Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can I Get an Amen?

About five minute after I started complaining about having to wait too long to be assigned a place to live via military housing, the Coast Guard Housing Gods smiled upon us and made that shit happen.  Really, I think it was my sister Maureen.  She put the good vibes out into the universe, and lo and behold, what was coveted appeared.  Alright, enough with the pseudo-religious crap.  

Movers converge
The beyond happy news is that we're finally, blissfully out of the hotel room.  If you listen closely, you can hear my giant, heaving sign of relief.  No more Bitchen!  (bathroom/kitchen for those non-followers)  And also no more bitchin' from me about being in limbo at a hotel.

View from our backyard

To be honest, my expectations for military housing were pretty low.  Which worked out in our favor, because we totally hit the jackpot with our living situation again.  The place we were assigned is about perfect. - Two bedrooms, a garage, and a fenced in yard for the Pugbull to roam.  It's everything we were hoping to get, with backyard mountain views as a bonus.

Another backyard view
Coming from Key West - where the houses in the area where we lived are notoriously tiny - this place feels palatial.  I can't even believe how much storage space we have.  Closets galore, and even an extra storage room behind the garage.  A whole other room!  Just for storage!   Unheard of.  Hubby was in utter heaven over the weekend working on one of his, oh I don't know, 8 bicycles.  Up on the rack!  In a space that isn't a living room or tiny deck in the sweltering heat!  I swear I heard him whistling.
Clearing the Pushki that was poking through the other side of the fence in the yard, so the Pugbull doesn't have to suffer a round two of the rash. (Pushki-whacking?)

And I know this is a slightly sad thing to be excited about, but I'm so stoked to have an actual laundry room.  Not a laundry closet with the world's tiniest stack-able washer/dryer, but a real, live laundry ROOM.  It's been over 5 years since I've had that luxury.  With a high-efficiency, front loading, full-sized washer!  I won't admit how long I crouched down and watched through the door while the clothes tumbled around in the sudsy water the first time I did a load of laundry.  It was a while.  What?  Did I not say I was excited?  
Empty cabinets - soon to be fully stocked

We've been wading through a sea of boxes and all of our crap since the movers came and unloaded all of our worldly possessions a few days ago.  It's really amazing how much pointless stuff you can accumulate over a relatively short period of time.  I've been in throw out mode for the last few days.  If it's remotely unusable, broken, or is a double of something, out it goes.  I'm glad I stumbled upon a Salvation Army here, because I'll be paying them a visit with a donation soon.  

Unfortunately, the movers didn't treat our TV as gently as we would have hoped. - It emerged from the box with a pretty substantial scratch on the upper left side of the screen.  Which is hard to believe, considering they double boxed the damn thing.  Hell, I could easily carry on watching it with the scratch and not care a bit, but since the moving company has a 100% replacement policy for any high dollar items that are damaged, I guess it makes sense to follow the process through.  Plus, someone else would probably not be down with the whole "the TV isn't really broken" philosophy I've got going on right now.  I won't name names.  

Home sweet home, finally.  Hallelujah! 

In other news, I ventured out to the DMV to become a full-fledged Alaska resident and driver today.  It was a valiant, but failed attempt.  Apparently the state of Alaska requires all drivers to take a multiple choice test in order to receive an Alaska license, even if you have a license from another state.  Let's just say I did a cursory skim through of the driver's manual the night before, and promptly failed the test today.  I was feeling less than smart after that debacle.  Needless to say, I'll be doing more than just skimming the information this weekend, and I'll re-take the test on Monday.  Stupid, random numbers.  Did you know that you should turn off your high-beams when you're 500 feet or more from an oncoming vehicle?  Not 300.  Won't get that one wrong if it comes up again.

It's funny, it always makes me a little sad when I have to turn in my Florida driver's license.  I've had to do it one other time, and I was sad then, just like I'm sad now.  It'll be bye bye Sunshine State, hello Last Frontier.  If I can pass the damn test, that is.

The Cheetster waiting patiently to get a sniff of his new home while the movers do their thing

Finally settling in to our new home was a terrific 39th birthday present!  And home made chocolate cake with the king of all frosting (cream cheese, if you don't already know the answer to that) from the hubby wasn't too shabby, either.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 17 and Counting

I joke that I'm going quietly insane living in this hotel room for dangerously close to 3 weeks.  Do you remember the old Queen song called "I'm Going Slightly Mad?"  That's been playing on a constant repeat in my mind for the last week and a half.  So there you have it.  

I've mentioned it before, but neither one of us has lived in military housing before, so we're both unfamiliar with what a normal time frame would be to be placed in a house.  We were told it's first come, first served, but that's a bunch of BS.  We had all of our paperwork submitted and completed, and hubby went over to the housing office first thing on the Monday morning after we arrived.  A colleague of his went in after him and was put on the mysterious "list" along with us, but he was placed a week ago.  I'm not saying it's wrong, but they obviously place Coasties who have children before a family of just two.  Well, three if you count the furry, four-legged master of destruction and filth.  

At least someone is content living in the hotel
My point is, don't pretend it's first come first served when it clearly isn't.  It creates slightly unrealistic expectations.  We're completely at their mercy.  In this tiny room.  Where I make coffee in the bathroom.  We joke and say we have a Bitchen.  You know, Bathroom/Kitchen.  It's a Bitchen!  If we weren't required to live in military housing - we absolutely wouldn't - and we'd have a place to call home by now.  We're both just frustrated.  If what they've told us so far is accurate, we should hear something this week.  Good Lord, I hope so.

Alright, the complaining portion of the program is complete.  And I'll continue to go sliiiiggghhhtly maaad.  Seriously, go take a listen to Queen's "I'm Going Slightly Mad" if you don't know it so you can feel my pain.  And maybe sing along a little.  It's from their 1991 album Innuendo, and also the Classic Queen greatest hits-type album from 1992.

So, moving on.  We've been able to explore Kodiak a little bit since we've been here, and it's truly beautiful.  We'll just say that the scenery is a little different than Key West!  

Mill Bay Beach

Driving down to Anton Larsen Bay - View of Pyramid  Mountain

Mossy tree hiking through North End Park

I think out of all the experiences and activities we'll do while living here, I'll enjoy hiking the most. It's such a great way to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise.  And you really can't beat the views.  

Hiking in Rotary Park
Tomorrow is my 39th birthday, and I was hoping part of my present this year would involve us diligently unpacking boxes and settling in to our new home.  I know, I need to up my birthday standards, right?  

We have a fun day planned for tomorrow getting out to Fort Abercrombie State Park for a picnic lunch and some hiking with the Cheetster.  It's supposed to be a diverse and beautiful park, so I'm really looking forward to checking it out.  

Our usual tradition is having a birthday dinner at whatever restaurant the birthday-ee chooses, but since we can't leave the pooch alone in the hotel, my birthday dinner will have to wait until we get our new digs.  Until then I'll continue to go slightly mad. 

P.S. - Update!  Just got notified we have an appointment with housing to do a walk through on a place tomorrow.  Two bedrooms, a garage, and a fenced in yard.  Hooray and happy birthday to me!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Here a Pushki, There a Pushki, Everywhere a Pushki

It looks harmless enough

They call it Cow Parsnip, Indian Celery, or Pushki.  (pronounced poosh-kee, which is the Russian term for it, and how most people refer to it around here)  I'd never heard of it until we got to Kodiak.  Probably because it lives everywhere in the U.S. except the Gulf coast - where I've lived for the last 15 years.  It's also prevalent in Alaska, especially Kodiak.  Hell, I know all about it now, unfortunately.  

It's a little intense. - Kind of like an extreme version of poison ivy.  It's basically a tall, flowering plant in the parsley family, but its little hairs and juices contain a phototoxin that reacts upon contact with the skin.  See?  Phototoxin?  What the hell, right?  It's triggered by exposure to sunlight and causes a pretty intense rash.  Almost looks like burn blisters and it's terribly itchy.  (Satan's Parsley?  Just a garnish.)  Hubby and I were spared, but Poor Cheety is all too familiar with it now.  

Poor Pugbull - This is nothing!  
This is before it even really got going.  
It was even more swollen, raw & red after
 a day.  He looked like he had two noses.
His introduction to his new island home has been a little rough!  We went hiking the second day we were here, where he had a complete doggie blast, but then he came into contact with some Pushki when he was snuffling around.  We didn't realize it until the next day because he didn't show any signs of irritation right away.  Needless to say, we've barely been here a week, and we've already had to see the vet.  He's doing okay - Benadryl & antibiotics to the rescue once again.  It should clear up within a week or so, but by the second day, he was not a happy pooch.  I won't go into gross detail,  but at the height of the rash, it wasn't pretty.  It's dried out and not swollen anymore, & he's on the mend, poor boy.  

The trick is going to be avoiding it in the future.  Too bad it's freaking everywhere, and it's at its peak in July and August.  I don't know how people let their dogs run around off leash on these trails without having Pushki problems. So far, I've seen at least two dogs running around off-leash on some of the trails that are full of it.

It was a steep learning curve, but it's not going to stop us from hiking. - We'll just have to be super vigilant with where he's exploring, and no way is he going off leash on the trails.  I'm a little over the top though, keeping an almost 5 foot radius around any I see!  (You would too if you saw that mess on his nose.)  At least it's easy to spot, but I sort of wish there was a vaccine!  Anti-Pushki?  

We went on another non-Pushki hike on the 4th of July, and it was beautiful.  It was fun, and our little trot around took the urge to itch off the boy's mind.  We checked out a popular spot called Pillar Mountain.  Easy to see why it's popular. - Gorgeous views of the island.

A different, non-tropical type of view 
than what the Cheetster is used to!

That's the runway at the airport & the Coast Guard base behind me

It was a quick little hike, and we decided it was hands down the coldest 4th of July either one of us has ever had.  Somewhere around 56 degrees.  In the middle of the afternoon.  In July.  Let that settle for a minute.  Granted, it felt like summer and was really nice the day before. - Mid-60's and beautiful.  But wearing jeans and a jacket on the 4th of July?  That was a first for me!  

Hmmmm.  Might be time to get on board with this whole cold weather thing.  We'll call it re-familiarization.  Re-indoctrination?  Cold weather isn't a foreign concept to me being born and raised in NY, but I have to admit that 56 degrees on the 4th of July was quite the wake up call.  I can't really think about conditions in February.  I'm not ready.  But the good news?  Pushki is dead in the winter!  Nevertheless...

RIP flip-flops. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Home Sweet Best Western

Just for fun, I have to share the map of the whole ridiculous road trip.  It's a staggering distance to see laid out in this way:

 That is one long-ass drive

Outside of Hawaii, they're probably the two U.S. islands that are the furthest apart from one another.  (not only in distance, but lifestyle and climate, too)  And I can't even fit it all on the map.  It's even more fun to see it this way:

This isn't even accurate. - I forgot to turn on the mileage counter until we were somewhere in Georgia.  So add about 850 more miles and that's more like it.

That's right.  16 states, 3 Canadian Provinces, over 8,000 miles driven, 1 lost house plant, 1 dead prairie dog...and we've arrived! 

We checked in at The Kennicott, the ferry that would take us on our really real last leg to Kodiak Island, at around 11:30PM.  And as I mentioned in a prior post, the sun had just set, so it was still kind of dusky out.  It didn't take long for us to line up our little Jeep along with all the other vehicles that were boarding and get situated and tied down on the vehicle deck of the ferry.  They used this crazy swiveling car elevator that fit 4-5 cars/trucks on it at one time to bring us down to the vehicle deck.  It was pretty impressive.  Cheety was not a fan.  

Our ride!  The mighty Kennicott
The ferry was bigger than I realized it would be, and it had all sorts of amenities and space to wander around.  We reserved a cabin so we would have a bed to sleep in during the trip. - That was key, especially on a night trip like this one.  

Hubby said the cabin looked like jail.  I thought it was
 totally practical.  Kind of reminded me of living in the dorms.
The cabin was just what we needed:  a bed, a sink, & a porthole window.  Just the basics, and it was about perfect.  Besides, who's looking for luxury and space on a 2AM ferry ride?  Not me!  This wasn't the first bunk bed situation we encountered on the trip, so I couldn't resist calling the husband Fred.  Or Ricky.  Or Ralph.  I guess it depends on how old you are whether you get that it's a reference to old TV shows where the married couple didn't share a bed.  You know, The Flintstones, I Love Lucy...The Honeymooners.  I'm pretty sure I just dated myself. 

Anyway, sometimes I get motion sickness, so I made sure to pop a few Dramamine before we got underway to counteract any possible sea-sickness scenarios.  I wouldn't exactly call it a restful night's sleep, but it certainly made the time pass quickly.  Nothing like multi-tasking by sleeping while you travel.  We're nothing if not efficient.

Once Kodiak came into view, it was yet another time on this trip where it felt like we were traveling through Middle freaking Earth.  It's just so lush, green, and majestic looking - I was just waiting to spot a hobbit or two.  The pictures don't even begin to do it justice.

They don't call it Alaska's Emerald Isle for nuthin'
Morning coffee & my first glimpse of Kodiak

In a predictably nerdly way, I brought my binoculars on the ferry to see if I could spot any Puffins or whales.  I wasn't disappointed.  I'm pretty sure I saw a whale, but it was really quick, so I couldn't tell if it was a whale or a dolphin, or something else altogether.  It was dark and huge with a big fin, so I'm pretty sure it was an Orca.  Guess I'll never know, but it was still cool!

We had a simple breakfast on the ferry and passed the time watching the fishermen, scenery, and wildlife pass by. - The boat zipped around pretty quickly and the water was calm.  Ideal for a 9 hour trip.  I don't know if you've ever been sea sick, but it's horrendous. - So, calm seas?  YES.
Kodiak in the background.  I had to harass a fellow passenger to take the picture.  We have so few with the two of us on this trip, so I'm loving this one. 

We docked in the Port of Kodiak to a sunny, beautiful day somewhere around noon, and were surprised to see a huge group of Coasties and their families from Base Kodiak at the ferry terminal to welcome all of the new arrivals.  They were no joke - it was like a big party.  They were grilling burgers and a had a big sign that said Air Station to let us know they were there for us.  I guess there were several other Coast Guard families on the ferry that day, too.  What a fun intro!  
After we left the ferry terminal, we took the Cheets on a nice long walk and grabbed some lunch from a taco truck we discovered on our way to check in to the hotel.  Another score on the lunch truck front.  It was SO good.  I went with a chicken taco and a fish taco (fresh Kodiak Halibut - OH, yeah!)  Both tacos were topped with fresh veggies and served with a side of tomatillo salsa, which is a tad sweeter and spicier than classic salsa, and is greenish-yellow, not red.  I'll definitely seek out that little gem again.  First meal on the island?  Superb.  

So now, we're calling the Best Western Kodiak Inn our pseudo-home base until we get our housing situated.  It's funny, we've never lived in military housing before, so this will be a first for us both.  (it's required if it's available when stationed here)  We've always lived out in the community where we were stationed, so I'm curious whether living in military housing will feel more isolated and uber-military since all of our neighbors will be fellow CG families.  (As uber-military as the CG can feel, anyway! - It's pretty laid back.)  Hopefully it's not baby central. 

We're expecting a call this week to go check out our options, and hopefully we'll be in our new home by next week.  We went stalking - I mean looking - at some of the neighborhoods that we'll probably end up in, and they don't look bad.  Definitely more cookie cutter and uniform than what we would choose if we didn't have to live in military housing, but not bad at all.  One of the communities is on a little lake, and the other had gorgeous mountain views, so it seems like it'll work out just fine either way.

So for now, I'll listen to the Tour de France in the background & enjoy my newest beer discovery (and possibly new favorite beer - I know, bold statement), Redhook Wise Cracker Wit, in the cozy confines of our Alaska-themed hotel room.  Think bear, fox, seaplane and fly fishing pictures.  It's Alaska-tastic.  It'll be Home Sweet Best Western, until it's Home Sweet Home for real.  Bring it.   :)