Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rain Day: Part Deux

Raining non-stop. Over an inch or rain (=ice) on some roads. School canceled because of the warmth!

Warm it is here in Fairbanks. Jackets are missing for the most part as temperatures hover above the freezing point. The roads are improving as the ground slowly thaws out. I managed to escape the slushy grasp of my driveway as the many inches of hard-packed snow gave way. Having a two-wheel drive truck in Alaska is definitely a humbling experience.

I keep on taking the risk of leaving my cabin because it is the only way to learn how to drive in icy conditions. I just remember what I was taught many years ago in driving school (yes, I went to "school"). It is fair to say that Alaska never has "snow days", but it has "rain days". Forty below should not slow you down any!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but concentrating on driving is a top priority for me. Also, I do not want to stop moving because I may never get the darn truck moving again! Momentum is an important part in gaining traction, I have found. Luckily, the rain will be switching over to snow tonight as the temperatures plummet to the negatives once again (Luckily?). It is true that I get annoyed when it warms up here.

For now I am sitting in College Coffeehouse grading my babel-sized stack of papers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Danger: ICE!

It is dark and rainy out on the roads. The ground still clings to the cold temperatures from bygone days. conditions are perfect for turning the roads into skating rinks.

An unusually warm pocket of air has affected almost all of Alaska today, and no one is happy about it. With the air temperature rising, the snow has turned into rain while the ground remains below freezing. Fairbanksans are finding the roads here downright impassible in many areas.

There are reports of multiple car pileups on the highway and many more in ditches scattered across town. I left my cabin this morning with the reasoning that the best way to learn how to drive on ice is to do it. Talley ho! As soon as I left my cabin, I saw the Gray Line city bus in the ditch surrounded by flares. No good.

I crept along at a snail's pace, giving the three cars in front of me enough room for me to stop. Stopping is not easy, however. Even the tiniest change in speed seemed to cause trouble and loss of traction. Oh, to have four-wheel drive right now! I had escaped Farmers Loop Road, but then had to tackle the hill to upper campus.

Progress was good up until the halfway point whereby my tires ceased to grip the road. The truck came to a halt and slid backwards until the tires regained traction. I was in a bit of a quandary. How do you get an object with no traction up a steep hill? The answer is you cannot. Sitting in the idling truck, I though long and hard about how to solve this dilemma.

A man in a navy blue UAF truck pulled up and offered a solution. He got out and slid (not walked) to my truck and tossed salt under my wheels. After trying this several times, but to no avail, he left me with the promise of a gravel truck. Cars behind me were annoyed and attempted to go around me. They eventually slid back to where I was, much to my amusement.

Once the gravel truck arrived, I was able to gain traction and head up to upper campus. Classes were canceled of course, but I came up here for the experience and to work. It is still dark outside, but lightening up a bit. I hope the ice is taken care of soon!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter: The Signs

It was dark and cool when I pulled into my snowy driveway. As I walked up to my cabin everything seemed normal until I heard a rustling, crashing sound to my right. I stopped in my tracks immediately.

Moments passed as the list of large animals that could possibly be out there flashed through my mind. Moose? Bear? Sarah Palin?

Suddenly, I heard another crashing sound to my left. This time I could see it. Snow sliding off of my slanted metal roof. I breathed a sigh of relief and entered my cabin a little wiser. 

Winter is definitely here in Alaska. The signs can be seen all around town. The easiest one to spot is the marshmallow blob on cars. The snow in Fairbanks is not like the snow in most places. It is very dry and powdery. In fact, it is so dry that you cannot make a snowball or a snowman with it. This also help when you want to get the snow off of your car in the morning. You can simply brush it off with little effort. You do have to make sure that you dust off your license plate, too!


Another sign is the large amount of cars in ditches. Apparently, the people of Fairbanks forget that ice is inherently slippery. Winter happens every year people! Plus, it lasts for the majority of the year! How can you forget to drive carefully on ICE! Sigh.

The remedy for this problem is the next sign. Namely, the whirring, clicking sound of studded snow tires. These are a must for those who have 2-wheel drive (me), who are magically drawn to ditches, who like the movie Tokyo Drift, or those who are from Colorado (You people only THINK you can drive on ice).

Amazingly, this leads into the next one perfectly (witch!(warlock?)). There is an abundance of snow plows/blowers buzzing about. These can come in all sizes from hand-propelled to massively large trucks the size of Brittney Spear's trailer (home?). I even have a buddy in the snow-plowing business (plow my driveway, Joe!). 

This last one may be the most obvious as well as the oddest. The sun tends to race across the sky at a rapid pace (lower angle, too!). I have definitely noticed this recently. It is not uncommon to get up and go to school/work and completely miss the day. Currently, it starts getting dark around 3 pm with a sun rise around 9:30am. I try to make an an effort to go outside and do errands during the daylight hours. If not, then it can do weird stuff to your body. 

Well, I hope y'all enjoy Fall wherever you are. I am sorry for the lack of posts recently. School. That is my excuse. There will be more to come soon, I promise. 

Sun Dog-Taken at "high" noon

Strange light spires formed in the icy atmosphere.

View facing South from Farmers Loop Road by my cabin.

View facing West towards my cabin.