8 Things I Just Learned About Living In Tok Alaska

Here are some little details I’m learning about living in Tok that are interesting, curious or just plain good to know.

1. The Fairbanks News-Miner is delivered by truck each day. Usually after 12pm. Sometimes, it doesn’t make it into town. Most people rely on the Internet to access their “local” paper. $1.25

2. The real local paper here is called the Mukluk News, and it is a number of 13×17 inch sheets of paper stapled together. Filled with local tidbits, ads for local businesses, and lots of religious references and quotes. Fifty cents.

3. The Anchorage Daily News is only delivered Wednesdays and Sundays. By small plane. And when the plane can’t make it in to Tok, no ADN. $1.50

4. When your car gets down to minus 50 or colder, strange things begin to happen to your car. Such as your steering and brake fluid begins to freeze. As you are driving.

5. Most Tokites put cardboard or leather across their car grills to keep out the cold air. Otherwise, when you are driving, the cold outside air is forced into the car, quickly cooling it down until you literally have no heat.

6. If you have condensation on your windshield and are driving down the highway, it will quickly turn into a thin, opaque crust of ice. We had to scrape the inside of our windshield the other night. While driving. With actual windshield ice scrapers. But I think a credit card might do a better job. More flexible.

7. They have karaoke every other Saturday night at the Tok Lodge (bar). I have to get my Karaoke system out of it’s box so I can start practicing!

8. The outer walls on our house are 12 inches thick. My husband says this is not typical. Usually, walls are 6 inches thick, I believe. But the foot of wall between us and the cold is why we can stay so warm in the house.

More Tok Tidbits soon!

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39 Comments

  1. I lived in Barrow for 20 years. During part of that time I had a vehicle, but no garage (those are rare in Barrow). Standard equipment for the vehicle included a battery blanket, circulating anti-freeze heater, oil pan and tranny pan heaters (glue-on patches), and a cab heater to keep ice from building up on the inside of windows. All were connected to a j-box mounted under the hood which ran to a connection at the front. The trick was keeping home circuit breakers from blowing when visitors stopped by. As for credit card ice scrapers, I’ll send you one specifically designed for that purpose. Stay warm. PS, how’s your ARCS Television in Tok (ch-13 ota) these days?

    Reply
    • I haven’t even tried to turn on the TV yet! We watch DVDs. Not really investing to pay for Dish. But will see if we get anything the old-fashioned way. Bunny ears! (Not to be confused with Bunny boots.)

      Reply
  2. I thought about that while watching your driving video. Were you cold in the car?

    Reply
  3. I’m waaaay down in Southeast AK, celebrating double digits above zero. I’d love to send you some of our heat wave!

    Reply
  4. Good job on your NPR interview this morning! In reading over the different comments (here & on the NPR site) I think it’s funny how many people want to argue that it’s not really that cold. Growing up in Fairbanks, I know how crazily the temp can vary even within a few miles. I believe ya – it’s cold! 🙂
    I hope you continue to enjoy (if that’s the right word) all your cold weather firsts. I complained a lot about those winters when I was a teenager, but now that I don’t live up there all that stuff makes for great memories & stories. ~ k

    Reply
  5. AMcA

     /  January 10, 2009

    My father used to fashion excellent ice scrapers from plexiglass. I still have a couple rolling around.

    Reply
    • I’ll buy one from you! You really need those things to be strong but also very flexible, especially when scraping the inside of windshields!

      Reply
  6. Don La Marca

     /  January 10, 2009

    I too spent a few years in both Anchorage and Fairbanks, AK. Our walls, although not 12 inches were a full 9 inches thick. They build them to retain the heat. Two four inch walls with a one inch dead air trap inbetween them . . . and you are right, they contain the heat very well and we were most comfortable in our minus degreee weather . . . not minus 70 but we had a week of 40 or 50 below! I no live in Florida!!!

    Reply
  7. Kira

     /  January 10, 2009

    Just curious–how do you dress your little daughter in those temperatures? And how do you fit her in a car seat with all that fluffy clothing?

    Reply
  8. Kira – we usually do 2 shirts, pants with leggings underneath, socks pulled up over leggings. Then she wears a big coat and her crocks. She doesn’t really touch the ground as we carry her – and isn’t outside for more than 30-40 seconds between car and babysitter’s house or car and store.

    I make her put her face into my neck or coat to breathe. Otherwise, she starts coughing right away from the cold air.

    Reply
  9. And we’re complaing about the weather in Spokane. Man I feel like a wimp. We get a little bit of snow and the city shuts down.

    Reply
  10. Aliens In Tok

     /  January 10, 2009

    Oh you guys, what’s a few degrees here and there anyways? I live 3 miles out of town and never saw it colder than -68F, so what. The truck wouldn’t start the other morning, so I just walked in to work. We live in a log home I built and it stays nice and cozy, just burn a little more wood and drink a little more tea. Life is good in Tok, no matter what the temp, ask anyone who’s lived here longer than 2 weeks.

    Reply
  11. Mo

     /  January 10, 2009

    I grew up in Valdez but we spent every fall bouncing around the Tok/Chicken area hunting. There was a long running family joke at the Tastee Freez in Tok, which I hear is no longer there, sad.
    I’ve been extremely homesick for a couple years, but after the snow Brandon mentioned and the cold my friends have been telling me about, I remember why it’s summer visits only for a while!
    I’ve been enjoying your blog, glad to have found you!

    Reply
  12. sagalaska

     /  January 10, 2009

    Interesting article, Aliza, please don’t take this wrong, but I have to agree with Aliens in Toks last line. I would have thought that they would have asked a couple of sourdoughs or a couple of trappers you have your way for advice on living in the Interior of Alaska during the winter, not someone with two or three weeks experience. For us who have endured the winters for years it is nothing new, I guess the perspective from someone new to the Interior, makes it sound exciting. It is not so bad once you get used to it, if you are still here in a few years you will see, the cold tends to weed out the riff raff. Enjoy your page, will follow it. By the way get some dog bootys for your dog.

    Reply
    • Hi Saga,
      The reason I was the one to speak with NPR instead of a longtime Tokite was simply because they called APRN in Anchorage, and I’ve worked in radio and with APRN over the past few years. The day before, I had been testing out Skype from Tok with John Proffitt from APRN and Duncan Moon happened by. We got to talking about the weather, and he has been following my blog.

      So when NPR called asking for someone from APRN to comment on the weather in Alaska, he thought it might be more fun to have them chat with me since I just moved to Tok which has so much more interesting weather than Anchorage! So that is how it all came about. No insult intended to Tokites at all. I hope that if anyone in Tok would like an opportunity to share their experiences, perhaps this blog can be a platform for them as well. I’d love to have that kind of participation from those who really know things around here.

      And for the record everyone – I don’t mind the cold at all. Some of the affects can be a little disconcerting, but I think you just need to be smart about it and respect Mother Nature.

      Reply
  13. Aliza,

    It’s great to read your blog (I just found it). Do you have any photos or more explanation about how the cardboard or leather on the car-grill works and how they attach it?

    Reply
  14. Godot

     /  January 11, 2009

    Just take a large piece of cardboard and slide it in between the radiator and the front grill. It will stay secure and serve the intended purpose. Leather covers can be custom made but are a bit expensive. In Alaska we don’t care what kind of care anyone drives, just as long as it’s dependable and will keep you warm/safe.

    Reply
  15. Natural Dude

     /  January 11, 2009

    I use an old caribou hide bungied to the grille. I saw it on the Red Green Show. (Fur side out)

    Reply
  16. Alaskan

     /  January 11, 2009

    Something else you will learn in the summer. Winters rock…..as summer temp wise is great. However the mosquitoes make up for great temps with driving folks crazy, literally. 🙂

    But you will get use to the bugs……….I’m sure.

    Reply
  17. Alaskan, please don’t tell me that! I’m allergic to mosquito bites – welts like softballs from each bite. Not a pretty site. Sheesh, and I was soooo looking forward to summer.

    Reply
  18. Nothing to worry about.

    The mosquitoes are not too bad right around the Tok area. They are out there, but nothing like the horror stories you hear sometimes about some areas in AK.

    Reply
  19. Token Male Nurse

     /  January 11, 2009

    Hi Teniah,
    looks like Maria’s gonna need another spool of that electric blue thread for fixing your dress…do you have access to that stuff? You sure don’t want that nice dress falling down to your knees in the middle of the wedding!!!

    Reply
  20. Aliza, I for one like hearing about Tok from a newcomer perspective. Your blog says all the things I’ve wanted to say but never had an audience for! Its hilarious reading during these dark cold days, so keep your amusing posts coming. Some “Tokites” have a way of making people feel unwelcome unless they’ve been here for 65 years, so just take these posts in stride. And BTW, I personally dont care if it was -63, -78, 0r -120 for that matter. Its too cold to go outside so enjoy a warm fire and a good book, summer will be here soon.

    Reply
  21. Jarrett, thanks for your nice post. I actually don’t mind any of the chatter. That is why I’m approving everything so far – even the “negative” stuff. People are entitled to their opinions, and I just like having a blog to broadcast mine!

    My philosophy is very live and let live. Most of the negative stuff just comes off as plain silly to most people anyway. Most folks know to consider the source of those kinds of things.

    Reply
  22. Great tip on using the credit card for the ice. I never would have thought about that. Just yesterday I was driving my truck down the road, looking through the tiny hole I could still see through on the windshield until I could find a place to pull over! The car is older and hasn’t been driven all week since the cold weather has frozen the steering fluid. Also, good to know that this is normal as this is my first winter in Fairbanks, AK. : )

    Reply
  23. @Aliza: Thanks! Eagerly awaiting the photos!

    Reply
  24. Spent some cold time in Korea in 1950…Never want to be around cold again.

    Reply
  25. Alaskan

     /  January 11, 2009

    Aliza…….didn’t mean to or it wasn’t made to ruin your outlook on summer in any way with the mosquitoes comment. Summers are great beyond the bugs and Tok imo is a gem of interior AK……thats why Tokites are “very” protective of their secret. Tok has may of them….good and bad…….lol.

    Reply
  26. Rodney

     /  January 12, 2009

    I’ve enjoyed reading your Blog Aliza and good luck to you and your family in Tok Alaska. I live 2 blocks from the beach in Venice, Florida so I know you are a much braver person than I am. 🙂

    Reply
  27. Rodney

     /  January 12, 2009

    Oh btw I forgot, thank s to The Drudge Report for posting a link to this story.

    Reply
  28. Keith

     /  January 12, 2009

    I have two pieces of advice for you based upon my own experience driving the Alcan highway during the coldest Alaskan winter on record (1989). First, STAY HOME if it’s colder than -40 F. Unless thoroughly and properly winterized for arctic driving conditions, it’s very likely that your car will break down in ways you never imagined before. Death due to exposure for you and your family will follow in short order. Nothing is important enough to risk either of these outcomes. Secondly, learn how NOT to panic in a crisis. Attend counseling, if necessary. In every circumstance, especially those affecting the health and well-being of your daughter, you will make wiser choices when you maintain your emotional composure. Ask any EMT or emergency room professional.

    Reply
  29. Paul in NJ

     /  January 12, 2009

    I drove a VW Beetle — the original, not these newfangled ones — and ice on the inside of the windshield was common. I used a single-edged razor blade; it’s flexible, and very effective (and a multi-task tool as well).

    Funny story: on a date with my wife-to-be, we got in the car and, without even thinking about it, I grabbed the razor blade and casually scraped the windshield. I didn’t find out until much later that Mrs. Future Better Half got REALLY nervous when she saw that blade glittering in my hand!

    Tok sounds like a fascinating place – is it a town where pretty much everyone knows each other?

    PS – Another Drudge reader.

    Reply
  30. billyoceanseleven

     /  January 12, 2009

    Another reader from Drudge. I’ve been fascinated with Alaska for a few years now since I spent some time there a few years ago, so your blog has been a very interesting read. Of course, when I was there it was never anywhere near 80 below!

    I’d be curious to see a post about how you guys get supplies and such. I know you guys have the general store and the grocery, but I’m curious if a road trip to Anchorage to load up the truck with groceries and such is a regular occurence. Do you guys normally keep large stockpiles of stuff just so you don’t have to go out that often?

    Reply
  31. Roadkill Rory

     /  January 13, 2009

    You know, BillyO.11, we’re 205 miles from Fairbanks (pop60k) or 320 odd mi. from Los Anchorage, along the main highway entering the State, so it’s not that remote, just rural. If you don’t want to go into town, you can pretty much find all the basic stuff you need here, in addition to online shopping for tech savvy internetters. Most Tokites make a trip to town maybe once a month or so, unless it’s way below zero, then we just hole up, throw another log on the fire, chew on a frozen moosesickle, and break out the good stuff. No use getting spun out in the details…

    Reply
  32. Rodney

     /  January 13, 2009

    I would like to know how one copes with extremely long nights during the winter months and extremely long days during the summer. It’s sounds very freakish to me and something I can’t imagine.

    Reply
  33. bela

     /  January 20, 2009

    the adn is delivered by the ak direct line bus on weds and sun in the winter. in the summer we get the adn weds, fri and sun. the adn is not flown in

    Reply
  34. Billy

     /  February 5, 2009

    Welcome to Tok . been here going on 3 years now love it here.

    Reply

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