Sidebar – Mosquitoes

Several people have asked about the mosquitoes so here are my thoughts. If you leave for Alaska in May you don’t have mosquitoes, but the roads haven’t been repaired yet from the hard winter. If you travel in July the roads are much better, but the mosquitoes are bad. At least that’s the story that I’ve been told.

My observation confirms that to a point.On our trip here in May we didn’t encounter any mosquitoes and they weren’t a problem until we parked our trailer on Dave and Rochelle’s driveway, located deep in the forest. I also wonder why mosquitos like some people and not others? Why is it that mosquitos are no big deal to Cyndy, but they drive me crazy? But not anymore, I discovered “the paddle of death.” Now, I go out and hunt mosquitos down!

Why spray on some repellent that smells awful and sticks to your body when you can electrocute them. This paddle has three layers of mesh wire. You push a button that charges the capacitor and swing. When you hit a mosquito you hear a popping noise, which is the mosquito being fried. If you are lucky you can pop him 3 or 4 times. Hitting something larger, like a bee is awesome!

Death to Mosquitoes

Death to Mosquitoes

Here’s a tip. Don’t swing at mosquitoes that land on your wife.

Cliff

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Hope

June 28, 2014

After several days of rain, we finally got a break with a sunny and warm day and we headed to Hope with Dave and Rochelle. Hope is located on the north end of the Kenai Peninsula just across the bay (Turnagain Arm) from the city of Anchorage.

On the way, right beside the road, we finally saw a male moose and he was probably 2 or 3 years old with short stubby horns. Mama moose will boot the calves when she gets pregnant again so he has been on his own for a year or two.

The road ended at Hope with the next stop being the ocean. The community was spread out and we would guess the population was about 200. We saw a couple of gift stores and 2 restaurants, one was closed so we headed for the one that was open. We had a great lunch and with the specialty of the house being pie, we jumped right in with a couple of pieces for dessert. Um, yummy!

Some pictures of the day:

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Cyndy and Cliff

Kenai River

June 24, 2014

Turns out the Kenai River is in our backyard, complete with lots of campgrounds and places we might want to hang out. Cliff is still looking for his grizzly and they have been spotted in the area so we keep an eye out everywhere we go. We wandered around, talked to some fishermen only to learn that the salmon are not around right now. We had heard that we were in between the salmon runs and that soon there would be a million salmon in the Kenai River fighting to get upstream. That will bring the grizzlies and the fisherman to the river! Best you should pray for Cliff, he is starting to dream about grizzly bears!

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We found some interesting camp sites and waved to the camp ground hosts. One sign in particular caught our eye. Yep, kids don’t float and having a lending program for kids life jackets is brilliant. And it is right there on the dock and the life jackets don’t look all ratty and awful to put on.

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We have more exploring to do in our search for the perfect camp site. Take a look at the view from the road.

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This is one of the docks where you can launch your boat.

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Dave and Rochelle are coming over for dinner and they will get “Kitchen Sink Enchiladas.” This is the meal you serve to family when you have leftovers galore and can’t think of anything to make for dinner. Rochelle is bringing lemon pie so Cliff is very happy about that and while we were having pie a moose just walked across our road.  Just like Estes Park, CO, all of the tourists just stop in the middle of the road.  The locals go nuts!

Cyndy and Cliff

 

More Daily Life

June 23, 2014

There is more to the story about our life here in Sterling. We suddenly find ourselves not on vacation any longer but figuring out what it means to be snowbirds. Alaskans say that the snowbirds leave Alaska to live “outside” during the cold winter months but return in the summer when Alaska has perfect weather and more opportunities to get out and explore and see this amazing state. So what is wrong with being a snowbird? People sniff their noses up at us. Hey, don’t they know we are from Colorado and made of tougher stuff than most of  those other snowbirds?

This morning finds me sitting in an office in the Community Center, staring at a black screen on the desktop computer. Did I really not write down the password? Seems I thought I would remember it but I don’t. A rookie mistake and one that I probably cannot correct today. I was so excited to get to work in the office this morning and create a spreadsheet for the non-members who use the Center. I love to manage the details on an Excel spreadsheet!

Cliff has breakfast every morning with a group of guys that have adopted him and he gets to hear all about a different side of life in Alaska. Dave has been having breakfast with these guys for many years and I understand the group to be eclectic, the language to be rough, the problems all easily solved with guns and the conversation lively! Cliff said it helped that he wore his new cap to breakfast the first day – a camo hat with the Ford logo on it.

I am plugging into the sewing community in Soldotna. Rochelle has a Thursday quilting group she attends and I will get to come along with her this week. On Friday we are both taking a class at the local quilt store and the schedule for additional classes looks good. It is always fun to meet other quilters and see what kind of quilts they are making.

With Dave and Rochelle just 10 minutes away we feel like we have family in the area. The kind of family you can call and say, hey come for dinner or stop by with dessert, etc. It is nice to have people in your life that you can relax with and just enjoy the time together.

Yesterday, we went looking for a campground that looked to be close by on the map, and it is close by but you cannot get to it the way we tried because that big space on the map is actually a decent sized river with no bridge. The locals all know that you only cross the Funny River in Soldotna and now we do too! We did see lots of houses tucked away in the woods, maybe they don’t like people or neighbors and live for bear encounters on their back deck. We enjoyed being lost for about an hour and then found some folks on the road loading up their gear and they directed us to the main road to Sterling. They did not even laugh or smirk when telling us we were 20 miles outside of where we wanted to be, there is no bridge and we would need to go back the same way we came.

Flower were everywhere on our trip.  Does anyone know the name of this one?

Flowers were everywhere on our trip. Does anyone know the name of this one?

We want to look at all of the campgrounds in this area to see if our trailer will fit and to know if we might want to apply for a campground host position next year.  We have some ground to cover as there are numerous state parks on the Kenai Peninsula. We will let you know our findings….

The phone has been ringing! Oh boy, more to do.  A bride and her Momma want to look at the Center to have the wedding reception in July and the local carpenter is here fixing the shelves in the office. And gosh, we need a carpenter to fix a shelf in our trailer so he may just get another job out of his morning.

Cliff was out this morning trying to find an RV Park owned by a board member when he ended up going down the wrong road. Not all bad because he spotted this Mama moose with her calf.

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Ok, that was about an hour of my morning. I hope you enjoyed your peek into our life in Sterling.

Cyndy

 

 

 

Daily Life

June 22, 2014

The weather hasn’t reached 70 degrees yet this summer. It’s in the 50s right now (9 am) with a warm sun. It feels just right with a long sleeve shirt and Cyndy just loves it. She is in puppy paradise. For a woman who doesn’t like hot weather this is the ideal place. The high has been between the mid-fifties and the mid-sixties.

We drove over to the city of Kenai last evening. Daylight lasts until about midnight so evenings are stretched and it is hard to stop and head to bed! Anyway, It’s about a 15 mile drive and it is the biggest city around although “city” is the wrong word. It’s more like a village or small town, but it has a Walmart, most of the major fast food places and the peninsula airport is located there.

Yesterday we were introduced to the Community Center’s board and then helped setup for the community garage sale on Friday/Saturday. There must be 50 people here selling the usual garage sale fare. One exception, someone baked pies and I just bought a rhubarb/blueberry pie!  I enjoy meeting people and starting up conversations. The question I normally ask is, “How long have you lived in Alaska?” because very few were born here. I just talked to a guy from Georgia who drives the 4500 miles one way every summer to return to Kenai. It takes about a week to make the drive and this is his eighth summer.

Most of the people that I’ve met work in the oil industry on the “North Slope,” which refers to the oil fields north of the Arctic Circle around Prudhoe Bay. They normally work two week on (14 hours days) and two weeks off. I recently looked at a detailed map of that area and discovered that it is mostly permafrost and swamp with lots of small lakes. I would imagine that building roads to get to the oil wells is really an engineering headache and it makes sense why so much of the trucking of freight is done in the winter when the ground is frozen.

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Cliff

 

Sidebar – Holding Tanks

At our camp site near the Sterling Community Center we have hookups for water, electricity and WiFi, but no sewer connection. This is a common challenge. Often when camping in a Walmart parking lot or state/national campground, hookups are limited.

So how do we solve the sewer problem?

First, by way of background, RVs normally have three or four holding tanks. One tank is for fresh water (ours holds 84 gallons) which is pumped through water lines to the sinks, shower, toilet, etc. A second tank holds the “gray” water (ours is also 84 gallons) collecting used water from the shower and sinks. Our third tank (48 gallons) is for “black” water taking the water and solids from the toilet.

We can dry camp (no hookups) for about three days. If you want to dry camp for longer periods of time you would need solar panels or a generator to keep your batteries charged. A generator will also allow you to use a hair dryer, microwave and watch TV. If you are careful the fresh water can last longer but you will eventually need to fill that tank. Some places will allow you to empty gray water in a nearby field. The gray water tank fills within a few days if taking showers or using the washer/dryer.

Black water needs to be disposed of properly. Most private parks and some public parks offer sewer at your parking site. Some parks have “dump stations” and some are free and some cost $5 or more. Some businesses have dump stations and there are two close to us. A gas station lets you dump free with a fill-up, but otherwise charges $7. Fred Meyer, a local grocery store caters to RV’s offering a free dump station and they let RVs stay overnight in their parking lot. Fred Meyer is a Kroger grocery store and this one has their own gas station.  Our King Soopers card works here and we get discounts on fuel (yeah)!

Now you see the problem, if you don’t have a sewer connection at your parking site, you have to move your RV to a dump station every few days. OR, buy a portable waste tank (see picture below).

Portable Waste Tank

Portable Waste Tank

You dump the contents of the black tank into it and roll it to a dump station. If the dump station is miles away you need to load the “honey wagon” into the back of the truck and hope you have friends close by to help with lifting the now 150 pound container! OR, you order a FloJet “a portable RV Waste Pump” from Amazon. The FloJet’s macerator section grinds waste down to a particle size of 1/8″ maximum so it can easily be pumped through a garden hose which can be up to 200 feet long and it can pump up hill.

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Voila, my problem is solved! I set the empty portable waste tank in the back of the truck and then pump waste into it. This also allows me to drain gray water at a further distance. There you have it. Happy RVing!

FloJet connected to my sewer drain and waste hose.

FloJet connected to our sewer drain and waste hose.

Cliff

Aside

We landed in Sterling!

June 17, 2014

We have a new place to call home! While hanging out on the Kenai Peninsula we discovered the Sterling Community Center. They had a need for someone to be on site to add a level of security and to help out as needed. We have been applying to every campground and State Park to be camp hosts but the situation was never quite right for us. We decided the fit was right here in Sterling and we are excited to join this community!

Sterling is a small town just 10 miles east of Soldotna, close to where Dave and Rochelle live. The Community Center has a lending library, computer room, gym and kitchen and it has been open about a year. We will live onsite in our trailer and be available if one of the front desk volunteers does not show up. Cliff will help keep the place clean and neat and I will help out in the office. We will continue to travel about on the Kenai Peninsula, making 2 day trips every couple of weeks. When we decide to head home in the fall we will spend some time in Fairbanks and the Denali area to finish out our trip.

Sterling Community Center

Sterling Community Center

The Kenai Peninsula is a beautiful place to live. The area is heavily forested with spruce, aspen and birch trees plus a lot of undergrowth. We are on the west side of the peninsula which is made up of low rolling hills; the center and east side of the peninsula is mostly rugged mountains. You’ve probably have heard of many of the towns on the Kenai Peninsula (Homer, Seward, Whittler, Soldotna, Kenai) and the rivers are home to the famous king salmon, copper river salmon, red salmon, etc. Mostly lots of good eating and lots of fishermen around town!  Cliff is looking forward to the time that salmon begin to run so he can see some grizzlies.

Cyndy and Cliff