As I stepped onto the AlaskaAir airplane, my nerves finally quieted down. I was on my way for the first time to Alaska to photograph the Northern Lights and explore Fairbanks. There is no easy way to get to Fairbanks from Detroit, the flights are long and you have to make several connections. AlaskaAir was nice to fly, and I got Delta miles on the trip. Make sure you sit in F seats on the way up and A seats on the way home. You might be able to see the lights from the plane.
I met a wonderful lady on the flight from Seattle. Myra is a professional pool player that lives in Fairbanks. She gave me great info about Fairbanks & Alaska. She made me want to come up here in the summer, and I wasn’t even there yet.
First Impressions of Fairbanks
Ensure you have a rental car set up ahead of time. I got there late in the evening, and there were no cars available. Good thing Hampton Inn, where I was staying, had a shuttle.
The shuttle driver was so friendly and made sure that I saw the Northern Lights that were there to greet me to Alaska.pointed out the Northern Lights to me as we drove to the hotel. A misty, blurry green haze above the trees. It almost looked like a glow from a nuclear power plant from a sci-fi movie. The driver mentioned that some people come up to see the lights and don’t see them. There was one couple that visited, and the Northern Lights were on their bucket list. As he was driving them back to the airport, he pointed to them in the sky and fulfilled their dream so; they wouldn’t go home without seeing them at all.
As I was working with Fairbanks public transportation for my first full day, I started it by walking across the street to Walmart to pick up the bus. Shit! It is cold out here! -10 degrees! There are no sidewalks so, I slipped & slid all the way over across the busy street. I’m sure there are sidewalks but, you can’t see them over the mounds of snow plowed on the side of the streets. I didn’t know where to pick up the bus so, went to the store and got directions. Found the bus stop but, I had to wait 40 minutes for the bus. There seem to be fewer buses and more time between runs. This is what I get for saving money. I wandered around Walmart until the bus was going to arrive.
Meeting the Locals
When I headed over to the stop, there was already a guy there. He was very agitated because he couldn’t find his bus pass. This man I’m standing next to was taking everything out of his pockets and throwing it in the snow. He was all chatty telling me his name was Patrick O’Shanahan, the first black Irish man I would meet. Patrick talked to me constantly while he looked for his ticket. He told me about all his jobs he had over the years. He mentioned how he had worked in the union and that he looked old but, was only 53. Told me about his lazy ex-girlfriend and how he ditched his car and claimed it was stolen and now rode the bus. Right before the bus turned the corner, he found his bus ticket. You never know what kind of characters you will meet on vacation.
As I was transferring to another bus at the transit center, my boss called. Why is it that I can never go on vacation without having everything at work go up in flames without me being there? I talked with him for over a half hour to straightened it all out while standing outside freezing my face off. This is why I need vacations to get away from work and sometimes that doesn’t even go well.
I wish UBER were up in Fairbanks; it would have been more convenient than all buses & taxi’s that I took my one day in the city. What I didn’t like about the taxi service which I used at least five times was the wait. It took a minimum of 20 minutes or more for a cab to pick me up. I also didn’t like knowing how much it would cost until the ride was over. The weird thing I noticed that in every taxi, they had damage to their windshields (cracks going across the bottom of the glass). I asked my last driver if they all shared the same cars because I kept seeing the same damage. He said it was from all the pebbles being kicked up at the intersections. They don’t use salt up there on the roads; they use dirt.
The Northernmost Southern BBQ
I wanted to experience some authentic Fairbanks restaurants and chose to visit Big Daddy’s, showcased on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The food and the atmosphere were fantastic. This place was hopping. I sat in the bar area and watched for over an hour and a half a line out the door that never slowed down. It seems that everyone in Fairbanks comes to eat at Big Daddy’s.
The ice sculptures at the 2017 World ICE ART Championships were outstanding to see but, it was frigid. I went quickly around the park to see as many ice sculptures lit up at night as I could before I froze. The ice art was incredible. Compared to the snow sculptures we made at Michigan Tech, these ice sculptures blew us away. So much detail on these design. I made it through most of them before I had to call a taxi to go back to the hotel for the night.