We didn’t quite make it to Fairbanks in one day as planned. Instead, we made a few stops along the way and spent Tuesday night at Eielson AFB FamCamp, about 26 miles south of Fairbanks and just 10 miles from the North Pole, the town known for its Santa Village and Candy Cane light poles.
On the Road
The roads in Alaska have been MUCH better than in the Yukon and British Columbia. There are still frost heaves and road construction, but the repairs seem to be smoother.
We were surprised by the ice flow still on the Robertson River.
We were underwhelmed by our stop at the Delta Junction Meat & Sausage Company. We were able to sample elk, reindeer, and buffalo sausages, but with a toothpick from a single snack tray with two plastic cups of dipping sauces. The “lobby” was maybe 8’ x 10’ and contained a couple of coolers with their packaged meats. We were not allowed to tour because it was an inspection day. Oh well, we bought a couple of packages of jerky sticks, some BBQ sauce and we were on our way. As others before us have noted, the writers of the ads in the guidebook have vivid imaginations. We think the number one industry in our travels has been Marketing (i.e., Creative Writing).
In Delta Junction we pulled into the Visitor’s Center that celebrates the END of the Alaskan Highway! Because we took the Cassiar Highway on our trip from Prince George, we didn’t really drive the entire 1422 frost heave (eh, highway), but we will be doing the lower half on our return trip out of Alaska.
They also had some giant mosquito sculptures and fun signs
Our touring partners Frank and Gloria King, typically drive ahead of us mosey-pokes, so they wanted to wait for us so we could go into the Air Force FamCamp together. They chose to stop at The Knotty Shop, which not only had a large parking lot for RVers, but offered a FREE ICE CREAM CONE if you brought in their ad in the Milepost Magazine. Of course you need to buy the second cone if you want to keep peace in the rig. Once inside, we were quite surprised at the wildlife display that was done by the family’s 30-year old son.
North Pole, Alaska
Once we got settled into our Eielson AFB campsites, we hopped into the King’s truck and headed for the North Pole. No, not the arctic image you have in mind, but a town built around a giant Christmas store. We were greeted with candy cane light poles and then parking for tour buses, RVs and throngs of tourist buying goodies for the grandkids and themselves. (OK, so I’m one of them!) Adults were also welcome to sit on Santa’s lap, but I did decline the offer. I didn’t want the jolly ol’ guy to have to file for worker’s compensation!
Santa’s reindeer grazing behind the building didn’t look the best which might have accounted for the designated “handicap sled parking” space in front of the store.
After dinner at The Elf’s Den, we headed back to the AFB and stopped at a somewhat hidden “point of interest” called “Lady of the Lake” -- the remains of a WB-29 weather reconnaissance aircraft that rests in a water-filled gravel pit. This plane was intentionally placed here to serve as a training site to help rescuers learn how to conduct underwater extractions from downed aircraft.
Besides killer-size mosquitos, the only wildlife we saw Tuesday were two moose cows, each with a baby. What was pretty remarkable about these sightings was the fact that they were exactly where the Milepost travel guide said to look for moose in the ponds on either side of the road. Unfortunately, I was looking and not taking photos!
NEXT: Playing Tourist in Fairbanks