Journals, Photos and Videos

Week ending May 7

Sunday morning we went for coffee and sat around the “Testosterone Table” again renewing friendships with those who came in for coffee also. Heather was there and so sweet and excited to see us as we were to see her. In a matter of a few minutes we relived the end of her pregnancy (her baby was overdue when we left and she was going to deliver in Anchorage!), trip to Anchorage, false alarm and finally a delivery of a beautiful 9# 6oz little (?) girl several days after her trip to Anchorage. In the next 15 min we exchanged so much information that Evelyn Wood would be proud of us! 

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Once again, reality set in and we all went our separate ways to whatever we had on our dockets. Jerry and Cheryle greeting and helping the other new couples find the site that best fit them and get them settled. We continued working on the camper and since it was so beautiful out, we enjoyed the weather and stayed outside and cleaned and raked our spot. Jerry and Crew had taken down a huge birch tree that was dead.....and of course, as we were coming back from walking Angus, Jerry told us it hit the RV and did only minor damage......oh, remember he put the camper within 1" of the deck......so you know they felled the tree with absolute accuracy and actually had it sawed into logs and stacked by the time we got back from the walk.

All the new folks were introduced by Cheryle and Jerry so we had a quick "how do you do?" and learned that the 3 couples met a few years ago doing other Workamping and have traveled together ever since. Two are from the Beaumont, TX are and the other couple from NC. They met in Wyoming on this trip and traveled the rest of the journey to AK together.....and yes, they all had plenty to say about the road!

Once again, we all dispersed and continued to make our home for ourselves. As we were inside working a pounding and nasty noise came to our door.....sorry, but not a very good bear impression.....it was Shelbe and her mom, Becky. It was awesome to see them and wonderful that they came to visit us already! We had a great visit and, as they were leaving......told us how their family had a popcorn business and sold it at the store as well as many establishments between Homer and Anchorage and of the challenging time Shelby had with school and the soccer team......not to worry she is a straight A student but things got all messed up during her transfer to Soldotna schools and could not play soccer, a sport she loves. Her mom worked like crazy with the system and we learned after many letters and weeks just the other day she was allowed on the team and they have some tournament games this weekend! So, now, not only can she practice, she can play!

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Currently, it is only dusk at 10pm so we are still able to do projects outside if we need to do any. Everyone asks about the long days.....we find them invigorating. Last time Andi and Chris and girls visited here George took them out at 9:30 to go bear watching while the girls and I had some "alone" time. Oh, they spotted 9 bears that night. 

May 2

Yes, of course, down to the TT (testosterone table ....will remind later how it got its name) to renew friendships. It is funny as you see people come in ......I know who that is....errrrrr....what is his/her name? Some of the people we knew from them coming into Wildman's as regular customers others we had closer relationships. When we finally get permission we will post pictures and names of people......but first we will ask.

Linda, a close friend of J & C and good friend of ours was coming to Cooper Landing to visit and then to see us. We actually contacted her and found out Cheryle had to go to Soldotna (45 min south and to “town”.....bank, grocery store etc etc) and she and Linda were going for a ride on their Harley's. So we suggested that we all meet for lunch as we were going to the bank and grocery store in Soldotna and then they could go for their ride. We agreed with their suggestion and met the ladies in Soldotna at a restaurant they suggested. We had a wonderful visit with Linda and Cheryle.....plenty of reminiscing and laughs ......you always do with this group and it is wonderful.

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Cheryle then invited us for "Taco Night" at their house. You would never know it but they are "empty nesters”...... but not really! There is ALWAYS a crowd there for a variety of activities. It may be as simple as Ken working in their garage (until he gets his auto repair shop), Roy working on the new housing for employees, workers from the store, friends......there is alway a large group for supper. For example, tonight it was Cheryle, Jerry, George, me, Linda, Aaron, Brady......mmmm....only 7 this night! As usual there was a ton of awesome food, chatter, stories, memories and laughter. Eventually, we decided to let them go to bed and we left to return to our camper.

May 3

Our first day at work. We both worked in the store. Driving the shuttles does not start until June 11th so George is going to help out in the store. He will be working evenings since they need the help covering that position. We worked with Aaron who was a co-worker when we were here in '09 and is now the day manager. It still brought a fear to think I had to make an espresso or one of the other fancy shmancy coffees. Ah, may that be my only problem!

Work was fine and it was great fun to see "old" customers coming into the store. Ken Acton, the famous movie star/wildlife trooper came in to the store and we harassed him about seeing him in "Alaska State Police" film. It was a surprise and awesome to see him on tv while we were in Colorado this winter. His wife Jeanne owns the Bearly Quilt Shop next to Wildman's. Tried to visit but Jeanne was on a trip to Anchorage.

Work is done and we are both ready to sit and put our feet up! It has been a while since we were on our feet for 8 hours and it was wonderful to sit in the comfy chairs and veg for a while. We will be working through Friday and we will work with the night manager, Dave, the other three nights. 

May 4, 5, 6

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We worked evenings these days which was from 3:15 - 10:15 ish. One of the evenings Dave, George and I looked out and saw a bald eagle who had caught a rabbit, sitting in the tree across the street snacking away at its prey. George ran home......1.5 minutes.....and got the camera's and since it was quite we were able to capture the event. Our evenings were fun renewing friendships from '09. It should be great fun again when we start taking shuttles as many are return customers that Wildman's has had for years. 

May 7

Here it is Saturday and we have been here for a full week. It seems like we have not been gone for a year and a half.....it feels so comfortable..........

We decided to take a ride on our day off and made a decision to go to Homer before all the tourists got here....like we are not tourists! As it turns out we found out that there was a Shorebird Festival this weekend and they expected thousands of people.....ugh.....it is a small “spit” and can really get crowded and has only a 2 lane highway and virtually no parking if there are that many people. We decided to go anyway and risk it and decided that we could always make a U turn if it was to congested. Well, it was not at all crowded and we had an easy time finding a parking spot.

Our first objective was to have lunch. When we were here before we took our friends Xavier and Nancy to Captain Patties and we had the BEST fish and chips (forgive me, my cousins in Ireland!). In fac,t they were so good we went a second time on that 2 hour journey for lunch while they were here during their ’09 visit!

So this is for X and Nancy.......



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2Q3K1832 After a delicious lunch, we determined we need to walk off the calories so George and Angus went in one direction and my camera and I went in another.



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This is the memorial to the Seafarer’s located on the spit in Homer. A reminder people how treacherous the icy the waters can be and a thank you to the seafarers who risk their lives to bring fish in for their communities.
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When we made our first trip to Alaska in '04, there was a lady named Jean Keene who had permission to feed the eagles in Homer. We actually have pictures of Jean's home on the spit but of none of her eagles that year. Jean was known worldwide for her care of the eagles and photographers from all over came to photograph the eagles. Here are a few links, on of which will teach you about eagles and one will tell you about Jean's life story. Check it out and enjoy.....especially the Tippie group. Is that your Red River Rodeo she participated in? Her trailer is now gone and the city has erected a memorial to Jean in its place.

http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/JeanKeene.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiAtFvr1C0o
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Keene


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Our next stop was the Salty Dawg (http://www.saltydawgsaloon.com/History.html). It is said you have not visited the spit until you visit the Salty Dawg.....we cannot believe that the first time here we did not go in! Guess we did not visit the spit during that ’04 visit! But we sure did this time.....it was on our agenda to have a drink there and we did just that.

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The inside and we mean the whole inside is covered with dollar bills from all over the world that customers have signed and hung on the ceilings and walls. Please follow the link above to read the fun, interesting history of this building.








Homer has dubbed itself “A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.”






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Time to head back to Cooper Landing, but before we even got off the spit we spotted someone with a telephoto lens.....and naturally, we just knew it meant there were eagles around. George pulled over and sure enough, there was an eagle perched, seemingly posing, on a light post. While there another gentleman came by and showed us the pictures he had captured just 5 minutes before of some other eagles that were hanging around a dumpster and naturally, we made a bee line for that area!

Some 500 photos later (how did we live without digital?) we had captured several eagles on video and still “film”. Here is a sampling:

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We actually made it off the spit and were headed north only to stop in Nilnilchik to visit Carol and her husband Ross. Carol worked with us at Wildman’s when we were here before and last December they purchased a Pizza Parlour in Nilnilchick. It was quiet there with only one car on the side of the building so we were not quite sure if it was open. Many shops in Alaska are season dependant and are only just opening now. We drove to a parking spot in front and realized it actually was open for businesss. Much to our surprise, as we were pulling in, a lady pulled in a few parking spaces down from us and kept staring at us. We then realized it was Carol!

We then went in and we were greeted by Ross and then a tour of the shop. It is large, freshly painted with beautiful photos on the wall. The once “drab” walls that are outside the restrooms have been transformed into awesome seascapes painted by Lynda (“Linda only with a y” as she says) Smith one of the ladies in our neighborhood. We will go there again and at that time we will get some picutres.

Carol sat with us quite a while visiting and getting caught up on the last year and a half....then customers came by the droves it seemed. Soon the place was more than 3/4 full and Carol had to return to reality and work. As we we sitting there enjoying a beautiful and delicious Caesar salad and pizza, in walks Aaron our daytime manager. Aaron is Carol’s nephew and was making a delivery to her of some equipment. We convinced him to join us as we had plenty of pizza.

Time to really head back to Cooper Landing this time. We eventually made it home after a wonderful, adventure filled day in paradise.

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Week ending May 14

This week was primarily a week of work and stories. Maureen worked Tuesday through Friday 7:30 to 3:15 and I worked Sunday through Thursday 3:15 to 11. We will get to a fairly synchronized schedule when shuttling start in ernest in mid-June. Until then we will have to deal with some shift challenges due to a couple of girls from Taiwan being unable to join us.

Ko Ting and Xanthe were scheduled to arrive on the 9th from Taiwan but were unable to join us at the last minute. We were looking forward to seeing and working with Ko Ting since we had worked with her in 2009. But it was not to be. This left Heather and Cheryle with some last second scheduling challenges and resulted in the whole crew having to be mixed and matched at the store. All were very willing and happy to help out. They’re anxiously looking for replacements to resolve the shortfall.

Story 1: One of the locals who joins us almost every morning was driving along the Sterling Highway on the first day of moose hunting season. He glanced ahead and noticed a small traffic jam as a tourist bus and several other vehicles were stopped to admire the large moose in a small meadow next to the road. Our friend comes to a stop, grabs his rifle and says to the gawkers, “you’d better block your ears”. He then proceeds to drop the moose.

Before getting too horrified, understand that the moose had to have a 50” rack so it was an older male. It would provide our friend and his family prized meat for many months.

Working evenings did provide me with the opportunity to get some needed exercise. Angus and I were able to get out every day for up to an hour. This is slightly challenging since there are no walking paths, but the side roads, although hilly, are not too busy and very comfortable for man and dog.

Story 2: The same guy also told us about an interesting spring phenomenon that occurs here in Cooper Landing. As the brown bears (grizzlies) leave their dens after a winter’s hibernation, they are quite hungry and the salmon and berries are not available to snack on. One of their sources is to head to a nearby lake in a meadow and sit at the shore digging in the mud. They are looking for (and finding) small frogs which they grab and eat. You can tell when this is happening by noticing fresh holes all along the edge of this small lake.

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He had given some detailed directions to the lake and we decided we would try to track it down. We drove to milepost 62, found a parking area and wandered up to the described location. We found the likely lake but no evidence of frog-digging bears. The lake is a bit off the road and will be a challenge to get to but we will give it a shot next week. Th red line is the walk to the lake from the parking lot.









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We had the opportunity to attend a birthday party for Shelbe at Jerry and Cheryle’s on Saturday. Shelbe is their grand-daughter with whom we worked last time we were at Wildman’s and have kept in touch with during our year and a half away from Cooper Landing. The party included a BBQ......doesn’t Jerry look comfortable with the tongs and a BBQ grill filled with meat? Oops......where are the gloves?





2q3k2443-2Cheryle, as usual was knee deep in kitchen duties and enjoying every minute of preparing for the guests. Family and close friends showed up and all enjoyed a great BBQ with all the fixin’s!

2q3k2461 Now it was time for Shelbe to open presents......there were several leading up to the big present......and several that had to be held until she opened the “big” present!



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The picture on the bottom row on the left shows the gifts that had to be held until she received the car......several friends knew about the present and gave her gift cards so she could buy gas. A great 16th party for a special girl!





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The guest have all left and we were invited to sit in the hot tub.....it did not take George long to go home to get our “gear” and we were in enjoying the wonderful hot water on our sore backs and tired muscles! We had a great time and topped it off with a piece of Maureen’s delicious, first ever coconut cream pie. Jerry, Cheryle, Linda, Pat and other Harley friends think nothing of jumping on the bikes and driving the 125 miles to Eureka, AK for a piece of Coconut Cream pie!









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The evening went off almost without a hitch......till Jerry reached over to Cheryle’s plate and took a huge chunk out of her pie! As you see, Cheryle did not take will to that!



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Jerry did not much seem to care as he got an extra “chunk” of pie!

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A great Skype call

What a fun start to the week! Today I started my day with a Skype call from my “new” cousin Angela Martin in Ireland. Angela had gathered her husband Ken, Mam Bridget, Dad Michael, son Diarmuid and daughters Ciara and Orla. Their third daughter Eimear was not available for the call.

We had a grand time! We spoke for 1 hr and 15min and probably could have chatted longer but people had a drive to get home so we had to agree on another call. It was 9am in Alaska and 6pm in Ireland and tho’ the distance is 4,000 mi....Orla....where are you with the conversion? Ah, there you are....thank you 6437.376 km ......the connection was like we were next door.

Our conversation started with the Winston connection........oh gosh......to everything and back to the Winstons. We talked places, distances (with Orla translating for all of us), Diarmuid sang a few songs and then magically turned into a pirate after a shocking incident.....and he wound up with a hook for a hand...avast ye matey! I had the pleasure of taking to each person individually Angela, Ken, Bridget, Michael, Diarmuid, Orla and Ciara. What a delightful family and I am proud to say they are my relatives.

Ciara, the new bride of 1-1-11 acted as "moderator" when it was her turn to chat. It worked out very well as I could hear people asking questions in the background but could not really hear them clearly. She had the advantage of what looked like a Blue tooth microphone and they also had the speaker phone on so they all could hear when I answered their questions. The questions were plentiful and quite insightful.  It seemed that each one had a question about the trip or Alaska. It must have been a surprise when I mentioned that Colorado To Alaska was the same as Ireland to Alaska. The distance from Anchorage, Alaska (AK) to Dublin, Ireland is 4281 miles or 6890 km "as the crow flies" and our trip from Colorado to AK was 4,000ish miles. It is 4454.4 miles or 7168.6 km to Ireland from Colorado. 

Bridget may correct me but if I recall correctly her dad and my grandmother (Mary Theresa Winston) were brother and sister which would make her my mother's first cousin. It was great fun to hear her voice which reminded me of my grandmother and Aunt Fran with the lovely Irish lilt in her voice. The family had just come home from baby Cormac Winston's Christening and had gathered at Angela and Ken's house which made it perfect for a call and the timing worked out great.

Let me back up a bit.......once upon a time, I found out from mother her cousin Brian McCarthy and his wife Donna who live in San Diego, CA did extensive work on the Winston family lineage. Brian and I started e-mailing and when we came back from Alaska in ’04 I mentioned it to him and he said “if you ever go again....let me know because you have a cousin in Palmer, AK”.

As we prepared for our first work camping trip to Cooper Landing, AK (we went there the beginning of May and work at Wildman’s until mid September) I mentioned it to Brian and he introduced me to the cousin whose name happens to be Maureen and is also a nurse! She and her family had moved to OR with their jobs but was so generous prepping us for the drive. She was our “Mile Post” -- a famous book produced each year that tells you what you can see each of the miles along the Alaska Highway. We loved all her assistance and made a point to go thru OR on our way home so we could meet Maureen, Kemp and their son Kevin. The other children were grown and on their own.

Then, I received a note from Angela Martin in Ireland. Another “new” cousin and we hit it off right away exchanging e-mails like we had to get in as many as we could because we had a limited time before the Internet discontinued e-mail! Angela is actually the age of our daughter Andrea.....Angela and Ken have 4 children -- 3 girls 2 of whom have graduated from Trinity college (in their 20’s) and one in secondary school (teen), and finally a little boy 5 years old. Andrea has 2 girls 5 & 7.....a late bloomer.......

Along the way we found Chris Miller (Winston somewhere along the line - had never heard of Chris Miller....oh, that has Brian’s fingerprints all over it!) who asked if he could give my e-mail to his aunt who happens to live in Colorado. Sure! So we then met Rita Stanford who is Angela’s first cousin and naturally, Bridget’s niece. We have met Rita and shared several delightful dinners together. She is going back to Ireland this summer for a wedding and will most likely meet Bridget and her family at the wedding.

Then there is the DC connection.....Beth Winston Tordella who sounds like a character and we must get to know better. Auntie Kay who is my mother’s sister still lives in the Boston area and has a wonderful transcript from Beth to review and set us straight with the history.

Maureen’s sister Kathleen O’Brien hosted an absolutely wonderful luncheon last summer while many of us were on the east coast. Brian, Donna, Auntie Kay, daughter Kathy, Greg O’Brien and I had a wonderful time getting to know each other. It seems that we can all trace our history (hee, hee, see that Brian....I tried to take credit!) yes, thanks to Brian and Donna.......my grandmother was Mary Theresa Winston and her siblings are Rita, Maureen’s etc etc grandparents also.

So the conversation with the Ward/Martin family was delightful, educational (I hope for them also) and so comfortable and quite funny.....great senses of humor. I loved it! Thank you all for such a lovely time. I am anxious to chat with you again. We must do it when Maureen Pheley and her daughter Meg are here and some of our boys when they come for a visit.

The conversation ended with Diarmuid telling me all about his unfortunate mishap and how he would up with a hook for a hand and now was a member of the pirate life. He also ended with an Irish good bye.......in Irish!

Slainte!
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