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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 18 Jul 2019

Location: Fairbanks, USA

MapFairbanks is a sprawling city known as the Golden Heart of Alaska which evolved from a homestead years ago.
As with other cities is is a functional place and is the second largest city in Alaska. The rapid urbanisation came about because of the installation of the transAlaska pipeline which we visited this morning on our city tour. It is a remarkable piece of engineering and difficult to comprehend how it only took three years to build.

On the rest of the tour we took in the museum and then this after noon have been on a steamboat river cruise along the River Chena, a waterway which divides the city. What a gem this turned out to be...It is a family business founded by Jim Brinkley and the traditions are carried on by his whole family. It is an impressive, professional organisation which makes use of technology and cameras with live presentations by the crew to ensure that all passengers are kept informed. Not long after we set off, a floatbplane landed and took off alongside the boat. The bush pilot had a radio link to give a talk on what it was like to be a pilot in the wilderness.
Next was a friendly wave from a resident of one of the magnificent properties lining the river bank. This turned out to be the 92 year old widow of Jim, the founder of the company, who had come down to the water's edge to watch the boat go by.
We made several stops after this. Quite a lengthy one was at the dog kennels of Sue Butcher, a famous leading dog mushing ( racist dog sledding) champion. Now deceased her daughter has taken over the business. Via radio links she gave us a demonstration of what is involved in the training of the dogs.

The boat turned round at the confluence of the river with the Tanana and we moored by the Athabascan Native Living History Museum. Here the guides were Athabascan and took us through a reconstructed village, complete with reindeers, salmon hatcheries and dog sledging to bring to life what it was like to be a native in the past. This was a great place and clearly demonstrated how the harsh conditions threatened the very existence of the tribes in the past who struggled to keep alive their skills and traditions and to pass on their knowledge to future generations.
The dilemma is just as pressing today as modern technology threatens their way of life as the young leave for better jobs and education in the cities.

After snacks of blueberry doughnuts and salmon on crackers, we docked late afternoon.

Later after finding a local bar to eat, we went to the Fairbanks Cultural Centre, another gem of a place.

And then the fifteen minute walk along the river to the hotel in glorious sunshine at nine o'clock at night. We will just get used to the twenty four hours of daylight when it is time to go home!