Friday, March 7, 2008

Sea Planes are so cool!! But don't fly in bad weather...

     Now, don't get me wrong, a seaplane is very safe. In fact the locals have a convincing argument that flying lower and slower is more safe than being in a jet. I'm not convinced either way yet; what I am convinced of is that I do not want ANY plane I am on to fall out of the sky.

     But seriously the flying lower and slower has a major major benefit as well: sight-seeing! I'll never forget the first time I flew in one, I was in Juneau in early August moving to Pelican. It was a warm sunny day and it was just my dog and I. We had just finished a burger and some garlic bread (yes interesting combo, but tasty) and walked back to the airport. They said the wind had died down enough to make it out so I got in the van that drove over to "the pond." We loaded my gear into the back of the plane (which by the way the interior of this plane is about the same size as my van, except skinnier). I climbed onto the pontoon and then in the plane and they lifted Koira up to me. The pilot handed me a pair of ear plugs and yelled that the life vests were above my head and the doors were easy to open "just in case." Then the engine blared very loudly and we started moving forward. We started moving faster, but not like a jet, I mean we might have been doing 50 or 60 but nothing to throw you back into your seat. At this point I notice that the throttle is open we are slowly accelerating and rapidly running out of pond, I wondered if maybe a turkey sandwich would have been better than the burger... or better yet a salad With the dressing on the side.

     Sure enough the pilot pulls back on the stick (which is just right there!!) and we gradually lift off. It is a good thing that the pond doesn't have any tall trees at that end. But at that point any kind of apprehension melts away as the amazing view hits me. Southeast Alaska has a series of large islands with hundreds of smaller ones all interspersed between them. I could see the water and the trees and the hills and the muskeg, and the mountains, and the snow (wait snow in August?! those mountains aren't that big!) and it all came together in one incredible experience. The more I type the more I realize this is one of those must experience experiences. It was so cool that I knew I wanted to stay in Alaska by the time that plane landed.

     Of course that was the best trip I have had. Since then I have been throw around quite a bit. In fact in one plane ride we jerked hard enough for my head to hit the ceiling, not hard, but still that is a bit unnerving. The worst weather I was in we lost 100 ft. of altitude in less than 3 seconds!! Which is down right terrifying when you realize that you went from 900 ft. to 800 ft. So flying high up in the air definitely has it's benefits as well.

     I also flew in a plane where there was a co-pilot stick. Well I was in the co-pilot's chair and it was a bumpy ride. I was really afraid that my knee would fly up and smack "the stick" and put us into an uncontrollable dive.

     Despite the spooky times I do feel very safe in the seaplanes. I just wish they could fly in all weather. This has been a bad winter for planes the locals say. We have not had regular reliable flights since November and it is tough to go without mail. Fortunately we do get a monthly ferry that has brought anything that didn't make it by plane.

     So if ever you find yourself in Southeast Alaska don't balk at the price of a seaplane flight-seeing trip. In my opinion it is well worth the experience.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Moving to Pelican, AK

     So for the few people I haven't told yet... I was sitting in front of my computer one day in late July, it was hot! Around 108, and I was realizing that the white brick house that I bought did get hot in the summer and that some kind of air conditioning was really needed. I was also very tired because I had woken up at 4:00 am to deliver 200 newspapers. I was not happy and there was nothing I was looking for online. So as I sometimes do, I ended up staring at the Google Page wondering what to type in. Sweat rolled down my face and I typed: Teaching Jobs in Alaska (in retrospect that was a strange thing to do, as great as google is there are much better job finder engines). I clicked and some interesting sites popped up. There was one that peaked my curiosity, it said: Secondary Generalist, Pelican. So being the unabashed person I am I dialed the number to find out what a Generalist is.

     I knew that I had dialed beyond the edge of the map when the voice on the other line said "Please hold for the Superintendent", I was shocked, I didn't want to waste this person's time! I just wanted to ask some secretary an unimportant question. Forty-five minutes later I did a search on Pelican and read everything I found. Within an hour I was talking with my wife (we have both thought about moving to Alaska more than once before...). The next day I called and spoke with Connie (the Superintendent) for another hour about the job and the town and what living is really like in Pelican. I said that I was interested in the job and set up a Teleconference interview.

     As if things weren't crazy enough already (remember this was the end of July as in a few weeks before School starts!) I was leaving on a camping trip to Yosemite the next day and knew there would be no cell service. So I checked out a hotel room for a few hours (never did it occur to me what the manager must have been thinking when I asked about it...) I had the interview and asked them to leave a message at my house to let me know about the job offer. The interview went well. The school called about an hour after the interview, they wanted me. So I spent a long time talking on the phone with my wife about actually moving to Alaska.

     Oh yeah, and I said that I would be able to be there in two weeks when the School year began. I left Yosemite a day early and got home and started packing. My packing was with one thought; how much do I have to have to survive for one year. Jenni and I had made the decision that we would give this crazy notion of rural Alaska a try for one year. So I gathered my things and started filling the garage with the rest of our things. Oh yeah, and by the way, my wife was also out of town while all this went on, she was at a family reunion. So when she got home we worked wildly to empty our house of our belongings.

Now most people that had heard about this thought we were crazy. One thing did comfort me immensely. You must be wondering now what I was going to do with my house. Well within two days we had not only found renters we could trust, but we had sold our car, which we would not need in Pelican.

So after a few days I drove to Seattle (in record time) and boarded a plane to The Last Frontier. To the credit of my amazing wife, I left two kids and a huge amount of work in Utah to finish in a week. She gathered family and friends to help her and got everything done. Then brought those two kids (7 and 7 months!) and 20 or so boxes over two thousand miles to this tiny little town that we were supposed to call home for at least the next 9 months!

And I can now say it was one of the best things we've ever done.