Many Alaskans Don’t Like Slow Drivers Just Like They Don’t Want to be Taxed

If you are a newcomer to the big state of Alaska, welcome to the Last Frontier, where the bear, moose and people who like their guns like to play.

If you plan on driving in this big, big state, you will want to keep something in mind. Just like guns, people like their cars and trucks up here. They like how loud the engine gets when it can get on the open road. And, if you are driving too slow for them on their “open road” they will let you know.

The best thing Alaska could have ever done was to build as many four-lane roads as possible with their old 20th century oil money. They had milions and milions of dollars. If they had built these four-lane roads, Alaska motorists would not be reading signs today on all two-lane state highways that say “slower cars pull off to the side”, “passing lanes ahead”, “passing lane ending”, “do not pass slower cars on the left”, “do not drive on the shoulder”, “bike path ahead, do not drive on shoulder”, “the shoulder is not a right turn lane”, “pedestrian crossing ahead”, etc…

I know the state is not allowed to be subjective with its signage; but, if they could, it might make for some interesting reading. “Hey….You in the car with the Camera….You are driving way too slow……speed up….or pull off the road.” “Hey….You in the car…..Driving only 35 in a 55….You just got a ticket for going too slow.”

Now, the roads are so crowded, winter and summer, that cars cannot even make a right or left turn off a major road without the use of a traffic light to stop the flow of traffic in the other direction. People who need to just cross the street have to ask the lighting system to cross, so the traffic light can stop all of the traffic. In the summer, it can be like Dallas, up here.

So, Alaska is getting more people, and more traffic everywhere. More people means more services will be requested. More traffic may mean requests for more roads and road improvements. Here is the problem. The only item we are not getting is more revenue into the state coffers to help fix these issues. As one Alaskan put it years ago, “This state got spoiled by oil.” Now, that the oil tap is starting to run dry, everybody is asking, “Higher taxes; but, WHY?” Other Alaskans, many who are Republican or Libertarian, always say, “Why tax Alaskans, let’s tax the tourists?” (That usually comes from the Alaskans who want to be left alone.) Others want to cut, cut, cut, government spending. Others want to shut down parts of education funding and higher education funding.

Those who do support an income tax say it is needed to continue providing services to everyone. For the Alaskans who want public services, they have to be funded. That includes public education, higher education, health services, in-need services, public safety, state government, etc…

So, it is time for one of the youngest states to figure out how it plans to keep on being a state that can support itself. How can it keep its “Don’t Tread on Me” citizens happy? How can this big state keep all of its “Davy Crockett”, “John Wayne”, and “Amelia Earhart” citizens happy? How can it keep the newcomers of the 21st century happy? That will be a difficult task.

The “Don’t Tread On Me’s” basically came to disappear. Many of them are off the grid with their guns, dogs, log cabin that they built, animal hides on their walls from their hunts, their big fish catches on their walls, and a picture of their first plane that they learned how to fly that crashed somewhere in the state after everybody bailed out at the last minute into the snow.

The Davy Crockett’s are like the first group, except they work better with people. They are leaders with the same type of Alaska skills from the early days. They came here to help people who wanted to disappear. They were probably retailers.

John Wayne’s are the “Gotta Get It Done Guys”. In other words, they came here to help build everything in the state. Welders, truckers, pipeline workers, oilfield workers, shipping crews, fishermen, etc…..

The Amelia Earhart’s are the “Gotta Get It Gone Gals”. They did much of the same work as the Wayne’s over the years.

Now, all that this state needs is the Newcomers to find their new versions of Davy Crockett, John Wayne and Amelia Earhart to lead the Newcomers of this new century in the Last Frontier.

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Alaska’s Other State Bird: The Mosquito

There is a reason people in Alaska want to wear long sleeves and jeans in the summer. They want to keep some of their blood. Because, by the month of the June, the insect that is often called Alaska’s “Other” State Bird has hatched and is looking for blood. The biggest mosquito anyone will ever see can be found in Alaska. This “thing” is all legs and wings.  It can be up to three or four inches tall, when Alaska is hit with quite a bit of moisture.

All of the tourism sites go out of their way to warn visitors about these “Creatures of the North”.   Some sites offer plenty of tips to avoid the bloodsuckers.  Some of these include:  cover up the arms and legs, if you plan on camping bring bug spray, bug zappers, and mosquito netting for your tents and RV’s.  If you plan on renting a cabin for a few weeks, mosquito netting around open doors and windows is good to keep pests outside.  These are just a few tips that can be found.

When everyone first sees these mosquitoes, they look really scary.  But, they  are really slow and easy to kill, because they are so darn big.  In a way, it reminds me of trying to kill a dragonfly with a rolled-up paper.   As long as everyone stays on the lookout for these overgrown pests, that is all they will be…a vacation pest.

It’s better than having to deal with the pests that haven’t made it up here, yet….like rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and mice.  But, we do have spiders, shrews, ants, squirrels, and robo-callers.  Have a good one, everyone.

One Sound I Miss Hearing in Alaska

Growing up in the Lower 48, right in the middle of Tornado Alley, every spring and summer I would hear the sound of mother nature bringing in the thunderstorms. It didn’t seem to scare me that much as a kid. I was always amazed how the sky would light up at night. I always enjoyed watching the lightning and hearing the thunder. I was always told, after the lightning strike, start counting, that would tell you how many miles the storm was from you.

Now, that my family lives in Alaska, we are away from severe weather and thunderstorms. There are some areas of the state that do experience some thunder and lightning, also some small hail on the really warm summer days. But those days are rare. Usually, the rain clouds are very dense from all of the moisture from the ocean and water-soaked land.

Now, when we make trips to the Lower 48, I have to explain to my kids that they are hearing thunder or seeing lightning. I remember first seeing all of this stuff as an infant. Kids who are in grade school, and just seeing this stuff, might be a little more scared. I wonder how an adult, who had never heard or seen thunder and lightning, would react to it for the very first time?

Even though I miss the sounds made by the storms, I certainly don’t miss the destruction. I remember telling myself decades ago, if I find work away from Tornado Alley, I think I might take it.

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Keeping Tabs on Your Vitals

After I quit smoking over two decades ago, I told myself I would always do my best to keep track of my vital signs and keep track of my general health. During the 20th century, I had watched my friends and relatives who kept in good shape and those who were not able to stay in shape.

Twenty-years later, I’m glad that I did. These tools are a great investment. Here is what a person can do. First, anyone who wants to keep track of what they put into their body doesn’t need to buy anything but a tablet and a pencil. Nutrition information is out there for virtually everything. It doesn’t take that much research. If you need to find info on a food item….and what it contains try http://www.nutrition.gov. It has a huge database of food items, including fast foods.

An item to track your heart is a watch that also measures your pulse while you exercise. It can help someone reach their maximum heart rate when they workout. It also reminds someone not to overdo it.

Pedometers are great, as well. Especially for seniors, or for those who don’t run as much, anymore. Walking is a great exercise, and many people are surprised to learn how many steps they actually take everyday.

Other small tools to consider getting for the house are bathroom scales and blood pressure monitors. Just keeping tabs on your weight once a week or once a month let’s you know if you are eating something bad in your diet. Are you putting too much sugar in your coffee? Are you grabbing food on your way to work too often? It is just a simple way to stop a bad thing, before it gets out of control. I did it with sub sandwiches one time. Then, I tried to save money by making a homemade cappucino mix, instead of buying one at the store. Yeah, that took a few thousand miles of walking to fix. Not to mention a few pairs of tennis shoes.

As for the blood pressure monitor, I am still shopping for one of those. I don’t need one, yet. But, it’s better to start keeping track of your pressure before your doctor says you have to start. As long as you start somewhere with the vitals it will be in the right direction. Another piece of good advice is to keep an eye out for those free health fairs, too. They usually start up in the springtime, and offer all kinds of valuable health tips for free. Have a good one!

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“Have You Ever Met An Alaskan?”

Now, there’s a loaded question! Have you ever met an Alaskan? The first answer will obviously be “yes or no”. The more interesting question is the follow-up to a yes. What was the Alaskan like? That could probably bring out some very interesting responses.

I remember one Alaskan that I met. He had lived here most of his life, and maybe all of it. He had worked in commercial fishing. He had learned many other jobs throughout his long life to keep him busy between fishing seasons. Plus, when the fishing seasons were not very good, he would make money with his other talents and skills, including retail sales. He was one of many hard workers that I have met in this state.

Another Alaskan that I remember meeting when I first arrived in the state was also a commercial fisherman. He seemed very angry at the way the state had managed the salmon fishing industry. He, like many other commercial fishermen, had become set in his ways about “the system in place” to regulate who would fish on certain days. In Alaska, especially the Cook Inlet, every summer is a Salmon War. The commercial boats and setnetters want their catch. The sports fishermen in the rivers want their clients to be able to catch kings, sockeyes, and silvers. Then, the state has spent the passed few decades opening up the mouth of two major rivers in the Cook Inlet for something a person will only see in Alaska…….subsistence fishing with a dipnet.

What is subsistence fishing with a dipnet? It is where an Alaska resident, who has lived in the state for one year, wears wetgear up to his or her head. Then, that person will carry a large net that is tied onto the end of a metal stick(it basically looks like a really huge tennis racket with a sagging net). The large net on a stick has to be pushed out into the cold water along the sand from the beach until it is virtually under water. Then, this Alaskan resident will stand in the cold water until a salmon gets caught in the dipnet.

I remember hearing stories from the angry commercial fisherman about how he didn’t like giving up part of his catch to dipnetters. Commercial fishermen have to invest thousands of dollars every year into their operation that is usually family-owned. They can only fish during the summer months. So, their income is tied to the returning salmon. For some of them, without a decent summer catch it could be a long winter. But, these local fishermen going out in the small boats would always be accused by the dipnetters of driving too close making large waves, scaring the salmon away, or being allowed to fish too close to shore and taking the dipnetters’ salmon catch away with their bigger nets. This always made for interesting summers at the local coffee shops. Who should be allowed to fish near the mouth of the rivers, the commercial fishermen, the sports fishermen, or the dipnetters? “Here come the fishermen, guys, hide all of the sharp knives!”

On a friendlier note, another interesting Alaskan that I had the chance to meet over the years spent his time bringing Alaskans together, instead of dividing them. He worked with others to help remember all of those who paid the highest price for their country….the veterans. This local Alaskan, along with his collegues from past confrontations, made sure the public knew when and where every Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day celebration was going to take place. And, if anyone had a question about the celebrations, they knew who to call.

This is just a short list of the types of people who make up Alaska. They come from different places……with different dreams about the Last Frontier. When they leave the Last Frontier, their impact on the state stays here. They changed the state while they were here, because their actions motivated others…either in a positive or a negative way.

Quick Workouts Around the House

Not everyone has enough time to take advantage of a gym to get a few workouts in during each week. I am one of those people. So, over the years, I have created all kinds of exercise routines to try to stay at the same weight. It isn’t easy, though. I have to remind myself to exercise, just like reminding myself to drink more water.

So, what are some interesting ways to burn calories at home, and try to tone up a little bit of the body. After prepping and stretching out your body properly, put some hot water and dishwashing soap in the sink to wash and dry some dishes by hand, instead of the dishwasher. If it takes a while, grab a chair, and sit down for breaks for a few minutes to rest your back. By the time you’re done, you will have given your arms, shoulders and upper back a good workout. Just don’t overdo it too quickly.

If you have stairs, use them all of the time.  Find all kinds of ways to incorporate them into your weekdays and your weekends.  If you do, your legs and lower body may last longer as long as you don’t go full blast everytime.

Workplaces are telling everyone that they want to move away from sitting at desks too long.  The same is true at home.  I stand quite a bit when I eat in the kitchen.  It seems more comfortable.  I like counter space over table space, when I do any cooking, too.

Other quick tips to keep moving in the house:  play with your animals, keep up with your laundry, put away remotes for awhile, take walks outside, and go visit neighbors.

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Why Cats Hate Alaska

If you plan to move to Alaska for a change, and your family has always enjoyed a good bonding relationship with housecats, that might change up here. If you have ever tried to give one of your felines a bath, then you are aware of a typical cat’s reaction to moisture.

Well, between, ice, snow, rain, and muddy roads and wet grass, a cat in Alaska generally gets wet when it goes outside at anytime of the year. If it goes outside too long in the winter and gets wet, then the cat gets a cold. There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than a cranky cat with a cold that reminds you his nose is running; and, he can’t stop sneezing. Their crankiness also makes them very pushy when they are inside. They want the warmest place they can find, even if its next to you. If your cat could speak English to you at this point……..well………the words probably would include: cold, take me home, why Alaska, cats can’t wear boots and snowgear, and when is summer.

In order for your cat to keep his claws sharp, go to pet store, first thing. Cats can’t sharpen their claws very well on trees that stand in frozen soil. So, they will use anything to sharpen their primary weapon in a cat fight. Inside the house, sheetrock, wall trim, baseboard, furniture, pillows, mattresses, doors, carpet and even clothing gets used by these claw-sharpening animals. Another item for your home for the winter to protect its value is a kennel area for your cat in the daytime and in the evening. Make it a large area with food, water, play area, cat litter, sharpening area, etc… Believe me, if you don’t, the cat will have plenty of time to make his own area that nobody but the cat will like.

Here is another piece of advice. With your cat having to stay inside most of the time, that means cat hair everywhere. Go to the store. Buy about half a dozen dryer balls, several gallons of vinegar, several bags of baking soda, and about two or three dozen rolls of industrial strength sticky tape for all of the cat hair that will be getting all over your clothes, dishes, walls, ceiling, ceiling fan, curtains, windows, furniture, etc…. This will be your major cleaning project for as long as you have cats. My suggestion is to find cats that don’t shed that much hair; and, your workload is reduced significantly.

These are just a few tips to help you. Animals are great companions; but, you have to know, especially in a cold state like Alaska, how a pet can impact a household. Have a good one.