Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Alyeska, Alyeska


The Alaska Pipeline is a pretty famous hole, surrounded by metal. It goes from the north part of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay down to Valdez. It's about 800 miles in length. As an engineering feat, it crossed two major mountain ranges and the Yukon River. The Yukon is nearly a mile wide and 280' deep where the pipeline crosses. Building the pipeline caused severe financial issues for the companies that ponied up the money.

What does that mean to you? Bargain prices! Everything MUST GO!

The company that operates the pipeline is called 'Alyeska,' which means "main land" in Aleut. Every year Alyeska sells all their junk. Their junk essentially is all the Tonka equipment that I lusted after when I was six, and then some. But this time, it's all real.

I went to check all the stuff out on the days set out for inspection before the auction. Wow. If only I had a few million dollars to spare. I was doing a mental total, and if you wanted to create a mid-size construction firm, you could buy everything you needed in one day, in Fairbanks.

What I wanted was the Snow Cat pictured at the beginning of this post (the big orange Mad-Max thing).

I didn't get it. I did, however, get to crawl up into it and start it. The diesel engine glow plugs lit up, and twenty seconds later I fired the engine, and it roared to life. What a rush! This thing, if supplied with enough fuel, could take me anywhere in Alaska in winter. The feeling of power and omnipotence increases because the cab sits up about 13 feet above the ground. Talk about ground clearance!

An awesome experience. But, I was with The Mrs., and she had that "we left the children (and an adult!) waiting in the car on a sweltering Fairbanks day (80F) and you should stop messing around John and we can look at the things we might actually buy" look on her face. I turned the key in my dream machine off.

Nothing happened. The engine on this massive beast continued to smoothly run.

Uh oh.

I hit a switch labeled "Master Kill."

Nothing. The engine continued its 250 rpm diesel drumbeat.

I turned the key back and forth. I did notice at one position, the gauges stopped showing anything. I left the key in that position. I gingerly got down out of my dream machine and tried to walk away from the idling beast as innocently as I could.

"What's wrong?" The Mrs. asked.

"Umm, won't shut down." I smile and speak through clenched teeth as if I'm discussing the questionable virginity of a bride at a wedding.

"Turn the key."

"Did that. Still running." The smile is frozen to my face at this point.

We walked away. I felt guilty. What if it slipped into gear and crushed the line of cars parked in front of it?

The Snow Cat had stopped. Apparently I left the key in the correct position, and "off" is more of an eventual thing than an instant condition with a vehicle like that.

The Mrs. and I looked then at things we could afford.

We discussed maximum bids, and, the next morning, armed with:
  • a bidder's list,
  • bidder's number,
  • and a letter from the bank indicating I could afford more than $13.56 if auctioneer considered my collection of dryer lint collateral,
I went to the auction.

I was blanked. I did not even bid on the twenty or so items of interest. They were at the front of the list, and one skinny 55 year old wearing a plain white Fonzie t-shirt with a strange pale yellow stain around the midsection and right arm bought them all, despite his inability to find funds to purchase a comb. For twice what I was willing to consider.

Wow. I had looked at one of the items and had seen a better one in the local paper's classified, for only 2/3 what Fonzie paid at auction. I didn't stand a chance. Nor was I unhappy, since the reason I'd go to an auction is for a bargain, not to pay top dollar.

I have no idea what the item pictured below went for. If Fonzie was bidding on it, probably $45,000.


Home an hour after the auction started, The Mrs. saw another one in the paper. We went.

This one was better, and I bought things. Like a small portable heater for $4.00, plus $0.40 for buyer premium. Like a floor jack for $16.00 (plus $1.60) to change out the winter/summer tires for The Mrs.

Maybe one day I can be a skinny 55 year old with a stained Fonzie t-shirt. Hell, at the smaller auction, maybe I was. (Can you believe the way he bought a floor jack for $16.00? $16.00!)

2 Comments:

Blogger Garry said...

I really like this blog, and I'm putting it onto my blogroll. Do call into Pig Sty Avenue some time.

11:37 PM  
Blogger John said...

Garry,
Love the avenue as well! I'll be hanging around there!

9:08 PM  

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