Saturday, March 8, 2014

Two Dudes And An Icehole


So I don't get to have a fur hat, but I can still enjoy my Alaska vacation as long as I wear everything in my suitcase at once. It's not even that cold here, according to our friends Scott and Kevin, whose credibility on the matter is beginning to wane. This year, Alaskans have to travel to Atlanta to visit their winter. Whether you think ten degrees is warm or cold depends on which direction you're approaching it from. But it's cold enough for me. Scott and Kevin are the people we used to visit down the valley in Oregon who had emus and pigs and alpacas and trout and sturgeon and sheep and peacocks and ducks and goats and a slope of wine grapes AND the ability to put it all together in splendidly edible form, plus day jobs. All that. You never knew what they'd be up to at any given moment: rendering lard, or stripping milt from live trout, or making cheese, or knitting a tractor out of steel wool. They're right handy folk.

So we couldn't wait to see what they were doing in the new digs in Alaska. There is no garden. The house is relatively small. They've confined themselves to (1) dog and (1) cat. How were they planning to make our Alaska visit perfect?

Well, the first door past the bathroom opens to the hangar, and just past the ice cream freezer and the beer fridge there are a couple planes in it, and we got in one of them and taxied out to the runway and into the air to pop up a valley and peer at two turquoise glaciers and watch the snowy mountains pink up in the sunset, and got back in time for dinner and some of the wine they made when they still had grapes, taking care not to disturb the moose on the taxiway. There's some Alaska for you. What else?

I'd brought a bird book and binoculars. Things seemed strangely quiet in the bird department, so I consulted the internet. There are five birds wintering in the Anchorage area. They're all named Hank. Ha ha! Just kidding. They are named raven, raven, raven, bald eagle, and raven. I put my book back in the suitcase. What else?

We went up a beautiful snowy path through the mountains and watched Kevin attempt Ski-Joring, which is having your dog pull you on cross-country skis. It probably works better if your dog is not a German Shepherd bred to round up the group by dashing back and forth from one person to another, and who has not already been trained not to pull at a leash. I'm just guessing. Also, Kevin and I have an equally tepid grip on verticality. What else?

"We could go ice fishing."

Scott hadn't done that yet, himself. He's only been here a year. But he did have a virgin ice augur he wanted to try out, and a chisel, and a few sets of Carhartts that stand up by themselves in the garage and probably walk over to take a pee a couple times a night, and an easy walk to a lake. We pulled a sled of gear onto the ice. "Do you think it's really thick enough to stand on out there?" I queried, and Dave shrugged. "Either way, we'll have a good story," he said, with a gallant arm thrust forward. "Ladies first!"

It was thick enough to land a 747 on. Scott augured away in a stiff polar wind. I was in heaven. For someone with a sturdy Viking chromosome and a need for discomfort that is not of the spiritual variety (I like cold: I hate anxiety), this was the ticket. Snowy mountains reared above and the ice was cracked into partitions a foot deep. Snowball jellyfish lurked below. It was fascinating. I tip over on dry land for no reason at all. What could go wrong?

BAM.

Really, I have got to quit smashing my head. I'm afraid to go to Kaiser to get my glasses adjusted again for fear they'll enter an advisory about domestic violence into my medical record. This time, the glasses were in no danger. I was flat on my back with the birdies tweeting. My Viking chromosome was splayed out with me, all uff da, his little horned helmet rolling around with a micro-clatter. Scott, who has some medical training, was trying to peer into my eyes. That's easy to do. They're small and set close together and you can take in both of them in one glance. "How do you feel?" he asked.

"Flurdo piffling blurgit imminy," I said, but he wouldn't take my word for it, and checked my pupils again. I guess that's where the brain goo leaks out, if it's going to.

I don't know how many cubes a day you're allowed to keep when you're ice fishing, but Scott and Dave had reached their limit after a few hours, and we went home with a goose egg.

I should probably put ice on it, but I don't want to.


43 comments:

  1. Certain parts of the world should be seen and not inhabited.

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    1. I think you could say that about most parts of the world.

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  2. Sounds like an adventure to me, even if you only get goose eggs, Murr. Love that first picture! It's so... professional! :-)

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    1. I like it too. Straight into the sun. Them little bitty cameras is smart.

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  3. Well, you do make life an adventure! I like the vicariousness of this visit.

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    1. Traveling is so much easier if you don't get out of your comfy chair.

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  4. I'm currently sporting a cast, stitches and a brand new titanium plate all in the service of putting my broken wrist back together. My advice to all of us who are no longer teenagers: Don't fall down.
    I hope you are just fine by now and only have great memories of what sounds like a wonderful trip.

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    1. It happens so fast, doesn't it? So far I seem to specialize in falling on my head. Can't break that, apparently.

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  5. Ouch! Time to give that Viking chromosome a severe talking-to. Or some ice-grip boots...

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    1. He'd just get laughed at by all the other Viking chromosomes.

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  6. I got my first goose egg of the year on Monday, and my first duck eggs of the year yesterday. Not as thrilling a story, but certainly a super-thrilling harbinger of spring for me :)

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    1. Scott and Kevin had a Rouen duck (I think that's what they called it) back at the old place that was sitting on top of a heap of about sixteen big eggs. Remarkable.

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  7. The best way to soften up Carhartts is to tie them to the bumper and drag them down gravel roads for a few days. In winter there is nothing you can do about it so yo have to pick activities where your knees don't have to bend.

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    1. Man, I didn't think anyone ever tried to soften up Carhartts. I should wear them all the time and I'd never fall down.

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    2. You might not fall down, but I have a feeling you would still fall over.

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    3. Without crumpling. Right on my headbone. You're right.

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  8. Beautifully written. I'm with the armchair travellers, though. You go do the stuff, and we'll read about it. I hope you don't/didn't have a concussion. Although, the garbled speech could also indicate a stroke, and I hope you don't have that either. Just don't scramble your brains at all, please; they work so well as is!

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    1. I am beginning to conclude my tiny little head is made of stout stuff.

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  9. I've always wanted to try ice fishing, however, you just killed any thought of it. LOL, stay high and dry.

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    1. I always thought you had to do ice fishing with a little hut and some Jack Daniels, so maybe that's where we went wrong.

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  10. Wow, wow and wow. Jealous thoughts. Though my grasp on gravity is also far too strong.

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    1. And I don't know about you, but I don't have far to fall.

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    2. Sadly, yes. I was short, and am now tall. Though getting shorter.

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    3. Well. Most of us started out short.

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  11. Think I'll save my Alaskan vacation for summer. Brrrt

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  12. 30+ years in the hot zone and I think my Viking chromosomes have gone home - temperature dropped this morning to about 25 Celsius (that'd be around 80 for you guys) and I've had to find a T shirt. Oh, yeah - thanks to you I'll be thinking all day of the schoolboy joke about ice fishing!

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    1. DROPPED TO EIGHTY? Shoot me now. Oh yes. You mean the one about catching the bear by placing peas around the hole in the ice?

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  13. FANTASTIC! I love it when you travel and report. And I have very fond memories of Alaska. When I was there it was eagle,eagle,eagle, raven, eagle.

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    1. See that's global warming for you. You go from raven, raven, raven, eagle, raven to eagle, eagle, eagle, raven, eagle.

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  14. So your Up Helly Aa went Down Helly Bah, did it? Now why would anyone leave pigs and alpacas and grapes for fishing through a hole in the ice and possible concussions? Funny old world.

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    1. That's what you do when you're a resourceful couple with a finite life and you want to experience all of it. My hat is off to them. It's just not a fur hat.

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  15. I hear your brain can be rattled if you hit hard enough. Do you feel like you have scrambled eggs inside your skull. Now why would they leave the home in Oregon for Alaska???

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    1. Not a fair question. Why would you leave Oregon for Texas? That's a fair question.

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  16. Fishing for ice! That's a new one. I hope your head is okay now. Probably might have been a good idea to keep the fur cushion on it.
    I'm loving the holiday stories; very envious of the small plane trip to the glaciers and seeing snowy mountains turning pink.

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    1. It was pointed out to me that it was a good thing I had a polar fleece balaclava on and a quilted hood. It was plenty hard enough, I'll tell you.

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  17. Great picture with the dog and the skis! I just have to break the news to you though -- It's been discovered that the Vikings never had horns on their helmets! It's official -- it was on the BBC last week...;-)

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    1. No. No! They don't know. Quit telling me things I don't plan to believe. My Viking chromosome has a hornet hat. I can feel it when I bend a certain way.

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  18. Just looks cold as hell to me, but Alaska is definitely on my bucket list.

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    1. I'd rather be cold than hot. Except at the moments I'm actually cold.

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  19. I want Kevin and Scott for friends (well, and you too, Murr!) they sound like so much fun. Two planes?? And wine? And a moose....can't ask for more fun than that..

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    1. I don't dare ask for more fun than that. They might produce bears, and oysters.

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