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Alaska Chapter 1

Fairbanks, Alaska

May 22-30, 2015

Chapter 1

This was our first time to visit Fairbanks, and we didn’t know what to expect. We thought it would be colder, but it just so happened that Fairbanks was experiencing unusually warm weather for this time of year, and in fact it was even warmer than either Buenos Aires, or San Francisco. It was like enjoying an early summer. Pete’s sister Cheryl made reservations for us to stay at the Wedgewood Resort, a huge facility which was originally constructed to house the workers on the Alaska Pipeline in the 70s.

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The grounds were quite nice, and it had an excellent gym, which Joey and Terry enjoyed, and the rest of us quietly ignored. There was also an amazing Antique car museum on the site.

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The rooms were amazingly spacious and comfortable, more like an apartment than a hotel room. They had full kitchens, a dining room, living room and a nice balcony overlooking a lush forest.

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The living room and bedrooms were quite large. It was a great place to spend our off time when we were not out seeing the sights, or visiting the great restaurants Cheryl and Melody recommended to us.

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We visited the Antique car museum, and it was well worth the visit. Evenings, before we went for dinner, we would sit on the balcony and enjoy the great weather.

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And, if it wasn’t for the Off, we would probably have been literally carried off by the mosquitos.

Cheryl and Melody greeted us with a gift basket filled with all sorts of things, like a photo of Edgar, an Alaska souvenir mug, various edibles, etc. It was very nice, almost like Christmas.

We went for Japanese for lunch, and afterward Cheryl and Melody took us to the local Farmer’s Market.

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A couple of us got the Bento, but I got the salmon wrap and shrimp tempura. Just the right amount.

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The image of my Kindle is what happened on the flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. I accidentally dropped the buckle to my

seatbelt and it struck the face of the Kindle, which was in my lap. What you see on the screen was permanent. Fortunately,

it was still under warrantee, and after calling Amazon and explaining what had happened, they sent out a replacement, which arrived at Pat’s house while we were still in Alaska. Once we got back there, I was able to use the WhisperNet to download my books, and resume reading Game of Thrones.

That night we ordered pizza delivered. It was pretty good. Especially the chicken curry pizza. In fact we liked it so much that we ordered it again a few nights later. I wish they had that in Buenos Aires.

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For lunch the next day Cheryl took us to a really cool restaurant on the Chena River. The sun was hot, and stupid me I forgot to bring a hat, or sun glasses. Lesson learned.

Cheryl was great about having things for us to do. After lunch she took us for a paddle wheeler boat ride on the Discovery III. The trip was on the Chena River, and we passed by the home and kennel of the Sled-Dog racing Butcher family, carrying on the legacy of the woman who is a legend in mushing, Susan Butcher. In frame 2 below, Susan Butcher’s husband and daughter are seen hooking up their dogs to the four-wheeler, and then gave us a demonstration as the dogs took off like a shot and raced around the property like a chariot afire. I was totally blown away by how much speed and power those dogs possessed.

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Inside the huge gift shop where the Discovery III ties up, there was a display with a photo of Susan Butcher behind her actual dog sled. Susan died of leukemia in a Seattle hospital in August of 2006, at the age of 51. Susan won the Iditarod race four times, and influenced the training and treatment of dogs in the sport. She was the second woman to win the Iditarod, but the first woman to dominate the sport. She won three years in a row, from 1986 to 1988, and again in 1990. The Iditarod is an annual 1,150 mile sled-dog race from Anchorage to Nome.

Here is a link to a short video we took showing the drive and excitement these dogs displayed before and after the brake was released on the four wheeler. Notice how forcefully the lead dog leaps at his harness in an attempt to get the ball rolling. The other dogs were just as eager. What amazing training. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbvQI9YaHA0&feature=youtu.be

As we cruised down the Chena River we passed by some beautiful log homes, and eventually came upon a Chena village, where a girl gave us a demonstration of how they prepare the filleted salmon for smoking and preserving for human consumption, and also how the less desirable cuts were dried and preserved for consumption by their sled dogs on the trail.

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We went ashore, and were treated to several talks on various aspects of native life and customs in Alaska. The moose was the best example of exquisite taxidermy I’ve ever seen. It appeared absolutely alive. The native fur coat being modeled above was not for sale, but if it were, it would go for upwards of $10,000.

The fur hut looked mighty comfy, but I wondered how it would fare in a downpour. I liked the genuine birth bark canoe.

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As for this bed, I’d prefer my Tempur-Pedic. This reindeer looked well fed, not like the caribou we saw on the Latvia steps.

This map of the ChenaVillage, a site presenting the culture and heritage of the Athabascan Indians, shows the location of the various exhibits we would visit. The native guides giving the presentations did a fabulous job. Their talks were both interesting and informative. If you are ever in Fairbanks, the Discovaery III paddle wheeler is a must do event. Thanks to Cheryl and Melody we didn’t miss out. It was a great adventure.

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The reindeer were awesome to look at as the browsed for food. The Chena Village was a very relaxing place on our free time.

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They had a fairly complete herb garden started, and in a few month the harvest should be awesome.

We prepare to leave the Chena Village, and on board we enjoyed a delicious salmon dip on crackers. I bought 3 cans of salmon to take home, along with the recipe for the dip. I can hardly wait to share it with our friends at our next dinner party.

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There was also a demonstration by a bush pilot of taking off and landing on the river. While in the air, we listened to a conversation between the pilot and our cruise host over the PA system, in which they shared with us the interesting history of the bush pilot in Alaska. Even today there are still places in Alaska that are only accessible by these small planes.

After the Discovery III trip, we went for lunch. Edgar was being happily creative with his Play Dough. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I ordered the lasagna, and it was great. The shrimp fettuccine looked pretty good as well.

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I don’t know who ordered the tiramisu, but it was really good, as it was passed around the table twice.

From lunch we went to see the Alaska Pipeline, which was a very interesting project indeed, and we also visited Gold Dredger 8 and panned for gold. But that will be in the next chapter. Sorry, but I limit the size of my messages to just under 10 MB.

P.S. For those waiting for Chapter 11 of my Viking Magnificent Mekong travelogue, this will explain the delay.