FAIRBANKS, Alaska - In my previous column, I talked about the brutal reality of living in Alaska with cracked windshields. I said it was an inevitable part of being an Alaskan and there was nothing short of moving away that would fix it. Well, reader Jamie Taaffe took me to task on this issue and offered up some solutions.

“I really beg to differ with your conclusion in your Sunday, Dec. 5, column about the inevitability of perpetually cracked windshields throughout Alaska. It doesn’t have to be that way at all. I’m 62 years old and have lived in and about Fairbanks for 40+ years driving 10,000- to 15,000 miles during each of those years. In 40 years of driving in the Fairbanks area, I’ve only had four cracked windshields which, in due time, I replaced.”

Given that the state predominantly uses gravel to ‘sand’ the roads for safety, Taaffe then offered some common sense solutions:

1) We desperately need a state law that mandates mud flaps be installed on all pickup trucks and SUVs. I have always had them on my pickups and SUVs. The cost is a pittance. These vehicles ride much higher off the ground than regular cars and thus are far more prone to fling gravel higher and farther to the rear. State law already mandates mud flaps on larger trucks to protect vehicles behind them from flung rocks, gravel and debris.

2) Put more car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you. The more MPH the vehicle ahead is going the further and harder it could fling gravel behind it. An extra car length is already a good idea year round and especially so during snowy and icy road conditions. Stretch out the car lengths yet even more to avoid flying gravel.

3) When your windshield does suffer a rock chip, get the repair done ASAP and preferably in mere days before it cracks out all over the windshield. Years ago Novis used to have a monopoly on windshield chip repair, but now we have windshield repair businesses that come to your location.

4) Make sure that you carry ‘comprehensive coverage’ on your auto insurance policy even on older vehicles that you don’t carry collision coverage on. I’ve carried comprehensive on all my vehicles for 40+ years. Comprehensive is inexpensive and particularly cost effective in Alaska. Comprehensive pays for damage done to your vehicle from ‘hit and run’, vandalism, hailstones, falling objects, collisions with moose, deer, cows, etc. as well as damage to windshields and glass from flying rocks and debris.

5) Many auto insurance companies pay for windshield rock chip damage at absolutely no cost to the policy holders with ‘comprehensive’ coverage. I was with Allstate Insurance for 20 years and their ‘comprehensive’ policy paid in full (no deductible) for Novis type repairs on all our family’s rock chip damaged windshields. We usually had three vehicles in the family during that time and yes, we suffered more than a few rock chips on our windshields.

“If we Alaskans make each one of these 5 solutions happen, then we will have far, far fewer cracked windshields, safer driving, better windshield visibility and cheaper windshield repairs when we do eventually need them.

“Oh yeah ... I also have to add that there would be far, far less paint chip damage done to every one’s vehicle. That’s especially important if one’s vehicle is relatively new.”

I can agree with Jamie on most of this stuff, although I had to point out that most of the chips I get on my windshield come from vehicles traveling in the opposite direction. Here’s what Jamie had to say: “I agree that rocks thrown from oncoming traffic are also a difficulty. I didn’t address that issue but my marginally effective technique, when feasible, has been to ‘hug’ the far right side of the road just as the oncoming traffic passes.”

Thanks so much to Jamie for his comments and ideas. Fewer chips in the windshield would be a good thing!


Q: It’s so dark! I feel like the life is getting sucked out of me. Any ideas for getting some energy back?

A: This time of the year is brutal. But the darkness and cold doesn’t have to get you down. Here are some things I recommend to help combat cabin fever and low energy:

1) Go outside. Sometime during daylight hours, bundle yourself up and go for a short walk, even if it’s just to the mailbox. Don’t think about how cold it is or what a pain it is to get all those clothes on. Just go outside and get some fresh air. It really will boost your mood and energy levels. Besides — it’s absolutely a winter wonderland out there this year because of the ice on the trees! Think of all the poor people that will never get to see Alaska or experience a winter like this in their lifetime! (I’m glad eggs can’t be thrown through paper.)

2) Get a hobby. Are you bored? Watching too much TV? You need a hobby! Find anything that interests you and immerse yourself in it. Before long it will be spring and you won’t know what happened.

3) Volunteer. There are so many organizations and folks out there that benefit from volunteers. You could be one of them. And by being a volunteer, you will realize that whining about cold, dark winters is small potatoes to many others who are in circumstances far worse. Check with the hospital, nursing home, local churches, food bank, schools, etc. to get some ideas. Volunteering and getting involved will make you feel like a million bucks!

4) Join a group or take up a sport. There are knitting groups, reading groups, chess groups, basketball, volleyball, swimming, skiing, hockey — you name it. Find out what you like, or want to know more about, and go for it!

In the spirit of fighting cabin fever, I recently did just that — I joined a group. Last week I became the newest member of the recently formed and developing “North Pole Babes in Toyland” roller derby team. I love to skate and figured it would be fun to be a part of something new and a little offbeat. Just my style. Now, I’m looking to you for a little help — I need a nickname. It needs to be something Christmassy, North Pole-ish, or cold weather related, i.e.; “Frost Bite” or something like that. Give me your ideas and next time I’ll publish some of the best and announce my roller derby nickname. Merry Christmas!

Brookelyn Bellinger is an independent filmmaker and author of the book “The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’.” Send your questions to brookelynbellinger@hotmail.com.