Off the Grid

14720161_sHere we are in a new year, and it looks as though I neglected to wish even one of my readers a Happy New Year. Therefore, let me officially wish each and every one a prosperous and healthy new year. And, for those who are still here, thank you for hanging in there with me.

Have you seen the program, Railroad Alaska? This is a reality show that I knew of, but it never interested me enough to watch. The other morning I sat down, and mindlessly stared at the screen, when suddenly I realized, Railroad Alaska had grabbed my attention. Alaska Railroads has a freight train that travels five-hundred miles from Seward to Anchorage that also carries off-gridders as they make their way in to Talkeetna for the spring soiree, or what ever other reason they have. There is another train on this corridor as well, called Hurricane Turn, which specifically picks up local passengers. However, this once a week freight, featured on the show carries residents also. What is “Off-grid?” notes it as – “Not involving or requiring the use of mainstream sources of energy.” As I sunk deeper in the broadcast, I observed families traveling on snowmobiles with basket cargo carriers hooked to the rear, hauling any and everything. Any one family waits by the side of the tracks, in the cold for this connection, and God help them if its springtime when the bears are up and about from their long hibernation, in search of food.

In doing my research I found a couple of celebrities who have gone off the grid; Ed Begley, Jr. and Daryl Hannah have both successfully done this. To me, it’s not about giving up the street life, if you will. The point is, think of how far out you have to go in order to achieve that goal. Of course, when you’re talking Alaska, there are miles and miles and miles of empty space where a person can live this way. It didn’t hit me until much later in the day, living off-grid means no indoor plumbing, or electricity, and cooking with propane. You can taste that gas in anything you cook.  I read of the Dual Survival co-star, Cody Lundin, who lives in a solar earth house in the wilderness of Northern Arizona. He collects rainwater, composts waste, and pays no utility bill. When hubby and I were first married, he would frighten me with his thoughts of moving to a farm. Even today, he would have no problem whatsoever living this way. Yes, I’m all for conservation, and who wouldn’t want to discontinue their utility bills. I’m also for empty spaces and being, at least, one mile from my neighbor, but I like my conveniences, like most of us. And, unless you’re rolling in money, then I can’t envision the home being as comfortable as something built by one who has lots of capital.

So, this Alaska Railroad; usually a train somewhere around a mile in length – long enough to look at the other side while traversing a curve in the Kenai Mountains – I mean, car upon car upon car as they haul trucks, boats, piping, and containers. They travel through one hundred year old tunnels, which were dug by hand in a mountain range where twenty ton icicles hang, and threaten to slice any car, at any time. The engineer described it this way – “If one of those icicles hit this train it would cut it like a knife through butter.” The outside crew taking care of the tracks come out with shotguns, and shoot these ice daggers until they come crashing down. They also, use all sorts of train equipment to clear the tracks of snow, or anything else threatening the trip of this iron horse.

I could not believe that I got so engrossed in watching this show. Maybe it had to do with the time of day, or maybe it just had to do with my needing to clear my mind of the stress from the week. But, the people of this area left me with a sense of family, sharing, and looking out for each other. Think of it – when a train can make unscheduled stops to pick up a local who would not be able to make it to the next town any other way. I have to say that spells community, don’t you think? These families were born and raised in this area – this is what they know, and without hesitation any one of them will tell you they wouldn’t live any other way, or anyplace else. One home owner explained his life as “Zen-like,” or Spiritual. Regardless, I couldn’t live in that barren, and frozen wilderness. What about you? Could you live off-grid?

Photo courtesy of

Information from, Destination America & Wikipedia


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