For most people the biggest benefit of Thanksgiving is it is an excuse to enjoy a more than human supply of turkey. For me, it signals time with the Fam and a no-excuse situation for doing something life listed and awesome. And thus, while all of my friends slept with full bellies, I took a red eye to Fairbanks, Alaska.
My adventure started with an e-mail I received shortly after landing. It was from my hotel and regarded my shuttle.
Please look for the man who looks like Santa and is wearing a cowboy hat. He will be your driver.
My first naive thought was how was I going to find this guy in a crowded airport. I looked around skeptically.
The first thing that I learned in Alaska was that there are not really people there. Finding someone in a crowd is not a problem because simply put, there are no crowds. There are barely people. The Santa looking man in cowboy gear stood out not because he was a oddly plump man who looked like Santa Clause mixed with Clint Eastwood but because he was the only other person in the airport. He asked if I was Danny (The room was empty) and I smiled and said yes.
Let it be known that this was not a happy Santa. We drove from the airport for two hours to a small hotel 60 miles north of Fairbanks. It was the middle of a snow storm (or a Friday as they call it in Alaska) and cranky Santa told me a long story about how he had hitchhiked to the state after getting in trouble with the law. He hated his family, he hated Jews and most of all he hated driving in the snow. I thought to myself that if you don’t like snow, you probably should not hitchhike north. He made it all the way to Alaska before coming to this same conclusion.
The second thing that I learned about Alaska was that everyone who lives there is there for a very specific reason.
We arrived at the hotel and I got out of the car in record time. I checked into my room and went to bed with a smile on my face. What had I gotten myself in to? :-p
The next morning I woke up late and ventured to the main cabin to see what they were cooking. To my delight it was roasted duck.
After my incredibly delicious lunch I started chatting to the cook/bartender/receptionist.
“What’s there to do around here?”
“You should check out the museum! It’s an ice museum!”
Of course it was :-)
To be fair, this was actually the most amazing museum I have ever seen. France has the Mona Lisa but check out what Alaska has:
Yes, your eyes don’t lie. That is a picture of me drinking a cocktail in an ice glass and a picture of me playing an ice xylophone. I am that cool. (That’s a temperature joke right there folks)
On my way out of the museum, I noticed a dog out of the corner of my eye. I thought this was a cold place for a dog to be, so I went to investigate. To my delight, the dog ended up being part of the pack that was training for the Iditarod. (I kid you not.) I asked the owner if I could go for a ride and she gladly accepted. (As a side note, she was hot. Just saying.)
In true, Disney movie style I got to hold the reins and yell mush. I was struck by how responsive the dogs were and I laughed when I noticed the puppies in the middle running askew from the pack. They were still learning :-)
That night I enjoyed another amazing dinner, some quite toasty hot springs (at one point, I burned my butt) and I encountered the coldest temperature I had ever been in.
I woke myself up and crawled out of my cabin at three in the morning in order to see the Aurora Borealis. It was at that moment when I discovered what it felt like to be truly freezing. To be precise, it was negative 30 degrees fahrenheit.
I had on five layers of clothes (including a parka) walked out toward a nearby field. When I was younger, my mom had told me story about how when she lived in Alaska, her spit would freeze before it hit the ground.
I worked up the biggest loogie I could and spat as hard as I could.
Unfortunately for me, it went about two inches, froze and then stuck to my wool mask.
The third thing I learned in Alaska was not to spit on yourself :-)
After each step I took, my clothes instantly refroze into place. I eventually got to the field and wondered if my eyeballs were going to freeze. (No seriously, that is a scary thought!)
The Aurora Borealis was absolutely breathtaking. It was a green/purple cloud dream slowly dancing its way across the sky. I tried to take some pictures but as I should have seen coming, my camera froze shut. That night, I slept with an even bigger smile on my face.
My last day in town, I went snow-mobiling. It was an excellent way to explore the terrain and a ton of fun.
Alaska ended up being absolutely freaking amazing. I will most definitely be visiting again. On top of its beauty, it packed in more character than any state I have ever visited. In addition to being the biggest state in the United States, it is also the most ripe with adventure. If you haven’t been to Alaska, I highly recommend adding it to the top of your life list. It is well worth the angry Santa drive.
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