Hiatus Is Over

Ok, I’m totally busted…my dear friend Portia recently emailed me that I have skipped out on my blog. I got swept up in the Alaskan summer with all its daylight and adventures. It was all about go, go, go. Play, play, play. I don’t think I sat at my home computer for more than 20 minutes unless I was Skyping with peeps. A trip back home to Texas, fishing in waders for the 1st time, buying a canoe, relearning to shoot since I found out I should be aiming as a lefty, camping, exploring, hiking…I can go on and on.

But, I can honestly say there are some things I definitely miss about my endless Austin summers that blend into fall:

  • Fireworks on the 4th of July. Putting on the shorts and flip-flops and taking your blanket to Zilker for the show. The midnight sun makes them too hard to see at night in AK. 
  • Outside swimming pools; there are NONE in AK, if you can believe that, hehe. I was able to dip my snow-white skin in a watering hole and soak up some sun while I was back in the ATX.
  • Snow cone stands, good mexican food (especially queso and mexican martinis), a bazillion different yoga classes to choose from any day of the week at any time, easy access to great live music, and of course, my family and friends.

But here’s what I love about Alaska:

  • Fireworks on Thanksgiving weekend. One of the local businesses puts on a HUGE display; a 20 minute show with some big blasters imported from Russia. It was amazing, holding my coffee, all bundled up with friends in the frosty night air. They do them for Christmas too!
  • The state fair is anticipated all year. It brings music, tons of fried food, the lumberjack show, and veggies and flowers that look like Rick Moranis might have super-sized with his ray gun.
  • Blueberry picking and hiking at Hatcher Pass, you can always find an awesome cup of coffee with all the huts, women can use a gun and bow, men can knit, and I will have my 1st ever white Christmas (hopefully, no snow yet, unbelievable!)

Now it’s winter project time…learning to knit, Game of Thrones book series to be read, bow shooting, Aces hockey, ice skating. But as soon as the snow comes, added to the agenda: snow angels, building a snowman, sledding, skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

Come on winter wonderland…it’s time to play!

Categories: Escapades | 1 Comment

The Little Drinking Town With A Climbing Problem

Hi y’all! So, the y’all is my dead giveaway up here, but I hope to never lose it.

Last time I wrote about Talkeetna, there was snow on the ground and everything was hibernating. But ooooohhhhh, SUMMER IS HERE! And not only are the flowers in bloom, but all the critters are out and frolicking, including the animals. Summer also brought my 1st visitor from the lower 48, my dear friend Ruth (apparently my Texan peeps are smart enough to not visit when it’s 27 below).

So, for our road trip we loaded up in the motor home to Talkeetna:

Pit stop at Cadillac Red’s for sheep pizza with our favorite (pretend) pizza delivery guy Vincent. Notice we started off in shorts…

Talkeetna is like a boom town in the summer, coining the motto “the little drinking town with a climbing problem.” It’s base for Denali, so there is a huge invasion of mountaineers. While visiting last weekend, Ruth and I met some soldiers from the Wounded Warriors program that were working on an ascent to the highest peak in North America. We met these gentlemen at the Fairview Inn, THE PLACE in Talkeetna to start and end that drinking reputation and listen to some bluegrass music.

Ruth and I partaking in the drinking town slogan at Fairview Inn. Got to love Ruth showing off those cowboy boots, way to represent! Notice we moved on to jeans, but native Alaskan Gunner behind us was still in his “Sun’s Out, Guns Out” tank. By the way, it was 11:30 pm when this photo was taken. Notice anything odd? Wonder why I have trouble sleeping? There is no stopping when it’s summer here.

You never have to worry about getting lost in Talkeetna because there is basically one road that almost everything is on, Main St. You can walk anywhere! Or stumble back safely if you indulged too much since the lack of sun setting doesn’t cue you to quit and the bar technically only has to close 2 hours per day.

Sunday Funday in Talkeetna meant a yummy breakfast at The Roadhouse and with full, happy bellies, we muddled down Main St to the shops, market and art showings. It’s also filled with a bazillion tourists from the cruise ships since it’s an offered excursion. If the weather is nice, you can take a flying tour up to Denali, fish, check out sled dogs, and much, much more!

Oh, beautiful Talkeetna! Well played! Notice we sported fleece, hoodies and rain jackets? You have to be prepared for it all. 70s and sunny to 50s and rain the next. Even Alaska can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to be, so it just throws it all at you. Passed the test though because you know I’m always prepared!

Ended the trip drinking wine for some ladies only time before we headed back home in the motor home.

Ruth, thank you so much for part-taking in my Alaskan journey! Btw, you never guest blogged…see how it’s so easy to get caught up in the adventures and go until you drop?!?!

Gunner, I know you’re going to read this and I got it posted before midnight. Done and done.

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Can You Build A Plane?

I know, I know…it’s been a while. I have been flying, hiking, exploring, and completely slacking on the updates. I’ve been having WAY TOO much fun. But, that’s one of the reasons why I moved to Alaska, right?

I am bound and determined to play catch up this week starting with my plane stories, so join me on my 1st small plane ride to Talkeetna to visit an amazing group of kids and volunteers: Talkeetna Build A Plane.

A few of our customers are the volunteers that work on an incredible project, teaching kids HOW TO BUILD A REAL PLANE! We had the privileged invitation to fly up with one of the volunteers in a Cessna 172 to meet them. Meet our plane:


Come fly with me in a Cessna 172!


Front seat! Smile covering up the nerves. Very exciting, but since it's my 1st time, I was definitely a bit white knuckled. Thankfully it was a beautiful, clear day! Smooth sailing.


View from the air. You can see how much snow has already melted away. It was ALL completely white not long ago.


The "Dr. Seuss" house in Willow. 10-12 stories, just left unfinished for the past 10 years.


The break up: ice and snow melting away!

About 45 minutes later, we arrive in Talkeetna. In the hangar are at least a dozen kids riveting, working on fiberglass or taking inventory of engine parts. The kids earn hours towards their private pilot’s license and A&P. They are currently working on a Cherokee VI and spend hours practicing thousands of rivets before they are even allowed to do riveting on the plane. Every inch is inspected and re-inspected to make sure it is perfect. Planes defy gravity, so even one little divot can cause a weakness. It’s so inspiring to see how dedicated everyone is on the project.

The town of Talkeetna is right out of an episode of Northern Exposure. I expected to see a moose strolling the streets, but had to settle for just a little moose hide on the side of the road. We popped into the General Store for coffee and hot cocoa. A little warm up before we headed home. I can’t wait to explore it more when we work the fly-in May 19th! I’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures of the town.

1st time up a complete success! Flying is definitely the best way to see Alaska!

If you would like to learn more about the Build A Plane project, visit their site:


Categories: Escapades | 4 Comments

Going Rogue!

Why is buying a car so ridiculously stressful? Shouldn’t it be fun and exciting? I have been lucky to be sheltered from the stereotypical experience growing up with family in the auto industry. No haggle, pick it out, done. Easy peasey. Until now.

I started my nail-biting search with Craigslist thinking this would be a good option to find a used vehicle since there are only 3 dealerships in Wasilla. I just couldn’t compete though. People here are able to pay CA$H on the spot. I have a sinking suspicion that Abby and I are the abnormal with regular 8am-5pm jobs. The majority of people I talk to are business owners, fishers, guides, charter operators, and a lot of the work is seasonal. Many don’t work during part or all of the winter, vacationing in Hawaii or the Caribbean Islands. It’s the work to live mindset in full blast.

One of my customers was teasing me about fishing season coming up. He’s taking us up in his plane on Thursday and told me he’d be at the Palmer airport about 4pm so we could leave around 4:30pm. I told him we’d love to go and could be there about 5:20pm after we close the store. He started laughing, saying “Oh yeah, that. You know you’ll have to change that one fishing season comes.” I asked “Oh, you mean we’ll need to extend hours because there’s more daylight?” Now I really had him rolling, “No, no! People will be inviting you guys to go out and you’ll need to close up early; like half days.” I told him I did’t think the headquarter office would go for that. But, I’ve heard this before. If it’s a pretty day out, shops just close and everyone goes to play.

Back to the car search though…

I get that Alaskans have no problem driving a beater of a Dodge Neon and getting stuck is a normal occurence. But, this Texas girl can count the number of times driving in the snow on one hand. My deal breakers: 4WD or AWD and an SUV so I have clearance. I need to feel safe.

Abby convinced me to just drive by the dealerships even though I have looked online. So, I bit the bullet and accepted. We see some potential at one and dared to talk to a salesman. At first we think because he’s new, he’s just goofy and doesn’t know. Remember my deal breakers? Don’t show me a front-wheel drive Ford Focus! He’s in shock when I show him I have everything lined up: pre-approval loan, down payment, all paperwork needed. Dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

They have 12 Nissan Rogues sitting there on their lot and he stated we could get one at what I thought was a fair price, but I want to research. And talk to my dad. This has already been such a painful process and he has talked me through many tearful conversations. I am not afraid to admit I am a daddy’s girl and will always go to someone who knows more than me on a subject for advice.

So I called the next day with my offer and preference. It now turned into a total disaster. He made promises he couldn’t keep and I think his sales manager hates him. He wanted to split hairs with me; literally stated he wanted me to spend more of my $$$ so he could make the deal and get on the board! He’s an idiot and I hung up on him. Let those Rogues sit there. I doubt they can sell all 12 in a month. He then had the nerve to call Abby and discussed it with her!!! He was riding my last nerve…

He finally got his manager to agree to what he originally offered me, but had to put in one last dig, “The offer is only good for tonight.” I told him to bring me the paperwork and have the vehicle ready by the time I got off work. I’m a lady, so I resisted the urge to sucker punch him when he showed up.

But, after much smoke coming out of my ears and swollen tear ducts, TAAAADAAAA! Here’s my baby:

My pretty black Rogue, all shiny!

And of course I get her stuck in a snow bank on the 1st full day of ownership! Over thinking backing up out of Abby and Danyel’s horseshoe drive way. I did it totally find the night before with it was dark out and with some apple pie in me…

Already stuck. Note to self: need shovel, brush, ice scraper and blanket for Rogue. You can totally make fun of me since you can see there is lat least a foot of clearance on the other side. You sink so quick in the soft powder!

So, once again it was Danyel and Abby to the rescue!

Abby laughing at me and helping dig out Rogue. She's a pro (and a superhero)!

Auto-start and rubber mats are installed. Now I just have to find that darn block heater! But, spring is coming and it’s in the 40s, so I have some time to figure that out. I think I’ll just call her Rogue too. The perfect play on words from Palin’s comments on going rogue in Alaska. Rogue was also my favorite X-Men character too (I was closet comic book junkie as a kid – shoosh! Our secret!)

Big thanks to my poppy, Abby and Danyel for helping me keep my sanity during this process. I was very close to needing a rubber room…



Categories: Escapades | 1 Comment

Mush! Gee! Haw!

16 dogs per sled. 67 teams. 1,049 miles from Anchorage to Nome. This is the race where dogs rule…IDITAROD!

I was lucky enough to experience the excitement of the official start in Willow, AK this past Sunday. An absolutely amazing event. I don’t know the last time I was on a real school bus, but we boarded the shuttle to the Iditarod from Wasilla High School to cheer on the hardest working dogs I ever seen. $2 for a round trip ticket definitely beats the $4.11/gal right now. What a deal! And about 45 minutes later, I see:

Official Iditarod start!

AAAAHHHHH! I can’t contain myself! I spent Saturday night reading the bios of the mushers and history. It’s incredible! And there are almost as many women mushers registered as men. My favorite is DeeDee Jonrowe, a very youthful 58-year-old Ironwoman and cancer survivor, who wears a hot pink parka dress that matches the pink booties, coats and leads of her dogs.

Oh, there was A LOT of fur at the Iditarod, and it wasn’t just on the dogs:

Chewbacca guy posing for pics near the entrance. Every where you looked, people had fur hats, coats, etc. There was even a furier trailer/booth.

We trekked through the deep snow down the trail to get away from the crowds for a closer view of the teams as they would come by. And maybe even try to get a high-five or two from the mushers.

Bundled up cozy to watch and cheer! By the way, sunglasses are a must when it's sunny to avoid snow blind.

The dogs love the cheering and pick up speed when they hear it. They may trot, or even skip and bounce a bit as they get into their groove, but start clapping and praising, and they want to charge! Such show-offs!

Tidbit: The mushers are required to have 2 pairs of booties per dog on the sled to protect their paws.

Another Tidbit: Mushers will "drop a dog" rather than risk injury to it. They will carry it on the sled to a checkpoint where vets stand by for care if needed or take the dog back to the handlers. It is common for the mushers to end with only 8-10 dogs.

But, the best part was later in the day when we when back to the start. The sleds take off one at a time, at timed intervals. So when the crowds thinned, we watch them prep the next team. Each team has at least 8 handlers to hold the dogs because they want to go!  It’s a game of tug-of-war with the handlers. The dogs are filled with overflowing excitement; crying, howling, jumping around because they know their chance is coming up soon. The best description I heard was from Abby who compared it to the Texas Longhorn Football team psyching themselves up in the tunnel before they charge onto the field on game day.

Handlers holding the dogs as they prepare for the start.

All wound up and ready to go. Got to love the crazy eyes!

These beautiful sled dogs aren’t trained for racing, they LIVE for this. You easily get caught up in their energy and enthusiasm.

Here’s to remarkable adventures!

Photos courtesy of Danyel Austin.

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It’s All So Quirky!

So, I have been in Alaska a little over a month, and I have noticed some fun and curious quirks. Here is a run down that might spark your interest:

You don’t have to worry about water marks from your glasses on furniture. It is sooooo dry here, your glasses do not sweat. There is not enough humidity. Remember me needing to buy a humidifier and Vaseline for my nose the 1st week? Well, I have upgraded to a whole new skin care regiment. I’m talking about those thick creams that would NEVER absorb and leave you greasy back in the ATX. Even for my face, and I have always had oily/combo skin.

You recycle, really? You have to pay to recycle here, which I think is crazy! In such a beautiful place, wouldn’t you want to keep it that way? Oh man, do they love their plastic bags here. They are obsessed with putting one thing per bag and when you ask to consolidate, they look at you funny. I brought bags with me in packing, but I still have plastic bags coming out of my ears! It’s going to be tough to convert them…silly liberal recycling.

You call that a boot? This is specifically for my TX peeps that don’t see snow besides the few flakes every couple of years. Proper footwear is a must or you will find yourself on your butt more times than standing. And there is a RANGE:

My Alaskan footwear: Uggs for everyday use (love for work!), short snow boots for stomping around, to-the-knee snow (graded up to 25 below temps) for exploration days.

Here is why you need the to-the-knee kind:

My recovery after sinking all the way to my knees in the snow at Palmer Hay Flats.

These are just the snow boots. April I’ll need to get Gore-Tex hiking/rain boots. My ski friends will understand this, but cotton is called the “Death Layer” because it holds moisture and you can literally freeze to death. Make sure to get a moisture wicking base layer (Under Armour) and wind resistant outer layer. Immediately after our outing at Hays Flats, we went to Sports Authority (seems to be my new home lately) to get me some shell pants. I’ve got ski pants, but needed something to slip on quick over my clothes and for the rainy season to keep me dry. Love them! I can roll them up to use in a pinch!

More about Palmer Hay Flats to come…

You better smile and say “Hi!” Everyone is so nice here. I love my customers who tell me about their airplanes and show me pictures of their family. They bring their dogs with them which confirms we definitely need a shop dog. One customer that lives in the North Pole (yes, it really exists! Believe in Santa!) and makes North Pole Honey explained how he’s going to move his bees inside and blast them with A/C because they are trying to wake up too early with it warming up here. My mail lady Mary is awesome and we exchange jokes and stories. Everyone says hi and gives a warm, genuine smile when you pass by them on the trails. Even the grocery store clerks like to tell you about their day. No one is in a hurry to be anywhere.

Customer's Maule with Tinka standing guard.

Alaskans work to live, not live to work. If you don’t give them 2 weeks off for moose hunting, they will quit. I have guys come in dirty sweatpants, driving beater of a car, but don’t judge! They have a $150,000 Super Cub plane, a boat, snow machines and a log cabin or 2. It’s all about the toys! Guess they have their priorities straight.

Remember to enjoy your playtime everyone!

Categories: Escapades | 4 Comments

Parking Lot Skating Rinks

One of my challenges of being a Texas girl moving to Alaska is learning to drive in the snow and ice. Oh sure, we have the rare ice storm in Austin that shuts down the entire city and every few years we see a couple of snowflakes. But, NOTHING compares to the roads here in Alaska. And I loosely use the term roads. They are more like guides when the snow covers them and you just cross your fingers that you’re not drifting into a snow bank. There are no lanes; you follow the tire treads so you can get some traction.

4-wheel drive IS A MUST! Even the parking lots are more like skating rinks. I refuse to be one of those helpless, little cars stuck on a speed bump with their tires just spinning away. If that car does get some traction, you better hope you’re out of the way or have quick feet to dodge it. Walking is treacherous too! You have to shuffle your feet so as not to slip and you better make sure your shoes have rubber soles or you’re better off wearing ice skates. I learned this the hard way in the Walmart parking lot when I wore my cowboy boots.

On top of this, I have to learn to drive a stick shift. Oh, I agree that it’s probably a good thing for me to know how to do, but I will never want to own a car that is a standard. To me, it makes driving more work. Now I’m not only paying attention to the roads and other cars, I have the added distraction of “clutch in, shift to 2nd.” Why must 1st gear be so difficult?!?! I hesistate to think that I am coordinated enough to not stall at least a couple of times if I have to come to a full stop.

So meet my nemesis:

My nemesis...

Don’t be fooled. This little darling can cut through a snow bank like it was melted butter. But we are working on our love/hate relationship.

Danyel is an incredibly patient teacher. So, just like when I was 15 year old, we set off for the high school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. I offered to put my hair in pigtails to look like his kid sister so he wouldn’t be embarrassed of me. It was a terribly cold day, but that didn’t keep me from sweating through my layers and wiping my hands on my jeans. I had to conquer this skating rink…then the streets of Wasilla.

A few lessons later, with Abby and Danyel enduring my nerves, tears, shaking hands and white knuckles, I was to attempt my 1st solo. It would also be my 1st solo at work (with Jake our part guy) so that Abby would finally get a Saturday off. The morning getting there wasn’t too bad. I didn’t really have time to think about it. I needed to get there to open the store on time and who’s on the roads at 7:30 am on a Saturday?

But, it was so painfully slow at work that my mind kept drifting to the truck and the eventual drive home. With more cars out there. Oh nerves, why must you harass me???

I figured if I put some music on while I warmed up the truck, I might stop over thinking it. So as Patsy Cline came on radio, I sang along to calm my hands and mind. And of course I didn’t make the light at the big intersection and had everyone behind me waiting for the light to change. Oh please don’t stall! Then Kenny and Dolly came on singing “Islands in the Stream.” As I belted out “And we rely on each other, uh huh. From one lover to another, uh huh,” I threw it into 1st and made it through the intersection. “Luckenbach, TX” brought me all the way back to the house.

I’m still not comfortable driving a stick shift, but I have resolved music is the best remedy!

Categories: Escapades | 4 Comments

Sunday Funday Mission: Matanuska Glacier

Who wants to see a glacier on their Sunday Funday??? ME, ME, ME!!!

There is no way I would want to pass up on that opportunity living in Alaska and what better way to kick off my first week here?!?! So Abby, Danyel and I head to the largest glacier in the U.S. accessible by car.

Headed the right way!

And we of course pick the perfect day. It’s only 15 below today! (Lingo opportunity: Alaskans do not say negative 15; snow mobiles are also called snow machines and you go snow machining.)

We reach the park road and there is a big sign stating ONLY 4X4 wheel drive vehicles beyond this point. Decision made definite in my head on what kind of car I’ll need to get here…and all those little cars in the grocery parking lot that can’t get over the speed bumps and get stuck because they are only 2 wheel drive; I would be mortified if that was me.

We come up to a store/outpost with gates blocking the road to continue to the glacier. According to the nice gentleman that gave us funny looks about our clothing, you’d have to crazy to go out the the glacier right now. He only gets 3 customers maybe a month this time of year and you have to be an expert.

DId we have other clothes and gear with us? No. Are we on vacation and that’s why the urgent timing to come out to the glacier today? No, we just moved here.

With a sigh of relief (and maybe some pity) he explained the best time to come is March for snow trekking and May for glacier/rock climbing. And with Abby’s sweet talking, he realized we work for AERO and he has 8 planes (potential customer!) and our visit turned into a sales call. He’d heard about us; apparently word spreads fast in a small town about a new business. IMAGINE THAT! 🙂

So, Bill let’s us go through the gates to the glacier parking lot to take some pics. He warns though not to get out of the truck on the drive down or leave the parking lot. You need a guide and there happens to be a moose with its leg stuck in a crack. Probably broken and it’ll die. He laughs at my mortified face and says “Don’t worry, we have plenty more here.”

Off we go to Matanuska Glacier!


Abby the gate-keeper letting us in.

Don't worry, it's not the one stuck.

Matanuska Glacier

Abby and me at the glacier. Well, in the parking lot in front of it. FREEZING!


I absent-mindedly jumped out of the truck to take pics, and yelped at the cold. My fingers froze instantly because I left my gloves in the truck and raced back to get them. Thankfully Danyel has a much better camera than me and he’s a better photographer, so the photos are courtesy of him.

Is a 2 hour round trip drive worth the 10 minutes (maybe even only 5 minutes) that we got to play at the glacier? YES, ABSOLUTELY! There was something so incredibly majestic and peaceful about it.

We’ll be back soon Matanuska Glacier! Looking forward to our next Sunday Funday play date!

Categories: Escapades | 1 Comment


I took seeing a circle rainbow in the sky above the snowy mountains on the plane ride to Anchorage as a good sign…

Did I need a change? Definitely. I love my hometown, but felt restless and needed to explore the world.

Did I pick one extreme for another? Yes, trading Texas for Alaska, they are complete polar opposites within the U.S. So, I swap my flip-flops for snow boots, swimsuits for parkas, straw sun hats for tooks, bicycles for snow machines, hot sweat for DRY COLD.

1st priorities learned: get a humidifier, thick cream moisturizer/vaseline, and drink water, water, water! It’s so dry here the static electricity is unbelievable. You can actually see the spark when you flip on a light switch. Ouch! and damn it! are common words heard throughout the day. Lovers beware when you go to kiss each other; that’s not the chemistry. 🙂

My 1st day at work this past Saturday was exhilarating. I’m geeking out about airplanes/parts and the customers are so incredibly nice. They’ll spend 30 minutes chit-chatting with you about anything. And since I’m new to Alaska, they LOVE to give advice about what to do here.

Am I crazy? Maybe…but it feels amazing!

As I drink my coffee and watch the sunrise this morning over the mountains, there is a moose right here at the front steps of the house. My excitement scares him to the backyard, but WOW! All I do is say WOW all day, everyday. I am so blessed and grateful to have this opportunity in my life.

View of the sunrise this morning from the living room window. The moose was right under the porch railing.

I’ll keep the adventures and pictures coming people! Enjoy!

Next Stop: Matanuska Glacier Park

Categories: Escapades | 5 Comments

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