Sunday, June 27, 2010

Part VI: Enjoyment

The day after your birthday is usually met with the same enthusiasm as the day after Christmas, but not in this case. My housing needs were met and the rest of the week was open to exploration.
What should we do first? Well, when you live a few miles away from North Pole, Alaska chances are good that you will go and pay Santa a visit. SANTA! I was having flashbacks to Will Ferrell screaming that name at the top of his lungs while dressed as an elf. How would we know which house was his?
A giant statue of Santa wielding his iconic list greeted us as we drove up. Who could resist? Reindeer were nestled all snug under spruce trees until they heard the familiar sound of feed being deposited into their troughs. I watched as they pranced away with a flash, but was distracted by an all too familiar jolly laugh.
I turned my head quickly just in time to see a large man disappear inside. Could it be? It didn’t take much to convince me to go inside. Every form of Christmas decoration was there by our sides. Then we all dispersed in different directions throughout the store. This place was the ultimate decoration superstore!
Garlands, ornaments, and shiny glass balls were piled high from wall-to-wall. There were even enough North Pole shirts to stuff a narwhal! My parents and I convened on the same spot when suddenly we were greeted by nobody but the Big Man himself. My mother melted and turned into an eight-year-old girl again. She said, “Hello, Santa,” with a sheepish grin.
He was very kind and down to earth, but what surprised me more than his girth was his knowledge of where we lived! After all he is Santa Claus, but wow! He knew everything about my hometown as well as my other home in Waco, TX. I thought perhaps he was from Texas, but he proceeded to do the same with a couple from Kansas.
After becoming believers, we paid for our merchandise, and I mailed my postcards (they get a nice postmark from Santa’s House). We then drove a little ways down the street to visit the Knotty Shop (not sleazy). This store had a wonderful pine smell and some very unique gifts. It was here that I purchased a nice Ulu knife, perfect for my new cabin.
On our way back we went to one of the many drive-thru coffee stands (recommended highly), and then went to eat at the Pump Station with Heidi.
For writing this I hope you may not kill me on sight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Part V: Denali

Friday, June 25, 2010

Part III: The Hunt For Someplace Nice

The train pulled into the station amidst the lowering smoke-stained sun. The wild fire season had come early to Fairbanks.

I picked up our luggage as my dad cleverly grabbed the only cab waiting at the train station. Our cab (mini-van) pulled into the Best Western after a rather short drive. The place was new and still had that new carpet smell as well as sticking doors and “green” staff. We made the best of it, though. Night time equated to me shutting the hotel curtains, turning off the lamp on the nightstand, and saying, “good night!”

The sun sets late during the Alaska summers, if at all. Waking up looked very similar to going to bed, but we rose ready to compete at the Continental Breakfast Olympics. Fire-fighters from all
over were bunked up at our hotel (many wildfires), and getting to the breakfast before them was our up-most priority. Some days were more successful than others, I’m afraid.

Our second most priority was to find me a place to live. Easier said than done, right? My parents and I went up to the University of Alaska campus to check the bulletin boards. I had already picked up some leads earlier from wading through the murk that is Craigslist (Creepslist?), but felt more comfortable with ads geared towards students like myself.

The perfect place was not found until the day of my birthday. A local ad in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner Classifieds started it all. After a visit and subsequent paperwork, I was the proud owner (renter) of a two bedroom dry log cabin in the woods. The location, being only three miles from campus, was a nice perk as well.

After the cabin business was complete, my parents and I went down to the Sourdough Cafe for a little celebration dinner, both for the cabin and my apparent birth. It was a turning point in the trip for us. No more would we have to wonder whether or not I could find a place to live. The stress-cloud was lifted, and we slept well that night knowing that the rest of the trip was for our enjoyment.

Part IV: Enjoyment

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Part II: Heading To Fairbanks

Arriving to the train station early was my dad’s idea, but even he underestimated how early we would get there. Either our driver knew the ropes well or the front desk lady drives slowly.

The morning light filled the small, quaint train station with a warm light that reflected off of the polished wooden benches and onto the detailed ceiling. We watched travelers saunter in as the time rolled on steadily towards our departure. I had never been on a real train before (just those things big cities call trains), and never first class!

The front car of the blue and yellow train was reserved for us Gold Star people (fancy-pants). The second story was the seating quarters, which included a bar, open-air deck, and a clear bubble ceiling. The bottom of the car was where the bathrooms and dining room were. I chose to spend much of my time out on the open air deck with my camera. I was about to find out that this was to be prime real estate for many reasons.

As with most adventures, things began to chug along quite nicely. The scenery was fantastic, from the jagged mountain peaks to the braided-meandering river crossings. Trees were a nice touch as well. What was not a nice touch was an Indian family located a few seats back and to the right of us. Their little girl, who had to have been three or four, was a brat of a child.

Great loud and strange wailings continued out of her mouth for eight hours, greatly annoying everyone in the train car. The creature even drove the nice New Zealand couple to drink excessively. Now, I am not usually bothered by a little bit of fussing as long as the parents are trying their best to silence the child. These people did NOTHING! Not even their extended family, who was with them, would provide aid.

I missed most of the screaming child action since I was out on the open-air deck part of the train car, and could not hear much. Only when the child came outside did I come inside, except for the lure of the dining car. The food on the train was wonderfully well-prepared and flavorful. I dined on buffalo burgers for lunch and salmon corn chowder in the evening.

When the train stopped in Denali National Park so did the screaming. The Indian couple left the train. Everyone on-board felt and looked more at ease. Even the New Zealand couple had ceased their drinking binge, and promptly went to sleep. I came in and relaxed with a nice book in my seat while the wilderness of Alaska quietly sped past. We spent the next four hours in silence with only slight interruption from the staff narration.

As we rolled into Fairbanks, I saw the University of Alaska, my future home, for the first time. I thought about this introspectively, said goodbye to the staff, and exited the train.

Part III: The Hunt For Someplace Nice

Monday, June 21, 2010

There and Back Again: A Cheechako's Tale Part I

Hello Outsiders!
Well, as most of you know, I went up to Alaska for the first time for a little recon. It was amazing to say the least! I thoroughly enjoyed my time up there, and I have much to say about the experience.
I packed my bags last night pre-flight, zero hour two p.m...
After the six hour flight, I found myself in a land of sea and mountains, Anchorage. The air was surprisingly cool and sweet-smelling. The sun was still out (it would not go away until the flight home) and my parents and I were ready to stretch our legs. We walked along Lake Hood which happened to be the largest float plane sea base in the world.
We would not spend too much time in Anchorage, however. The next morning, we took a shuttle along the Seward Highway up to the port-city of Whittier. I must say that our driver was awesome and a great tour guide. He looked, talked, almost was LOST - Frank LapidusFrank Lapidus.
The drive was fantastic, and soon we found ourselves in the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America. Its one way! Whittier wasn't the most exciting town ever. 85% of its 180 residents live in a condominium that once housed US troops.Begich Tower This was not why we were in Whittier, though. We wanted to get on our turbo charged catamaran! The Klondike Express to be precise. Let me tell you, this boat hauls!
In no time we were cruising at 42 knots (50 mph) over the sparkling blue water. We went across wide open waters and into intimate channels lined with forest and mountains. Once we got into Prince William Sound, it was on! Glaciers everywhere! Not to mention rafts of sea otters. There were also some Harbor Seals and pups flopped up on icebergs. The air was quite chilly, and a good coat would be advised for those who do not do well in the cold. The finale was getting within a couple hundred yards of Surprise Glacier and watching it calve (chunks breaking off). They hauled an iceberg onto the deck, broke it up, and used the ice to make margaritas. I had to have one! It was tasty and a unique experience. We got back late, ate at Gwennies Old Alaska Restaurant, and went to bed.
Part II: Heading to Fairbanks

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whoa! Look At That!


Yes, the site has a new look and name. What do you think about it?

Comments, comments, comments!!