Category Archives: Alaska

Love’s great adventure?

Oh fine, I have to say that these weeks when I have to do 2 blogs in 2 days, I dont always have enough material to fill the space. I did sort of have something work related (again), but I’m sure you’re all tired of that by now, so lets try something different, and a bit more personal.

For those who didnt already know me, and the date, you might have missed the fact that 106 years ago on Friday, a baby girl was born in Kansas City. Her name, Harlean Harlow Carpenter, but far better known as Jean Harlow. Coincidentally, 33 years ago today, the last beau of her life, William Powell died, at the grand old age of 91! What would have happened had she lived beyond 26, who knows? Mind, 3 years later, Powell married Diana Lewis, and they stayed married until his death! Whether Harlow, and Powell would have done the same, we will never know?

The fascinating fact is that, at the time of Harlow’s birth, Powell was actually living in Kansas City, though being 18 years her senior, they never actually met until Hollywood! Yes, Jean seemingly had a thing for older men, as all bar her first husband were far older than her, but I cant talk, as my only long term relationship was with someone a lot older than me!

While we are talking about birthdays, and ages, in 11 days time, I’ll be 59. Still, now, I’ve got more than a few years of work to go, I believe it will be 8 more by the time I get to retire. But not that long ago, as a woman, I would have been 1 year from retirement! Now, by the time I get there, it will be 66, assuming I get that far, of course! Then, finally, I might get to Alaska, and the start of the Iditarod race…maybe? Mind, I might need a new body by then, but… I would need to split the flight there, both ways, due to length, and my physical health, and there is no way I can do that on a 7 day holiday from work!

Sadly, again this year, it cant race from Willow (Anchorage) to Nome, due to lack of snow in the early stretches, so it will start out tomorrow morning (Alaska time) from Fairbanks, and run the adapted northern route. Sadly, this means that the ghost town that the race is named after, wont be visited for at least 6 years, as the same thing happened in 2015. Amusing to think that a trapper, the last ever resident of Iditarod left, because the race came through every 2 years, and the place got too lively! To think, just over 100 years ago, at the height of the gold rush, over 10 thousand people lived there, all too briefly!

Oh, if anyone wants the details of my fiction piece, loosely based around the 2009 race (which did get to Iditarod), let me know! It also mentions the event that started it all, the 1925 serum run to Nome.

So fine, we have a tale of love, we have a tale of adventure, so the obvious video is…

We’re on a road to somewhere?

Earlier today, not for the first time, I saw a story about a road between London, and New York. Yes, I know, there is a very large lump of ocean between the 2 places (with Ireland in between), but thats not actually the way its going to go. This road goes East from London, not West! A Russian idea, this time around, costing a ridiculous sum of money, and besides which, the passport control points between Russia, and the US, yes, worth seeing!

And that cost is despite the fact that the first long section, between London, and, I would guess, Central Russia, probably already exists, with the exception of the bit linking the UK with Europe, but I guess that could be done through the Channel Tunnel? Equally, the section between New York, and Fairbanks, Alaska, is pretty well intact too.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, the huge snag is the bit in the middle of those two points! I know that in theory, there is some sort of road system heading into Siberia, but its pretty awful quality, during Summer, because it virtually turns to liquid mud, and in Winter, because of the extreme cold. And this road would need developing anyway, because yes, its heading up to that bit of Russia, just across from Alaska, and road building up there varies between negligible, and none.

As for the other side, the simple answer to roads between Nome, on the Alaskan coast, to Fairbanks, is that there arent any! And as for population in between those two points, to service traffic, provide lodging and the like, again, pretty much zero. I guess people could be moved in, and provided with a very good salary to solve these working issues, but its hardly a prospect, unless you’re very well rewarded, for life in the middle of nowhere, lets face it.
But yes, if they ever build a road between Fairbanks, and Nome, I’d love to travel it, all the same.

But even so, we still havent come to what would actually be the trickiest bit. Yes, that 55-60 miles or so, of the Bering Sea, that stretches between Russia, and Alaska. Regardless of whether you go for a bridge, or a tunnel, you still have a long stretch of very rough sea to deal with, much of which freezes over for the long winter!

Above all this, why would you drive that incredible distance by car, when you can fly it in 7 hours, for less than the petrol would cost for the trip!

So fine, my opinion, they released this news 4 days early by mistake!

The video, well, it pretty well sums up what most of the mid section of this journey would be

As Cold As Ice

Yes, its one of those weekends of the year, when I’d rather be somewhere else. Not because of any personal issues, or anything, but simply because something special is happening, many thousands of miles from here. Hey, this weekend, seriously, you could offer me a choice of venues, but in the end, there’s only one I’ve wanted to visit for so long, and have to realistically face, I’m not really likely to get to. Yes, Alaska. Yes, its the start of the Iditarod. Indeed, the ceremonial start in Anchorage is going on as I type this. The race proper, starts tomorrow, a few miles away in Willow, of course.

Alright, fine, I am not designed for prolonged exposure to below freezing temperatures. Not sure I ever was, definitely not now, for sure! But all the same, would I love a look at the start of the most amazing long distance race there is, you bet I would! Oh, and fine, even more, I’d dearly love to be at Nome, for the finish, but that definitely is never going to happen, not in my wildest dreams!

So yes, yet again, I’ll be following it, via the internet, from the warmth of home, thanks to the Iditarod website. Do I mind who wins? Well, fine, yes, I’d love to see Lance Mackey do it again, but being realistic, its not so likely nowadays. So in truth, no, I dont!

Maybe one day, if, and when things are better financially, and I dont have any limitations on my time (due to the fact that practically, health wise, I’d have to take overnight breaks both ways to get there, and back, from here in the UK), I will get to Alaska, but I’m pretty sure it wont be at the beginning of March, even then. I doubt even then, that I will get to Nome (seriously, the fare from Anchorage alone is quite something!), but I might be able to walk in those paw prints, down 4th Avenue in Anchorage. Cant see it, but never say never…

Funnily enough, you’d also see some snow, and ice, from the other place I wouldnt mind being this weekend, even if its across the opposite side of the world.

I’m not a great fan of 20 over cricket, I prefer the 50 over, and multi day versions of the game, but fine, there are times… The 20 over World Cup actually starts on Tuesday morning, in India, which normally wouldnt be a Country on the top of my tourist list. But hey, given Ireland are playing their qualifying group matches in Dharamsala, literally set underneath the Himalayas, maybe I can make an exception? I first saw the ground when a match in that ghastly IPL was played there, and was taken by the setting, and the amazing buildings, and fell in love. Even then, I never imagined that 1 day, Ireland would be playing cricket there. Again, all I will be able to do is follow from home, but at least we get TV coverage of that.

Fine, money no object, and a special flight to get me there, where am I heading? Hmm? No, despite the fact that Dharamsala is a one off experience, and will be warmer than Alaska, still no contest, I’d see the start of the Iditarod tomorrow! Yes, I have no idea why, I have little, or no interest in mushing beyond this, but at 1000 miles or so, that race is just so special!

OK, the video. No shock, clue is in the blog title. I know, shocking, isnt it?

I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 475 more!

Yes, I know, thats not quite the line in the song, but according to the Iditarod website, thats the distance those teams of dogs will be ‘walking’ this year. Thats right, on Saturday, the big parade in Anchorage, and then on Sunday, the real race starts, from Willow, to Nome. For the leaders, about 9-10 days, depending on conditions, for some, nearly a week more, in temperatures way below freezing!

This year, its the northern route, so the ghost town that the race is named after, will remain quiet and peaceful, until next year at least. Though even so, one or two of the checkpoints on this route have a population count of less than 1 anyway! These days, its hard to imagine somewhere going from being a thriving town, to no one, but thats the gold rush, and Alaskan weather for you!

The irony, given all the freezing weather, and snow that has been dumped on the main 48 states of the US this year, that at one point a few weeks back, the concern was whether there was enough snow out on the trails for the dogs to run. Eventually, just over a week ago, the call was yes, and the regular route will be run. In case you’re wondering, they were going to restart further north, from Fairbanks, and then eventually connect to the traditional route further along.

I know I’m not from that part of the world, but contemplating such a run is way beyond my comprehension. For some though, its a way of life, and I admire them for doing it. Doesnt mean that one day, I’d love to be in Alaska, at the beginning of March, and see them off though. Suspect it wont happen before I retire though, and by then, the marathon flight, and the cold might be too much for my old bones anyway! But for now, I can still dream, that one day…Would also be wonderful to see the finish at Nome, but suspect thats even more steps too far lol!

The video, yes, the clue is in the title for those old enough (like me) to remember it. A live version though, just for a change

One last thing before I let you go. One hero of the Iditarod wont be running this year, the multiple winner, Lance Mackey, because of health, principally dental issues. I know, I mentioned it a while back, and a few might have given then, but at this rather apt time, the link to his fundraising campaign is

The toughest race?

Yes, its that time of year again, when mushers and dogs set off from Anchorage (ceremonial only, Willow now the true start point) for Nome, covering about 1000 miles of Alaska in the process. You’ve got it, its Iditarod time! Starts Saturday folks, though the real long haul starts on Sunday of course.

Seriously, people enjoy covering 1000 miles of tracks, frozen rivers, and indeed at one point frozen sea, for the delights of winning a long distance dog race, you bet they do! Me, I think they’re crazy, but do I admire them for doing so, you bet I do! This year is my favourite route, the southerly one, purely because that means they actually pass through the ghost town of Iditarod, that the race is named after. Well, technically its named after the trail to there, but you get the point?

And finally, having endured temperatures that could easily drop to minus 40 and beyond, especially in the Yukon wilderness area, they finally roll into Nome, where they are quite rightly treated like heroes. It used to be easy to say that Lance Mackey would be amongst the front runners, but for the last couple of years, that hasnt been the case. I’m not sure if the Mackey era is over just yet, but it might be. But what he did, winning as many consecutive races as he did, amazing stuff. And such a nice guy too, from all I read and hear of him. No, I’m never likely to meet him myself, but have read too many people saying nice things about him not to believe it.

Fortunately, my holiday split means I should be able to follow most of the first week quite well, unfortunately the finish is likely to run into Cheltenham, but fingers crossed I can still keep an eye on things. One day I dream of getting to Nome, but given my age, the state of my knees for really long distance flying, and everything else, it probably wont happen, and will always be one of my regrets in life. Even Anchorage is pretty tough from here, but maybe, just maybe…I hope, even if its not at Iditarod time.

The video, what can I say, I dedicate it to all those brave dogs, who will do just this for 10 days or more, allowing for rest breaks of course, and thankfully there are plenty of them. The song, a true one hit wonder from 42 years ago!

Its a dogs life!

Well its the life of a number of dogs in the far north of North America at least! What you ask, long distance sled racing of course!

I have no idea how I first got attracted to the Iditarod race across Alaska, so please dont ask. All I know is, its been a few (at least 4 or 5) years now, and I’m absolutely hooked on following it. I suppose the fact that I’ve always had a hankering for Alaska plays a part, but the thought of running a team of dogs, for over 1000 miles, in those temperatures, in that terrain, truly amazing. I suspect the fact it ends up in Nome plays a part for me, lol! But alright, the ghost town of Iditarod intrigues me just as much, even if they only go there every other year.

In recent years, there is one name that stands out in mentioning this race, Lance Mackey. You either have heard of him or not, but try checking him out on Wikipedia, to find out just how amazing. The thing is, unlike so many sportsmen, he seems a really nice guy. Competitive, yes, will to win, you bet, but when it comes to saying the right words, at the right time, he’s a consummate professional. There are many others as well, probably just as nice, but Lance is the one that seems to be focussed on, for obvious reasons.

Oh, and you think a thousand mile plus race, the field would be spread out at the finish? Well to some degree it is, but one year, not so long ago, the Iditarod was won by 8 seconds. 10 days out on the tracks, and the winning distance, 8 seconds. The Yukon Quest winning distance this year, nearly as long a race, 26 seconds!

Two weeks from now, this years race from Willow (Anchorage nowadays is only a token start point, due to housing build up in the area) will restart, and over 60 teams will head for Nome. Not all will make it, but the majority will. And before anyone says its cruel to the dogs, not one has died, or been badly injured in the last 2 years! Hopefully we get the hat trick this year.

But yes, I will only be following this over the internet, funnily enough.

No music tonight, just film of the end of this years Yukon Quest. If the Iditarod is also this close, now wouldnt that be something!

Reading choices, and travel

And no, nothing to do with towns in Berkshire, Pennsylvania, or whatever lol!

My reading preferences are pretty much twofold, travel literature and science fiction. Well, I might see the Racing Post at work sometimes, and sometimes pick up a newspaper oin the train, but you get my drift. Oh, and travel guides to where I’m going, just maybe. So if anyone has any spare travel books to Boston… 😉

Basically my travel lierature tends to fit into 2 groupings, that with a sense of dry humour (Bryson, Thubron, Hawks) or books about long distance train journeys in various, generally remote parts of the world (too many to mention), quite often Siberia! I have travelled across America by train from Seattle to Atlantic City, though the last chunk from Philadelphia was 6 years after the rest of it! Dream journeys still to do incude the Trans Siberian (fairly obvious I guess?), and Winnipeg to Churchill in Canada (maybe less so?), and would be trans Alaska as well, if there was one! Yes, I like northern climes, and have done the Bergen – Kirkenes – Bergen journey by boat as winter was setting in, quite something. I could joke about a dream journey where Trans Pennine Express run on time, but maybe thats just a shade harsh?

Science fiction tastes are more Metropolis than Dune, robots definitely interest me shall we say? Have read some Asimov, but not as much as I probably should have. Also read a lot of transformation type stuff, not just robots, but they are probably my big kick. Also love all the outer space and alien stuff to be honest. A lot of what I read is actually internet stuff, though I do have a book collection of sorts, mainly the travel stuff. And yes, I’ve written some sf type shorts on the net too.

Travel, yes 3 weeks from now, if you’re lucky, you’ll be getting the odd blog from Boston, looking forward to the trip, I must admit. Plans for next year are very much TBA at present, will probably think about that on my return.

Whats that, where’s the video? Well this posting doesnt really fit into that! Oh, alright, including footage of one place I’d love to visit if it wasnt for travel time, and cost.

So if Alaska Airlines are feeling really generous…