Sunday, September 28, 2008

Changing seasons in Alaska

Seasons in Alaska are different than in the lower 48.  Whereas, in 
Texas, we used to dread the coming of summer with its record-
breaking temperatures and high humidity, we now welcome the
season.  And even though different durations, we still have all 4 

This summer (that time from June to August) we visited the 
mainland, or main area of Alaska.  We actually were there during 
August. Temperatures ranged from the 40's to upper 70's.  When
we reached Fairbanks we were amazed at the number of flowers.
They were at businesses as well as homes and were all colors and
types. Each small town seemed to have a farmer's market as well. 
It seems that their growing season is from June to August only. 
But with daylight lasting from 19-23 hours,the plants grow at
tremendous rates. This accounts for the extremely large veget-
ables we saw at the markets.

Now, not all 3 months are considered summer to these 
folks.  Basically, June is designatedas spring with the
temperatures staying above freezing, and August is
autumn since the temperatures are beginning to drop
and the leaves are starting to change color.  So, that
leaves July for summer. The temperatures are comfort-
able, the plants are growing, and everyone is outside.

Kodiak does not have the extreme temperatures that 
are evident in Fairbanks.  As a result our seasons are
more typical. We have to start mowing the lawn in May 
and just finished the end of September.  Temperatures 
are comfortable during these months. It might occasionally
freeze at night but the days warm up to a comfortable
upper 60's or low 70's. We are able to wear our short 
sleeves and shorts and spend quality time outdoors.

Now that October is here, we are seeing the leaves change.
This lasts for a few weeks before they all fall off.  Autumn
is short and with the changing weather comes the time we 
have to consider putting studded tires back on the cars. 
There is some snow on the mountains in the distance.  We
probably won't have any snow until November and even 
then it will not amount to much.  

Winter is an entirely different topic, so I'll write later about
the problems when days are short and people get tired of 
being cooped up.

If you would like to see some photos of our changing scenery,
go to:

or photos of the Fairbanks flowers during the summer:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Progress in Kodiak

In any town there is always some excitement when a new business 
opens or there is a change in the way the city operates. That is especially
evident in the town of Kodiak. Although we boast a population of almost 
10,000, if you count the outlying areas, we are quite supportive of new
businsses. This was particulaly obvious when we had a new eating
establishment open. The turnout on opening day was phenomenal! Even
the owner commented that other openings had not had near this 
enthusiasm. With the grand opening there were cars filling the parking lot
and people in line to order. Yes, Taco Bell had come to Kodiak and
people were excited. In fact, the demand was so great that the wait in
line was up to 2 hours. And someone else reported that they waited 3
hours in the drive-thru lane. The last time I drove past, on Friday evening,
most booths were full inside and there were 7 cars waiting in the drive-
through lane. Where in the lower 48 can you see this much support for
the local economy? Maybe it was the combination with Kentucky Fried 
Chicken that brought the people. We really don't know, but everyone 
agrees thatwe are seeing progress in the town.
This opening does not come close to one a few years earlier. This 
store brought so much community support that their grand opening at 
midnight found cars filling the parking area, people standing in long 
lines at the door, and cars lining the street for over one mile with 
people anxious to see what the store had to offer Kodiak. This support
was for our own mini-Walmart. It's not nearly as large as most, but 
can you imagine if we ever got a Super Walmart what would happen?
New eating establishments aren't the only progress here.  The city
just completed some road rennoavations. This prior intersection had a
flashing red and yellow light. With the completions we now have
our first traffic signal that changes from red to green. Wow! We also 
have a police car nearby to remind citizens that the lights is different 
from the prior one. Now, we have to remember that a few years ago the
city tried to make this change. There were 4 car accidents in one
morning. By the afternoon they were back to the blinking light. We will
have to wait and see what happens this time. The only other intersection
that comes close is the 3-way stop sign near one of the elementary
schools (we have 4).
As the city continues to plan for the future we hope to see more
progress occurring. But as things go now, we wil just have to wait and 
see. If you would like to see a few recent photos of our city, here is a 
gallery of photos:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Catalog Ordering

I realize that some of the things that happen in Kodiak are due to the fact that we are a small town. Recently, however, living on an island in the state of Alaska has created new difficulties. Yes, shopping is limited. We have a Walmart and a local sporting goods store, Mack's. There are other smaller stores, but these are most frequented. They even have sales every so often. We were notified the other day that Mack's had a 20% coupon and Carlos and I couldn't decided what we needed the most. Was it new waterproof pants or long underwear for winter? We are still undecided, but we have through the weekend.

Other times, the items we want are not available. You have to go online or catalog shop for these things. Now, normally, if you live in the Lower 48 (this is Alaska language), you can get overnight shipping if you are in a hurry. Even 2-3 days shipping is easily attained and frequently even free. Such is not the case here.

I recently found an item in a major department store online catalog. It was exactly what I needed and it stated that shipping was free in the United States.  Well, I really thought that the Alaska Territories became a part of the United States in 1959. Maybe I was mistaken, but shipping was not free to Alaska. In fact, I have since found that many stores will not even ship to Kodiak. This does create somewhat of a problem at times.

What is a little more interesting is the UPS situation in Kodiak.  We recently had an item recalled by the company. They explained that a pre-paid UPS sticker would be send to us and we only needed to have the UPS pick up the item. We know that the UPS truck travels the island. We've received packages. But when you try to schedule a pick-up, the automated telephone person states that there is no such delivery area. This was a problem.

We started asking others in the neighborhood if they had ever encountered this problem. Needless to say, they had. And their need to watch for the driver when he is making deliveries and flag him down! I think we've taken a step backwards in this area.

Yes, we finally got a package picked up, but it was only because there were regular deliveries at the hospital and Carlos was able to slip our package with theirs.

From now on, let's hope most deliveries are via FedEx. They have an office.