Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hang in there neighbor, its almost spring

That's all I can think when I see the pitiful state of our moose that have survived (so far) this winter. It has to have been one of the toughest winters for them ever on record. They seem to be everywhere right now and a lot of them aren't moving far like this guy who has adopted the grassy snow less area under our roof eves.  He's been with us now for about a week. The snow is going fast, its getting up into the 40's but theres so much of it that its sticky and almost impossible for them to walk and forage in...if they could find fresh feed. Of course its mother nature at work and enough will survive to carry on the herd but its just sad to see such a big part of our community in such dire straits. This moose here looks like he could die anytime so I've been keeping an eye on him so when he looks to be a about to leave the planet I might be able to coax him into the woods, away from our house. I guess maybe its only us Alaskans who have ever had to really think about how to deal with a 600 pound fatality in your yard, I hope I don't have to. In this case its tempting to help him out with some veggies and maybe some hay but everyone says that's a big mistake as well as  illegal. Even though our moose is in bad shape he seems way healthier than this one who HAS been  fed at the Fred Meyer store. He's lost his will and just sits there day after day waiting for more hay. I guess the lesson is that if you do feed them....keep feeding them.

As you can see he's stripped the bark off all the decorative pine trees, I kind of doubt its very nutritious. But all over the peninsula the alders, birch and willow trees look like the next pic. The one nice big willow tree that protects our boat launch on the upriver side is toast...But, it was us who built our town in the middle of their wintering grounds so I guess its part of the deal.

Our moose  comes to the house then goes and lays in the woods at what we call the overlook. I think even Jet knows that this animal needs to conserve its strength because she acts like having him around is an everyday affair, and I guess it is. So I'm just hoping we don't have another cold spell and most all of the ones I see make it. They really are cool and a big part of what I do, we love to see them swim and graze along the river. That's usually a common occurrence, a cool side bar to a wonderful outdoor experience. Me and my human neighbors are doing all we can to not stress them any further, give them the right of way, slow down when they're on the road so they won't run or slip. We take our snow shoes and make trails away from the house and into areas with a little bit of willow or young birch for them, its about all we can do. I think all the people around here feel like I do, we're rooting for the moose.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Be careful now

Like I said in the last post, I've been hearing that a lot lately. Well, I get back to my own domain, Mile 14, where I am supposedly the master of my own environment and guess what...I should have been careful.
That's a pic of the hole where I went through the ice at Mile 14 of the world famous Kenai River a couple of hours ago. It could have been worse, I always say you can't worry about what didn't happen but I am feeling kind of dumb for endangering myself and scaring least after she got done laughing . When it comes to the Kenai River I know for certain to never be complacent or assume things but it seemed to be so cold for so long while we were gone that I never dreamed the ice could be unstable.

Here's how it happened. We've been skiing a lot to get our exercise and its been fun.  The snow is so deep that it took us many days to get a track set down to Fall-in-Hole and through the swamp back to the boat launch. But today we decided that with the river so firm we'd ski up instead of down and look at the property below our house, access the beetle kill and the wind storm damage. Any of you that know the lay of the land here at Mile 14 knows that the bluff below our house runs straight down to the river and the water is extremely deep right next to shore. But, the old adage in Alaska is that if you see moose prints etc then the ice must be safe enough for you. Wrong. We skied out from shore up to 30 feet and jet was enjoying it although we did notice overflow water and decided that was enough. On the way back I spotted a limb protruding from the bank that would be perfect to put the camera on for a pic but when I got close my ski pole went through the ice and I could see water running. Well I'm right next to shore so I figure how dangerous can this really be and continue on when .....wooomp.....I go straight down and never touch the bottom. Yikes. I role over on the snow to the shore side my ski is caught under the ice and won't budge...that's when MP stopped laughing. She starts to come help but I tell her to get on the shore, shore for sure,  and I reach as far as I can and get hold of tree branch and it takes a few minutes but I finally get the ski out and stand up.
In that pic you'll notice everything I ignored. The water is deep. Being south facing the area is melting, as you can see theres bare ground right behind me. And we know that the velocity of the river is stronger along the bank here and swirls some that effects the freeze / thaw process.  No harm, no foul, just another lesson delivered to a guy still learning....the hard way. And the way I look at it is this ... if you stay home nothing will happen to you, but that's not me, I gotta go...

I wanted to post a couple pics of what we're dealing with in the snow department here. Its no news to all you Alaskans but I have to tell you that even though I kept up with the news while we were beach bound it didn't really sink in until I saw it. As creative as I think I am I just wasn't visualising what all the snow would look like. This pic is MP in the middle of the ramp we access the river with.
And this last pic is of course our house here at Mile 14. The snow has settled and I measured it at just under 2 feet. Today it warmed up and some of the load is leaving the south side of the house so I think we'll get through without shoveling like many people have. So now we're set for a world class break-up season to be followed by a world class fishing season...and I'm going to be careful, honest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Whenever we tell people that we do an extended stay in Mazatlan each winter we're often greeted with shock and the question , "aren't you scared". When we go out at night for supper in Mazatlan we often hear, "be careful". The fact of the matter is the place is dangerous, not the worst in Mexico but as it and Culican are the big cities in the Sinaloa province and controlled by the most powerful cartel in Mexico, it regretfully has its problems. I've been wanting to report on the situation but I also wanted to wait until we were home, I didn't want to scare anybody that loves us.

We only had two strange things occur to us this time and they were in the first 24 hours of our trip. Our first night we're jet lagged and tired but you know me...I gotta go to our favorite place , Arre Lu LU's. ( which incidentally is closing up like a lot of Mazatlan businesses after a 14 year run) We decide to sit inside and theres only us and a large Mexican family who are  sitting street side and maybe a staff of 3.  I'm half way through my first Pacifico when we notice the police with lights flashing drive down the street. They're not right in front of us but not far away as I can see the lights reflecting in the store windows across the street. MP and I are in the middle of a conversation when we both suddenly realize the restaurant is empty...the customers and all the staff are hiding in the kitchen. MP gets up and hides behind a concrete pilaster and I  say 'what the hell' and walk out to see  whats going on . Before long we see the staff peak out the kitchen door and things return to normal. Everyone acted as if it were a daily experience and I guess it is....the level of anxiety and fear is tangible, that night its like this...if the good guys are around so must be the bad guys. Then the next morning our friends car was broken into at the grocery store. So, we got our part of it out of the way early....Oh I guess there was a little bit more strangeness, but that was the biggy.

I guess I know enough about it that I could tell you about the cartels and the politics that made it come to what it is but I'd rather just tell you about how it effects us, Alaskans that love Mexico and the people.
I took that pic while sitting under the palapa at Rudy's on Stone Island one day. Security is everywhere and if you're a gringo they're keeping track of you, in a good way. We in the USA aren't used to seeing it so graphically but I've gotten real used to it. We just use some judgment, like when you''re walking and armed soldiers or police are on the street, just like the event at Arre Lu Lu's we go to the other side of the street or take another route. Its not so much that I think we could get caught up in a firefight its just that I have the feeling those ak 47's are loaded and I don't want to get caught up in an accident if a car back fires or whatever.

The Mexican Government is really trying. The view that visitors are in danger is ruining the tourist industry. In Mazatlan because its the worst of all the Pacific destinations tourism is down by 80% and all the cruise ships just sail by on their way to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. So during Carnaval this year the security was impressive. Like I say most of it is for show like the Navy gunship doing laps offhsore. 

A few years ago I was encouraged to not attend the Carnaval parade as it was just too dangerous and the thought was that something could happen just to show the power of the bad guys. Well this year that was taken care of. Even though the Malecon parade route is maybe 7 mile long, these guys could deal with whatever comes up. This ain't for show, mini guns armed and each man radio enabled , they waved at the crowd all the time ready to take care of business if needed.
So its easy to wonder, why put yourself through all that when theres so many nice places in the world to be? Well 1st, I've made friends there and you know how I am about loyalty. 2nd, its a magical place for me, its music, its fishing, its ahhhhh,,,,warm, I just love everything about Mazatlan accept this. 3rd....well I was bullied a bit in my life, I went to catholic school. So, in Jeff's world to not go to Mazatlan would be  like being bullied , and that ain't never happening again. I've worked to hard, seen to much to be intimidated out of anything I love and want to do, by anybody, anywhere...

The last week we were in Maz MP's got to go to the museum. Its really one of the cool things about Maz in thats its big working city with all the things you'd find in the USA.  The museum had its resident gallery with all they own, Mexican art by Rubio and other well known artists. But they also had a traveling gallery that was entitled ' Revolutionaries '.  It had no explanation how these guys were related or even if they were, but I found it strange .  What did they offer to and what was good or bad about the revolution...what ever it was. Its just art and I guess they don't have to relate meaning, you just take it for what it is and maybe the message is in the eyes, who knows?...Maybe the message is up to me, who knows ?

So for me this collection of faces underscores the confusion people have about Mazatlan. I guess its dangerous for some people in some places but never your everyday visitor like us. Its more of a feeling, its more perception, its in the air.  Trust me, if you go you'd have the greatest time in this special part of the world, no worries. And for my part, we're continueing to do what we do best....Thanks Mazatlan for another wonderful stay, see you again soon...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I remember a blog I wrote  when we first arrived in Mexico a couple years back, 'the world is not all the same' or something like that. Well, I had that same feeling when we touched down in Anchorage the other day. This is an extreme place with extreme people, like Mexico it takes a certain type. Like this guy who's checked luggage on a Penn Air flight to Kaltag included this scoop shovel. I asked him for the pic and he was more than happy to oblige, this wasn't your basic scoop shovel, aluminum scoop with an aluminum, handle and a graphite composite shaft. Who knows, in Kaltag that would make a pretty darn nice gift. 
The rest of his luggage included a Little Buddy Heater that needs no more explanation and two cases of motor oil...for airplanes. So these guys were in good humor headed home to Kaltag and I was too, going home to another place that's easy to find interesting.

MP and I got to wandering around the Ted Stevens International  Airport which is a shrine to what legislative power can do, you , me, Max, Sam, Aunt Paula and Shaquile O'neil spent some lettuce on this place. Where else in the world would you see wild animals cruising through the escalators?  I think that's a Musk Ox, must be.... The next pic I'm printing big because this area of the airport is just gorgeous. You've heard of the 'bridge to no where', well this is the hallway to no where. Its the tunnel to the  Bill Sheffield Railway Depot that's never seen a train, well at least not many. The good news is that they rent it out for parties. Its closed but the hallway is open because its just to darn cool.... and us travelers always need to kill some time. The pics on the wall of the hall....(pretty good eh) are time lapse photos of the airport as it grew.
So I guess that's what Mexico and Alaska have in common for the guy that's looking for the unusual, lots of opportunity. The next pic I'm printing large as well so you get the entire effect. Now in America we might have one mannequin figure with a sign that says ' many colors available' but the place that I love just shows you. How cool. The bus was coming and I kinda wanted this shot or better and there were lots of people standing in my shot....well, you know me, no guts no glory, I kinda asked some people to kinda move....just like in America the guys thought it was funny and the women gave me THAT look,  but a few giggled.
Some things just jump out at you like this next pic. Mazatlan is full of perfectly groomed trees, and some of them even square. But this one here was by far the biggest, the squarest, the weirdest tree I've ever seen. For us in Alaska who cut + clear / drive by / heat with...trees, this pampered example is outstanding, But I'm not a dumb guy, its got a lot to do with shade for the people,...I think.

And you know I'm soft on VW's. So when I saw this VW limo I just had to make the pic. It kinda tells my story, I've owned a couple bugs and now I'm moving around and need something bigger, I'm kinda headed towards full circle and some day soon I'm buying that bug or something symbolic like it. I guess you're always at home when you notice and enjoy the marvels of where ever you are.... Mile 14, Mazatlan Mexico.....its really so similar if you ask me............

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I know I'm not an easy guy to be around sometimes. I'm kind of impetuous, kinda hard headed, kinda intense and used to getting my way, spoiled I guess. So its amazing to  me that today marks 34 years of MP being around me 24/7, she should be sainted and at the very least she should be highly paid...but she ain't...but for some reason, my dumb luck she loves me. That's how lucky I am....So let me give you a snap shot of what she went through for me yesterday.

She's got a terrible chest cold and needs to rest. Its blowing at our building so I convince her that it'll be warmer on Stone Island and she can lay around there as easy as here. Well, I'm dieing to get back there, I know we can find more dollars and the low tide is mid day and we still didn't get down to see how the double knit set at Estrella del Mar live, I've been wanting to see that golf community in the middle of no where. She agrees to my begging and after a stop at the pharmacy to get her some expectorant we're on the water taxi Marco Polo  on the way to the island...what a coincidence...MP !
So we go and have lunch with our friend Rudy at Pilis restaurant, the finest on the isla, MP always has the chicken and some tamale soup for me. Then its down the beach at 40 miles an hour, we gotta make time, theres alot to do and a lot to see, I gotta go go  go, Estrella Del Mar is 15 miles down the beach.....So if you're looking for a totally isolated place, where you can buy a condo for only $450,000 bucks or a nice beach front house for a cool 1.5 million and then have nobody to talk to...this is the place for you. Its a planned golf community that's as gorgeous as anything I've ever seen, including Las Vegas. But, the marketing department must have missed a few meetings...this place is eery quiet, theres nobody home, nobody.
So we head back north, against that 35 mph wind that was my bargaining chip to get to the island and oh boy...its bad. The salt cakes our classes, the sand is stinging our faces, MP doesn't have a coat....and I gotta stop for dollars. At one point I decide to head inland in hopes of finding the road that might be protected from the wind. But as I drive the 4-wheeler into the woods on what we in Alaska would call a trail I kinda sense disaster and having done enough really stupid stuff in my life to learn to respect that 6th sense I turn the 4-wheeler around and its back to the beach. No biggy , just 10 more miles to Rudy's....but by Jiminy...we got the dollars. Thank goodness MP was prepared and brought some ear plugs for herself ( that's how many rodeos she's been on with me ) or she'd have an ear infection to go with the chest cold.

We get home and shower the salt spray off of us and MP is actually feeling alright...and I gotta go, its my last Saturday night in Mazatlan and I have to play music at Aree Lu Lu's. She roles her eyes up and off we go. We had supper I played enough and on the way home I sensed her energy waning, no problem , I treat her to an indoor cab ride . ( in mzt they have the outside cabs called pulmonia's, which of course means pneumonia in Mexican )
So thanks MP, I know its not easy...but at least you ain't getting bored eh? You know I'm on that quest and I'm getting better, the next 34 I'm trying to make it less about me. Honest. But it seems to be working, we're crazy in love. Someone once asked her what the secret was for her. She said its easy, me and her are both in love with the same man. So tonight MP, its off to Topolo, the finest place in Mazatlan for our anniversary supper....we gotta go, go, go.     xoxoxoxoxox xo xox xoxo xo