I am in Fairbanks shooting pictures of sled dogs, mushers, Aurora's and ice carvings, enjoying (braving?) minus 14 degree temps in Alaska in order to regale you with stories from the frozen tundra. If you have ever dreamed of heading north, really north, don't pass up their daily dose of tales from the last frontier.

   Subject: Alaska 2001 - It begins

                Date: Sun. 25 Feb. 2001 23:34:42 EST  

  I'm in Fairbanks and safely ensconced in Sophie Station Hotel.  I haven't written before this primarily because there has not been much to tell.  In fact, there still isn't.

  The hotel accommodation is a one-bedroom suite, with a full kitchen, two televisions and lots of room to spread out.  It is much more like a condo than a hotel room.  I am including a photo taken from our window in the early morning snow of our first morning here.

  The place has a delightful (if somewhat expensive) restaurant and is conveniently located within a short walk of Fred Meyers'.  A short walk, that is, in the summer.  Now, you might prefer to ride.  Take this morning, for instance.  At 9 AM the temperature outside was still minus 14 degrees.  As I squinted out our window into the bright sunlight I could see one hapless tourist in the parking lot that had failed to plug in his engine block heater last night getting a jump-start from a tow truck.  I can only imagine how cold it really was during the night.  When I walked outside aurora watching last night, the Gore Tex liner in my ski jacket got stiff like sheets of writing paper, and that was only about six below.

  For those who don't relish the cold, the weather report holds good news today.  The cold snap, which is very uncharacteristic for this year, should end today, and the temperature should go as high as twenty in the next few days.  For me, I am glad to see the more comfortable temperatures return, but I feel I missed an opportunity to see what "pretty cold" feels like when I climbed back into bed rather than suit up this morning.   Still, if the past record of the weathermen around here is any indication, I probably will still get my chance, since when he predicts warm, it is usually taken as a sure sign of impending mind numbing cold and vice versa.

  "Real cold" around here is considered more than forty below, and this year they only reached that milestone one time, making it a pretty mild winter in anyone's book.

  My first two days here have been spent getting reoriented, picking up activity calendars, shopping for food, and generally loafing.   The first night we were too beat to go out at night, but last night we did catch the northern light show for about an hour.  It was pretty uninspiring, us being pretty experienced and somewhat jaded aurora watchers and all, but then again it was not too bad for my first try of the season.

  I certainly learned that I have to do something with the lights of my car, since this modern marvel has those "always on" running lights, which means that if you run the engine to get some heat, then the headlights are on, and the reflections in the snow are so bright that your eyes can't see the aurora at all.  I have already taken out the inside dome light so that it doesn't go on when the door opens, and today I'll do something about those pesky running lights.

  Yesterday the university had a science day for the kids.  Unfortunately  the talk about birds of prey in the winter was cancelled, but it may yet be rescheduled while I'm are still here.  And life being a series of choices, I sadly had to forgo Billy Beaver's Birthday bash at the Beaver Sporting Goods store, but perhaps I'll catch it next year when my schedule is a little looser.

   When I get some interesting photos, I'll send them along, but for now I'm signing off.   Let the day begin!




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