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Published: September 19th 2015
Today we headed on the most touristy excursion of the entire trip, but it also proved to be one of the best. Gold Dredge #8 ran as a working gold dredge until 1959, but is now open for tours.
We stopped on the way to walk up to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The pipeline runs underground, but travels overground in areas with permafrost or prone to seismic activity and you can walk right up it in places where it runs alongside the road. The gold dredge tour starts by an exposed stretch of pipe as well, and we were treated to an interesting talk about the building and maintance of the pipeline. By this point three coaches of tourists had joined us, and we climbed aboard a jaunty yellow train that would take us to the dredge. Before we set off, we were entertained by Alaska's ambassador for country music, Earl Hughes. Apparently he had once opened for Johnny Cash, and got the whole train to join in with a rousing rendition of Ring of Fire.
At the dredge, we were given a small bag of 'pay dirt' and instructed in the fine art of panning for gold. Sadly neither of us proved to be particularly skilled at this, with Daisy netting just $13 worth of gold, and Laura refusing to even get her findings weighed. Coffee, hot chocolate and cookies were laid on, and proved very welcome considering that this was another cold day (honestly we're bundled up in coats and hoodies in every photo) and we had the opportunity to explore the dredge by ourselves. We also had a nice chat with Earl himself, who invited us to see him play later that evening. Daisy even got a fist bump from the man, leaving her only two degrees seperated from Mr Cash himself. Although this excursion was a last minute add to our itinerary, it was definetly one of the most fun.
Next stop was the museum located at the Univerity of Alaska in Fairbanks. The university is set in the hills above Fairbanks and the view over the valley was worth the drive alone. The exhibits ranged from archaeology, native art and clothing, natural history, oil and even space exploration and there were collections of modern and local art. It wasn't quite as good as the Alaska Museum in Anchorage but it was interesting none the less.
Not wanting another quiet evening, we headed downtown to look for somewhere for dinner and after an unplanned stop at Fort Wainwright Army Base we stumbled across Big Daddy's BBQ, which has appeared on Guy Fieri's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' and serves the 'northermost southern food in the USA.' Laura opted for the pulled pork sandwich, while Daisy went for the southernmost combination on the menu of chicken with collared greens, macaroni cheese and Texas toast.
After the day's excitement, it was back to the hotel to make use of the guest laundry as we were both low on clean clothes. Exploring requires a lot of clean socks!
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