States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pipeline, Fairbanks, North Pole, Richardson Highway

We had a a busy day ahead of us, so an early start was necessary, taking a group photo of the sign as we left.  

While we headed north, the Scaranis stayed for a few extra hours in Denali and took advantage of an ATV tour.  In the small town of Denali, we crossed the bridge over Iceworm Gulch – it wasn’t hard to see how it received its name!

Just north of Fairbanks, on the way to Fox, we stopped off at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) viewpoint, taking time to read the boards and learn about this incredible feat of engineering.

Driving back to Fairbanks, we stopped off at Pioneer Park for some lunch and to wander around the exhibits.  The Harding Rail Car was fascinating.  It’s incredible to think that just a century ago, this was the major form of transport and the carriages, particularly those used by heads of state, were as spectacular as houses.  This one was used by President Harding (obviously!) and sported beautiful stained glass windows and furnishings.

The restored steamboat, SNN Nenana, held exhibits inside as well as complete engine rooms.

After ice cream, we returned to drive on to the town of North Pole, one of Alaska’s most unique communities, a little south of Fairbanks, passing the most northerly Denny’s in North America!  These little tidbits of information are always so amusing when we see them along the way on a huge sign. 

The Santa Claus house in North Pole, Alaska has sent millions of Letters from Santa to children all over the world since 1952.  Letters from children adorn the walls of the house/shop.  For your own customized letter, check out:

We hadn’t told the kids who might be sitting inside the house, so the little ones were rather surprised and a little hesitant when they spotted Santa Claus wearing a wonderful Hawaiian shirt!  He was incredibly jolly and asked them questions, gave them a mini science lesson about the difference between caribou and reindeer (reindeer’s leg muscles audibly click as they walk), and generally ‘ho-ho-ho’d’ his way through the conversation.  He was lovely!

Outside, after pictures in Santa’s sleigh parked in front of the original 40-foot Santa sign, we visited the reindeer and listened for the click and heard it!

In the 1980s the Miller family brought the World’s Largest Santa home to North Pole with the purchase of a nearly fifty foot tall statue originally created in 1968 for a Seattle area holiday mall promotion.

 Beautifully painted tiles surrounded the house.  In the back of the parking lot, the Santa bus was for sale for the bargain price of $7,500........tempting!

Richardson Highway beckoned.  It certainly was the road less traveled with unexpected sights - aircraft anyone.......or a tank?!  We were overwhelmed by the awesome mountain ranges and incredible scenery as we drove along.  

We stopped off at Delta Junction where the Alaskan Highway ends and intersects with Richardson.  We found the mosquito (Alaska’s National ‘Bird’) statues rather funny and realized how far away we were from our 'sticks & bricks' house!  The Visitor Center had some wonderful exhibits.

Constantly observing  the pipeline as we drove along, we periodically stopped for more pictures.  It is constructed in a zig zag to allow for movement.  Parts are underground, placed strategically to ensure it is not adversely affected by weather conditions.  It is frequently monitored for leaks by aircraft and various pull-outs along with way.  It really doesn’t mar the landscape, quite often we couldn’t even see it from the road.  It obviously takes a carefully planned track, not always following the road.

The quiet drive rewarded us with some fantastic views of wildlife.  We spotted six moose throughout the day, along with two caribou frolicking in the long grass and darting across the road.

At one point, Dave suddenly pulled to the side of the road as he’d noticed a massive beaver dam.  We pulled out the binoculars and could clearly see the dam, along with a huge lodge.  As we continued to take photos, the beaver appeared at the lodge and then swam over to the dam – a rare but special sight.

We knew that this Highway was less-traveled and while we enjoyed the peace, it was a little concerning that towns were few and far between.  We had planned to stop in Paxson for gas – it was marked on the map, however as we passed two houses and an out of order gas post, we realized that was Paxson!  Thankfully Dave is always extremely careful and aware of our gas situation, so further along the road, he stopped for a just-in-case ‘splash and dash’.  The reason for just a few gallons: the shocking price of $5.65/gallon – whoa!

We passed the gorgeously serene and clear, though still frozen in parts, chilly Summit Lake.  Despite the random piles of trash throughout this state, the beauty of the scenery prevails and we have certainly come away with a feeling of wonder and awe.  Machinery was dotted along this Highway as repairs were underway throughout.

Eventually we arrived near Glennallen (junction of Richardson and Glenn Highways) and discovered a scenic overlook, with phenomenal views of Mount Wrangell, set off the road behind a bank of trees.  Hoping that perhaps the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park might still be open, we stopped by just in time to chat the Ranger as she locked the gates!  We had intended to stay at a campground in Copper Center but driving through the town, we decided the overlook was just as good a stopping point and offered the better price: free!  This area also gave us some interesting people sightings.  Walking up the road, seemingly to nowhere, an elderly lady moving slowly pulled an enormous suitcase behind her.  The next morning, we saw her again along a different road, still pulling her suitcase!  On the way into Copper Center, we saw a weary man with his two little girls walking at 9pm.  After we’d looked around the town, watched some people fishing, and had been unsuccessful finding the Chapel on the Hill, we again saw the man, still walking toward town, now carrying both girls.  There was a general feeling of poverty with unfinished and rundown houses.

Given the amazing and sudden increase in mosquito activity, we were thrilled to be able to stay in the RV and not offer ourselves out as blood donors!  Dave managed some great pictures of the Wrangell Range through the windscreen as the sun went down!

No comments: