside of Hollywood, who would name their child Soapy?

Soapy Smith Grave
The grave site of Jefferson Smith.

Interestingly, Soapy Smith has had five grave markers since his death in 1898. The first one was believed to have been stolen soon after 1901, and has not been seen since. The second, placed around 1908 was the victim of endless graffiti. It seems to have been in place at the time of the 1919 flood, which carried Jefferson Smith’s corpse out to sea. The second marker was taken to a Skagway museum until 1947, then handed down within the museum owner’s family, eventually auctioned off, and is currently in the possession of Jeff Davis, Soapy’s great grandson. The third marker, a marble headstone, was put up in 1927. Due to vandalism and gun practice, it was eventually encased in a wire cage. It was finally blown up with dynamite in the 1950’s. The forth marker seems to have simply passed on from old age. The fifth marker, installed in 1997, is a reproduction of the second marker, and still stands at the psuedo grave site.

As I was driving back towards Whitehorse, I saw the Crazy Eights one last time. They had stopped alongside the highway to take pictures, and I pulled up alongside in the ’74 Bronco. They were quite vocal on my driving such an old vehicle, and could not get over the fact that it had canvas doors. I reminded them that I had also installed the rear heater out of a Suburban, but that did nothing to quell the histeria. We shook hands one last time, and I left them to their sightseeing, as I traveled into an increasingly smokey countryside.