Sum sum summertime

The Killing Fields

Red circle with arrow – that’s a fish head tossed skyward by the man with the outstretched arm. A great day to be a gull. Bad day to be a Sockeye trying to make it upstream past the gauntlet of dip nets. We absolutely slayed ’em

Among the five of us (Gloria not shown as she was taking the pic) we brought home fifty or more Sockeye salmon (aka Reds). Being men, there is something deep in our Amygdalas that causes us to want to hold up dead things and appear proud. Later that same evening back at home with HW, I smeared one of the fillets with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt ‘n pepper and grilled it until just warm in the center. I do like salmon, although being it’s a rich protein I have my limits, but it doesn’t get any better than that, with the possible exception of cleaning and eating it right on the beach. My neighbor offered to smoke a bunch for us and I gladly took him up on that. He covered the fillets with salt and brown sugar overnight, then smoked ’em for about eight hours. Knocked on our front door the next day and handed them to me, fresh out of the smoker. Tasted like seafood candy. Atop a cracker smeared with cream cheese – heavenly. The Dog eyed me the entire time I sat in the recliner with my feet up gorging on one after another, “What, you’re not sharing any of that?

Our friend Chris who lives in Virginia is up for a two week visit. She and HW drove to Fairbanks to visit with HW’s brother and family. One of his two daughters is now taller than HW. Crazy, it seems like it was just yesterday they were mere munchkins playing us for the amatuer parents we are.

As the garden grows higher the days grow shorter. Bad year for tomatoes and peas, yet the potatoes – if the volume of their greens is any indication – are loving the cool weather. The raspberries are starting to come, yet it’s too early to predict the size of the harvest. The grass keeps growing like mad. Must’ve been that fertilizer and lime I dumped on it a few weeks ago. Note to self: Don’t do that again, you won’t have to mow so often.

I recently got a new phone, a Samsung S8, along with a pair of 3D virtual reality goggles and a wireless charging station for a ridiculously low price during one of those super-duper, 24 hour-only Amazon Prime shopping days. I saved like $275. I prefer to buy locally but with deals like that whatya gonna do? I invited HW to try the 3D experience. For her demo, I played a snippet from Jurassic World where a life-size Brontosaurus stands up and walks right at you, then peers into your eyes from what seems like two feet away. She was like everybody else who tries it for the first time, head bobbing and squirming in her chair the whole time – “Whoa! Whoa!!…” Funny.

The user manual for the goggles included an unusually long list of cautions, like how to avoid seizures, interference with medical devices, repetitive stress injury, etc. The most amusing one was: “Do Not Bite or Suck the Device.” That reminded me of an instruction that came with a complimentary shower cap in a hotel where we once stayed – “Fits Just One Head.”

Seriously?

Look honey, we can save the hotel money if we stretch this around both our heads and shower together!

Recently, one of our senate critters was one of only three republicans to defect and vote NO on a bill to continue the debate on the Repeal & Replace act. Like most things I’m of two minds about this. 1) Not surprised that hard core republicans are pissed at her. For them, she’s a traitor to her party and its most hallowed cause (now defeated). 2) Completely understand why she did it – many people in Alaska are on Obamacare (~ 16,000 of 19,000 receive a subsidy) and many more are on medicaid, which would have been threatened by the Repeal & Replace act. Given those facts she voted to protect many of the very people who sent her to Washington to represent them. I think that’s what we’ve been told is the way representative democracy is supposed to work?

Nevermind that the cost of a premium in Alaska really has skyrocketed, way higher even than the rest of the country, over 200% in the past four years. Worse, there’s only one insurer left up here writing individual policies – Premara.

The way I see it, either way Alaska is screwed. Keep Obamacare and premiums continue to rise (even if the increase is paid by the government in the form of a subsidy, doesn’t matter, somebody has to pay the increase). Repeal Obamacare and whole lot of Alaskans can no longer afford health insurance, or will eventually have greatly reduced medicaid benefits.

Oh well, it’s above my pay grade to fix the problem. Think I’ll fix myself a martini instead.

Summer, At Last

Happy Wife’s kayaking in Schoop Bay with the Merry Mermaids

Me? At home with The Dog.

Who turned up the heat?

76o today. People and animals were beside themselves.

Got my chores done, showered up and went downtown for dinner. Ordered a Maytag bleu cheese salad (small portion) topped with prawns and picked at it amid a few glasses of Bridlewood cabernet. I don’t get downtown much anymore. It was a pretty night for sure, the Lobelia in full bloom

A tourist enjoys a reindeer sausage

Tomorrow I leave for the Kenai River. Meeting up with friends to dipnet Sockeye.

Recall.

 

Bike Tour Recap

UPDATE: 7.7.2016 – Dr. Richard Handler’s tour photo album

It never fails that I get misty-eyed when a tour ends. Some came from California, some from Washington, others from Colorado. They’d paid their fee, booked their airfare, packed their bikes (or rented here), jammed their suitcases, left their families and professional lives behind and there I first saw them, down in the breakfast area of the Comfort Inn hotel in Anchorage, looking to me with a sense of wonder, expectant. Eight days later and poof, they’re gone. From leader to lonely heart I went, just that fast.

A long time ago I heard a story on the radio. A missionary was asked how he goes about converting indigenous people to Christianity. The part of his answer I recall is that he doesn’t start by preaching to them right away. He said where possible he likes to fulfill their basic human needs first – food, medicine, security, etc. – as a way to get them to warm to him first, and only then does he deal with their spiritual needs. Bike tours are similar. You have perfect strangers in a strange land looking to you to fulfill their expectations for a fun tour, but instead of jumping right into the itinerary, I find food & drink limbers them up. Happy Wife agreed and thought, Hey, let ’em eat Muktuk!

 

Let’s just say whale blubber is not the seduction I’d hoped for. It did not taste like chicken, though it did have the texture of uncooked chicken. Possibly one that had been left in the sun for an hour or so. Imagine feeding native people gumby erasers and then trying to teach them about Jesus. That’s not going to work!

Fortunately, we’d also brought a cheese and vegetable tray, salmon spread, moose jerky, crackers galore, two growlers of local craft beer, and several bottles of wine. Now that had ’em eating out of my hand. I could have told them anything and they would have believed me. For instance, Hey everyone, the forecast is sunny, warm, and dry the next seven days!

 

In fact, Day 1 was pretty nice. The nicest of seven (6 days riding, 1 day off). Seeing shadows makes a tour leader happy. There were eleven of us in total, plus my trusty SAG (Support And Gear) driver Sally, with Happy Wife providing lunch each day. Day 1 was titled Tour de Anchorage, a beltline ride around Anchorage on roads and trails hand-selected by yours truly. About 50 miles. The lunch special was moose chili, which they all loved except one (she averse to red meat). For her there was tuna salad.

On day 2 we left Anchorage behind and began what was supposed to be a 3-day ride to Seward. Girdwood was the goal for the day, about 50 miles. We got as far as the lunch stop (McHugh Creek), about 25 miles, when the headwind became so fierce (~ 35-40 mph) I decided with that, plus rain ahead, it was not prudent to continue. See those trees bent over? We reorganized the gear in the SAG van and everyone piled in. Some bikes went in the trailer, others on our Subaru. The day was a wash, we drove the rest of the way to Girdwood. Instead of McHugh Creek, we had lunch under the cover of the entrance to the day lodge near the ski lift, listening to the pitter patter of rain and trying to stay warm. Couldn’t have been more than 55o or so. I grabbed my phone and checked the radar. What I saw did not make a tour leader happy. However, our digs that night I was sure would thrill my peeps (I’d begun to feel like their Mother Hen). I managed to get the good guy Alaska rate at the Alyeska Prince hotel, much more posh than is expected on this sort of tour. I figured by morning they’d be eating out my hand, weather be damned.

In spite of the forecast Day 3 was looking good as we pedaled away from the hotel. At least it wasn’t raining. Even when we turned south onto the highway the wind wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Wildlife Conservatory it was in our face again, although not quite as bad as the previous day, and it had started to spit rain, and get cooler still, maybe 52o? No matter to this bunch, they all wanted to see the animals anyway. We paid the fee and pedaled around the muddy park road. We saw bison and deer and caribou and fox and lynx and even a grizzly asleep on a log

 

Not a frown in the house despite the horrid weather

To say my peeps were troopers this day doesn’t capture it. After that we climbed to Turnagain Pass and had lunch (pulled pork sliders), descended briefly to Hope Junction, and then finished the day with a sturdy climb to Summit Lake Lodge. Still all smiles

During dinner at the lodge that night I looked at the radar again and was sure Day 4 would be a wash. Not so! The next morning it was a tad warmer and not raining, although the sky still had the color of day-old muktuk. I decided we’d take it ten miles at a time, have the SAG wait until everyone passed, and then try the next ten miles, and so on. Before we knew it we were at lunch for the day (~25 miles) and still no rain. Everyone seemed pleased with the venue, and the gourmet sandwiches

BFFs

Ten miles out of Seward, our destination for the day, it started to rain. Not surprising. Once again, no one seemed to care

Later that evening, in the hotel lobby, I discovered one of my peeps is a concert pianist

We also had three retired MDs on the tour, one 70 years old, Richard, another Richard, 65, and Jim, 75. This was the Jim’s 80th (!) multi-day bike tour. When asked where his favorite tour was he said Viet Nam, a tour he actually led, more than once. He’s also toured in countless other countries but never in Alaska, until last week. I first met Jim on a tour in Northern California. Was proud to have him join mine. Earlier in the day Richard (#1) tried to hook up with a local, although if you ask me she was a bit stiff

Day 5 was theirs to do as they wished in Seward. Also known as a day off. And then it was back to Anchorage by train for them, Sally drove the SAG and Happy Wife, myself, and the Black Dog followed in the Subaru.

The next day looked good weather-wise, so Happy Wife suggested we do the Independence Mine climb in Palmer instead of the scheduled ride for the day, seeing as bad weather was forecast to be moving in again, and of the two days left to ride, Independence Mine was one not to be missed. So everyone piled in the SAG, the bikes in the trailer, and we were off to Palmer, an hour’s drive north of Anchorage.

The weather held and actually improved. By the time we reached the base of the climb most of my peeps were in short-sleeved jerseys. First time in the entire tour

After nearly 4000 feet of climbing the caribou sliders at lunch never tasted better.

Back in Anchorage, day 6 came in angry and never let up. Chilly and raining all day. Nobody wanted to ride and neither did I. My peeps scattered to do things in Anchorage. Later that evening we had our group dinner to say our good-byes

Left to Right: Tom, Karen, Diane, Me, Sally, Richard, Beth, Jim, Suzanne, Happy Wife, Richard, Dan (SB not shown, bathroom?).

Until next time my friends, here’s wishing you tailwinds beneath a fair sky always…