Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We Live In A Mechanic Shop...

Well, life has been no less than interesting lately. The alarm goes off at 7am, and every five minutes thereafter. At 8, we're finally roused by the sound of machinery clanking to life. Weak light streams into our cave. Mens' voices echo outside. We sit and wait. Sit and wait. Wait. Sit.

We've been stuck in Anchorage for the last 10 days, waiting (and sitting) on a mystery diagnosis for our not-so-precious Günther and living in the garage of Arctic Import Repair. Bruce, the kind owner with a marvelous mustache, lets us stay, granted we hunt the shop rats and stay out of the grease buckets. It's always dark, but we have everything we need. Except for a running vehicle, that is.

Turns out, Günth has a case of "terrible engine death". After sputtering and spurting up the Alcan, he's gone and blown his piston like a little brat. The guys here finally know what's wrong, after days of trying, as Günther died in their arms. They are doing surgery. I've felt let down, stir crazy, discouraged, and depressed. Our remaining time here is unknown.

On the bright side, things are finally starting to turn around. We've hooked up with some distant relatives of mine, right here in Anchorage. My mom's stepmom's brother's daughter, to be exact. They set us up in their motor home, which basically feels like a 5-star luxury suite at the moment. We've been on a Six Feet Under marathon. We're out of the rain and the cold. And, to top it all off, Bruce has agreed to trade some our massive car repairs for a website! Yes, I love the bartering system!

I'm not sure how much longer we will be here, but I just hope it's before the snow creeps down the mountain. It's this ominous pending thing, as it starts at the top, works its way down, then sticks by Halloween. At the moment there's a dusting barely covering the peaks. It wasn't here when we arrived. I'll keep you posted.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Death of a Shadesman - AP Newswire

(Anchorage, AK) On Thursday, September 21st, at 3pm Alaskan Standard Time, Shades McSpecs died of undetermined causes. He was 7 months of age. Experts close to the deceased conclude the probable cause of death to a broken heart from abandonment.

Shades McSpecs came into existence in a maniacal lapse in good judgment.

Blurry eyed and desperate, Joseph Johnson decided that a new pair of glasses was just what he needed to get an edge in the business world. He had already tried the Karrass school of negotiation, which he had purchased from Sky Mall magazine, and was still not capable of either winning friends or influencing people. Johnson reasoned, with his synapses twisted into a desperate mess, that specs had to be the answer. It was not until he naively agreed to transitional lenses, that the trouble really began. His blind agreement to a lens treatment he knew nothing about proves how much of a sucker Johnson is for upsells covered by his insurance.

From the beginning Shades and Johnson had a turbid relationship. It first began when he realized that transitional lenses actually...transition. Soon after receiving his shiny new glasses he stepped outside to find his coworkers in an uproar of laughter. With horror Johnson realized that his smart horn-rimmed glasses transform into artfag 90's molester shades with a flash of the sun's rays. With each moment the shades turned darker, his anger deepened. He dubbed his glasses "Shades McSpecs" and swore that they would be dead before the year's end. There were indeed good times, but in the end everyone knew that the relationship would have to end.

Johnson's face shows obvious shock after see the dark side of shades.

Shades befriends Hoats, and is loathed by Rachel Kim.

Captured here is the common scene of Johnson attempting to remove shades before the camera clicks and captures the awkward spectacle.

In a classic moment of irony Shades is covered with shade.

On a trip to Lens Crafters in Anchorage Shades was replaced with a smart pair of polycarbonate lenses with wire frames. Truly they will be loved like Shades never could have been. The rejection was a crushing blow that led to the death of Shades.

Upon hearing of Shades' demise Rachel Kim reminisced, "Never before have I felt my attraction for a man drain, as it had when I looked at Shades. His winsome banter and frolicking manner will not be missed." This perhaps best summarizes the life of the often misunderstood and always loathed Shades.

Shades McSpecs

Monday, September 18, 2006

Homer, a drinking town with a fishing problem...doh

I've never really considered myself much of a seaman.

In my brief sailing career (3 months) I managed to work my way up to "First Mate" simply by being one of the few onboard not drinking on the job. This of course gave me the glorious opportunity to bark orders at my best friend Kevin (Second Mate) and see him promptly laugh instead of hoisting the main sail. With our recent trip to Homer Alaska, the world's halibut capitol and home of The Salty Dawg Saloon (the most famous bar in the Pacific), I feel it's appropriate to explore the deep connection between sailors and their beloved spirits.

This fermentation fascination began with the Phoenecians, reached its culmination when Eric the Red realized that water kept longer if you dumped a bunch of grain in it, and was brought to hundreds of thousands of children with the jug-swigging Pirate of the Caribbean. I am of course referring to the one with the really hairy leg that has been sitting on the burning bridge in Anaheim for the last 60 years. With our trip to The Salty Dawg we found one of the last bastions for the sloppy sailor and their singing, swearing, and savagery. Arrrr matey.

With a squall on the rise we found shelter inside The Dawg. It was a strange day to visit as the place was filled with a Travel Channel(TM) film crew complete with floodlights, location scouts, sound guys, and an überslick producer who kept telling the interviewee to stand up straight to fix a "background issue". That's the LA way of asking someone to cover up the unsightly bar patron behind them. It felt like a smooth little piece of LA crashed an eternal blue collar house party and started pretending to appreciate an escape from fishing boats and oil rigs. After digging in for a while the memory gets a little hazy but I do know this: a tv episode entitled "A Thousand Places to See Before You Die" will air on Travel Chanel(TM), Rachel and I can be seen drinking with modern-day pirates on cable television, and the überslick producer guy slipped out the back door before buying the round that he kept yapping about. In a weird way seeing the whole thing and talking to the regulars made me feel a deep sense of embarassment about my own LA qualities. Although, I do see some of them fading in front of me with each day I am away.

We are in Anchorage now getting Günther tuned up (a.k.a. running) before we make our way back down the Alcan to the good ole USA. We are thinking about taking a 40-hour ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert and pretending that we are on a luxurious cruise. We may be out of touch for a little while in Canada but after that we should have some rad stuff from Jasper, Banff, Glacier National Park & Montana. We did finally have some good fishing in Soldotna. We caught about 20 salmon, which unfortunately were of the variety that Alaskans affectionately refer to as "Dog Salmon." Hopefully I will get Rachel to take her waders off soon. I keep telling her there's a proper time for fishing clothes but she keep saying "you never know when they'll bite". She has wild, mountain woman eyes when she says these things.

- JJ

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yes, We're Still In Alaska

Hey friends. We're chilling on the Kenai Peninsula, enjoying the last streaks of their Indian Summer. Our days lately have been comprised of learning how to fish and staying at awesome, free, post-season campgrounds. Our camping has been the more successful of the two.

We skipped through rainy blah weather in Anchorage and around, and booked it down here to try our hand at catching our own dinner. So far, we've managed to buy really awesome wader boots and overpriced fishing licenses. As for the fishing, we've been standing in the shadows of master anglers hooking beautiful shiny fish left and right. We got scared off the banks by a grunting grizzly, working his way up the river and gnawing on bloated salmon carcasses.

I'll keep it short and sweet as we're parked in an RV lot, sampling their wi-fi. Wish us better luck on our fishing. Miss you all, sorry we're gettting a bit behind on keeping in touch. Service down here is spotty.

p.s. Jamie, it's cuteoverload.com, and it's the best site there is.

Monday, September 04, 2006

D E N A L I IS HUGE !!!!!

DENALI!!!! The word will churn the stomach of even the most grizzled pioneers and adventurers. A vast wilderness defined only by its rugged lack of boundaries. 6 million acres of raw, frozen tundra swirling around the commanding and tireless watch of Mount McKinley. DENALI!!! Where grizzlies take time from feasting on caribou only to swat at the swarming pack of grey wolves. DENALI!!!! Land of mystery and illusion....okay I'll shutup. The truth is that I have grown rather bored of simply recounting my life's events for the blog. It feels a bit like homework and its time to mix things up. From now on I am gonna let the pics do the talking and change up my entries to reflect more of the abstract impressions, musings, and colloquial hyperbole that Ive picked up along the way.

Land of plenty. So one of the best things about Denali has to be that about a 3rd of the ground is covered with Blueberries. These wild berries are as fresh as the come and taste even better when you dont have to fork over $6 to Whole Foods. Here is the lifecycle of the blueberry in Denali.

You scrounge through the plentiful fields making sure to not disturb the bears.

You pick a bunch of berries.

Then you make a mighty fine stack of blueberry pancakes. Rinse and repeat.

Real Man of Genius: Mr Gigantic Compensating Lens Guy
Nothing like enjoying the wilderness with this dude whose favorite pasttimes include talking about all his vacation exploits ("you did that, cool, cause I did that 4 times already") and shoving his huge lens in your window by your face.

"Mooses are hairy
They are called Gary
Mooses bend
Thats the end"

These couplets were taken from "Mooses" a poem by Joey Johnson, Age 6. Though obsessed with finishing my poem with a word to rhyme with "end" it turns out that my juvenlie poetry was entirely true. As we learned, hunters actually bend moose into the shape of delicious pepproni. It is freaking ono and should be enjoyed only while drinking Moosedrool Brown Ale. Be careful though, if you eat too much you may look unkempt and grow a snaggle tooth. Frankly Im a bit pissed nobody told me about the secret pleasures of the moose sooner. So many years wasted.


Fairbanks: Good People with Moose

Alaska is substantially more beautiful than I could have imagined when compared to the tourist-infested shores via cruise ship (though those floating gluttony farms have their merits- aka the food). It truly is a raw, sprawling wilderness gem, vibrant at the cusp of fall.

We spent a few days recovering from the Alcan parked in a cozy, rainy campground in Fairbanks. To give you some reference, Fairbanks is the largest northern city, second in population to Anchorage. It's threaded by the mellow Chena River and is full of friendly, eclectic folks. Although we were unsuccessful in our attempts to view the northern lights (do you know how hard it is to wake up at 2:30 a.m. without an alarm?), we did manage to get some good times in.

We spent a day at Chena Hot Springs, stopping along the way to do a forrest hike. I've never seen such an abundance of fungi life, almost every footstep was interrupted by a macroscopic study of all the cute little organisms growing everywhere in every color available. Afterwards we headed to the hot springs, which at 156º, need to be cooled and funneled into a man-made rock pond. It's an awesome place to relax, there's a spraying fountain in the middle for when you get overheated, tons of japanese tourists, and large flat rocks to lunge your lizardlike body upon. Not to mention, we had the softest skin every after hanging out for four hours or so.

Another highlight was a canoe trip down the Chena River. Now, when you go to rent your canoe from a crotchety old man, make sure you have him clarify what "six hours of paddling" means. Because if you don't, you may very well end up rowing back to his place in 11pm darkness, hoping your poor little gloveless hands don't freeze off.


Other than this minor technicality, we had a great time. Sandwiches were had, beers were drank, countless beavers were spotted and chased. And to top it all off, around dinnertime a friendly Fairbanks resident called out to us while we were passing his home on the river. His family served us an excellent homecooked meal, dessert, and then sent back down the river laden with moose pepperoni. Really, who could ask for more? Thanks Mick and family!

Next is Denali, the 6-MILLION acre behemoth National Park. I can only hope we shall dine upon moose, while spotting moose and drinking Moose Drool beer.