Independence Day, Alaska Style

Off the keyboard and cameras of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 4, 2014

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Car Launches off Cliffs, Air Show, Drones, Parades & Pig Roasts in the Shadow of a Receeding Glacier.


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNormally on Independence Day for the past few years, I have reported on the Grand Tradition from the Parade in Wasilla.  I had plans to do the same thing again this year, riding the new Electric Wheelz, but upon mentioning this to one of my co-workers, she invited me to visit the celebration they hold in her community of Glacier View, which is about 50 miles up the road from me on Alaska 1, the Glenn Highway.

Last Winter I drove the southern portion of this road below me, and reported on that trip in the Alaska Roads article.  Similar to that trip, once you get past the outskirts of Palmer, this “highway” turns into a 2 Lane secondary road with few crossroads, little population and few services.  Remember to gas up before you go!  When I did finally hit a gas station, prices were at $4.18/gallon.  For an occassional visit up there this isn’t too bad, but regularly commuting it starts running into some serious FRNs.  This also is not brainless auto-pilot driving, you have to stay on your toes.  There are winding sections as you rise up above the river where if you are in the northbound lane, there’s only a few feet between you and a drop off of a few hundred feet.  Some of those spots don’t even have a guardrail in place.    I simply can’t imagine driving it in a snow situation, but some hardy Alaskan Happy Motorists do this regularly.

Anyhow, the views are simply spectacular along the drive, and the Civil Engineers who constructed this road dropped in plenty of parking areas for you to pull off in your Bugout Machine and shoot pictures.

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I remember reading a few years ago that the Glenn Highway, Alaska 1 is considered to be among the Top Ten roads to drive for a motorcycle road trip, and that is certainly true although DEFINITELY only make that trip in the summer!

Anyhow, I did negotiate the trip in one piece without running out of gas, and made it to the Mile 99 marker and the Landmark on the map my friend drew for me with the Windmill where you turn off to get your Glacier View of the Matanuska Glacier.

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Quick right turn off onto the dirt road which doesn’t even make it onto Google Maps yet and you get this spectacular view of the Matanuska Glacier:

 

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The Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska that can be reached by vehicle.  It is approximately 26 miles long and 4 miles wide at its terminus. It is classified as a valley glacier; a body of solid ice that flows like a river under its own weight through an existing valley. About 10,000 years ago it began its retreat to its present day location, and it has not seen any significant change in mass for almost two decades. Because the Matanuska Glacier is a weather hole, cold air from the glacier forces warm air upward towards the mountain peaks. This results in sunny skies and more favorable weather than its surrounding areas, making this a perfect destination for the Alaskan traveler.

The Glacier at the moment appears fairly stable and hasn’t seen much recession over the last 20 years, so the view remains quite spectacular.  For how much longer that remains true is anybody’s guess, but for now you still can check it out.

My reason for the trip wasn’t to view the Glacier, although this was a terrific Bonus, it was to join in the celebration there and hopefully get some good Pics & Vids of the activities they had planned for the day, including an Air Show by local Pilots, their own little Parade, a Pig Roast and the Piece de Resistance, a Car Launching off a 300′ Cliff down to the river valley.  Actually 3 Cars were destined for Sacrifice this day, which of course is quite an ironic little metaphor given what is currently ongoing in the Carz Economy, but more on that later.

The first Big Event of the day was the Air Show by some local Pilots in their Cessnas, which are almost as ubiquitous around here as SUVs.

AIR SHOW!

The reason for so many light planes around here should be obvious, its the lack of roads! Besides Alaska 1 the Glenn Highway which heads for Valdez and Alaska 3 the Parks Highway with destination Fairbanks, you pretty much can’t GET THERE FROM HERE by road in Alaska.  Besides that, with long distances between population centers and regular bad weather in the Winter, this is a quicker and more reliable transportation method.  More than a few folks who live in some of these far flung communities commute into Anchorage via light aircraft like these.  Not to mention of course the many folks in the Oil Extraction industry who commute down to North Dakota to Drill Bakken.  For Alaskans in the Industrial Economy, Air Travel is just about as routine as Automobile travel.  Maintaining all these connections is entirely dependent on having copious amounts of gas to burn to make the trips.

Next up in the list of Activities was the Parade, which had to wait until the Pilots made it back from the airstrip.  This gave me a chance to scope out locations to set up my Tripod and make some videos.  I did the intro video at the top of the article, and then did an interview with one of the Community members Gary to find out about the community Preps they have stored up in a couple of ConEx Containers just as the parade was getting underway.

The Grand Parade! With a short discussion of Prepping in Glacier View.

Note the DRONE flying around at the end of the Video!

No, the drone was not the NSA spying on the activities in Glacier View on July 4th. LOL.  One of the folks there bought one of these things, which can do aerial reconnaissance right to your I-phone!  For anyone who has ever tried to fly one of those RC Helicopters, this is a BIG step up.  It will automatically Hover in Place if you take your hands off the controls, allowing you to rest from actively flying the thing and keep it from crashing.  It also has incredible range, not only could it fly right up to the edge of the cliff for the Car Launchings, it could go 2000′ higher than that!  Everybody should have one of these!  LOL.

 

After the Parade, the next Cool Demonstration was somewhat more Low Tech than Planes and Drones, they recently put up a HUGE Zip Line from the top of the Cliff to the River Bed, upon which if you decide to take the trip down, you will travel at speeds upwards of 50mph!  Of course, like with Downhill Skiing, if you don’t have some sort of system to get you back UP the hill for another trip down, it will take a good deal longer to go UP than come DOWN here.  This is a brand new Adventure at Glacier View, in fact the young woman taking the trip down here was only around the 4th person to do this, after extensive Testing with Sandbags and Dummies.

With the Kickoff Activities finished, time for the main activity for every 4th of July Celebration, the BARBECUE!  At Glacier View, they are serious about BBQ, and in addition to the requisite Burgers, Dogs and Baked Beans, this year they featured a Pig Roast, burying Porky the night before wrapped in a Casket of Banana Leaves and surrounded by hot Lava Rocks.  The Banana Leaves were imported, the Lava Rocks I think are local.

UNVEILING THE PIG!

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Note the Leaves surrounding the Pig. Not native Alaska vegetation. 100 lbs of Banana leaves imported up from Brasil for the occassion!

 

Pulling the Pig!

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I have to say, this was positively the best Pulled Pork I ever tasted.  Juicy and flavorful, practically melts in your mouth.  Lots of other great dishes in the Potlatch piled on the Buffet Table also, but being primarily a Carnivore I stuck to the Pig, the Burgers and the Dogs.  A full plate with just that on it, I am stuffed and can’t think about eating more for another day or two.  I don’t know how some people can refill plates 2 or 3 times with so much food.

After filling up on the Mass Quantities of Food requisite for any Celebration from Thanksgiving to Christmas Turkey Dinners to Memorial Day and July 4th BBQs, it was time for the BIG EVENT of the day, the CAR LAUNCHING!

3 carz were scheduled for Sacrifice this July 4th, and of them 2 were successfully Launched to the Great Beyond.

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To the left in this Pic, the Matanuska Glacier

This car unfortunately did NOT make the trip to the GREAT BEYOND off the cliff.  It took an unscheduled left and crashed into a tree instead.  Getting the carz to fire full blast off the cliff is rather tricky, getting the steering wheel locked into place, getting the accelerator pedal to the metal with a brick, dropping it into gear and getting OUT OF THE WAY all have to work right, and didn’t in this case, so this car was Saved for this Year.  Maybe it goes off the cliff next year.

Note for Greenies:  All Carz sent to to the Great Beyond over the Cliff are collected and disposed of properly in some Junkyard somewhere.

This would be the place where I would drop in the fabulous Super-Slow Motion Video I had hoped to get, but sadly, technical and timing glitches got in the way.  For the first Launch, I had no idea it was actually going off.  I wasn’t close enough to hear the announcer, and it blew off while I was chatting with another spectator.  For the second one, when I hit the Video Button it didn’t take, and all I got was the Burst Photos when I hit the shutter button.  The 3rd car of course never took flight.  There were however numerous others making vids, including the guy with the Drone, so I may be able to add a vid here in the coming week.  If not, you’ll just have to wait for next year on this one.

UPDATE!  I dug up a vid from last year’s Car Launch at Glacier View!  They don’t look too much different one year to the next, so this should give you the flavor.  Really, you gotta BE there to get the full effect though.

The irony here is clear as we move forward with the collapsing Industrial Economy, Carz are going off the Cliff everywhere these days.  Not literally as in this case, but metaphorically as fuel costs become greater and fewer people all the time have access to the credit necessary for so much fuel consumption.  The Global Economy remains in turmoil because of this, and the geopolitical consequences are the ongoing Resource Wars seen through MENA and NATO-Russia conflicts. It remains to be seen how much longer this type of economy can be maintained, but it is fairly obvious the timeline for the end gets shorter all the time.

On the drive back home after the celebration, I cruised past some of the Farms surrounding Palmer, which are pretty productive overall, the soil there is pretty good despite the general belief that all soil is poor in the Great White North.

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The problem here of course is that the Palmer Farms are quite some distance from Glacier View, and even assuming you can keep all your local food production going in Palmer, without the carz and trucks, moving said produce from Palmer to Glacier View would be exceedingly difficult. The biggest problem would be maintaining Alaska 1, the Glenn Highway.  That road takes a LOT of maintenance every year to keep open.  Glacier View does have many of the necessary elements for sustainability though, good water supply, accessible energy from Micro Hydro possible from the river as well.  Through Hydroponics and Greenhousing, its likely that such a neighborhood could be self-sustaining on a food production level, but they clearly are not at that point yet.  A couple of Conex Containers of Emergency Supplies does not last more than a year at best, so the more important thing is to develop the systems to produce the food, not to store it.

Far as the Carz Economy goes, it has gone off the Cliff already, but has not yet hit bottom everywhere.  Some places worse off than others of course, read that Greece, Ukraine, Syria et al.  Alaska is better off than most places, due to a relatively low population and its own supply of fossil fuels, but of course most of that energy gets Exported through the Alaska Pipeline.  Everywhere though, we are reaching the bottom of this cliff, faster every day.  Our neighborhood is still above the crash point, around here maybe.
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Transitioning off the energy dependence will not be easy, even in remote locations like Glacier View.  As currently organized, it remains extremely dependent on fossil fuel input and the supply chain of the Industrial Economy to remain viable.  Regardless of that, it’s a way better location to inhabit than say Chicago, Los Angeles or LAS VEGAS, likely to run OUT of water if not in 2014 then quite likely by 2015 the latest.

If you like taking a shower every day, don’t move to Las Vegas. The city is beginning to run out of water because Lake Mead is well below half-full and drying up, according to the UK Telegraph

The area has faced a drought for the last 14 years, and despite the presence of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. and the supplier of 90% of the city’s water, the future looks bleak. 

Tim Barnett, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told the Telegraph, “The situation is as bad as you can imagine. It’s just going to be screwed. And relatively quickly. Unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they’re still building, which is stupid.”

3912-Finger-of-God-02Every day brings some new crisis to some part of the world, related to either energy access or credit access, or both.  For the folk in places like Syria and Ukraine, time has RUN OUT.  Collapse has arrived at Theaters Near Them.

Hasn’t arrived here YET  though, and once again this year, we celebrate Independence Day in Energy Intensive style.  Will it be the same next year?  Only time will tell.  For this year though, I am grateful that the Finger of God brought me to Alaska, the LAST GREAT FRONTIER.

 

RE

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