Okay, not the actual North Pole. But apparently, we found Santa’s home. It’s just outside of Fairbanks. The road from Whitehorse to the Alaska border was the most challenging thus far. Back in the far recesses of my mind I remembered traveling on roads affected by frost heaves. Frost heaves occur when there is melting below the roadway and above the permafrost. They cause the road to buckle and rise up and down reminiscent of Magic Mountain’s best roller coaster ride. Or as Rebecca called it: stomach churning. After a few miles of this crazy road Bob allowed me to drive. Not that he thinks I’m a better driver…or more experienced…but because he knows I am a firm believer that the faster you go the less time your tires are on the road, thus smoothing out the ride. So, it maybe didn’t work out quite that way but we did get across this wild and wooly stretch. I’ll try and video a segment on the return so you can share in the fun.
Just after I started driving we saw two Grizzly bears! Rebecca managed to capture one looking at us rather fiercely before it headed off into the woods. Wow! We have seen eleven or twelve bear already! (So here’s what I learned today. Black bears come in other colors besides black. But they are distinguished from browns by their lack of a shoulder hump. Brown bear and grizzlies are the same bear. Grizzlies live inland while browns are found along the coast and are primarily fish eaters. So, we likely saw grizzlies. In any case, they were a LOT bigger than the black bear we had been seeing.)
But first, I have to tell you about last night. As you recall, we had a rainy tent and a cool evening. (In fact, it was 41F when we left this morning.) But after the whole hoopla was settled we all jumped into our sleeping bags. (Oh, and I figured out the solution for Matthew’s and my claustrophobia of being zipped up in a bag. We zipped two together, making a double bag with plenty of room for both of us. It worked great. I wished that I’d remembered this option before.)
Anyway, back to my story. Rebecca has been entertaining us with her rendition of the first Harry Potter book. We all enjoy it and it’s a nice way to end the day. Last night, as Rebecca noted, there was no need for a reading light as it was still very light…even at ten at night. By the time she finished Bob was already sound asleep. I have been telling the family about the midnight sun. I know they hear and understand what I’ve been saying, but to actually experience it is completely different. About 1:30am I hear Bob sit up. I tried to get his attention but he didn’t hear me. I thought maybe he heard somebody trying to steal our prized coffee pot, which was sitting on the table outside. Slowly he moved over to the tent door and I watched him carefully open it just high enough so that he could slide out. He looked very much like a beaver scooting out from underneath his home or maybe the Grinch who, you remember, slithered and slunk around. Anyway, I didn’t hear anything further except for some people talking so I figured I didn’t need to assist against the burglar. A few minutes later he slunk back in and returned to his sleeping bag. This morning I asked what he was doing and he sheepishly told me he woke up and saw it was so light so he wanted to get the coffee made for me. Then he saw some people and asked one what time it was only to learn it was truly the middle of the night. Ha.
It could be that we are becoming road weary as this afternoon Rebecca hollered out that she saw a ‘mule’. Well, having seen many mules before none of us paid any attention to her until she said it again…when she realized it was really a moose that she saw. Of course, I won’t tell you about the person who made reservations for the hotel in Fairbanks only to learn that the reservation was for the next night… (You’ll be interested to know that the Solstice is a very busy time for hotels when you’re so near the Arctic Circle.) And yes, thank you Best Western for working with us to find a room, which in the end, turned out to be the King’s Suite.