Freestyle Day in Fairbanks, Alaska

Day Distance:  Only 40 ish Miles 🙂

What a feeling it was to be able to kick back in a hotel bed this morning and not be hurriedly rushing to get ready and get out on the road for a long day of travel.  Today was our intermission in between hectic to-and-fro drives from the Lower 48 to Alaska.  Here’s a newspaper headline I’m not used to seeing back home.

fairbanks_paper

Once I finally dragged myself outdoors, I was pleased to learn that right next to our hotel was a Denny’s.  But this wasn’t just any Denny’s.  This, my friends, is the “Northernmost Denny’s In the World.”  The sign says so!

northernmost_dennys

The ultimate omelet hit the spot.  Finally some comfort food I’m used to after these crazy days on the road.

ultimate_omelete

While the town of Fairbanks doesn’t have a ton to offer in terms of riveting attractions – it’s largely just a community of friendly hard workers who are here and who make the most of living in a place that’s so rugged and remote – we still enjoyed getting out for a little informal self-guided tour of the community.  Our first stop was not very “Alaska” in nature, but I had to find a Starbucks so I could purchase a souvenir mug for my friend Jon back home in Phoenix.  We found one located inside a supermarket and I did my duty as a tourist by picking one up.

starbucks_2

Just so I could show Jon exactly where I bought him that mug, I took a screen shot of my location:

starbucks

Eight miles north up the Steese Highway from downtown Fairbanks, we visited a section of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline (formely, Alyeska Pipeline).  This massive system of oil-pumping infrastructure stretches 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.  Do any of my readers remember the historic Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989?  That’s when an oil tanker bound for Long Beach struck a reef and spilled 38 million gallons of crude oil over the next couple of days.  I was very young at the time, but I remember hearing about it.  Oil is very big business up here.

tyson_pipeline

The Mazda and Acura with the oil line in the background.

pipeliune

The next stop was to drop off Jason’s 2004 Mazda for an oil change at Kendall Mazda of Fairbanks.  The service people marveled a bit that Jason’s 6 had traveled all the way from New Mexico over the last 6 days.  I took a minute to wander through the showroom and noticed that every single new car in there had a $495 – $595 add-on to the sticker price which was for “Winterization Package.”  They also all have (as do most vehicles in Fairbanks) plugs dangling out of the front where an extension cord can give power to an engine block heater.

winterization

Can’t they at least make the cord a little less unsightly?

plug

Aside from the block heater, the Winterization Package also includes special coolant that’s good to 60-below zero.  When Jason got the call later in the day that his car was ready, the advisor recommended the package.  Jason respectfully declined since the car is soon going back to the desert with us.  I suppose living in a harsh climate is something not too difficult for me to comprehend.  How would these Alaskans feel if I put them in a sun-baked car in Phoenix in the summertime?  The average high temperature in Fairbanks is a whopping 73 degrees in July.  Brrr.

I felt like taking a peek at the local Honda dealership just for kicks, so we moseyed over there (on the other side of town – which amounted to about 5 miles) while Jason’s car was in the shop.  My ILX, though having driven almost 4,000 miles since its last 0W20 oil change, still tells me its oil life is at 70% so there’s no need for me to have any maintenance done at this time.  The Honda / Toyota / Subaru dealership happened to be right next to a restaurant called The Cookie Jar which came highly recommended by my friend Matt, so I stopped in there for a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies to take home.  They are most delicious!

cookie_jar

One interesting discovery I’ve made is how much time can change a community.  When my dad and I visited here in 2006, we stayed at a rugged yet very cozy place here on Airport Road called the Captain Bartlett Inn.  Formerly known as the King 8 Motel and dating back to who-knows-when, it was renamed Bartlett in 1977.  When we stayed there, it was already a bit run-down.  Here’s a photo of our arrival in the Legend coupe.

BARTLETT_2006

But I didn’t expect it to be completely gone now.  And it is.  Vanished!

bartlett

Yet for some reason my Apple maps on my iPhone still show it there, which was why I’d been confused during the drive-by this morning.

bartlett_on_map

As it turns out, the place was bulldozed in 2009 just 3 years after we stayed there.  The bar area inside the building had $1 bills stapled to the walls.  Before the building was torn down, the bills were collected ($2,100 worth) and donated to a local charity.  Here’s a video I found of the demolition.  The property is currently for sale and has a chain link fence around it.

bartlett_location_2

bartlett_location

We caught a movie at Regal Cinema down the street this afternoon, then dined at The Pump House.  It’s a restaurant on the banks of the Chena River that’s the most “Alaska” of any restaurant in town.

pump_house

A 9-foot-tall bear greets visitors after entering the front door.

grizzly

I went with the Alaskan Salmon (of course!) and it was splendid.

alaskan_salmon

salmon

We are livin’ good!

livengood

This is an example of a “pig” that goes within the oil pipeline to move the oil through.

pigs

For my loyal TSX-owning readers (ahem, Carlos, Conor, Josh):  Here’s an Alaska TSX for you.

tsx_in_alaska

“Rent a Beater” advertisement on a flyer at our hotel.  I want one!

rent_a_beater

23 Responses to “Freestyle Day in Fairbanks, Alaska”

  1. Another Tsx! Love it. Looks like another 06-08 model.

    • So awesome! I wish I had an entire month to spend up here so I could just cruise around and see all that there is to see. I was hoping to make some time this trip to hike an active glacier down near Anchorage called Matanuska.

  2. Cheers Tyson and Mark!!

    It’s surprising that there are no forest fires in the area right now. My recollection of Fairbanks is very different with poor visibility in the streets of town. It was easy to imagine the same scenario in winter with ice fog limiting the view.

    I was noticing that nearly all of the signs look aged compared to your last road trip. Naturally I’d expect the cities to look the same. Oil hasn’t been all that good to us lately … except for the cars that is.
    Although the fact that you can go three times as long without an oil change can’t be helping! 😉

    About the video of the motel .. it’s rather difficult to tell where demolition ends and city “scenery” begins.
    Pam 2006 Acura TSX .. 1991 Acura NSX

    • Pam, great observations, and yes overall things are definitely looking & feeling “worn” up here. However there’s still a feeling of welcome and friendliness among the people of the area which is what matters most. Our server last night at the restaurant went out of her way to discuss with us some things about the area and offer some feedback. My favorite thing about Fairbanks was the full cell signal and “LTE” data network. That was a welcome treat after several days in no-mans-land.

  3. What the shizzity! The Ultimate Omelet is being overshadowed by the ultimate hash brown feast!

    • I know! Look at those portions. I didn’t even come close to finishing what was on my plate. Mom would be disappointed. But a hearty breakfast was much needed and much appreciated!

  4. Midnight Mystery Says:

    Glad to see you’ve made it to Fairbanks!!!

    That old Hoten Bar had $2,100 on the walls, that would have been broken into stolen down here…

    You’re still at 70% oil life after 4,000 miles???

    Dang, I’ve only been about 1,500 miles, and I’m already well into 60%, I just had it changed May 4th…

    I’m glad to see your enjoying your trip!!!

    • Yeah, typically my ILX goes about 8,000 to 9,000 miles per oil change. The oil is 0W20 synthetic and for some reason just runs forever. For about the car’s first 50,000 miles, I was having it changed like clockwork every 5,000. Then my service advisor Dana said, “Don’t do that. Wait until the car says it’s ready.” So that’s what I’ve done ever since. Thanks for following along!

  5. “Aside from the block heater, the Winterization Package also includes special coolant that’s good to 60-below zero. When Jason got the call later in the day that his car was ready, the advisor recommended the package.”

    Dealers are stealers no matter where you go… sorry it has to be said.

    I recall when first moving to Phoenix how surprised I was to see something called a “desert protection package.” It pretty much consisted of a “special” paint treatment that could withstand temps in excess of 140 degrees. They also added window film, fabric seat protection and a built-in accordion like windshield sun shade. In fact I think these are still pushed, er I mean offered today.

    Sadly it’s always the same…

    BTW, too bad you can’t bring home one of those pipeline pigs looks like it might make a cool steam punk Christmas tree if you decorated it right 😉

    PS, I too like those TSX pics Tyson

    • Oh, duh, how could I forget the most pristine TSX of all! Let me tell you, if you could teleport your TSX to Fairbanks it would draw a crowd. Every car up here is battered and bruised from the conditions. And you’re absolutely right about the stealerships. All about making a buck or two. What if we equipped a car with both the Winterization Package and the Desert Protection Package? It would be unstoppable in any conditions!

  6. Farid Yoeu Says:

    Driving to Alaska is definitely going on my bucket list. From my town in Illinois to Fairbanks Alaska, it’s about 3,440 miles… which is the “fastest” route…
    maybe someday..!

    • Do it! I think you’d really enjoy the trip! Even if it means having to start planning a year or two in advance. That’s what Jason and I did in this case.

  7. Our intermission day was just what we needed. Too bad for the Bartlett Inn…crazy you found a vid of the demo though! I still wonder if I could live as an Alaskan up here. 👍

  8. Enjoy your downtime. I don’t know how you guys did that drive. The drive to Ohio beat the stuffing out of me.

  9. Keep the Tsx pictures coming. I am glad you are thinking about someday joining the TSX club. 😀 Just to let you now, my TSX is not for sale right now. As for the future, I will let you know but …….. ……..don’t hold your breath. 😉

  10. I’m a little surprised you could even get CLOSE to the Alaska Pipeline. I LOVE Alaska, but I think I’ll stick to cruising from Seattle. Both of my Legends are in pretty good shape, but I think driving those roads up there would be too much for either.

    • Oh yeah, they love people getting right up next to the pipeline. It’s on the list of Fairbanks tourist attractions! Haha. Although, there is also a warning posted clearly on the pipeline itself that scares people away from trying to climb on it or do anything else too crazy. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful! One day I’d like to take a ferry ride out in that area.

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