29 January, 2009

Monitoring "Minute by Minuet"

The same site that tells me to drive with a tarp over my car says that the observatory is going to be monitoring this situation "minute by minuet". It's good that their on-air show is better than the articles on the web site. (Well, I suppose the articles are fine, they're just not very clear...)

We're still at the Orange Alert for volcanic eruption of Mount Redoubt. The last time this one went was 20 years ago. Apparently then they got about 23 hours of notice before it started. So far, we're finishing up day 2 without the "big" action. So we shut down and covered the equipment at work again. I took pictures today. Note the Christmas tree, don't mind the mess. My desks are always in some state of chaos - sometimes they're just more organized than other times, but they're always chaotic.

So on the way home I went to the store. We've got plenty of food at home - non-perishable and in the freezer. Greg is going to pick up more propane - we can use it for the grill and we have a couple propane heaters (from camping), in case the power goes out. We've got candles & batteries. Greg is going to pick up air filters for the cars. I got water tonight, and filled my tank with gas - not sure why on the gas, it just sounded good. I think we're just about ready.

If it does blow, my main concern is driving. I don't want to damage the car, but I know I'm going to have to go into work for at least a bit. Or if I'm at work, I'm going to have to get home. Wonder if auto insurance covers damage due to volcanic ash being sucked into the engine? I might have to check. According to the news, if you have to drive it shouldn't be over 30 mph and you should change your oil every 50-100 miles. Damn!

To top it off, we're slated for more snow over the next few days. They say we can have snow & ash fall at the same time. Greg says that's concrete. =) We'll see how it goes...

28 January, 2009

Volcano Watch - Orange Alert

We're on Orange Alert (Watch) for volcanic eruption from Mount Redoubt (pronounced reed-out). It's all over the news, and there are all kinds of tips for emergency preparedness: three days of non-perishable food & bottled water; face masks; bring your pets inside (The ash can get into the water supply, and remember this for your animals. There are no masks for them, so keep them inside and have their food and water supply ready as well.); if possible, don't drive. Seems that stores are having a rush on respirator masks. Volcanic ash is nasty stuff.

At work, we put plastic bags over all the computer equipment before leaving (after turning it all off, of course). I didn't think to get a picture before I left, but it looks like I'll have another chance. According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, "we would expect such an eruption to begin within the next few days or weeks". My desk and workbench have been hermetically sealed (mostly). I didn't cover the power strip (because I didn't want to crawl around in the dust under the far side of my desk). If we do get ash fallout, I'll just deal with it then. But my phone, computers, monitors, mice, & keyboards (as well as the toys that sit on my monitor, the fiber optic Christmas tree that I haven't put away yet, and the paper airplane-a-day calendar) are protected. Whew!

One of the news articles has a great tip: When it comes to driving cover your car with a tarp. If the ash fall is severe do not drive at all. I know that it'll be hard for me to drive with a tarp over my car, not to mention dealing with the potentially severe ash fall, but I'll manage somehow.

25 January, 2009

Roller Derby, Yeah!

We made our second trip to see the Rage City Roller Girls last night. Let me tell you... watching roller derby bouts is *Fun*!! This is a relatively new sport here in Anchorage, but it seems to be catching on quite well. We have two teams: the Dirty Polli's (black & white) and the Sockeye Sallys (black & red). The crowds are really energetic, and it's easy to cheer for a team... any team.

How did we find out about this, you might ask? Well, it seems that Greg works with Mr. Furious, a referee at the bouts. How did we pick a team to root for? Mr. Furious's wife (Mrs. Furious) skates for the Dirty Polli's, so that sounded like a good enough connection to start. The basic rules are relatively easy to learn, so right away you can start cheering - and there's plenty to cheer about!
Dirty Polli's Mascot: Ken B. Bribed
Here's the basics:
  • Each team has five members in play: the jammer (star on helmet), the pivot (stripe on helmet), and three blockers
  • The pivots lead the pack and also act as blockers
  • The pack starts at the whistle, the jammers wait until the pack has gone 20' then they start
  • The jammers skate through the pack, lap them and try to skate through again, gaining a point for each opposing team member passed (so they have to pass through once for no points and start scoring on the second go)
Lead jammer
  • The first jammer to break through the pack without penalties the first time becomes the lead jammer (not sure what the bonus of this is, except that only the lead jammer can call off a jam)
  • Jams last for up to two minutes or until the lead jammer calls it off
Jammer for Sockeye Sallys out front;
Pivot for Dirty Polli's is down;
Pivot for Sockeye Sallys is behind the jammer
There's an animated video on YouTube for rules here. Right away, there's plenty to cheer about and people to root for; lots of pushing and bumping (but no fighting allowed); plenty of spills and thrills. The energy from the crowd is contagious and fills the air. We went early to get seats and because Greg was taking pictures as part of the event. (Pictures here are courtesy of Greg, as none of mine turned out and he was given free run of the place with his press pass.) The Polli's won this time, but lost in December so I'm looking forward to the next match: February 28th.

09 January, 2009

Heading Home - Day Two (01/06)

For the last bit of our vacation, we arranged a long layover in Seattle so we could visit some friends. Holly met us at the airport with Zane, who's grown immensely since the last time we saw them (see post here). We went back to the house to collect everyone, including Stephanie, whom I haven't seen in positively *ages*! Our second trip to an Olive Garden, where I gorged on bread sticks & salad. I really do wish we'd get one here... and it really was like I was with family! =)

After lunch, we went back to the house to visit some before hooking up with Sheri & Jeannea for dinner. No sight seeing or rushing around, just spending time with old friends that I haven't seen for way too long. I really do wish we were closer - or that it wasn't so expensive to get Outside to visit people. An afternoon every few years doesn't really give me the time I'd like to spend with mis amigas. But I suppose it's better than nothing (especially since I don't write or call like I should).
The Girls

The Boys

Thanks to Jeannea's help, we made it to the restaurant (I forget the name, but was excited because I could throw peanut shells on the floor - yay!). We were actually on the right road, but just a bit confused.

And now we're home. The fun is just about over - I took the rest of the week off work so I could recuperate and get housework done, but I'm also fighting off the cold that Greg passed to me. I avoided it the whole trip, only to succumb when we get home. I have to say that it's good to be home in some ways: my own king-size bed, the cats; but in other ways, I'm not at all happy: it's been below zero for quite a while now. It looks like it might start warming up - at least to above zero during the daytime - but I'm really not a fan of the cold. =( Oh well. I have a heating blanket, and the cats help keep me warm (oh, and the hubby too!)...

Heading Home - Day One (01/05)

The ultimate goal for today's journey is to get to M's place so we can sleep for a bit before we return the rental car and get on an airplane. But before we get there, there's *loads* to see. We opted to go a different route through the canyon for the return trip, so we could see more of the scenery. Additionally, this will take us close to Red Rock Canyon & Bryce Canyon - where we'll detour to take in even more.

An arch - has the rock fallen away from the top of the arch (making it taller) or from the back of the rock (making it deeper)?

A hoodoo - the rock on top (like the helmet) is harder than
the rock in the spire, so it will eventually collapse

Greg climbing rocks

Sara, with her eyes wide open =)

An arch in Red Rock Canyon

Signs like these are all over Bryce

A cool tree and a Hawaiian snowman

I think Bryce Canyon is even more amazing than Zion. When I asked Greg why we didn't go to Bryce for the weekend instead, he mentioned a lack of facilities and that because it's at a higher altitude it's colder. I must admit that the temps were lower and the wind chill kept me from looking at a couple of the views.

I just love the colors!

We left the canyons around 5pm, but getting home was slow going. Encountered a snow storm, so we didn't travel over 40mph for quite a while. Even when we made it to the interstate we didn't get to take advantage of the high speed limits, as conditions weren't great. Oh well. We made it to M's around midnight - safe & sound.

On tap for tomorrow: Spending the day in Seattle with Holly & co.; final leg home.

Zion - Day Two (01/04)

We had breakfast as a group (except mom, who wasn't feeling well), then went back to the rooms to look at some of the pictures Greg has been taking before mom & Dave took off for home. Greg started the show at the beginning, but it would've taken a couple hours to get to the Zion pics, so he skipped directly to Zion and started again from there. We watched photos for about an hour, when the slide show crapped out for some reason. But we'd only made it through part of the hiking we'd done the day before. Greg has taken lots & lots of pictures. He's going to clean them up, then make a DVD that we're going to send to each of the family. A souvenir of the vacation - it'll be lovely!

Sara & I dropped Greg at a hike and then headed into town to do some shopping in Springdale. It's a quaint little town with lots of artsy shops. We found an internet cafe and were supposed to get coordinates for earth caches, but I couldn't figure out how to get the laptop to see the cafe's network access. Later, Greg showed me there's the equivalent of an on/off switch on the laptop. Who knew? =) But Sara & I found lots of pretty baubles before we had to head back into the park to pick Greg up. Once we were all together again, Greg opted not to do yet another hike, and instead went back into town with us to do more shopping.

We had a nice dinner at Wildcat Willie's and Greg got some really good shots of sunset. After our leisurely dinner, we went back to the internet cafe so Greg could get the coordinates he was looking for. It was a wonderful, relaxed day.

On tap for tomorrow: Check out; touring Bryce & Red Rock Canyons; heading to SLC to crash at M's place before flying out on Tuesday.

Zion - Day One (01/03)

It's quite amazing to wake up, step outside your room, and enjoy the view below. The scenery in Zion is spectacular - enough that pictures and words just don't do it justice.

I don't know that I'd opt to stay at the same location, should we make this trip again in the future. There was no complimentary breakfast, no mini-fridges in the rooms, and no internet (except in the lobby, which was in another building entirely). On the other hand, all you had to do was wake up, throw on clothes, and walk outside the building - then you were in the park with hikes and grandeur at your fingertips. Greg got up before the sun so he could hike to a good spot to take pictures of the sunrise and be back to have breakfast with us before 10am. From there, we went to Weeping Rock - a short hike, moderately steep, made a little tougher because of the icy snow-pack on the trail. But definitely worth the trouble.
Aaron, Marideyza, & Baby Amy had to leave after Weeping Rock so they could get home to AZ. It was sad to see them go, but I'm grateful that we had this time together. It was great to see them again, and especially nice to meet the new niece. She's a doll!! Safe travels, Little Brother! We'll see you again soon...

The next trail we took was called Riverside Walk. It's not nearly as steep as Weeping Rock, but it's longer. In the summer (or when there's no snowpack on the trail), it would have been a breeze and even mom could have come. As is was, the snow did cause havoc for us - but once again, the view was worth the trouble.

The trail does go beside a river, and we got to see more weeping rocks along the way. A steep part covered in chunks of icefall over top the granulated snow-pack triggered my phobia - maybe vertigo? It's not a fear of heights. It's an icy certainty that when I'm close to an edge I'm going to lose my balance and fall. It's worse when there's loose rock (or ice), since those could give way at any moment, with any footstep, and I can see in my mind myself and those I'm clinging to for dear life going over the edge and our ragged, broken bodies on the ground below. I have to admit I cried like a baby. But I made it past the spot with help (I might still be stuck there today if I were left on my own), and the view was definitely worth the trauma. I don't know if this phobia is something I can get over by doing more hiking and becoming more confident in my abilities, or if I just have to acknowledge that I'm going to be affected and make sure there's someone around I trust to help me through the bad parts. I suppose I'll just have to keep on, and at some point look back to see if it's changed.

After that hike, it was close to 3pm and we'd been told that sunset would happen at 3:45pm, so we headed out to a spot that was great for viewing the colors. While waiting for the bus... I mean sunset... we formulated a plan for future family get-togethers. It's going to be exciting and fun - new places, new adventures! Sunset was much later than we'd been told, so we sat in the car for a while to warm up. Then we collected Greg and headed into town for some sustenance.

Dinner in Springdale - this time we went to Oscar's. Dave had the Murder Burger with sweet potato fries - which sounded pretty tasty. All the food was mighty fine, and we splurged on dessert - homemade carrot cake and brownies... YUM! The evening was very pleasant after dinner, and even in the dark the scenery is magnificent. My poor camera does it little justice, but one shot turned out okay.

On tap for tomorrow: Mom & Dave head home - want to see some pics before they go; Greg's got more hiking to do; Sara & I are going shopping - yay!

08 January, 2009

Zion - The Beginning (01/02)

Today was the day to check out of the hotel, run a few errands, get some lunch, and hit the road south to Zion. Everything went fairly smoothly - although I would have liked an hour or two more in bed, but the free breakfast (and coffee) helped make up for lack of sleep. One of the stops before leaving was to Lehi Roller Mills. A couple years ago, I picked up some gourmet mixes - two muffin mixes (raspberry & blueberry) and a pancake mix (cinnamon). They were *heavenly*! I wanted MORE - and this was the perfect time to get some. At the mill, I found another vending machine for my collection. This one may look like a regular soda machine, but how many soda machines do you know of that are outside in the snow?? This is the first I've seen... and so it fits. (Chad, I'm still looking for the iPod vending machine in the airports...)

From there, we headed out to meet the rest of the troups for lunch before leaving. En route, I found a mystical sight: Orem has standing stones. Like Stonehenge in England. Now, I doubt these have faeries or magical properties, but they're pretty cool lawn ornaments. It's part of the decor for a physical rehabilitation center - the building itself was pretty cool too, but the stones are what got my attention.

We had a great lunch at Fud Ruckers. (If you haven't seen the movie Idiocracy, you should check it out - funny and kind of scary too, but don't let the kids watch. Fud Ruckers is briefly in the movie.) Once we finished dining, we hit the road...

The entire trip is about 300 miles (270 miles according to Google Maps). A fair distance, but once we hit the interstate, the speed limit was 75 & 80 practically the whole way. We stopped in Kolob Canyon breifly as the sun was setting to get some pictures. It's gorgeous there!

When we hit Springdale (a great little town just outside the park), we stopped at a gas station to do the necessaries, but also to ask about places for dinner. The helpful attendant listed a few places, and we decided on The Benten Spur... which Greg corrected me was actually The Bitten Spur... I think I need my ears cleaned out, since the sign clearly shows it's The Bit & Spur. At least I had the Spur part right. =) (I had a similar experience New Year's Eve: Sheri asked me a question, but I wasn't sure what she said so I repeated it back to her... Winter s**t cell phone? Made no sense to me at all... until she repeated it: When are you shipping stuff home? My, that wax buildup can hamper communication!!) Anyhow! Dinner was *fabulous* and gave us just enough energy to get checked in and settled into the hotel before we crashed for the night.

On tap for tomorrow: Greg's early rise; hiking; some of the party departs; watching for sunset.

07 January, 2009

New Year's Day

New Year's Day was a laid-back, relaxed, spend-time-with-the-family day. It was one of the few days we actually slept in a little bit. And since the next day we were checking out and heading down to Zion National Park, we took a little tour of the town (Lehi). It's a quaint little place - home of the Lehi Roller Mills (which make *awesome* muffin mixes, hosted the dance in Foot Loose, and contains a geocache).

From there, we decided to get lunch so we stopped at Marley's House of Harley. There's not much variety on the menu - you're pretty much stuck with lots of variations of mini-burgers - but they're good and the atmosphere is fun. You can look right into the workshop and store for Harley - but no one was there this day. For one of his burgers, Greg tried a fried hot dog - it sounds crazy, but it was really tasty!

At the house, it was so laid back that Greg & Sara took a snoozer on the couch before we sat down to play another round of Killer Bunnies. We had lots of fun decimating the bunny circle with black holes, the ebola virus, and a miriad of other weapons. BTW: You can't win (even if you have a carrot) if you don't have a bunny in play when the last carrot leaves the market - your carrots are given away to someone who does have a bunny. I didn't win - but I had a lot of fun playing!

The whole evening was good. Amy & Mom made lemon pies - then Dave made meringue for the first time ever... I think it turned out pretty good for his first time - seeing as he didn't even bother to look up a recipe or anything. =)

On tap for tomorrow: We're checking out of the hotel and heading down to Zion National Park.