Saturday, December 18, 2010

What a Blessing?

Post by Rodney, edited by Daphne with thanks to Jesse Lee for some of the photos.

It was a rough week. On Wednesday of this week it started. A contractor for the Matanuska Electric Association, Northern Powerline Contractors, asked for a favor. They still have 2 power poles to replace in a bog area at the end of Shallow Lake. He asked me if we could cut a road to the poles. I said we might if we had time and asked Ryan Cote about it. That afternoon Ryan started cutting the road while I was working at thawing some pipes that had frozen. Ryan called on the radio and asked if I could help him out.

I arrived to find that the dozer had broken through the ice and could not climb out on its own.
We called Doug Theissen and asked him to come down and offer advice. After he arrived I went up to Dan Lee's house looking for him to give us advice. Dan was not home at the time so Doug, Ryan and I agreed to use the excavator to try and pull the dozer out. We stopped when the excavator started breaking through the ice as we did not want 2 pieces of equipment stuck.

Doug had to leave for the school Christmas concert and about this time Jeff Kovak and Al Minatra showed up. They both live on Victory Road and came to pick up Ryan and I for private pilot ground school down at Kingdom Air. It had been canceled that night but they did not know that because the phones were out from high winds in the valley (75 mph winds with gusts to 100 mph). Al said he thought that even if the excavator went through, it should be able to extract itself. Al is an experienced equipment operator and was willing to try to get the dozer out so I agreed and he tried. The dozer moved quite a ways before the excavator broke through.

We started having some other people show up after this including Dan and Jesse Lee and Chuck Gerwig and his 2 sons, Ben and Joe. Dan ended up starting up his Cat D-6 and bringing it up and we started up the old Case backhoe. Dan's dozer had not been started this year. Chuck took charge of the scene and went to work with nothing less than heroic efforts. The back hoe ended up dropping through in a couple of places but Chuck and Al were able to free it under its own power. We were cutting down trees and had a bonfire going trying to keep warm in the subzero temperatures with Chuck and Al getting the coldest because they were the most exposed to the wind. When the concert was over, most of the camp people came back to try to help. Jacob Klapak brought out hot coffee and hot water for hot chocolate. Joel Ruisch was out for moral support and many wives and others came by to see the "project" we were involved in. In the midst of the work of trying to free the excavator, Dan brought his dozer over and out onto the airstrip. Once there we hooked it to the John Deere 650 dozer with a lot of cable and without too much fanfare it was removed from the quagmire. It went into the auto shop to thaw overnight.

Al was in and out of the cab of the excavator as it was wallowing further into the mud. It finally quit when all the controls were under water because all the electrics were underwater at that time. Al was soaking wet and it was close to midnight. Al was feeling very dejected. I was feeling a strong sense of failure and guilt. Others in the group were also disappointed, wanting to get the excavator out before it froze in place. We all gathered around the fire and prayed, once again giving the excavator and the situation to God, knowing that He would use the situation to His glory. Joel Ruisch and I thanked everyone who was there for their help. Even so, I still left feeling like I had let camp down, certain that no one else has let a big piece of equipment disappear on their watch. I arrived at the house at about 1 am and spent a couple of hours trying to get warm and spent the night awake with my mind in overdrive. I later found out that many others (Ryan, Chuck, Dan and Al) had done the same thing.

Thursday Chuck talked with Arnie Hrncir and Arnie spoke with his son Dustin and they formulated a plan. Chuck stopped by and told Ryan and I what the plan was and a little later Arnie, Dustin and Brian Lee showed up to assess the situation and see if the plan would need to change after looking over the scene. They explained what they wanted to do to Ryan and myself and then to Joel, asking that we get a light plant for the next day as they wanted to get it out as soon as possible. We still had no phones but word got around that we would try again on Friday. Ryan and I started to prepare things right away, with me neglecting other duties. Thursday night Arliss Riddles was in the Hrncir's shop welding grousers on the tracks of their excavator getting it ready.

After a night of better sleep, the day dawned early and the preparations began in earnest. At our morning prayer, where we were joined by Al Minatra and Dan Lee, we gave the days' activities to the Lord and set ourselves to work. While Joel and Bret Kolb went to town to get the light plant, we started by building an "Ice Road" under the direction of Dan Lee. I acted as a general go'for all day. Basically, Dan would dump snow down, then they would pour water over the snow to form ice. It was very slow at first just using water off our fire truck but it quickened up once we got 2 and 3 inch pumps hooked up and pulling water from under the ice. We worked through lunch eating burgers that had cooled off by the time they got to us. They would not stay warm in the sub zero temperature. (Thank you Heather Klapak for lunch and dinner and braving the cold with us.) I was running the hose off the 3 inch pump long enough that my Carharrts had stiffened legs and I could not bend my fingers. Then we set that 3 inch pump and a second 3 inch trash pump to draining around the excavator, and I started running a 2 inch line to pump water on the ice road.

While we were working on the road, there were men working on removing the pins to separate the boom and bucket and leave it for retrieval once the excavator was out. The bucket was extended and the suction that it created was part of the reason we could not get it out on Wednesday. It was pulling the rest of the machine lower whenever we attempted to extract the boom. The plan was to build a press by welding directly to the boom and using a hydraulic jack or air jack to push the pins free. This was unnecessary as the pins drove right out. Then the hydraulic lines were separated. Ready to go.

The ice road was built to a platform around the excavator and completed about mid afternoon. At the time of completion it was holding over 100,000 pounds of bulldozers on it. While Dan Lee and Dustin Hrncir were running the dozers, Al Minatra was operating a dump truck and Mike Roub was operating an excavator. Mike is a virtuoso on the machine, putting it on like a suit of clothes. There were many others involved; Arnie overseeing the entire operation, Chuck Gerwig and Sons doing a lot of the bull work, Ryan and Matt and Joel all with different tasks, Aaron Meeuwsen taking photos and watching the pumps, and many wives and members of the community stopping by to see our progress and praying for success. Many hands joined in this "project" and it was clear that God was bringing these people together.

With a solid "platform" Mike went to work digging the ice from around the excavator. After the ice was removed he started looking for the tracks and removing material around them so that chains could be attached to the tracks to pull with. Mike was removing a lot of water and it exposed a lot of the machine. He then built a ramp to drag the machine from its sodden resting place. When the tracks were exposed Al went in the icy murk and worked chains around the tracks. It was so cold though that even submerged in the water the chains would freeze to Al's gloves and he could not release them. Eventually, with much manipulating by Mike on the excavator and Al in the water, it was all hooked up. Slowly, cables straining and even breaking and a couple of chains breaking so reattachment was necessary more then once, it eased from its position to the roar of 3 diesel engines. The water pouring from it like a breaching leviathan, the excavator emerged, glass intact and looking filthy from the ice that was still attached.

This was sometime before 6:00 PM and then the clean up started. Heather Klapak had a meal prepared for us so once most of the clean up occurred, we ate dinner at Miracle Lodge. Then we moved the excavator into the back bay of Miracle Lodge to thaw out. I just followed it up because even though it was close to 8:00pm, there were more frozen pipes on camp that I needed to deal with. I know I left out some details but this is close to what happened. I will need to deal with other aspects of the project and will try to get photos of the same.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Volleyball wrap up

We're back from Anchorage and the Mixed 6 State Volleyball championships. The kids ended up in fourth place which was an excellent placing but they felt like they didn't play as well as they were capable of playing. That was really disappointing to them. They learned a lot though, and for this being their first year playing as a team, frankly I think they did fantastic! They won over Golovin, a team who has been the State Champion runner up for the last two years. They were defeated by Tikigaq, a team that has won the State Championship five of the last six years. If you're going to get beat, you might as well get beaten by the best! They won the tournament sportsmanship award which I really do think is something to be proud of! They were one tenth or hundredth? of a point off the top academic team. Another thing to be proud of! :) All in all, they had an exceptional season and are hungry to work harder and try again next year! Results of games from each day of the tournament are posted at the following link: Bill, that link is for you so you can see that I'm not making up the team names. ;) The names of the schools are (no surprise) mostly native, though sometimes they will be referred to by the town names (town of Wainright, school name Alak, Town of Point Hope, school name Tikigaq).

There is an interesting story behind the history of volleyball in Alaska, especially the mixed 6 division. In many of the native villages, sports are the only motivation for the kids to complete high school. I talked to one of the moms from Tikigaq and she said they started their program in the 80s to try to keep kids from dropping out. They start teaching volleyball in the second grade and use it as motivation to keep kid's grades up. It works! Not only do they have more kids completing high school, they also have kids going to college now! The skill levels of these kids is impressive too. Carlen, one of our top players, stands about 6'2". At one point across the net from him was a kid that was almost a foot shorter. When the two of them went up together at the net, the native kid was almost a foot ABOVE Carlen! The vertical jump on some of these kids was just awesome! Our kids had certainly never faced that before! They also had a HUGE support group of parents, friends and relatives at the game. It was as impressive as our own HUGE, enthusiastic crowd! ;) The mixed 6 division was added to try to help some of these villages that were having difficulty putting together a full girls or boys team. It has now become very popular among the smaller native village schools. There was even a TV news story about the situation. The video footage is of the Glacier View vs Golovin game.

I spent most of the weekend in Anchorage and Rodney traveled back and forth. Mike Lucia used to work in the maintenance department at Victory, mostly working with boilers and furnaces. He and Rodney connected recently and Mike expressed an interest in helping out occasionally with some of that work as well as training Rodney and Ryan in the maintenance and repair work. He was here Friday and Saturday working on some of the boilers, especially the ones in Miracle Lodge that Rodney has been having trouble with lately. He was not able to get them up and running either which was a little consolation to Rodney that it wasn't just his inexperience. It was also such an encouragement to have someone available to help out from time to time in case Rodney does want to get away. Now we just need to figure out what to do with little Miss Neurotic Dog if we do want to go somewhere. Putting it mildly, Ellie did NOT handle my being gone well. She doesn't handle being at the kennel well either. Last time she went there she howled the entire time we were gone. The kennel owner called and asked us to come back and get her. If we try to leave her home without someone here full time it isn't pretty either. I think she needs some doggy downers.

We were able to connect with the Sherrers in Anchorage and get away one evening to see their three of their kids in concert at one of the local churches. The choir is semi-pro and they were EXCEPTIONAL! Wow! What a way to get into the holiday spirit! At one point the choir was spread out in a circle all around the sanctuary of the church (which had awesome acoustics) and they were singing around us. Talk about surround sound! It was fantastic! The costumes were top notch too - beautiful Renaissance style dresses for part of it, traditional Russian dress, and more. It was quite heavenly! Anyway, there's probably plenty more that I could write, but I'm still really tired from the weekend away so I'll let you all off easy this week.

Glacier View fans at the tourney this weekend:

Sergei dressed in drag for Ridonculous Day (Fashion Disaster) at school this past week. We're so proud of her, I mean, him! ;)

You can see more photos of the game at: In the photo collage on the main page you can click on "Find ASAA and Event Photos here." Then chose "2010 State 12A Mixed 6 Volleyball." Scroll down to "Thurs - Golovin vs Glacier View." I didn't take many photos, but I did take some. I'll try to get those uploaded and see if there is anything worth posting later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Really quick update - the kids lost today to Tikigaq. EXCELLENT playing by Tikigaq! Our kids were disappointed that they didn't play their best, but they've never faced a team with that kind of skill level. Will have to fill in details later though - going to a concert tonight that the Sherrer kids are singing in and I only have a little time to get ready, eat, and go!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First round of State Volleyball championships

We drove in to Anchorage today for the State Mixed 6 Volleyball championships. For the first time that I can remember Palmer was 10 degrees colder than we were up in the mountains! It was a spectacular day though - clear and cool with brilliant sunshine! Palmer was jaw droppingly magical today. Everything was sparkling white. The Matanuska River is still flowing so when it is this cold, it really evaporates a lot. The entire valley was a winter wonderland of frost so thick you couldn't even see the branches! It was beautiful! No, I didn't take any pictures. We were a bit focused on getting to our destination. Besides, it was 2 degrees down there! I didn't really feel like freezing my fingers! Actually, it was a good thing we didn't stop. It took us a bit longer to get to the school than we thought, then it took some time to figure out where at the school we needed to be. We weren't late, but we weren't early either.

The kids played very well! They held together as a team and were very consistent in their play. Bump, set, spike. Bump, set, spike. Their coaches have taught them well! They fought pretty hard the first game against Golovin, winning 25-17. In the next game they just kept right on smashing away, winning 25-15. Golovin pulled ahead a bit at the beginning of the third game, but Glacier View came back and won 25-11. Once Glacier View pulled past them, they sort of gave up and just let our guys beat them. That was a bit disappointing, but we were thrilled that the kids won in only three games! Golovin was second in the state for the last few years. Tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 they play Tikigaq which has won the state championship four out of the last five years? I'll check on that detail later. Anyway, we're going to hang about Anchorage for a few days - shopping, watching volleyball, eating, etc. I'll let you know tomorrow night how things go. We may go out to dinner tomorrow though, so it may be a bit later. You can actually watch the action live through the following link: You can watch via Skype chat (I've never tried that, but it sounds interesting) or live streaming. Our connection here at the hotel isn't fast enough for the live streaming, but some were using it in our community (dsl) before we came here this weekend so hopefully it will work for those who would like to watch!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Morning people, more volleyball and odds and ends

Mornings. Most who know me know that I am NOT a morning person. I used to be. As a child and right up through college I was a morning person. I was one of the rare few who signed up for 8 am classes and thought best at that time of day. I remained a morning person right up until the day I went to work for RG&E in downtown Rochester, NY. The work day was scheduled to start at 7:30 am, but traffic was such that if I left the house at 5:50, I could arrive at work by 7 am. If I didn't leave until 6, I could barely make it in by 7:30. Ten minutes made the difference between a quick, relaxed drive and a hectic, white knuckle drive. Every day for a number of years that I can't even remember now (at least 5, but I have no idea how many more than that) I would unenthusiastically set my alarm for 4:50 am. Really. I have no idea why it took so long to get ready in the morning - shower, breakfast, feed dogs, make lunch - but it did. And I grew to hate mornings. I never did get used to getting up that God-awful early.

Then we adopted children and God, who I know has a sense of humor, gave me a child that is a morning person. He's an up-and-at-them, 0-dark-hundred kind of morning person. Ick. Now the kids are teenagers and have FINALLY learned not to wake up the mother-unit until she stumbles down the stairs of her own accord. Waking up the mother-unit is a crime punishable by death or dismemberment, or maybe both. They have wisely learned not to go there. They also know better than to try to have intelligent conversation with me in the morning. The usual routine is ok. My body can go through the motions without any help from my conscious brain. For goodness sake though, do NOT ask me to go outside of the normal routine! It will NOT be pretty!

Since I was no longer suffering enough, God suddenly decided to turn my spouse into a morning person. When I was getting up at obscene hours of the morning, I used to slip out of the room and be as quiet as possible so as not to wake him from his happy slumber. One would think that he could extend the same courtesy. But no, he is a true morning person. He's CHEERFUL! There's nothing worse than a cheerful person early in the morning when you're not awake yet. They want to chatter. They want the world to be cheerful with them. They insist on getting in your face with their cheerfulness. Just makes you want to reach out and slug them. In case you're wondering where that rant came from, it was Rodney's suggestion to blog about morning people. As I was trying to force myself awake this morning he was pestering me to blog, as he has every day for the last 3-4 days. When I asked what I was supposed to blog about, he responded that I should blog about morning people. So here it is. My "morning person" rant, I mean blog post.

As for what is going on in life aside from morning people, the living room wall is now painted and waiting for us to rearrange furniture. I need to wait to do that on a day when my brain is with me though. I'll let you know if that happens this decade. I blame it on all the histamines and anti-histamines. They're constantly doing battle in my body, stealing whatever semblance of brain I ever had. So I'm still whining and not blogging. It's the cold. I was starting to have a brain again until I got this cold. Oksana was sweet enough to share her cold with me. It's not a bad one, but it has taken away whatever brain power I normally have, which isn't much to begin with. We are driving the truck up to the house now. That's exciting news! It makes life so much easier. You just climb in the truck and off you go. It takes a lot less planning and maneuvering but it makes my snow machine lonely. I need to go take it for a joy ride and cheer it up.

It was nice and cold this past week so the roads around camp are all nicely packed. Zero weather makes the snow nice and squeaky. We like it. :) It was back up in the 20s today, but we had almost a week where I don't think it got above zero. There was a group in from all over the country during the cold week. We had people from Florida and even one from India. When my friend Cheryl adopted her daughter Sumana from India, we figured out that Sumana had never experienced temperatures below 80. If that was the case for this poor gentleman, he must have thought that he was going to die! I saw him walking down the road with his hands over his face to breathe! Poor guy! A while back when my computer was dying I talked to technical support in India and the guy I talked to had a million questions about Alaska. He said it is one of his dreams to visit. I'm thinking that just for the whole physical shock of it, summer might be a better choice! ;)

The mixed 6 state championship volleyball tournament is this coming week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 9, 10 and 11 at Dimond High school in Anchorage. Yes, that is how they spell Dimond. The first time I saw it I was sure it was a misspelling. Maybe it was initially, but now it is the accepted spelling. It still makes me stop and think every time I see it or try to type it. I'll definitely update the blog as soon as I can with results of the games. We will be staying in Anchorage at a hotel which has Wi-Fi so I SHOULD be able to update on a daily basis.

Both of the Arctic Cats are still in the Arctic Cat Row of Shame, though one is only there in spirit. It is at the Gerwig's house waiting to be fixed while the other is in the actual Row of Shame - a line of non-running Cats outside the camp shop. One needs a new track and drivers, the other probably need the crank case drained (according to Mr Roub) but Rodney hasn't had the time to do that yet. We've got a good idea of where to get the new track, but just haven't gotten that together yet either. Sergei has been working with Ben Gerwig on that one.

We have a lot more chickadees visiting us this year. The feeders are incredibly busy these days! There are caribou antlers in velvet in the upper right corner. The chickadees love to sit on those. I love the little chickadees. They are so cheerful and they share nicely.

Let me know if you are sick of sunrise and sunset pictures. The sun comes up late enough now that even I am up when it comes up!

Naughty Ellie has taken to sleeping in Rodney's closet at night. There's certainly plenty of cushion for her little princess head. She's feeling better, though she didn't go out much when it was so cold last week. She's also eating better so she actually has a touch of meat over her ribs for once this year.
Doug Thiessen and/or Todd Busenitz give sleigh rides to the guests. Here Todd is driving Cisco who likes to GO so it was hard to catch him standing still.

Victory Peak over Miracle Lodge today

Morning commute

Morning commute