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The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives 8/1/2003

Greetings from Ft. Yukon! Today is Friday, August 01, 2003. It is 54° @ 12:50PM.

This is the first of what I am sure will be many updates about our life in Fort Yukon, Alaska. My wife and I arrived in Fort Yukon just yesterday afternoon and have been here for less than 24 hours so far. It took us exactly 31 days of travel to arrive here from Dallas. The past 31 days have been an experience we will never forget. We saw some amazing scenery, stopped along the way to spend some good times with friends, and more than a few times found ourselves is awe of our circumstances and good fortune that allowed us to spend so much time together as we faced the road ahead. This trip resulted in innumerable stories that will be told in time, but there are far too many to write or to read right now. And our adventure has only begun.

Yesterday was the day we had been eagerly looking forward to. Fort Yukon was a complete unknown. We had no idea what we would need until we got here, and once we got here and found out what we would need, we couldn’t run to the store to get it. We were frustrated and anxious. In the morning, we mailed the five large crates that contained everything we had in the car. [By the way… the car ran like a champ the whole way, up mountains and down, off-road and on, for over 6,340 miles. Having that Isuzu Trooper was such a blessing, it was the perfect vehicle for this trip, and one of the many ways God was providing for us before we had any idea we were going to Alaska.] From the post office we drove to the airport where we boarded our little (and I mean little) twin prop Piper that flew us out to “the bush” as it is locally called. Both Stephanie and I are veteran fliers with easily half a hundred flights each, but this was different. Have you ever noticed that when you get on a major carrier at DFW, you walk down a carpeted, indoor jet-way, and are ushered into a large room with rows of seats and windows. You never see the plane itself, or the cockpit, or the pilot, or out the front windows. On this flight, Stephanie and I were two of three passengers. Every available inch (and there weren’t many of them) was filled with freight. Stephanie sat right behind the pilot, and I sat behind the empty co-pilot’s seat. I could have easily touched the copilot’s instrument panel by leaning forward slightly. As we took off and then banked sharply, I watched the pilot do his thing and realized that when we fly on American Airlines, or whatever, we put a lot of blind faith into an unseen pilot and crew and simply trust that they will get us there. Here, however, our plane was being flown by just some guy wearing blue jeans. When we finally go up to our cruising altitude of 9,500 feet (I read it on the co-pilot’s altimeter), our pilot pulled out his fast food breakfast burritos and coke, and ate casually. The only thing that could make this flight more hick was a chicken and a pig running loose in the cabin.

We were met at the airport by my new boss, a 'consulting superintendent' for the Yukon-Flats School District. He picked us up in the district-owned pickup, one vehicle of about a hundred in town, and drove us straight to the district office where he had us sit in on conference call concerning a grant he wanted me to get up to speed on. We weren’t expecting to go right to work, and after a month of building anticipation, we were eager to see our living situation. We were told before hand that we would have a relatively “nice” house by Fort Yukon standards. Further, we were told that Fort Yukon standards are fairly low. We also found out just after we landed that the house was not as furnished as we had been told it would be, and that “people around here don’t really clean a house they are leaving the way people other places might.” At least they spread the bad news out. We finally got to our new home at about 5 in the afternoon. I don’t quite know how to describe the house as we found it. The word “abandoned” comes to mind. “Dirty” and “empty” are other good words. It is a log-home construction on a concrete foundation. “Log home” sounds so rustic and romantic, but that is not what this is. If you have an image of something from Log Home magazine in your mind, think again. “Utilitarian” is another good word. As we walked in and dropped out stuff in the middle of the dark, cold, central room, I though for the first time, “what the heck are we doing here?”

Last night was actually pretty hard for me. For the whole past month, I have been so concerned with Stephanie and how she was handling the trip (by the way… let me stop right here and rave about my wife… Stephanie is amazing, and she did such a great job camping for numerous nights at a time. She handled every aspect of life on the road without a hesitation, and she made camping nicer for me than I’ve ever camped before. She has been very happy and has been having a great time. I couldn’t do this without her). I’ve also been concerned about the trip itself: with having car trouble, or an accident, or sickness, or trouble of some kind with wildlife or some lunatic. Nothing like that happened. We were completely incident free. We were finally here. And “here” wasn’t so great. I was experiencing such relief of pent up anxiety from the road along with despair over the conditions we found here. I was feeling rather bleak. Totally exhausted, we climbed into our sleeping bags about 10PM with the sun shining brightly.

Today, however, we both feel better. Stephanie and I went in to my office this morning and began the process of clearing dust and accumulated junk off my desk of so that I can get down to work soon. I just learned that Stephanie and I will be leaving this Sunday evening (the 3rd) for a conference in Anchorage, and will return on Saturday the 9th. I will travel to Juneau the following week for a couple of days as well. We are both excited about our jobs. Daily living will be something we figure out. The house will be put in order before long. Last night, we immediately began the process of cleaning. We couldn’t do much else until we had at least swept the floor and wiped down the sinks and counters. And just so you don’t think we are living in a dirt floor hut, we do have running water including a toilet, shower/tub, and kitchen sink. We have electricity along with a nice fridge/freezer and a washer and dryer!! We have both an oil burning furnace and a woodstove. We are gonna be just fine.

Oh… and as I am sitting here writing this, Stephanie looked out our front window and said, “Look. Someone is coming to visit us.” I looked out in time to see a woman walk into the bushes in front of our house and squat to pee, then get up and walk off. Ahh… Alaska!

Posted on Friday, August 1, 2003 at 12:50PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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