Tag Archives: alaska
May 25, 2013


About six months ago I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about updating Postcard Valet.  This was after a few months spent worrying about why I wasn’t updating the site during our last few months in Australia.  Though I regret not explaining why I haven’t been updating, the rationalization for why was an easy one to make.  Once we got on the road again, at the end of the day I barely had the time and energy to back up our photos and keep up with my daily journaling… Writing for the blog – let alone video editing – would have completely exhausted me, as well as taken away valuable travel time.

Considering we just drove onto the Alaska Marine Highway and, in about six hours we will return to Juneau and our trip around the world will be at an end, I thought this would be a good time to finally write about what Oksana and I have been up to. (more…)

September 26, 2011

Thoughts on Egypt

I’ve got good news and bad news about Egypt.  Which do you want first?  How ‘bout the bad.

Oksana and I have visited somewhere between 25 and 30 countries so far and it’s safe to say that Egypt is our least favorite so far.  Why the hate?  Because of the hassle.

Our guidebook warned us, a tourist in Tanzania warned us, friends on Twitter warned us, even the guy behind the counter at our hostel in Cairo warned us, but I still couldn’t believe it would be as bad as they said.  It was.  Actually, it was worse.

Listen to me.  If you go to Egypt, you will be hassled, hounded, yelled at, and argued with.  You will be followed, lied to, cheated, and taken advantage of.  The people in Egypt will not leave you alone.  They will do everything in their power to separate you from your money.

There is no escape from it.  At the pyramids of Giza, camel riders will follow you around, pestering you with questions constructed from the seven words of English they’ve memorized:  “You want ride? Camel ride? Hello? Camel ride. Twenty dollars.  Hello? You want camel ride?”

At the temples, Bedouins will step in front of you to get your attention, point out a hieroglyph on the wall, lie about what it represents (“Look! Cleopatra!”), and then hold out their hand for money.

In the Valley of the Kings, “helpful” people standing at the entrance to the tombs will hand you a half-dead flashlight as you enter and then demand money for it when you try to leave, even though you never used it because the whole tomb was lit with florescent lights.

If you’re not a dark-skinned Arab wearing a robe or a turban, you’re a mark.  Egyptians will swarm around you like a cloud of mosquitoes, buzzing in your ears, eventually angering the most patient tourist.

We tried everything we could think of to avoid them; nothing worked.  Sometimes we lost our temper. I’m ashamed to admit that we even swore at a few.  They swore right back.  They know all the worst words, in every language, because they’ve heard them all before from travelers just like us.

We were told again and again that the best thing we could do was ignore them.  Don’t make eye contact, show them your back.  We tried.  It was as simple as ignoring that cloud of mosquitoes and just as effective.

March 23, 2011

PV014: Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni is the most amazing natural wonder I have ever seen in my life.  During our two trips through the world’s largest salt flats, Oksana and I got so many good photos and videos that editing them into a single podcast episode was more challenging than editing the ones where I don’t have enough footage.  I worried that I wouldn’t do this amazing landscape justice.

This video is almost fifteen minutes long and that’s even after I decided to eliminate day two and three of our tour (I may make that into a shorter episode later.)  I had the great fortune to be able to interview not just Oksana and myself, but also our guide and every one of the new friends we met on these tour.  This isn’t just “Arlo and Oksana’s Experience on the Salar,” it’s “Arlo and Oksana’s (Alaska), Rémy and Aurélie’s (France), Wendy and Dusty’s (Ohio), Soledad and Joaquin’s (Buenos Aires), and Oscar’s (La Paz) Experience on the Salar!”

Not everyone is as comfortable as we are in front of a camera — and we’re far from comfortable talking into a lens, ourselves! — so I want to thank everyone who contributed to this video, especially Soledad and Joaquin who struggled with an unfamiliar language on camera.  For what it’s worth, I think that having a 2-to-1 ratio for English-as-a-second (or third!) -language to native English speakers in this video is pretty cool!

Fifteen minutes may be asking too much of some internet viewers.  If you find yourself bored by the setup, might I suggest you jump to the 9 minute, 45 second mark?  Spoiler warning: It’s awesome!

Finally, there are more stories and photos of our Uyuni trips on:

Rémy and Aurélie’s travel blog: NEWZ FROM THE WORLD
Wendy and Dusty’s travel blog: roamthepla.net



October 9, 2008

For Sale: 1989 Jeep Cherokee Pioneer

Pioneer logo

For Sale:
Jeep Cherokee Pioneer, 1989.  Automatic, 6-Cyl. 4-liter, 4×4, CD player, 135k miles.  Juneau body, but starts every time.  KBB at “fair” value $1200.  Asking $1000.  Comes with FULL DISCLOSURE.


So, yeah, I upgraded.  Jeep 2.0…04.  I don’t need to be paying insurance for two Jeeps when the old one is just sitting there, so I guess it’s time to sell it. 

Below you’ll find everything there is to know about my old Jeep.  Part disclosure, part memorial; this was written mostly for me.  This is how I’ll remember a car that treated me well for 10 years.

This isn’t a glamorous Jeep.  It’s a 20-year-old Jeep Cherokee Pioneer that didn’t have a ton of options to begin with.  I figure it’s in “poor” condition by Kelly Blue Book standards, but I’m not the kind of guy that’ll try to hide the problems to make some extra cash.  I think this Jeep is probably worth $1000.  If you agree, and you want to buy it for that, it’s yours.  Contact information is at the very end of this entry.


September 10, 2008

Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend

Alaska Dividend Graph, 1982-2008It’s been a miserable summer in Juneau. Rain, rain, and more rain. I wonder how many people have seriously considered moving because of it. And I wonder how many of those people decided to stay because of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

The Alaska Permanent Fund is Alaska’s way of giving back to the residents of the state. Profits from oil sales are put into a fund, only 1% of which is then invested. Every October, the average earnings over the last five years is split among us 600,000 (or so) residents. (It’s more complicated than that, but only slightly.) Our dividends dipped during the dot-com crash, but that five-year average insulted us from a huge cut. Conversely, it’ll take a few more years before we see how high these record oil prices push it back up.

Everyone’s waiting for the checks, which could arrive as soon as Friday. This year’s dividend is the biggest ever, at $2,069. Of course, our illustrious governor decided that her constituents were unfairly burdened by high oil prices this year, so she spearheaded an initiative to share a little more of the state’s wealth. Each resident will receive an extra $1,200 in “energy relief” this year. (No wonder she has such a high approval rating!) The energy relief packaged is issued by the same office, the Alaska Permanent Fund Division, so in essence we’re each receiving a $3,269 dividend this year. Think of it: A household of five will receive a bulk sum of $16,345! Sky’s the limit for Mormons and Catholics! Who wants to move now?


December 11, 2007

Thoughts on Australia

The Sydney Opera House

We’ve been back from Down Under for about a week and a half now, but I’ve been consistently busy catching up with work and friends.  I plan to write a lot about our experiences in the Southern hemisphere once I sort through the 2500 photos and six-and-a-half hours of video we took.  I’ve got a month off from work beginning next week, and I suspect I’ll devote some my time to that (as well as belatedly writing down any thoughts on the unnoted items in my 2007 timeline above.)  In the meantime, I’ve jotted down a few observations on our experiences in Australia:

New Words
Australia has a great collection of new words for familiar things.  Dangerous jellyfish are ‘stingers;’ the Portuguese Man-o-War is a ‘Blue Bottle.’  Saltwater crocodiles are ‘Salties,’ which I think is a dangerously precocious name (like calling a grisly bear ‘Teddy.’)  I could probably sit down and think of a dozen more I picked up, but the only ones that come to mind right now are the decidedly British ‘rubbish bins,’ ‘fish and chips,’ and ‘lifts.’

How Ya Goin’, Mate?
“G’day, mate.  How ya goin’?”

He’s a mate, she’s a mate, everyone can be a mate!  I knew that Aussies said ‘mate’ a lot.  What I didn’t realize was that mate is gender agnostic. Which makes sense, really.  My mate is a girl.

I got used to mate, but “How ya goin’?” always sounded like someone couldn’t decide between “How ya doin’?” and “How’s it goin’?”


April 20, 2007


I really need to wash my carWhen you live in Alaska, spring is a special time of year.  Not as dripping with awesomesauce as summer with its 18-hours of daylight, but leaving winter behind is always worth celebrating.

We mark the beginning of spring with the Vernal Equinox on March 21 (interestingly, Russians mark it less scientifically with an arbitrary calendar date, March 1), but I take great joy in noticing the more visual milestones.  For instance, when:

  • The ice on Auke Lake begins to break up.
  • The last, dirty, snowplowed pile of snow finally melts away (which will be a long time coming this year after our recording-breaking 16 feet of snow!)
  • The sun’s up before I go to, and after I get off of work.
  • Birds sing in the early morning.
  • Skunk cabbage pokes its yellow-green sprouts out of every wet drainage ditch.
  • Bears wake from hibernation and get back to the business of spreading our garbage through our yards.
  • By lunchtime, the interior of my Jeep has been warmed by the sun.
  • My Jeep no longer needs studded tires, nor its windows scraped every morning.
  • I step outside and can feel the warmth of the sun on my face.
  • Fireweed sends up its stalks and starts the purple timers that will mark the length of summer. 
  • Sunny days in winter are welcome, but the lack of any insulating cloud cover means the sun has no real warmth.  For me, spring ends — and summer begins — on that magical, arbitrary day when “sunny and clear” actually means that the air will be warmer than on overcast days.

    That hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’ll be any day now.