City Chick in Alaska

- Audrey LoPresti

After our long journey from NJ to Fairbanks, AK (with a layover in Seattle, Washington) I stepped outside the airport expecting to see mountains, upon snow covered mountains, all dirt roads, bear & moose at every stop. Instead what I saw was a lot of land. Open land, paved roads, and stores. Copia Magazine Alaska

When we arrived at the place we were staying, I just sat there mouth hanging open, not believing what I was seeing. This is the best way to explain our living arrangements: Remember the beginning of the Wizard of Oz before Dorothy's house blows away? Well, that's what the North Pole looked like. It looked like Kansas!!! I was waiting for us to have to run into the basement for cover!!! The weird weather didn't help much either. It would be cloudy when we woke up, then it would clear up, be 70 & sunny, then it would go up to 90 degrees, then it would start raining & go down to 60 and this was every day!!! You never knew what to wear.

They started me off slow, showing me the tourist sites. After pulling up to one of the many 'drive up' espresso shacks, we went to Santa's House, where I fed Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!!! Unfortunately Santa was too drunk to come say hello. We continued our ride to the Knotty Shop; a cute little store where everything is homemade Alaskan. We then ate at the Captain Bartlett Inn, where you could carve your name on the wall & throw empty peanut shells on the floor: it was a real classy Afterwards, they took me to Alaska Land, or Pioneer Town as it's known today. This place was very interesting. It reminded me of Wild West City in NJ!!! It was a western town with museums, little shops etc.. I learned a lot about Alaskan history there. That night we ate at the Turtle Club, an local favorite. Unfortunately, they don't eat too much chicken there, so I tried Halibut for the first time! It was so good. I had it the next night for dinner too!!! When we got back to the house, the boys went out four wheeling, while I stayed back & tried to get some sleep. Did I mention that it's 24 hours of daylight? So at 3am, you're still awake doing things & going places! {I passed right out, the light didn't bother me.}

The next morning, after a beautiful tour of the 'rich' neighborhood {FYI: you can buy a mansion in Alaska for 50K that would cost us 500K in NY/NJ}, we proceeded to the Army Base for a nice ride on the rocky roads that had plain as day signs: DO NOT PASS THIS POINT. You can only imagine how scared I became! Let me describe the vehicle we rode in. It was this beat up, & I mean beat up, blue Toyota truck with HUGE wheels; broken windows, where the glass was actually cracking the more we drove; bullet holes; dents everywhere from their numerous accidents. It was a sight to

That evening, we drove to Chena Hot Springs. The scenery was beautiful. It reminded me of my drive to Key West, only with a lot of trees. This was definitely my favorite place! The Hot Springs were soooo nice!!! I mean it was hot hot hot, but still so nice to swim in. Just when I thought my night was over, the boys decided they wanted to go four wheeling down a creek & take us with them! I agreed & was scared out of my mind riding on the back of the quad. So on the way back, I drove the quad & I was a natural. Water up to my knees, it was

At this point, you're saying to yourself, I've heard enough, but this was only the beginning!!! Now it's time for the real adventure...

It was the 4th of July & we were getting ready to go 'up river' 50 miles. I thought this meant a 'river cruise' on a big boat. What did I know?! When we arrived at the boating dock, the boys got in a jet boat called "Burnin Daylight" & the girls got in a separate boat.

It started off nicely. It reminded me of Lake Gaston, Virginia. Only this wasn't a lake & there were cabins instead of huge houses. This is before I realized we were on a jet boat, on a river, with only 3 inches of water!!! Usually only air boats go on this river, but they do this all the time, so I wasn't supposed to worry. On our way there, I watched "Burnin Daylight" plummet into a log jam, get up on it's side & almost flip over! As if that wasn't exciting enough! It gets better.

We finally arrived at the cabin. We were staying in the 'shop'. I still don't know which was worse, camping outside or staying in the 'shop.' This is when they broke the horrible news to me: "We have no running water." Do you know what this means?!!! No shower! No sink! No soap!!! I had to pee in a hole for 7 days!!! I was horrified. I got used to it, but my hands never looked so

At this point, I figured I'd go with the flow. They were all shooting 45 mm guns into the woods, so I gave it a shot; no pun The sound was deafening, but it was nothing compared to the canons they shot off to celebrate the 4th!!! {This was due to the fact that you cannot see fireworks in the daylight.}

On our way up another 25 miles of river, we were in good hands, or shall I say no hands, as our driver rolled a cigarette with one & had his beer / permafrost {peppermint schnapps} in the other!!! He got us there to the cabin where the BIG party was being held. As I mentioned earlier, they don't eat much chicken, so this time I ate frog legs & alligator!!! They taste just like chicken!!!

On our way back to the cabin, I opted for the boat driven by my friend Cody, b/c he was the only sober driver. Cody is the # 1 snow machine racer in Alaska, so I had faith that he would steer us in the right direction. My faith was tested when he made a wrong turn in the river & he told me to hold on. He had to jump over a log jam & then make a sharp turn back into the water! They told us our boat was at least 4 feet in the air! I felt like I was an Indiana Jones stunt double! I couldn't believe we landed in the water. It was so unbelievable!!! I wish we had a video camera, b/c pictures aren't enough!!!

While staying on the river we did a lot of fishing too. I caught 2 grayling fish & a branch!!! I've come to the conclusion that fishing is only exciting when you actually catch a fish; otherwise it is the most boring sport next to golf.

After that excursion, I needed a break & a shower!!! We completed our trip with a nice dinner at the Castle Restaurant where they actually had chicken!!!

Hope you got a little taste of Alaska...:)

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