Wednesday, July 09, 2008

4th of July in Kenai

It has been nearly two months since Dutch left Bethel to take his new post as Public Works Director for the City of Kenai. We miss each other dreadfully, but round trip air fare is a little pricey (just under $600) so we haven’t been traveling back and forth on weekends. Since the Independence Day holiday fell on Friday, it was all the justification I needed to make a trip over to see him. Besides, his birthday is four days later, so of course I had to go. And the best birthday present of all (besides me!) was that I could take him his big dog.

Bear and I flew out of Bethel Thursday evening, had a quick wait in Anchorage where my new cell phone actually works, and then made the very short flight down to Kenai, arriving just before midnight. Dutch was very glad to see us both, and Bear was crazed to get out of the man-made hell known as an airline kennel. Once out the front doors of the airport terminal he raced around like a mad dog and peed on every stationary object he could find; that done, he was ready to greet his poppa and proceed to the next adventure.

Our new house in Kenai sits on a tall bluff above the Kenai River with a gorgeous view—clouds permitting—of the Alaska Range and the big volcano shown above, Mt. Redoubt. A bit further away to the south in the Range is Mt. Illiamna. Both are over 10,000 feet tall. So far in my brief experience of being there, all six days of it, the clouds have not been terribly cooperative. Dutch says the mountains come and go suddenly; now you see them, now you don’t. I was happy to get this quick view of Redoubt on the fourth of July. It wasn’t visible for very long; most of the weekend was cloudy and rainy.

Despite a late night on Thursday, Dutch and I managed to get to the Fourth of July parade in downtown Kenai by 11 AM on Friday morning. We found a good parking spot and then were amazed to see huge crowds of people trudging up from further away carrying all manner of portable chairs. By the time the parade started there was a gallery of chairs two and three deep lining the parade route.

The parade started with just about every fire truck the city owns, all with lights and sirens going. It was pretty loud there for a while. We were close to the start of the route, and fortunately they turned the sirens off after a few blocks. It served to get people’s attention that the parade was under way.

The civic and charitable organizations were well represented, there were a few floats, people throwing candy, lots of flags and folks dressed in red-white-and-blue. The VFW drove a real-looking (probably is) train engine on tires with a coal car behind it. A Dixieland jazz band performed from a large flatbed being hauled along. There were antique cars and tractors dressed in bunting, a dance school performing as they walked, a guy on one of those old-fashioned bicycles with a six-foot-tall front wheel, a very tall stilt walker, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle division (potato-potato-potato), rollerbladers in formation wearing Uncle Sam hats, and local candidates for public office shaking hands and passing out vote-for-me flyers. The crowd loved it all.

My big hope was for a marching band, the thing I most miss in Bethel’s Fourth of July parade. Having cut my parade teeth on Mardi Gras in Mobile and New Orleans, it just ain’t a great parade without a marching band or two or three (big, incredible floats don’t hurt either).

Kenai’s parade didn’t have a full marching band, but they did have a “drumline”, the percussion section of the high school band. There were more than a dozen drummers and cymbalists (?) marching in uniform, creating very intricate percussive rhythms that were great to listen to. Just made you want to dance right there on the street. And easily heard for several blocks.

After the parade was over, we discovered why so many people walked in with their chairs. So many roads were blocked off for the parade and the festival afterwards that we had a hard time getting out.

In my two brief visits to Kenai, my most dominant visual image is of moose. It seems like they are everywhere. A day rarely goes by that Dutch doesn’t see several. Usually it is cows with one or two calves grazing beside the roads. They are obviously unmolested, as they seem to have little fear. But they are in some danger from the cars whizzing by at 60 mph paying no attention; I saw one sign that said “151 moose road-killed this year.” I don’t know if that means since January of 2008 or some longer time, but it seems like a LOT of moose to me. I also don’t know what they do with the road kills. People here in Bethel would go crazy if that much yummy moose meat is being wasted.

Bald eagles follow closely behind moose in terms of wildlife prevalence. They seem to be all up and down the river. From our deck on the bluff we see one flying over or sitting in trees at the river’s edge every few minutes. Sunday morning we awoke to one sitting in a tree at the edge of the yard. He (she?) perched there for about two hours as we drank coffee and watched. At first I was concerned that the big bird had been injured, as s/he sat for the longest time with the left talon stretched in front of the branch and all weight borne on the right leg. Through the binoculars I could see the left talon clinch and unclench repeatedly. Eventually the bird shifted weight to the left leg and went through the same routine with the right talon, so I guess it was just a stretching exercise. When I came back later the eagle had flown.

The weekend was filled with chores as well as fun. Some combat shopping for household goods for Dutch. Establishing a Bear-restraint system in the yard for the big dog. Ditto the back of Dutch’s brand new truck, after repairing the chewed seat belt where the big dog expressed his displeasure at being left in the cab when we went out for breakfast. His life nearly came to a premature end on that one. And, on the fun side, going to a minor league baseball game to cheer for the Peninsula Oilers, the local team.

Of course the three short days went by in a flash and all too soon it was time to come home. In the effort to extend the visit as long as possible, I made the rash decision to catch the early plane on Monday morning and go straight to work from the airport. That meant being on the 5:10 commuter flight out of Kenai, which meant getting up at quarter till 4, and no time for coffee before racing to the airport. Painful.

In my sleep-deprived state as I was checking my bags in, I found the airline’s sign taped to the counter somewhat humorous. The murderous treatment of English in signage is one of my pet peeves. The sign said:

One carry-on bag allowed, weight not to exceed more than 20 pounds.

Am I just weird, or what?

83 days until October 1st; one more visit planned before then. Photos, as usual, by The Tundra PA; sorry I have no shots of the parade. For once I forgot my camera.



Blogger RunninL8 said...

Glad you had a full and fun trip! Your property looks amazing and the view of the ocean.....
I am REALLY missing the ocean.
Last fall my husband and I stood on a bluff in Ninilchik overlooking a very similar view. We thought we were standing on property that was for sale cheap. A friend with property near by had told us about it. Needless to say we were quite excited at the prospect of setting up a weekend place! Turns out the guy gave us the wrong directions. The REAL property was next to this one-deep in mosquito land and harboring many old vehicles and dwellings reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or Deliverance.
Speaking of Deliverance, the July 4th "family" party thrown by Huz's client that we went to...missing teeth, large ladies showing more dirty bra than tank-top, cussin', flipping over the jet ski...OI! We were outta there!
But there's some beautiful cheap lakefront property near by!...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:29:00 PM  
Blogger TBTAM said...

Congrats on your new home. I'm trying to imagine having coffee with an eagle. Amazing!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 4:39:00 PM  
Blogger akfnp said...

What a big change for you TPA.
BTW, there is a call list for road kill here. We've seen people cutting up moose on the side of the road at all hours of the day. Last one 1/2 mile from our local high school, loading quarters into the back of a pickup truck. One of my more interesting (Alaskan) lacerations was a woman cutting up road kill for her brother who was on the call list. If they call you and you cant get there or send someone for you, they move to the next name on the list. Again, its an interesting world here! Hang in there the next 3 months.

Friday, July 11, 2008 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

akfnp--thanks for this comment, it sets my mind at ease. I was really concerned about what happened to the road-kills; I'm so glad that the meat gets eaten and appreciated. Dutch and I may have to get ourselves on that list...or perhaps make friends with someone who is on it. We couldn't eat a whole moose by ourselves!

And thanks for your encouraging words; it is a big change, and one I am looking forward to with excitement. I'd love to meet you when I get there and discuss multiple issues, including medical/professional ones. I don't yet have a job there. Perhaps we could meet for coffee at the delightful new coffee shop out on the Spur hwy towards Niniski (?), The Funky Monkey. If you haven't been in yet, I highly recommend them. Email me sometime if you're interested in getting together.

Sunday, July 13, 2008 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ishmael said...

Two of the most favorite places I've lived in Alaska: Bethel for five years and Kenai/Soldotna for 10. You'll like the city of Kenai. Mayor Pat Porter is a sweetheart, and the folks in City Hall are great.

The moose kill signs are changed every January 1st. There is a list people can sign up to be called when there's a road kill, and they are required to come to the site of the accident and butcher the meat on the spot. If they can't make it, the next person on the list is called (by the state troopers). A lot of folks give it to charity, too.

On a clear day, you can see four volcanoes from Kenai. From south to north, remember "AIRS" for Augustine, Illiamna, Redoubt, and Spurr. Yes, they take turns erupting on a semi-irregular basis.

Enjoy Kenai! I know I did!

Thursday, August 14, 2008 9:59:00 PM  

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