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North Pole Seniors and Fairbanks Foodbank

August 2, 2013

Alaska – Tuesday, July 23

I got our campsite packed up and Tula and I headed out – still northwest in the direction of Fairbanks. The first town we came to was North Pole, and I had to stop. The whole town was kind of Christmas-themed, which might be nice at Christmas, but must get a little old year-round! Even the lampposts are painted white, and have red ribbon around them to look like giant candy canes. The bus shelters consist of a roof supported by 4 candy cane poles. Streets are named Santa Claus Lane, Snowman Lane, Holiday Rd, St Nicholas Dr etc. Tula and I walked about a mile and half, and by then we had covered most of the town. As we made our way to the outskirts of town, by one of the neighborhoods, a big sign caught my eye – Breakfast Donations to support the North Pole Senior Citizen Center! They’re open for breakfast every day and one just makes a donation according to what one orders, and breakfast is prepared fresh. I thought it was a good idea, and I wanted to make a donation in North Pole anyway, so I went in and made my donation, which pleasantly surprised the seniors who were in there. It was a slow morning, so we chatted a bit, mostly about the long cold winters. They said dogs get really really fast about going outside to take care of their business, and if one dresses right, one can get out and do what needs to be done. But it’s not for everyone! They offered to make me a breakfast of course, but I was pretty desperate for some computer time after being in Canada for 4 days, and I had been planning on oatmeal at McDonald’s to use their free wi-fi. And they understood – they got the donation anyway! If they’d had wi-fi service, I would have stayed there. So when I left the senior center, I went to McDonald’s, and spent some time in there getting a little caught up, and researching some donation opportunities, and feeling ready to tackle Alaska!

Next I continued the drive to Fairbanks – there isn’t a whole lot of choice with roads in Alaska, but I wanted to get there anyway. I had read about the Fairbanks Foodbank, and had talked with someone there this morning, and she said they could really use cereal and individual packets of oatmeal and granola bars. So I found a grocery store (although I expected high grocery prices, it still surprises me!) and I got as much cereal, oatmeal, and granola bars as I could, then went in search of the foodbank. It’s nice to be able to use my electronic gadgets again. The food bank is a big building – it takes up nearly a city block, and they serve a lot of people, since Fairbanks is the northernmost major city in Alaska. I met a couple ladies and they showed me around – it was a well-organized place, and they supply lots of smaller food pantries. They wanted to take a picture to put my story on their Facebook page, so we went outside for some photos.

And then it was time for more walking. I found a park area where Tula and I got out for another mile and a half. It was a beautiful afternoon and lots of people were out, but I was very surprised to run across a couple very loud arguments between people. This happened several times in Fairbanks – people yelling at each other at the top of their lungs for the whole world to hear, and using very colorful language. I thought maybe their arguments might be more effective if they could expand their vocabulary! There did seem to be a number of young people just hanging around here and there – I’m guessing jobs might be a tough place to come by in Fairbanks. It’s not a big city, and it’s kind of a transient one at times – it’s a supply town for people who live in the remote villages in the north, and it’s also a take-off point for tourists/adventurers traveling beyond the range of most visitors. And it’s near the southern end of the Dalton Highway (the Haul Road) featured on Ice Road Truckers, which we drove the last time we were here, so there are a lot of pipeline workers passing through. So there’s lots of people coming and going, and Fairbanks is a little farther north than a lot of regular tourists come. It seems to be just a little rough around the edges – but it is a frontier town!

I headed downtown and walked on most of the streets there, covering another 2 1/2 miles. We walked along the Tanana River a ways, and there were some really nice statues and sculptures to enjoy – one was a memorial to the Alaska/Siberia relationship during WWII, and there was a nice Eskimo family sculpture. And there was a cool antler arch made up of over 100 moose and caribou antlers donated by a wide variety of hunters. It sort of symbolized that even though people may be different, and come from different villages and cultures, we should all be able to get along harmoniously.

By then it was time to turn the van toward Denali National Park. I had called about a campsite yesterday when I had a better idea of when I might be there, and to my surprise I was able to reserve a space for tonight. I felt really lucky! The person helping me said it’s really hit and miss at the last minute this time of year. It took a couple hours to drive down there – through grand, glorious wide open land – green hills, mountains, forests and rivers as far as the eye can see. It really is awe-inspiring space.

It was still light when I got to Denali and we got checked in and I had my pick of several campsites – they were sold out by now, but at least I wasn’t the last to arrive. I found a campsite I liked and was surprised by how big and spacious they were – all nestled in the pine trees. There were the usual bear precautions about food and all, and once I was set up for the night, Tula and I went on a long walk all around the campground area. When I checked in, I noticed lots of foreign people, both working, and visiting the park. There were lots of young backpacking adventurers getting ready for some backcountry hiking! There were several big loops of campsites through the woods, and we walked around all of them, and I noticed some more unusual-looking foreign RVs. It would be interesting to see what those things are like to drive! When we got back to the campsite, it was still light out even though it was kind of late, so I settled into my comfy chair and caught up with some record-keeping stuff while Tula snoozed on the pine needles. It was such a pretty evening.

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One Comment
  1. Leif Nygaard permalink

    I was in Nome and Kotzebue a couple of months ago, cant believe there’s a McDonalds at the North Pole, what was Santa thinking?!?!

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