Monday, February 21, 2005

Watershed Crazy

A Banner Week For Crazy. Nay, a Watershed in Crazy History. This week, Crazy chokes the air of the 49th state, vibrating through the atmosphere like the Northern Lights after one of those 100-million-mile long solar flares gets loose.
Crazywise, we are off the charts.

Let me start personal, than blow it up to the full Crazy scope.

I’m in Fairbanks this week for one of the capstones of Crazy Air Force training, the Arctic Survival school aka Cool School. In practice, the concept is crazier (Camping in Alaska! In February! Without tents!) than the reality (teens and 20s this week), but classes with 4 hours of daylight per day and ambient temps of negative 50 are not unheard of.
Anyhoo, that’s where I am, which perhaps has been the karmic trigger for the Crazy eruptions, but who can say? I made the roadie up here, driving the 400 miles from Anchorage to Fairbanks, a trip on which I figured I might be able to hunt down some crazy but no – I only had to keep gas in the car. It found me.
Gas station #1 – Just north of anchorage in the Palmer/Wasilla area, which are two suburbs. Only, apparently, there’s a sweet spot on the map between them – so 100 yards east of my gas station was Wasilla sales taxes. 100 West was Palmer sales taxes. Mine was no sales taxes.
A little weak, but just the opening act.
Gas station #2 – in a strip mall in North Pole (Fairbanks suburb, 10 miles from the Cool school and – as the highway sign now says – 2004 State Football Champions), next to a barber’s shop. Big sign on the barber’s window, handpainted – “I Will Be Closed For Surgery” (Dammit! Now we have to go all the way into Fairbanks for Surgery! - Thankee!!!!)

And now, the three damndest things. First, the Big One.
Or, rather, the No Longer Big One.
Destined to be a national story. Just remember's whose Crazy it is.

‘No Problem With Appeal’
As he asked his girlfriend: “I don't Believe it. Do you?” Let me answer for all of us: If it was anywhere else, no. But...

North To Alabama
Call me a screamin' liberal, but you show me a petition to ban King Salmon fishing in Alabama, I’ll sign it.
Let me give this story just a bit more serious discussion than it deserves: I like PETA in the same sense I like the NRA and Jerry Falwell and grooved pavement on freeways. Without them you might just drive straight off into the abyss before you knew you were out of the lines. PETA is nothing if not a group of moral absolutist blind to the holes in their morality, but isn't that the best part of being morally absolut? (as The Enemies List might put it "No Grey Areas, Only Enemies!") So I am never offended or shocked by PETA's antics and I’m often amused.
But I am offended by this story strictly as a consumer of liberal social movements.
I fall pretty firmly in the same corner as (to name a few of my most-abused favorites) the ACLU, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, Greenpeace, even the sorry-ass Democratic National Committee. And here's PETA - not so much 'one of us' but with a long list of common enemies - wasting everybody's time (and money) without even managing to show a clear grasp of the difference between Alaska and Alabama.
PETA picks up some first downs with most people when they stick to industrial cattle farms, animal lab testing and the lunacies of the fur-wearing world. And then they trot out something like this.
I’m fully aware that this is a publicity stunt and nothing more. Indeed, pub stunts are often what many groups on 'my' side are reduced to. But since these things are our only real weapons, I'd appreaciate it if PETA didn't waste one. Because this whole deal is gruesomely ill-concieved, likely only to alienate friends and set back real debate. Is that the goal?
There. I had my say.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the skydiver. Genital mutilation and PETA-attacks are good, but for pure Alaska Crazy, you can't beat a paranoid skydiving wack-job defending himself in open court. Except when he's surpised by the verdict.

Like I said, the sky is positively aglow up here.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Crazy Motto

Everything you need to know about life in Alaska

Lost in Crazy

A downtown, relatively famous bar in Anchorage apparently has one of its t-shirts featured on ABC's Lost.

I've never missed an episode of lost, from the debut on. And as for Humpy's the halibut tacos are definetly in Anchorage's top 10 best meals.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Turns out, everybody got some Crazy

told ya i wasn't alone up there (see next post).

also, a friend in Austin emailed to say an east-coast friend of his was also up there.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Mt. Washington, NH: Surprisingly UnCrazy

The best food on earth - and arguments will not be entertained - is the foil-wrapped, room-temperature, two-day-old leftovers that you thought were in your backpack on top of the mountain that are actually waiting in the car when you get back down.

Right there on the passenger seat where you left it.

It's the first painless, comfortable sensation since you left the car
that morning, the get-well dose on a gaping calorie deficit, an unplanned reward for the climb, and it comes with that little victory of knowing you didn't drop it along the way for some lousy, unappreciate squirrel.

I was reminded of this Law Of The Human Digestive System today when I
got back to my car late this afternoon and found the last three -
THREE!!! - slices of a spinach-roni stomboli from a place that knew how
to make it. Three full, soft, warm, lustily flavorful slices.

A perfect way to cap a climb up New Hampshire's - ney, New
England's - tallest, meanest, nastiest hill, Mt. Washington.

Now, let me tell you a little about Mt. Washington, how it vaguely fits
into the Alaska Crazy profile, and how my climb today was Crazy, even
by our high standards in the 49th state.

Mt. Washington, over 6K ft, sits at the three-way intersection of three
weather corridors. Weather comes down from Canada and the great lakes,
in the from the Atlantic and up from the south, and hits right on top
of Mt. Washington's bare shoulders.
The highest windspeed ever recorded on earth - 230 MPH, or some such
lunacy - was on Mt. Washington. 100MPH winds - sustained - can happen
any day, any season. Gusts way past that.
One of the well-built buildings on top of the mountain is literally
chained to the ground, with three iron, maritime-anchor-looking chains
going all the way up and over the roof, like the building was going to
make a break for it.
In fact, in the climbing world, it's a truism that Mt. Washington is
the only place in the Lower 48 that can, reliably, simulate the
conditions that ambitious climbers are likely to find on extended trips
in - wait for it! - Alaska.

In short, no matter who you are or where you are from - even if it's
Alaska - Mt. Washington can kick your ass.

And, like the rest of New England in winter, Mt. Washington's
angriest month, on average, is February.

Which is why I must report that as I stood on the summit today, the wind whipped itself up to a howling, sustained, 3 MPH. Gusts were way past that - like, 6.
Temps in the high-30s - in the shade. Out in the sun, i'd put it at
mid-50s. And 'out in the sun' was pretty much everywhere, since it
was, as the pilots like to say, 'severe clear' tO every point of the

Now, all over the mountain were, i'd like to think, some of the
upper-crust of New England's climbing community, at least 100 other
climbers. Each of them, without exception, was dragging full-sized
packs full of what i'm sure was survival gear of the highest order.
Absolutely everyone had the sturdiest of deep-cold hiking boots, many
of the plastic kind, and much more than half had on crampons, some as
early in the trip as the parking lot.
It was a mountain of people who were, in a word, scared.
I had plastic boots and crampons, too. Right there strapped to my
backpack. Same place as my mountain axe. Nobody was going to tell me i didn't know what to
But I don't think i was imagining the just-plain resentment in
the faces of absolutely everybody i passed when they looked down and
saw I was doing the whole thing in running shoes. And a tshirt.

So to my fellow Alaskans on this list considering whether or not
they want to take on the mighty pride of east coast mountaineering, the
bruiser from New Hampshire, the meanest square mile of real estate this side of Tibet, Mt. "Worse Weather Than Alaska" Washington - deep in the heart of
February, no less - my advice to you is do NOT underestimate the Beast:
Bring LOTS of sunscreen. And maybe a kite - in case the wind ever
does actually blow.

Oh! And get the Stomboli from Delancy's the night before,

Crazy Disclosure

Okay. Just so the record is set, here's the Mt. Washington Weather observatory's page for Feb 6, 2005, the day of my climb discussed above. Note the weather report is from 5am that day, and it obviously got much warmer by the time i got to the summit about 1pm.

Here is the comments from the weather intern who lives up there:

Sunday saw some of the most extreme weather on Mount Washington in years. That's right, good weather on the summit can be considered extreme. At 42F we smashed the old record high of 33F set in 1938. Just one degree shy of the all-time monthly record. Monday's record high has also been exceeded. Daily records are broken quite regularly though, often several times a year. The extreme event happened around 9am when the winds became completely calm. Even the slightest breath of air could not be found on the summit. If you visit the top of Mount Washington in the winter you are more likely to experience 130mph gusts than calm winds.

With all the nice weather in the mountains there was a flood of activity on the Rockpile this weekend. Scores of people reached the summit on both Saturday and Sunday. At times the Observation Deck was as crowded as a summer afternoon, and the summit crew could be seen playing baseball. In the late afternoon I found corn snow skiing the east snowfields. What a weekend!

For perspective, here are the archived pages of Mt. Washington weather from the same day in recent years:
Feb. 6, 2002