It’s been a warm winter so far for Interior Alaska. The low temp for this winter season was officially -29F at the airport. At this same point last year, we already had seen two weeks worth of -30 or colder. We have not hit that mark yet, although I have seen a few -30F degree mornings at the cabin.
The winter started out with some decent dumpings of snow, but that tap has been turned off since mid-November. We have had a total of 5″ since November 16. That is well below the average of 22.4″ during that period. The record snow over that same time frame is 86.8″, which fell during the 1970-71 season.
Anchorage and Fairbanks combined have had 8/10 of an inch of snow over the past two weeks. By comparison, and I’m enjoying this, several towns in Texas have had more snow the past two weeks: Austin with 1.3″; Midland: 3.2″; Waco: 4″; College Station: 4.5″; Lubbock: a whopping 7.6″! Congrats on the snow.
Alaska had 415,231 lightning strikes statewide in 2020. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to Texas. In 2020, the Second Largest State in the U.S. had 33,816,168 strikes, which led the nation. The Lone Star state also had the #1 slot in 2019.
Florida led the U.S. in strikes per square mile, with 194 events.
Rhode Island had the least lightning events with only 8551 in 2020.
There were 170 million lightning events across the United States in 2020, which was a drop of 52 million from the previous year.
Even the high Arctic receives some flashes. There were 192 events north of 85°N over the course of two days: July 1-2.
The Washington Monuments was struck on June 4.
Vaisala’s U.S. National Lightning Detection Network, records both in-cloud, and cloud to ground lightning flashes.
In the fall of 1956, Bristol Foster was itching to get out and explore the world. He had recently finished his masters degree in biology at the University of Toronto. Foster immediately thought of his friend, Robert Bateman as an ideal travel companion. The two men mapped out a trip that involved crossing four continents. They only needed a vehicle.
Foster and Bateman picking up the Grizzly Torque in England
“… it had to be a Land Rover,” says Bristol Foster. So they ordered a 1957 Series I with an ambulance body. Foster went to Solihull to pick up the Rover, and get trained on their off road course. Bateman arrived later and they took the Series I on a shake down trip through Scotland.
Camping out of the Torque
Foster & Bateman set off for Africa with the newly christened Grizzly Torque. They had agreed to send regular articles and illustrations documenting their trip back to the Toronto Telegram, where they became known as The Rover Boys.
The Rover Boys had a very loose schedule. There was a general direction they meant the trip to follow, but the route taken from Point A to Point B was by no means a straight line. They were free to do as they wished, at a time when this type of travel was ideal. Today, it would be virtually impossible to make the same trek. Not only due to safety concerns, but the difficulty of getting visas throughout the area.
In the Belgian Congo, the little four cylinder engine whined from the excessive load. Some thirty members of the Mbuti tribe were crammed into and onto the Land Rover along with the two Canadians up front. They bounced along a forest track, with the tribe members laughing and singing traditional hunting songs. Foster and Bateman were in Africa, on an adventure of a lifetime. Robert Bateman, thinking back on that time said, “One of the greatest senses of freedom I think we’ve ever had.”
Bateman, now a renown Canadian artist and naturalist, painted small murals along the body of the Grizzly Torque, documenting the places they traveled through. The artwork is stunning, and no doubt caused some excitement with the people they met along the way.
Elephant meets Grizzly
The trip was not without unexpected “adventures”. The Grizzly Torque was flipped over on its side in India, after swerving to avoid a bicyclist. A window was lost in the crash, and was replaced with plexiglass.
In total, The Rover Boys traveled over 60,000 kms, through 19 countries, on 4 continents over 14 months with their Grizzly Torque. The trip ended in Australia with the Land Rover being shipped back to Vancouver after traveling throughout the Australian Outback. From there, the Grizzly Torque continued to be well traveled.
Foster used it on what was then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as he pursued his doctorate. It was eventually sold to a student studying peccaries in Texas. The student was raising a juvenile eagle at the time, and the raptor learned to perch up front between the seats. As an adult, the eagle rode happily along, all across the state of Texas, on various expeditions. The student returned to British Columbia with the Land Rover, where he sold the Grizzly Torque to a rancher. Things become murky after that. At some point, the well traveled Land Rover gets sand blasted down to bare metal, painted light blue, losing the wonderful murals, and its identity. The old Rover then spends decades out of the public view.
A blue Torque (?)
Stuart Longair now enters the story. A rancher has four old Land Rovers out in a field, and he wants them gone. Longair, has been a Land Rover cult member from an early age, since riding along with his father in a Series I as a young boy. He buys all four Rovers, sight unseen. The now, faded blue Grizzly Torque, spends the next decade out in another field. Then Longair comes across an old picture of Foster & Bateman with the Grizzly Torque, and he starts to wonder about the neglected Rover he purchased over a decade ago. Longair gets a hold of Bristol Foster, and convinces him to come out and look over the blue Rover. Foster immediately recognized the Grizzly Torque under all of the neglect, but to make sure he went over to the driver’s side door, and found that it was still fitted with the replacement plexiglass from India.
The Grizzly Torque restored
Now that Longair knew that he had a piece of not only Land Rover history, but Canadian history too, he went about restoring the Grizzly Torque. Working off of old photos, Robert Bateman himself, repainted the Rover’s murals along the flat sides.
The Rover Boys reunite with a restored Grizzly Torque
The restored Grizzly Torque and its repainted murals
The eagle in the Grizzly Torque, somewhere in Texas
Photos credit: Bristol Foster & Robert Bateman; Video credit: Land Rover
We have been getting rain for much of the night here in the Interior of Alaska. As I get ready to turn in for the night, I noticed that we are currently 34 degrees warmer than Minneapolis, and 2 degrees warmer than San Antonio, Texas.
The images from the Houston area leave one awestruck, and emotionally raw. For someone in the subarctic, 50 inches of rain from one storm is simply hard to fathom.
Fairbanks has seen its own floods, and I’ve written here before of the ’67 Flood, but the devastation in the Houston area is massive, and the recovery will be long and drawn out.
Still, there is hope. Numerous stories are coming out of the area showing the kindness and bravery of strangers helping strangers. We do seem to save our very best for times of disaster.
When it comes to aid organizations, I have no idea which ones get the most bang for the buck, or which ones have the highest “internal expenses”. I did see a post from JJ Watt, the All-Pro defenseman for the Houston Texans. His foundation has a track record of helping people out in their time of need. I posted his video above, and his link will be below. In spite of the fact that Watt is a former Badger, I’m guessing this son of a firefighter will get some bang out of the bucks donated.
September was named Bourbon Heritage Month by Act of Congress in 2007. That action, was in addition to the Act of Congress of 1964, which proclaimed bourbon “America’s Native Spirit”. When it comes to alcohol, Congress gets it done.
2014 data tells us that 95% of bourbon produced comes from the state of Kentucky. At any given time, there are 5.3 million barrels of bourbon aging within the state. A number, that exceeds the state’s population.
After two very long days in the seat of a skid-steer, I think I’ve earned the right to celebrate our Nation’s heritage.
Part of the 5% not produced in the state of Kentucky. This particular bourbon was chosen strictly for our readers in San Antonio.
Golden Gopher Baseball in 1900: The team was 17-11-1 that year.
The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher baseball squad takes on Wake Forest in the Texas A&M Regional on Friday. It’s the Gophers’ first appearance in the NCAA tourney since 2010. Minnesota, the Big Ten regular season winner, is the region’s second seed, behind A&M.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride for Gopher baseball this year, with veteran pitching coach Todd Oakes facing another battle with cancer. Oakes, who was with Minnesota for 18 years, lost that battle on May 26; he was 55.
Good luck to the Gophers at Blue Bell Park.
Photo and Goldy courtesy of Golden Gopher Baseball