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Posts Tagged ‘Fairbanks’

Day 70

August 9, 2010 5 comments

Location: Fairbanks, AK

It was so nice to have a home to stay in for the first time since Vancouver.  Ericka hosted me along with her boyfriend and some other travelers, and it was fun to swap stories of their lives on the road, in addition to hearing about Alaska from people who live there.  We hit the hay by 2AM or so, and I got some great sleep on a foam mattress she offered (after sleeping in the car, sleeping on a foam mattress is like sleeping on clouds…so comfortable).  Big thanks to Ericka.  This was my first experience couchsurfing, and it was a good one.

The next morning I was invited to join them in a canoeing trip, but I had to pass as there was some personal business I needed to attend to, in addition to seeking out new headlights.  By noon or so I had left Ericka’s to find some kind of mechanic.  The Mazda dealership in town had a service area, but that was closed on Saturdays.  I did end up finding a Jiffy Lube/Quick Fix it place, and the mechanics told me they could make an attempt at replacing the headlights.  They were able to replace the driver’s side one, but the passenger side they could not as it would involve taking off parts of the headlight unit they were not comfortable with.  OK, better one headlight than none, right?  I resolved to continue to drive during the day, and I would find a Mazda place down in Anchorage that could replace the passenger side headlight.

Hung out at a coffeeshop for a while and took advantage of the free WiFi.  A big thing I have to take care of is booking my tickets for a trip I’m taking in October to Nepal and Japan.  Not the easiest itinerary to figure out, as there are a lack of direct flights.  Soon I’ll have that squared away, though, and be in Pokhara, Nepal with Lucky Monk.

I also decided to splurge a bit and booked a hotel for the night in Fairbanks.  That way I could have a desk to work at, as well as take advantage of things like a fitness center and pool.  I hung out there a while, and then around 9PM headed towards the fairgrounds in Fairbanks.  I just happened to be in town while the annual fair was taking place.

Fairgounds around 10PM. Still a lot of daylight left

I had a good time hanging out at the fair.  I’m not big on rides, but I do like sampling all the different food at fairs.  I had a spicy “reindeer dog.”  Hit the spot.

"Denali Creampuffs." Very good

Great time at the fair, and only $10 admission, too.  Eventually made my way back to the hotel, and got some sleep.  The next day would be one of the most anticipated days of this trip – visiting Denali National Park.

joe

Day 69: Dreams realized

August 7, 2010 20 comments

Finally arrived

Location: Fairbanks, AK

Miles Driven: 610

Total Miles: 17,068

Well, as you can see in the picture above, I finally made it to Alaska.  Over 17,000 miles since leaving Acworth, Georgia…I’m finally here.  Feels great, and it’s pretty surreal.

Now that was a picture taken earlier this afternoon, but there was a lot of driving before that photo (and after), so let’s go back to the morning when I was in Whitehorse.

I’ll readily admit I’m not the handy-est of people.  My skills with a car are limited to changing tires and jumping batteries.  So when I realized I needed to replace two headlight bulbs, I was hopeful I could get someone at the NAPA Auto Parts store to give me a hand.  See, my car owner’s manual was not incredibly helpful.  In the section entitled “replacing headlight bulbs” it said:  Be sure to visit an authorized Mazda technician…  Not the biggest of helps there.  So I got to the NAPA store shortly after it opened, and checked with the mechanic dude that was working there.  He was real kind, but admitted he’s never been under the hood of a Mazda before…and after a quick look inside realized there was more to take apart then your typical bulb change.  My experience was limited to changing bulbs on an old Mercury Topaz years ago, and I recall little to disassemble in that operation.  Not the same here, it appeared.  The mechanic suggested I hit up a Mazda dealership in Fairbanks, and not to worry about the law where you need to keep your lights running during the day.  “You’re a tourist, you’re fine…hell half of the tourists don’t even know the law.”

An added bonus I didn’t think about…what better place for your headlights to run out than in these northern latitudes.  In Whitehorse, there was still daylight the previous night after 10PM.  Daylight will last even longer when I’m up in Alaska.

So I was in the car and got back on the Alaska Highway, heading northwest towards Fairbanks.  I had about 600 miles ahead of me, and it seemed a bit daunting, especially after all the driving I had done since the start of the week.  But it actually went by quite smoothly.  The nice scenery certainly helps there.

It’s difficult to make progress driving when you’re distracted by all this spectacular scenery.  I found myself pulling over quite a bit for some nice views.

For some reason I had a good amount of energy, and outside of the occasional gas-up and leg stretch, I was able to keep plugging away along the 600 mile route.

Kluane Lake

Around 3PM I was approaching the Canada/Alaska border.  There was a rest area just 20 miles outside where I stopped.  Another clear blue Canadian body of water – Pickhandle Lake.

Before I knew it, I was at the border.  The “Welcome to Alaska” sign was just before Customs, so I got out to take some pictures.  Met a nice couple from Michigan and the man kindly took my photo (the one you see above).

Amazing to see that sign in person

I made it through Customs relatively unscathed this time.  The officer asked me a lot of questions, but I think he was more trying to see if I would trip up than he was actually paying attention to my answers.  He didn’t like my passport.  Apparently I’ve bent and warped it a bit in my travels, so it doesn’t easily scan.  As he put it, “Since your passport has been to the Himalayas and back, it can’t be read by the scanner.”  He told me I need to get a new one.  I think he just doesn’t like typing.  Also, I have never been to the Himalayas.  I was expecting my car to be searched like the previous border crossings, but he waved me through and I was on my way.

I didn’t have to drive long to see some of the beautiful country for which Alaska is known.

I experienced a bit of rain not long after crossing the border.  Can’t complain about that.  I could barely remember the last place I saw any sustained rain in my travels. I think I narrowed it down to when I was on the way to Big Bend, in Texas.  Almost a month ago.  I’ve had some great weather while touring the western US and Canada.

I arrived in Fairbanks not long after 8PM.  Still a lot of daylight remaing when I arrived.  In fact, as I write this, it’s almost 11PM and there’s still a good amount of daylight out there.  I love it.

For the first time since Will’s place in Vancouver, I have a home to stay in.  Thanks to couchsurfing.net I linked up with a Fairbanks local, Ericka.  She has been extremely generous, having offered me her couch with limited notice, in addition to hosting another couchsurfer.  She even plans to take us out for some outdoor activities…maybe go out on a lake or go hiking, even.  I’ve only communicated with her using email and text messages, but she sounds like a great person to link up with.

I’ll go to Ericka’s later tonight, get some much-needed rest (and shower), and then tomorrow is my first full day in “The Last Frontier.”

Coming here was just one goal, of many, along this trip, but was definitely the major goal.  Thanks to all my friends and family who have been so supportive along the road here.

joe