Alaska, Here We Come

Day One (3-24-2014)

We were so excited that we were flying to Anchorage. It was a long flight though. When we were getting off the airplane at our destination, the flight attendant gave every one of my children a captain’s wings pin. What a great way to start the trip.

We picked the reserved rental car up. It’s a Dodge Caravan for comfort because we would be spending some time in the vehicle while on the road. The first thing I noticed after we were out of the garage was that most of the cars on the road were big trucks and they were pretty dirty, covered in dust and mud. In comparison, our rental car was clean and shiny. The city, however, made me feel fresh, clean and new. It’s surrounded by mountains that were covered by snow. I could be delusional, the air quality was better there.

We had booked a suite that was completed with kitchen, so we bought pre-cut vegetables, fruits, bread, deli meat, milk, cheese, noodles/spaghetti, shrimp, salmon, etc. at a super Wal-Mart that’s only minutes from our reserved hotel. Alaskan people have a different goods selection there. Must be pertaining to the demographic, I thought. The store is open 24 hours, which is rare in my neck of wood.

Although it’s only 8:30 pm there, it’s actually 12:30 am in my time zone. We checked in at the hotel. I cooked dinner and we enjoyed it. We were so tired like zombies. Good thing we had plenty of beds and a sofa bed in the suite. Everyone went to sleep rather quickly.

Day Two (3-25-2014)

We ate a nice complimentary continental breakfast after a good night sleep. Then we checked out and headed to Fairbanks. That’s about six hours of driving on highway number three. There’s nothing but mountains and trees once we left Anchorage. Then we saw some manmade structures and entered a small town named Wasilla. Sarah Palin, were you there? After we passed that town, it went back to trees and mountains covered with snow. After hours of driving, we arrived at Denali National Park and Preserve. That was a nice stop to see the views and we were refreshed. After more driving, we finally arrived at our hotel in Fairbanks.

Day Three (3-26-2014)

In the morning, we drove to Santa Claus house in North Pole. Adventurer Jr. II and III loved it. Adventurer Jr. was too old for that, but he was happy to see it otherwise.

After lunch, we were on the road to Chena Hot Springs Resort. It’a about 1.5 hours of driving from Fairbanks. We had a blast at the resort. We visited the Geothermal Electric facility, which provided 80% of the power for the resort with top-notch technology of renewable energy, and the other 20% came from diesel fuel, Green House, Ice Museum, soaked in Hot Springs, and viewed Aurora Borealis. When we were finally back at the hotel, it’s around 5 am already. We crashed in the sack and caught some sleep.

Day Four (3-27-2014)

We were so tired from last night, we even missed the complimentary continental breakfast in the morning. But we still went to Creamer’s Field, Wildlife Refuge and Nature Trails at noon, and spent the rest of the day recuperating from aurora viewing.

Day Five (3-28-2014)

Today was the last day at Fairbanks and we had a full schedule. First we visited Morris Thompson Visitor Center. From there we went to the University of Alaska. How could we not doing the Alaskan husky sled ride on Chena river? No way. Then we were hungry for smoked wild salmon. So we went to a Smoke House. The last planned event was seeing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Mr. Adventure heard people coming here to see aurora borealis as well, so he wanted to come back at night-time to have another viewing. I thought we were lucked out to see the spectacular aurora borealis show at the Chena Hot Springs Resort the other day and was pretty content with it, so he dragged Adventurer Jr. to go with him, while Adventurer Jr. II and III were sound asleep.

Day Six (3-29-2014)

We drove back to Anchorage and it was uneventful. We checked in at the same hotel, same suite, that we left with four days ago. After we ate yummy diner that I cooked in the suite kitchen, we rested a bit, then Mr. Adventurer took Adventurer Jr. II and III to Alaska Zoo for some activities starting at 8 pm. Adventurer Jr. was pretty tired from last night, so he and I stayed in the hotel to get some rest.

Day Seven (3-30-2014)

We went to Kincaid Park near the airport. There once again we had beautiful scenery. We also did sledding and had a picnic. We had fun for hours before it’s time to return the rental car and get into the airport.

When we got to the gate, there’s an announcement that because it’s a full flight, due to limited overhead storage, passengers could check in their carry-on bags to their destination free of charge. We jumped on that opportunity. It turned out to be a huge help without those luggage while traveling with three kids at night. There were reindeer sausage hotdogs in the airport, we bought one since it’s local to Alaska. It didn’t taste differently from other meat.

Day Eight (3-31-2014)

As I was resting and waiting for the last flight back home, a kind gentleman sitting next to me told me about his trip to Israel and Jordan. It was a very pleasant conversation.

Home, sweet home. We were back. Adventurer Jr. III ran to his favorite stuffed animal, kissed and hugged as if they were separated for a long long time. Well, seven days to be exact. We were physically tired and adjusting to our time zone. But our thoughts were still with Alaska, a trip of a life time.

Financial Implications

This trip would have easily cost $7,000. With careful planning and smart spending, it set us back about $1,250, including gifts. This is how we did it for a family of five:

  • Winter gear in preparation for this trip: around $300. Those are reusable for years to come.
  • Parking our car near the airport: $38
  • Airfare: would have cost $4,000, cost us $0
  • Rental car: would have cost $311, cost us $0.
  • Hotel for six nights: would have cost $1,200, cost us $0
  • Breakfast: Free
  • Lunch, dinner and snack: $200 We would have spent money on food had we stayed home anyway
  • Husky Sled Ride: $360
  • Ice Museum: $50
  • Hot Springs: $54, plus $1.5 (2 quarters x 3) for lockers, and three towel rental cost $45 at $15 each. We would have brought the towels from our hotel to use had we known there’s a charge for them. That’s $45 we could have saved.
  • Smoked Wild Salmon: $19
  • Gas: $150
  • Gift: Two packages of non frozen smoked wild salmon at $15 each, total $30
  • Souvenir: Free
  • Zoo: Normally, there’s a cost for admission, but the zoo was hosting some special events and it’s free on that day
  • Creamer’s Field, Wildlife Refuge and Nature Trails: There’s no admission or anything, but we donated $20 just to show our appreciation for the nice hike and great conversation.

General Impressions:

  • We met some really nice people, and we’d be passing the kindness on to make the world a better place.
  • I learned a lot.
  • Alaska has beautiful scenery. Pristine, unpolluted, a true nature lovers paradise. I hope it stays that way.
  • Alaska time is four hours behind eastern time. That means the stock market is closed at 12 noon Alaska time. That would work out great for me. I’ll have plenty of time left for other stuff.
  • Instead of snow truck, they use CAT machines, called snow cat, for clearing the snow on the road. That’s how much snow they have.
  • They don’t use salt on the parking lot and walk ways, they use crushed stones. I can imagine how much salt would have been wasted with this much of snow.
  • Kids have no snow day in Alaska. When temp was below -40°F, school was optional though. The lowest temp was -60°F this past winter.
  • Small business hours are short during winter time, usually from 11 am to 2 or 3 pm.
  • There’s no dark time in summer. No stars to see.
  • Trees are mainly spruce and white paper birch. Older forests have most spruce trees; younger forests have more white paper birch; middle-aged forests have half spruce and half white paper birch trees.
  • What to do when encountering a bear? Don’t run. If it follows you, take off your hat, leave it in front of you, and walk away.
  • Popular gas stations: Tesoro, Holiday, Shell, ARCO, and Exxon Mobile.
  • Popular banks: First National Bank Alaska and Wells Fargo.
  • Adventurer Jr. II would love to go back there after he finishes college to spend at least a year.
  • I don’t like cold weather, yet I would like to live there for a year after the kids are independent and out of the house.

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Alaska, Here We Come — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The World Wonders that I have been to | The Adventurer Blog

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