Cross-country Runs

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins… we had to get up early as the cleaners were due at 7.30. We went out to the Bagel Factory for breakfast. Very nice bagel with far too much salad including bean sprouts that think they’re dental floss. And a huge gherkin (pickle) that even Liesel didn’t fancy.

Liesel had booked a massage at the gym so to keep her company, I walked fast on the treadmill for half an hour. Every time I do that, I think how much I prefer walking around outside. But I told myself that it was OK to be exercising inside when it’s so cold outside.

Boring photo of gym activity

Cold and wet. Klaus went out to run some errands, came back and told us about the big black cloud heading our way.

I was going to walk to Kincaid Park but by the time I’d got ready, it was raining really hard. Surely, I thought, they’ll cancel the cross-country race. But no.

In the end, I accepted a lift from Klaus and we watched the race that Asa took part in. It was cold and raining hard, just how I used to enjoy my cross-country runs at school. (I didn’t. See below(*))

Thanks to Jodi for the photo
Asa just finishing the race

There was a huge discrepancy between the actual temperature and what the internet told me. 16°C is 60°F. In fact, it was 47°F, a chilly 8°C.

47 chilly degrees
In a parallel universe, 60 degrees

We drove over to Aaron and Jodi’s in the evening for dinner and to be shown around the house. They’re off to New Orleans for ten days and Liesel and I are in charge of looking after Asa and Gideon!

They live downtown, nearer the city centre, so hopefully we’ll still be able to do some walking, even if much of it is inside the gigantic shops and department stores, away from the cold weather.

Did I mention that it has suddenly become really cold? Aaron commented that it was the first time he’d seen me wearing long trousers and long sleeves.

We have plans for our nephews: and that is meant in the best possible way, no manic laughter implied!!

(*) Yes, cross-country running wasn’t my favourite sports activity at school, mainly because I can’t run fast nor far, never could. I can still visualise the route through the woods at school, and how grateful I was when a friend, who lived nearby, showed us the shortcut.

A couple of years later, in a moment of madness, I volunteered to join the school team in a race which happened to be close to where I lived in Park Barn, Guildford. It was on what was then Bannister’s playing field, now occupied by Tesco. It was raining that day too, but at least I’d been taken most of the way home on the coach.

I was destined to come in last place from the very start, but my fate was sealed when, running back, my shoe became stuck in the mud and came off. Trying to pull a shoe out of thick clay, in the rain, while trying not to put the shoeless foot down and trying not to fall over was difficult but I managed. And yes, I secured my last place.

I was never picked for a cross-country team again, and I never volunteered.

Thirteen

We were hoping to visit Hope to join Una, Phil and Kiran for the day but Jyoti didn’t sleep much and Liesel’s knee wasn’t in a fit state to drive. It was also raining hard. All weasel excuses maybe, and I feel we let Una down, especially after her request to bring along some toilet paper.

Instead, we went out for breakfast with Liesel’s parents. Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant was very busy, lots of people and lots of stuffed animals. And upstairs, lots of photos from the old days.

Arctic fox (stuffed)
Beaver (stuffed)
Gwennie’s old car

The highlight of the day was the start of a new series of Doctor Who. There was a global simulcast, presumably to limit the number of spoilers. Jodie Whittaker is playing the thirteenth Doctor and we enjoyed this first episode. No, we didn’t watch it live, as we were out for breakfast. To make time for more adverts, BBC America didn’t bother with the opening titles nor the closing credits. So disrespectful to the production team.

There is a balcony outside the main bedroom at Klaus and Leslie’s house. It was built thirty years ago with half a dozen wooden planters attached. No plants can survive the winds that constantly bombard them. And a few days ago, one of the planters, earth and all, fell off and covered the Durango in soil. So this day, Liesel and I helped Klaus dismantle the rest of the planters before they had a chance fall onto my head.

In the process, the botttom fell out of one, missing Liesel, who was emptying the dirt by a rock wall. She did however suffere from water spray when we hosed the floor of the balcony down.

We met Una when she finished work and went for another walk along the coastal trail. Again, it was really clear and we could see Denali way over there.

View from the coastal trail

I found Jupiter, another point on the Planet Walk.

Jupiter on the coastal trail

On the return walk, for the first time, I felt the cold breeze and actually donned my jacket.

Una took us into the courtoom and we visited her office with the new artwork.

The court’s in session
Seal of the State of Alaska

How she gets any work done with a view like this is beyond me!

View from Una’s office window

The War Memorial in Delaney Park Strip is quite extensive, and it was very sad and moving to see that conflicts on the other side of the world are still claiming local lives.

Anchorage War Memorial
So sad and unnecessary

Twitter told me that there would be an announcement on BBC 6 Music about David Bowie. It was on at half past midnight our time and I couldn’t not tune in to listen! The exciting news is that there will be two TV programmes featuring David Bowie. The first is this month: an hour from the two-hour set he performed at Glastonbury in 2000. Then, next year, another documentary in the Five Years series. David Bowie: The First Five Years includes stories from his early auditions at the BBC, 1964-1968, I guess. I’ve asked Jenny to record both for me, but anyone else in the UK, please record these for me, I’ll come round and watch them when we get back, and I’ll be your best friend forever!

Despite staying up late, we had to get up early next day as Liesel had another physio appointment. More dry needling in the butt.

I walked up to Kaladi on Jewel Lake Road where she picked me up to go to CostCo, woohoo.

The main objective here was to receive our flu jabs. Flu shots, as they say here. My resistance had finally been worn down by the combined forces of my wife and two daughters and I had my very first flu vaccination. It didn’t hurt at all. Pulling the plaster off my hairy arm later did hurt. Liesel also had a tetanus jab. Hepatitis A and B was on offer too, but I’ll need time to think about that.

In the evening, Jyoti drove us to the Beartooth for dinner. Una joined us as did Suvan and Kayla. Later that evening, Jyoti left for Indianapolis. We’ll see her again in February, in Australia.

After all the needles poked into her today, I’m glad Liesel didn’t drink too much water, she would have leaked like a cartoon watering can.

Traffic

One constant source of amusement here in Anchorage, and probably the rest of the state, is the imagination used in devising 6-character long personalised car number plates. Often, they’re on the road going too fast to grab a photo, thanks, CMOMGO and DOMATH, but in car parks, no problem:

See you later
A bit of a cheat: these were in the Christmas shop at North Pole

One thing that grates on this British mind is the use of the word ‘handicapped’, as in ‘handicapped parking’, where we would use the word ‘disabled’.

I couldn’t find GLR 94.9 🙂

But the highways have to be admired for the almost compete absence of litter. There is some, of course, but you have to look for it. I wonder whether this is partly due to the signs warning of a potential $1000 fine for littering, compared with the threat of a hardly-ever imposed £50 fine at home in the UK?

And we do like the signs warning or roadworks ahead. From a distance, one looks like a small person with his arms in the air. In fact, it’s a pair of orange flags fluttering in the breeze. And as for the bollards, I think these would win in a fight with British bollards.

Bollards

Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately, invites the sign. I can’t imagine this going down well with the hard-done-by British motorist .

Car drivers seem to be much happier to let me, a mere pedestrian, cross the road, even when I might be in the wrong place. Sometimes it’s hard to see the driver waving at me through the tinted windows, so I very cautiously walk across as I signal my appreciation.

But even after all this time, over two months in Alaska, I still have to look in all directions at least twice, I still have to concentrate really hard to work out from which direction the traffic is coming. Plus, of course, many of the roads are much wider than we’re used it in a town centre.

At many intersections, there are groups of homeless people, some with signs, some asking for money but seemingly many native Alaskans. And as with Australian Aborigines in Alice Springs, one of the ie few comforts is alcohol.

Interestingly, other than these people living in the streets, we’ve seen very few people smoking here in Anchorage, just one or two in multi-storey car parks or, strangely, outside the gym. The pavements are not littered with dog-ends, not even chewing gum stains. As I said, the whole place is much cleaner than, say, London.

To Pluto and Beyond

Kincaid Park is full of bears. At least, according to Jyoti, who saw two black bears in the valley, eating and otherwise minding their own business. She was hiking with Lisa and they made a hasty retreat. Sadly, no photos were taken.

When I later hiked in the same sort of area with Jyoti and her friend Cammie (sp?) (she has a broken arm), we had bear spray, just in case.

I walked there on my own today to watch Asa’s last soccer game of the season. Another opportunity to mess about with my smartphone camera.

Hardly a level playing field, right?

On the walk back, I encountered a moose on the shared path. Being gallant, and giving them the opportunity to take better pictures, I let the girls on bikes get between me and the moose.

Moose on the path and two cyclists
Oh no, more people. I’m off…

Late lunch for me was the soup and noodles from Siam Cuisine from a few nights ago. It was OK but I realised I should have left some of the interesting components too, and not eaten all the veg and tofu in the restaurant!

In other news, Una now has blue hair:

Una with blue hair

I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of a Pythagorean caption for this picture:

The bicycle on the hypotenuse is equal to…

In Kincaid Park, I visited Pluto. There’s a Light Speed Planet Walk in Anchorage that follows 5th Avenue and the coastal trail. You walk at the speed of light. Each step you take represents the distance light travels in one second, 300,000 km or 186,000 miles. So, just as light takes eight minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, here it takes eight minutes to walk from the model Sun to the model Earth. Pluto is of course the furthest from the Sun, taking five and a half hours to walk the full distance. What a shame Pluto is no longer considered a major planet!

The demoted Pluto

In the evening, a disparate group of ne’er-do-wells enjoyed a concert given by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. They were playing the music of John Williams, mainly famous for his film scores but he is a great composer of other works for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty for instance.

Some folks came dressed up:

Harry Potter

Music from ET brought back memories, of course. I first saw it with Sarah. Jenny was in utero and in her first scan, she looked just like ET, so that became her name. Until we decided Jenny might be better.

Anchorage Symphony Orchestra

The encore featured three themes from the Stars Wars films – taking us to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars

It was a late night for all of us: me, Liesel, Leslie, Asa, Jyoti and Amrit.

Hikes and Bites

We seem to have settled into a routine of going for a walk or a hike and going out to eat or drink. That’s OK, that’s what holidays are for.

An early walk with Jyoti in Kincaid Park was interesting because we had to make a detour to avoid getting too close to a moose, not once, but twice.

Follow the yellow-leaf trail….
Mountain bikes presumably – maybe skiers treat this as a challenge too

And then, in the bushes, we saw a group of three mooses all together. Photos? Nah: I’m pretty blasé about seeing them in the wild, now. Yes, it’s still a thrill (for me, at least) to see them, but they all look the same in photos (no offence, mooses)!

Nice signing

Liesel and I had a late breakfast (early lunch) with another long-lost friend at Organic Oasis. We all chose the same item from the menu, but whereas the two ladies went for small, I chose big. We all agreed that none of us know what we want to do when we grow up, having had a succession of jobs, in offices and elsewhere, that in retrospect, were just a stop-gap until the real thing comes along.

The musical accompaniment here was songs by Paul McCartney, then by George Harrison and a bit later, by John Lennon. No solo Ringo Starr, unfortunately, but we did hear the Beatles’ Hello Goodbye just before we left!

Having slipped on the muddy trail a couple of times in the morning, Liesel decided it was time to buy some new trainers, from REI.

We had a coffee, of course, and by coincidence, Una was having lunch in the nearby Yak and Yeti and she joined us for a moment.

While Liesel was having more treatment from the physio, I went for a walk down towards the railway line and the inlet. Despite being close to the city centre, there was still plenty of Autumnal colour.

Actually nowhere near the railway station

Another bear loose in town

At 10:18 on Wednesday 3rd, Liesel’s phone made horrible noise. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Well, the klaxon certainly stirred me from my near slumber. But where was my message? I had to wait until 10:28 for mine. And then I received a second message six minutes later. Was the test successful? On Twitter, I saw that someone had received the alert three times. Another person complained that soon afterwards, they’d been sent a message inviting them to a rally being held by the President, and was this related? And of course, there was some fun to be had:

Liesel wanted to go out to have some quality girl time, sans moi. At one point, her plans included having two lunches! In the end, she only had a light first lunch, anticipating a second, which then didn’t happen. Oops.

Meanwhile I went for a long walk to Carrs to buy a mirror to replace the one that broke a few days ago.

Only in Anchorage….
Not a model village, but a whole new neighbourhood built in a big hole

A man walking towards me said, conspiratorially, “And so, the sky’s walking today.” I thought, he thinks I’m a fellow Russian spy, or something, and I don’t even know the secret reponse. Then my brain kicked in and I realised that he’d really said, “It’s all us guys walking today.”

What a long walk, just to buy a hand mirror. Yes, maybe, but I rewarded myself with another massage while I was there.

As it was two days after International Coffee Day, on the way home, I felt obligated to stop at Kaladi Bros on Jewel Lake for one of their delicious lattes. With a breakfast burrito, this time, for a late lunch. Which was just enough fuel to get me home again. Except…

As I was walking home, Liesel drove by and picked me up. We delivered the chalk to the local elementary school. Chalk that was left over from the garage sale and has been in the boot of the car ever since. The staff at the school were grateful, so I hope the children have some fun with it.

At last, we decided on and bought a wireless speaker. It’s not too bulky, nor too heavy, and it means we can listen to music from both our phones anywhere in pretty good quality. And as I type, I can confirm: my phone can talk to two devices via Bluetooth at the same time!

Asa was supposed to take part in a cross-country run in the afternoon but as he wasn’t feeling well, we didn’t have to go and show support nor did we have to risk sending the runners the wrong way in our rôle as marshals! Instead, Liesel suggested to her parents that we go out for dinner.

We went to Siam Cuisine where I had a bowl of curry noodles with tofu and vegetables. When I say bowl, I mean it was nearly the size of a washing-up bowl. No way could I finish it, and I took the rest home in a carton. Klaus had oxtail soup and I recalled my favourite ever oxtail soup: from a vending machine at Waterloo Station, forty years ago or so!

Cafés and restaurants often (usually?) play music from the Beatles. Well, Siam Cuisine didn’t, they were playing Siamese music, I think. But they did have this blackboard as a nod to the fab four:

All you need is love…

Jyoti’s car is now just like me: re-tired. Yes, Jyoti took her car in to have the snow tyres fitted in anticipation of it being snowy and icy when she returns home from her forthcoming trip to Indianapolis and the east coast.

She drove us to Hilltop for a hike through the woods. It was quite chilly and I was very nearly tempted to put on my jacket. But I managed to stay warm enough, the trail was undulating and we had the place to ourselves. Apart from the lady near the beginning who walked by hurriedly with her dog close behind. Hurriedly, and we soon found out why: her big dog had left a big steaming pile on the trail. Very unusual for local dog owners.

The only other person came by on his mountain bike at about 90 mph. Twice. We saw a moose in the distance, thinking about having a go on the ski-jump. Other than that, and a spruce-head bird, nothing. Although Liesel was heard to say “There’s too much wildlife in Anchorage”.

Not all evergreens are ever green
Spot the moose eyeing up the ski jump

When Liesel and Jyoti are walking, they are also talking. I can’t talk that much. Don’t know what they’re talking about as I listen out for the sound of animals in the bushes!

And I think I’ve found out why they call Autumn ‘Fall’ in America: it’s because that’s when the trees start falling over like drunken teenagers or Judge Kavanaugh.

One…
Two…
Three… Timber!

Yes, I know we used to call it Fall in England too until a couple of hundred years ago, when we started to use the French word Automne!

Oh guess what I found in the email Spam folder? A message from the estate agent that sold our house, asking for a review. Here’s the link, it said, to make it easy for you. Except the link just took me to the page that I would see if I Googled the name of the estate agent. So, sorry, they won’t be getting a review.

In the evening, we joined chef Jyoti at her house for supper: aloo gobi, saag paneer and rice. Us two, Jyoti and Jyoti’s daughter’s boyfriend’s brother Calvin! It was cold and raining when we left, but we were well sated.

Soccer 2 Airports 1

Sunday was an early rise. We drove to Snow City Café and there we met Catherine, another friend from a long time ago. I think the last time we saw her and her husband Hans was when they took us out on their boat into Prince William Sound, maybe ten years ago.

She and Hans now live in a big house outside Seattle, bigger than the whole block of five flats where we now live! It was, as ever, great to see Liesel and Catherine picking up where they left off.

Liesel with Catherine

And while we were eating our breakfast, watching the fog slowly dissipate, who should come in but Una’s family!

After bidding farewell, we went for a quick walk before visiting Sagaya for coffee (me) and a cookie (Liesel) and then the really exciting part of the day: a trip to CostCo.

It’s the end of the outdoor soccer season in Alaska and in the afternoon, Gideon and his team played two games, which I though was a bit unfair, especially as their second opponents were fairly fresh.

We couldn’t walk to the venue on this occasion as it was by Waldron Lake. And I thought, what are the chances of that? Waldron Lake. Sam Waldron is a character in the Postman Pat stories. These were much enjoyed by Jenny and Helen when they were young and, of course, hinted at the final ten years of my working life. Jenny and Helen also liked another animated children’s TV programme, Rosie and Jim. Both were devised by John Cunliffe and the sad news is that he died this week. A slightly tenuous link there, but that’s how this old mind wanders during a football game!

Arsenal 07

As well as the games, we witnessed geese flying in the wrong direction if they thought they were heading south for the Winter.

Geese flying west for some practice
The perfectly calm Waldron Lake

Daylight now arrives much later in the morning. When you wake up, it’s dark, it could be 3 am or 7 am. So easy to go back to sleep until after 9 am. But I hope to hit that habit on the head pdq. We rose early yesterday and I’m sure I can do so more often than I presently do.

Liesel called downstairs to see if I was alright. Yes, thankyou, why? She’d felt an earthquake and I hadn’t. Unlike the one a few weeks ago, that I felt while in bed but Liesel had missed. Leslie had felt it at work that day too.

In the afternoon, I went for a long, solo walk. When I set off, the fog was still rising and I was able to enjoy the sight of some early afternoon dew.

Grass with dew

I enjoyed looking at the Fall colours again and wondered what do Americans use instead of the adjective Autumnal? Fallal? Fallic?

I wandered over to the airport hoping to take some exciting photos of aeroplanes, but the security fence that surrounds the airport is a bit intrusive.

I wanted to cross the road but this subway was too small

I saw one guy taking pictures with professional equipment. I didn’t take out my smartphone until I was well away from him: zoom lens envy is not a pretty sight and he had one the size of a World War 1 cannon.

A small aeroplane overhead
Ted Stevens Airport buildings with mountains in the background

Again the mountains were visible in the distance and I’m sure every time we see them, there is more snow on them. In fact, Liesel said that snow was forecast, on the Yahoo! site, for Anchorage at the end of the week. But I checked the BBC weather site, and it didn;t mention snow at all.

I had a quick look at deLong Lake on the way back and I’m glad I didn’t fall in deWater.

The slightly sloping deLong Lake

As it was International Coffee Day, on the way home, I felt obligated to stop at Kaladi Bros on Jewel Lake for one of their delicious lattes. With a bagel. Which was just enough fuel to get me home again.

And, as it’s the first day of the month (just where did September go?), I caught up with some of the monthly admin tasks. Yes, I found an activity even more exciting than going to CostCo!

Well Played, Kincaid

We visited the ZJ Loussac Public Library in Anchorage. Liesel was researching Japan while I enjoyed admiring glances from a young guy. Well, not me, but he did point approvingly at my portable keyboard and smartphone combo!

JK Rowling gets everywhere

Later in the day, we went for a quick walk to Kincaid Park and back.

The following day, we again walked to Kincaid Park, this time all the way to the football arena, soccer pitch, where Asa was playing again. Trotting towards us on the path was a baby moose, maybe looking for his Mom, but certainly not bothered by the humans walking and cycling by. Not as worried as my GLW, anyway! (Haha the picture looks upside down to me but the video played the right way up, so good luck!)

The air was perfectly clear, we could see mountains all round. We even saw Denali, the highest peak in north America, from a distance of about 136 miles. That’s how clear the air was.

Possibly one of the most picturesque stadiums around
Distant Denali looking fine

The soccer was a bit more controlled than the last time we’d seen a game here. The ball was only kicked into the surrounding bush a couple of times.

At halftime, I walked down to the Chalet and I was delighted to see some vending machines. I really fancied a coffee and the price was just $1.50. But I must have pressed the button for sweet brown sludge by mistake.

After walking back home, we had a bit of a rest before Pam and Owen picked us up. We joined Una’s Dance Party to celebrate her recent installation.

What a lovely cake this was!

It was a fun evening, many of Una’s family were there. Her aunt came all the way from India and as far as I know, we were the only vegetarians, so we hung out together! The venue was a house belonging to a friend of Una’s and by luck (!) there was a soundproof music and dance room at the back of the house.

The band was good, playing lots of well-known songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Just about everyone danced. I danced. And the good news is, I didn’t stomp on anyone’s foot. I also confirmed that I can’t take good pictures of people dancing while I’m jogging on the spot at the same time.

Adrianna and Ashwin (Una’s brother)
Blurry Christalyn with Neha
The three of them, back together
Una’s Aunt Sheela
Una and Phil

The clock on the wall was a repurposed vinyl album and I thought I recognised the triangle design. Close inspection revealed that it was indeed Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon!

Time: Dark Side of the Moon clock