Coming to Alaska: Believe it or not, I can read
River Boat Discovery landing post
Contents
  1. My first time in Alaska
  2. Traveling the Fairbanks metropolitan area
  3. In Alaska the railroad crosses the highway
  4. North Pole, Alaska is a real city
  5. What Fairbanksan do for entertainment
  6. My first Fairbanks friendship
  7. Party talk

My first time in Alaska

In June 2000, I came to Alaska for the first time in my life. After an intensive week of three days of job 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 18 years old 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. All information I was given about her was she doesn’t look like an Alaskan. What’s that supposed to mean? How does an Alaskan look like or what is an Alaskan look? What makes someone not look like an Alaskan?

Traveling the Fairbanks metropolitan area

In the morning, I went to the Farmer’s market. Then I decided to do some sightseeing. 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 into 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. I had imagined the pipeline in fact to be much bigger in diameter than it really is (see photo).

trans-alaska pipeline hidden in the woods
Trans Alaska pipeline. The funny “horns” serve to provide cooling in summer and heating in winter.

In Alaska the railroad crosses the highway

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 while driving the highway, with a sudden I saw a sign railroad crossing sign! The railroad actually crossed the highway like a sidetrack railroad crosses a minor country road somewhere in countryside in Europe!

United States Post Office in North Pola Alaska "P8080298.jpg" by Dave Malkoff is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
United States Post Office in the city of North Pole, Alaska, which is part of the Fairbanks metropolitan area. See the candy cane behind the sign. “P8080298.jpg” by Dave Malkoff is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When approaching North Pole, things got even more weird. Street light poles in the form of candy canes. Street names like Santa Claus Road, St. Nicholas Drive. Tourist trap was my first thought, and I turned around at the next possibility. North Pole, Alaska is a real city. #Alaska #funfacts Click To Tweet

What Fairbanksan do for entertainment

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 site 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 riverboats.

Riverboat Discovery landing post
Collage showing from bottom right against the clock’s rotation the souvenir store and Susan Butcher gallery, the landing place with the riverboat Discovery II in the center, and the view out of the window of Discovery II onto the stern wheel of the Discovery III

My first Fairbanks friendship

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. Black dress pants with a white shirt, silk scarf, well chosen accessories, high heels, pink nail polish, pink gemstone ring and pearls. She was the best dressed woman that I had seen since setting my feet onto the ground after deboarding the plane at Fairbanks International Airport four days ago. Of course, we immediately had a connection and the 20 minutes drive in her metalic purple car was not awkward at all. Fashion united. It bridged the age gap.

mature style blogger in fall work outfit with cardigan and wrap dress

older woman in fall work outfit

style over 40 woman in leopard print dress
Outfit details: DvF leopard print wrap dress worn as skirt, Isaac Mizrahi cardigan, BGBD belt, Camel bag (all own), and Musse & Cloud sandals c/o Coolway

Party talk

At the party, someone asked how I had spent the day. “Oh, nothing special. I just explored the town” I replied. “How?” “Just criss-crossing, 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 stared 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 stared 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 disbelief. “How did you know about it” he asked. “Believe it or not,” I replied, ” I can read.” The guy stared at me like being hit by a bus, emptied the other half of his glass again in one shot and went for a second.

When you like funny stories about coming to Alaska you may enjoy reading about house hunting, or how we succeeded in buying a car without having a credit score.

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Photos if not noted otherwise: G. Kramm

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