I had the chance to spend 5 days in Alaska this past week. This was my first time in the 49th state of the US and I learned a lot about the differences that exist in that state. Mostly these cultural differences come from the climate and the general lack of people (also due to the climate). Here is my short list.
- Every single car I saw had an engine block heater. The idea is to plug the car in during the night and coldest days to prevent it from freezing so much that it won't start. Since I grew up in Wyoming I wasn't foreign to the idea but I was impressed to find that all the parking stalls at the hotel and the businesses I visited had outlets available for the purpose. The rental car came with an extension cord but I was warned that if i lost it there was a $35 fee.
- While I was there a young boy fell through the ice in the river in front of my hotel. The news story talked about the ice rescue and dive team being on the scene to recover the body. It got me thinking about the search and rescue teams in Alaska vs in my local area. Doubt that we have an ice rescue team here. Two days later when a man called into 911 complaining of extreme chest pain the easiest and quickest way to get aid to his remote cabin was to Parachute in the rescuers. Another great example of how things change when its that cold.
- I worked with a local business in Fairbanks who has been delivering water since 1929. Because many of the homes outside of town cannot get water piped in they are left with very few good options. Some try digging wells but the chances of finding water are low and if you do the quality of the water will not be very good. So…. this business (and he has plenty of competitors) installs water tanks on people's homes and regularly stops by to top them off with water.
- In the hotel there was an Alaskan TV channel called “The Alaska Channel.” I was there 5 nights and they played the exact same video tape all 5 nights at the exact same time. I guess the producers are struggling to find new material?
When I walked out of the airport I also slipped and fell right on the sidewalk because of the ice. I'm no stranger to snow but in Wyoming and Utah most of us shovel the snow and even if we don't the sun will usually melt the more frequented streets and sidewalks after a few days at most. They shovel and plow in Alaska but its just too cold. All the streets and sidewalks were snow packed. This also accounts for why I thought Alaska drivers were generally so kind. Turns out they just drive slow and defensively because they don't want to wreck and I can't blame them.
- Shortly after I got there Fairbanks had a bit of a heat wave. At some times during the day it got as high as 22-25 degrees (yes this counts as a heat wave). I was warned at this point that I should be extra cautious on the roads because as it gets warmer some of the snow loosens up and begins to melt. This makes the roads slippery. In the below zero temperatures the road isn't really as slick because the ice hardens so much.
- Most of the people I was working with during my time there had remote start on their vehicle. This took a little of the sting out of getting into the car to warm it up. Along those same lines I of course noted very few 2 wheel drive cars and in fact the Hertz rental car company at the airport told me they don't have an 2 wheel drive cars in their fleet.
- The food in Alaska was quite pricey. I asked around about what restaurants I should eat at and on my first day I was recommended a BBQ place that had been featured on the diners and dives show on Food Network. I inquired to the price and I was told it was “quite reasonable.” The cheapest dinner item on the menu was $13.95 I spent the rest of the week trying to downgrade to lower end restaurants only to be consistently thwarted by the prices. The Chinese restaurant in town had a lunch special for $11.95 and the dumpiest (Betos equivalent) fast food Mexican place I could find still ran me over $10 without a drink. The food might have been expensive but it was all very delicious!
- Only about 15 minutes out of Fairbanks is the town of North Pole Alaska. They really play off of the whole Santa thing and many of the street light poles in town are in the shape and colors of candy canes. Santa does have a house there although I didn't get a chance to check it out.
- I was there the week of the Ice Alaska festival. There is an ice park where hundreds of ice sculptures are featured for viewing. AMAZING I have to admit. When I first got into town I noticed right away that a lot of businesses had ice sculptures in front of their buildings and parking lots. I assumed that this had everything to do with the festival but I left with the impression that this is an all winter type of decoration. Why not… its not going to melt until May.
While I was there I was working with the Daily NewsMiner Newspaper. On their building they have a live webcam that can be viewed on their website at: http://newsminer.com/pages/arcticcam Before I left a few guys at work made an arrangement with X96 fm out of Salt Lake City to give us some of their famous Boner t-shirts in exchange for me wearing the shirt in front of the Artic Cam in Alaska. Their is a section of the X96 site (Click Here and select the “Boners Around the World Album) where pictures of people wearing this shirt around the world are displayed. Watch that album for the picture. Meanwhile here is a different picture of me on that cam that Ami took off of her computer:
All in all I had a great time and I hope to go back again in the summer to see the gorgeous country side and spend a little more leisure time with my family and the friends I made there. Alaska, what a wonderful place to visit!