Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Last weekend, Frank and I drove up through interior Alaska to Fairbanks and then on to Barrow for a "Day at the Top of the World".

The trip up to Fairbanks was suprisingly uneventful. Whenever we drive out of Anchorage, my suburban roots begin to show as I get nervous about experiencing a tire blow-out or run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, having to live on pretzels and gum for mutliple days while fending off bears.

Luckily, I had heard of The Milepost, which is a book that chronicles every nook and cranny of the Alaskan Highway system. This is an absolutely essential book for every Alaskan Traveller! This made me feel less agoraphobic in the wilderness.

So saying that, I can now attest to everyone that, yes, the travel and tourism board is not lying, there are enough adequate gas stations along both the Richardson and Glenn Highways. The roads between here and Fairbanks are more than adequate. In fact, if it wasn't for the lack of exits and guardrails, I would say the road system was actually better than I75 in most cases (certainly the gas prices were better :)).

We stayed at the River's Edge resort, which consists of small one-room cabins along the Chena River. It's really a fantastic place in Fairbanks, further away from the tourism traps of the other hotels.

The next morning, we were off on our way to Barrow.

Barrow Alaska is the northernmost town on the North American Mainland. Point Barrow, which is essentially a spit that juts into the Arctic ocean, is the northernmost point in the US. That being said, it is cold but not as cold as you might think -- the average low in January is only -19 degrees. The day we were there, it was about 30 degrees.

I would like to say that there is a lot to see in Barrow, and maybe it does for a town of only 4,000 people. But once you've seen the museum, the Wiley Post/Will Rogers memorial, eaten lunch at Pepe's Mexican, and checked out the prices at the local supermarket (suprisingly not that much different than Anchorage, although dairy products were super-high), you've pretty much seen the town.

All that was left, really, was to see the polar bears. Driving out to Point Barrow, I remember feeling really claustrophobic. Since the sky and ground are both white, there is just this unnerving loss of direction. I could so easily get lost in that whiteness and be eaten by a polar bear! Speaking of polar bears, we did see some in the distance by the bone yard (you see remnants of that in the pictures) -- luckily for our safety and unluckily for picture-taking, the polar bears were driven off by some jerk behind us driving like an idiot.

So, will we be packing up and moving to Barrow? Probably not. But I'm glad we went and saw what it was like. The fact that people have lived and thrived on such a seemingly inhospitable place since 500 CE is an incredible testament to the human race.

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