Welcome to North Pole, Alaska!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

First of all, Happy Father's Day to my Dad, Andrew's Dad, our Grandpas, Uncles, Cousins, and everyone who is a father! Although we cannot be with our Dad's we hope they have wonderful days and Andrew and I know how blessed we are to have such wonderful dads and father-in-laws.

Updates in our lives...there are many!

This weekend is the official Summer Solstice for the interior of Alaska! That means, we are experiencing the longest days of sunlight! To celebrate the Solstice, a few friends and us decided (very last minute) to take part in Fairbank's annual Midnight Sun Run, a 10K race through the streets of Fairbanks. Many runners decide to sweat and grunt in heavy costumes, as it is the traditional twist to the race.

As of 2:00 PM on Saturday we decided to dress up like Toy Story 3 characters. Andrew was Buzz Lightyear, I was Jessie the cowgirl, Shannon and her husband were Barbie and Woody, and Gabe was Mr. Potato Head. We surely did a nice job of promoting the new movie, taking TONS of group pictures with children and adults, and of running 6.2 miles in costume (with only two pit stops along the way). While many runners run the race for time, we were just running the race for the experience. Fairbanksians lined the streets and it was more like a parade than a race. The race started at 10:00 PM and we crossed the finish line at 11:29. Not bad for a bunch of toys!

Midnight Sky :-)


Buzz and Jessie Post-Race


Our Supporters, Mrs. Potato Head and Nicole :-)


Entourage Style (minus me)


All of us (It was hard to find Barbie!)

Toy Story 3 at a Theater Near YOU!


It was the most fun we have had since living in Fairbanks and the run is a must-do for anyone here! Lots of jokes were made on the run and lot of laughs were had. We were in need of a restroom and of refreshments so our two pit stops happened to be at local bars...Toy Story unedited/unrated? May be.

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I am especially thankful that I visited Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.
My grandfather passed away this week and I did say a very special goodbye to him when I was home.
My family is currently at the beach celebrating his life on our family's annual Avalon, New Jersey beach outing. Andrew and I wish we could join :-)

With some of the grandkids

At the beach

My favorite picture of us, big band swing dancing in Florida :-)


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Andrew and I had a visitor at our home for a few days:




Although there is a "no-pets" policy for our townhouses we figured a 2 pound dog could be easily concealed! Kia is an adorable black Chihuahua puppy and we were sad to see her leave us for her more permanent home. Thanks for trusting us Tony and Tonya!

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Doing a little tye-dye with the neighbor kids (and Nicole made adorable tye-dyed onsies for her soon-to-be baby boy)


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Trying to sleep....at 11 PM! I still need to put up blackout paper!


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Andrew's family arrives in Anchorage on Thursday! They are hanging down there for a few days and then heading up to Fairbanks on Monday! We cannot wait! I still need to hang some curtains in their rooms or else heavy doses of sleeping medicine may be needed (the time difference and the constant light throw people for a doozy)!

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Lastly, I visited the dentist this week. I am the one in the family who brushes her teeth multiple times a day, flosses, avoids sugary drinks and coffees, and pretends to be in Colgate commercials on a daily basis; whereas Andrew brushes his teeth on an as-needed basis (gross I know). What do you know, I have three-in-a-row cavities on my back teeth, bringing my grand cavity total to about 9 or 10 during my lifetime. That news really brightened my day (it especially made Andrew chuckle...)!

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We now have TWO cars! I can't wait to show you our newest put-put! Coming tomorrow :-)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Valdez, Alaska



After I arrived back on Thursday evening, Andrew and I packed up the car and headed for Valdez, Alaska on Friday morning. Google Maps told us it would be an 8 1/2 hour drive...considering the highway speed limits here are usually 45, 50, or 55! Even with a few stops (outhouses on the side of the road, literally, Andrew would not let me take a picture...picnic lunch on a mountain top, and a few stops by scenic outlooks) we managed to get there in about 7 1/2 hours. The drive was beautiful but unfortunately we saw no wildlife except big fat porcupines scurrying across the road. That is until we took our glacier cruise on the Prince William Sound!

Pictures from the drive:








Andrew caught a rainbow!



Valdez was a very quaint, VERY small, harbor town, surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains on every side. There are just a little over 4,000 residents. All I knew about Valdez before visiting the town had to do with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. I can only imagine what those native residents think about the newest U.S. oil spill. Although we did not see any damage from the 89' oil spill, our boat captain told us that wildlife and glacier damage can still be seen from certain areas of the Sound (areas that our boat was unable to travel to).

Around 1900, Valdez became the first port that could connect gold seekers via a land route to the interior of Alaska, aka Fairbanks, where we live. Fishing runs the economy and it almost reminds me of the harbor town in the movie, Perfect Storm. In 1964, a 30 foot tsunami was the result of an earthquake (tremors are very common in AK but we have yet to feel the ground shake). The tsunami destroyed a large portion of the town of Valdez. Therefore, the Army Corps of Engineers helped the residents reestablish the town about 1 mile down the road, in a safer inlet. "Old Town Valdez" is posted near the new town and the remains are basically boards.







In 1977, the Alaska pipeline was finished (see the pipeline route below). Since Valdez was an accessible port (many ports froze over in the winter), it became the final stop. On our drive we basically followed the pipeline the entire way to Valdez. The Valdez Oil Terminal is the departure point for tankers of oil which are then transported to various American ports. While on our boat cruise we passed two huge oil tankers. Enough of the history lesson (although I had to refresh my memory using Wikipedia more than once...).



Oil Terminal view from the water...



Our main reason for visiting Valdez was to take a boat cruise on the Prince William Sound. We boarded the boat (capacity 86 persons) on Saturday morning and headed out for our 6 hour tour. It was definitely the highlight of the trip (as it should be) and it is a must-do for anyone visiting Valdez (if you are visiting Valdez you are either doing a boat tour or a chartered fishing tour because that.is.it). Our tour below...



Some pictures from our excursion.

We saw MANY large and in charge sea lions...







A lot of humpback whales...although they were difficult to get pictures of.




A few bald eagles...



Also a few porpoises, puffins, sea otters, and a bear far on the coast (all too quick or too far away to get a decent picture).

At one point, as we were close to the Columbia Glacier, we were floating in a sea of ice, everywhere! It was actually quite eerie, considering Titanic was the movie playing at the hotel the previous night.







Holding an iceberg (I was the only person older than 16 to brave the coldness and embarrassment!)


We got off the boat around 6:00 PM, grabbed a bite to eat, and braced ourselves for our 7 1/2 hour drive home. We didn't think it would be too bad considering it would never be dark! We only stopped once to take this picture of the sunset, approximately 12:30 AM.




Of course, when I saw this:


I immediately thought of a cruise to a warm, tropical, and sandy destination. I hope that will be in our future, maybe a VERY belated honeymoon :-)

Although Andrew and I are not the most experienced fishermen (not like my dad!), we do hope to do a fishing charter while in Alaska. Our friend was in Valdez the same weekend on a fishing charter, and he caught hundreds of pounds of halibut, three of his halibut weighing in OVER 100 pounds! It would be quite an experience to actually catch fish that weigh about the same weight as me. Stay tuned for that post, assuming I survive :-)

To end this post on a cheesy family picture and a video of a whale:

videos

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NOW is the time!

It is about time I decided to start typing a new entry! It has been way too long and there are so many things to talk about that I am feeling rather overwhelmed. So each day (I promise I will write...it is summer and I am not working so there is no excuse) I will write a post about what is/has going/gone on in North Pole, AK (or other places we have been).

School ended on May 14th, and I couldn't resist to miss the last day of school, so on May 13th I boarded a flight and red eyed it to Pittsburgh. Fifteen hours later I touchdowned (spell check is saying this is not a word?) and began the "everything I miss and love about Pennsylvania" story. Of course I missed all the shopping, the restaurants, my family, my friends, and most importantly Andrew (but I knew that I would see him in two weeks and not the rest for 1/2 a year!).

In fact, I loved the shopping so much that I came to PA with one suitcase (50 pounds, 15 pounds were gifts for family), and I returned to Alaska with two suitcases (50 pounds, and 40 pounds)...hmmmm. Before I knew it I was saying goodbye to my parents and I excitedly headed back to my more permanent home. Andrew had informed me each day that the weather in AK was beautiful, 70's and 80's, and sunny ALL the time! I knew that would be no problem for me.

The highlights of my trip, in no particular order:
1. Enjoyed my stay in wild, wonderful, West Virginia with Aunt Pam, Uncle George and the cousins, relaxed with Uncle D. and Aunt V. too!
2. Spending time with the O'Neill family (having Lauren visit too!)
3. Eating the top portion of OUR (Andrew + Danielle) wedding cake with The O'Neills (we had too or else it would have been freezer burnt and to make it extra special, Andrew tapped in via Skype...)
4. Taking a 6 hour train from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg! Yikes!
5. Enjoying the comforts of my (old) house and the people that live there ;-)
6. Seeing friends and catching up on life
7. Shopped in a mall with more than 9 stores!
8. Ate a Rita's Italian Ice Gelati
9. Celebrated my Dad's Birthday (with the family)!
10. Spent time with my Grandparents (Andrew's too) :-)

While I was away, Andrew fended for himself quite well. Although going to the grocery store was not at the top of his priority list (he didn't go at all), he did keep the house clean and neat (with the exception of his Rockband drumset looking large and in charge in our living room). He even had a nicely wrapped present waiting for me on the counter :-)

This has been short and sweet and there will be more tomorrow!
Have a great Thursday!

A preview for what's to come tomorrow...