Things are changing a little bit in our life in Manley. Jerry built a base for a new bed, and since we had a mattress that we bought the last time we went to Fairbanks we are now sleeping in the new bedroom even though the painting is not finished (because I ran out of paint) and the carpet is not yet down.
But at least there are no more midnight trips down the ladder-stair. In many ways we miss our upstairs bedroom. Perhaps sometimes we will take a nap up there.
We have an interruption in our daily routine. Jerry noticed that the well pump was running constantly. That almost certainly meant a leak. The well pump is old and Jerry was worried. He checked out all the above ground pipes and connections, and concluded that the leak is in the well and probably the result of holes in a rusty pipe. He decided it is time for a new well pump and plastic pipes instead of iron ones. In the meantime, we only have the pump on when we need to run water.
So we had to make an unplanned trip to Fairbanks. It was a chance for me to get paint for the new bedroom. And, oh my, we were running out of vodka again. On the 150 mile drive to Fairbanks we saw, as we had on our last trip, lots of grouse, sometimes in flocks of 7 or 8 hanging around the edges of the road. They wait until the last minute to fly as the truck approaches. I kept trying to get photos, but almost all the ones I got are blurry. They blend into the gravelly edges of the road, and the camera focuses on the bright grasses behind them. My old eyes are not good enough to focus manually, and I am not quick enough.
But we had a wildlife bonus — 2 moose! First a cow moose ran across the road in front of us.
Just up the road was a handsome young bull moose! There are still hunters camped along the road with their RVs and 4 wheelers. It is illegal to shoot moose from the road so they run the 4 wheelers through the bush, spoiling the dog mushers trails. When Jerry was young and hunting (for food, not “sport”) hunters went into the bush on foot and camped in tents. I hope the hunters don’t get that fine bull moose. Jerry says he would probably be really good eating as he is not yet in his prime. His rack isn’t as big as it will get if he survives the season.
We got to Fairbanks around noon and then began the pump quest. We were told where we should go first by a friend of Jerry’s (Kurt) who had recently installed a new well. Kurt had invited us for dinner a few days before. That was a pleasant evening; another old pilot was there and the three pilots talked about airplanes and flying experiences most of the time. Occasionally I introduced another topic; they listened to me politely, made a comment or two, and then went back to airplanes. The food was all cooked by Kurt and was really good. We started with jalapenos stuffed with goat cheese and herbs. Yum. Jerry couldn’t eat those, and he hesitated about quinoa which was the side dish to steak and chicken cooked on the grill. I assured him it wouldn’t hurt him and he ate it without complaint.
Well, I’m rambling. Back to the pump. We got to the plumbing supplies place where Kurt told us there was an old guy who would know all about what Jerry would need for a new, modern pump. I opted to stay in the car while Jerry went in. The radio was playing traditional Hawaiian music, because the concert and event series held each year in Fairbanks is having some traditional Hawaiian musicians for its next concert. I loved the Hawaiian music, and I hope Hattie will recommend a CD that I can play at home. The pump discussion going on inside lasted so long that I actually got to hear previews of the whole 2014-2015 season which sounded quite interesting and imaginative. Culture is alive in Fairbanks. Fairbanks also actually has a symphony orchestra that plays a whole separate season of concerts, plus it has a lively drama community that puts on frequent plays.
Finally, after taking an hour of time and spending $1000, Jerry emerged and we went around the back to get plastic pipe which had to be securely bound to the roof rack of the truck canopy. Steel cable was needed and was not available at the pump store. So we went in search of it. That involved 2 stops and then, since it had to be cut, another trip back after a call to my cell phone that it was ready. In the meantime, I called our financial adviser, Toni, in Bellingham to have some money put into our account to pay for the pump. She told me that she had come home early from a conference because her beloved dog was dangerously ill. Happily, the dog is now getting better. I told Toni about our pump quest. I said, “I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having” Toni said, “I can hear it.”
While we were waiting for the cable to be cut we went to Sam’s Club (there’s no Costco in Fairbanks) to get Jerry a new electric shaver. His old one died and he was looking pretty grizzled from using my old leg shaver. He had tried to fix his shaver, but after having it all apart with the pieces scattered all over the kitchen table, he decided it was truly dead. There were no shavers at Sam’s Club. We were told (naturally) to go to Walmart. By this time we got a call that the cable was ready, so we went to pick that up and then back to Walmart. It was getting late. We were both getting shopping schaden. We tried to do the rest of our miscellaneous shopping at Walmart, a terrible place to shop. You can’t find anything. The shelves are not well stocked. There were no loose baked potatoes, only 20 pound bags. I wanted 5 potatoes. I said, “lets go back to the Golden North and have a drink. We can do the rest of this tomorrow.”
The next day we had to get a bunch of really boring little things plus a sheet of plywood (for the new bedroom) at Home Depot. That’s similar to shopping at Walmart, except that at Home Depot there are people to help find stuff. It took almost an hour, but finally we were on our way home. Jerry said, “It looks like rain up there.” The rain began, first as a mist, then a drizzle, then rain, then sleet and finally, heavy snow when we got to the high places on the Manley Road. We could barely see 20 feet. I began whine, “Are we going to get home?” Jerry said, “Yes, but it will take time.” We didn’t have chains with us and the studs on the tires were worn flat. But it got better as we began to come down from the high places, and by the time we got home it was rain again.
We went to Fairbanks on Monday, shopped and came home on Tuesday but were both too tired when we got back to do much. We put away the groceries and I cooked a simple dinner. The next day I had an upset stomach. Jerry emptied the truck of all the pump supplies, but not much else got done. On Thursday morning he did some preliminary wiring of pump components and made plans for pulling up the old pump. At lunch time Pam called and said that at the Tanana River landing the Fish and Game Department fishwheel was going to be brought ashore for the winter and it would be interesting to watch. So at 2 o’clock after a short nap, we went down to the landing.
Bringing out the fish wheel was quite an undertaking. The wheel is about 25 feet tall. It has 2 baskets that rotate and catch fish as they swim upstream to spawn. The wheel floats on a deck of big wooden logs.
It’s a big thing to pull out of the water. This was done with the Department of Transportation road working equipment. First an old, broken fish wheel frame had to be got out of the way of the new wheel parking place. This was done with a big road building truck that had a giant fork lift on it. The problem was that the fork-lift vehicle got stuck in the copious river mud. The driver called the road grader to come and pull him out.
After that problem was solved the fish wheel finally arrived at the landing, having been pushed by a boat form the place where it had been operating down river. Bringing it to the landing took longer than anticipated because it had to be pushed against the current. Small logs were placed on the muddy ramp and the wheel was lifted by heavy chains enough to get its log floats on the small logs.
Then it was slowly and cumbersomely pulled up the bank, rolling on the small lots as they were pulled from the rear and placed in the front of the wheel.
Jerry spent a lot of time at the landing talking to old friends, some he hadn’t seen for many years. He met an old friend, another pilot (just about everyone around here is a pilot) and they talked about flying. Jerry looked happy, and I was glad he had that break from worrying about the pump.
On the way home we stopped to look at the new Manley airport. I asked Jerry if he was sorry he had given up flying when he was 70. “Yes,” he said, “but I’m too old now.”
Today is Friday. There are many things to be done about the pump. Jerry is trying to assemble all the bits and, get all the electrical wiring done, the cable placed and the pipes ready to go. Perhaps tomorrow the new pump will be in the well. Perhaps not.
When the pump is in the well, we can finish the new bedroom. We leave here in less than 2 weeks. It has been a busy vacation.