9/9/06 Saturday

      When I got to Alaska, I resolved to actually see Alaska.  (I had spent a year in England--unquestionably the best year of my life--from which I can only tell you what a computer monitor and the binding of a book look like.  -I mean, I did receive "double upper first class honours," but still. . . .) This has--at times--turned out to be much easier said, than done.

      One of the things one MOST wants to see here (interesting grammar. . . . :) :) ), is autumn.  Autumn here is INCREDIBLE--if somewhat limited in colors, compared with Pennsylvania, or Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, everything "up here" realizes it only has short period of time to do things . . . before the bone-numbing COLD and darkness settle in, ending ALL. . . .  -Never mind.  :) Anyway, autumn up here, quite literally lasts only about two weeks.  -No, I'm not kidding.  At that time of year, two weeks means the loss of something like 4 hours (!!!!) of daylight . . . and all the leaves are down.

      This is where the proffered resources of Robert--who actually lives here (And isn't subsisting on a grad student's starvation wages. . . .  Never mind.  :) )--was MOST welcome.  :) :) And off we went on dirt bikes.  !! :) :)

      On the way up the hill [Murphy Dome], we ran into some moose-dudes---a momma and her ?calf/colt?:

      These pictures came out *AMAZINGLY* well---given that they were taken throught the windows of a (for the first [one], anyway(s)) moving "Alyeska truck." :) I suppose I should make a note about "Alyeska trucks"---to those not familiar with them (everyone "up here" is---they're pretty ubiquitous :) ).

      Whenever I think about describing an Alyeska truck, I always think about the line from "Rocky II": "I watched you beat that man, like I ain't never seen no man be beat before---and the man kept coming after you." Well, if one substitutes "man" with "truck," and "kept coming after you" with "kept moving," and one has a PERFECT description of an Alyeska truck.  :) These things are used in maintaining the [Alaska] Pipeline, and are thus operated in conditions that would chafe a walrus's buttocks.  -And since no one person owns them---they're "run like rentals," the entire time they're in service.  Just try to picture, after five years. . . .

      Well, I imagine you get the idea.  :) The only way I knew that Robert's Alyeska truck was dual-exhaust, was that blue smoke poured out evenly from both sides when he started it up.  The passenger-side exhaust (at least in the region where it would've been visible) was just . . . gone.  :) :)

      It had been a LONG time since I had been dirt-biking (And the last time, on an early morning in Upstate New York, there was an incident with some barely visible barbed wire in a field, which resulted in a reasonably prominent scar just behind and below my right eye. . . .)---in fact, any type of motor-biking at all. -And I'm used to larger engines: plenty of low-end torque, and easy on the clutchee-wutchee. I wasn't ready for these peaky two-cycle dirt bikes, had to be reminded where the gear shift, etc. was---and managed to stall it out three times within the first five minutes. Once I got goin', though, it all "came back to me"---and off we went. :) :)

      About halfway there (I was *AMAZED* at how fast we were able to get around on those things. -We passed a few 4-wheel drive trucks on the way---some of the drivers--vainly, I believe--tryin' to be "macho" about about having to yield to . . . two guys on dirt bikes (Most were completely cool about it, though---that's how the vast majority of Alaskans just are.  :) ).), we stopped to take some pictures. The autumn foliage was in ideal blaze:

      Minto Lakes:

      These are responsible, it is believed, for "The Jensen Effect." -Long story. :)

      More "Dirt Biking on Murphy Dome" :)