April 24, 2014

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Alaska trip- Day 5 "Fairbanks"

Tuesday was a full day as we not only went to Gold Dredge No. 8, but after panning for gold there, were treated to a cruise on the Chena river on a large stern-wheeler to see a slice of Fairbanks life, the earliest history of the Chena Indians, and also some history of Alaska and the first Nations peoples !

This is a blog about the WTAP/Holiday Vacations trip to Alaska in June 2013.  It is NOT a news story, but personal notations, stories and observations by me, and doesn't reflect the opinion of anyone else.

My what a busy day in Fairbanks, along with 88 degree temps or more!  However said that Alaska was cold, damp and rainy, is not aware of the semi-arid climate that allows radical temperature swings to -40 below and 90+ above!

This is the land of the mid-night sun, where due to the proximity of the aortic circle, as we ride the spinning globe, the sun never rises in a high arc, but travels a circle and only barely dips below the horizon for about two hours a night. As a result, the skies never darken, but go to twilight, and then brighten again.

In past days, when staying at a hotel where there are dual curtains, the travel director would pass out clothespins to hold the drapes shut, so we could get some shut eye.  I awoke promptly at 5 a.m. local time when either someone's alarm went off, or it was time to get up (and my body clock had gone off!)

I am still jet lagged!

We rode the bus out to the new operation of a working gold mine, where we were shown the history of the Alaska gold boom and bust, and the various methods of removing gold. We were also allowed to pan for gold flakes after being issued our own bag or dope and sat at a water trough.  I recovered six dollars in flakes, and my wife, 18 dollars.... amazingly enough, the value of most people's haul was $24, and we were encouraged to buy lockets in which to display our new-found wealth.  Only a few ever got higher amounts... like $49 dollars or so.  Some of us dug up the spilled gravel from the bottom of the trough to sift through again, and picked up a couple more dollars of flakes to use.

Next, we also heard the history of the Alaskan Oil pipeline, which makes an appearance at the entrance of Gold Mine Dredge #8, rising above the land and acting as the life blood of Alaska economy.  It is a federal crime to mess with the pipeline in any fashion, and all gunfire within 5 miles of the pipeline is a crime, with severe penalties.

After returning by motor coach to Fairbanks, we moved the Discovery center, and had a family style Alaskan Lunch of beef stew, Cheddar beer soup, or pasta noodle salad and sour-doe bread rolls, unsweetened tea or water.

Then we boarded the huge triple -decker Discovery III stern-wheeler for a trip down the river and through yesteryear, as we watched float planes land and take off, observed the architecture of homes, the history of paddle boats, the change in river systems as two rivers join, and then an informative trip through a First Nations Alaskan Indian village, complete with furs, fish wheel, Reindeer, sled dogs, and huts.

Upon returning from this all afternoon event, we returned to our Marriott Hotel, freshened up and went down to the lobby to join others in quest of an evening meal. We walked two blocks away and marveled at a full billboard on the side of an apparent TV station that said "Looking For Love Again" and we concluded that it must be a promotion for "The Bachelorette" or something similar. There was no network, station ID or other identifying marks.

When we got to "Big Daddy's Barbecue", we discovered then had NO air conditioning, and it was quite hot and uncomfortable inside, despite it being a Food Channel/Discovery channel favorite. So we walked partway back to an Italian Pasta restaurant and dropped in on them...14 people seeking seating together.  On the second floor terrace, we proceeded to enjoy good company, good pasta, and conversation about what I had missed in the prior four days. There were tall tales, funny stories, and remembrances of past trips.

And, we started casually talking about what/where we might like to go in the future.  We identified interests in Hawaii (specifically Kauai) and also a railroad trip to Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Glacier Bay area, and perhaps a Californian trip up the coast to Crater Lake.  But there are so many factors, they are all just pipe dreams at this point.  Several people were in favor of a no-fly, all rail or motor coach trip within the USA in addition to a major trip to an overseas destination. But this was all pie-in-the-sky.

We talked about news from home, the weather and how terrific the clear skies and high temperatures have been so far.  Everyone agrees that the trip has been lovely so far.... except...

Mosquitoes were bad around Denali...

The sky doesn't darken at night...making sleeping difficult.

The lack of A/C in the area is sometime apparent.  It's hot, but with low humidity!

And the presence of nightlife, possibly criminal or drug related, on the streets of Fairbanks "after dark" has fascinated some of us who walked the streets or were looking down from on high in the night.

But these are minor annoyances when we are so thoroughly engaged in the education, entertainment, history and adventure of Fairbanks.

Tomorrow: The North Pole, so we must get an early start.  See you then!

PS: The group has posted even more photos from our entertainment and adventures on Scene Everywhere, and you might just recognize a few of your friends in far away places having loads of fun!

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