The sun began shining brightly at 3:30am, long before we were ready to rise and shine. But we certainly were happy to see it and rejoiced at the warm temperatures that allowed us to put the jackets back in the closet. We drove a short distance to Delta Junction, the terminus of the Alaska Highway at mile 1422 and celebrated having completed this historic drive. Delta Junction is really kind of a nowhere place, but the highway the rest of the way to Fairbanks was already built during 1942-43 when the AlCan was rushed into existence as part of the war effort. A thermometer on the wall of the visitor center noted a high temperature of 9º on June 25 one year and winter temps in the -80º's.
Everywhere we drive we consult The Milepost. This guide book was begun in the early 1950’s to orient travelers to services and attractions along the way. Nearly every bridge and pull off from the road is carefully documented with mile markers. We would love to have such a resource for drives in other parts of the country. Some businesses pay for extra page space and glorify what they have to offer, but the tourist bureau in Tok gave us some good suggestions for worthwhile stops.
First we visited Delta Meat & Sausage, a USDA approved butchery that sold sausage made out of elk, yak, reindeer, buffalo and more conventional meats. There was room in the freezer for a few savory samples along with the crawfish we are still driving around with, first purchased in New Orleans. We love to eat local.
We also stopped at Rika’s Roadhouse, a well preserved example of the sorts of place early tourists to the area used to stay and eat. Rika was an immigrant from Sweden who was used to the cold climate and raised many animals on site so she could serve fresh meat. In the summer her huge vegetable garden served the same purpose. We’re surprised how many folks are making a living farming this far north. Barley seems to be an especially successful crop. Area buffalo are especially fond of the barley too, so they have mostly been confined to a reserve where they are restricted to eating grass.
Although we haven't had many bad experiences, The Milepost also warned about mosquitos here. The females only bite us shortly before they want to lay eggs, but there are so many different varieties, that one is always ready to lay eggs. A moose often donates a pint of blood to the cause according to The Milepost. Wow!
As we neared Fairbanks, a town of 30,000, we felt a bit of culture shock. The road suddenly turned into an expressway and there were stop lights. We can’t remember the last time we saw one. Last night our campground in Tok had only one other rig besides us. Here the campground is nearly full. Coming to Fairbanks to celebrate the Solstice doesn’t seem like an original idea. The temperature is in the low 80's. Why did we have to drive so far north to find summer?
There will be no sunset today. Rather it will set at 12:45am tomorrow and rising again at 2:15am. Have a good night's sleep!