Friday, June 8, 2012

Great Alaskan Road Trip: Day 4

Day 4? Really? That's it? Seems like we have been on the road much longer, with all we have seen already this week!

Today we drove just over 2 hours to Fairbanks. The drive was peaceful and beautiful, with a two-lane highway and nearly no other traffic. My favorite was the Skyline Drive portion of the Parks Hwy. right outside of the city, with enormous views of rolling green hills and snowy mountains in the background. No photos, since I kept missing the viewpoint turnoffs. Being driver and navigator at the same time is not my normal road-trip method.

We fit in a lot today, starting with a visit to Pioneer Park, complete with playground time, carousel ride, and train trip around the park grounds. We left because we were HOT. It is in the mid-70s here, the warmest day of the year.

Then it was off to run around on the trails at Creamer's Field, which was the perfect place to expend some extra energy. The field was full of sand hill cranes (and the forest was full of mosquitoes). The helpful woman in the Visitor's building set me up with a map and directions to cooler activities for the kids, should we need more indoor ideas.

We then checked into our most luxurious lodgings of the trip, Pike's Waterfront. My Alaska TourSaver book coupon got us a deluxe riverfront room, two nights for the price of one. Cushy beds, PBS on the flat screen for a little kid downtime, and a tiny balcony overlooking the Chena.

We drove around downtown Fairbanks after dinner and came back to Pike's to trade in our wooden coins (for Alaskans only!) for free ice cream cones in the lobby.

Tomorrow we're using another TourSaver deal to ride the Riverboat Discovery, three hours on the Chena River with a stop at Susan Butcher's sled dog kennel and a tour of an old native village. After that, naps are in order, followed by a visit to North Pole (a real town, 15 miles away) to visit the reindeer and the Pagoda Chinese restaurant for dinner takeout on the recommendation of a few locals today.

As for the 600 miles from "the end of the road" to Fairbanks, travel has been very easy. We must be just a bit earlier than the RV invasion, because we haven't had much company headed north since leaving the Wasilla area (and we did not see Russia from there). The highway is mostly one lane each way, with plenty of stopping places, both scenic and for gas and food. I wish I had a copilot so I could enjoy the scenery a bit more, but we are taking the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali in August (another TourSaver buy one get one; getting much more than out money's worth from that book!), so I'll get to enjoy more mountain views and wildlife then.

Photos: Pioneer Park (formerly Alaskaland), swings you would only find in Alaska, Creamer's Field, free ice cream meets overtired boy

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