Tag Archives: friends

Who Loves You Baby?

Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater

Legendary Chicago bluesman, Eddy Clearwater died today. He was 83. Born Edward Harrington in Macon, Mississippi, Eddy moved to Chicago in 1950, taking on the nickname “Guitar Eddy”. His agent suggested Clear Water, playing off of bluesman Muddy Waters. Eventually that morphed into Eddy Clearwater.

Clearwater perfected his own style of Blues, which he called “rock-a-blues”, a mixture of Blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel. His music career extended over six decades, and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016.

I first saw Eddy Clearwater live at a club in Des Moines called “Blues on Grand”. I tell you, it was one hell of a show. Of all the Blues acts I saw in Des Moines, I think Clearwater was my favorite. Eddy was such a showman, and I was mesmerized by his guitar play. Clearwater was self taught, and he played the guitar left-handed and upside down. My buddy who was at Blues on Grand with me said, “Watching him play is giving me a headache!” When Clearwater was on stage, he grabbed your attention, and didn’t let you go until he was done with you.

We sat close to the stage, although at BoG, no one sat very far from it. Just before a break, Clearwater called my buddy and I out from the stage. During the intermission, he came over to us and talked to us like we were old friends. Of course, he gave each of us a guitar pick. To this day, I still have mine; it’s fastened to the dash of my old Land Rover.

Rest in peace, Eddy. You will be dearly missed.


The addiction that is Alaska

For Pete:


Caribou gauntlet on the Alaska Highway

I will be starting my 24th year in Alaska on the first day of May. I drove up in a copper-colored ’74 Ford Bronco, with my yellow lab in the back of the truck, along with my camping gear, a box of books and my typewriter. I didn’t really have a plan, just a desire to check out the Last Frontier. Much to my father’s dismay, I fell in love with the state immediately. It isn’t a stretch to say, that I realized that I had found my way home, on that original first day of May.

There are Two Truths about Alaska that I learned very quickly upon my arrival, and they are diametrically opposed. That does not make either one, any less true.
Truth One is the definition of a sourdough: Someone who has soured on Alaska, but doesn’t have enough dough to get out. Truth Two, is that Alaska ruins you from being able to live anywhere else. I fall into the latter category. I’m not just an Alaskan, but an Interior Alaskan to boot. I had a buddy from Anchorage who came up to visit one summer, and stayed at my cabin near Fairbanks for a whole week. He lamented to mutual friends after the visit, that “Mike has ‘gone Fairbanks’ on us. He has gone over to the ‘Dark Side’.” I took it as a compliment, even though he did not mean it as one. It was true, I had gone all in on my life at the end of the road.

Alaska isn’t for everyone; it does take a certain personality to thrive here. I’ve known people who could not leave the state fast enough after their first winter. But I’ve also met many retired military members who served in Alaska, eventually transferring out, but returning to build a life here after their service was done. There is something about Alaska that burrows into your bones, and soaks into your soul. For those of us who choose to live here, Alaska becomes a part of us, and we take a little bit of the state with us everywhere we go.


The Alaska Range as seen from the University of Alaska campus in autumn

“When you first arrive in Alaska, you notice that even the towns on the road system maintain a rugged uniqueness. Alaska is still a destination that beckons the adventurer, the individualist, and the free spirit… Home to 15 species of whales, and healthy populations of caribou, grizzlies, and moose, plus one of the last remaining strongholds of wild salmon, Alaska is still a place to behold.”
— Dave Atcheson, “Hidden Alaska: Bristol Bay and Beyond”

There is an ability here to immerse yourself in the natural world which is unique. Not because it can not be done elsewhere, but because there is still wilderness in Alaska. True wilderness. I do not know how long we will be able to hold onto that wilderness, but for now, we still have it, and it lies outside our back door.

On one or two occasions, I have been called a “free spirit”. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I do follow my own trail some of the time. Heading into Year 24, I’m as thrilled to be here today, as I ever have. We all have our roller coaster rides, and I’ve lived through my fair share. I’m excited to be returning to The Ridge full time, and that should happen this summer. There are several trips planned over the next several months that will allow me to explore additional areas of this amazing corner of our planet, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am about that.

I state all of this with caution. I tend not to plan out too far, because that is when the universe decides to throw you a wicked curve ball. I send out hope to the fates, that they will allow me to think out as far as September, if only for a change of pace.
I’ve been up in Alaska for a while now, and I know that each day is a blessing. After some revisions, I hope to immerse myself in this natural wonder for a while longer yet. At some point, I realize that I may have to move on from here. All one can do is make the most out of life wherever you are. That holds true for everyone/everywhere.

I will be heading Outside shortly. It is time to travel, and I’m excited to be heading Out. Some new places to explore, and some old friends and family to visit. As much as I am looking forward to it, I know I will be just as excited to return to Alaska when the time comes. As much as I do love to travel, I am always anxious to get back home in the end. I’ve seen Alaska recently described as a drug, and I think that is as accurate a description as any.

Alaska is a drug, and I’m addicted to her, just like many other very special people.


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.