Posts Tagged ‘car’


4th November 2010 by Helen

We’re still here in Anchorage so I thought it was about time we did an update. Almost everything is in place ready for us to head off to Florida. We’ve collected the Jeep (shhhh, don’t tell Landy) out of storage, had the oils changed and the windscreen fixed (as arranged by the owner) but there’s a problem with the car heater – like, it’s not working – which is not bright when it’s already below freezing most of the time outside and it’s been snowing today.  One way or another a solution of some kind will have to happen tomorrow.  We’ve got on really well with the guys at the hostel but we are still really gutted by the delay. It makes it all the tighter on our schedule for actually getting to Florida in time for our flights back up to Seattle.

But, for now, I have a little time to think a bit more about our time here in Anchorage. It’s much as I described in ‘Cities’ but a couple of things I didn’t mention. Just down the road from the hostel is a house with a large caged pen outside. In the pen is a reindeer named Star. Star has her own facebook page. In fact she is really Star number 6 and is apparently a bit of a mascot here in Anchorage. Read more about Star’s history here.  Seeing Star and reading the article has made us ponder somewhat on the subject of what type of animal makes an appropriate pet and how they are kept!!

Another thing here is the cost of food!!  It’s astronomical.  Not that we should be surprised as most of it has to be shipped in from the “Lower 48” as they call the southern states.  Other than that most stuff seems cheaper at least than the UK – houses, apartments, electrical goods, etc.

We had a bit of a drama last night.  Paul was outside in the dark and snow detailing (valeting in English English) the Jeep while I was indoors cooking (not daft).  All of a sudden Paul heard a creeeeaaaaaak and then a craaaaassssshhhhh as the telegraph pole three doors up the road bent off at the bottom and lay down across the road.  The wires above his head tightened and then the next telegraph pole up the road repeated the cry and lay down too!!  Lights went off up the road between the two poles causing people to come rushing out into the road.

Much to our surprise the fire service turned up within the half hour.  Vehicles were parked and ground flares lit to block the road.  Fork lifts soon followed with a small army of workmen.  The various wires were disconnected from the still standing telegraph poles – causing our own electricity to go off.  Then they carried on working in the dark, wind and snow, replacing the poles and reconnecting the wires.  Amazingly the job was done and electricity restored by about 1.30 am.  The whole drama had taken no more than about four hours.

Mind you, there was nearly a much bigger disaster in the middle of this.  Despite the flashing red and blue lights, ground flares, fork lifts, fire engines and loads of men in hi-visibility jackes, one local resident reversed at speed out of his drive, straight over a coil brand new wire, catching the wire on the underside of his car, before speeding off.  Men in hi-visibility coats were waving and gesticulating at him to stop, to no avail until one of the men bravely stepped out right in front of the speeding car.  If he hadn’t there was a real risk that the car would have pulled the wire tight, pulling on the pole to which it was already attached and potentially causing a serious accident to the workman up that pole as well as damage to the madman’s car.   Glad to say that disaster was averted.

PS: check out our Gallery for our Rare Overlander video!!

Wells Fargo really does exist!!

31st October 2010 by Helen

It’s been a fairly uneventful few days.  We’ve learned a bit more about Alaska, where to go, what to see.  The road system is fairly straightforward: three key roads form a triangle joining Anchorage, Fairbanks and Glenallen, with about another five roads linking these to other key places.  There’s only a couple of train lines that run down the west coast and they don’t seem to run out of season (ie, now) and the buses out of town run ‘as and when’.  Our packs are too heavy and cars too few and far between to make hitch-hiking an attractive option (at our age).  So we have concluded driving is the only way to go.

I said I’d give an update when I knew what we were doing.  So here it is.  We have been told that Landy is due to land in Seattle earlier than we expected, late November, which we are pleased about.  In the meantime we have been in discussion with a lady in Florida to drive her car from Anchorage to Florida before taking an internal flight back to Seattle.  Yes, we know that’s not what you expected!!  Neither did we, but we’re looking forward to the new opportunity to see some of the other States we had not otherwise planned to visit.  The family obviously want their car delivered but, within reason, we will have the opportunity to take in some of the sights we had not otherwise expected to see.  And we still need to be back in Seattle in plenty of time to meet Landy off the ship.

In the meantime we have been enjoying a relaxing time at the hostel.  Out of season things are pretty relaxed.  There are four other people living here: apart from the owner who is in residence for the winter there are three men who are all around our age, mostly employed in the fishing industry in some way.

Temperatures outside are mostly below freezing.  We’ve walked around this part of the city a couple of times, finding the shops and getting any supplies we need.  At one point we asked a cyclist and asked directions.  It turned out our destination was probably some distance away.  The man himself was amazed at the fact we were ‘walking’, which he kept repeating while shaking his head.  When I said ‘brilliant’ in thanks at the end of our conversation, he said no-one had ever said brilliant to him before!!  And rode off still shaking his head!  We still get thrown by some of the words and phrases but American English is a lot easier to follow than Russian or Mongolian was.

Loads of shops have had Halloween decorations.  Pumpkins have been on sale everywhere.  The front garden of the small wooden house next to the hostel has been full of pumpkin and other Halloween decorations.  On Sunday (31st), lots of older children, teenagers and young adults were out and about in Halloween costumes during the day.  However, there were no ‘trick or treat’ calls during the evening – don’t think I’d want to out in fancy dress costumes when it’s below freezing outside either.

Wandering around one supermarket we were surprised to see hanging above us a canoe for sale.  As our eyes lowered we were even more bemused to see racks of shooting rifles and then right in front of us glass cabinets full of handguns.  You don’t get those in Tesco’s in England!!  We were less surprised to see the latest issue of ‘Mushing’ on sale, and of course there are plenty of books in the supermarkets reflecting local scenery and stories.  We’ve seen for real the stores that are just ‘names’ in England, such as JCPenny and Sears.  And Wells Fargo really does exist as a bank here – to me it’s always been a bit like Timbucto and Outer Mongolia, a myth shrouded in the mysteries of cartoons and Westerns, fables and time.

Heading North

29th July 2010 by Helen

Wednesday 21st July

We certainly know we are heading north now.  It’s getting much cooler (more reasonable really) and we are beginning to see more2010 07 21 - village scenes on the way north from Almaty (2) - donkey & cart rain clouds (and even some rain).  Basically for the next couple of days we are just pushing on to get to Semey as soon as we can.  We want to take a break just outside Semey so Paul can download all our videos so far on to the new laptop, get them edited ready for uploading somewhere in Semey, and do some general camp and car maintenance, before we head into town and an Internet café.

We did manage to stop at a bazaar in a small town where I bought what we’ve dubbed an S&M dress – a hoodie dress that zips up right over the face!!  Still, makes a change from camping clothes.

2010 07 21 - roadside cafe on the road from Almaty to Taldyqorghan (2)Also paused from time to time to take photos of some of the scenes we have been passing – typical villages along the way, plants and insects, that sort of thing.

Health update – rather boringly for the doom-mongers we have not suffered much.  I’ve had a couple of very mild doses of food poisoning (dodgy egg served in the hotel restaurant in Stavrapol, Russia, and leftover meat eaten the next day after Aqtobe, Kazakhstan), Paul picked up a rather nasty bug just short of Shieli that left him feeling rather poorly for a couple of days.  Apart from that my histamine levels have shot up in response to the mozzies and I long ago gave up on short sleeve tops, skirts and shorts when there is any sign of them being around.  Unfortunately, unlike Paul, I don’t actually hear or feel them, I only know they’ve been attacking me several hours later when the bumps appear.  Fortunately, here in Kazakhstan, it has been so dry I’ve managed to continue relatively unscathed.  Not looking forward to what I know is likely to be mozzie land in the Russian Far East.  And for some reason we are both permanently on the Bristol Stool Scale number 6-7 whilst feeling quite well!!

2010 07 21 - flowers and insects beside the road from Almaty to Taldyqorghan (15)2010 07 21 - scenery on the road from Almaty to Taldyqorghan (29)Something short of a small health miracle has happened to Paul.  Continuous pain in his right hip and across his lower back, from which he has suffered for the last 6 or 7 years, has somehow miraculously disappeared.  Must be something to do with the hard bed, clean air, and the fact that he has lost a stone and a half in weight.  Actually, we’ve both lost weight as I’ve lost about a stone myself.  Paul says he feels fitter and more flexible, although I’ve only noticed that I need to buy a belt to hold my jeans up.  Must be the lack of sugar in the diet!!  Certainly not the lack of fat as much of Kazakhstan is barren which means meat and pasta form the staple diet, and cooking in butter or animal fat is universal.

Distance travelled 379 km

Overnight campsite – just past town of Sargan