June 29, 2012

Things No One Will Ever Tell You About Alaska..

..because they're all in freakin' love with the place and want to make it seem as desirable as possible.

Last week, this was a guest-post for Mrs. K and Captain J.  I like it too much not to share again.

My parents are coming to visit again at the end of the summer and I need to start thinking up ways to keep them occupied for two weeks.  I have a feeling they'll not want to watch True Blood re-runs and read blogs all day.  So my normal forms of entertainment aren't gonna cut it.  I'll have to think on this...

Maybe my mom will be happy cleaning the house and my dad will be happy cutting the grass. 

They feel so bad for me at this point that I'm sure I won't even have to ask.
In our 3 years in Alaska, we've done the touristy things.  In my opinion, if you've done it once, you've done it all.  Sure, paying $50 a ticket to see a whale and get seasick on the ocean is fun But, seriously, all the whales look the same.  And I can guarantee you that the time you spend simultaneously freezing and throwing up on the boat are not worth a glimpse of a whale's tail.   At least not to me.  If it's worth it to you, then you'd fit in just fine here.

Things No One Will Ever Tell You About Alaska

1.  You cannot see Russia from Alaska.
Well, if you fly above northwest Alaska in a plane and it's a clear day, you may be able to see Russia.  It's 58 miles from western Alaska, across the Bering Strait, to Russia.  No one lives in that part of Russia though.  Russia is big.  And cold.  Look at a map.

2.  Drinking is expensive.
When your buddies go out and Facebook a bunch of pictures of them drinking tasty microbrews, what they fail to write in the caption is that each of those beers is costing them between $6-$12.  And that means a night out is going to end up costing close to $100 (if you're out with a date/spouse and you factor in tips).  I came from a town where it cost me, myself, $20 for a night of mixed drinks.  Culture shock indeed.

3.  Eating out is REALLY expensive.
Would you believe that the expensive restaurants in Anchorage don't put their prices on their online menus?  That's how they get you.  Let's put it this way:  A "fancy" dinner is going to cost you and your spouse $90-$100, if you include 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 2 drinks, and maybe dessert.  Plus tip.  I usually pick either a drink OR dessert in an effort to save money.  Many people I know go out to some of these restaurants all the time.  They, my friends, are what I call "nuts".

4.  We have everything you have!
Truly, we do!  The only chain restaurants/stores that I notice myself missing are Panera, Dunkin' Donuts, Marshall's/Homegoods, and I'd about kill for a Trader Joe's.  When we went to California last year, I stuffed my suitcase full of TJ food to take back to Alaska.
I live 2 miles from Wal-Mart, 3 miles from a Target shopping center with numerous stores, and my Starbucks options are limitless.   While I really miss a few key places, I've never had it so good.  When I go home, I'm confused as to where I'm to get my coffee.  My parents live in the middle of nowhere.

5.  It's not dark all the time.
In the winter, in Anchorage, the daylight gets down to about 5 1/2 hours per day.  Sun comes up 10:15am and sets around 3:30-3:45pm.  That's on the shortest day of the year, December 21.  Barrow is obviously different.  Once again, look at a map.  When people find out I live in Alaska, the first thing they say is, "Oh oh! I just couldn't deal with all that darkness!  I just couldn't!".  This prompts me to answer, "Really??  How'd you feel about all that light in the summer??"  This confuses them, thereby ending the conversation.  Right now, we're at about 19 hours of daylight.  People tend to forget that part of the Earth's rotation.

Here's a few tidbits if you want to know more, but please, if you're planning a vacation, talk to someone who has been here!  I want you to get the most out of your experience.  Oh, and you can totally look me up.  We can eat over-priced restaurant food together.  
In front of the Trans Alaska Pipeline in Fairbanks


  1. I always tell people about the light because every summer I have serious issues sleeping! I'm totally ok with the dark of winter and it's funny to me that people think that would be the hard part. Don't get me wrong, I love being able to leave my house at 1 in the morning to hang out with friends while it's practically daylight but man, I would have given anything some days to be able to go to sleep before 10/11 in the evening and wake up after 4 or 5 in the morning.
    Also, I don't know anyone who doesn't tell people we can't see Russia from Alaska. Sarah Palin doomed Alaskans to an eternity of being asked by lower 48-ers if we can see russia. It annoys the shit out of me. But sometimes, after a lifetime of being asked things like "do have radios?" or "you have a pet penguin right? (yes, a few people have seriously asked me this)...I just let them believe what they want. I've even encouraged the penguin myth a time or two...

    This is an interesting list...everyone I know talks about all of these things with people who don't know much about Alaska. Must be those Valley folks screwin things up :P

    And to make this comment even longer...take your parents on the train to Talkeetna or Seward. People generally love that one. The trip to Talkeetna would be really pretty at the end of summer :)

  2. The thing I hate explaining about where I live--Seattle, is that"It doesn't rain ALL the time!" I keep telling all my friends back east, that New York and Atlanta has more rainfall than us! The winters here get dark early, but those are the months that I cozy up to a fire and knit! Summers (when we finally get them) are perfect; weather and staying light until 10:00 p.m.
    I think finding the perfect state is like finding the perfect man...if we could just piece together the good parts, we'd be happy! Have a wonderful weekend XOXO

  3. My husband's best friends lived in Alaska for a few years and LOOOOVED it. They're super outdoorsy and do all sorts of rock climbing, skiing, (etc) so it was right up their alley. The weirdest thing I remember them saying though was that because of all the sunlight, they had to hang towels/sheets ontop of their normal curtains. They said that sun-canceling curtains were back-ordered for months up there... Which then made Greg and me want to start up a curtain company up there, hahah ;-)

    Happy Weekend, Kristin!

  4. my husband said something to me today that we should move to alaska. I started giving him all kinds of facts about it - thanks to your blog. ; )

  5. Every time I think of Alaska, I think of a movie (I think it was with Robin Williams?) where the constant light drives him insane and he becomes a murderer. Oh, and now I think of you too. In a good way. :)

  6. I still want to VISIT Alaska in a big way, but you have definitely deterred me from wanting to LIVE there (not that I had a huge draw before, but my love affair with the Pacific Northwest runs deeeeeep, haha) I could live without Marshalls, I could deal with steep drink prices (cuts calories, right?)... But no Trader Joe's? I'd wither.

    Still, I adore your posts about Alaska - your writing is so sharp, I love it!

  7. on the map Denali looks so close to your house...little do people realize how HUGE Alaska is and that you'll sit in a car on a dirt road for 4 hours haha

    and I'm not sure why I know this, but I think the things between you and Russia are the Diomede Islands..? There are 2 and one has a population of 0, minus a weather satellite or something weird..again, no idea where I heard that once. So happy to see that Scott's HOME!!!!


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