Noatak Page 3
Thursday- Travel day to Fairbanks.
After sleeping in the parking lot of Wal-Mart I drove a few miles to the Marsh. The Marsh is a wildlife area just on the outskirts of Anchorage where the boardwalk allows you to walk thru a small marsh with ducks and teal flying by all the time. You can see the Salmon schooling up under the bridge in late July and August and there is always some little critter swimming around in one of the side channels that you can surprise and cause a commotion. .
J.R. who is going to U.A.A. this year met me at the parking lot and we headed for Fairbanks after dropping off his truck. The road to Fairbanks is a well maintained 2 lane that passes thru mile upon mile of picture perfect landscapes. If you're lucky and the weather in clear you can catch a glimpse of Denali's backside (so to speak).
It's roughly a 7 hour drive depending on how fast you go. Our old 1976 motor home wallows around like an old swayback mule so we don't go too fast. Heck in this country why would you want to?
As we passed Denali Park I stopped for gas. This summer the prices had spiked so I only got enough to get us to Fairbanks where the price would be much lower. This was to have us on pins and needles a few hours later as even with the tank showing 1/4 tank the vehicle started to buck and run out of gas on the uphill sections. I quickly surmised that because our motor home is a "Butt Dragger", the rear springs sagging as is often the case with these old motor homes, that the fuel tends to pool at the back of the tank making some of the fuel unusable. With the added geometric adversity of going up hills and forcing the rear to drop lower, that meant that use of about 1/4 of the tank was unreliable . Understanding the problem we raced downhill to pick up speed and then would go as lightly as possible up hills to minimize our gasoline consumption. As we crested the next hill we would start the cycle all over again. This worked on all the hills except once when we ran out of gas 3/4 of the way up a particularly long one and had to turn around to let the gas refill the lines between tank and engine. We got her going again but it was nip and tuck for a while. The stretch of road that leads into Fairbanks runs along a ridge top where they don't have any stations so needless to say I was very relieved to hit the out skirts of the city and find a Tesoro station.
Fairbanks was founded in 1903 and currently has a population of 35,000. It was a gold town founded by the first "trade post" operator, Mr. Barnette, who convinced early settlers to name Fairbanks in honor of Charles W. Fairbanks, an Indiana senator. Charles Fairbanks later became the Vice President of the United States under Theodore Roosevelt.
It boasts having the northern most Sears, McDonalds and Denny's to name a few.
That evening we decided to get a good meal before departing on our trip and after running the streets a few times asked a local woman we saw crossing the street for her recommendations. She was a pleasant woman who wore the trappings of many Alaska women which appears to be rooted in the style of the hippies (although I doubted if she was old enough to have been one in her earlier days). It turns out that she is a teacher that decided to come up to Alaska to try her hand at the tourism trade. Her cotton dress and ruddy skin tones suggested a person more adept at recommending hiking trails than restaurants but she told us that there was a good steak house just down the street. As luck would have it she said she was going right past it and that we could follow her. Well we ended up driving 10 miles out of town to the little hamlet of Fox where she turns into the "Turtle Club". The club was not yet open for dinner so we worked on our gear for an hour then went in and had a Prime Rib dinner. The dinner was acceptable but prime rib is not my choice of steak and since that's all they had for steak it would not be a place I'd go again.
After dinner we headed back to town and found the "Go North" campground where we stayed the night.