Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Neighborhood Gossip

Woohoo, Wednesday!  Wednesday is the start of Travis's (and therefore, my off time) weekend.  You could actually say that this trend started in college when both Travises and I would go out for drinks.  Wednesday night shenanigans, our excuse for avoiding the crazy and large Friday night crowds and a good way to make it through the week.  Now a day's it is just the normal schedule, Sunday through Wednesday is the work week.  Today we are going to head to the neighbor's for margaritas and burritos.  Neighborhood visits are always a great time to hear stories.  Here's a couple gems from the last dinner.  These two feature Colleen's children.

"Well this is awkward."
So we take a rent check over to Colleen every month but often we deliver it to her children.  (Or in one case Travis just walked in the wide open door to her empty house in the middle of negative temperature weather. He closed the door after he left. But we wondered about that one....)  On this particular month Travis walked up and knocked on the door.  He could hear people inside.  When no one came to the door after several knocks, he peeked in the window.  Suddenly, one of Colleens boys popped up, looking over from behind the couch.  Travis waved the rent check at him and tried to make it clear that he wasn't a creeper, just the renter.  At the point, Colleen's son came over and answered the door. Wearing nothing but boxers.  Travis just went with a simple, " just wanted to drop of the rent check."  To which Colleen's son replied, "Well this is awkward...."  Indeed it was.

That Hot Firefighter
This story is one of my favorites.  Colleen has a daughter who just graduated high school this year.  I believe it was the month after or before the encounter with Colleen's son, we delivered rent to her daughter and a group of her friends.  At the time we felt bad because I stayed in the car and when he came back he said he thought he scared them.  And it seemed logical that a group of teenage girls alone at a house might be afraid of a strange man.  We forgot about it and thought that was the end of the end of the story.  Then Colleen told us the rest of the story.  Apparently, the girls were the opposite of afraid when it came to Travis.  They noticed his jacket which has his hometown's fire department name on it.  And they noticed how good looking they thought he was.  Colleen told us all the high school girls wanted to know who the hot firefighter was and became even more interested once they heard he had a really good real person job in mining.  I don't know which one of us girls laughed harder at this story.  Neither I, nor the neighbors, plan on letting him forget that he's the "hot firefighter" now.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Me: Is there a fraternity around here called Alpha Kappa?

Travis: No....why?

Me: Because there seem to be a lot of people with AK stickers driving around up here.

Travis: You're kidding right?

ATVs, Yak Burgers & Sketchy Bars

This past weekend we decided to go rafting. So we called up a tour service and were told the rivers are still frozen due to this epic winter. So we decided to go four-wheeling instead. We drove down to Healy, right outside Denali park. Healy is a tiny little town (it really consists of a coal mine, a gas station, and a campground) but it has a great brewery, 49th State, that happens to serve my favorite beer ever. We had dinner there, I had a yak burger (really, yak!) and their wee-heavy scottish ale (that’s my favorite ever). Then we picked up serious amounts of 49th state gear. We had to get a stainless steel growler of the wee-heavy and a couple of glasses to drink it with. I got a nifty bottle opener, a sticker that barely fits on my stickered up Nalgene, and I of course didn’t make it away from the sale rack without a t-shirt. 

 But I’m skipping ahead. First we went four-wheeling. It was pretty entertaining overall. I prefer four-wheelers to forklifts. We also got to wear pretty sweet helmets but we skipped the plastic pants and plastic bags for the shoes that our tour guides offered. It was slightly touristy even for my taste but it was partially because we couldn’t go out on all the trails because the snow was finally starting to melt. Places like “Dry Creek” had turned into rivers. Like I said, overall it was still a lot of fun. We took some good pictures and saw a handful of moose. One was even in the middle of the path. It was decently muddy too. Our tour took us over a carpeted road. Apparently the person who built the road asked a bunch of businesses to donate old carpet. It keeps the road from being entirely washed out and every year and having to be rebuilt from the start every time. I also found out there is an active volcano close by. As in, “That mountain right over there is actually a volcano. We don’t know the last time it erupted or when it might erupt next but it’s all good, don’t worry.” We had to laugh a little when we stopped by one of “Alaska’s famous dry cabins.” Essentially it was a larger version of where we’d gone camping this winter. Except it had couches and a real bed. 

 On the way back home we made one last stop at a bar called, Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn. I’m really not joking, I even got a sweatshirt. It was a typical Fairbanks bar…..interesting people and decorations. You never really know what to expect. The last bar we went to had magic fire powder in salt shakers and people playing Twister on the dance floor. Skinny Dick’s had a fat little pug occasionally wandering about but mostly just snoring on the floor. There was also a karaoke deer, a giant bra hanging from the ceiling, and a lot of ridiculous gag gifts. The bathroom doors were so covered in stickers and confusing signage that I honestly couldn’t tell which was supposed to be which. But the people were chatty and friendly. A russian man even told us a terrifying story about lighting people on fire with tires.

T-300 Days Until Wedding Day!

Which is a tiny bit little less than ten months. I feel like I should have a lot more planned. Plus once you throw in Texas for two months, it isn’t relatively a long time. But Travis plans on sending me to the slope for the month or so before so I can’t freak out. So far we’ve made some pretty decent strides in planning. I found a dress and veils and picked out colors (lavender and navy blue). My dress has a solid amount of ruffles and poof and “bling.” Travis booked our venue and we have a general idea about catering and bar menu. We will be at the Perry Hotel in Petoskey, if you want to google it. My father is going to do the ceremony so I know that will get planned because I know where to find him. My mom is making me flowers and decorations. My aunt Kay is going to be helping with those on her visit current visit to Colorado, I’m sure. The flowers so far are really pretty. They are made out of different patterned navy and lavender fabric. It was the first project I’ve ever had any involvement in that turned out like the picture I had in my head before we started. Really the next big project is a guest list next for save the dates! Travis was going to finish our wedding website so it’s up to date to direct everyone to and include with save the dates. We even already have most of a registry made online because who doesn’t like shopping without spending anything? Major things still on the to do list….attire for everyone else besides me, cake, DJ, and I think that’s it??? I’m sure it isn’t just that. I think we also need to compile more traditions and rituals to include in the ceremony (or even reception). Anyone have any ideas on those?

Hide Your Marshmallows, Hide Your Pork Chops, They're Stealing Everybody's Food Up In Here

This week I have a couple new funny dog stories. I learned that my dog will risk her life for food. Travis and I regularly cart Roxi up to our loft. On the evening of this specific incident, we had taken our dinner upstairs to enjoy. The meal was pork chops and we let Roxi have a few chunks that were leftover on the bone. When we finished, Travis carried her down the ladder and came back up to carry plates. Out of the corner of my eye I see movement. My dog was halfway up the ladder. A ladder that has about seven steps with about a foot and a half gaps between them. A ladder with slats only six inches wide that slants about 65 degrees. I experienced a horrifying parental type moment of dilemma. Do I try and save her and possibly scare her and cause her to fall off the ladder? Or do I just watch the situation unfold and do nothing as she continues her death defying climb up the treacherous ladder? In the end, I had no time to decide what to do before she was up the ladder and in the loft, heading straight for the pork chops. 

Our second ridiculous dog encounter of the week involves a husky named Willow. She is one of the neighborhood hooligans. She is skittish around people, she won’t ever let you touch her, but she comes around to play with Roxi. We were out having a fire in the fire pit, complete with s’mores when Willow showed up. She and Roxi chased each other around and Travis tried enticing her with bits of graham cracker and games of fetch, all in an effort to befriend her and be allowed to pet her. Willow, sensing weakness, started a sad little bit of pawing at the mud to make puddles to drink out of. Travis went inside to get water for Willow and that’s when she went in for the kill. All I heard was a slight rustle. Then Willow was tearing off down the driveway with our nearly new bag of marshmallows in her mouth. We were played that day.
"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."
-Sherlock Holmes
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
-Albert Einstein

Walking The Walk And Talking The Talk

I fall into the tourist trap no matter how often I travel. I still buy overpriced fudge from Estes. I collect as many unique stickers as I can because I need them on my nalgene. Or I find matchboxes, pens, coasters cool little unidentifiable things….if they’re free I’m sneaking away five just in case. And I have a particular weakness for purses and sweatshirts, the more pockets they have, the better to hide all my other souvineers in so I can wander out looking casually local. I’m also the one stopping to take bad pictures of everything. All while Travis rolls his eyes and tells me to stop because I’m making him feel like a tourist and embarrassing him. Most of all I hear a lot of this type of statement. “Babe, really?” (At this point there is a roll of the eyes or shake of the head or some kind of exasperated noise) “We don’t call it Mt. McKinley here, we call it Denali. Don’t be such a tourist.” So here is my list of vocabulary and lessons on not being a tourist.

Mt. McKinley is called Denali. This one actually makes a lot of sense. Why rename the highest peak in the US after a president from one of the “I” states (I can’t remember if it is Indiana or Illinois or Iowa) when it already has a name its been called by native people for ages? (Travis says it’s Ohio. I was a little off but it does start with a vowel and includes an “I.”)

Fred Meyers is King Soopers.

The lower 48 means the part of the country not separated by ocean and Canada.

PFD doesn’t mean process flow diagram. It means permanent fund dividend. It’s money you get for living in Alaska. But only after a couple years.

Break up is when all the ice and snow breaks up and goes away. There is a contest to see when a tripod falls into the river in Fairbanks. Its second place in the record books as far as I can tell. A few more days and it will beat the longest record.

When it is only 25 degrees out and someone mentions what a nice day it is, they aren’t kidding, they are being serious.

Qiviut is yarn made from a musk ox. It is amazing but also 80 dollars for a tiny little skein. Or like 200 for a hat. I’m way too cheap for that.

An arctic entry is like a mudroom with the added purpose of not letting excessively cold air in your house.

Snowmobiles are snowmachines.

Bunny boots are the warmest boots in existence.

Mukluks are the native version of boot moccasins.

The inversion everyone talks about is a real weather phenomena. Its so still that the air settles. This means you don’t want to go down into town when it’s cold because it’s full of car exhaust and nasty unhealthy air.

If you see a baby moose it should not look cute, you should be terrified. Mama moose is like mama bear.

You can go exploring in places that would have off limits or danger signs in the rest of the states. But it’s probably fun and you are probably in some danger but it makes for a good story.

The mosquitoes mean business and they are twice the size of normal bugs. When they hit your windshield they leave blood splatter patterns.

The people are very unique. Very unique.

Beating Yurt Fever

Even though the winters are dark and cold here, we did go outside when we could to get rid of that cabin (or more correctly, yurt) fever feeling.

We took a couple of cheap sleds (just thick sheets of rectangular plastic really) and Roxi down to the sledding hill at the bottom of our big hill. It was a pretty solid ten minute walk to hike all the way to the top for thirty seconds flying down the hill, but it was a lot of fun. We experimented with sledding holding onto Roxi but it wasn’t her favorite. Usually one of us would go first Roxi would run in between and someone would follow behind. I wasn’t the most coordinated at staying on the sled or always facing the correct way while moving. Travis has some pretty funny video of me sliding/falling down the hill. I was also entertained by the times Travis caught up to Roxi and had to toss her into snowbanks to avoid running her over.
We went to the ice sculpture competition that we had been to the previous year on our home finding visit. Sadly, it was much better last year. There weren’t nearly as many sculptures. Last year there were a lot more and a ton of ice slides. Plus the wind kicked up so it was brutally cold. We didn’t stay outside for longer than ten minutes at a time. 

Taking the shotgun out was an activity we waited for positive temperature weather to attempt. But we didn’t wait for the snow to melt. We tried to find a secluded clearing off the road but ditched that plan after wading in waist high snow. Instead we found a frozen over lake a little ways down the road to the north slope. The Dalton I believe. That’s where I found my “At your own risk” road sign. I’m not the best shot and it always takes a little extra effort for me because my shotgun is made for someone right handed but I have to shoot left handed as my right eye is pretty unhelpful. But I can shoot better than I can throw targets. I’m awful at that to the point of embarrassment. Luckily the snow covering the ice meant we could collect a lot of unbroken badly thrown targets. I am used to Colorado lakes that I would never walk on in winter. So I was kind of terrified to do that for the first time. 

We didn’t get to try snow machining, snow shoeing, or dog sledding so those are all on the to do list for next winter. Now that it’s warming up, we will be headed out for camping and fishing before the mosquitoes become unbearable.

No Place Like Home

Back from the north slope! The flight back to Anchorage was quick and I passed the time doing Sudoku, reading war of the worlds,and having my two beers. As soon as I got to Anchorage I had to go get my checked baggage, recheck it, and head through security again for my second flight. But the Anchorage to Fairbanks flight is always incredibly quick, only about 40 minutes including take off and landing. Midnight is light now! It’s starting to warm up here but winter is still dragging on.

It was warm enough to light a fire in the firepit last night. And a coal promptly burned a hole through my pants. This is why Travis worries about mixing Miriam and fire. Other than that minor hiccup (and when I fell out of my chair) we had a really good night. Sven came running over as soon as he realized we were outside. We fed him a couple messy roasted marshmallows and Roxi helped clean him up afterwards. Our little neighborhood impromptu get togethers are a great time. We also had to laugh at the fact the neighbors are also considering Australia as an eventual move after Washington. We really do appear to be stalking them and following them around the globe.

We also tossed around a few more ideas for where we might end up after Washington. Ecuador is a possibility if Kinross gets their mine going there. Travis sold me on the idea with a few key points. We would be in the Andes mountains near the start of the Amazon river. There would be civilization close by but not too close, and the weather would be about 50 to 60 degrees all the time. I could totally find some Alpacas in that part of the globe. Plus there used to be head shrinking tribes in that area, so likely haunted areas around. I’d have to do some research on if I could find bigfoot or the chupacabra around there though. Peru would also be a similar option. However, it’s more dry with more volcanoes. But on the flipside, the vineyards would be better and the alpacas easier to find. All that is pure brainstorming at the moment though.

Camping At Forty Below

They say you have to be a little crazy to live up here. They might just be right. This winter Travis and I had the brilliant idea to go camping. While you could probably argue it was not technically camping, I would think it counts because it was a wood stove heated, dry cabin, in the winter. We took an air mattress, cooking supplies, games, the first batch of home brewed beer, pretty much the normal camping stuff. We bought Roxi a new poofy red coat for the occasion in addition to her winter booties. Normally I criticize clothes wearing dogs (my mother’s dog in particular) but I feel in Alaska, it’s survival not fashion. While we had what we considered to be a lot of firewood, it got chilly the first night. Something in the negative thirties if I recall. I also was sure I heard something huge crawling around in the rafters or on the roof but I tend to be paranoid like that.

The next day we played a lot of risk by the candlelight. This was still when we had only four hours of daylight. We had made a run for firewood first thing in the morning (massive quantities of firewood) and once we had supplies, the cabin stayed pretty warm. Travis was in charge of escorting Roxi and I out to the outhouse in the dark and standing guard. Mainly because I was terrified I’d be attacked by a moose or a bear. And I was almost right. On one bathroom trip we did see two moose twenty feet or so from our cabin. That was Roxi’s first moose encounter and I think it blew her little mind. I don’t think she quite knew what to make of such beastly large creatures. And this is probably taking things too far, but I discovered they make outhouse seat material out of something magical. Even at forty below with the wind blowing, the seat was never cold. The next night it got pretty cold again, somewhere around the forty below point. And I heard creepy animal/imaginary noises all night long.

At that point we loaded up the wood stove to keep Roxi warm and ditched her for the hot springs. Hot springs in cold weather are an experience. Your hair freezes instantly and gets frosted over and sometimes your eyelids get stuck shut. But the water is worth the short, cold, icy walk outside. And there were a lot of tourists running around the resort in matching blue snowsuits.

Our third and final day was where things got intense. We discovered a secret captains logbook of sorts. Everyone who had stayed in the cabin previously had written down their experiences and camping tales. Much to my delight, my monstrous animal noise paranoia was proven to be actual animals. Apparently, the squirrel infestation is pretty extensive. Our fire supply dwindled at an intimidating pace while the temperature dropped for the night. And kept dropping. By the middle of the night we were both so cold that Travis had allowed Roxi into the sleeping bags to cuddle for warmth. She was very content to quietly huddle between me and Travis and proceeded to behave all night long. If you know Roxi you know how rare this good behavior is and you understand how cold we all were for her to be so desperate for warmth. Normally, she’d first insist on being at the foot of the bed for a half hour of licking feet because she LOVES feet. Then she would lock her knees and dig her claws into you until she got her space. If you tried to move her, she’d groan loudly and struggle until you gave up. The next morning our car started with extremely upset noises and nasty cold start exhaust so we let Alaska claim victory. We checked the weather reports once we got home. Negative forty-five. Totally camping and swim suit weather.

Welcome to Deadhorse!

Snowy flight home

Just call me Hank.

Where In The World Is Miriam Gonzalez?

Because that seems to be the name of the game lately. I can barely keep track of the time zone I’m in, let alone where everyone else is. I’ve been to Colorado, Wyoming, and all over Alaska in the past couple weeks. Then I’ll visit Washington and Michigan later this year, probably a couple trips to each place. Oh and Houston in a few weeks.

The logistics are nuts. I didn’t even know I was going to Wyoming until I was almost there and Colorado tried keep me with a blizzard. Currently, my wedding dress and in progress-flowers are in Colorado, they need to get to Michigan eventually. As do the wedding boots my dads importing from Nicaragua.
We’ll be moving to Washington in December while I’m still commuting to Alaska but probably a home finding visit will be tossed in first.

My first visit to Michigan needs to follow the Houston trip pretty rapidly so I can see where I’m getting married and meet my new family. Next March, we have our Michigan wedding. And we also have a honeymoon that will involve fleeing civilization get as far away as possible. Puerto Rico is the current plan for that trip. We’ll even get to fit in some nerdy time at bioluminescent beaches.

Oh and other Travis and Megan (basically me and my Travis’ counterparts but think of other Travis as a male version of me and Megan as the female version of my Travis as a simplification. Which happens to get really confusing with all the Travi involved. Travi being the plural form of Travis.) get married around the time we do and they’ll warrant another Houston trip.

By the end of all that, and who knows what else, we’ll be looking at Travis’ rotation in Washington ending and (hopefully) a semi permanent move. Which could be anywhere from Australia to Alaska. Or who knows, somewhere random like Siberia is probably a better guess.

And all that planning doesn’t take into account the crazy weather and ridiculousness that seems to follow me everywhere and change it all up at a moment’s notice. I’ve already lost track of my miles but I’ve done over 10000 on Alaska airlines alone this year.

List Time

Things I’m looking forward to once I leave the slope….
  1. Beer. This beats out number 2 purely because I get some for cheap on the flight home. (It’s not allowed on the slope.)
  2. Travis. Because he cleans the house before I get home, has my favorite foods and activities waiting, and also has beer with me.
  3.  Roxi. She’s more behaved than ever before and gets thoroughly overexcited to see me.
  4. Springtime! Or at least weather above 30 degrees. The snow storms here are sideways. I was already being shown giant snowdrifts that take you by surprise because they pile up from old snow and wind. And I can’t even imagine how the visibility drops in winter.
  5.  More effective blackout shades. I forgot a sleeping mask and the shades just don’t cut it.
  6. Sven. He is the our adorable two year old yurt buddy who likes to visit because we have hard hats and a dog. And sometimes I feed him chocolate chips and we watch movies. Word on the street is that hooligan is on our porch trying to win Travis over with Tonka trucks right now. One-upping the hot wheel Camaro I brought to Travis the last time I came home. Apparently they are best friends now. I’ll have to win them both over again!
I’m in list mode today. I spent a portion of my day doing an inventory of sorts of a lab. It was my first real idea of exactly what I’ll be working in. Basically, it’s a rectangular box about half the size of the average bedroom. Maybe stretched a little longer and slightly less wide. And I’m talking conventional bedrooms not a yurt pie slice bedroom. They are moved back and forth from the warehouse to rig sites. This one had been out on a rig and was back needing to be restocked before being sent out to a new rig. So I wrote up a list of all the equipment and chemical testing reagents that were already inside and that might be needed. The guys who have been showing me around and teaching said it was a good way to get an idea of what I’ll have to work with. And I’m getting the general idea of what tests I’ll run everyday.

The other exciting news, I have a roommate. I saw her in the dark without my glasses on right as I was headed to bed and again this morning, again half asleep and mostly blind. So I’m thinking I might meet her this evening, but we shall see.

Notice the size difference between my boots and my foot. The boot booties are for wearing inside.


I’m quite sure there’s a lot left to learn about my job. I’ll be mostly out working on drilling rigs, or at least that’s the current plan. This little mini hitch has me at the mud plant here on the slope. This is where all the fluids used on rigs (or “mud”) is made. Obviously, I can’t go into too much detail but there are all sorts of formulations for making different final products that are made here before being shipped out customers on rigs. My job will essentially be monitoring and running tests on the mud (that’s been mixed here) at the rigs to determine if properties need to be changed by adding different things. Basically, I get to cook with mud. And make the calculations to decide how much and what goes in. I’ve also been told there’s a lot of logistics involved here coordinating how much and when different fluids are needed.

This week I’ve just been learning a few basic tests that I might run on a mud check. It’s been a laboratory setting really. In addition I’ve been starting to read up on the chemistry, fluids dynamics, and learning about all the different Baroid products (what they are, what they’re used for, etc.). I’ve also had an opportunity to look at the program used to generate daily reports by entering in data from mud checks. Learning the software is on my to do list! 

The other main knowledge I’m gaining is a basic background on how oil is drilled. I’ll draw up a basic sketch and explain that because it’s the easiest way, in my opinion, to explain how the process works as I understand it. Full disclosure, take this all with the knowledge that I’m still very much training and I don’t really have a full grasp quite yet.

Lake Halliburton. Aka, the parking lot

Snow coming into camp

Really nice north slope spring day view from camp

Don't Take Pictures Of The Polar Bears

WFHMLOCM. That stands for “Working for Halliburton means lots of confusing acronyms.” Because it does. There are acronyms for everything and some are almost identical but mean different things. BBP, JSA, HOC, PPE, and the list goes on. It’s taking a bit to catch on, but you hear everything repeated so often that you start to pick it up pretty quickly. One little thing I learned, my weeks on are called a hitch.
Safety training and orientation took up a few weeks before heading up to the slope. Basically, it was a lot of classroom time and a couple days swinging sledgehammers at pipe joints to “rig up” and “rig down” on a simulation drill site. Hence my nickname, Sledge. I did some computer training and learned to drive a forklift. As I’m not a very confident driver in the first place, driving a rear wheel steering vehicle was nervewracking. Also included was a north slope specific safety class. The most important lessons, it’s cold and the polar bears will in fact, actively hunt you. Comforting to know.

Flights up to the slope are on an airline specifically created for camp workers on the north slope. Everyone seems to know the drill for the flights so I just followed along. I wasn’t positive on my count but I saw 3 or 4 other women headed up with me. And for anyone wondering, it was a normal sized airplane. No first class but 25 or so rows with the normal 6 seats per row. I flew into Dead Horse because I am starting at the main Halliburton camp in town. This means every day I get a 3 minute ride over to the mud plant for a 6 to 6 daytime shift. But back to camp life first! 

The camp is only 5 minutes from the airport as the whole town is basically just oil and gas companies as far as I can tell. The camp building itself is the stories and slightly maze like and disorienting. I can successfully navigate between my room, the bathroom, and the dining room. The woman at the front desk gave me the whole tour; there is a gym, washing room, computer room, and several break type rooms. The food is pretty good overall. There are a lot of choices for every meal and snacks anytime. I do find myself eating too much junk food and soda, that habit will have to be curbed before it sticks. I’m in a double room but no roommate. I was told only 5 women rotate in this camp. That’s such a small ratio, it really blows my mind how male dominated this field is. To the point I struggle to find work boots in my size. But my little rant about that for another day.

Wildlife isn’t abundant at the moment. The geese are returning and I’ve seen one red fox. I’m still wary of bears but that’s not an everyday thing. At least not at this camp. I think I’ve spent enough time in Alaska at this point to adjust to the cold. I find myself thinking how nice it is and then realizing it’s not quite 30 degrees and I only have a sweatshirt for warmth. On that note,word on the street is that there’s a storm rolling in tonight. Last summer I have the 24 hours sunlight thing a go, but it still throws me off to have no feel for what time of day it is. (Or night for that matter.) At the moment, I’m sitting in the dark, (as dark as it gets!) to relax. I have a feeling that will be a habit of mine. 

I think I hit all the highlights of camp life so far. I’m figuring out what I do for a living but that rundown will be saved for now. Spoiler alert, I do really get to play in the mud all day, being a grown up is awesome.

Good omens from my camp room


Travis and I are debating about the validity of my statement on the effects of the inversion in summer. I swear he’s wrong and it is in fact warmer on the hill. We will see what happens this summer and decide who’s correct.

Roxi searches for treats in the snow

Best yurt picture I have!

Life On Moose Mountain

I moved to Alaska in the middle of December, a week after I graduated college. Along for the ride were my dog, my shotgun, and my body weight in luggage, making for an interesting journey with extra paperwork through several stages of airport security. I don’t even remember it being cold enough for more than a light sweatshirt it Colorado. The weather in Fairbanks was a bit chillier. It was 40 below the first week I was in Alaska. That’s COLD. My poor little dog, Roxi, was not so sure about Alaskan life or dog booties at first, but now she loves the snow and I have more trouble getting her to stop swimming in snowbanks than I do convincing her to go outside. We have a few handy indoor tip offs that the temperature outside is extra cold. If the bathtub won’t drain and the gas intake line is enclosed in an ice jacket, it’s probably in the negatives. When it’s that cold, we don’t set things too close to the wall because they’ll get frosty. I have pictures of inch and half thick icicles that reach from the roof to the ground in front of the glass front door. Fun fact: even Alaskans have been saying this is one of the longest winters on record. It’s snowed like crazy the past week, the temperature is something like 20 degrees below the average this time of year and I fell into a snowbanks up to my waist yesterday. Luckily the inversion works in our favor. Since the air is so still, it settles in valleys. We live in the hills, so the weather at our house stays about 20 degrees warmer that down in town when it’s hot or cold. This means instead of 40 below, it’s only 20 below at our house. And also, when its 70 in town, it can be as warm as 90 at our house.

I arrived just in time for the winter solstice and the non-end of the world on the 21st of December. That day we had less than 4 hours of daylight, a kind of disorienting situation. Our house is set up with the majority of windows facing south and a skylight, so we do get a brightly lit up house when the sun is out. Also weird to see was the location of the sun and the stars. The constellations are in totally different places obviously, and the sun sticks close to the horizon, so it feels like sunsets and sunrises go on forever. I saw my first good showing of the northern lights on Valentine’s Day. That’s an experience that was on my bucket list, and it really is something impressive to see. I was amazed to see how much ambient light then produce and how the movement was so different than cloud movement.

And because Alaska just wasn’t exciting and unique enough, we decided to live in a yurt. I had no idea what one was until we found ours. Basically, it’s a round house with a cone shaped roof. The outside walls and the entire roof are made of a canvas material but the inside walls are made of wood. Insulation is a must, obviously, but you still get a camping vibe. (Note to my mother: I really don’t live in a tent in the wilderness without modern amenities, I promise) When it rains or snows, you can hear the sounds of it hitting the roof. From the loft, the precipitation sounds are extremely cool. Inside, the yurt is essentially split in half. The back half of the yurt is into two rooms, an office and bedroom. There’s also a bathroom with a washer and dryer by the bedroom. The front half is a big area we use for the kitchen and dining room. We have a kitchen island. I have always dreamed of a kitchen island and this one is especially awesome because we can move it anywhere if we wanted. Currently the island is also home to our fermenting homebrews. I’ll write a whole post on the brewing hobby later. Our yurt also has a loft portion that makes a good size living area.

The next door neighbors have a nearly identical yurt. On the inside, theirs is a mirror image layout. Sometimes we can hear each other, not in the have a conversation way, but in the very low level of background noise way. The neighbors yurt is apparently more attractive to the wildlife than ours is. I’ve gotten a few early morning texts to the effect of, “FYI, you might not want to go outside yet, there’s a moose outside our door.” And my personal favorite, the “A moose fell on our yurt and shook us awake this morning,” story. The rest of the neighborhood is pretty spread out, but our landlady lives on the other side of our yurt neighbors. The last phone call we got from her was in invite to dinner. We also have the aforementioned neighborhood moose and a gang of neighborhood dogs. We are in the process of trying to convince Roxi that the thug life is not for her and that she shouldn’t run away from home or break into garbage stashes just because everyone else is doing it.

So far Alaska life has been entertaining and I’m pretty pleased by it. And I definitely want a yurt to live in permanently. Though, I’d add a few yurt wings and some traditional building materials. Yurt living is the life for me.
"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."

Just a Few Things to Begin With...

I’ve always considered writing a blog once I had something to write about. So I’ve been thinking that probably means I should start documenting my travels and adventures to keep my family updated on my long distance life. In the past year’s time I’ve flown on roughly 25 airplanes, moved mid-winter to a yurt in Alaska, camped out at 40 below [Celsius AND Fahrenheit ;-)], watched the northern lights, and gotten engaged at the start of the Iditarod, and taken a mud engineering job at Halliburton. Just to name a few of the more notable highlights. Once I get up to the north slope camp where I will be working I’ll write a lot about that. Until then, I’ll just share some of the stories about my life in Alaska so far. I’m assuming mostly only my family will bother to read this (hello family!) but a minor introduction never hurt anyone. I’m Miriam, I am 24 (I forgot that recently and for an entire week I was telling everyone I was 25), and I live in Fairbanks, Alaska with my fiance, Travis, and my beagle/jack russel/ border collie mutt, Roxi. I love them both, so I’ll probably complain a lot about them. Around my house we like to brew beer and wine, occasionally do yoga, and spin yarn. I have a chemical and biochemical engineering degree and I work for Halliburton. My fiance has a degree in Metallurgical engineering (much less glamorous than chemical engineering but we can’t all be that awesome) and works for Ft. Knox gold mine. I think that about covers the important points.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I've ended up where I needed to be."
-Douglas Adams