Panic in the Parking Lot

January 13, 2018

Police barricading entry to parking lots

The scene down College Road this morning looked surreal; flashing lights, packed parking lots, and people lined up outside the building. This was just 10:30 a.m. the day Sam’s Club in Fairbanks re-opened after the announcement that they would be closing the store in two weeks. Police cars blocked off entrances, cars were diverted to back entrances to avoid any crashes, and assure that people were not stealing carts from other businesses to “get to the goods” inside.

Lined up to check out

Shoppers in line to buy out Sam’s Club

I learned later that the meats (verified gone by 2 pm) were marked 50% off, and everything else in the store was going for 25% off. The lines of people outside that circled around the building (at -13 below temperatures I might add) were waiting for carts. Inside the lines were backed down aisles that weren’t that crowded even on Black Friday.  Later at 5 pm, my daughter tried going with hopes of fewer crowds, only to be turned away at the door, with the explanation being that the clerks needed to be able to check-out the existing customers before 8 pm closing time.

To understand the impact the closure of such a large box store that locals have been dependent on for 20 years is difficult unless you realize how few options exist in the interior.  The first question when ordering on-line is “how much is the shipping?”  Many private and corporate sites won’t even discuss shipping to Alaska.

The economic trickle down was evident in a conversation I had with a 30 year resident in Healy, Alaska, 250 miles south near Denali Park.  He had come to town to pick up a script from the Sam’s Club pharmacy.  His answer to the closure was to simply transfer the prescription to the newly opened pharmacy in Healy and not make the trip to town.  The outlying villages, so dependent upon “bush mail” a term that refers to transportation of goods to supply villages with groceries, will need to look for other more expensive options for their needs.

Some are talking about coaxing Costco into a store here in the interior.  As Alaskans, we will definitely find alternatives.  Maybe a long road trip to Anchorage for some; for others, it could include lots of on-line shopping.  But definitely some thinking out of the box about suppliers is in order, which doesn’t seem to be out of the norm for Alaskans.

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Seeking Light

December 30, 2017

We often get asked what it’s like in the winter. Particularly this time of year, there is concern over the lack of light. Questions like how do you stand it being dark all day? Does the sun come up? What do you do? If you can’t see, how can you drive anywhere?  Here are different views of the setting sun and rising moon from the same location at 3 in the afternoon.

clouds and sunset

Setting winter sun

Moon rising mid afternoon

Rising moon at 3

 

Winter, December in particular, is all about light. The Northern lights, Christmas trees with lights, the city sidewalks lit up, the moonlight at mid-day, and, of course, that brilliant sun right on the horizon, shining so brightly that one needs sunglasses to drive. As we come into New Year’s Eve, there are fireworks at the University. (Conversely, we don’t have much for fireworks for the fourth of July—there is just too much light to enjoy any large fireworks display)

Alaska is a land of extremes, and this excess is truly loved. We revel in the seemingly endless days of summer sun, and are awed by the long, long nights of northern lights. Summers seem to compel us to excess of activity, and the winter drives us inside to seek warmth, with perhaps the opposite effect, slowing us down somewhat.

As we move slowly toward more than just our limited three hours and forty minutes of actual sunrise to sunset, more and more visitors come to view the lights—the aurora borealis, that mystical, ethereal appearance in the sky that either spans the sky expansively, or evades illusively, coming and going as though through some whimsical algorithm. If you are planning a visit, please ‘view the best spots to see the Northern Lights‘, our printable aurora fact sheet, and visit our blog for more Alaska and aurora facts.


SOS See Our Skies

November 30, 2017
Brilliant aurora lights

Brilliant lights

Now that we actually have snow and cold, we can offer the star-struck skies and awe-inspiring aurora viewing to those who travel from around the world to see this wonder.
Pieces of advice.

link to aurora pdfCheck the best spots for Aurora viewing.

Don’t waste your sleep if it is snowing outside and clouds are low-lying. If it’s not clear, you won’t be able to see the northern lights. Look for stars; if you can see a few, then perhaps it’s worth losing sleep to stay awake and chance that skies will clear enough to see the lights.
Check the aurora forecasts—most notably, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has a website with forecasts nightly and even weekly. The website is http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. According to their website, these are the recommended sites around Fairbanks for getting away from city lights:

  • Chena Lakes Recreation Area
  • Ester, Wickersham, and Murphy Domes
  • Haystack Mountain
  • Some turnouts along the Elliot, Steese, and Parks Highways
  • Cleary Summit

If you are interested in taking pictures, (and need a little help like I do with photography skills), you might enjoy my new favorite app—aptly named “Aurora.” It will automatically adjust the settings on your phone to help you capture the faint glows in that faraway sky.
Additionally, there are many tour guides who offer to drive you to different locations where you can enjoy the warmth of their vehicle (not to mention not worry about unknown road conditions) and wait for the aurora to show up.
Even though I have lived here for fifty plus years, it is still amazing to see the aurora shimmer across the sky.


Fall Hunts

September 23, 2017

Maybe Facebook isn’t your thing (too many cute puppies and baby pictures) but it seems my friends in Alaska are posting lots of wildlife: dead or alive.

While fall can mean the changing of seasons, and time to hurry and wrap up all those things on the to-do list you’ve been putting off, for some, there is a different call of the wild:  the hunt.

Yes, it is hunting season. One of my North Slope guests was sharing with me the good news that her village had just harvested their first whale for the season. This apparently is great reason for rejoicing in the village as it will be shared by all.   Some other guests hire guides to take them out to parts unknown to see their trophy.  My brother-in-law posted “Clear Creek or bust” on his facebook page before heading north to Fairbanks to hunt a moose. And even my newest niece posted her “prize” catch of a moose.

moose pic

First moose

My husband isn’t fond of hunting for moose, but he made two trips to Chitina to try to catch some red salmon.  Two trips, because the first was a total bust:  he and a couple of fellow employees got skunked and came back empty handed.  (Water was too high, they claimed.)  The second time was slightly more successful with a few fish, but he certainly didn’t limit out.  Wouldn’t you know, a cheechako friend (that’s Alaskan for a newcomer) just posted on FB today that he and a couple other guys netted (no pun intended) 60 red salmon!

Moose crossing road

Fall moose crossing road

Then there are those who post other kinds of pictures of wildlife, like my brother; a picture of “traffic”–a moose crossing the road on the way to work.  Or the same niece with pictures of dahl sheep in Denali Park.  Fall is holding on tenaciously–fortunately for those who hunt.  And those of us who procrastinate.  Beautiful yellows on the birch trees that line the roadways.  We are enjoying no frost here yet; very unusual for the third week in September, as we usually experience frost by the Equinox run.

H  auling equipment

U  nknown parts

N   ot knowing what

T   rials and tribulations await

 

 


Fair Days

August 4, 2017

With fall comes, not only school days, but also the fair.  As July ends, and August begins, Fairbanks now has a couple of weeks of fun, food, and fantastic entertainment.  Golden Wheels Carnival is in full swing with lots of rides.  Thankfully, the weather has been cooperative.

 

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Be careful if you instill a love of fair entries into your children:  it will perpetuate!  My daughter has always enjoyed winning a ribbon or two, as well as some cash rewards, so before she ventured out for a vacation, she packed a box of fair entries and begged me to deliver them on the due date, which of course, I, as a good mother did.

The Tanana Valley Fair theme is “Raven about the Fair”.  Each day of the fair focuses on a theme as well–mining, seniors, kids, military, and this year a new one–“Think Pink”.  The dates are August 4-13.  Gates open at noon.

IMG_0519

If you enjoy admiring the handiwork of others, there are beautifully decorated cakes (this year with ravens on them, in keeping with the theme, carefully stitched quilts, intricately woven clothing–a myriad on display.  Perhaps you would like to see just how big a cabbage can grow–visit the exhibit hall for vegetables and flowers.   Then of course, there are the animals–horses, rabbits, pigs, goats, with their owners all looking to win that blue ribbon.

The midway, and oh, the food–that killer shrimp, the elephant ears, roasted corn on the cob and a myriad of other culinary delights. Vendors with the latest and greatest of gadgets, art, and health aids.   Non-stop musical entertainment from country pickin’ to rock and classic–did I mention the bungee jump?

Come on out and join us.  Run into old friends and meet some new–you are bound to find something to your liking.

 

 

 

 


Just Duckie

July 18, 2017

Rubber, real and rows of ducks appear for several months, mostly in summer, but we do have lingering ducks well into winter, even swimming on the icy waters of the Chena during November.

Here is one of the first ducks we found on our property a little over a month ago.

 

Mama with 7 ducklings

Ducklings crossing the road

As a chance meeting, I witnessed this cute parade of a mama duck with her ducklings, crossing Fairbanks Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the upcoming attraction you will spot at locations around town is the large rubber ducky advertising our crazy fun in the midnight sun over Golden Days.

 

Rubber duckie outside Sunrise coffee kiosk

Rubbie Duckie for Golden Days

This year, the Golden Days theme is “friends in cold places” (not so aptly named for this time of year, with our 70 and 80 degree weather the past few weeks). To enter, you must purchase a $5 or $10 ticket for your rubber ducky’s chance to win one of many coveted prizes, including two round trip tickets wherever Alaska Airlines flies, a Mexican or Caribbean cruise, a variety of donated prizes, and money of course. Hurry, you still have a chance at this one of many events Golden Days has to offer! Maybe you will be the next lucky duck.


Summer Start-up

May 30, 2017
Chokecherry Blossoms

Chokecherry blossoms

A waft of the heavenly scent of chokecherry trees.  The smell of freshly cut grass.  Early blooms of floral rose, stock and petunia scents abound at greenhouses.  Yes, yet another reason Alaskans live here:  summer is upon us!  On this, the eve of the last day of our three day Memorial Day weekend, our outdoor activity lists expands.

Will this be the year to try a peony in the yard?  (Particularly since the discovery that they grow very well, and have a prolonged season here in Alaska?) Or maybe this is the year to train to run in a 3, 5 or 10 k run?  How about the long awaited trip to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine?

What to plant in the garden?  Did I do too many potatoes last year?  Maybe I will try more broccoli and stagger the planting and harvesting.  But zucchini!  How will I ever keep up if I get as many as last year?  Decisions, decisions!

Camping; Is the tent gear ready?  Or should we just travel with the camper on the pick-up…(a little less work, but..)  Which weekend will I go?  If we time it right, we could go fishing too.  We could maybe slip out before the fair starts.

The fair!  Which recipe should I enter in the culinary division?  Did I finish that cross stitch?  Hey, I did those starts for cosmos from seeds–I could enter that this year for the flower show.

Remember that building project; we must lift that rental unit up before it sinks any farther in the permafrost.  I wonder if I can get some day labor to help with that project before the snow flies.

Even with the expanded hours of daylight that make us run 18 hour days, it is still difficult to get done all the things that we can only pack in during our short three months of summer.