Friday, July 01, 2005

Canada Day — What did you do to celebrate?

Happy Canada Day! Ed and I forgot to buy a flag but luckily Margaret had extra Canada Day decorations so she lent us some which we happily displayed. The Eielson Air Force Base is 26 miles outside of Fairbanks and they offer tours on Fridays. As today was Friday we decided to go (we had telephoned the base on Monday to find out the details). When we got to the designated spot no one else was waiting so we decided to drive across the road to the front gates and check things out. Turns out the tour was cancelled as the base had a “down day” because Monday is the 4th of July holiday. It would have been nice if they had mentioned that when we telephoned. As we were driving through the North Pole we decided to stop at Santa's House . It's a huge store with everything Christmas you can imagine. Returning to the campground we decided to go on the “Riverboat Discovery” tour. It was a fantastic tour ... these people really understand the phrase “customer service”. Shuttle buses were provided to make it easier for you to get the riverboat and got you there with enough extra time to explore the gift shop. The current riverboat captains (two of them were there) look like they are in their early twenties (they’re grandchildren of the founder of the company). An ex-radio man was the commentator and he did a fabulous job. He told us about the sites we saw as well as about many of the homes we passed along the river. The riverboat company arranged for a float plane to take off and land beside the boat, a “pull over” to talk to Susan Butcher (she won the Iditarod dog sled race 4 times) and see some of her dogs in action, another “pull over” at a fish camp to see a fish wheel (used to catch salmon) and how a salmon is prepared for smoking and then a stop at an “Native village”. They had 4 stations at the village where you were told information about life in the village. One of the stations was a woman who works for Susan with some of her sled dogs. It was very interesting seeing the dogs up close and getting to pet them..... these ones were all big sucks. And after all the things to see they provided free coffee and donuts as well as a taste of their smoked salmon (the salmon was for sale in cans). On the shuttle bus we met a group of six people, 4 from Cambridge and 2 from BC (they use to live in Kitchener). It’s a small world!

Me and my friend... they would let me take him home!

Ed and Bullwinkle.

That's one big Santa.... you better be good or he'll come and stomp on you.

The riverboat proprietors.

The riverboat --- Discovery III

The float plane taking off.

The sled dogs in action pulling an ATV with out an engine but with good breaks. She said you can teach a sled dog to pull in 2 minutes but it takes 2 months to teach them to stop.

Another "pull off" was a visit with some caribou.

The Chena River meets the Tanana River.

The fish wheel.

One of the guides shows off a fur parka based on a traditional native design

A view of the river.

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