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April 16, 2005


Mikee is a friend of mine from Antarctica. I met him my first season down, at the end of my stay, and adored him, because it's impossible not to adore Mikee Cragen. He's a nice, warm, funny, and kooky guy, lots of fun to be around. I went north and he stayed south, spending the winter in McMurdo with other friends of mine, including Tad, Dave, Matt (the three musketeers from my first season down), Elizabeth, Lisa, and Kim. As it happened, Dave and Elizabeth and Mike and Lisa and Kim all happened to be in Christchurch after their winter when I was on my way down for my second season, and I got to know all of them a little bit better. Last summer, I did exactly what I'm doing now: stopped over in Anchorage and Seattle on my way back to Boulder after work in Fairbanks. I backpacked with Elizabeth and Dave in a park down off the Kenai Peninsula. I didn't put pictures in from that last year, so I'll put them in now. The area must have been called Katchemac, because that's what Dave called the first picture. All three were taken by Dave of Elizabeth and me.

We had to take a water taxi from Homer to get to the place, and stopped along the way (in the boat) to buy some fresh oysters. The trip didn't suck. It was funny, though--we took this taxi to go on this backpack and made it 45 minutes in to the lake in the picture and decided that looked like a great place to set up camp. So we did. We--okay, at least Dave and I--were feeling lazy and tired and unmotivated to do much besides laze around and have fun, so we built a campfire and didn't move. We met up with some other friends--Martha and another Dave and a friend of theirs--who joined us for the second night (we were really supposed to join them the day before, but missed them somehow), when we again built a campfire and stayed put. Apparently the glacier is really beautiful up close. Maybe next time.

Anyway. On our way back to Anchorage, we stopped in Seward to say hi to Mike, who was there working on a plane he had just bought. He liked the whole traveling after the ice thing, but what he really really (really) wanted to do was go back to Alaska and buy a plane and just be in Alaska and fly. Mike really loves Alaska (really really). He also really loves to fly. So he did it. He spent the whole summer pulling apart and then putting back together this plane with his friend Ronn, the high school shop teacher in Seward, and then flying, flying, and flying. He flew a lot. He named his plane (on Elizabeth, Dave, and my suggestion/encouragement/begging) Skeeter, or Ms. Skeeter, because of its ability to suck everything out of Mike. Money and time and blood and the like. Okay, probably not so much blood, but I imagine Mike's gotten a scrape her and there. There's more to the story, actually, and it's kind of funny, so ask me about it sometime if you think of it. So Dave and Elizabeth and I stopped by to say hi, because we knew the only way to see him would be to go to him, or his plane rather, and we ended up hanging out two nights with him and Ronn, who is the almost absolute greatest, and spent the day inbetween helping out with the plane. We learned about small planes and worked on patching it and priming it for painting. We even wore coveralls and face masks (nasty fumes). There are some nice pictures somewhere, but I think they were on Dave's camera. Elizabeth and I took a potty break after a few hours and went to the girls' locker room, where we were the only two girls in there 1) over twenty and 2) wearing coveralls OR face masks. Funny that. We took showers and talked, and talked and talked and talked. Yeah, we decided, the working on the plane thing was fun for a while, but we were done. They could work. We could chat. Even if we were surrounded by a constant flow of pre-teens getting ready for swim practice and teens getting ready for basketball.

So Ron and I go way back, and so do me and Mikee's plane, so I was looking forward to seeing both of them on Saturday. The drive to Seward was, of course, beautiful. It's along mountains and water, and there's not really a boring bit of it. In Seward, we headed to the grocery store to get something for dinner. Do you want to just grab something, or do you want to buy something to make...? Mike asked. I don't really feel like cooking, I said, do you? No, he said. Not at all. So we bought two bags of Tim's Cascade Potato Chips (two for one), a frozen pizza, and two things of ice cream (also two for one). And we headed to Ronn's to pick up Ronn's son, Jacob. Ronn himself was at prom. I shouldn't have already told you that he is a high school teacher, otherwise that line may have been a little more shocking. Yes, Ronn was at prom, chaperoning.

Mike told me as we pulled in to Ronn's drive that Jacob is really into killing animals. "Don't bring it up," Mike said, "just see how long it takes him to start talking about it." We walked across the yard past a plastic sheet with fish guts. "Looks like he's here," Mike said. We found Jacob inside playing a video game. "Oh, cool," said Mike, looking at the screen. "I didn't know there were actually any games that weren't hunt-em-down and shoot-em-up anymore." Jacob was cruising around through the woods in a jeep. "Can I drive?" Mike asked. Jacob handed over the controller. "How do I use it?" asked Mike, and Jacob took the controller back to demonstrate the buttons. "This one's forwards, and this one's reverse, and you turn with these arrows here." Mike reached for the controller. "And then this one gets you out of the car," Jacob continued, "and then press this one"--a rifle came up into view--"and then this"--the sight came on the screen, and Mike broke in. "I just want to drive he said," both of us disappointed. It turned out to be a Cabella's hunting game. Jacob told us enthusiastically that there is another Cabella's game in which he can kill more than just deer. Lions and tigers and bears, that sort of thing.

The sound of a chainsaw approached from the front. Turns out their friend Dan was headed over to pick up Jacob, too, and he was making his grand entrance. "Sounded like you rode in on a weed wacker," I said. We piled into oversized trucks and headed to Dan-o's cabin. Cabin, my ass. The cabin is spacious (not super-huge, by any means, but certainly comfortable) with running water and power, a stove and an over and overhead lights and a phone and all that jazz. The little house is beautiful. I guess all three of them--Dan, Ronn, and Mike--put in a significant amount of time on the place. Most importanly, it had a fire pit. Jacob was allowed one match to get the fire started. Within minutes, it seemed, the pit was aglow and the fire big. The pizza was in the oven, homemade beer from Mike's kegerator in our hands, and life was good. Dennis, the across-the-dirt-road neighbor, came over with his dog Tracker and warned me not to leave my shoes (or anything else) lying around outside. Tracker is a golden retriever. We brought the pizza out of the oven (keeping a careful eye on Tracker), refilled beer glasses, and life was still good. Until we noticed one of Ronn's garbage cans, which held wood, was too close to the fire and was melting. Dan immediately blamed Jacob. He dumped out the wood and moved the plastic can away from the fire. The damage wasn't extraodinary, but enough to have created a drooping hole in the side, so Dan cleverly stacked the garbage can between two others in hopes that Ronn would not notice the damage until he had the cans back at school, where he could blame the hole on the kids in his shop class. It was too much to resist, though, and when Ronn showed up from prom--still in his suit coat and dress pants--Dan had to spill the beans. "Oh, that's nothing," Ronn said, and went on to tell us stories from Seward High School.

Once it was sufficiently late and everyone was sufficiently tired, the gang took off. First, we talked of breakfast plans for the next morning. Ronn suggested we all go over to his house, but I proposed he get groceries on his way back over and make breakfast for us at Dan's. Lazy me. Somehow, he bought it. Ronn and Jacob went home, and Dan left his house to us while he went to attend to his fiance, who wasn't feeling well.

Mike and I couldn't resist. I mean, who can resist a hot tub. It was late, but there was a hot tub in the yard, and it was hot enough, so we jumped in for a soak. Turned to noodles, and then headed in to sleep.

Posted by beth at April 16, 2005 12:27 AM