Solo Chick Alaska Adventure

I'm making one of my dreams come true by doing a solo chick adventure to Alaska. I’ll chronicle my trip here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Arriving in Fairbanks

Fairbanks is different than Anchorage. It’s a sweet, pretty, more laidback place. There’s a strong community feeling here and pride in its treasures. Thursday I checked into Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, an oasis right near the airport. And I really do mean oasis! It’s located right on Airport Way. But, the back of it is on the water, so it feels like it’s in the country. The rooms are lovely and they have Aveda products instead of brands I've never heard of!

I’ve been in a cabin for 4 nights. It was comfy like home! I love it here! When I arrived, I realized that I’d left my folder with important papers by the phone in the airport office. My car wasn’t ready yet and I asked at the desk whether I could walk over and get it, as it seemed close by. Betty, who was on duty, said that yes, I could walk, but she’d do one better – she handed me her car keys to drive there quickly! I was floored. I hadn’t even checked in yet. What a nice thing to do! I was quickly able to retrieve my folder, which had my tickets, itinerary and travelers’ checks – a big relief! The friendliness here is widespread.

That afternoon I drove over to the University and met Jo Scott, who runs the Fairbanks Arts Festival. Jo founded it 26 years ago. She came to Alaska 53 years ago to teach English until she turned 25, the age required to teach abroad. But she fell in love with Fairbanks, and her husband of 52 years, and never left. Jo says the community spirit and support makes her festival so special. It began as a jazz festival and grew into a multi-dimensional event that includes other areas of music and the arts.

Jo is such an inspiration! At 77, she has the energy of someone less than half her age. She organizes the festival every year. It includes a variety of classes that allow people to learn new skills in music, art, dance, healing arts and more. People come from all over the country to teach the classes, that include well-known musicians and professors from top schools. They arrive for 2 weeks each summer. Jo took me to see her lovely home. There was a profusion of flowers everywhere. People in Alaska sure do make the most of their 3 months of summer by having more flowers than most people have in a year!

Thursday evening I hooked up with some members of The Fairbanks Area Hiking Club. I spoke to their contact person, John Risser, a few weeks before I left. He was very helpful and gave me info on Fairbanks. The club is run by volunteers. They have a hike every Thursday night that’s free to anyone and longer ones on the weekends, including overnights. They were so welcoming that I felt comfortable joining them and enjoyed the hike. There’s a lot less activity going on here in Fairbanks. I found it very serene.

Fairbanks is referred to as being in “the interior” of the state, as opposed to being one of the coastal cities. I found a very strong sense of pride among its residents. The ones I spoke with are here because they love it. The long, dark, freezing winters (sometimes as much as 60 below zero) don’t bother them much. They assure me that Fairbanks doesn’t have a lot of wind, which makes it easier to tolerate the frigid temps. Somehow, I don’t think it would any better than I felt in Phoenix when it was 129 degrees but not humid. Freezing is freezing! But I admire the passion Fairbanks’ residents have for their city.

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