Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Alaskan Experience

Okay, I am on my 5th post in 2 days. Hopefully this one will catch me up to date. We have been blessed with meeting the kindest people here. A kind Bishop's wife who couldn't have been more helpful, and her daughter who volunteered to watch my children so that I could house hunt, a family who took us in for a couple of days until we found housing and so much more. We have been truly blessed.
We are loving it here. It is a little different getting used to it being light until 10pm at night. They tell us we should have been here in June when it was light until midnight. The weather for the first week and a half was absolutely gorgeous! This week it has turned off a bit colder and raining nearly every day.
I did find an apartment after two days of looking. The apartment is smaller than our old one in Virginia but SO much nicer. It's nice too to live in a place where the apartment manager actually cares about the tenants. So foreign to me after 9 years in DC.
I have a love hate relationship about going to the Post Office here. It doesn't matter what time you go during the day or which post office. Plan on spending a minimum of a half an hour in line waiting. With my kids running around... It's almost more than I can handle. But I meet the neatest people and have the most interesting conversations! Everyone takes care of my kids and it's like they have Grandmas and Grandpas and extra Moms everywhere.
Anyway, we are so far really liking it here. It's been great. I'm a little nervous about the winter, but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Journey

Our 5 month journey from Northern Virginia to the middle of Alaska has come to an end. Brief time line- March 12th we left for UT.
March 24th Paul left UT for AK and we stayed behind.
April 23rd Paul left AK for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)
August 6th Paul flew to UT.
August 10th We all leave for AK
August 15th We arrive in Anchorage AK our new home.
Now of course there are lots of stories and tales of the last 5 months but I have chronicled some of them already so I will only subject you to our week of travels from August 10th- August 15th.
Once we had loaded up the trailer with all of our belongings and attached it to the Durango, we discovered that the shocks were almost fully compressed. Therefore on Monday we experienced a bit of a delay in setting off as we had to have airbags (really, airbags for the shocks, what will they think of next!) installed on the shocks. We finally left Ogden about 6pm Monday evening and drove as far as we could that night. We would have loved to have stopped and seen Erick and Kathy in Pocatello ID that day but as we got off so late we didn't dare stop, we knew we would never get back on the road that night if we tried to. It was my first time in Idaho though but I didn't see much of it as we drove mainly in the dark through that state. Later that night we tried to find a hotel for the night just over the border in Montana, but after pulling off twice and not having any luck in even finding a hotel, we ended up sleeping in the cars. Paul slept in the Durango and I in the car with the kids. By morning they were in the front seat with me and I was soaking wet from diapers leaking.
Let me note here that Paul was driving the Durango with a 14 foot trailer and I had the Camry with the kids. The plan was that at different points we would switch so that I could get a break from the kids and they could spend time with Dad, but we discovered a slow leak in one of the tires on the trailer which made it sway back and forth really bad and I wasn't going to go near that. Paul had much more experience hauling a trailer and I thought I'd let him handle it.
We spent Tuesday pretty much just in Montana. First time for me in Montana too. There are some really gorgeous parts of Montana but I don't recommend the upper portion where I-15 crosses into Canada. It looks just like Kansas and the wind blows and there's nothing there. It's called the Sweetgrass Crossing and both Paul and I agree that we never want to get posted there. We pulled up to the border crossing and didn't realize that we were going straight to the Canadians, which wouldn't have been a problem, but we needed to have some paperwork signed by the Americans before we crossed into Canada. So after waiting in line with the Canadians for an hour and then an hour with the Americans and then again with the Canadians for another hour, we were finally able to cross the border. We made it to Calgary that night and were very grateful for a hotel room and showers!
As we approached the signs for Canada I have a moment of panic as the signs are in English and French and I'm thinking I'm taking my kids into a foreign country, please let them speak English! As we weren't going through Quebec that wasn't a problem, but never having been to Canada... I was really excited about being in Canada as it was my first time out of the country. We felt bad as we really didn't get to experience much of it as we were driving as far and as fast as we could each day. Some thoughts about Canada/Canadians-
- We loved the accents!
-They love A&W like we love McDonald's. They are all over place. Having been trained from an early age to appreciate A&W root beer, I wasn't complaining. Their A&W is different than ours though. It's better! I don't know how they do it but its noticeably better.
-The only thing worth seeing in the province of Alberta is Calgary. It looked like a great city. The rest of the province... Well lets just say the first half is just like Kansas. The last half is the same but wooded. It was VERY boring.
-British Columbia is beautiful!
-I heard a fabulous song called, "God Bless the Canadian Housewife" celebrating what a miracle housewives are.
- The Canadians couldn't have been more helpful and nice.
-Okay, so Canadians are a lot like us, same stores, same TV shows...
-A bad time to drive through Canada- when they are having a gas shortage. There was no super or premium gas and only one or two pumps would have regular. Most of the pumps would have out of order signs on them.
We left a little late that morning. The effect of sleeping in an actual bed and feeling nice and clean after hot showers had a distinct effect. We drove through the rest of Alberta. The kids for the most part were very good. We would only get the DVD player out about once during the day. Reagan I swear sang her way through Canada. Daniel would tell her to be quiet and try to get me to tell her to be quiet. It reminded me of when we would beg my Mom to make my sister Erin be quiet. This night found us in the middle of no where or so we thought. If we had only driven 10 more feet we would have realized that we were on the outskirts of a town. Not realizing this, we spent another night in the car. Yet again the kids ended up in my lap by morning.
We made it into British Columbia (BC). Now in BC there are lots of mountains. This was also the only place that we saw wildlife. We saw moose, caribou, buffalo, and wild goats. One of the Buffaloes tried to charge the Durango as we went driving by. Luckily it veered off right in time. Daniel was disappointed as he really wanted to see a bear. I loved driving this portion as it was so beautiful to look at. Ideally, the way to make this journey would have been with plenty of time to sight see, and in an RV for the nights that you end up in the middle of nowhere. The tire that had been leaking developed a much faster leak and we had to stop for about 45 mins to get it fixed. It ended up having two wholes in it but they were able to fix it well enough so that we could make it to Alaska. We did end up in the middle of nowhere again for the night, this time though we got things situated much better for the night. Paul slept in the car with us, which helped as I wasn't the only one dealing with the kids all night, and we threw the kids car seats in the Durango and laid them down on the seat for the night. A much better night was had by all of us.
This day found us going through the rest of BC and the Yukon provinces and shortly around midnight we crossed the border into Alaska. We seriously wanted to kiss the ground, just to be back in the good ole' U.S. of A. Again we were in the middle of nowhere and a night in the car again was necessary.
We started out the day very excited to be in Alaska and figured we could make it into Anchorage by Noon or 1pm at the latest. That was until the trailer had a tire blow out 110 miles outside of Anchorage. It wasn't even the one that had a leak in it. Luckily we were VERY blessed. Right in front of where it happened there was a turnout so that we could get off the mountain road. No sooner than we were out of the car than a trucker pulled up and was able to help us get the tire off. Of course we didn't have a spare for it, so she called ahead to Wasilla and found a place with the right size tire and asked them to stay open long enough for Paul to get there. Then she stayed with me and Reagan while Paul drove the hour + to Wasilla got the tire and returned about 3 hours later. The trucker couldn't have been more helpful and kind. May God reign down special blessings on her head. We finally pulled into Anchorage about 7pm that night and spent the next two nights in luxury with amazing beds and bathtubs/showers. Have I told you I have a new appreciation for those two items? They are absolutely heaven!!
This was our journey, and I am very proud to say that I drove the entire Alkan highway (nearly 3,000 miles) all on my own and it will be a long time before I'm willing to do that again!

Picking up Daddy

It is always fun to go pick up Paul at the airport from all the adventures he goes on, but this time it was particularly fun to watch Reagan get ready to go see her Daddy. I had already attired her in a cute outfit. But she took care of the accessories. She added a sea shell necklace (thank you Aunt April), bracelets, sunglasses, and of course a purse! Where did this girl come from? I was never like this especially at 20 months! She was then ready to see her Daddy after 5 months. I wish I had a picture as it was adorable. Paul didn't know what to think when he saw her.
Daniel was really excited too. He had been talking all summer about taking Daddy swimming with him, but unfortunately it turned off really cold in UT right as Paul got there so that wasn't in the cards.

Oquirrh Mountain Temple Open House

July 30th found the Petersen family at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple open house. We were missing Paul and Waide (Paul's sister, Penny's husband) but this is Paul's family-
Right to left top half- Penny, Hadley, Kim, Tyler and Brent
Right to left bottom half- Jamie, Reagan, Calleen, Daniel, Katelyn, Zachary, and Lois.
It was really neat to be able to share this with my kids, to walk through the sacred walls and share the experience and the spirit with them. Of course Daniel's favorite place was the Baptismal font. We've talked a lot about baptism a lot lately and with his love of water, of course that would be the place he would love.

24th of July week - Pioneer Day in Escalante UT

My Aunt and Uncle brought my 94 year old Grandmother up from Tuscon AZ to Escalante UT for the week of the 24th. This is where my Grandmother lived much of her life and where my Dad grew up and I don't admit it often but I did too. (We moved from here when I was 15.) My Dad took the opportunity and flew out to Salt Lake and the kids and I too him the 6 hour drive down to Escalante. The drive once we got off I-15 is gorgeous. It takes you through Red Valley where you drive through tunnels of red rock,
and past Bryce Canyon. It was really fun to see these familiar sights of my childhood.
We were so excited to see my Grandmother. It had been almost 7 years (since my marriage) since I had seen my Grandmother, she had never seen my kids and to see her in Excalante over the 24th! What could be better?
You have to understand 24th of July (Pioneer Day) celebrations in Escalante. The day starts off with the cannons going off at 6am for at least the next 1/2 hour to an hour. (This particular morning they would set off my cousins alarm on her car as well which was really annoying as my kids could sleep through the cannon but not the alarm - Go figure!). The cannons are followed by the band wagon going all around town playing music. Then there is the kids parade later than morning followed by the regular parade. Next comes the western shoot out in front of the local grocery store in the center of town (I used to live on this corner and one night there was a real shoot out I'll have to tell you about). This is followed by a BBQ dinner with the best BBQ sauce ever! The afternoon is filled with a program featuring local talent (and the not so talented) and a carnival. That night there is a rodeo and fireworks. This is an all day wonderful event and I've not celebrated Pioneer Day without being there in Escalante. It was great as a kid and I didn't know what the 4th of July was (my little town never celebrated it- in their defense they shared the celebrations of these two holidays with the next town over and the other town did the 4th of July celebration.)
It was great to spend time with family and just to spend time with Grandma. She was so sweet with my kids, and I was really happy that they got to meet my Grandma. I think she's doing great for 94!

Daniel was climbing in this Birch tree after the parade. It made me happy to see as I used to climb all over this tree when I was his age and a little older.

So this is the road out of Escalante which takes you over Boulder mountain. This road is crazy and it was the first time I had ever driven it. At one point the road goes over a mountain top where it goes straight down for about a mile on either side as it winds across the mountain. It's called the Hog's Back. (There is another road near there that is even worse that is called Hell's backbone). I had lots of plans for while I was there, but somehow it just wasn't that important once I got there. Dad and I did catch up with old friends (Thank you Aunt Evelyn, Katie and Sarah for watching the kids so I could do that) and that really meant a lot.

Another picutre that warms my heart. When we were waiting for the parade to start Daniel entertained himself by rolling down the hill on the grass in front of the motel (My Uncle Dick owns it now but my parents ran it when we lived there and that is where I lived.) It was fun to see my son doing what I had so often done and to be there with my Dad.

This one makes me laugh. My cousins went fishing and although we didn't go they enlisted Reagan's help to dig worms. Which she happily did with my cousin Sarah.

Another picture of waiting for the parade with cousins Sarah and Bryce. I'm still waiting for Sarah to send me more pictures of the week. I was bad and didn't take a lot of pictures that weekend.