Latest Update: January 5, 2009

 

Juneau Journal - 2008
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Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
and
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)

          This web page begins a journal of the period of our lives after we gave up roaming and settled down in Juneau, Alaska, for the last few months of 2008. Juneau from Douglas Island in winterTo ready today's entry click here.  

          We're planning a new Alaska section for the website. which will include interesting facts and history, weather, and tips for planning your trip - we're hoping to have many visitors.

          Links embedded in the log's text lead to photos of interesting happenings as the months go by. They'll soon be assembled together on a page of the Photo Album.

          To read about our 8 years of roaming (cruising on Callipygia and RV'ing in Clemmie) see the index to the Travel Logs.


                                           TO READ ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW, CLICK HERE.

Monday, August 25, 2008

          The ferry Columbia docked at Auke Bay at 5am this morning. We rolled down the ramp onto the terra firma of our new home state, Alaska. We drove in the wet dark along the road into town, and parked outside Rorie and his family's house. They are in Oregon on the coast for a week, finding some sun. While they're gone, we'll stay here, take care of the dog, rest, decompress, and plan our nesting activities until our tenants move out of our house on Sunday so we can move in on Labor Day.

 

Wednesday, Sptember 3, 2008

          Phew.. Busy times. After a day curled up sucking our thumbs, our energy burst forth on the multiple to-dos around moving. Went to the Division of Motor Vehicles and registered Rusty in Alaska, and learned that in order to get Alaska driver's licenses, we have to produce original Social Security cards (passport doesn't do, birth certificate doesn't do.) Ergo we'd have to go to the federal building and apply for Social Security cards. (We'd taken them out of our wallets years back in response to some recommendation or other, and now not sure where we put them.) Went to the federal building, got practically strip searched to get in, then to the Social Security office. A small waiting room with gun toting security guard sitting inside the door watching visitors. Took a number and waited while those ahead of us had to bare their souls about personal problems in front of the entire waiting room as they stood at the window and talked with the one available employee. What a travesty. (While at the DMV we took a trial of the required written road test and both failed - on questions like: "how many feet behind a vehicle MUST you turn your headlights to low beam?" and "How close behind an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency may you travel?") Took care of new insurance for car and house (now that we're owner occupying), joined the local fitness club, and met our tenant as she moved all of her many belongings and furnishings out of our house. We had some trepidation after she invited us in to get reacquainted with the space - it was in utter chaos (not surprisingly given all the packing going on.) We noted that the carpeting looked to be a disaster though she said it was going to be cleaned on Monday. Braced ourselves for potential replacement. Went to the airport late Sunday night to collect our family, taking the dog with us. Not too many airports where one can find 6-8 dogs arriving or greeting. A nice touch. It's a year since we last saw them.

          We were very pleasantly surprised yesterday morning after our ex-tenant turned over the keys and we went to check the house. The place was immaculate, and the carpet almost like new. How lucky we were to have a tenant like that. So we are now settling in. Through Freecycle, we obtained a double bed-sized box spring and futon to sleep on until we figure out our furnishing plan; and through the paper, Bill found a workbench for the wood shop that he's planning in the garage. [Before we moved onto Callipygia, we shipped his tools, Shopsmith, etc., to Rorie who's been eagerly waiting for somewhere to set it all up.] Bill very motivated by reunion with tools, etc. and Pat working up a lengthy "Honey Do" list. We're having some serious happy attacks as we begin nesting. Our boxes from Rockville will be delivered next Tuesday, and in the meantime we're getting by with the stuff we brought cross country in Rusty and items borrowed from our family next door. Ah yes, and the weather. We've had a couple of sunny days - dried things up enough to cut the grass to welcome our family home, and otherwise the usual amount of light rain.

 

Monday, Sptember 15, 2008

          Transitions are hard. After gaining access to our house, we moved in with the items we brought in the car. Spent the first week finding a box spring and futon on FreeCycle to sleep on (hard), sitting on our camp chairs, and checking out furniture. Spent a weekend on Shelter Island at Rorie's cabin - took lots of video of that paradise, it's waiting to be edited (with everything else) for computer time. Than quickly acquired basic items (sofa, chair, bed) to provide bodily comforts. Spent the next week opening and stashing the contents of our boxes that left Rockville 6 weeks ago. Put the Yamaha digital piano together. Struggled with all this stuff, the abundance of water, and amount of space (at a little over 1,000 sq. feet our house feels huge.) Stayed awake at night over the devastation from hurricane Ike, made more poignant as we thought of our times camping in Galveston and on the Texas gulf coast. Signed up with GCI for cable service (Internet, phone, and limited TV) so we're back online. Now fabricating desk space and office shelves so we (ie Pat) can have a modicum of order at her workspace. Enjoying the neighbors, including our kids/grandkids. Now that the initial "rush" of moving in is over, we're not sure who we are any more. Both feeling pretty discombobulated.

 

Friday, Sptember 26, 2008

          A lot of turmoil, internal and external in what has become a very uncertain world, but we're settling into our little corner of it. Almost all boxes are unpacked, broken down, and removed for recycling/reuse. We've set up a recycling center in the garage (Juneau is real serious about this) and worked out a method that makes it easy to do source separation at/in the house. Bill has put up shelves for our "office" (one wall of the bedroom) and for our small library of books (in the "den"). The books have been sorted and categorized, and are mostly shelved. We continue to organize ourselves into our space, and found some things we'd stashed in the attic crawlspace 4 years ago when we spent a few weeks in our house one Christmas. MK has arranged a garage sale of (mostly our grandkids') stuff and we found ourselves adding some to it. It's great for their family and us to be next door to each other. Like a big security blanket stretching over both houses. Adults, kids, and dogs finding ease in ad hoc drop-ins, and the occasional phone call "could you....." Very nice. This has also extended to some other neighbors with little ones.

          We're struggling with rythm and routine, trying to figure out how to flow with our day while fitting the big rocks (fitness, creativity, and music) into it with some discipline: There's a lot to do in this town. We bought season tickets and went to the first movie in the Global Lens series - showing only a block walk away in the highschool auditorium. Bought season tickets for the terrific Perseverance Theater winter run. We started reaching out to meet people. We visited the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Pat went to a small meeting of Juneau Quakers and joined the Juneau LWV. A dash of pleasant nostalgia for her when she found some like-minded souls who care about effective non-partisan government and the common good. The 30 years since she was active in the LWV disappeared in a trice. Tomorrow, she attends a day long training for Washington State University's Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team citizen science project. We joined the local fitness club (a 10 minute walk) and are loving easy access to strength and cardio-vascular equiment not to mention the sauna and shower afterwards. We still can't get over how easy it is to clean up after cooking: there's abundant water - both incoming and outgoing. We miss the simplicity and intimacy of life in Clemmie, the limited options for how to spend our time.

          We plan to update our website every Friday. Pat is making a "Visit Alaska" page to help potential visitors plan their travel and time, so they can get the most out of their visit. If you're thinking of coming let us know so we can plug it into the calendar.

 

Friday, October 3, 2008

          Slowly settling in. This transition is holding up to our every expectation. Our house is snug and cozy, and the space conforms to our needs beautifully. We didn't expect that we'd be quite so busy. Living in a house places numerous demands that way exceed those of living in our previous very small space and roaming around. Cleaning! Organizing! Working out! Music practice! Shopping! House projects! Entertaining! Walking! Gasping at the beauty of the place! Grandkids! Community activities! Watching TV! [The latter mostly the news and baseball, with time out for the presidential/VP debates. Interesting being new Alaskans to watch how other home-staters either love or hate the gov. Many more than we'd have expected in the latter category. If her running mate is not elected and she has to come home, she'll find her nest badly soiled.] As we watch the financial meltdown from the sidelines, and our retirement funds shrink, like many we're tightening our belt. What with the costs of the move, acquiring furniture, and sticker shock in the grocery store we're putting ourselves tightly on a budget. We've long thought the US financial system was a house of cards and knew it had to crumble at some point. This seems to be it, or at least the start of it. Thankfully, we've been reasonably prepared. So far....

 

Friday, October 10, 2008

          A tumultous week at home and abroad. Presidential politics seesawing between the gutter and the high road, while the global economic house of cards teeters on the abyss' edge. Some amazing weather here too from gorgeous to high stormy rain and winds. On lovely Tuesday morning Pat went with her partner Dian to survey Eagle Beach for the COASST project. 26 miles "out the road" to this pristine spot at the mouth of the Eagle River facing across the Lynn Canal to the Chilkat Mountains. Half tide on the ebb revealed shifting sandbars, lots of wildlife (one eagle, many gulls, 2 flocks of black turnstones, 1 dunlin, 1 sanderling, a flock of surf scoters off shore accompanied by some western grebes and half a dozen seals.) No carcasses, however. She can't wait to try out the skill she learned about how to identify a dead bird from its foot or wing. The "road", by the way, only goes 30 miles - at least for the moment. Worthy of note: she spotted some mountain goats high above our house on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.

          Bill working in the garage to turn it into a wood shop - big job, clean up after MK's yard sale, sort through all the lumber, paint, odds and ends stored there, get reacquainted with tools and equipment that he and Rorie shipped here from Maryland 8 years ago, think about painting, enhancing the electrical circuitry, puting in some heating, and organizing everything. Bill busy too with daily guitar practice in the sweet little music room. Pat online enhancing her web development and design skills by an ambitious course of study through Lynda.com (highly recommended.) And, she spent more hours sorting through bird pix to select 10 to share at the Juneau Audbon society's October meeting on Thursday. Not to mention our dear ones next door coming over to watch the baseball playoffs, and trips for us to watch soccer games (thankfully indoors.) We're staying faithful to our program of fitness too. And, photos are coming!

 

Friday, October 31, 2008

          Can't believe it's three weeks since the last entry in the Juneau Journal. Time do fly. These three weeks have seen two huge storms (winds 60-80 mph), many inches of rain, 3 inches of beautiful snow, one gorgeous day, the World Series, and the closing days of this extended election season. Like most, probably, we'll be happy to see it end. We regret the alarming fear- and hate-mongering that's arisen among some segments of the US population. Our take on it is that we have two conflicting world views: one grounded in hope and possibility, which sees humanity as "we together" and the other grounded in fear and mistrust, which sees humanity as "us" against "them." Bill notes that, linguistically, the word "liberal" draws from the same semantic root as liberate and connotes an open-ness to others, and that the word "conservative" comes from the same semantic root as conserve - meaning hang on to what you've got and close it off from others. Regardless, we're settling in and have found a rythm to our days. Guitar and piano practice have become priorities, as has keeping fit. We've each slimmed down quite a bit and are feeling great. Yesterday, the sun shone all day and we took our dear ones' 2 dogs for a 3 mile romp near the abandoned Treadwell goldl mine on Douglas Island.

 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

          Living in our house, the routine is not at all like being in Clemmie or Callipygia. While we had our suprises cruising or being on the road, most of what we did or encountered was fairly predictable. Maybe that time will come here, but it's not shown up yet. We seem to be doing a reasonably good job with the "big rocks" in our life jars (quality time with grandkids, keeping fit, eating right, music practice) but the many smaller rocks (writing, housework, our various projects, and community activities) are still juggling around in the air, and we're not quite sure which ones are going to drop down today. Which means we're busy and learning to go with the flow.... Mostly.

          Let's see. We are in recovery from election season addictions - whose end was marked by a party we hosted for our dear ones. Spent a whole day cooking for the 22 adults and 17 kids who showed up. Reminded us of one of the reasons we selected Juneau to finish out our days - we already knew a lot of people here! Then there's Juneau's winter cultural activities, nearly all of them are astonishingly cheap and we can walk to most of them. To recount: last Sunday, the inaugural concert of the Juneau Concert Band; Monday, a short play based on Little Red Riding Hood put on at the Perseverance Theatre by clients of REACH, established 30 years ago by families of children with disabilities. Tuesday, a movie in the Global Lens series in the high school auditorium. Thursday, after going to MK and friend's 6-yr old Rosie's joint birthday party, we went to the play Doubt at Perseverance Theatre. Friday, the annual fund raiser at the Canvas, a subsidiary of REACH and where MK works. If we think our week was busy, it was nothing like hers - Stage Manager for Monday night's play, and a lead role for Friday's fundraiser, including constructing all 25 of the artistic lamps on sale at the event. (We bought one, made from a rubber boot of Reuben's when he was little.) Tonight, we take the boys to see Auntie Mame produced by students at Juneau Douglas High School - a long walk (2 blocks) away. Plus plenty of opportunity to pinch hit on assorted parenting duties for the boys, not to mention taking the dogs on several long walks: in the Mendenhall wetlands; up Basin Road to Perseverance Trail; around Twin Lakes; and through the woods by the old Treadwell mines on Douglas island. Oh yes, and our various projects: Bill's woodshop in the garage is taking shape nicely, helping him to work through his list of honey do's ( so far, clean out the garage and make a run to the dump, put up a storm door on the main entrance, put up sliding mirror-doors on the main hall closet (so we can watch ourselves wrinkle?), install many shelves (for the office part of the bedroom, and for our library in the den), etc. etc. As usual our webmaster is busy on web work - though unfortunately other projects are sucking up the air here, leaving our own website gasping. She has, at least, made a list of what needs to be done and she did resolve the issue with our blogs so we can now update them. Her hope again to write a November novel for NaNoWriMo sadly collapsed under the weight of all the alluded-to-above competition. 'Nuff for now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

          A bit behind with this Journal. Let's see if I (Pat) can catch up. The day before Bill turned 73, our dear ones next door departed Juneau for MK's Dad's 70th birthday celebration and family reunion in Hawaii, where he was born. We took them to the airport and thence began three weeks of dog sitting. Major (old, arthriticy well behaved, and affectionate golden retriever) and Sparky (young, skittish and energetic miniature Australian Shepherd) are used to significant exercise, so we altered our daily routine to include 3 10-15 minute and one hour-long dog walk each day. Rain, snow, shine, we were out there picking up poop as we went. Almost depleted our accumulated stash of plastic bags, grateful for the well supplied bag caddies at the start of many of Juneau's trails. Good for us as well as the dogs. We settled in nicely with our doggie family, cooking up yummy bones, vaccuuming up dog hair, cleaning off muddy dog feet, towellind off wet or snow-clogged doggy backs and legs, horsing around with tennis balls, preparing doggie bowls of food for breakfast and dinner, and responding to unending petting requests. We moved Major's bed from living room to bedroom at the beginning and end of each day. Sparky slept on the bed. After the first week we were convinced we didn't want to have a dog of our own, but after the second we weren't so sure. They were great company, and seemed to enjoy ours. Dog care undoubtedly reduced our (especially Pat's) time to do other activities, but no complaints. Thanksgiving found us pigging out at a party of the house of some friends, and thereafter we continued to partake of Juneau's many cultural and social offerings.

          Sad news from Maine. Dot, Bill's former wife and mother of his children, had been ailing for a few weeks. Yesterday at 1:09am (EST) she died of congestive heart failure in the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, the same place where we spent our vigil during Laurie's last 6 weeks in the spring of '06, two years ago. Dave had driven from Toronto the previous week to be with Dot and Donna during the family crisis. Here's a photo of the 5 of them all together in 2003, only 3 left now. Two snowy trips to the airport back to back for Pat in our trusty Rusty, yesterday to pick up the returning (disgustingly tanned and cheerfully rested) Hawaiians, and today with Bill to fly to Seattle, catch the red-eye to the east coast and then a short hop to Portland, ME, where Dave will pick him up. He'll stay in Maine through Christmas to support Donna through this difficult time. Which leaves Pat dog-less and Bill-less to figure out what to do with her suddenly open time. Some of it with continuing trots to the chiropracter to get rid of that annoying pinched nerve paining her right leg and hip - interestingly she a got a helpful ground adjustment when she slipped on the ice a few days ago, landing on the offending body part. With time to spare, now she'll be back to her indoor workouts, catch up on all those missed saunas, get going again on daily piano practice, and grind out a major but tedious part of the new DDR wesbite she's building (pro bono) in anticipation of the site's planned rollout in early 2009.

 

Sunday, December 20, 2008

          Solstice tomorrow. Sunset has been 3:06pm for over a week - but for that same over-a-week nary a cloud in the sky. This is a gorgeous place. A bit over 6 hours of daylight so a lot of dark to get through. Another week only, then the days begin to lengthen noticably. First place looked at in the Empire (struggling daily paper) is weather, then sunrise/set, then the tides. A very high tide (20') last week found the regular wetlands dog walk almost impassible. Pat getting by without Bill, not her first pick. Regular Skype phone and some Skype video warming her up. Bill getting by without Pat, glad he's in Maine for Donna during this hard time, but otherwise homesick. He made a side-trip in Dot's car to visit Al and Vicki in Kennebunk for a couple of days, pleasant distraction. The clear skies over Juneau have brought serious cold. Around 10°F (plus or minus) at night, about five degrees warmer during the day. Crunchy snow, some ice, Pat loving her Stable-icers, bought when we were in Halifax. Able to stride smartly along the trails while others slip and slide or pick their way gingerly. Her pinched-nervy hip/leg is slowly recovering, danged if she's going to give up these long walks. Yesterday was the Audubon Society annual Christmas Bird Count. And it was COLD. She went with an experienced Juneau birder and satisfied her goal of discovering some excellent birdwatching spots. After 5 hours out in the cold (hundreds of waterfowl (including over 1,100 Mallards), 28 species in all) she rushed to the sauna at the Racquet Club to thaw out, then take a hot shower, come home and still feel cold at the core. Made a big dish of chicken biscuit pot pie, wrapped it in blankets and drove to the Auke Bay home of the Juneau Audubon chapter president for a big pot luck. Nice to be in a relaxed setting conducive to connecting with other birdwatchers. Today, she'll go with the pack up the hill (see how dog-focused we are? This means our neighbor dear-one family) to Corinne and Jamie's for an annual Xmas gift exchange. Tomorrow, weather permitting (bad storm forecast for western Idaho) she'll pick up Craig and Jill at the airport. As is our wont, we struggle with how to handle appropriately our anathema for stuff acquisition during this traditional gift-giving time.

 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

          Last entry for the year. An enjoyable Christmas with friends and dear ones. The weather cancelled Craig and Jill's visit - disappointment all round. Heavy snow the day before Christmas, it was a beautiful white one. Shovelling for the grown-ups, collecting snow balls for the dogs, sledding and skiing for the young-uns (and some grown-ups). Happy to find that the desire to engage in such activities has diminished with the energy level - watching is pure enjoyment, untinged with envy. Picked Bill up at the airport on Saturday morning, both of us very happy he's home but glad he went to spend Xmas with his family in Maine. Created a new website for the Juneau Journal, so if you've been following this blog it will from here on look different. Sadness that our eight year roaming adventure is over, that period of our lives is closed. Now we have to figure out who we are all over again.

          Wishing a happy and more peaceful New Year for one and for all. Please download and watch this Power Point slide show - we hope you enjoy it. Pass it on.

          Footnote - we watched with horror the year-end unravelling in the middle east and found the Pro Con website helpful for enlarging our understanding of the unending conflict.

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