Plan that Trip North (Part 2)

May 26, 2016

Planning a trip to Alaska can be akin to making a trip across the country; due to sheer distances, the analogy is true, as you will most likely travel through everything from a rainforest environment to a semi-arid desert.
When people question me about southeast Alaska, I really have to refer them to a more regional (hence more knowledgeable) source. It would be like someone in say, Kansas asking a local about Florida; they are worlds apart. Some good trip planning techniques are to segregate the land portion by flights, or waterways.

Moutains going north

Going north on the Parks Highway

Instead of backtracking one can plan their Alaska adventures in circles: Anchorage to Denali Park then Fairbanks, down to Valdez, then the Marine Highway to Whittier, Seward, Kenai, Homer, then return to Anchorage. The type of transportation between Anchorage and Fairbanks will depend upon whether one prefers a nostalgic train ride or 100 mile vistas via the road that rides the ridges for maximum views over valleys and hills.
For those looking to venture even farther north to the Arctic Circle, the car owner needs to be advised that this road is rough with lots of gravel and potholes. This will translate into the very real possibility of dings, dents and cracks in windshields. Looking at a map, it appears that a trip to the Arctic Circle (crossing the 66th degree latitude) should only take a couple of hours. Unfortunately for unsuspecting drivers, this road cannot be traversed at speeds people normally travel in the “lower ’48.” (This is a very colloquial term for the contiguous United States. ) You should plan on at least four hours one way.
Another alternative is to hire this drive. You can find many fine tour bus drivers who will point out the finer details of the terrain as well as landmarks that you might otherwise miss.


Plan that Trip North (Part 1)

January 21, 2016
northern lights above roof tops

circles of light

What should you know about traveling to Fairbanks in the winter months?

Believe it or not, March has become one of the busiest months in the year.  People from all around the world come to enjoy a wide variety of specialty winter activities:  our international ice carving competition, the northern lights, and several dog mushing competitions.

ice sculpture

Ice art competition

But you say how can I be warm then?  Not to worry.  While it seems that you might freeze in the winter months, most people come with a typical winter coat and prepare to dress with layers–long underwear, a warm long-sleeved shirt, a sweater or fleece layer and then the coat.  Similar guidelines follow for the lower body; long underwear, pants, and perhaps snow pants.  Warm boots are a good idea, particularly if you plan to stay outside and walk around the ice park, or wander outside and wait for the aurora to appear.

What about getting around?  We always recommend renting a car, because while Fairbanks is small, you will find you really won’t be able to walk around to visit the places you want to go or restaurants where you want to eat. Road conditions, generally speaking, are no worse than other places that get snow, and frankly, they may seem quite a bit better due to staying frozen or even showing bare pavement.  There is a public bus system that you may find helpful if you choose to not rent a vehicle.

What’s open then, you ask.  Lots!  You will want to visit the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, as well as the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  We have an amazing amount of talent in Fairbanks, which results in plenty of options for theatrical and music productions, and art displays.  Consider heading to one of the local coffee shops where you’ll find a wide array of local talent, happy to entertain you in just about any genre you could imagine.    Special events abound: dog sled races, concerts, downhill and cross country skiing.

What are you waiting for?  Time to get started on planning your visit–summer or winter!

 

 


Instant Winter

October 1, 2015

green grass yard and driveway

Green grass and flowers in the front of main office.

One foot of snow in less than 24 hours

12 inches of snow in less than 24 hours

Winter in Alaska has it’s challenges, and the cliche, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” can be partially true.  Three days ago, we had partly sunny skies and green grass.  Yesterday, the roads and trees are heavily laden with wet snow.  Not only were the schools closed Wednesday due to traffic dangers and electrical outages, the University even cancelled its classes to try to allow people time to regroup. According to this morning’s news, over 10,000 are still without power. The hum of generators can be heard around town in an effort to stave off the cold and offer a limited supply of electricity.

While many areas of town still are without power, we are fortunate to be in one of the grids that were unaffected by the recent outages.  Come on over: we have all those nice amenities that are so often taken for granted–heat, light and hot water–unlike half the town.  This is day two of the process.

Perhaps the excitement of the PFD deposits will brighten up locals. Today is the day that all Alaskans look forward to–the Permanent Dividend Fund hand-out. In a record amount of $2072, the local economy is booming as people come to town to shop for their carefully calculated wish list. The frenzy is almost akin to shopping at Christmas time in the malls. All that is required to receive this benefit is residency for one year. Age is no object–even babies can receive this “we do everything big –welcome to Alaska.” Some use the dividend to survive, others to celebrate. I’m still not sure where mine will go.


Who says we are behind the trend?

August 20, 2015

If there is a new trend out there in the “Lower ’48”, we who live here joke that it will take about 3 to 5 years to catch on here. It is an often stated excuse for Alaskans for being behind the times.

Finally we have been vindicated. We are AHEAD of the times in one area: coffee! Check out this article in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/18/biggest-coffee-snobs-america-alaska-not-seattle?CMP=share_btn_tw. I think my favorite line is “the most caffeinated place in the country.” Do you think we need/deserve it in Alaska?

ACRC's two ordering stations

Customers lined up inside (and out) waiting to order specialty coffee

Being a coffee lover myself (hopefully not a snob), I am thrilled. I have a collection in my wallet of a punch card for almost every coffee stand there is in Fairbanks. Don’t ask how many types of coffee beans are stored in my freezer (okay, I’ll ‘fess up: French Roast, Verano, Aria, Yrgacheffe..) Perhaps I should explain the word “coffee stand.” Along any well-trafficked road in Fairbanks there are small mobile coffee stands, with drive up windows on each side. And yes, if you are wondering, those windows do open and close whether the temperature is above 90 on a hot summer day, or below 40 below on a chilling ice foggy day. And even if you don’t believe it, there will be cars lined up, waiting for their cup of java. If your dog happens to accompany you in the car, they will offer them a doggie treat.

Then there are the local Starbucks housed inside both Fred Meyers shopping center, and both Safeways (probably so as not to discriminate shoppers loyal to either). And of course, at Barnes and Noble. So goes the corporate world. Ho hum.

Coffe stand with cars lined up at the window

Cars lined up for morning java

However,we also have great coffee, locally roasted at a couple of places–notably, my personal favorite, Alaska Coffee Roasting Company. They have evolved from a small storefront, then expanding to take over the next spot in the mall just down the hill from the University. And almost every time I stop there is a line for coffee–inside and outside at the drive through.

But, you don’t have to visit these outlets. Stop in at the Inn and we will offer you a cup of freshly brewed French Roast from Alaska Coffee Roasters. You don’t have to stop at any of the three coffee stands lined up along Geist Road and shell out $4. Ours is free.


Summer Sun and Solstice

June 27, 2015

Midnight SunLast weekend was packed with crazy events associated with the Solstice. I enjoyed the Midnight Sun run from the end of our driveway, greeting people I know, and enjoying some of the creative costumes. Last year a group dressed as the Flintstones; this year there was a group as the Wizard of Oz. The weather was a balmy 75, even at 10 at night, but the skies were clear and gorgeous. Others enjoyed the Midnight Sun baseball game (which started at 10:30 p.m. and is played without the aid of artificial light), and some folks strolled through the downtown area for the street fair, from noon last Sunday till midnight.

forest fire smoke

Hazy sky filled with smoke from fires


With the longest day of the year behind us, we are looking for clouds now; perhaps the best news is we got a little rain last night. It seems to have made the skies a little clearer, as well as visibility. The smoke has been hanging thick in the sky, bringing the air quality to the unhealthy levels we are accustomed to experiencing in the winter months due to temperature inversions blanketing the valley.
Days have slowly started to shorten by mere minutes—but it still seems like endless day—even with forest fires. I think my garden likes the ash—all the flowers and vegetable gardens are looking quite big and healthy. I’ve especially enjoyed those visits with folks who return in the summer to see old acquaintances.


Pussy Willows and Puddles

April 2, 2015

Doesn’t this sound a lot better than “break-up”?

Pussy willows

Pussy willows the last day of March

Alaskans all know that this is not the prettiest time of the year.  Here in Fairbanks,  the snow is covered with sand, dirt, and coal ash from our five coal fired plants in the area.  Large puddles splash up as cars slow to ease the mud that covers the windows and dirties the vehicle even more than the accumulation over the past few months.  Others roar through the puddles without consideration of the consequences and surprise unsuspecting pedestrians.

Mud puddle

Large mud puddles

Yet it is filled with hope, as the days rapidly grow longer, the greenhouses are putting out plugs and plants, and the snow  recedes–this year, at a very rapid rate of speed!  The box stores all carry seed packets for those industrious enough to get a head start on the short growing season.  Blogs, posts and emails are shared with the latest “how-to’s” of indoor gardening. Already we’ve been able to wash those south facing windows to let the sun shine in.  All the energy that light brings is evident, as even the most pessimistic comments on how nice it is outside.  I went for my first trip to the greenhouse to pick up some plant for my baskets.  Usually I don’t have any baskets out until May.  Yes, I am gambling; but it just feels safe. ( I can take the baskets in if we do get a sudden cold snap) Any excuse to be outdoors; let me walk the dog, patrol the parking lot, pick up the mail at the end of the driveway.  It’s just too pretty to be inside.  We, (again) broke high temperature records last week with a high of 52 degrees.  Believe it or not, that is amazing for the end of March in Fairbanks.


March Moose and Other Wild Things

March 12, 2015

Now that the trails are filled with Iditarod mushers on the way to Nome, and the Great North American is just around the corner, Alaskans reach with gusto to enjoy the final stretch of winter.

sled dogs

Sled dogs anxious to run

With all the great races in March, there are additional attractions on the more leisurely side. In this case, the occasional meandering moose that wander through the neighborhood, or even stop on the street to munch on branches.

Backyard moose

Backyard moose

How about great sunrises and sunsets?

Crisp and clear sunrise

Crystal clear sunrise

Better yet, many visitors set their sights on the northern lights.

Aurora Glow

Northern lights above the arches

Whichever kind of activity you choose this month, they are all here in our backyard, waiting for your visit.

And while it may be cold right now, we offer a warm welcome to you as you come to enjoy our wild, and not so wild attractions.