Springtime in Alaska: Sundogs and Potholes

Sundog FB

Glorious, isn’t it?

This is a sundog. If the sun is high enough in the sky, it will be completely encircled by a rainbow. Most of the time, however, sundogs appear when the air is crisp and cool, which means late winter, which means the sun is hovering just above the horizon in Anchorage, Alaska, and blinding you if you have the misfortune of driving south on your way home. You learn to drive with one hand blocking the sun.

In Alaska, we don’t call spring “spring”. We call it “break-up”. Not because a long winter is hard on relationships (it is), but because river ice starts moving. The television show Northern Exposure called this time of year “crack-up”, the premise being that all of the characters were stressed to the max until the river started moving and then they felt relief because of some mystical relationship with the river ice. Unfortunately, there is no sudden relief from cabin fever in the spring. It ebbs away slowly.

So very slowly. Especially this year. But I digress.

Up Fairbanks-way, someone got the great idea to freeze a tripod in the middle of the Nenana River and connect it to a clock on land which is triggered when the tripod starts moving. I am not making this up. It’s been going on since 1917. Here’s the website: Nenana Ice Classic.

Betting on that exact date and time has been a popular spring pastime. The tickets don’t cost a lot and I must admit that I’ve entered on a few occasions, but the disappointment at having not won isn’t worth the $2.50 expenditure, especially if one’s cabin fever has not ebbed away yet. Which it hasn’t. So I quit playing.


Another prominent feature of break-up are potholes. Freeze and thaw are hard on pavement and most roads are completely repaved every three to five years (it seems), which leads to the season known as “road construction” (“summer” to the rest of you).  Potholes are everywhere so there is a lot of weaving on the roads trying to avoid them when snow first melts because they will destroy your car. The City of Anchorage even has a pothole hotline for people to call in reports and it is pretty good about getting them patched quickly.

And this is how my break-up is faring this year: more snow, sundogs and potholes.

How is it going in your part of the country? If your tulips are coming up, I really don’t want to know. Tell me something horrible. Make it up if you have to.



28 thoughts on “Springtime in Alaska: Sundogs and Potholes”

  1. Here in UK has been worst winter of my 77 years. Dark and dreary and raining every day with cold winds. Our houses aren’t built for any weather we have neither heat nor cold. We also have potholes everywhere and uneven pavements. They are not mended. But so we don’t all go mad we’ve had lovely snowdrops and daffodils and now forsythia and magnolia coming into bloom. Daphne

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 3 people

  2. If it’s any comfort, Keenan, it has felt like the longest winter here in NH. We’re still getting annoying bursts of snow to remind us It’s Not Over. With luck we’ll go straight to Black Fly Season, followed by Heat Wave. I literally comfort myself that we rarely have floods, fire, tornadoes or earthquakes (or poisonous snakes). Really, there’s no winning anywhere these days. Take heart!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful! Love your Alaska tales. BTW, one of the first plays I wrote was a one-act about a man desperate to catch the moment of a lake break-up in CT, oblivious to the fact that his marriage is “breaking up” as well. Get it? No idea what I did with that play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL! I so get it! I used to divorce law. Women come in complaining that husband just comes home work and sits like a lump in front of the television or computer all night while she cleans house, makes dinner, kids area screaming and then husbands come in saying, “But I was happy!”


  4. What a fascinating and pitiful post, Keenan! I can’t compete with your woes and travails, but Colorado sure does stink these days. When I ate my lunch on the patio yesterday in the blistering 78° I got a sunburn. My smoothie made from fresh peaches and mangoes got all runny. And Nala wouldn’t even leave her shady spot to come sit by me. And don’t get me started on the daffodils and grape hyacinth … there are so many of them I’m thinking of pulling some! It really sucks to be me. I’m sorry for bringing you down.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Don’t listen to Becky, Keenan! I’m just a few miles north of her, and while we’re good today, we won’t be tomorrow. April is our second snowiest month in Colorado. Plays havoc on budding fruit trees and planting tomato seedlings!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I didn’t say it would keep up! I try and find the joy in the occasional patio lunches. Did you see our wind the other day on the news? I couldn’t even stand up in it! My lunch would have landed in a swirling heap, strewn across Nebraska, Kansas, and parts of Oklahoma.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Keenan, the photo is glorious! I have never seen anything like it. Worth moving to Alaska, just for the view.

    We bet on what we call “ice out” in Maine. There are lotteries going in all the gas stations (we are there because of the potholes of course) and most of the convenience stores. I enter but have never won. Then there are the frost heaves. Frost heaves are natures speed bumps. Road crews spend most of the winter running around stickings orange “FROST HEAVE” signs in the snow. They needn’t bother. By the time they get the sign in the snow, the heave has moved on leaving broken roadway behind. Do you have those in the upper #1? Ah to have the suspension concession in the frozen states.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We definitely have frost heaves. However they build the roads compensates for them. But not the houses! I had a condo on a cement slab and one year, I thought it’d be adorable to lay parquet tile in my daughter’s bedroom. So (you know where I’m going), the ground froze, the cement slab heaved and all the parquet popped off.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. “Glorious” is the perfect word for that picture. Like I posted in the Mysterista Monday on winter, we also have nothing but winter and construction in Chicago.

    And our weather continues to be confusing. It snowed two days ago. High of 71 today. Possible snow again over the weekend. You can never put away your winter wardrobe since you don’t know when it might pop up again. Dreaming of summer…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Keenan, that photo is glorious beyond words.
    I have to tell you that here in Southern California we do not have terrible winters. Even when the news reports “storm watch 2018” it is only a little rain. What can I say, I moved here for the warm weather after growing up in Ohio. I was reminded of just why I moved here when I took Ethan (10) to visit grandpa on his farm during spring break (we go every year now). On the first day I told him to go out to the end of the lane and get the newspaper for grandpa. (yes, he still gets print copies of not one but two papers). Ethan looked at the thermometer and declared that since it was 22 degrees, he was not going to get the paper. I convinced him that later, when the sun came up, it would be warmer. Well it was, all the way up to 23!
    My parents did visit Alaska in the summer several years ago with a group of friends in a motor-home caravan. They had a great time on the trip and reported that the area was spectacular.
    My only real “encounter” with Alaska was when I worked in retail purchasing and distribution for a major retain chain. The Alaska stores were part of my territory, and while I never got to go there, I communicated with the personnel frequently as I scoured the market to find merchandise to meet their unique needs. I do remember getting a lovely color postcard from one of the “northern” stores; one half showed a bright, sunny street scene with a bank thermometer sign showing a wonderful 80 degrees. The other half of the photo showed the same street, dark, overcast, snow covered with the same bank sign showing MINUS 80 DEGREES.
    I am so glad that you shared your wonderful picture, and please know that you are a more hardy and more adventurous person than I.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another bit of Colorado… what the rest of the world calls Spring and Fall, I call “Teasin’ Season.” We get teased from one extreme to the next. For the last couple of days we’ve been in the 70’s, close to 80. As I do every year, I push the Teasin’ Season and put plants outside. And as I do every year, I need to haul them back in to protect from freezing temps. Will I ever stop this practice? I’m a native and an optimist… probably not.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Love your last line! Here in SE Michigan, we have had a brutal Winter (as to snow and cold) and Winter refuses to let go and let Spring reign. That is, except for yesterday when we had 76 degrees. It rained in the morning but got warmer through the day – it is a short respite as a cold front will come in later this evening and whisk in a totally rainy, but cold weekend. We are lucky with the rain, as about 100 miles north, they will have freezing rain, go to the Upper Peninsula and you’ll find a brand-new foot of snow coming this weekend. The weather is nothing short of crazy, but everyone enjoyed the one-day treat. Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

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