At this juncture I only wish we could insert some pissed off bird sound effects so you would have a better appreciation of just how humorous this situation was for the casual observer (that would be me).  This pic turned out pretty good considering she took them “on the fly” so to speak,  with the camera pointed behind her as she maneuvered to avoid being impaled on one of those snapping beaks during her getaway.  You might think that such an experience would dissuade her from this kind of obtrusive behavior in the future.  If that’s what you think, you just don’t know the Zookie!  Buy me a beer some time and I’ll entertain you with some hair raising tales of monkeys, moose and pelicans!

There are some forms of wildlife which do not engender nightmarish images of me retrieving my bloodied and battered bride from the clawed, toothed, coiled or beaked embrace of some less than tolerant photographic subject…

This bear ice sculpture is actually a bed.  If you are of a mind to spend the night sleeping on caribou furs in a 20 degree freezer, this is the spot for you!!  Of course you will have to fork over $600 for the privilege to do so.

If you prefer maintaining original equipment body temperature instead of that of an ice worm, you may forgo the evening experiencing life as a Popsicle and splash around in one of the hot springs instead…

One firm rule we have had in place since the beginning of our trek to nowhere has been, “NO HITCH-HIKERS.”  That is why we were both rather dumbfounded when, after initially passing a couple of young girls with big smiles and pollical digits prominently pointed heavenward standing on the side of the highway outside the entrance to Denali National Park, we stopped to pick them up…

The Alaska pipeline, both above and below ground, zigs and zags across 800 miles of forest, tundra and bodies of water from the oil deposits of the North Slope to the farthest north ice-free port in Valdez.  This zig-zag construction allows for the pipeline to expand and contract during the extreme temperature change of 90 degrees above zero during the summer to winter temperatures approaching 80 degrees BELOW zero!  This configuration also allows for the movement of the above ground section of pipe to move both side to side and up or down during earthquakes.

Alaska experiences hundreds of earthquakes each year and the pipeline is constructed to withstand an 8.0 magnitude tremor by resting within special Teflon padded “shoes” which allows for greater lateral and vertical movement at the three major fault lines it crosses…

But no trip to Fairbanks could ever be considered complete without a stop at the Chatanika Roadhouse for a burger and a beer…

We spent a good portion of our drive to Fairbanks following various sized earth moving equipment and pilot cars over newly leveled dirt and gravel roadbeds.  Considering the amount of permafrost lying beneath Alaskan roads, these crews do a damn good job of keeping a majority of the highway system in better condition than a lot of the interstates we travel in the “lower 48.”  Especially those through downtown Detroit!!!  Fortunately my Bride had our 2 “Scandinavian-looking” travelers to entertain and didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the various close calls we had while passing heavy equipment and squeezing through narrow lanes with a  whopping 3 inches of space on one side and a 1000 foot drop into a meandering river on the other.  She was delighted to spend the entire trip north regaling them with tales of American folklore and history while palavering in her finest Norwegian.  It wasn’t until we dropped them off in Fairbanks that I overheard one say to the other, “They do know that we’re from Kansas, don’t they?”  As I said, “We need help!”

We stayed at the Tanana Valley Campground which is next door to the fairgrounds and just down the road from a combination dairy and migratory bird refuge called Creamer’s Field.  Among the migratory birds that take refuge here is the Sandhill Crane…

There are several large ponds and open areas at Creamer’s Field where bird watching enthusiasts can go merrily about taking pictures to their heart’s content while trying to protect their camera equipment from the curiously groping paws of toddlers armed with ice cream cones while their parent’s attention is focused on their avian surroundings…

It’s still pretty early in the summer but in another couple of weeks this parking lot will be full of motorcycles, as well as an abundance of scantily clad Harley Honeys eager to donate various articles of clothing for a free drink.  They arrive from all over Alaska as well as the lower 48 and other nations in both the civilized and not so civilized world, like Australia!...

Yup, those are the smiles that did us in.  We actually drove past them, looked at each other and after a worried exchange regarding all the horrible things that might happen to them if picked up by the “wrong sort,” we found a spot large enough for our motorhome to be turned around and went back to get them.  We loaded them, their cabin-sized backpacks and their little cardboard “Fairbanks” sign into our Urban Assault Vehicle and proceeded to transport them safely to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks which, as it happened, was where they were headed and coincidentally was less than 2 miles from the campground to which we were heading.  There really should be some kind of law in place that protects vulnerable olde folks from having their protective natures and grandparental instincts preyed upon by a couple of pretty young innocents with big toothy grins.  We oldsters need help…a LOT of help!

Winter hung on pretty long in Alaska this year and spring yielded to summer almost immediately upon its arrival.  As everyone knows who travels up here in the mostly frozen far north, summer is marked by the return of hordes of tourists and endless miles of road construction…

In November of 2003 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake occurred along the Denali fault but the design of the pipeline allowed it to shift and actually slam into the side bumpers at several locations without spilling a single drop of oil.  I think this thing is every bit as tough as a 1954 Buick!

The two side support pipes are 18 inches in diameter and are driven into the permafrost to a depth of 60 feet in some places.  The pipes are actually a passive refrigeration device which uses anhydrous ammonia or carbon dioxide gases to transfer ground heat into the air, dissipating it through the top mounted finned radiators, when air temperatures are cooler than the ground.  This heat transfer process “super chills” the ground, ensuring that unstable soils (permafrost) will remain frozen year round to steadily support the pipeline.

The pipeline is actually a series of connected 40- to 60-foot lengths of pipe, 48 inches in diameter; nearly large enough for a fat olde guy to live in…

Alternatively, you can release your inner nature photographer and stalk the local duck population hanging out in the warm waters of the hot spring’s overflow pond…

These rather large birds are normally docile peace loving creatures.  I tell you this as a prelude to revealing a little known fact regarding my traveling companion: she is a rather zealous adherent to the Steve Irwin method of “in your face” animal interaction rather than that of Marlin Perkins, known for his distant and respectful observation of the Wild Kingdom from the steel and glass confines of a fast moving safari trekker.

Remember when I told you in our last Update about a series of unfortunate events and wildlife misadventures my Bride has experienced over the years?  Well, one of the more memorable of these encounters involved a nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes in Orlando, Florida, who absolutely resented the hell out of her endeavors to get literally nose to beak with them in an effort to get that “unforgettable” image. They expressed their displeasure with an all-out Kamikaze wings a-flappin’ beaks a-snappin’ squawking blitzkrieg that sent my then newbie nature photographer fleeing for her life!  She did manage to shoot one of those “unforgettables” during her retreat…

In addition to de-clawed kittens, small ducks are another of those creatures I don’t mind my bride jumping on…yet.  But I do see the potential for some serious injuries if these things should ever grow teeth and toenails!

Okay, let’s talk pipelines…

  Alaska 2013 - Part 3                                                       June 14, 2013

So there you have it!  Everything you never wanted to know about the Alaska pipeline.  And to think, some folks have their panties in a bunch about the construction of the proposed Keystone Pipeline from southern Canada to Texas!   I suppose it could get bumped by an inattentive farmer in a cornfield.

We are currently making daily runs to Safeway, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer loading up on all that nourishing food which small children love to devour in preparation for the approaching visit of our son and 10- and 13-year old grandkids next weekend.  You may want to skip our next Update if looking at hundreds of pictures of wee kidlets is not your bag.

See y’all later!  Hugs!  C&K

And afterward you can sidle over to the resident dragon for some down home barbecue…

Besides being perfectly mixed, these things are also icy delicious when served at the ice bar in a freshly made ICE martini glass.  Yep, that’s right!  The glasses are turned each day on a specially designed lathe from a solid block of ice.  The drinks are rather pricey at $15 but you do get to keep the glass.  Most folks don’t wait for them to melt but rather smash them on the paving stones outside the museum when they exit.  I guess that’s akin to throwing a wine glass into a fireplace after a toast.  And you get to enjoy them while comfortably nestled on a caribou pelt atop a carved ice bar stool.

They do have some ice carvings lying about that some folks actually prefer to the over-priced Appletinis.  There’s just no accounting for taste I suppose...

These are a few of the exhibits you can see at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North on the Fairbanks Campus.  In addition to a plethora of these animal exhibits, you can also find countless examples of the art and craftwork of Alaska’s Native peoples as well as those pioneers who came later to “settle” the land and seek their fortune.

Even the building that houses this artwork is interestingly designed and artistic in its own right…

These are our mates, Ian and Betty, loading up their Harley for the return trip to Australia in October of 2003.  I’ve never asked them if they ever made it to the Chatanika Roadhouse, but since they have seen more of the USA than most Americans; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they had.  This picture has absolutely no business being in this Update so consider it a gratuitous attempt to better relations with folks who spend their entire lives living upside down.

We had seen a couple of TV programs and heard great things since arriving in Fairbanks about the ice museum at Chena Hot Springs, so one afternoon we loaded up our pack animals and headed out in search of the perfect Appletini.  Appletini???  In an ice museum???  Ja sure.  You betcha!!!