In June 2000, I came the first time in my life to Alaska. After an intensive week of three days of interviewing I had some time to explore the town as my flight to Denver was scheduled for Sunday morning 6 am. Someone of the people I had met during the interviews had invited me over to a party he and his wife were giving on Saturday. His daughter was supposed to pick me up in the evening. I had never met her before, so I found it a bit awkward and was a bit nervous about it.
In the morning, I went to the Farmer’s market. Then I drove thru town in a systematic manner. One street from west to east. Then one blog or so north to south turning at the next major street to drive east to west. Then another blog north to south, and so on. I got caught in a dead end more than once, and drove onto base in Fort Wainwright unintended.
After having explored the major part of Fairbanks this way, I decided exploring the outskirts. I drove out north towards Fox, passing the pipeline view point and then returned via Gold Stream back to College and Fairbanks. I was pretty disappointed when I saw the pipeline for the first time as I had imagined it to be much bigger in diameter.
Then I drove towards North Pole, a city southeast of Fairbanks. I found this sort of funny to be in the north driving south to North pole. It was first a four lane road with two lanes in both directions. I didn’t think much of it because that’s how highways look like, right? Then with a sudden I saw a sign railroad crossing. The railroad actually crossed the highway like a sidetrack railroad crosses a minor country road somewhere in countryside in Europe.
When approaching North Pole, things got even more weird. Street light poles in the form of candy canes. Tourist trap was my first thought, and I turned around at the next possibility. Back in Fairbanks, I decided to explore what people do in Fairbanks. Thus, I entered the Bentley Mall and explored the stores. You didn’t have to be a fashionista to see that Fairbanks isn’t a place for clothes shopping on side except you look for outdoor clothing. Arts and crafts seemed to be a big thing. I never had seen such a big crafts store even when I lived in upstate New York or in Colorado. And anything related to making music seemed to sell well. There was also a small book store. Last I went to the River Discovery landing post to see the river boats.
In the evening I waited for the young woman in the hotel lobby. A beautiful tall blonde entered and it was clear it was his daughter. She was the best dressed woman that I had seen since setting my feet onto the ground after deboarding the plane four days ago. Of course, we immediately had a connection and the 20 minutes drive was not awkward at all. Fashion united. It bridged the age gap.
At the party, someone asked how I had spent the day. “Oh, nothing special. I just explored the town” I replied. “How?” “Just crisscrossing, driving the roads in a systematic north south, west east pattern. Then I researched what people like to do here in Fairbanks.” “How would you do that?” The guy starred at me like I were weird. “Going to a mall and see what they sell. Stores only have merchandise people buy. Thus, you can conclude what people do.” “So, what do Fairbanksans do?” Now his face changed and he starred at me like having seen a monster. “Knitting, quilting, everything related to arts and crafts, hiking, fishing, playing music, they seem to be foodies, …” “What else did you do?” he interrupted me and downed half of his glass of red wine in just one shot. “Finally, I spent some time at the river watching the Riverboat Discovery going to berth” I replied. His face turned again, now to a face expressing disbelieve. “How did you know about it” he asked. “Believe it or not,” I replied, ” I can read.” The guy starred at me like being hit by a bus, emptied the other half of his glass again in one shot and went for a second.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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