After about a two-and-a-half-hour delay (mechanical, which I will never complain about) we arrived in Fairbanks late last night. Our bodies were tired, but it certainly didn’t seem like that long of a flight, nor did it feel anything like bedtime.
We arrived at our hotel at about 11:30 p.m local time. I didn’t really realize how late it was until we got to our room, but when I opened up the curtain to our window, this was the view that greeted us:
It wasn’t an ultra-spectacular view but the thing that made it so incredible was considering the time this photograph was taken. It was going on midnight and it was not only bright and sunny, but boats were still going up and down the river, and many people were out walking along the shorelines.
In an area that deals with months of temperatures that can get to -50 degrees while sunlight is limited to just a few short hours per day, the arrival of the summer solstice is something to be celebrated. And the people of Fairbanks do just that.
I heard no fewer than three people wish someone else a “happy solstice.” I also heard a few people telling others to enjoy the sunshine. In downtown Fairbanks, there’s even a festival to welcome the summer solstice and the midnight sun that it brings.
You can just tell people want to enjoy every little bit of sunshine they can while they have it. In fact, we both did a double take this afternoon when we were out on the patio overlooking the Chena River and we saw a lady kayaking with a baby in her lap whom she appeared to be nursing… No, really!
In addition to helping the Alaskans celebrate the midnight sun (because who could pass up a chance to celebrate the sun? We also happen to like a good street fest) we also did a little sightseeing, including a viewing of the great Alaskan pipeline.
We also paid a certain fat, bearded man a visit in the North Pole, and started some early Christmas shopping. Yes, it was a total tourist trap, but when you are within a few miles of the North Pole, how can you not go buy a Christmas ornament?!
We also got in a run, but it was cut short due to the blood-sucking mosquitos which we completely underestimated. It’s a shame, too, because there’s a great bike path that was only about a half mile from the hotel.
The path appeared to continue through the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and other areas of the city but we turned around after a mile and a half for a total of three miles. Each time we slowed just a little, Brian’s back would be covered. When we got back I discovered several had bitten me through my clothes. They don’t mess around!
It’s now almost 11:30 p.m. once again, and the sun is shining brightly under the tightly-drawn curtains in our room. It’s a bit bizarre going to bed when it’s so light out. But when you’re in the land of the midnight sun, you’d have to wait a few months if you needed it to be nightfall to go to sleep. And I, for one, need my sleep. We have a full day tomorrow as we make our way to Denali.