• Frank DeArmas

Fairbanks, Alaska


The Golden Heart City



Fairbanks is known as the golden heart city. After a long and hard drive up the Alaskan highway, and a one night stop in Tok, I think we were all a little worn out. The excitement of reaching Delta Junction, earning our end of the Alaskan Highway pin, was wearing out. Even passing North Pole, Alaska, just a few miles before Fairbanks, was not enough to wash away our weariness as we finally pulled into town.


 

Picture courtesy of USAF


Guarding our Country

The first thing you notice as you're driving into town is a big Air Force base. This was Eielson Airbase and I for one always get a thrill to see those sleek fighter jets.


This truly is our first line of defense if a bad actor decides to threaten us. These men and women are ready to take to the air quickly to defend us. I'm sure you have all heard news reports of close fly bys from Russian Jets and also about China's more aggressive stand.


Also as an Army vet, I would be remiss not to mention Fort Wainwright, which is also near Fairbanks. It’s hard duty up here, given the weather and the distances from their homes, so I for one am very thankful to them.


Moving on too Fairbanks proper, this town has a lot to offer a tired traveler. There was a Costco, Fred Meyer’s (that’s a Kroger store), and just about every other store you can think of and we went to several to restock. Once we got over being back in civilization, we started to get into the history of this place.

 


North Pole Alaska


Ok, you can't drive to Alaska and not stop at the North Pole, North Pole, Alaska. This is a cute little town outside of Fairbanks. It's really just a few buildings, but it is a real place, and it was fun to see the reindeer. Having a home in Michigan we have of course gone to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth Michigan. Now Bronner's is much bigger than the North Pole shop, but it's not in the North Pole lol. Both of these places are fun to visit and if you can't go to the North Pole, Bronner's is a good substitute.


 




Riverboat Discovery and Sled dog demonstration


Now Fairbanks exist today because a trading post was started on the Tanana River when they could not go up any further. And folks that's how you get the largest northern most city in Alaska. That and a little thing like the discovery of gold. Yup, this area is all wrapped up in the resources that the land provided from Fur, to Gold, to Oil and Timber. Alaska was and is rich in natural resources.


While here, we got to ride on the paddle wheeler Discovery and see a native village as it existed not too long ago. And, knowing my love of dogs, we got to see the kennels and some of the dogs that compete in the Iditarod race. They are just amazing animals and you can see the care that they have.



It was a great day and we really learned so much. I have a lot of respect for these hardy people who call this place their home.

 




Gold Dredge tour and the Alaska Pipeline


I mentioned that Alaska has many natural resources. Gold and Oil have both made the state extremely important to a nations economy. While here we got to see a section of the Alaskan Pipeline that brings Oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez Alaska. The pipeline was built between 1975 and 1977, after the 1973 Oil crises caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States. This really is an amazing engineering feat and one that was done with minimal impact to the environment.





Oh, and did i mention gold? Well Jan and I got to pan for gold at a gold dredge site, and we found some. Well, not enough to make us rich, but it was fun!!


It was again an interesting day of learning and just having a good time. You can't ask for more than that.

 




Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum


Sometimes when you're out and about, you just run across an unexpected find. The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum was such a find. Here was a collection of beautiful cars, all in working order but three. They are kept running by an all volunteer group called Romeos, or Retired Old Men lol, These guys give their time every Tuesday to come down, work on the cars, and help explain them to us. Really cool.




 


Chena Hot Springs

We love to drive and explore in Jeep Jeep. So we decided to drive some 56 miles out to the middle of nowhere to a place called Chena Hot Springs. And it turned out to be a really nice resort where you would not expect to find one. Plus we got to drive through a national preserve with lots of little roads going into the wilderness, so for me this was a great day lol. Plus we got to eat a nice meal before driving back to the campground and also ran into some fellow travelers. Hello!!! Mellissa, Kathy, and Tom!


 

Jan’s Facts of the road


My fun facts for Fairbanks is going to be about the Northern Lights.


As everyone who knows me, the northern lights have been on my bucket list for quite a while. I always seem to miss seeing them by a day or two when going up north Michigan. Once we stayed up between 1:00 am and 3:00 am hoping to see them, the next day people posted pictures, saying they saw them around midnight. We went out too late!


So, when we saw a movie in Fairbanks stating that Fairbanks is known as one of the top places in the world to watch the spectacular natural light show, which runs from August 21 to April 21, and the aurora will be visible an average of four out of five nights. I got so excited. I went back to the RV and checked my aurora app. it said we had a 72% chance of seeing it. (It was only the beginning of August, but I was hopeful)


So, Frank and I went out at midnight to see if we could get a glimpse. We got back at 1:30 with no luck. This brings me to the next fun fact. Fairbanks has long been known as “the Land of the Midnight Sun.”


During the Midnight Sun Season which runs from April 22 to August 20 the sun never seems to set. You can wake up in the middle of the night to find the sun shining brightly. That is exactly what we found. It was still very light a


t 1:30. Below is a picture I took before going in and passing out.


Needless to say, we didn’t see the aurora but I’m optimistic that we will see it before we head home.



 

That's it for now. As always we hope you enjoyed the blog and until next time we will see you on the road!



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