Wednesday, June 24, 2009

21-2009 Living in Fairbanks Alaska

Picasa Pictures

Fairbanks Alaska

How exciting, I’m living in Fairbanks Alaska for 8 days. My actual address here at The Roads End Rv Park is actually the North Pole, but I think I can say I’m living in Fairbanks, only 6 miles up the road.

On my entering the area, the first thing I noticed were the two military bases, Eielson Air force Base and Ft. Wainwright with their military fences and signs posted saying “do not stop, do not take pictures”. Though I must admit, they are quickly swallowed up by the heavy vegetation in the area. Fairbanks is surrounded by lush thick forests, to the point that a couple of bears have been sighted in the past couple of days along the cities walking paths. One gal was chased by a bear just two days ago. Wild country.

This is not a tourist town. The majority of the buildings and shops are geared towards the worker and normal shopping needs of the locals. Oh, an interesting note, there are fields of wild blue Iris all along the highways up here. Mainly in wet marshy areas, they grow in thick and are quite easily seen while driving along the road. Major stores are Fred Myers, Safeway and Wal-Mart’s.

My first full day in the area, I went into town and had lunch at a very nice restaurant, Lavelle’s Bistro, very upscale I might add. Had my first Alaskan Salmon over a Caesar salad. Odd how they had me order my lunch at the bar, paid for it up-front and a 15% gratuity automatically added. Then after sitting where every I wanted (out side on the front facing main street) the waiters and waitresses come by and fill my drink and bring the meal when ready. It works, just a bit different you know. I had to take advantage of a sunny day, temp 73 degrees. Awesome for being in the heart of Alaska.

On the business side, I purchase a larger set of mud flaps and installed them on the back end of my Chevy truck. Hoping they might help keep some of the mud and oil off of the camper. We’ll see as I head down the road the end of next week. Note: discovered that WD-40 works great for getting tar and road oil off of the camper. Spray it on and wipe it off, clean as can be.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Alaska becoming a state. In the local news, there’s an article about the transfer of land from the BLM to Native Americans. Over 105 million acres is supposed to be transferred. To date, 98 million acres have been transferred from the BLM, to the State of Alaska and then it is transferred to the Native Indians. Lots of land and of course mineral rights are being transferred. Oh, and $962.5 million in compensation as well.

The Daily News-Miner reports that Palin is upset by the 18 grievances filed against her so far has put her in $500,000 of legal debt defending herself. Most have been denied. All of the complaints have been brought by Alaskans except for one. She has a swirl of controversy following her where ever she goes

Alaskans are very proud of their state and it’s independent frontier attitude. They love to rib Texans that Alaska is over two times larger than Texas and Minnesota can boast about it’s 10,000 lakes, but Alaska has over 3 million. They don’t mention that they are all mosquito breeders . There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska as well. This is a BIG state.

There is no limit on the number of mosquito’s one can kill in Alaska and no license is required.

It’s Sunday, June 21 and Summer Solstice. Up here it’s known as Land of the Midnight Sun. Being the longest day of the year, the sun only sets for less than 4 hours. Fairbanks has the biggest one day celebration in Alaska and I attended it for a couple of hours. It goes on from Noon till about Midnight and it’s still light out. Easy to find a place to park, since all the office type businesses are closed. Lots of vendors and food to be had. I loved the Wild Salmon ride. Like a bucking bronco except it’s a fish. I would have tried it, but it was mainly for the kids, darn. I think I could have stayed on the bucking salmon for at least two minutes. The day started out rainy and a bit dreary, but by noon the sun came out and it warmed up to a high of 76. Perfect day. Three stages with music and dance. Heard the State song about the Flag.

Alaska's Flag
Written by Marie Drake
Composed by Elinor Dusenbury
Eight stars of gold on a field of blue -
Alaska's flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes, and the flow'rs nearby;
The gold of the early sourdough's dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The "Bear" - the "Dipper" - and, shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska's flag - to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.

Kind of cool. The day before I was in a store and the sale lady started to explain the meaning of the flag and recited the entire Poem/song. It means a lot to the folks up here. Nice to feel the passion of the Alaskan’s.

The next day, which weather reports indicated was going to be cloudy and rainy, turned out to be partly cloudy, sunny and warm. So I headed over to the Riverboat Discovery to take a three and a half hour tour of the river, Susan Butcher’s Iditarod sled dog team and Chena Indian Village. A most high tech and extremely well presented river tour. HD cameras throughout the boat, a sound system that any geek would be proud of and flat screens everywhere. The pilot who flew the float plane, to the dog trainers and Capt. All were connected via video and audio. So, along with the 5 decks of glassed in cabins and open decking, one couldn’t miss a singe minute of action. Besides, I love being on the water. Saw Senator Ted Stevens home though they no longer point it out on the tour. Still can’t figure out how he got off scott free. Learned a little bit about the Athabascan Indians and dog training, afterward, I had lunch at Pikes Landing, where a road dead ends at the water. During the winter months it becomes a short cut across the river and all the locals use it like a regular road.

By the way, Fairbanks is very easy to get around in. It’s surrounded by express ways and is on a simple grid pattern. I drove over to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, UAF, today to check out their Museum. It’s housed in a gorgeous modern building but the exhibit space is a bit chopped up and not well planned for. To the point that their exhibit of famous Alaskan artists is currently in a room originally designed as storage space. $2 for parking, $10 to enter the museum, $2 for the audio (which I would recommend in any museum) and $2 for the film show on the aurora borealis and winter in Alaska. Whew, well after paying all those fees I finally got in.

Overall the museum collection is more than worth the entry price. Both the natural history and native history are well represented and the artwork really captures the essence of Alaska. The film on the aurora borealis was like being back in a college course, thank God there wasn’t an exam at the end of it. Although I did learn quite a bit about the phenomenon. But not enough to be able to bore you with the details. The one thing I guess I learned was that the Inuit and Athabascan Indians incorporated art into everyday life. Their knives, sewing tools, utility items and clothing were all done with artistic design incorporated into each item. Of note as well, the young native Indian women are most beautiful. Having an Asian influence in their look as well as an almost coco color to their skin tone.

Oh, and they had a room where you could listen to the atmosphere. The sounds were created by the changing atmosphere, clouds, light, sun and moon coming up. An eerie sound as I looked at a wall of subtle color, blue band on the bottom and yellow on top. Both changing with the sounds.

I couldn’t get into the “I love the cold weather” theme of what it’s like to live in Alaska with -40 degree winters and “I think it’s cold when it reaches -20 or lower, etc”. Really people, cold is cold. When many “cottages” are dry cottages. Meaning they don’t have running water or sewer, mainly because both will freeze up at -40 below anyway. Running to the outhouse has got to be a trip. On of the comments was, “But I get to see all the stars” And Styrofoam seats are a must, as plastic will crack in below freezing temps. I understand many Alaskans bring the seat indoors until they have to go. Smart.

It started to rain around noon yesterday and has continued throughout the night and into this morning, so I’ll send this report out and hope for better weather in the next day or so.


Sterpebird said...

Thank you for your story and sharing your Alaska trip with me, it was like I was there with you and we had fun, and yur pictures are great, John

Roving Reporter - Doug P said...

thanks John. I write my stories to remember each experience fully and then I get to share them with great friends like you.