BACKGROUND:

The weather had been crazy through December and the first part of January leading to my trip to Kodiak.  The temp's were alternating between spring and dead of winter.  I took these two pictures on the 7th of January.  This is a fast running stream that is normally active all year.  As you can see, it is froze solid:

Frozen outlet Frozen inlet

Roger and Leslie were planning a trip to AZ, so I told them I would watch their house while they were gone.  They were scheduled to leave on Friday the 16th of January, so I decided I would fly in on Thursday.

If you have a good plan, nothing can go wrong.  I had a good plan.  I got up Sunday morning and checked the weather.  It looked good all week.  I decided that I would do my laundry on Wednesday, fly out Thursday and everything would work out perfectly.

I got up Monday morning and discovered that the forecast had changed.  As long as I have lived here I should know how that goes.  I've seen the forecast changed 4 times in one day.  This change was for the worst.  They were forecasting 55 mph gusts and possibly rain or snow.

I discovered that a lady that lives a couple of houses from me had passed away on Sunday morning.  Not only was I trying to get out, but a lot of friends and relatives of hers were trying to get in for the services.  I spent Monday doing laundry and getting the house ready for my absence.  I called Island Air and made a reservation for Tuesday morning.  The forecast didn't look too bad for Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning was a bust.  The winds were building up and the visibility was zero.  Island Air closed down about 1300.  If this doesn't get any better, I am going to have to try to get a water taxi out of here.

I was up late Tuesday.  I discovered that the funeral services were scheduled for today (Wednesday) but it isn't looking very good for flying.  The usual wind and low visibility.  I called Island Air about 0840 and they said it wasn't looking too good.  They wanted to wait until it was light enough before making a decision.  They said they would call me if they decided to fly.  I let them know that I had to be called early because I had to catch a ride with Jay.

The weather kept getting worse and about 1030 the phone rang.  It was Island Air.  "The pilot is in the air."  Now I have get in touch with Jay and get out to the airstrip.  I am surprised they are actually flying.

We get to the airstrip and there are not one, but two Island Air planes there.  Both of them are unloading passengers.  The only reason they are flying is so that they can get the family and friends in for the funeral.  The other airline, Servant, is not flying.

THE FLIGHT IN:

I jump on one of the planes.  Sandy is the pilot.  Some guy that has been working in the village and staying at one of the lodges is the only other passenger headed to Kodiak.  We get in and buckle up.  Sandy is ready to start the engines (we are in the twin engine Islander) when the other passengers blurts out "I left my cell phone at the lodge.  I have to have it for my business."

Now think about this.  You have been trying to get out of town for a couple of days.  You know that they might call and tell you that you have 20 minutes to get to the airstrip, so you have everything ESPECIALLY ESSENTIAL THINGS packed and ready to go.  You should definitely have your 'I can't function without it' cell phone packed because they don't work in Port Lions.  There isn't a reason to unpack it when you get here.

Sandy is obviously irritated and so am I.  The weather is actually getting worse by the minute.  The guy wants to know if Sandy will wait while he catches a ride back to the lodge, gets his phone, then comes back.  "No."  Then the guy wants to know if another plane is coming.  Sandy tries to raise the office by radio, but can't.  He tells the guy that he doubts it and that he can't wait any longer.  So the guy gets out and heads back to the lodge.

Sandy gets in and starts the engines.  The wind is rocking the plane a little while we warm up.  I see all the people that have just arrived hugging each other and collecting their baggage.  Then it hits me.  That guy that I figured was a dummy might be getting a second chance.  Maybe this plane isn't going to make it to Kodiak and this just isn't his time.  Oh well, we're on our way.  It is just me and the pilot.

Sandy decided to waste his breath and tell me "It's going to be a little rough."  We get airborne and it is rough, but not as bad as some of the flights I've taken. The ceiling is really low and we level off at 550'.  Even that low, we are actually in the clouds.  The visibility is maybe 2 miles.

This isn't too bad.  It is a little rough, but I can see the ocean pretty good, so I'm looking for whales.  About midway to Ouzinkie we hit a dead spot and the plane rapidly drops quite a way.  My head hits the ceiling hard and my copy of 'Marine, The Life of Chesty Puller' is flung from my lap and thrown to the floor.  I retrieve it.   Thankfully my martial arts training taught me to not let my tongue get between my teeth.  That would have really hurt.

Sandy turned around and with a look of terror on his face yelled "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?"  "Yeah, but I discovered that I had about 3" of slack in my seat belt."  He replied "Yeah, me too.  That is the worst one I've had in a very long time."  It is the worst drop I've had since flying out of Phoenix years ago.  That one lasted long enough for people to start screaming.  Even if the rest of the trip is mundane, at least I have something to write about.

We continue on through the Straits and get to split rock.  The ride is still bumpy, but the visibility goes down to about 1/2 mile.  We get to the Kodiak harbor and the visibility gets even worse.  By worse, I mean it was zero.  Seriously zero.  I think we are flying 'Ray Charles' style.  I finally see two blinking runway lights.  We start descending and the visibility gets better.  The landing was smooth.  When we stop, I tell the pilot I enjoyed the E-ticket ride.

I call Roger so that he can pick me up.  Naturally he isn't home.  He figured the weather was so bad that they wouldn't be flying.  The rain is getting worse and the weather is generally deteriorating rapidly.  The lady at the desk keeps asking me if I want a ride to town in their van, but I can't since I left a message for Roger and I don't know if he is on his way or not.

There are a few more people waiting to go to Port Lions.  I know that Nyia wanted to get over there, so I called her and told her that Island Air was flying.  In a high pitched voice, she asks"Are you serious?  Where are you?"  The weather is so bad that she didn't believe me.  She was scheduled to go out on Servant and since they weren't flying, it was hard to believe that Island was flying.  I gave her the number of the desk and she called and got a ride to the airport.

When she got to the airport I had to make sure I told her about my ride over.  By now I have a raspberry on my forehead where my baseball cap rubbed violently against my forehead when my head made contact with the ceiling.  So now I can say that I've been in a plane crash.  Sort of anyway.

Roger finally got my message and picked my up.  We went to the Japanese restaurant and I had to show him my injury.  We stopped at WalMart and I got a few videos.  The best of the lot was 'Appaloosa'.  We watched it that evening.  It is the best Western I've seen.  I think it was more like the real deal than any of the other movies I've seen.

KODIAK CARETAKING:

Got up Thursday morning and discovered that there was some major earthquake in Russia.  No tsunami warnings for us.  Then I get to watch people standing on the wing of a jet in the Hudson River.  Now all of you 'I don't fly in small plane' people that were so smug during my above mentioned flight take note.  I didn't have to get hypothermic waiting for a ferry to pick me up after my flight.

On that note, I must throw in my two cents worth.  The media is on this big kick about making us safe and wondering about bird control.  The only actual j-o-b that I have had since retiring was for about 2 months back in 2001.  'Bird Control' at the Kodiak Airport.  I rode around the runways in a pickup truck with a shotgun and lots of noise makers.  My mission was to chase off any birds that were on the runway.  So contrary to what the media tells you, bird control is not some new thing.  After all the "What are you doing to stop this problem" foolishness, the bottom line is the plane hit the birds two minutes after takeoff.  All the shotguns and noise makers in the world aren't going to work that far from the runway.

We took the dogs out to Abercrombie for a walk.  The winds had died down and the rain had stopped, but the seas were high.  It is dark in there, so some of the pictures are blurred, but here is what it was like:

Abercrombie Abercrombie Abercrombie
Abercrombie

Got up at 0500 on Friday morning.  I could hear the wind howling.  Things aren't sounding too good for flying.  They were scheduled to leave at 0856.  Alaska Air cancelled the flight at 0620.  Nothing to do but just chill.

Get up Saturday morning and it is cold, clear, calm and icy.   We get to the airport and at the last minute they cancel the jet because there is ice on the runway.  Most of you might remember that a jet almost ran off the runway last month because the runway was icy.  Now there is the mad dash for all the people scheduled to go out on Island to try to change their flights to the Era flight.  Era has small props and aren't concerned about the ice.

Now we have a new problem.  Roger and the dog get to leave at 1000, but Leslie has to wait until 1500.  That means numerous trips to the airport.  Everything goes as smooth as it can for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning I get up, turn on the tube and watch 'Alaska: Dangerous Territory' on The History Channel.  Very exciting stories about life up here.  One story was about the Haul Road and another was about avalanches.  It showed some guys using a 105mm recoilless rifle to trigger avalances.  They also had some WWII (Patriotic War) stuff on, but I'd seen that already.  There is snow on the ground outside.  Only about 1/2".

The phone rings and it is Jay.  He and a couple of other guys are coming over on one of the boats from the village.  They are getting heating oil.  I ask him will he bring over my two 100-pound propane tanks.  Both are empty and I need to get them filled.  The ferry won't allow them onboard full because they are too heavy for the crew to carry. They weigh about 180 lbs. when they are full.

The boat left Port Lions about 1300 or so and didn't get to Kodiak until about 1800.  Jay said it was so nasty that he almost got sea sick.  He has his own skiff and has fished commercially, so that may give you an indication how rough it really was.

On Monday I got my propane tanks off the boat and saw the crew off.  I went home, unloaded the tanks and just basically chilled the rest of the evening.  The only thing I had to do was give Roger the sit rep.

Tuesday morning I get a call from Nyia.  She is back and needs help with a flat tire on the new, used car she brought.  I end up taking it to Warner Tire to get it replaced.  We head up Pillar Mountain.  The road has changed since I lived in Kodiak.  I use to hike up to the summit daily from my apartment.  With the windmills going in, they have straightened out one curve to accommodate the heavy equipment that has to service these things.  We couldn't get all the way to the top because of the snow.

View from near the top of Pillar View from near the top of Pillar View from near the top of Pillar
View from near the top of Pillar Nyia Nyia

Once again I got to go to the Japanese restaurant, then we took a hike on one of the local trails out to the ocean.  It was cold and frosty.

Wednesday I had lunch with Shaw, then went home.  About 1510 it started snowing.  Within 5 minutes it became heavy snow.  It snowed off and on the rest of the evening.  The temps were warm, so there was very little accumulation.

Thursday the wind was kicking up and I never left the house.  I got to do something I can never do at home.  I watched football.

Friday was unusual.  By now you have probably figured out that I like the Japanese restaurant.  Guess where I went to lunch.  Just me and I get a table in the corner away from everyone.  How relaxing.  That is until the 'cell phone bitch' showed up.

Here I am enjoying a tranquil afternoon and this bimbo that is setting about 4 tables away with what appears to be her mother, gets a phone call.  So what does she do?  Naturally she doesn't want to disturb her lunch partner, so she walks over to within 6' of me and has a conversation about business with someone.  I keep giving her the evil eye, but she is smart enough to not look at me.

When that call was ended, she walked back to the table, looked in her purse and apparently got a number.  She then walked back over right by me and made another phone call.  I put my chopsticks down and just stared at her.  The busboy came up and asked me if I was finished and I said (loud enough for her to here) "NO, I'M JUST WAITING FOR THE PHONE BOOTH TO CLOSE DOWN."  I think she finally got the message.

Now my question is this: "Does owning a cell phone make you a rude individual, or are rude individuals more like to buy a cell phone?" If anyone knows the answer to that, please let me know.

The rest of the trip was pretty mundane.  Other than the sit rep every other evening, I didn't have a lot to do.  I picked up a book 'Licensed to Kill - Hired Guns In The War On Terror' by Robert Young Pelton.  That was a good read and made me want to get over there.

I watched the Super Bowl.  That had to be one of the best football games I have ever seen.  I got back home on the second and it was good to listen to some stereo.

THE END



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