Fly Away Home

Both the sandhill cranes and Roy and I are doing just that. Tonight, (Aug 31) is our last night in Fairbanks we head down the Parks Hwy and eventually to Whittier and the ferry. The cranes migrate every year and they congregate at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks before flying south. It was neat watching Canadian Geese and Sandhill Cranes sit side by side each getting fat for the trip south.

The third weekend of August is the Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival. This was our first weekend in Fairbanks, so we headed over to see what was flying overhead. We also went over to the field a few times before the festival to take some pictures of the cranes.

Here are a few pictures of the cranes just hanging out and flying about.

family

I was in one of the photo blinds waiting for the birds to come to me. It took a bit of time, but they moved slowly towards me with cute little movements and even some one-legged posing.

push me pull me
one adult two youngins
mass flight

The birds seemed to be happy just to hang out and fly every once in a while.

That is until the bald eagle comes around looking for dinner. This got the birds to fly up all at once. I really need to work on tracking these birds when they take off En masse. I also think they need to give me an alert saying we are taking off. They do make an alert with a vocalization I just am not sure what that is.

Another Episode of …..

People you meet. I have been craving WISCONSIN cheese curds for a few months who would have thunk I would have to come to Alaska to get some. You know with me there is always a back story to how I get the things I get. Here it is.

they do exist

Having the chair, I was able to run rampant, at the air show. (I see new wheels in my future.) I’m headed down the flight line and I see a booth selling real Wisconsin Cheese curds. (You can find them on Facebook.) I’m from there so I had to investigate. Danielle was cute and very helpful. I asked were they for real and why here in Alaska. She explained that her SO had moved up to Sterling Alaska and she followed with cheese curds in tow. I guess there was no good cheese in Alaska. That is how it started and now they do local events and serve deep fried cheese curds. I put on my sad face because deep fried cheese curds are not the same. Danielle said that they only bring frozen cheese curds to big events for sale purposes, they do have fresh curds at the Soldotna Wednesday markets. So, I get all sad and say that’s ok. After some more banter about cheese curds. I was able to get a little more than a pound of frozen cheese curds. They have thawed and I am now squeaking to my heart’s content

CHEESE

Today started with Roy and I meeting one of the campers in the park we are staying at (Three Bears, Trapper Creek AK). Roy had helped them when they had checked in with some questions about the area. We got to talking and gave them some ideas on what to do in Fairbanks because that is the next place they will be. The woman kept calling us her ‘Angels of Life’.

Being a chair user and having MS you just know things. That is what happened today. We stopped at Alaska Birch Syrup and Wild Harvest Products on are way to Talkeetna. The shop is cute with lots of free samples. I’m in the store and I look over and see a woman with a walker, (she has that MS stance). I didn’t want to go up to her and ask how long she has had MS because that is strange. Long story short. We did start talking and I said something like I’m not drunk it’s MS. She goes I have MS very small world. We traded the dates of our diagnosis and how we were getting along. It was something I think I needed today to help me realize I’m not the only one. They leave and I make my purchases and leave. So off to Talkeetna we head. The town has a cat for the mayor, so it has to be cool.

We find a parking spot (which was hard to find), I see that there are ramps into some of the stores. I have been so good this trip about shopping. I fell off the wagon I had to go shopping. So back in the chair, paved bike/people lane and I was good to go. Driving up and down the street who do I see, but my MS buddy. So, we chatted some more and enjoyed each other company. She also has just started using a chair and agrees with me it is bittersweet. You get a little more freedom to go more places, but it is with the need of some motorized device. You lose some freedom to do it yourself.

Today was also a day of just talking to people. (I knew I should have written his name down) At the end of the street there are tents set up flea market style, I see a photography tent. I make an effort to talk to photographers who sell their work, either to get some pointers or let them know I enjoy their work. We sat and talked about why photos sell, what photo sells. Inspiration. I was able to share one of my baby birds phots from Ninilchik. That is when he brought up getting a little burned out because he seems to sell the same photos over and over. So, he had been itching for photo field trip. Although, he said he doesn’t like to shoot in the summer. He just does not like the colors plus he sells his works to tourists. He did say he might have to go down and see for himself. He thanked me for stopping in and talking to him, this made part of my day.

Just on a side note those ramps that looked handicap accessible were not all that accessible. I will give them an E for effort. I do have to say the one store I stopped at that had a ramp but had a lip my chair would not get over to get in the store the owner was very helpful in bringing the things to me.

Every once in a while, you have to take the day and just meet people. Slow down and reflect. See how they touch you and how you touch them.

Thunderbirds Fly High

We were at the Artic Thunder Air Show at JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) on Sunday July 31st. I am going through the pictures, and I have to share this slideshow of the Thunderbirds. They were the closing act. I did not know that they are an elite flying group rich with history. I will say that my camera work was a little shaky. The action was so fast and everywhere.

From start to finish the whole experience was choreographed down to the landing. We were not close enough to see the precision routine of getting into the plane. I was a tad bummed until they started the performance, and we were front row center.

I Almost Caught IT…

almost

on camera. It is one of the things I have always wanted to capture, two eagles locking talons and falling through the sky. I’ve only seen this once and was not quick enough with my camera. There is such a wonder about how such a large bird can twist and turn while connected to another. Here is the photo I captured. This was taken with my long lens, and I cropped in quite a bit.

This happened on one of those trips when Roy said ‘you don’t know, if you don’t go’. We had just finished a fresh fish taco dinner, caught by Tom who we had met on the ferry. I need to mention the side of mosquitos were interesting. (I have a thermacell lantern that is making the trip with us next time.) I don’t brag or recommend a product but this one does work. Ok done with infomercial. The tacos weren’t any fish they were halibut smooth tasting fish not bad for someone who only sees from one side of its body. Tom’s place was cool because we ate in the garage which was two shipping containers and a truck trailer for walls. Just interesting and only in Alaska. So, after dinner we decided to visit my second favorite eagle spot. (First one is church and babies).

The spot where I took these photos from is what by a cliff this is where in the afternoon the eagles can catch the wind. Here is a page explaining how they catch the wind. This is also a spot where juveniles fake fight or sometimes real fight. Here are some of the pictures I took that night. I am hoping I get that opportunity to capture it this trip.

More eagle babies on the horizon.

50-Yard Line …

50-yard line

much better view for Sunday at the rodeo. I did say Roy got the seating chart right the second time. The rodeo started at 2pm so we got there a little early to grab the perfect seat. I was just going to just switch places with where Roy was yesterday. We get there and he decides that the corner might be a better place. I tried to enter one way no go to narrow. So, let’s take a trip in front of the bleachers that is also a no go. In fact, this is where I got stuck in a rut. My crazy bull rider from the other day came to my rescue. I call him crazy because I showed him his pictures and yes, he said those are cool. After we all decided I can’t get there we settled for the left side of the gate. That my friends ‘was the 50-yard line’. I did not know then how perfect it was. I saw everything from the calf wrestling to the break-away roping from a different angle. Roy was also able to put a few loving on some of the horses that were standing next to and behind him at the arena gate.

yes i did my hair
Blue eye

I even shot a few photos of the ones he was loving on, so I have evidence.

getting ready

Instead of barrel racing today was pole bending. We did see a few perfect runs and yes, we did also see a few tipped over poles. The set up for this event is interesting and can be found here.

Today there was more breakaway roping was also on the schedule today. Here is a short video from one of the riders

rope the little one
almost

Also on the agenda they had a similar event to the roping but instead of roping the calf you have to put a mark on its shoulder using mustard and a tennis ball here’s a pic of it.

I do think this is called wrangling but I like calf wrestling. I do have to say she gave it her all and lost.

calf 1 cowpoke 0
talent

We were again treated to some trick riding this time I was a little further from the rail, so no flying gravel.

The spectators had fun also my seat for the 3legged race placed me right in front of the winners. I felt like they were heading straight towards me.

You got this

The kids also got in on the action except they did not have to grab anything off the bull, it was a calf.

don’t run away
don’t back down

Like in good rodeo you have to have some drama when it comes to bull riding. Saturday was Kayden. Sunday was angry bull. The bull dumped his rider early and decided he was not going back in the holding pen. You could tell something was up as he was not liking being sat on just overall angry bull. The rodeo non clown tried to face off and stare him down that did not work. They finally had to release another bull to distract the bull who would not behave. Once distracted they were able to catch him.

that’s close enough

I will admit shooting action shots is a tad challenging to me. I am glad I’ve spent some time here tracking eagles with my camera it is the same techniques.

All in all, it was a good 4th and Roy enjoyed another small-town traditional holiday.

Here’s a slide show from day 2.

At the Rodeo had a front row seat

sometimes a little too front row. I will explain more on that a little later. I will also explain why I need a 4-wheel drive chair. I did get stuck once or twice or maybe three times. People are so nice when they are helping dig out a chair stuck in the dirt. I have to say the grounds were fairly wheelchair accessible until you get to the area leading up to the handicap ramp for the bleachers. This is where I got stuck. (Not hard packed at all.) We were able to get up on the bleachers and caught a few of the Junior Rodeo before the main event. (We did miss the beach races. You can see the video on their Ninilchik Rodeo Facebook Page.)

Big sister
go this way

The Junior Rodeo did need to be captured from the bleachers as it was using a smaller part of the arena. I was watching these young say under 5 years old children being led around the barrels by adults. My thought was what a great way to introduce your child to the rodeo. I think it was fun for both parties involved. I watched a little more than figured it was time to eat dinner. This is where I got stuck again and also when Roy and I decided both of us need to find better seats.

view of bleachers from my seat

Off we go to find better seats before the main event starts, with a stop over for dinner at the snack shack. This is a place I did not mind paying $23 for 2 cheeseburgers considering one was a meal. (It went to support the local youth.) Back to the seating situation there was a small set of bleachers inside the contestant area on fairly level ground, so we pulled up there, it turned out to be an awesome seat for the action. (Right at eye level.)

48-yard line view

It wasn’t quite the 50-yard line but it was to the right of one of the entry gates to the arena.

Day 1 had some action from bulls to bull horns. Here’s some highlights

  • Calf Riding
  • Bull Riding
  • 3-legged Race
  • Trick Riding
  • Barrel Racing
  • $100 the Hardway

Three big takeaways from day 1 included: 1. being glad I can’t run. 2. you have to be a little crazy to ride a bull. 3. don’t sit too close to the rail when trick riding is involved.

Why am I glad I can’t run? I will explain. The $100 the hard way involves a bull, an envelope taped to the bull’s horns, and a stampede of grown men. Check out the two videos. (spoiler alert: the bull got away with the money.) They repeated this on Sunday.

The Rules
The Stampede
Don’t step down

Why do you have to be a little crazy to be a bull rider. In case you get thrown from the bull pinned underneath and then when you see the photos, say that was cool. This happened on Saturday to Kayden.

Up and walking

I was able to get his ride from start to finish. He did get up and walked away but that was a scary scene. I am very glad he was ok. I needed him to get me unstuck on Sunday but that is another story.

I can fly

Saturday there seemed to be more rocks bouncing in the air and near me. I think it could have been where I was seated. The trick riders would come by kick up some stones I would flinch and lose a shot. (We did remedy this on Sunday). I was able to capture some shots.

We enjoyed the rodeo so much we came back on Sunday. Roy did get the seating chart right the second attempt on Sunday.

Enjoy the slide show below

Hometown Celebration

That is what I saw this weekend at the Ninilchik Rodeo. I’m pretty sure we will see more of the same at the American Legion fish fry on the 4th. I have to say it has been an amazing time on the Kenai. I will be doing a couple of posts on just the rodeo. We also visited the cemetery where the Legion placed American Flags on the grave sites.

So please enjoy the pictures

It was a Bull. No, it was a Cow moose.

This is what happens when you have two different viewpoints, one from the driver side and the other from the passenger side. This occurred the other night as we were driving to see more eagles. Anyone who have heard our banter, can imagine the banter. I did however say don’t go back there will be others to photograph. Well, a u-turn was made, and we both realized that at the exact same time we both saw a moose. (Just of the opposite sex).

I cut out mom’s behind
first sight

How often does that happen when you are both right. As a bonus we were treated to twin baby moose, of course mamma tried to get in the way of my shot. During the u-turns and the banter I was not able to get a picture of the mom. (Unless a butt shot counts.) I do believe once mom felt our presence, she was eager to nudge her kids out of the way.

Almost saying no photos please.

moving along

There are some disadvantages from shooting from a car; no cross-yard pursuits. So where to next.

Remember though we did see the bull moose on the other side of the road. He was just standing there no care in the world. I’m thinking he was thinking they are too far away and can’t take my picture. (These paranoid thoughts are happening because lately every moose we see we can’t get a good photo of.) Back to the story. Roy sees a road where we can get closer, and I can use my camera from the car. After going down a near (dirt) road we cross the road that can get us close to the moose. I first try shooting with the 300mm close, but I think I can do better so, I brought out the big guns. Here are the photos side by. side. I did not realize the big difference until I saw the photos side by side.

300 mm lens
600 mm lens

I like both versions for different reasons the 300 mm lens gives you the look that everything is in focus. The 600 mm has you looking and concentrating only on the moose.

good grass

This moose was not photo shy, he was only concerned with the flavor of his grass. I took a few more photos than we had to leave. Our fish taco dinner had gotten rescheduled to the next night. Off to Homer. Roy had to find out if the restaurant where he was introduced to Bear Creek Winery Rhubarb Chardonnay still served it. I am getting ahead of myself.

view looking down on it

We did our normal pass throughs of the beaches in an off chance we would see eagles, because that is what this year seems to be focused on. No eagles tonight though. We get to Homer a little earlier than we wanted to. So, a trip to the harbor and checking for more eagles. No luck by the ferry terminal. We then find another road we had not travelled, (yes, we explored) a short trip around the small boat harbor.

Now to that restaurant and dinner. We had visited the ‘The Fat Olive’ on our last trip through Homer in 2017. The food was great, and Roy learned about edible flowers and wine. On this particular Sunday there were no edible flowers and no Bear Creek wine. What did happen was after dinner this group of three kids came over to our table 1 boy and 2 girls. The look on Roy’s face was quizzical because he was not sure what the shy boy was asking. The boy kept pointing to Roy’s nose and his oxygen, well the sister chimed in and asked Roy if they could lay hands on him and pray for healing. He agreed and it was just interesting to see the determination in the three kids when they were praying for him.

Where do you go from there? Home with leftovers and warm thoughts.

Why do we do what we do

when we do it? That is a question Roy asked me after this day was done. Saturday, we got a late start even though we had all intentions of attempting the farmer’s market again. (I would stay in the car.) Needless to say, we stayed in bed. When we did get up and moving, we were side- tracked by a nice rack of halibut. After a few pictures, we head down to Anchor Point just to find out they are paving the road and to expect long delays. We decided not to wait. Roy has been reading the Milepost (a book that is published yearly for travelers in Alaska). He read about a small Russian village of ‘Old Believers‘ (the link is to an article from 2013). On a side note. In our exploring of Homer in 2017 we discovered the road to the village Kachemak Selo mentioned in the article. They are a very closed off community

After not wanting to wait for the construction we stopped for a coffee in one of those non-Starbucks drive through coffee huts. Saw there was a pizza place in the same parking lot. So we got a fresh made slice (1/4 of a large pizza). Roy and I split one slice. It was good and even had glazed garlic butter on the crust. Then, we travelled ten miles down a paved road in Anchor Point Alaska and found the village of Nikolaevsk Alaska.

the driveway
old church

The town itself is very quiet when you drive through. To me it felt a little like pulling back a curtain to peek in on someone or something. The center piece of the town seems to be the church A little explanation about the church (the link is to an article from 2015). They have service on Saturday night I was able to take the pictures right before people started to arrive for service. You could see a sense of community along with a reverence for the church.

work in progress

The congregation is in the process of building a new church, it looks like they have been at it awhile.

waiting for the dome

I am including some links about the architecture of Russian churches and Onion Domes

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the church.

all ages

So, we head back to town but before we leave, I took a picture of the school which teaches all grades under one roof. I thought it interesting that there was even a school for a community that small, being they are so close to Anchor Point.

even little birds get a share

We decide to give the road to the beach another shot. We were first car by the flagger, he said it would be about a half hour, so we waited. I am so glad we did. Had we come through when we first stopped, we would have missed the feast that was occurring on the beach. When the fishermen are done with fileting the catch the scraps get thrown on the beach for the birds to eat.

I’ll take mine to go
takeoff

It was cool to see them all swarm on the beach and even fight over some pieces. I was not able to get any real fighting on camera, I did however capture the landing of an eagle after the fight. I think he thought He was victorious, because the wings are up saying: “he is the champion!”

I won

So, to answer the question Roy posed. I am not sure why it happens. I am just happy Roy listens to whatever voice or thought tells him what direction to go in.