Monday, December 21, 2009

On the sled again...

Finally got to running dogs on a sled after using a 4 wheeler for the past few months (Dog Drivin' Oct 23). It reminded me of that Willy Nelson song where he says "just can't wait to get on the road again and bein' with my friends."
Don't get me wrong, using a 4 wheeler is great in the fall. I used to run dogs on an old motorcycle, what's called a rolling chassis: frame, wheels, forks, handelbars and seat. It was great when the roads were dry, but it was totally out of control on gravel roads when it was wet or there were leaves and frost. The 4 wheeler was a huge improvement, but a sled is still the way to go.
We got about a half of foot of snow last week and I've been working on the trail ever since, shoveling snow on the bad spots and then dragging it with the SkiDoo. Andy came out with me the other day and we shoveled snow for quite a while. The run today was far from perfect, really rough and cobby in parts, but the smooth sections more than made up for it. Nothing that a little more snow wouldn't cure, but until then, we'll keep shoveling and doing our usual snow dance and hope for the best.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Climate change...

There's been a lot of talk lately about the truthfulness of the climate change theories. Don't know that much about it, but after thirty years of doing field surveys and running dogs in Alaska, I do know that winters start later, there's a lot less snow, and spring seems to arrive earlier than when I first moved here in 1976. It seems like a prudent person might take the time to actually research the problem, rather than just criticize the proponents as a bunch of greenie, socialist, hippies. More information at UAF's Geophysical Institute:

(Cartoon's from Frozen Grin:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nailin' Palin...

I'll likely never read Sarah Plain's new book. But I've read a few of the reviews. So far, the funniest one is at a site called GIN AND TACOS:

A brief excerpt:

"If you are in a hurry, here is the succinct version of this review: Going Rogue is shit. It is groundbreaking in its banality and disregard for facts... The book is less a biography than an elaborate press release... a methodical re-imagining of her entire political career replete with more excuses than a Cleveland Browns post-game press conference. Palin has never done anything wrong. The public have merely been led to believe that she is a dangerously stupid, erratic narcissist. Going Rogue is all about setting that record straight, offering a wildly implausible excuse for every crash and bang in her train wreck of a political career."

Whoever writes this is pretty funny.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hydro splitter...

I enjoy splitting wood. There's a real satisfaction to creating a freshly split pile and it's pretty good exercise too. But the feeling's not always shared by my increasingly arthritic joints. Since every few years we try to do something new with the tractor, we decided to try out a hydraulic log splitter. I had postponed hooking it up to the tractor all summer, since I had a lot of projects to finish. But after we got a few of inches of snow last week, I figured I'd better get to it. Had to get a couple of hydraulic couplings to match the tractor fittings, which had always been a hassle in the past, but this time they had the right ones in stock and was able to hook it up the next day. Not only does it work great, it splits just fine with the tractor running at near idle, so it's relatively quit too. Now I just need to find a way to stack it hydraulically.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dog drivin' again...

Been running dogs on the 4 wheeler since it started to cool down in mid September. We got 3-4 inches of snow towards the end of the month and winter looked promising, but then it warmed up and all the snow melted in early October. That was fine for finishing summer projects, but not so much for dog training. Now it looks like running dogs with negligible snow will continue for the for seeable future.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blue Moon...

No, not in Fairbanks, but for someone unlucky, or maybe a little stupid, it was a very blue moon:

A German man mooning at railway staff in a departing train got his trousers caught in a carriage door and ended up being dragged half naked along the platform, out of the station and onto the tracks.

The 22-year-old journalism student shoved his backside against the window of a low-slung double-decker train when staff forced him off in Lauenbrueck for traveling without a ticket, a spokesman for police in the northern city of Bremen said.

"It's a miracle he wasn't badly hurt," the spokesman said on Monday. "This sort of thing can end up killing you."

Instead, dangling by his trousers, the man got pulled along for about 200 meters, all the while managing to keep his legs away from the wheels of the train.

The ordeal ended when a passenger pulled the emergency brake. Rescues services were called in, causing rail services between Bremen and Hamburg to be suspended for over an hour, delaying 23 trains.

The man -- unharmed except for cuts and bruises -- now faces charges of dangerous interference in rail transport, insulting the train staff, and may face sizeable a compensation claim for the delays he caused, police said.

"He was full of remorse when I talked to him," the spokesman said. "And he advised others not to try the same thing."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Timber moves...

Finally got around to moving the timbers (Timber 2...Sept 9). First had to weld up a pair of bucket forks to pick up the long timber to get it down to garage. Then was able to roll it into place on some snow machine dollies. Made some slings out of webbing and picked it up off of the floor with a couple of come-alongs attached to the wall. Then got the vertical timbers into place with a handyman jack. Had to do some last minute cutting, as one timber was a little long, but everything went remarkably well and the handyman only bit my hand once. I meant to take a series of photos as the beams were raised, but with the euphoria of the erection, forgot.
The weather has been really mild, in the fifties this past week. Maybe I'll have time to finish a few more summer projects. It's always a little amazing how much work you can get done when you know it soon will be snowing and possibly below zero in the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Last trip on the Delta...

Went down to the Delta River to do some survey work with my friend Mike. I go there several times a year (Flight time... April 3). The weather was awful, wet, sloppy snow on the way down, the wind blowing like crazy, and lots of cars in the ditches. As Mike always says: "It doesn't get any better than this."
After I got there and met Mike , we launched the boat OK, as yet there was no ice in the river, but then the steering was frozen up. In trying to free it, the gears or whatever broke. So we had to drive back to Glennallen, where Mike works, and get a different boat. By the time we got back, it was getting dark, so we spent the night at a small cabin nearby. The next morning was clear and cold, about 20 F, and it made for a chilly boat ride. But we were able to get to both survey sites without too much trouble and finish the work in spite of the bad weather.
This will probably be my last survey trip on the Delta. Mike had been looking to move on for a while and he will soon be leaving Alaska to start his new job. We worked together for over ten years and I never found any one who worked as hard or was easier to get along with than Mike. My wife thought we were like twin brothers with different mothers.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Here's a new blog I've been following, One thing they do, besides make you laugh, is think. Here's their latest quote: Do not worry if others do not understand you. Instead worry if you do not understand others. -----Confucius
I think whoever writes this is pretty funny.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Timber 2...

Back in June I got started again on last year's timber framing project (Timber... June 21). It's almost finished now and looks like it's going to turn out fine. Always some concern starting a new project, especially when you haven't done anything like it (in this case, making timbers and notches) for over twenty years. After the picture was taken, I marked and cut the final notches, then gave the timbers a light coat of varnish to seal the wood. Now all we have to do is get the framework upright inside the garage...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bowlin' up...

After our old cat died, we went to one of the local cat recycling shelters and picked out a 2 year old Maine coon cat. They said he was called Mittens, but we thought that rather unmanly for a big, tough looking fellow, so we tried to come up with a new name. Since he tended to sleep a lot, often in odd places, my wife thought we should call him Ruty, cause "he's about as lively as a rutabaga." He does have his rare moments of activity, when he races around the house and literally climbs the walls, something he can easily do in a log cabin, but then he soon finds a chair, or sometimes a bowl, to sleep in. Not the big, bad coon cat we expected, but just a friendly, mellow fellow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Breakfast of champions...

Commented earlier (Readin’ the funnies…Mar 18) about the online site for the local paper and how some people use the comment section to bash Obama, the greenies, libruls, or whoever they don’t agree with that day. It used to seem kind of funny, but now it’s just down right stupid and nasty. Here’s a comment that followed a columnist who had linked to some articles that made fun of our recently resigned governor.

“But Cole, know this; With all the negative attitude that you showed to our Fine Ex. Gov. when your time comes and they Roll you in a hole; what I'll do to that hole (After a good meal) won't pass for flowers!”

“I would write more, but I got to get back to My Reading on "Why liberal-women have mustache's. Anyone here ever try to have a conversation with a liberal-woman that has just the right amount of hair on her lip to be called a "mustache" and NOT Stare at it?”

He must have had a double bowl of stupid that morning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dozin' off...

Spent the last few weeks driving a dozer out on Nome Creek off of the Steese Hwy. The BLM is doing a reclamation project on the old dredge tailing piles that are left over from mining in the 1920's and 30's. Their aim is to move the piles away from the creek to reduce the erosion and sedimentation and flatten the piles to promote revegetation. This should improve the fisheries, since there's a small run of salmon near the mouth of Nome Creek, and create moose browse. Besides all that, it's just a lot of fun to get out and drive a new piece of heavy metal every year, especially one that's nearly as big as the garage.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Road Trip...

After flying to Chicago to attend our niece's wedding, we stopped in Portland on the way back. Rented a car and drove down to near Coos Bay where our friends Larry and Jeanne live. The drive down the coast was pretty spectacular and, unlike Alaska, the roads were in great shape. Larry and Jeanne love the area and took us on a long hike along the coast to see the sights. When we left, we went the long way back to Portland stopping at Crater Lake and then through the high desert area near Bend. If it weren't for the ignorant drivers, it would be a really great road trip.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Take a seat...

I got the old Moto Guzzi in '89 from a friend who wanted to buy a Harley. It is a 1975 850T with about 10K miles. Ran great but had some oil leaks and rust issues. Rebuilt the leaky front master cylinder, replaced the tranny seals, and repainted it. The seat had some rips but so what, we'll deal with it later. Well I finally decided to get it fixed this summer since the foam was really starting to show. After sending out many emails to try to find a seat cover, I called a local outfit, Fairbanks Upholstery, and they said sure, bring it in. After they removed the seat cover and foam, the rust on the top of the seat pan was incredible. So had to take it home, sandblast and paint it, then take it back the next day. And now I have this great seat, looks brand new, and it only took twenty years to get it done.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Doing some work on the cabin addition and decided to timber frame it. That led to trying to make the timbers myself. The old Partner chainsaw wasn't really up to the task, so had to get a new chainsaw. Finally got going on it again and have the main long timber almost done. Lots of work, but it'll be pretty satisfying when it's all done.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rollin' on a river...

Floated the Gulkana River with my friend Mike. He had some survey work to do there and then we'd have time to fish and enjoy the river afterwards. What I didn't realize was the size and extent of the white water through the canyon rapids and for several miles downstream. Pretty intimidating when we looked at it from the portage and it was really wild when we ran it. Mike did a great job rowing the raft and we never came close to hitting any rocks. It made for some good stories and lots of comments for the rest of the float.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dog Psychology

When I was training the dogs for the White Mtns trip, several of the older ones weren't doing so great, so I called my friend Lynn to see if she had any extras. She often takes in unwanted sled dogs and as it turned out, she had a young male that was eager and ready to go. While he is a super hard working dog, he is also very shy of people. I figured he would come around in a while, but after two months, he's still almost as shy as when we got him. We thought maybe bringing him into the house might help, so he's been coming into the basement regularly. There's an old couch there that he loves to sit on and share with the cat, who seems bored by it all. But as soon as we take him outside, he gets all freaky again. Maybe he just needs a couch for his dog house?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bridge Work...

The dog trail crosses a small creek a little ways from our house. When the old bridge collapsed, my neighbors, my wife and I built a new one. Now every few years, we need to do maintenance on it. The bank sloughing led to moving it a ways downstream, then a corner of the deck broke and needed more support. I guess it's kind of like that poem about making fences, except that here it's good neighbors that build bridges.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Iron dog...

Now that the dog runs are over, it's time to haul in fire wood with the ski doo. During the winter, I cut up dead and down trees along the trail and stack them up, then bring it back in the spring. When I first started to run dogs, I did all the trail work on foot, skis, or snowshoes. The wood was hauled by me and the dogs. A few years ago, I broke down and bought a snow machine. Then built a trail groomer. It occurred to me that with skis attached, the groomer could double as a sled. So now I haul a lot more wood than I did. But maybe not quite as much fun as it used to be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day...

Finally got the taxes done. Used the E-file option for the first time. It seemed like a good idea until it came back, refused by the IRS. So so after several more unsuccessful tries, I finally called the IRS. They found the error and I filed it again. It finally worked, but what a waste of time. Unlike the so-called tea bag protestors, who apparently didn't know that teabagging was gay slang for oral sex, don't understand that most folks are getting a tax cut, or maybe want to go back to the nineteenth century and not pay any tax, I don't mind paying something. But it should be a lot easier to file. I don't know if a flat tax is the answer, but the current system is a joke, on us. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Last dog run...

The weather has finally warmed up, it's been getting to near forty the past few days. Looks like this could be the last dog run of the year. I ran the younger dogs in one team, then took the five oldest in another. My old leader Springer is 13 and his half-litter mate Luna is 11. They ran all winter, mostly short distances, for my wife's occasional dog run. She calls them the Alzheimer's team. They still get all excited and go like heck for the first hundred yards or so, then slow down to a slow but steady trot. A lot of sled dogs don't even live to 13. Springer still has the same enthusiasm he had as a pup, even if he can't run as fast or as long anymore. I guess there's a lesson there somewhere.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flight Time...

Drove down past Big Delta to help my friend Mike do a survey on the Delta River. I go down there several times a year, it reminds me of what it used to be like to work for a living. It was a fine day, sunny and warm, until just a few miles north of Black Rapids, when the wind started to blow the snow around. At the survey site, it was nearly a ground blizzard with snow drifts blown across the road. Mike was already setting up the equipment, so there was no discussion about doing the work with that wind howling, we just got started and worked until we finished. What would normally have been an easy two hour job took twice that long under those conditions. Afterwards, we talked about working in that wind and laughed about how miserable it was. Big joke. Mike wanted to take a picture, so I stood out on the river like a ski jumper trying to fly. It almost worked.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

White Mountains Trip

Took the dogs on a trip with my friend Bill up to the White Mountains Recreation Area, about fifty miles north of Fairbanks. The BLM maintains a system of cabins and trails there. It's about as close as you can get to a Brooks Range wilderness experience and still be only about an hour from town. The weather was brutal the first day; the wind was from the north at about 20-30 mph and at one point blew me and the sled down off the trail unto the scrub brush that grows on the hillside there. Bill's dogs were leading and they ran great into that wind. Barney, my fearless leader, also ignored the wind and kept my team going. As Bill said when we got to the cabin, the only good thing that happened all day was that we made it there. The next two days were much better weather as the wind died off and the temperature got well above zero. A crew from the BLM stopped by the cabin, so we made coffee and enjoyed their company for a bit. On the second day, we ran into some overflow on the creek crossings. One of my older leaders is deathly afraid of the water, perhaps it's overflowbia? Or maybe that'll be when he's over his fear of overflow. The trip out was a bit of a slog, with fresh wet snow, but the dogs continued to do well. It's always a little amazing how they respond, they're really born to run.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Readin' the funnies...

Don't subscribe to to our daily newspaper, the Fairbanks news minus (, anymore. I sometimes read it on line. Since you don't get the comics on line, the funniest parts are usually the comments that follow many of the articles. There's a core of letter writers who link most everything, regardless of the issue, to Obama's latest plot to turn the country into a communist, no fascist, wait, maybe even a socialist dictatorship. Why we could become just like Sweden!  Not sure what the problem is in that, unless they'd force us to eat lutefisk.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Almost spring...

It was minus 15° F this morning and with the wind blowing, it certainly feels a lot colder. A good day to run dogs. Most of my dogs are large and fuzzy, not the sleek houndy/pointer crosses that you see wearing coats and booties at the race track. I wouldn't say my team is slow, but I round my run times to the nearest hour.  This is also good weather for the musher with a hangover, I call it a medicinal dog run. Not that I get hangovers much, well maybe a few, but the cold air really does clear the head.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where we're at...

Now that I've recovered this blog from electronic limbo after almost forgetting everything I originally did to create it, I'm not sure what I expected to do here. I guess it was meant to counter a lot of the negatives about Alaska that were generated by our half-term governor and her ill-conceived presidential campaign. Now that's all behind us, so I'll just try to write about the Alaska I see every day; there's still a lot of humor in it all. The blog is registered under the nick name that's followed me around since high school, Big John, but just use the initials BJ here, since that's how I usually sign my emails nowadays.