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.
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!
The ultimate omelet hit the spot. Finally some comfort food I’m used to after these crazy days on the road.
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.
Just so I could show Jon exactly where I bought him that mug, I took a screen shot of my location:
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.
The Mazda and Acura with the oil line in the background.
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.
Can’t they at least make the cord a little less unsightly?
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!
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.
But I didn’t expect it to be completely gone now. And it is. Vanished!
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.
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.
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.
A 9-foot-tall bear greets visitors after entering the front door.
I went with the Alaskan Salmon (of course!) and it was splendid.
We are livin’ good!
This is an example of a “pig” that goes within the oil pipeline to move the oil through.
For my loyal TSX-owning readers (ahem, Carlos, Conor, Josh): Here’s an Alaska TSX for you.
“Rent a Beater” advertisement on a flyer at our hotel. I want one!