A Travellerspoint blog

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From Spondon to Fairbanks

First three days of travel

rain 16 °C
View Going North map on AnneandDerek's travel map.

Wednesday 31st July
Departed Spondon, train down to London without a hitch. Navigated the labyrinthine lift system at St Pancras underground, tube to Heathrow – surprisingly not too crowded, given it was rush hour. Stayed in brand new hotel right by T2 & 3; had a room on the highest floor (13!) with runway views.
Hotel room view

Hotel room view


Found our way to T3 for a meal then called it a night.
Thursday 1st August
Next morning, despite practicing, we made a couple of mistakes in getting to T3 again for departure.
Our transatlantic transport

Our transatlantic transport


Uneventful flight, our first on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with RR engines – not certain how reassuring that is with those companies recent track records. Weather pretty clear and there was a spectacular view of icefields and floes as we crossed Greenland.
Icefields on Greenland coast

Icefields on Greenland coast


Lengthy queue at passport control and the officer had obviously attended the Immigration Service (non-)Charm School. As first-time users of the new electronic visa system we were photographed and fingerprinted. Despite all that, our cases were only just appearing as we got to the carousel. Stopping overnight in an airport hotel. Managed a short walk to a nearby park before a quick meal then collapse.
Angle Lake Park

Angle Lake Park


Friday 2nd August; overcast; 21 (Seattle)
Woke early and had a surprisingly good breakfast at the hotel before heading back to the airport. Managed to volunteer for exit row seats. Arrived in a very soggy Fairbanks and, for a while, it seemed to be a taxi-free zone but one eventually appeared and got us to our accommodation. The taxi-driver explained (as did many others in due course) that the rain was not in our honour but due to the opening of the State Fair, traditionally a wet occasion. Settled in (we’re here for nearly a week) then ventured out in the rain to do some shopping. Ate in before another early night.
Weather conditions are at Fairbanks, up until then it had been sunny and warm!

Posted by AnneandDerek 20:46 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Exploring Fairbanks

...and finally some sunshine!

sunny 18 °C
View Going North map on AnneandDerek's travel map.

Saturday 3rd August
Awoke to a soggy Fairbanks but decided that waiting for it to dry up was futile so walked up to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Centre. Quite a nice facility and we spent the morning there. Still raining when we emerged so splashed back to the “city centre” (not huge) for lunch. Took the local bus (free as we’re over 60, even though non-resident) to Fred Meyer, a Walmart rival. By the time we emerged (it’s enormous) the weather had actually dried up!
No photos today – too wet.

Sunday 4th August
Raining again but dried up late morning and the rest of the day was warm and sunny. Picked up a hire car and drove out to the Riverboat Discovery.
Riverboat Discovery III

Riverboat Discovery III


Before boarding, we took the chance to experience a few minutes at 40 degrees below (Centigrade or Fahrenheit, it doesn’t matter – work it out). The trip turned out to be a fine excursion; whilst we didn’t go a huge distance down the Chena River, they included some excellent diversions, pausing at a sled dog kennels and stopping at a recreated native village. Whilst the boat is fairly modern it is a genuine paddle wheel drive.
Athabascan ceremonial dress

Athabascan ceremonial dress


After our return, we drove to North Pole (not the North Pole) and visited the Christmas shop. Returned to Fairbanks and Pioneer Park. Well intentioned but a bit run down and not many visitors. Finished the day by driving to a rather nice restaurant on the river for dinner.

Posted by AnneandDerek 21:38 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Panning for gold...

...in the dry

overcast 18 °C
View Going North map on AnneandDerek's travel map.

Our first dry morning in Fairbanks, although not very sunny. We drove north, stopping first at an information point about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Completed in 1977, this 48” diameter pipeline runs 800 miles from the North Alaska coast down to Valdez near Anchorage. An impressive feat of engineering given it has to cope with permafrost and earthquakes.
Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Then went on to Gold Dredge 8, a relic of the 1920’s when extraction was on an industrial scale. Run by the same people as yesterday’s riverboat excursion it was similarly well organised. We were taken round to the dredge on a replica of the Tanana Valley railroad while a commentator explained how it had operated. We then had an opportunity to do our own gold-panning with “guaranteed success”. Sure enough, we both found some gold, $15-worth for Derek, $13-worth for Anne, not that it was a competition...
Gold!

Gold!


After that, we drove on to the Chena River State Recreation Area, where we did a short walk. Returned to Fairbanks, by which time it had started to rain again!

Posted by AnneandDerek 20:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Birds and artefacts

Further exploration around Fairbanks

sunny 20 °C
View Going North map on AnneandDerek's travel map.

Pleasant morning and we headed first to Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildfowl Refuge. In a fine example of nominative determinism the Creamer family ran a dairy farm there for many decades; when they sold up, the state bought it for a nature reserve. We had a guided walk by one of their volunteers; the chief attraction is dozens of sandhill cranes.
Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane


Then had to return the hire car and got a lift to the Museum of the North at the University.
Museum of the North

Museum of the North


Happily spent the afternoon there before getting the bus back.

Posted by AnneandDerek 18:00 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Final day in Fairbanks

...and hardly any rain

semi-overcast 21 °C
View Going North map on AnneandDerek's travel map.

Decided to return to downtown Fairbanks in the dry, but it didn’t look much more attractive than our first impression
Antler arch

Antler arch


Then returned to the University for a tour round their Geophysical Institute. We covered 3 areas, the most interesting of which is their unmanned aircraft (drone) department.
Octocopter drone

Octocopter drone


The other 2 were the earthquake centre and the work with NASA on satellite communication. By the time we emerged it had decided to rain on us again so retreated back to start packing.
Leave tomorrow on the 8am train to Denali; may be a few days before we’re back online for any blog updates.

Posted by AnneandDerek 18:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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