Sunday, March 30, 2008


Hey, they do exist! I actually caught sight of two rollagons at the fuel station earlier this evening. They are in the process of transporting diesel from Barrow to Atqasuk because there is no fuel for the plane that usually makes the delivery. One of the drivers told me that they were completing their sixth of thirteen trips out to Atqasuk this week. Wow! I guess it’s not a terrible trip. Barrow is only about 60 miles northeast of us, but I’m not sure how fast they are able to move, especially carrying fuel, a potential hazard on the tundra.

I wish I’d been able to ask the driver more questions, but by the time I finished taking pictures of the rollagons from every conceivable angle, my face was so cold that I was having a hard time getting words to come out right. I hope he didn’t think I was TUI (talking under the influence)…that’s an embarrassing thought.

A couple of days ago someone told me that the tires on a rollagon are actually soft and pillow-like. There is supposed to be a photo or advertisement somewhere that shows a woman lying on a beach being run over by a rollagon without physical damage or discomfort to her body. I asked the driver if the tires were actually soft and pillow-like. He looked at me blankly for a minute. Then his mouth curled into one of those you-poor-gullible-soul smiles and he said, “Uh…” So, I’m guessing that would be a no.

One of the trickiest anomalies of the Arctic is conflicting information. Equally reasonable and seemingly knowledgeable people can have two entirely different perceptions of the same event and pass on mutually exclusive information as indisputable fact. It’s often a challenge to determine if something I’ve heard is actually true or just true enough.

After seeing the rollagons for myself, I realized that the description found here describes exactly what you'll see in these photos. (and the photo from the previous post is not)

This is the first one that I saw. At this point, it had just passed up the entrance to the fuel farm (I'm not sure why) and was about to back up.

Here's the second one as it turns in toward the fuel station where it will begin unloading diesel into the tanks.

In this shot, one of the drivers is hooking up the blue hose that will transfer the fuel from the truck to the fuel farm tank.

If I am understanding the article correctly, the rollers are what move the tires. And the pressure of each tire can actually be controlled individually by the driver without leaving the cab!

When I walked around to the far side of the trucks, I noticed a spare tire wedged in beside the tank and below the trailer there was yet another tire attached to some sort of arm that looked as if it could extend outward. When I read the article about rollagons it mentioned a "fifth set of tires installed under its cargo dock. That difference raises the vehicle's payload capability by 15,000 pounds, to 45,000 pounds." I'm thinking that must explain it. Anyone have a better theory? I'm open to ideas. This is the Arctic, after all. Our explanations don't have to be actually true...just true enough! :)
I took several more photos, but won't attempt to share them all here. If you would like to see more, just click on a photo and that will send you to my Flickr account.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kid Quote

4th grader: Kimberlee, did you see the pentagons?

Me: Hmm. Which pentagons?

4th grader: The ones on the tundra.

Me: There were pentagons on the tundra?

4th grader: Yeah. I saw 'em.

Me: You saw pentagons? I don't know what you mean. Why were there pentagons on the tundra?

4th grader: I don't know. They just came.

Me: You mean like aliens left them there?

4th grader: Noooo! (giggles)

Older/wiser 6th grader: Not pentagons! They were rollagons!

4th grader: Oh, yeah, rollagons!


I hadn't seen the rollagons, but I'm keeping my eyes open. They are traveling back and forth from Barrow, something to do with the fuel farm. This is the first time rollagons have been to Atqasuk in over six years. I'm really hoping to catch a glimpse.

Click here for more info:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Few Good Eggs

I did a little reading about Easter eggs and learned some things that I hadn't known before (click here for Wikipedia's entry). Although decorated eggs are clearly associated with the celebration of Easter, they aren't directly tied to any authentically Christian observance. There may be a connection with early Christianity's roots in Judaism, but it's more likely that Easter eggs are one of those traditions that came to be accepted after-the-fact, an add-on that became popular and simply "stuck." None of that was really a surprise to me. But what I hadn't heard before is that one of the possible reasons for eating eggs at Easter time is that eggs, like meat, were not eaten during lent. Since chickens didn't stop producing there was quite an overstock by the time Easter rolled around! What a mundane beginning for such a playful tradition!

There is even a tradition associated with the beginning of lent called
Pancake Day which served to use up eggs by mixing them into crepe-like pancakes a few days before the season began! This practice is still popular in many countries around the world. That sounds like fun and given Americans' fondness for food I have to wonder why it never caught on here. Maybe it's not too late!

Bright colors and creative designs are always a visual delight, but the real value of an egg is found beneath the painted veneer. Each egg is endowed with potential for sustenance or new life and that is the treasure worth protecting.

Sound familiar?


Here are a few of the "eggs" in my basket...aren't they beautiful?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Comes Riding

arctic desert 1

Winter has planted a pretty big footprint across the land, but there is a rumor going 'round that Spring isn't intimidated. She slipped in today, quietly riding on slices of sunlight. Wind weary drifts and snowflakes tired of shivering glistened their approval without reservation. They know that Spring will set them free from their frozen confinement. Tiny seeds that Summer left behind are oblivious in their slumber. No worry. Spring will eventually pull back the covers and they'll awaken soon enough.


arctic desert 7

arctic desert 12

arctic desert 11

arctic desert 4

arctic desert 5

arctic desert 9

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Boyz In My Hood

Boys Club 11

Boys Club

Young men of

Boys fascinate me. I think they always have. Even as a child, I remember admiring the skill, determination, and intelligence of boys that I knew (although I probably wouldn't have admitted it then!). Sometimes, boys were just more fun to be around. It was, after all, the neighborhood boys who shared my affinity for football and baseball and the glorious pleasures of mud after a heavy rain. The boys that I played with were never satisfied with the status quo of...anything. They were constantly modifying and revising and challenging limits. What if we put another brick under the ramp? What would it be like to eat that? What happens to eyelids if you turn them inside out? How far can we shoot something, or spit something, or throw something? I didn't always have the gumption to pursue those kinds of questions, but I certainly enjoyed hanging out with those who did!

January 2008 marked the first full year since the inception of Boys Club at Meade River School. It's a local club, not affiliated with any state or national organization, but that doesn't seem to bother the boys involved. If you ask the boys what we do in Boys Club their answer won't be complicated. We talk…we eat…we swim! And that's pretty much it. A simple format, I know, but it seems to be enough, at least for now.

I never expected to start a club for boys and, even after a year, it's still a work-in-progress. But, I have to say, working with boys, away from girls, has been an enlightening experience. Obviously, gender-based differences among students can be distracting on many levels and with elementary children that distraction tends to be a negative one. But, within a homogeneous group, both girls and boys often seem to relax and participate more fully. It is as if they feel a little more freedom to be themselves without fear of ridicule or reproach.

Of course, managing the energy level during meetings can be difficult at times, but I really think it's a challenge worth facing. More than anything else, the club has given me an opportunity to know the inner workings of our boys on a completely different level. And I've learned that sometimes character education isn't as much a matter of pouring good stuff in as it is making the most of the good stuff that's already there. Our boys want to do what's right and they are capable of that. They want to make someone proud and they should. They want to be brave and challenge the limits of the life that they've been given. Like most boys, they want to raise the ramp and see what it feels like to fly. They just need the advantage of one or two well-placed bricks.


We talk...

Boys Club Creed

Every day I will be helpful and kind.
I will treat others with respect.
I will be brave and choose what is honest and fair.
I will be a true friend, a strong son, and a proud citizen of my country.

Boys Club 4

We eat...
Snack time is always an important part of our meetings! The good thing is the boys are never picky. Whether it's pizza or graham crackers, any snack is accepted with amazing enthusiasm. Of course, ice cream has proven to be the ultimate motivational tool.

Boys Club 5

We swim...
The pool is only four foot at its deepest point, but it might as well be the ocean as far as these boys are concerned. I dare say they may even like swimming more than basketball...and that's saying a lot!

Boys Club 8

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Slice of Ice 1

Winter always finds
gentle kisses from the sun

Slice of Ice 2

Slice of Ice 3

Sunday, March 9, 2008

No Spring Chicken

March 7, 2008

It’s a precarious existence, standing guard all alone, but the playground duck has endured yet another Arctic winter while remaining relatively intact. His head, if not his shoulders, is still well above the snow, though he is sporting a few extra scuff marks on his skin of chipping paint. It’s a sad reality that harsh elements are only part of the challenge he faces each winter. The drifts that build up around him have proven to be an irresistible sort of obstacle course for snow machine riders looking for an airborne thrill. Skidoo tracks are clear evidence that poor ducky has been ploughed over on more than one occasion. Thankfully, he is flexible and still appears to be attached to his base, but I’m skeptical about his fate as snow removal season draws near. If skidoo riders are oblivious to his plight, I’m not sure that snow pushers will be any different. So I’m paying tribute to my little friend while he’s still firmly planted. He has served faithfully (if unconsciously) as a visible weather indicator for the last six months. Hopefully, he’ll make it through break-up without a break-up of his own!

March 7, 2008

March 7, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


March 2008 025

A snack-craving boy needs money in his pocket, a stir-crazy dog needs to get out of the house, an exhausted dog owner needs a few moments of dog-free tranquility in her life. A symbiotic relationship? I'm thinking...definitely yes!

Wintering with an energetic, two-year-old, lab mix that thinks the world is her own personal chew toy makes the challenge of living in the Arctic seem like a walk in the spring...eating an ice cream cone.

Excavating the doghouse has been long overdue. Some time apart will be good for everyone involved, even if only a few minutes each day. The exhausted dog owner will be able to talk on the phone, work on the computer, or (dare we hope?) eat a meal in relative peace. And the stir-crazy dog will be able to sit in the sun, bark at any and all passers by to see her third birthday!

Of course, the excavation required a hefty chunk of change. Even a snack-craving boy doesn't come cheap these days. But, I must admit, he wasn't nearly as expensive as, say, my almost new hiking shoes...or my handmade beaver mittens. Too bad I didn't think of that a little sooner.


The snow removal was actually started last week when the borough came by with a dozer...or some other kind of snow pushing machine. They moved as much of the drift as they could without hitting the connex, my fuel tank, or the doghouse. They actually did think they'd hit my porch (I got a phone call at school). It turned out that they had just scraped up a piece of plywood that was on the ground in front of my porch. No harm done. (Whew!). By the time I took these photos, my snack-craving boy had already shaved a foot and a half of snow off the top of the doghouse and had dug out an opening to the doorway.

March 2008 023

The connex is a storage container that was converted into an apartment. I just use it for storage, but since the doors open on the end, it's not usually accessible in the winter without a lot of effort. This time the effort wasn't mine. And it was worth every penny!

March 2008 024

Anybody need a, size seven, almost new, (right foot) hiking shoe? I seem to have one that I can't use anymore.

March 2008 099

I also have a (right hand) beaver mitten without a mate. Although, I may be able to repair the damaged one...I'm not sure.

Look at that nose creeping into the photo! She's got some nerve, huh?

March 2008 096

Monday, March 3, 2008

Just One More...

More ice and snow

This was my favorite photo from my recent trip to Barrow. Somehow it got detoured in cyberspace en route to Flickr. So, I'm tacking it on now, substantially after the fact. Hmm. Is that really tacky?