"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 10 worst lists

What is the penchant for all these lists you keep seeing? I don't think we can blame it on David Letterman. I'd like to blame it on the Internet, but it's only made it worse.
It seems like every day, Yahoo or someone comes up with the "Ten safest cities," "The 10 unhealthiest states," "The 10 best small towns to retire in." Literally, the lists just keep going on.
Edmond was so excited that it was listed as one of the top suburbs, or something like that. I can't remember, because all those lists are meaningless when they just appeal to egos. For instance, one magazine recently listed the 100 most powerful women. So? If you haven't caught on to that yet, it's all about making money with advertising, not editorial judgment or any standards that mean anything.
Now Consumer Reports' list do mean something, because products are tested and rated. That makes more sense, just like the data you can get on which intersections have the most accidents, etc. And for business, The Journal Record's annual book of lists of everything from colleges to hospital and beyond is an essential for facts and research on the economy. On the borderline is U.S. News & World Report's ranking of colleges across the country. Does anybody really pay attention to those when choosing a college? But students do pay attention to "Rate My Professor.com," and those evaluations are probably more accurate than the official ones we have to do every semester.
Once I think about it, these lists probably go back to the Old Testament, the book of Numbers to be exact. Want to be bored, start reading all those "begats." The tradition is continued in our national census every 10 years.
But I've still had enough, so I thought I'd come up with the 10 worst lists we need. Let's see:

  1. The dirtiest toilets
  2. The rudest children
  3. The most annoying TV commentators (weather "men", etc.)
  4. The worst micromanaging bosses
  5. The most obnoxious college football fans
  6. The slowest traffic lights
  7. The noisiest neighborhoods
  8. The most snobby people
  9. The biggest blowhards
  10. The most hypocritical politicians
I bet you can already nominate entries, can't you. I probably shouldn't have ranked them--too much competition.
Oh, I left one off...a list of the 10 worst lists.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All aboard to Skagway

3,000 feet below, Skagway awaits on the sea

You get a completely different view going down, than from going up, which seems philosphical, but Alaskan scenery reinforces the impressions, forever.

The country dwarfs your imagination and senses

There's so much to see

Looking down the track

The saddest photo I took, an old steam locomotive, rusting, discarded, a life no longer remembered.

An old warrior, rusting away

3,000 feet below the pass, Whitehorse beckons

Be sure and check the previous posts, beginning with http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/05/all-aboard-for-alaska.html

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Aboard at the White Pass summit

Three thousand feet up, at the White Pass summit, you reach the Canadian border. Deep snow greets you, along  with five flags, U.S. Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Canada, virtually where the borders meet.
The narrow gauge keeps going, into Canada
You don't need a passport unless you're on the train going to Whitehorse in Canada. The train cars go on a siding, the locomotive unhooks, slides by and attaches to the other end for the trip back down to Skagway. Shoulda brought a coffee thermos, but the sky has cleared and it's bright, almost glaring. I know why it's called "White Pass."
By the way, this is "Mountie" country--Northwest Mounted Police.

There's time to look and chat, but you don't get off the train. Then since you were in the car closest to the locomotive, you're at the end of the train, which means a great view back down the line. The seat backs are flopped forward-reversed, and you switch sides with the people on the other side so they can have the same views you had coming up...left, looking down, way down, through two tunnels, across a trestle with a 1,000 foot drop, with the ocean and Skagway shining in the distance.

The turnaround
I think the wind blows up here.
And then you start down.

All aboard for the Klondike! Going up

Skagway station, gateway to the Klondike

A long way up and down

On the narrow gauge cars

Rugged country overhead

And old trestle that can't take the load

History--gold rushers climbing  the Chilikoot trail to White Pass in 98

A reminder
You start at sea level and head up, under 7,000-plus-foot-tall peaks still wrapped in snow and ice. It gets colder the higher you go. The cars are packed with people off two cruise ships in town, and others also. Across the valley the paved highway to Whitehorse heads uphill through US Customs. Both the highway and the railway would have been life savers for the gold rush of 98 when thousands of people and horses died trying to head up over White Pass on the Chilkoot pass at the Canadian border to Whitehorse and then to Dawson on search of gold.

One word comes to mind over and  over, susan said, and it fits the people, the land and the wildlife, and the weather--"Rugged."
For more on the railroad: http://www.wpyr.com/
For more on Skagway http://skagway.com/

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wild Alaska

Brother and sister brown bears play tough in Sitka. More bear photos to come.

Lucy, blind in one eye, at Juneau center
Two bald eagles on top of St. Michael's Russian Catholic church, downtown Sitka

Raven is huge, unafraid, very smart, vocal, and everywhere

Orca north of Juneau
Raven and bear in Juneau mural

Reflections of Alaska, part one

Just south of Skagway
            The scenery stuns your senses in southeast Alaska, and to travel you have to have a plane or a boat, except for a few miles of road and highway in the towns, not between them. That pace gives you time to spend more time looking, and the watery world multiplies the beauty in reflections.
Tug hauling freight north of Juneau

Glacial ice in Tracy Arm Fjord

South Sawyer Glacier

Beautiful blue bergs

An infinity of shapes

Remote cabin..."This is the forest primeval...."

You never run out of wonder

Stars and Stripes, Alaska

From the fantail of the M/V Malaspina, Alaska marine Ferry, at Skagway

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The "real" flag

For Memorial Day, the "real" American flag--48 stars, count 'em--that I grew up with, till we let the territories in. This flew every day that my son Vance was in Iraq a few years ago. Saludos, veterans!

All aboard for Alaska

Two teasers before we climb aboard the White Pass and Yukon train to the White Pass summit on the Canadian border, following the trail of the gold rush of 1898. Both are taken in Skagway, one restored, a rotary snow plow, in much need 3,000 feet above the town. The other is an old steam engine, rusting away, and you have to hunt for it, but  it's on private railroad property, you can find it, as I did precisely one week ago, wandering around Skagway with almost no people out early in the morning. This one grabs me,  with the snow plow, the colors, the silence, the memories, the stories, the history. You can imagine and write your own captions, can't you?

Alaska itinerary

At Seatac
May 14--Spend night at Four Points Sheraton, OKC airport. Leave car.
May 15, 2012, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, OKC-DFW 6 am; DFW-SEATAC, 7:50 am; SEATAC-JNU, 1 pm-2:25. Capital Inn Bed and Breakfast, Juneau
At Juneau
May 16--Adventure bound, 40 passenger boat, Tracy Arm Fjord Glacier tour, 7:30 am. Only five people aboard. Return 3 pm.
At Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord
May 17--FV Fairweather, catamaran Alaska Marine Ferry. Depart Juneau  8 am; arrive Sitka, 2:15 pm. Rent car, Otter's Cove Bed and Breakfast.
May 18--Explore Sitka
At Skagway "International" airport, with pilot of Piper Cherokee
May 19, Alaska Airlines 6 am, 21 minute flight to Juneau. Catch Air Excursions 7 am flight in four seat Piper Cherokee. Land at Skagway airpot 8 am.  White House Bed & Breakfast. Catch 12:25 White Pass and Yukon narrow gauge rail to White Pass summit, Yukon-Klondike Canadian border. Return, 4 pm. Watch OKC Thunder beat LA downtown Skagway.
Heading for White Pass, on the Klondike trail
May 20--Dawdle in Skagway.
View from M/V Malaspina, south out of Skagway
May 21--Depart on MV Malaspina, Alaska Maritime Ferry, 7 am. Arrive Juneau, 1:45. Back to Capital Inn Bed 7 Breakfast. Watch Thunder beat LA.
Juneau from Mount Roberts
May 22--Mount Roberts Tram. Shop Juneau.
May 23--Depart Juneau, Alaska Airlines, 8 am. Arrive Seatac, 11:18. Depart 12:30, arrive DFW, 6:22. Depart DFW, American Airlines, 9 pm, arrive OKC 9:45. Pick up car at Four Points, arrive home to Max the lonesome cat, 10:30 pm.