goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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New Things Learned and More to Consider

One of the shortest stops of our tour was the 30 minutes we spent at an information point along the Alaska Pipeline north of Fairbanks. This pipeline has been in operation since 1977 moving oil drilled on the North Slope above the Arctic Circle over 800 miles south to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port. Much of it is shipped onward to the west coast of the US and Canada for processing, but about 10% of the crude is refined at three small refineries in Alaska. ( https://www.akbizmag.com/industry/oil-gas/where-does-all-that-oil-go/)

The pipeline provides lots of jobs. Beyond the jobs that were available when the pipeline was being built, today, maintenance and security are directly related. In addition, trucks provide continual supply, which means supplemental employment along the highway route for stores, restaurants, lodging, and more.

Note: This Embedded video resides on the official Alaska National Parks YouTube channel

We were told there have been only a few past environmental issues. Most of the past spills that have taken place are related to the failure of the pipeline to deal with heaves and other movements in the permafrost. The supports holding the pipeline are engineered to keep the soil heated while remaining flexible for the numerous seismic movements that also occur. Environmental concerns are increasing as as the rapidly melting permafrost is affecting the stability of the pipeline as the formerly stable structure is showing signs of “wobble”. (https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11072021/thawing-permafrost-trans-alaska-pipeline/#:~:text=Spills%20have%20ranged%20from%20less,equipment%20failure%20and%20operator%20error.)

Of course, we all remember the Exxon Valdez massive oil spill occurred when a tanker picking up crude in Valdez ran aground in 1989. Besides the loss of sea life, it is important to remember that this massive environmental disaster caused over $300 million of economic harm to more than 32 thousand people whose livelihoods depended on commercial fishing. (https://usa.oceana.org/exxon-valdez-oil-spill-facts/) The clean-up is still ongoing, as pockets of deep pollution are still being identified, 21 years later. (https://priceofoil.org/2010/01/19/21-years-later-oil-still-pollutes-prince-william-sound/#:~:text=The%20oil%20spill%20may%20have,in%20the%20Sound’s%20gravel%20beaches.)

While many Alaskans support increasing drilling, even inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.usnews.com/debate-club/is-it-time-to-drill-in-the-arctic-refuge/majority-of-alaskans-agree-with-drilling-in-anwr), most support relates to the income from the pipeline. Now with the Russian oil no longer being imported, the cry from people throughout the nation to increase drilling production is gaining noise and increasing the flow of oil from the North Slope seems to be the answer of choice by many people. However, the best industry projections indicate that additional Alaska crude would have a minimal potential of reducing gasoline prices at the pump. Environmental concerns are brushed away by indicating the care already taken elsewhere on the North Slope. However, environmental concerns are expressed by others to specify that the Refuge is the home for huge herds and sustains the indigenous population. Introducing intense industrial activity will disrupt all of that. (https://www.wilderness.org/wild-places/alaska/oil-drilling-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge) We see here the age-old decision-making process about the value of resources and who has the power to influence any changes.

Source: Alexis Bonogofsky, Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

I just filled up my gas tank and while I was not pleased to see the cost was over $45, I drive a Prius that gets about 50mpg and I will not gas up again for several weeks. I made my choice several car purchases ago. Even a decade ago, the writing was clearly on the wall that our environmental costs were going to kill us all, sooner or later. As long as we keep acting like we need to use up the earth and all its resources, I suppose we will….and the challenge will come sooner for our grandchildren than we hope.

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Family Values

We have a revolution happening in my family. One of my adult children is now houseless, by choice. And she is working and healthy without any bad habits, so what is going on?

What has happened is the result of thoughtful decisionmaking: how she and her partner choose to spend their hard-earned money. They also have a very different view of what they want in their life than I had developed at the same point in my life, and they are wiser in many ways. They want to make sure that “work-life” balance looks more like “work<life”. They want to enjoy their lives. They are outdoor enthusiasts and being able to work hard and then take time off and play hard is their joy. Dropping $2000 a month for a bedroom and shared kitchen, living room, and bathroom is not their idea of what is important.

Instead, after a minor minivan rearrangement for sleeping on trips, they seriously started looking for a Sprinter van and converted it for living and trekking. After a year or so, they had some better ideas, sold that one and are now in the middle of renovation on the next Sprinter van.

While this is “tiny house” living in an even smaller space, this is not an inexpensive project. Electrical provided three ways, clean and dirty storage for water/etc, insulation to keep it comfortable in heat and cold, all the cooking and food storage and prep requirements, this time a composting toilet and a shower arrangement, a platform for comfortable sleeping (he is 6’2″) while providing storage underneath for bicycles and more. This new home is jam-packed with all that will be needed.

I was asked to help with window coverings. Let me add this right here: I can sew but my skills are limited to “nothing fancy” and I also knew that they deserved something better than “mommy” level sewing, as this is definitely becoming a business for them. I told her I would go slowly…..and I did. I also only needed help from the sewing machine technician twice…..the machine will get tuned up after this and prior to the next big similar project. Live….and learn.

One more aspect to understand about van living: most areas do not have permitted areas for parking overnight. This is part of one of the societal changes we need to adjust as more and more people are forced to live houseless because of the current economy. So, those window coverings need to address the issue of privacy, of course, but also for stealth living as well as basic insulation. The windows must be covered tightly so no light escapes. We use rare earth magnets to hold the panels to the metal on the window frames.

First, Lisa carefully drew templates for each window with heavy paper. Some windows shapes were similar, but some of those had minor differences. For example, the front passenger and driver windows have the same shape but are reverse images.

Then, she obtained and roughly cut out the sizes needed for the insulation. This is batting with a heavy fabric on one side and about an inch of the loft of the insulation. She labeled them appropriately for each window (i.e., R2 for the 2nd window on the right) which helped me understand where each belonged. I then could take the rough cut and, using each window template, trim to the exact size and shape needed.

Lisa and Josh live in California. I’m in Oregon. Fabric selection was next. They came through heading to the Olympic National Park to trek and we hit one of Portland’s major fabric stores. Carefully, and thank goodness Lisa has a head for numbers and organization, she and the cutter helped me by cutting each window panel section piece, instead of just giving me the raw yardage and me trying to figure out the cutting. We needed decorative fabric for the interior side and plain fabric for the side that would face the windows and show from the outside.

We bought a lot of fabric. I found some seam binding there and ordered more online, obtained thread that was the perfect color, and got started.

My first step was to sort all the pieces so I had each window’s components together: the pattern, the batting, the plain fabric, the decorative fabric.

Then, I sewed pouches for all the magnets. By placing them in pouches that are attached to the material, the magnets will stay in place. Magnet pouches were placed in corners and along long straight edges.

Next, the seam bindings and the magnet pouches were sewed to the plain panel.

Then, placing the insulated batting and the decorative fabric in place appropriately, pinned closely, the topstitching on the seam binding edge closes the window panel.

In preparation for their next trekking adventure, a raft trip down the Colorado River in January, Josh and Lisa zipped through Oregon in an effort to hook up with a friend to learn some river rapids reading skills. We met them at an REI where they picked up one more needed item and brought the two window coverings I had completed. We identified issues I knew, others that needed attention, and I brought those two panels home to rehabilitate.

One point was the small round magnets, as strong as they seem to be, are compromised a bit with the fabric. We ordered more magnets, this time rectangles, that will more easily attract to the car metal frame. We hope.

They will be coming back for another river lesson in a few weeks. That will be the time to see if I am part of the next Sprinter van conversion or not. Photos to follow!

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Opening of the West

One of my favorite classes in college, Locational Geography, explained why cities are where they are. For example, when the European explorers came to North America by ship, they established their trading posts and colonies along rivers which were the highways of their day.  Looking at a map you can see major east coast cities in harbors and then upstream a bit to what is called the fall line, the place where there the tides end at a waterfall. The town where I grew up in New Jersey, New Brunswick, is located just downstream of a small waterfall.fall line cities

Roads followed animal tracks and the first National  Highway, now U.S. Route 40, extended into Ohio and then into Illinois. This was the first roads project approved by Congress and it was funded to help provide an easier pathway to the West.nrmap

Westward expansion continued into Texas in the early 1800s and the rivers were used by people who could afford the fare. The rest of the pioneers walked.  And so it continued. The Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail and many parallel routes lead people west.  Most people walked the thousands of miles and it took months and months to cover the distance we have just driven in a few days. No air conditioning and no 3G networks to ease travel in that time.western_trails

In the 1830s, however, transportation systems began to change with the development of the railroad.  Huntington, West Virginia, where I have lived the past 6 years, was founded by Collis P. Huntington, the owner of the C&O Railroad.  The railroad’s terminus on the Ohio River provided a short cut to the West and goods could be shipped faster than relying on the roads through the Appalachian Mountains and then to the rivers and then on to Chicago and the Great Lakes.C&O RR early

Chinese RRIn the early 1860s Collis P. Huntington served as second fiddle to Leland Stamford and disagreed with his boss when the Central Pacific started its race east to join the Union Pacific’s race west. Huntington looked at the Sierra Nevada and said the mountains were too big an obstacle to construct a rail line. But Stamford made the decision and Chinese crews were brought in.  Tunnels were dug by hand, often inching no more than a few feet through the rock each day.

Meanwhile, the Union Pacific’s construction teams were laying up to 10 miles of track a day across the prairie. The race was on. The first company to get to Ogden, Utah would own the right to the lucrative Salt Lake basin traffic. Finally, as the right-of-way crews worked on parallel lines for miles while the bigwigs bickered, the decision to have the lines meet was made.

DSC_0213The Golden Spike National Monument at Promontory, Utah memorializes not only that single last spike but a massive change in the transportation system of the United States and the world. DSC_0233This huge project, delayed during the years of the Civil War, finally climaxed May10, 1869. From that point on settlers to the West could opt to ride the train. From that point on goods could travel coast to coast in a matter of days instead of months by ship around South America. The transcontinental rail connection in the 19th Century was what the Internet has been to the 20th Century: the world became a smaller place.RRs

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