8th July ’12 Fairbanks to North Pole to Tok
Before leaving this morning I had a fascinating chat with the lady (age 70) who owns the Motel we have been staying in and her friend who was just visiting from Eagle – a small village right up near the Yukon River. They were saying ‘y’all should come back visit us in the winter and see how we really live’ which led me to ask them what it was really like and how did they manage. Turns out they do still get some daylight in Fairbanks in winter and the average temperature is -40 degrees, they then showed me the little lines dangling down from a wire across the length of the motel and told me that’s so people staying can plug their cars in so the batteries don’t freeze.
The lady from Eagle said that from 14th September until May they are completely cut off by road (there is only a dirt road anyway) and they have to fly in and out. The coldest temperature she had ever been in was -71 degrees and they only have twilight for 3 hours a day!! They have to use dog sleds
Ho! Ho! Ho!
to get around as the fuel all freezes up. She said when she flies to Fairbanks and sees the sun it’s like a miracle.
They described how you have to get completely bundled up so no inch of flesh is exposed and wear a mask over your face to go out, otherwise you get frostbite – as lady from Eagle said her son did on his nose last winter and it turns black and if you’re not careful falls off!!!
They both said together laughing that when it’s winter you just stay inside and bake cookies! So will I be visiting in winter…. Hmmmmm, the sight of the Northern Lights is very tempting but I think the answer will have to be…. No!
Today we are driving to Tok about 200 miles along the Alaska Highway, which if you keep on going along will take you to Canada. Our first stop though was just south of Fairbanks at the town of North Pole – where it is forever Christmas! It was bizarre, the roads are all called things like Santa Claus Lane, the lampposts look like giant candy canes and the ones that don’t have large candy
Candy canes or lamposts?
canes strapped to them. There are street signs saying Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all men, Merry Christmas and other festive things. A lot of the buildings have Christmas lights on the roofs and there is a large red and white stripey North Pole.
The most unusual place is Santa Claus’s House which is a large building completely covered with Christmas pictures and scenes, there is a gigantic Santa Claus outside by the road and another huge painted one with a sleigh in front of it to have your photo taken in. Next door is the compound where the reindeer live – they were shedding their winter coats when we saw them, and were happily munching away on the grass.
Inside the house is a massive gift shop selling everything you can conceive of with a Christmas theme. Santa’s chair was there but unfortunately he wasn’t, the sign said Sunday and Monday were his rest days, which I thought was a bit off – I was looking forward to sitting on his knee! Still Christmas songs were playing non-stop which helped keep my spirits up.
When we were all festived out we carried on our merry
way…….i really do think all Alaska must definitely be quirky indeed!
We made another stop just north of Delta Junction and just past the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at Rika’s Roadhouse and Landing, which is part of the Big Delta State Historical Park. This was an interesting little place, all the buildings are now museums which you can go in and look around.
The roadhouse was built in 1909 to serve the pioneers, gold miners and travellers on the route up to Fairbanks. It was managed and subsequently owned by a Swedish lady called Rika, who must have been one hell of a woman, she built her own barn based on a Swedish design and her gardening methods were so effective they were subsequently studied by the university. She not only ran the roadhouse, cooked and produced the food but kept livestock and ran the post office out of it also.
We carried on the road, passing towering tall snow-capped mountain ranges, over a wild river, past numerous forests and small lakes. Then we passed Mukluk Land – Alaska’s most unique family visitor park, run by a couple with a passion for collecting Alaska memorabilia, where apparently you can
THE North Pole
see giant mosquitos, a giant igloo that looks like it was made out of rolled up mattresses and Santa’ spaceship!! And then suddenly we were in Tok. Tok is a loose collection of buildings that straggle along the length of the road and seems to cater for hunting and fishing trips. In the visitors centre (which had a great selection of cheap second hand books for sale and a door leading into the town library) we found a leaflet of Things to do in Tok and the only idea that didn’t involve souvenirs, shooting or fishing was – rest up ready for the rest of your journey, which kind of sums the place up!
So we checked into our Motel for the night and looks like tea will be in Fast Eddy’s restaurant which is attached to it - should be good!
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