We spent two weeks in McCarthy earlier this month, and while at a great BBQ on the West side, I invited myself over to my neighbor Jason Lobo’s place to paint one of his many interesting vehicles. Although we live in the same subdivision, his lot is about a mile away. I walked, as I felt it would be easier to pack the painting home walking than biking. Also, the road is a mud swamp due to spring meltdown, so driving was less than desirable. I arrived to find Jason working in his yard. After a few minutes he gave me a tour of his new water truck, which is a F-750 Ford. Parked right next to it was this beauty, a vintage Dodge Power Wagon. A great truck, and it still runs! I love how it has not been restored, but has all the scars and patina of a working machine. I guess the fuel pump is out, because Jason has connected a gravity fed fuel tank. I had a great time painting this cool old McCarthy truck, stopping every hour, or so, to chat with Lobo. He was working in the garden planting onions, garlic, and potatoes. I walked home in the afternoon to have a late lunch, and then got some of my own yard work done. Overall, a pretty productive day. By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve painted one of Jason’s trucks. Check out the painting of his red Ford.
People always ask how I like living in McCarthy. They must see my Facebook posts and just assume since I spend a lot of time there that it’s my primary residence. As of now, I live in an efficient downtown condo in Anchorage. As much as I love going to McCarthy, and the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park that surrounds this cool mountain town, I will probably never spend more than five months of the year there. It’s really remote without a real gas station and only a small seasonal grocery store. Maria and I have been building a cabin on our lot two miles south of the town of McCarthy for about four years now. We bought the lot in 2005, and I convinced Maria that we should start to build a cabin there in 2010. In 2012 we broke ground on the foundation and started the log work. Three summers later we were putting the roof on. This year we installed the wood stove and moved in!
We have lived in a small apartment style condo in Anchorage since 2006. It has been really efficient, and at 730+ square feet, two bedrooms with a small bathroom, it is not luxurious, but cozy and comfortable city living. I just cleaned the entire pad in about an hour this morning. However, it feels cramped after a long winter and I was just dying to go to McCarthy in the winter now that the wood stove is in. Hanging out on our ten acres in the woods after living near the heart of Anchorage without an outlet to private outdoor space left us feeling hankering for some wilderness solitude. I convinced Maria it would be cool to head out for a week in March, ski in with sleds of supplies and just hang at out mountain home. I did some painting and Maria did some business work in the mornings and we would adventure in the afternoons. Later in the day, which are getting longer and longer as spring rapidly approaches, we would burn large fires of forest brush in the outdoor fire ring. On a couple of noteworthy outings we skied around the sleepy town of Kennicott, explored on skis the icebergs on the West side of the glacier, skied up McCarthy Creek, and in and around our neighborhood. Overall, it really gave me a great feeling of mountains wilderness beauty that satisfied our itch to leave the hubbub of the city behind.
The trip was great, but a week was long enough during March. First off, water is a problem in our subdivision. We are up on a bluff, so you have to spend some serious cash to put in deep wells, so most of the time we collect rain water from our roof. This works really well during the summer months, and in winter there is snow, but it takes a lot of energy and time to melt snow. We can’t drive to our lot during the winter as the bridge is covered in three feet of snow and so is the road up to our place. It is a snowmobile haven, and a good place to ski as well. I ski, since I don’t have an Arctic Cat or a Ski-Doo. Water is heavy, so we had to ration it to avoid too many heavy loads. Another problem with wilderness living in the winter is using the outhouse, which is really far away from the warm house, and is frozen. Lastly, the wood stove is an archaic technology that is a lot of work to keep a log cabin warm. It’s hard to find wood that isn’t too wet from snow. It seems that it rained and froze right before it snowed, and even though I stored the wood under a tarp, there was a lot of it full of moisture. Yes, we are in the process of building a necessary woodshed, but as I said, we aren’t even fully done building the place yet. The house has a bunch of drafts and we need to finish chinking, as well as installing a bunch of important trim pieces. It seemed I was constantly loading the stove, until the creosote clogged the pipe. This turned out to be a major cluster, but fortunately it happened at the end of the week so we just went home. Next time I head out, I have to bring a chimney brush, climb on the roof and maintain the stovepipe before we have heat. Then we will have to hope we don’t burn the place down. It seems silly to have a house that is made of the same combustible stuff we heat it with, but it’s working for now.
After a week in the woods, I’m glad to be back in Anchorage. Working at the comfortable studio with running water, and hanging out in my small cozy condo at the corner of downtown and Fairview. I can buy groceries and gas, drive on plowed roads, have indoor plumbing, and a thermostat. The wilderness is very inspirational, and I loved my trip, but I also know that the people who live out there are some tough hombres. It isn’t easy living off grid especially as you are building systems. One thing goes wrong and you could be living in a cold cabin… or worse.
~ by Maria Benner
Well, Scott is on the opposite end of the continent right now, but started the long drive today from Philly to Monterey, CA with two buddies. They are carrying precious cargo in a rented mini-van for one of the friend’s son’s wedding — six cases of beer from his cellar, and are planning to stop along the way to buy more beer. One bottle has unfortunately already exploded mere hours after the journey began. Evidently, the Brett in the bottle of Galaxy IPA by Anchorage Brewing Co. created too much gas over the years in the cellar, and finally popped in the rental van. Luckily, the spill was quickly contained, and no other bottles were damaged from this incident. Take heed, bottles conditioned with any yeast are likely to pop eventually, so don’t cellar them too long.
Anyway, while Scott is traveling, I’m batching it here in Anchorage. I realized that the two weeks that Scott is gone will be the longest time I’ve ever lived alone. Shocking. So I’m learning a bit about my self, and so far I can conclude that I’m not an introvert, and not a hermit. Yesterday is a perfect example. I signed up to volunteer at the Talkeetna Brew Fest, which is a fundraiser for the Northern Susitna Institute, and one beer festival that I have never been to. Who doesn’t love the quaint town of Talkeetna, especially when it hosts nearly every Alaskan brewery for one day? Even the new cidery was there, Double Shovel Cider Co. If you’re into cider, check out their tasting room in Anchorage.
What can I say about the beer at this event that you don’t already know? We can all agree that Alaska has an impressive selection of excellent brews to offer, considering our small population, and lack of local hops and grains. There were a number of beers that did have local Alaskan ingredients like spruce tips, and berries. My favorite brews were Sitka Spruce Tip Ale by Baranof Island Brewing, Statny Statny Stout by Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop, and of course Berserker by Midnight Sun Brewing. Drinking two pours of that to cap off the event was not my smartest move last night. Whenever my glass was empty, I would ask whoever I was talking to at the time what was the best beer they had tasted so far, and was steered in the right direction most of the time. I really enjoyed the low-key atmosphere at this event. It was not too crowded like most beer fests, and there was an outdoor area with fire pits and picnic tables. The organizers didn’t skimp on the food, which is an important, and responsible thing to have at such an event. There was plenty of fresh-baked bread by Mountain High Pizza Pie, and a generous spread of cured meats, and artisan cheeses.
After the four-hour fest, some of us headed to the bank of the beautiful, and currently over-flowing, Susitna River to watch the sunset. Then somehow there was always a beer in my hand for the rest of the night as we danced to a righteous band at the Fairview Inn. I have vague memories of a friend buying me a reindeer hot dog, which was a life-saver, around 10 PM. Good thing I had that for a late dinner, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have had the mental capacity to find my bed.
I’m back in Anchorage now, and Scott already made it to Ohio. Eight more days of batching it, and I’m planning on attending one more beer festival before Scott gets back. Bodega Fest is next weekend, and tickets are still available for this party, celebrating La Bodega’s 10th Anniversary!
Scott and I just got back from a two-week trip to Washington and Oregon where we visited many of our wonderful friends and family. We had an amazing trip, but are glad to be back in Anchorage, where the pace of life is slower, and life seems easier in general. We don’t have to structure our daily schedule around peak traffic times, there are fewer people competing for the same things, and the scenery is breathtaking.
On the first day back in Anchorage we drove around to replenish our supplies, and almost everywhere we went, we knew someone. The best part is that several people told us they needed to meet about a painting, or a stickers order, or help with graphics. That’s when we realized that our local community is the reason that we are able to survive on the income from our little art business. Without long-standing relationships in our home town where we have lived for over 20 years, our business wouldn’t be possible. So, thank you to all of you who choose to buy locally!!! That really does make a difference! We feel the love, Anchorage, and we can’t think of a better place to live and work!
~ Scott and Maria
Happy National Beer Day! And Happy Beerthday to me! Ironic that the two dates coincide! The beer painting of the day is of Pleasure Town IPA from Midnight Sun Brewing Company! This has been my go-to brew at the MSBC taproom, and now it is available in cans, so I can take it anywhere! Last night I shared some with my family for my early birthday dinner. This beer is fun! I think the label has a nice character to it. I know that both sexes enjoy a nice IPA and that dudes and chicks are into the Belgian Tripel known as Panty Peeler, but it seems to me these beer labels tell funny stories about what may occur if you imbibe too much of that particular drink. The Panty Peeler label has a woman riding a caribou while losing her bikini, which is obviously what will occur if you drink a whole bottle of 9% beer. The Pleasure Town label predicts a similar scenario, but I think you may have to consume the whole six-pack to end up waving your tighty whities as you gallop off into the night on a moose. Even though the man riding the moose is blitzed, you gotta love that mustache! At least he looks good in his stupor! The case I bought the day after the cans were released came with a stick-on mustache! So, contrary to advertising, the mustache was included! I put it on my beer fridge in my painting studio to keep its upper lip warm. Enjoy your Beer Day Monday and stop by the Loft for a fresh beer and take a six pack of Pleasure Town IPA home. Just remember to share the six-pack with a friend so you don’t end up waving your underwear in surrender. To MSBC, my local brewery with a wild sense of humor! The beer will put you in the right mindset for enjoying the type of gags these labels will inspire!
You can purchase this painting, or a limited-edition print at my Etsy Shop.
The beer painting of the day is Moscow Imperial Russian Stout by Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, Alaska! “Alaska’s Most Wanted!” This Russian Imperial Stout brewed with rye is a fantastic beer, one worth cellaring. I have a couple of bottles tucked away for a rainy, or special day. The rich flavor of chocolate and the bitterness of the rye are apparent without even drinking a sip of this fine brew, it’s all in the aroma. The flavor brings up thoughts of Catherine the Great rolling around in her super fine carriage sipping rich imported brew from London. This beer emulates that same brew that the Russian Court loved to order all the way to Moscow.
I love MSBC brews, and this is one of the brewery’s finer offerings. Amazing that a small kettle makes such a big beer. It is one to linger over, one to sip and savor, a beer that should not be gulped. Find a nice, big, comfy chair, fill your glass and relax, contemplating what has made your life so rosy!
To Moscow and the Kremlin, the richest fortress government cathedral! So much power in one citadel. MSBC, you captured that same type of power and put it in a bottle! За здоровье! (to your health!)
You can purchase this painting, or a limited-edition print at my Etsy Shop.
Today is Spring Equinox – the beginning of spring! Cheers to six months of more than twelve hours of daylight! Today’s painting is of Alaskan Brewing Company’s Pilot Series Jalapeño Imperial IPA. You may wonder why I would paint such a rogue beer. Well, because the label is so pretty, and this beer was particularly amazing paired with Alaskan Cod tacos last night! It is totally peppery but not too overpowering. The Jalapeño flavor hit me in the back of the throat with a little tickle, but the overall mouthfeel was similar to the tannin taste of a green pepper. I was surrounded by peppers in the kitchen where I tasted this brew, so maybe I was thrown a bit by the whole taco night experience, however, I thought the Jalapeño IPA held its own. I would drink it again, especially on taco night.
To Alaskan Brewing and its Pilot Series with the newest freshest oddities that are exciting and enjoyable!