Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska

Three of us were supposed to leave the Seattle Tacoma Airport around 1:30 PM on the third. Three more were to leave at 9:10 PM on the third. The earlier flight ended up leaving 10 minutes before the later flight , arriving roughly around the same time in Fairbanks Alaska.

There were too many of us to fit in the hotel shuttle, so we had to split up causing over half of us to arrive at the hotel very early in the morning on Saturday/today.

I slept and had dreams, but I didn’t feel like I was well rested when I got up to meet everyone for the continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The restaurant offered really bad scrambled eggs, over cooked breakfast sausage, some cold cereal, milk, toasted English muffins, and some fruit and yogurt. The best thing was the fresh pancakes that were made when you pressed a start button and after a couple of minutes to nicely hot pancakes came out the end onto your plate.

After breakfast, four of us decided to try to walk to the wildlife refuge that was on the map not far from our hotel. It turns out that the map kind of lied… It wasn’t the refuge but the office that managed the refuge. We ended up splitting up and I went with Kathy to the Museum of the North using Lyft.

We arrived at the museum as the sun was coming up and could see the beautiful mountains in the distance. The museum itself looks kind of modern from the outside. We opted to pay the five dollars extra to see the movies although we only saw the first one which started a few minutes after we arrived. It explained all about the Northern lights and how they were created . I highly recommend watching this movie if you ever visit the museum… It was very informative. After the movie, we reviewed the various pieces of artwork from Alaska natives and residents . The coolest thing I saw, was a real woolly mammoth skull with the tusk attached! There was also a real woolly mammoth femur bone. There were also mastodon tusks, though I could not tell the difference between a mastodon and a woolly mammoth.

Using Lyft again, we headed to Pioneer Park for the holiday bazaar. I got a few gifts to put away for friends for Christmas. We also ate lunch there. There were a lots of vendors selling all kinds of arts and crafts from jewelry, to paintings, to T-shirts, to beaver mittens.

We used Lyft a third time to head back to the hotel so we could take a nap before dinner and are picked up to head to the Northern lights viewing area of our tour.

By the way, transportation like Lyft isn’t widely used in Fairbanks so there is no variable-rate according to traffic. Nor do they have the shared rides which keep costs lower. Between the three trips I spent $41.

We were picked up around 9pm for the Northern lights viewing tour. The drive to a private home took about 40 minutes. We stayed 5 hours, but the lights didn’t come out. Even still, our host was really nice, telling us all kinds of stories.

On the drive back to the hotel, we saw two moose with the use of a spotlight. Further along, we nearly hit two more that were crossing the highway. I thought for sure we were going to hit at least one of them, we were that close…within inches! Though we started sliding, Jason did a great job of keeping control of the van.

I didn’t get to sleep until about 4 AM after our tour of the northern lights that we didn’t get to see. I woke up around 7:30 to use the bathroom and decided to throw on some clothes and go downstairs and grab some pancakes and bring them back to the room, with the idea of going back to sleep. I never did go back to sleep.

Everybody met in the lobby at 10:45 for a tour of the city. The tour itself wasn’t that great and we didn’t get a lot of details about Fairbanks. The best part of the tour was stopping at a viewpoint to see the Alaska pipeline. I didn’t really have interest in the pipeline, however, with the birch trees in the snow and nice stream it was very serene looking. We also stopped at the large animal research center which was close, but we could see some musk ox laying on the ground.

After the tour, the driver dropped everyone but me off at Pioneer Park for them to do some shopping. Since I was there yesterday I didn’t want to do it all over again. They also plan to walk 3 miles along the river back to the hotel and I didn’t have proper hiking boots for that sort of a walk. I knew my feet would have been killing me if I had join them on that endeavor. So I got dropped off at the hotel a block from the one I’m staying in. The restaurant was open for lunch where our hotel’s restaurant didn’t open until 3 PM. The lunch itself was really good . There were a bunch of men watching football in the restaurant and one was spouting off about the football players and their protest and yada yada … And I was very pleased when younger guy piped in and defended them and said he was in the army for 14 years and they had every right to protest in that way. The other guy, he was a loudmouth, but did thank the army guy for his service and shut up after that. I told my waiter that I had been in the Air Force for 15 years and so he comped my drinks with my lunch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking short naps and catching up on the rest that I lost from the previous night. I did stop at a gift shop and the other hotel prior to coming back to my room though and found a few gifts for Christmas. Tonight, all of us went to a Thai restaurant for dinner. It was really good and I was glad that we went to it.

The shuttle driver came back for us and picked us up to take back to our hotel, and on the way we convinced her to stop at the liquor store so we could pick up some booze. Our plan is to try to see the lights again tonight since it won’t be as cloudy. But, since we had a lot of dead time last night, we decided a little booze was in order for this try. The other women with me are so funny and had me cracking up to where I thought I was going to choke from laughing. One woman was doing Trump impersonations she sounded so good even the shuttle driver was really cracking up!

Jason, of Alaska Aurora Adventures, picked us up for night two to try and see/photograph the northern lights. Since we didn’t see anything last night, he gave us a 50% discount tonight. Only five of us took advantage of his offer (the other three stayed in at the hotel).

We didn’t see the northern lights again, but we did practice some night photograph. I got a few good shots of his stable, horse barn and snow covered trees using a high ISO, large aperture and a shutter speed of 10 seconds. It made it appear as if it were twilight rather than pitch black. The only problem was that the horses didn’t stand still for 10 seconds, so in some shots, their heads are a bit ghosted (as well as Jason as he moved around giving the horses hay to eat at 2am).

The drive back to the hotel was uneventful this time. I couldn’t imagine trying to drive on black ice highways (which is normal) in the winter…it would really stress me out!

Until I got to sleep, it was another 4am to bed morning.

I slept until around 9:30am, starving and needing to find food, since the hotel stopped survey breakfast at 9am.

After getting dressed, I went over to the Westward Hotel and had breakfast in the Red Lantern since they opened at 10am. It was an ok breakfast, but definitely better than the continental breakfast at my hotel!

After breakfast and a walk back to my hotel (taking photos as I walked), I decided to splurge and pay for a shuttle to take me to the North Pole and the Santa Claus House. I wanted to be able to tell my grand-daughters that I had visited the North Pole and Santa’s house since they still believe in him. I ordered letters to be sent to them with a trademark “Santa’s Official Mail” seal and a genuine North Pole postmark. I’m sure some people would be in heaven shopping there, but all I saw was more junk made in China that I didn’t need and was too expensive. I also got to see and take a few pictures of Santa’s reindeer.

After we left the Santa Claus House, the shuttle driver drove me along the main street of the North Pole, including the official marker of the North Pole.

When I got back to the hotel, I only had about an hour to kill before heading to the airport. There were three others in my party that were on the same flight. Once again, I splurged and upgraded my seat to first class, wanting to be comfortable on the fight home. Plus, I knew I’d have a hot dinner in first class, versus a fruit and cheese plate in coach. The airline served me braised beef, tortillas, a corn & black bean salsa, and a side salad.

My flight landed around 10:30pm and my nephew picked me up at the airport and took me home. Until I unpacked, did my laundry and got to bed, it was nearly 1am. But, since I work for myself, I decided to play hooky and take the day off, so I slept in until 9:30am.

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