My Alaskan Adventure in Fairbanks

Come along on my Alaskan adventure as I visit Fairbanks. This isn’t my first trip to Alaska, but this time is very different. I’m on a two-week land and sea cruise, starting on land. During my previous trip, I focused on heading to and past the Arctic Circle.

Fairbanks – Educational and Inspiring

Arriving a day early I started right in on my Alaskan adventure. I was familiar with public transportation in Denver, but you never know how well another system will work out. I’m happy to say, it was great. My companions and I easily traveled everywhere we wanted to go. We felt safe and privileged meeting some local Alyeskans (the native word for Alaska). And a big plus is the price – free for anyone 60 and over. We saw a lot of Fairbanks that we would have missed otherwise.

Fairbanks Visitor Center

Athabaskan youth sharing beading knowhow
Athabaskan youth beading

Our first stop was the visitor center. I highly recommend spending time at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center. We learned about local history, native culture, how locals have fun all year long, and about native plants and animals.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks

Museum of the North
UofA Museum of the North

We jumped back onto the MAC blue line bus and stopped at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Two of my group visited the museum and loved it. My friend and I opted to take a walk down the hill to the Georgeson Botanical Garden. It was fabulous! As Master Gardeners in our past lives and loving gardens of all types, we were excited learning about local gardening from fellow gardeners. For instance, we talked to a volunteer working in the perennial beds who told us how hot it’s been. Coming from Florida, we were thrilled with the 80 degree weather and thought it’s pleasantly cool. The volunteer also told us about the weird elongated ‘blueberries’ we’d seen, called honeyberries. Bird netting covered the bushes,  saving the super sweet morsels for humans.

Day 2 – On the Tour

The next day we joined our Holland America Tour group, visiting two popular spots. When I looked at the brochures and marketing information, I thought, “This will be touristy and hokey”. Boy was I wrong!

Dredge 8

The whole gold rush history was something I missed during my previous visit in 2003. And panning for gold sounded like fun. But Dredge 8 offered so much more.

First, as we exited the parking lot, there stood the Alaskan pipeline, right in front of us. A group gathered around a demonstration section of the pipeline with an opening to see the mechanism that keeps the interior of the pipe clean. Our experience began with a detailed explanation how the pipeline benefits Alaska, all residents, and eliminates concerns for wildlife and the environment.

My Alaskan adventure in Fairbanks
Fun on Dredge 8

Next, we took a ride along the rails, moving us through the history of gold mining in the area up to the dredges used until the 1950’s. It was fascinating to hear about the dredge, and later we climbed up to the third level and ‘manned’ the controls of this huge mechanical artifact of Alaskan history.

But I can’t forget the panning for gold! Amazingly, I could actually do it, thanks to the patience and expertise of our gold panning expert. My bag of tailing gravel produced $12 of gold for my efforts. What fun! Above all, don’t miss the delicious complimentary coffee and cookies.

Riverboat Discovery

This tour is a treasure. It truly is a multi-generational family running an enterprise with the son at the helm and the 90+ matriarch waving to us both from the landing and at  her home along the Tanana River.

Athabaskan Winter Coat

One of the highlights of the tour was time spent at the sight of an Athabaskan Indian Village. Our young hosts first explained their personal native culture heritage and then demonstrated and explained every facet of their 10,000 year tradition in Alyeska, including how they view their place in the web of life.

Once again, the snack bars on the riverboat offered complimentary coffee sweetened with tasty blueberry doughnuts at the beginning of the riverboat trip and then with salmon dip on a cracker as we headed back to the landing.

The Thread that Wove Through My Days

Wherever I pursued my Alaskan adventure in Fairbanks, I  saw smiling, enthusiastic, respectful, and friendly young people spending their summer vacations, working in Alaska. Furthermore, full time residents had the same character. There is something in the summer Alaskan air  that lifts spirits and brings smiles to everyone’s face, residents and visitors alike.

Learn How to Give Thanks

Being a Southern girl, I was taught to always give thanks to those who help me. Some of the ways you’ve helped me are; opening my door, listening to my laments, signing up for my newsletter, giving me a difficult message, even literally saving my life. Thank you. There, I’ve lived up to my heritage’s expectation. But is that all there is to learn about giving thanks?

Why Bother Giving Thanks?

I believe everyone benefits from thanks; those who give, those who receive, and those bearing witness. Our energy is greatly affected by the energy that surrounds us. Like attracts like. Grateful feelings grow as they move from one person to the next. And gratitude is so easy to include in your life. Sometimes it shows up as a smile. Try smiling when you don’t have a reason. How does it make you feel? For me, tension leaves and lightness comes in.

When someone is nearby to receive my smile, it magnifies my joy. I have no way of knowing what they are feeling, but often I see their face change. Their eyes light up and their lips lift and broaden into an easy smile. The energy in the room goes up a notch for everyone.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, also remember to thank yourself too.

How do you give thanks to yourself?

Do something nice just for you. As in all things, this is particular to you. By learning to listen to yourself, specific ways you can thank yourself will show up. Think back on occasions when you were alone and happy. Chances are you were showing gratitude for yourself. Examples include window shopping, reading a good book in a cozy chair, stopping to smell a fragrant flower, taking a walk in a garden, choosing a colorful ink pen over utilitarian black, or treating yourself to a luxurious pedicure.

Today I choose to have a pedicure

The first task is selecting the nail polish. There was a wall of choices and the only thing I knew was that I wanted something neutral. I needed help to make such an ‘important’ decision, so I decided to call on my intuition. My gaze scanned through three displays and rested on an OPI bottle. I lifted it to feel the weight, turning it over to see the name, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. That cinched the decision.

Carrying my selection to the row of relaxing combination massage chair and pedicure sinks, I selected the next empty seat. The technician, Thi, handed me a menu of pedicure flavors; basic, VIP deluxe, or pearl powder. The high-end pearl powder called my name at first, but once again I checked in with my inner voice and selected the mid-range VIP deluxe. There was a long list of scents. The first choice, ‘High Seas’ seemed appropriate to honor my upcoming cruise.

Once Thi completed the tedious nail trimming, she applied a soothing cleanser, massaging my tired calves and feet. I drifted into a state of nirvana, lulled by the lilting Asian conversation in the background. Before I knew it, Thi was gently rousting me from my dreamlike state. She continued pampering me, treating me like a special person. The calmness in my heart during the pedicure stayed with me the rest of the day.

Once you start living in gratitude, almost everything tends to improve.

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When Fathers Day is Difficult

This post seems late since Father’s Day was earlier on Sunday. Rather, Father’s Day is difficult for me and I waited until after the holiday to write about it. How many holidays that expect certain emotions or actions are difficult for you? There’s a lot to pick from; Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Thanksgiving, and many more as this Internet List shows.

Memories are sweeter now, afterward

Looking back is easier today, the pain of loss and grief less pungent. Rather, sweet memories pour over me; the smell of his tobacco smoke, the tickle of his beard when he hugged me, the white salt stains on his work shirt from a day farming in the Florida summer heat, his ability to make me laugh. One prank he pulled especially comes to mind. Whenever I came home to Polk County, I liked to visit Bok Tower Gardens. Dad loved it too. My husband and I were talking as we left our car in the parking lot and Dad and Mom were ahead of us. My inner compass followed Dad without thinking.

When I looked up and realized we weren’t where I expected, I said, “Dad, where did you lead us?”

He grinned  and lifted one eyebrow while winking the other eye. I knew I’d been duped again. We were a perfect match. He loved to play practical jokes and I never saw them coming.

Keeping his memory alive

Therefore, I return here, to Bok Tower Gardens often, choosing to volunteer both as an interpretive guide during the cooler months and an historic home docent all year. The many people I meet from all over the globe also remind me how much I’m like my father. He never knew a stranger.

May your memories be as sweet and dear to you as mine are to me.

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