When we left Delta Junction this morning, it was raining hard, but within minutes of getting on the road, we were treated to our first moose of the trip. She was running along the road, but then conveniently stopped for me to take her photo. Along this part of the highway, moose are a constant problem, or I should says cars are the problem, with hundreds of moose killed every year by motorists.
Our drive to Fairbanks was short, and we arrived in time to spend the afternoon visiting two places on our list of must-see sights. The Fairbanks Visitor Center is at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center in downtown Fairbanks along the Chena River. The display gardens are wonderful, filled with the huge flowers and vegetables that thrive in the long daylight. The center itself is filled with interesting and lovely displays, including painted dioramas and artifacts from the area. We really enjoyed it.
We then traveled across town to the northwestern hill above the river to the dramatic Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This university is in the perfect place for studying polar climates, and for materials testing in climatic extremes. The Museum itself is fantastic, with a controversial architecture that represents the landscapes of the north, tremendous displays from all the regions of Alaska, and a gallery dedicated to Alaskan art. There are hourly movies scheduled, one that we are sorry we missed was called “Dynamic Aurora”. These cost an extra $5, but it was more the time than the money that kept us from attending. We also knew that we were going to see another aurora presentation at the Ice Museum in town, so thought we could skip this one.
We spent enough time there to get “museum fatigue”, with our eyes and brains overloaded with tons of information and our legs and feet tired from all the standing around reading rather than actually moving. I loved seeing “Blue Babe”, the steppe bison killed by something with teeth that may have been a lion and then preserved in the cold climate with skin and hair that could be studied by scientists for clues about his existence.
We had already decided to stay at Pioneer Park in their pavement parking lot for $12 no hookups, but with a nice row of shade trees behind us. It seems we managed to arrive in Fairbanks during their Gold Rush Days and the parking lot was full. I still laugh at the fact that we never managed to actually go inside the park to see all the stuff there that was drawing the crowds. It was a noisy place, and for the first time on the trip, I used my ear plugs to sleep. Once the shades were drawn and the ear plugs were in, we could have been anywhere!
After a bit more exploration of Fairbanks we found out that we could have joined the many RV’s at the east side WalMart for free and had access to shopping and probably less noise. Also, just up the block from where we were parked was a lovely, quiet state park, with access to the river and hookups for a bit more money. Still, it was kinda fun being in the parking lot directly across from the famous Salmon Bake.
This is supposedly another great thing to do in Fairbanks, and I had my heart set on doing it. Mo agreed to the spendy $32 per person, but she wasn’t in the mood to do the ‘all you can eat’ thing and was going just for the ambience since I didn’t want to do it alone. After our museum visits, we came back home and I decided to go read the blogs and then checked in with TripAdvisor about the bake. I am sooo glad that I did. Even though some folks may have enjoyed it, the reviews were less than stellar, and we decided to skip it. Lots of money saved on that one, I think, and we won’t have to try to walk off all the unneeded calories.
While we watched the cruise buses and Salmon Bake blue bus shuttles started rolling in, one after the other, unloading people by the dozens. The bake is offered from 5 to 8 and there must have been hundreds of people in that place. No wonder the food is reputed to be cold and the service non-existent. Remember, this observation is rumor only and not my personal experience.
I also can’t believe that I never took a single photo of our parking lot campsite or the mine entrance to the Salmon Bake. I guess that may have been because it was actually pretty warm out there, and there were so many people that we would quickly retreat to the safety of the MoHo when we arrived.
Road condition: excellent paved highway
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here