North Pole – Alaska

It’s July 4th, and as you all know, that’s an important day because it’s Queen Anne’s birthday. As far as she’s concerned, the nation celebrates her birth with fireworks. She also believes in Santa Clause, she can’t help it.

So imagine what happened as we drove into Fairbanks yesterday, and passed by a forty-foot statue of the jolly elf glaring down at the expressway. “Santa! I want to go see Santa for my birthday.” Jeez! Kids!

Anne With Big Santa
The forty-foot carving of Santa looks more menacing than benevolent when you drive past on the expressway.

We spent the afternoon at the Santa Claus House, which sells Christmas decorations and fudge all year-long (those are two things that I believe will rot your brain if you have too much). Little kids are running around the store house, giggling and pointing at all the pretty things on display with wide excited eyes. Anne was leading them. The only problem was that Santa doesn’t work on July 4th. It’s a federal holiday, but he did have all of his minions there. So now we have to go back tomorrow.

Deb and Sally at Santa's House
Deb and Sally take a break from Christmas object shopping, and cool their heals

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t make a wrong turn and wind up in at the real North Pole. This is the name of the town east of Fairbanks; sort of like Tempe is to Phoenix (without the heat). We missed the street and had to drive through some of the town, where they have decorations on the candy cane light poles. Normally Anne will get out of the car and yell a people who don’t take down decorations, but she found this charming.

Deb Tries a Con on Santa.
Deb tries to convince Santa (Fred in this case) that she deserves something other than coal for a present.

The Queen was also afraid that there wouldn’t be fireworks for her birthday in Alaska. After all it’s a foreign country. It is a possibility, because of the constant light. Fireworks don’t show up well during the day. Not to worry, Alaskans substitute light with noise. Firecrackers have gone off around us for the last two days.

We had a birthday dinner at a Triple D restaurant (Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives). We ordered family style (with one you get egg roll), and now we’ll be eating Chinese every other hour for the next two days. But there wasn’t a cake . . . or the annoying happy birthday song (far ra ra). Fortunately, Anne unwittingly solve the problem. She bought a piece of fudge.

Anne's Birthday Cake
Anne gets a surprise birthday cake complete with rocket candle, while Sally sings Happy Birthday.

You see, in Watson Lake, Deb and Sally bought a cake sparkler candle for just this occasion. They were desperate and down to an orange as an alternative, until I remembered the piece of fudge. So we jammed the sparkler into the candy and surprised her with a serenade. Good show indeed.


Chicken – Alaska

Chicken Overlord
The fourteen foot sculpture of a chicken sits on a hill overlooking the town. Next to it is a signpost designating the mileage to worldwide towns having chicken related names.

Chicken Alaska is a wide spot in the road, and the road was muddy when we traveled it. There are three parts to the town, two RV Parks and beautiful downtown Chicken, which I photographed in one shot. In spite of all that, the town’s people have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves seriously.

Downtown Chicken
This panoramic shot captures all the stores in downtown Chicken,

Chicken started out as a gold camp and today there are several active claims being worked. It also is a convenient break on the grueling Top of the World Highway and so the reason for the two RV camps.

Chicken Stock Stage
This is the stage used for the annual music festival called Chicken-stock (get it? Woodstock – Chicken-stock).

Chicken was given that name because no one could agree on how to spell ptarmigan (they obviously didn’t have spell check like I do), so they used the plentiful game bird’s nickname instead. Ptarmigan is still the favorite bird to hunt, but you can’t make as many puns.

Chicken Poop
This is a shot of the public restrooms in Chicken. The private ones aren’t better, just smaller. We chose our RV park, because they had the only flush toilets in town.

We just spent one night in Chicken where we had dinner (fried chicken) and breakfast (chicken and waffles). The restaurants do have beef on the menu (chicken fried steak) if you prefer red meat. If you don’t want chicken or beef, there is a variety of omelet and other egg dishes available on the menu.

Attack Chicken
This is the coup that the chicken in Chicken produces all the eggs for the town’s restaurants.

After breakfast and purchasing a souvenir tee-shirt that says, “Quirky drinking town with a gold mining problem,” we continued on the muddy road towards Tok (rhymes with Coke) Alaska. As we left town it started to rain again. However, twelve miles out-of-town the road was paved, and the same forces that splattered mud on The Ritz, now began scrubbing it off. By the time we reached our destination, the front of the trailer was dirty, but not caked with mud. Hallelujah!

Lord of the Chickens
This sculpture was outside one of the restaurants we visited. Besides this one, there are small chicken details fabricated out of scrap metal pieces.


Top of the World Highway – Yukon

We left Dawson City via the Yukon Ferry. It runs 24 hours and is free, so how could we go wrong? If there are caravans on the road, it could take hours for all of them to cross, but we were fortunate that none were in town. The ride takes less than a half hour, but driving on and off the boat is tricky. There isn’t a permanent dock, so the ramps just let down on the dirt road and there’s a gap that can cause damage to the vehicles. Fred had to re-position his cargo box, Sally got some trim damage and our front trailer foot was slightly bent when we drove off the ferry.

Dawson Ferry
The ferry links Dawson with the Top of the World Highway; and their golf course evidently.

We took some time to fix things and then started up the Top of the World Highway. That’s the name for the road from Dawson to Chicken, Alaska. It got its moniker from the how the trail follows along the three thousand foot mountain ridges.

Dawson City from the Top of the World
In only a couple of miles, we were high in the mountains and got a last look back at Dawson City.
Top of the World View
The views from the Top of the World Highway are spectacular on a clear day.

The road climbs steeply from the Yukon bank, past the golf course, and in our case, into the clouds. The views from the road I’m sure are both spectacular and scary at the same time. For us, it was raining, so we drove in and out of the clouds. Every once in a while, the clouds would lift revealing how steeply the mountains dropped into the valleys below us.

Another Highway View
As we drove along the road, we would drive in and out of the clouds.

Other people warned us that the road was not the best, but we decided to press on regardless. The rain made the gravel base even worse, filling the pot holes and washboard ruts with mud. We drove like it was a slalom course, trying to find a smoother section.

The Gang at the Border Crossing
This time it was the US Customs agent that volunteered to take our photo when we crossed into Alaska.

It was slow going, taking almost four hours to make the eighty mile journey to the border. After clearing customs, we started down the US side on brand new, shiny black pavement. It had bright yellow center lines with white lines down the edges. Our walkie-talkies were full of chatter about how much we loved this road, when about five miles later, it turned into . . . mud. Not gravel, just a plain old sloppy muddy road . . . with worse washboards and more pot holes.

Fritz Leaves Skid Marks
By the time we reached Chicken, the vehicles were caked in mud.

When we pulled into Chicken after another twenty miles, we got out of our vehicles and assessed the mess. The Ritz had two caked on mud stripes down the front that looked like skid marks. I had no idea how I was going to scrape that mess off, but by then, we just wanted to get in out of the rain and get something to eat.