Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's the start of a new year and...well, that's about it for me. It doesn't actually feel like anything's different, the way I usually feel around this time. Is it just exhaustion? (Relaxing, this vacation was not. In addition, we got back to Fairbanks around midnight and I had to be up for work at 6:45. It was pushed off until 7:00. ;) I suppose this new year doesn't feel different in part because it was such an unusual one (I'll explain more later) and in part because I don't really have any new goals in mind for 2012. I think I just need to work on improving my old goals of less waste, spending less money, and buying more locally.
I mentioned that our trip wasn't relaxing, but it was very fun. Soldotna was colder than we expected, but that just meant that we stayed inside more and played dominoes. There was also the round of Christmas parties we went to and family to see. For New Year's, this is the first one I've spent with Shane's family in Alaska. (Last year we were in Universal Studios Florida.) We went to the family's cabin in the Caribou Hills, which is what they usually do. Is it odd to have missed a place I've only visited twice or thrice before? The first time I visited was the very first summer Shane and I were dating, right after a huge wildfire swept through the area. A lot of people lost their cabins due to fire, although in Shane's family it was only his uncle's cabin (which was planned to be torn down and rebuilt anyway, so he's got a nice new cabin now) and his grandfather's (who had died the year before) which burned down. Shane's dad keeps trees away from his cabin, and more importantly away from the generator shed, so damage was minimal. I was surprised at how much evidence there still is of that fire. Burned, dead trees are still standing, the forest is more sparse than it should be, and there are a lot of little trees just sprouting up.
Cars and trucks can't get to the cabin, so everything needs to go in by either four-wheeler (summer) or snowmachine. (For those of you not in Alaska, you'd probably call them snowmobiles. Around here, you get yelled at if you call them that. They're either snowmachines or snow-gos.) I do mean that everything needs to be brought in. Gas for the generator and the machines, oil for the stove, food, water, everything. I mean, they have furniture and blankets that they keep there. And a few cans of food, but Shane's mom is constitutionally unable to pack only as much food as will be needed for the time we're there. (His dad said that for the two of them to go up for a weekend, she packs two coolers and roughly 2 weeks' worth of food!) Naturally, the bathroom is off the back porch (for guys) and an outhouse. However, lest you get the wrong impression, I should mention right now that this is basically the Cadillac of outhouses. There's a heat light in there (powered by a switch inside the cabin, so you can turn it on before you go out there) and the walls are covered by shag carpeting that used to be in the parent's house. In addition, the in-laws put a little electric space heater out there to help keep the seat from freezing. It's not the most comfortable place ever, but it's way better than any other outhouse I've been in. At least it's warmer.
I'm such an environmentalist, spending my vacation running around on a gas-powered machine, right? But oh man, are they fun! Since a lot of Shane's extended family was also in the hills, nearly every day we had someone call us up and take Shane and me out for a ride. (Shane's parents don't ride so much anymore due to back problems. Family friends were staying with us, though, and they had little kids, so my in-laws were very content to stay in and interact with the kids and their friends.) This is the second time I've gone snowmachining (the first time was during my second visit to the cabin) and I'm proud to say that I remembered most of what I learned last time. I only got stuck a couple of times, thrown off the machine once (I just slipped off the side, very gently, into a big pile of snow), and surprised Shane by following him up a hill. He was looking for a good way (read: easy) way for me to go up. Only, as he was going up the aunt who was leading the ride motioned for me to follow. I think she just wanted to see if I could or not, and push my boundaries. But since Aunt said to go up, I did. When I got to the top Shane yelled something at me that I couldn't catch. Apparently he was asking if I was crazy or stupid, or something to that effect. I think it was, "What were you thinking?!" When Aunt explained what she'd done, they both got a good laugh out of it. I told Shane, "What's the big deal? I made it, didn't I? Laugh if I get stuck following you."
New Year's Eve was chilly. I think it was at least -10? But it meant a bonfire and a sledding party for the evening, with fireworks at midnight and a big kiss from my sweetie. I had girl time with one of the cousins (who's been going through a bit of a rough time lately) and bonded with Aunt (who has the same name as me--and is also going through a rough time) and generally enjoyed life and being with these wonderful people I'm lucky enough to now be related to, even if only through marriage.
The only odd incident that happened that night was that someone's beer exploded. He'd put it (unopened) next to the bonfire to thaw and then, I guess, forgot about it. (Anything with an alcohol content lower than that of vodka was freezing or getting slushy.) Shane and I were the ones closest to it. I was saved because I was speaking to him and looking his direction. Shane's face was turned toward the fire, though, and either the can or some ice flew into his face and cut his nose. It wasn't bad (although it would have been a fitting ending to the year if Shane had broken his nose, too), but it wouldn't stop bleeding for a while (a very clean cut) and his nose is still bruised and sore. He was just happy that I wasn't hurt at all, and kept saying, "Well, now I can say that I've been shot and exploded." (The shot was a bee bee from a friend that's still embedded in his thigh somewhere. Stupid teenage boys.)
The one bad part of ending 2011 is that I didn't make it through one of my goals: I didn't read 52 books. I think I made it to 48? (I'll have to check my list. I've kept it since 2005.) Oh well. I'll just have to do better this year. Having my Nook will help, and the fact that I got a few books and some book money for Christmas.
The drive home yesterday was just long and cold. We didn't see any moose on the road, which we did on the way down. (Two on the road and one disappearing into the woods. The first one on the road made us nervous, since they're unpredictable and could have run out in front of us.) I'm so glad I knew it would be cold when we came home, so I had some down blankets stowed in the car. Even with them, though, our toes were going numb. Even the fuzzy dog was under a blanket with me, shivering. Unloading the truck was the worst part, since it made my toes hurt. But I warmed them up slowly, first taking off my socks and putting on my slippers, then walking around doing a little bit of unpacking, then crawling under the electric blanket and going to sleep.
Our cat is most thoroughly happy to see me (notice I said me, not us) but can't stop scolding us for being gone. (If you've ever heard a female cat in heat, that's sort of the noise he's making. It's very loud and really pissed-off sounding.) But he spent a good portion of the night snuggling with me (or pouncing me--I distinctly remember being pounced) and wouldn't stop rubbing against me when I was up. I missed him too.

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