07 June 2012


After we left Tok, we headed for Fairbanks. We were there for one night before heading up the haul road, now known as the Dalton Highway. When we were done riding that highway--it is an up-and-back road--we stayed Chena Hot Springs for a night, and then stayed the next night in the same place we did the very first night we had been in Fairbanks.

This whole part of the trip marks some very special points of the trips. Part of that was riding the Dalton Highway, which I will tell you all about in a separate post. Another special part of this is where Josh and I stayed the first and third nights in Fairbanks. Before leaving on the trip, Josh and I went to couchsurfing.org and checked several of the cities we would be staying to see if the was anybody around to host a couple of couch surfers. If you don't know about couch surfing, look it up. It is a great community of travelers/hosts, kind of along the lines of exchange programs. It offers travelers a place to stay, while being able to meet new people, and even join in the local doings. Josh and I listed our house as having an empty sofa, and in the past we have had someone from Vienna, and someone from Philadelphia stay with us.

This time, we were looking for someone in Fairbanks we could stay with. We found Melissa and Tom Kurkowski. About eight years ago, they moved from Wisconsin to Fairbanks for Tom to do his master's degree work at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. They fell in love with the area and stayed! (By the way, this seems to be a popular idea.) We really enjoyed our first night with Tom and Melissa and their two rescue Alaskan Huskies, Elka and Wader. Melissa made us a fantastic dinner of halibut with potatoes and asparagus, and as we were finishing eating outside, their neighbor Brandon came over and had dessert with us. We sat outside for a while longer (because of the long daylight, it is SO hard to tell what time it is!) and finally all turned in. They invited us to stay with them again when we returned, and we said we would love to.

Melissa, Tom, Wader, and Elka!

Our last night in Fairbanks, we drove in from the Hot Springs, spent half an hour at the BMW dealership trying to get my new speedometer/ABS sensor, and then met Melissa downtown for First Friday Fairbanks. We ran around historic downtown, ducking into art galleries and out of the rain. We had little snacks and saw a lot of local Alaska art. I really enjoyed seeing the art and talking with a few of the artists who all seem to be transplants from the lower 48. We ended the tour at the community history museum where they had an entire room dedicated to the state sport of dog mushing. I am totally hooked by the way. I'll be looking for an Alaskan Husky rescue when we get home!

We picked up Tom and had dinner at Silver Gulch brewery, tasting a range of their brews, and went back to give the dogs some love and crash for the night. The next morning, Melissa and I walked the dogs, coming across a number of runners doing the Two Way Torture Run. Doesn't that sound like something you want to sign up for? Actually, my cousin Seth probably would. Tom made fantastic whole wheat and Alaska blueberry pancakes, and we finally said we needed to be moving on. We would have loved to stay with them for a much longer time. They were such fun people, and we are so grateful for the chance to stay with them and get to know them.

The night before our last night in Fairbanks, after we came down off the Dalton, we stayed one night at the Chena Hot Springs, correctly assuming our battered joints could use a soak. The campground wasn't anything great, but we put up the tent, had some dinner and made our way to the soaking pools. They have a natural stone pool which is huge and super hot outside. It is also ONLY for grownups. Bonus! Watching the moose come down out of the hills to feed while we were soaking was awesome!

The next morning we were able to use all the water we needed to clean the mud off our poor motorcycles, and get all the moving parts moving properly again. Then we had a chance to go to the dog kennels and visit with the 80 or so dogs they currently have. I was,of course, in love with most of them. In fact, I really wanted to take Skip, a retired and adoptable dog, home with me. No really, I WANT HIM!!! The girl who was there feeding them was great, giving us a lot of historical info on the dogs and the sport, as well as relating hilarious stories about tourists who just dont know how to deal with dogs!

We had a late lunch in the restaurant there. The night before, while in the soaking pool, I overheard a group of women talking about how great the food was. We ordered smoked salmon burgers (yum!) and clam chowder (double yum!). Earlier that morning, while spending close to three hours cleaning off the bikes, we smelled breakfast cooking. We missed breakfast time, but the menu looked really great.

By the end of that visit, we started thinking about returning in the winter (yes, it is open all year round) and staying for a few days to soak and take in the Aurora Borealis. We would fly for that trip....


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