I left Alaska a couple weeks ago. I spent my last week or so in Fairbanks with relatives. I also had the chance to catch up with my hiking partner on the AT. Skittles/Richard is back in Fairbanks working to save for an 18 month hike. He plans on rehiking the 3 major US trails and the newly completed New Zealand trail.
I got up to Fairbanks my usual way – hitching. What a way to end my last hitching experience. I only hitch in AK and who knows when I’ll have that opportunity again. But I would have to say that this hitch was about the most inconveniant ever. The lady went plenty out of her way to pick me up. As soon as I got my knees squeezed in behind her daughter’s reclined seat she asked if I could pitch in for gas money. This of course meant pay the whole way. Crap. I suppose I should have just said no and waited for another ride but she was heading all the way to Fairbanks. I had had pretty good luck leaving Anchorage. The family I had stayed with had left me alone so I was able to head out without worrying people. There was a bit of a wait for a car to get me on the freeway but you can count on ex-hitchers to see the need and a commuter/ex-hitchiker soon gave me a ride across town where I soon had a ride out to Wassila or some place that I should know the name of. The second guy reminded me so much of Tony from Ice. Maybe a more domesticated Tony and I found myself thinking about Tony and all the crazy Ice people and how I hope they can get back down to McMurdo soon where they really belong. There’s no place like McMurdo to be crazy and welcomed for it. Anyways, my thought for the final ride to Fairbanks was that I felt like I had been enough of a mooch, I might as well pitch in somewhere. This lady had driven from Fairbanks to be with her boyfriend, got mad at him, turned around and went straight back. She had only brought enough money for a one way trip. I don’t get it. In the end I babysat the toddler in the car seat which meant periodically getting punched by a baby, I got my nails painted in metalic purples and pinks on the Alaska Highway by an 8 yr old (very glamorous), and then I drove for 4 of the 6 hours. Did I mention I paid for the gas? I just got more annoyed as I went. To top it off we ended the trip with her borrowing my cell phone twice to call up her boyfriend and cuss him out. One nice thing about swearing is that we have a very limited vocabulary of swear words, there’s only so much you can say thus the conversations were short. Only a few lost family plan minutes on my detested cell phone. I had a good long time to think about society and the different family dynamics and I felt bad for these two children being raised in such a haphazard environment. I had at least made friends with my manicurist. She was sweet and did her best to help her mom and comfort her agitated sister. It can always be worse. But I was still grumpy and as you can see I can still gripe about it.
I met Skittles’ landlord, he took me out to an awesome Italian supper. Then we went to the Big ‘I’ which I guess is one of the original Fairbanks bars or something historical like that. It looked like it was all original too, like it came out of some Clint Eastwood movie. The chairs were like bar stools crossed with recliners and wrapped in padded gold vinl. Wwe sat in the smokey wood panneled haze till Skittle’s got off his evening shift.
I stayed at Skittles’ that first night in Fairbanks, one: to be able to hang out with him for a bit and make plans for getting up to the Arctic Circle, and two: another way to keep it quiet from my relatives that I had hitched up.
Almost as soon as I got to the Lofthus place I was asked about my trip up here. I’m not a liar and they knew instantly what I had really been up to. They didn’t seem worried at all. “Was it a nice trip?” How nice. What was I always worried about? Sneaking around all. Silly.
It wasn’t until I was up at Fairbanks and in no way near fish that I realized that fish would be a great gift. It turns out that Uncle Mel had acquired his AK limit of fish and had plenty to share. It was great to be able to fillet fish, sort of get a bit of a refresher on it. I didn’t get to do that with net mending when I was in Southern AK.
We got a few recipes off the internet, I combined those with what I remembered from Roths smoking fish. We dumped a brine together and let it soak for the day. Uncle Mel had bought a Little Chief Smoker at a garage sale for some ridiculous cheap price like $5 or something. It’s the way to go as far as smoking goes.
The other Alaskan part of visiting the relatives was the rhubarb sauce. Yum, we ate that every chance we got.
There was some garage saling to do, a few visits to Value Village where I found things to over stuff my pack, Skittles ran a half marathon- the Mosquito Meander, we had to of course go and get ice cream at Hot Licks. There was coffee with the ladies, the land to bid on, and a wedding to attend – coworkers of Skittle’s.
No, I did not get my land. You probably figured that out by now since I haven’t responded in a very long time. It was one of those tough calls where I really wish I had the instinct to just go for it. I saw one piece of land go for $3,000. It had been a chunk that sounded like it would be a good investment piece. It was close to the water, had a great view. But I wasn’t interested on living there. It wasn’t even half an acre. So I didn’t bid. And all the plots that I would have been happy owning went for over $10,000. I wasn’t about to pay that much on land I hadn’t seen and didn’t really need at the moment. I did find out that Sandy and Glenn were also in the state of Alaska. I can’t believe that we missed each other! They were down South.
As far as the trip to the Arctic, Skittles had a few contacts and before you know it my long driving plan had turned into an overnight camp with a group of 4. We needed enough to play Yuker. The ride up to the Arctic was long and bumpy and a little dusty but we had a rugged vehicle and great company. Towards the end we even picked up a Polish hitchiker. It was fun to hear that he was from Krakow and to tell him that I had hitched to Krakow. And to meet him now on the way to the Arctic Circle.
The sun never set, we stayed up till 3 in the morning playing cards. There was talk of bear attacks but it’s hard to imagine a bear storming in to camp in broad day light. Even if it is 2 am.
The next morning around 8:00 as I prepared to leave I got a call from Maine. From the Cabin. The Cabin! I haven’t seen these people since I stopped at the hostel with Skittles in 2004. I haven’t heard from them either. They did send me copies of all the paintings I made for them. That’s really neat. Anyways, Bear informed me that Honey was arriving in Fairbanks that day. I couldn’t believe it. It’s like contacts that I had met from around the world were nearly colliding in AK.
I had 24 hrs of travel. My first plane was to leave Fairbanks at 10:00. My day of travel was started off with the first plane being almost 3 hrs late, instead of having to wait in the airport Michelle was sent home sick from work, she returned to the airport and we went out to lunch. I barely made my connection in Anchorage to Minnesota. In MN, touching down at nearly midnight 14 voice mails were instantly downloaded onto my phone, I slept for about 4 hrs on a nice cushion that a security guy had pointed out and then I was heading out on my next journey to North Carolina. It wasn’t even 6:00 am. I called to tell Mom and Dad that I had arrived in Washington (DC) only to call back a few minutes later to tell them I was actually at the Chicago O’Hare airport. My bad. It wasn’t even noon and I was already jet weary and confused. I was giving Jason a big, if not slightly dazed, hug at 2:00 Thursday afternoon June 21. Yay, North Carolina!