Alaska Trip
Aug/Sept 2021

North Pole, AK

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Flying to Alaska: Wednesday, August 18

Dad had a doctor's appointment that he was unable to reschedule, so Mom, Lee & I flew up without him on Wednesday and he followed us the next day. Jan paid for our tickets and treated us to first class seats. Lots of leg room!

at DFW

Mom & I both got the 'fruit & cheese platter' for breakfast on the first leg from DFW to SeaTac. For lunch (on the second leg to Fairbanks), I had the ravioli and Mom had the cod, and we each had a taste of the other's.


Mt Rainier

ravioli w/cod & rice

cod w/ a raviolo

The forecast for Fairbanks was cool and rainy almost the entire time we were there.

Aug 24

Sorting and packing and donating and discarding (~10 days)

And so began our task. We had to decide what to throw away (at the North Pole transfer station), what to donate (mostly to a local women's shelter), and what was going to be kept and hauled down to Texas. Items that were not good enough to donate to the shelter but were still usable were left at the transfer station shed.

An explanation of the shed: For a long time, North Pole residents had been leaving piles of stuff outside of the dumpsters for others to look through and take anything they wanted. Eventually, the city built a little covered area for the purpose, which they periodically clear out. We left a LOT of stuff here and on return trips 75-90% of it would already be gone. A lot of times we unloaded stuff directly from our vehicle into someone else's that wanted it. Here it is right after it had been cleared out.

I was staying in Jan's room upstairs, so that is where I began, while Mom started on the kitchen. When Dad arrived, he began working on the sheds outside.
Jan's closet

I found my Alaska quilt pieces in Jan's closet. I may need to join a quilting group in order to learn how to complete it.

Here are a few of the items that we played the 'keep/donate/discard' game with. Most went to the women's shelter, but we did keep the corningware and a few jackets. The games went to the shelter, along with several hundred puzzles and most of the better furniture.

Quilts handmade by my grandmother were definitely keeps! One of them she made for Jessie Lee & Frank when they married (not sure which one).

I selected a mug for myself (on the left) and one for Kim (right) from Jan's collection.

Jan and Lee’s freezer before emptying it out. We used what we could while we were there and gave away as much as possible, but most of this was pretty old and ended up being taken to the transfer station.

The Fort Wainright Environmental Crew from the 1980s (Lee's old gang) helped haul a lot of the larger items to the women's shelter. I think the hide-a-bed couch was the last to go.

Project progress:

donation pile

tables for Alex

We started piling the 'keep' stuff in the living room, but then we cleared out a section of the garage and measured and taped off the interior dimensions of the U-haul trailer, and started stacking stuff there to help judge how much space we had available.

We didn't tackle the hangar at all, except to leave a pile of stuff for Alex there.

Happy Birthday to me!

Midway through the sorting and packing, I celebrated my 42nd birthday, a noteworthy milestone for any Douglas Adams fan. I had packed my Hitchhiker's Guide t-shirt specifically for the occasion. Mom went the store-bought route for my birthday cake, given the circumstances.


We ate out a few times while working on the house. Lee took me for breakfast at the Country Cafe in town the morning after we arrived and we all went back for lunch a few days later. This is a "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" location, as is the Pagoda Restaurant (one of Lee's favorites). We also ate lunch once at Little Richard's Family Diner.

Country Cafe

reindeer sausage

"Old Billy sure looks good from here."

Old Billy's fate remained undetermined until almost the last minute. Would he be given to a friend? Sold? Hauled to Texas? Or perhaps shipped separately? We unearthed his crate from the boiler-room sub-basement and decided to see if we could carry him in the U-haul. We had to get a special permit from the Fish and Wildlife Department in order to transport him through Canada, which was a bit of a challenge - we had to fill out the pdf on my tablet, email it to the local official (who was not in-office due to COVID), then use a neighbor's printer to make hard copies of the endorsed form to carry with us. Fortunately it all worked out and we had the paperwork ready to go by the time we set out on the 31st.
We used solo cups to protect his ears.

Final preparations:

We had to get COVID tested within three days of crossing the Canadian border and show proof of a negative test as well as our vaccination cards. There was also a site "arriveCAN" where we had to create an account and enter our vaccination, test, and passport info, although I'm not sure if they even looked at that at the border. There were a few hoops to jump through, but we made it into Canada with no difficulty.

Fortunately, the Fairbanks International Airport had a testing station that offered the type of COVID test required by Canada, and they were open on Sunday. We also bought a roll of bubblewrap for the artwork while we were in town.

We spent our last day (Monday) at the house getting Billy's paperwork sorted and doing the last bits of packing. Dad picked up the U-haul trailer from U-Haul of Fairbanks and got it loaded, while all the bubble-wrapped artwork went into the Mercedes. Various electronics and other items that needed a smoother/cleaner ride than they would get in the trailer or the back of the pickup were also loaded into either the Merce or the back seat of the Yota. Everything was ready by that evening for our departure the next morning.
kitchen & living room
Jan's bedroom upstairs Lee's bedroom downstairs
downstairs & garage

And then we were contacted by Kim, who had been staying with Jan in Sanger while we were away. (Jan had home health aids to assist her during the day but nobody at night since Lee was with us in Alaska.) Jan had been having respiratory symptoms and was taken to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID. Kim suspected that she might be positive as well (and after several negative tests, this was confirmed). The original plan had been for Lee to fly down that night, with Kim picking him up at DFW, but that was now obviously not going to happen, plus their house was now cootied and Kim was still there, sick. After a brief scramble and a flurry of text messages, Dad found someone who could ferry Lee from the airport to my parents' house (which was empty and uncootied), where he could stay until it was deemed safe for him to return to the cootie house. We got most of this settled before Lee had to leave for the airport and updated him by text as arrangements were confirmed.

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