Q: I seem to recall that our current license plates were to be issued in celebration of the Gold Rush for a limited time. After six years, I'm wondering how "temporary" they're going to be ...
A: The Gold Rush Centennial license plates, which now seem to be found on a majority of cars, are only temporary - but with a fairly long stay.
The creation of specially designed license plates to commemorate the centennial of the Gold Rush was authorized by Senate Bill 86 from the 19th Session of the Alaska State Legislature, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Tony Knowles in May 1996. The new plates were issued first in early 1998.
Acting Division of Motor Vehicles Director Chuck Hosack said that bill established a sunset date, which has yet to arrive.
"When the law was passed ... it was to commemorate the Gold Rush centennial through the year 2004," he said.
Consequently, the state should return to issuing the familiar blue-on-gold plates in early 2005. There is a provision in the law that requires the state to use up all its stocks of the Gold Rush Centennial plates - so none go to waste - so it is not yet possible to pin down an exact date for the changeover.
Hosack said the state is in no danger of running out of the Gold Rush plates before the change-over date.
"We've got plenty - we order two or three times a year to replenish our stocks," he said.
And five years into the new plates, how does Hosack gauge public opinion of the plate?
"It's split 50-50," he said. "A lot of people, when it first came out, really liked it. But some people said, by God, I like my gold and blue."
And in a few years, they'll be able to get it back.
Q: I know who Joe Juneau is. But who the heck is Gastineau Channel named after?
A: It seems to be unclear just which Gastineau is honored all over Juneau, according to the following excerpt from "The Centennial Gazetteer: A Guide to Juneau, Alaska Place Names," published by none other than the Gastineau Channel Centennial Association in 1979:
"(Explorer Capt. George) Vancouver, who named other waterways and places in the vicinity, did not name the channel, perhaps because it was choked with icebergs and his survey party was unable to traverse it in 1794. It is probable that the channel was named for John Gastineau, an English civil engineer who surveyed and mapped for the British Columbia government and for private firms. Gastineau died at Victoria, British Columbia, in 1885."
But while the origins of our Gastineau may be murky, the name is far from unique. At What's Up With That we've done the Google search on the Internet so you don't have to, and here is a sampling of other Gastineaus past and present:
• Mark Gastineau, former defensive end for the New York Jets who once held the NFL season record for sacks, and has since had scrapes with the law.
• Gastineau Log Homes of New Bloomfield, Mo., "the Midwest's largest log home company."
• Henry Gastineau (1791-1876), British topographer and landscape artist.
• Gastineau-Hubble families cemetery in Pulaski County, Ky.
• Mike Gastineau, sports talk-show host on KGR-AM 950 radio in Seattle.
• And, of course, Joe Gastineau, the Juneau-inspired name of the central character in the movie "Limbo," shot at various locales around town several years ago.
Andrew Krueger's favorite license plate is the good old black-on-cheese-yellow Wisconsin tag, and he can be reached at email@example.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.