Our destination in Alaska is in the vicinity of a town called Deadhorse. To my amazement Deadhorse is a proper town, not just an Indian reserve. There's even a road all the way up, and it's paved in a lot of places. Tourists go there. It isn't decided yet whether we will stay in Deadhorse or at the customer site at a private strip, or at some other mosquito-infested hellhole.
I e-mail a pilot friend who lives in Alaska, to warn him of my possible arrival and see if we can coordinate some sort of meeting on my way through southern Alaska. It turns out he has worked out of Deadhorse, and he sends me more information than fits on my tiny iPod screen about the airport, the town, the weather and the available diversion aerodromes.
"What's there to do in Deadhorse?" I asked.
"Eat," he said, then added a number of tourist quasi-attractions, like trying to get to the beach (should be almost completely ice-free this time of year) despite the fact that the shore is chock-a-block with oil companies hunkering behind paranoid security.
I had already noticed that northern Alaska had two sorts of June weather: when it's not IFR in 300' ceilings and rain, it's IFR in fog. My friend claims that there a third sort of weather, in which it's actually possible to fly VFR, but that it was frequently and rapily replaced with one of the other sort, hence the need to be familiar with all the possible options.
Deadhorse has a long, paved runway. Most of the other options in the area don't, so my friend has the skinny for me on which would give me access to telephones, lodgings, roads and other luxury amenities, should I happen to land there. One he describes as "... abandoned and not maintained ... it would make a better place to crash than out on the tundra someplace." Then he reconsiders that last and points out that whether it would be better to try to land there versus being "quietly and inconspicuously dead in some out of sight place is a personal value judgment that I can't make for you."
I write back and tell him that the last-mentioned abandoned and not maintained strip is the one our customer wants us to use.
He offers his condolences and amends, "If you're going to be based out of there, you can disregard all my previous suggestions for entertainment. The new list is: Swat mosquitoes, watch the river go by, swat more mosquitoes."
This strip does have a road near it, and we have some support crew going up there this week so we'll ask for photographs of the runway, and get them to walk or drive it to report on the surface condition.
Also I discover that the quasi-on state of my dead computer does not supply power to the USB ports, so not only can I not buy software for my iPod, I can't recharge it, either. I'm guessing that there is a low tech solution to the latter problem. I go downstairs to the hotel desk.
"May I please look in the box of chargers and cords left behind by previous guests?"
Every hotel has one of these. I learned about it when a coworker who checked out a day early phoned back to get us to ask at the desk to see if they had found his phone charger. If you need a telephone wall charger, just go to your nearest hotel and ask. As the woman at the Super-8 put it, "If you see anything you can use, just take it: it's better than it going to landfill." This box is well organized: each item is coiled up and held with a rubber band. The first one I saw was a single tangled mass of cordage. A first inspection of the box shows no Apple-white cords, so there isn't an Apple-specific iPod wall charger in here, but I'm expecting there to exist a transformer that I plug into the standard 110V North American wall socket and that has two or three USB outlets on the back. I know there's a 12V to USB converter for the car, so there has to be a 110V to USB converter for people who have more USB-powered gadgets than USB ports on their computers. But there is nothing in here that I can plug a USB cord into. By far the favourite piece of electronics to abandon here is the Motorola phone charger.
I put everything back neatly in the box and ask where in town I might buy a computer cable. There is one, on one of the back streets, between a gym and a store that sells second hand Harlequin romances and maternity clothes. Here's the sign on the door of the computer place:
Fortunately it's not Sunday, so I go on in. They don't immediately recognize my description of a 110V-to-USB converter but eventually come back with a device marketed as "Charge your iPod at home!" The existence of the device makes me realize the existence of a demographic who only have Internet access at work, and have iTunes installed on their work computer, then worry about running down the battery over the weekend. It comes with a cable and is $34 dollars. There's a cheaper similar device that has no cord, just the one USB port, so I get that instead.