Epic Road Trip to Alaska - Week 3 - Yukon to Fairbanks
This is the 3rd week of our Epic Road Trip to Alaska, if you are just joining us, be sure to check out week 1 & 2 in this series. This has been a week of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. The road from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory to Alaska is notorious for a reason. Up and down, back and forth, at times I felt like we were in a sailboat and not the RV. The end of this past leg of the journey has been restful, we are in Fairbanks for a week and a half, so it has been nice to have the RV parked and to explore the area.
Wednesday, May 15th - Whitehorse, Yukon to Canada/Alaska Border 314 mi
We woke up in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory with the exciting feeling that we were getting very close to Alaska. We made a stop at this cool old wooden bridge next to a turnout(rest stop) and decided to make a video with the fam. We had seen so many black bears along the highway over the past couple days, so we were a little bit scared to stop...
We made a short pit stop in Haines Junction for gas and coffee. Matt talked to the owners about the wildlife in the area after seeing a legit bear warning sign on their door. They informed us that they don't see as many moose in the area because the bears and wolves have been killing them. Scary.
We had heard rumors that the Yukon Territory was very desolate, and it turns out that north of Haines Junction, this is true. The drive was still beautiful though. We really enjoyed driving around beautiful Kluane Lake. The road skirts almost completely around the lake. We drove right past Burwash Landing because we hadn't been on the road that long, and had I been reading along in the Milepost instead of working on last weeks' blog, I would have known that Burwash Landing is a great place to stop before driving the seemingly-never-ending wavy road that takes you through the Yukon Territory.
It is interesting to note that this portion of the Alaskan Highway has always been troublesome. The ground is swampy, and has thick layers of permafrost. There were many areas where little pink flags were put next to the road to warn travellers of frost heaves-unpleasant speed bumps where the road has buckled. The ground is swampy underneath the road and it freezes and then thaws, making it never-quite solid.
Beaver Creek is the most westerly Canadian community, only 20 miles or so from the Canada/Alaska border. We stopped and stretched our legs at the visitor center and then had dinner at "Buckshot Betty's". It was a nice little break.
We took a picture next to the "Welcome to Alaska" sign and then proceeded to cross the border. The border patrol officers were friendly and asked us some questions. They were very thorough to check for forbidden Canadian groceries. They inspected our fridge and we discovered that the bell peppers and avocado we had left in our fridge could not be brought into Alaska.
Back on the road again, we stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge visitor center for a quick photo op under what we later discovered is a cache (a small cabin-like structure on posts to store food and other goodies out of the reach of animals). We chatted with other travellers that were making the journey from the lower 48 and they gave us some tips about Denali National Park.
We drove another hour or so and found a large pull off that served as a boondocking spot for the night. We noticed an abundance of " the Alaskan state bird", otherwise known as mosquitos, buzzing around the RV screens.
Thursday, May 16th - Alaska/Canada Border to Fairbanks, Alaska! 296 mi
We feel refreshed and ready to start a new day of driving knowing that we only have about 200 miles to go. Tok, Alaska is a great stopping point for souveniers. We stopped at two gift shops and bought some postcards and an Alaska magnet for our state magnet collection. It was fun to talk to the owners of the sod-roofed Burnt Paw gift shop and B&B. They were very friendly and gave us some history about the area.
Onward to Fairbanks, where we would be spending the next week or two. Matt is scheduled to preach at Harvest Church in South Fairbanks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The pastor is very hospitable and welcomed us with some food so that we didn't have to run to the store when we got in. We appreciated it very much, it was nice to settle in, eat, and relax for the evening.
Friday, May 17th - Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles
Today we had a picnic lunch at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. There is no admission to enter, and this park has playgrounds, museums, the SS Nenana (a large riverboat) on display, and cabins and older buildings from Alaska's pioneer days. The cabins are occupied by various shopkeepers and artisans and arranged so that it's like you are going through an old town - shopping and history in one! There is also a carousel and train that you can buy tickets to ride. It is still early in the season, so not everything was open, we might go back next Saturday to see it in full operation.
After our little excursion, the driving and time change hits us. We head back to the RV for an afternoon nap before tonight's church service.
Church starts at 6:00pm and was a special service for the ministry teams at Harvest Church. Everyone was very receptive and we had a wonderful time ministering here. After service there was a cake/pie and ice cream reception for everyone. We have decided to enjoy carbs again for the weekend and get back to Keto next week.
Saturday, May 18th - Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles
Today we slept in a bit and enjoyed our Saturday with no RV driving. We heard great things about the Tenana Valley Farmer's Market in Fairbanks and decide to check it out. This Farmer's Market includes farmers and artisans across an area about the size of the entire state of Indiana! Being the beginning of the growing season, there was not a lot of produce, but there were lots of tasty things to eat and pretty things to look at. We may have had a bit of a carb overload, but it was totally worth it.
Tonight's church service was awesome, we were refreshed by the faith of this church!
We had heard that it would be daylight here most of the time, and I was a little over confident that my ability to sleep in most conditions would prepare me for the all-sun-all-the-time experience. I underestimated the effect that this amount of daylight would have on our systems. I am not complaining about the weather, the warmth and sunshine have been fantastic. It is just a bit confusing, 9pm feels like 5pm, and it's actually 5pm back in Indiana. It's strange.
Sunday, May 19th - Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles
Today was the last church service for us at Harvest Church and it was awesome, again! The pastor and his wife took us to The Cookie Jar - a local restaurant/bakery for lunch. Guy Fieri, from the show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives made a stop here in 2009! They make huge, amazing cinnamon rolls, and the pastor ordered some as "appetizers" for our table. Yum!
We went to the RV to have a carb-induced nap. Afterwards we took the kids to a local park for a little bit.
Monday, May 20th - Fairbanks, Alaska 0 miles
Today Matt took all the laundry to a laundromat because he is my hero. Is it too much info to tell you that it was getting a little stinky in the RV because of the abundance of dirty clothes? Gross, but true.
We did our school work while Matt was gone.
I think now would be a good time to give a little disclaimer:
We are not on vacation, but our lifestyle is nomadic, and so some of the details of our day might be ordinary. Even though we are in new areas most of the time, we are only sort of tourists. If we did all of the touristy things offered in each new area, we would quickly run out of money. I also think we get to know a little bit more about the authentic life for the people who live here when we do "normal" things.
After our normal school and laundry routine, we went to the Pastor's house for a moose burger cookout. Yum! The house was super cool - built in the side of the mountain and had a sod roof that we could walk on. There were families there with kids the same age as our kids, so we all had a great time hanging out and making new friends.
We then went to Fred Meyers(Kroger of Alaska) and prepared ourselves to jump back into our Keto diet. The carb roller coaster has been fun, but we know we need to get off this ride and get back to Keto. We were pleasantly surprised to find the grocery prices comparable to a Kroger back home, maybe a little higher, but not bad.
Tuesday, May 21st - Fairbanks, Alaska to North Pole, Alaska 13 miles
Today after school we drove to North Pole Alaska. We looked at the Reindeer at a tourist thing they had there, but opted out of the tour. There is a huge Christmas store there and we found some fun ornaments for this years' Christmas tree. It was pretty fun.
After visiting the North Pole, we drove back to Fairbanks and went to Creamer's Field, where there is a farm museum, walking trails, and large fields that have become a home to a variety of migrating birds. It was very peaceful and educational.
We are enjoying our time in Fairbanks, in many ways, it feels similar to the midwest. There are farm fields and suburbs, and lovely spring weather. It is nice to be in one spot for a little while.
Thank you for reading along with our Epic Road Trip to Alaska! Be sure to check out the previous weeks in this blog series if you are just joining us.
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