Sunday, June 12, 2005

On the Campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Hanging out at the “The Deck” cyber café, on the University of Alaska (UAF) campus. The “Museum of the North” on campus here offers an excellent perspective on Alaskan wildlife, flora, geology, history and cultures. I was particularly intrigued by exhibits on the Alcan Highway construction, a display of Alaskan gold in its many forms, and some incredible mammoth and mastodon tusks and bones. And standing before a 1,200-pound 8-foot-tall grizzly bear is pretty sobering, even if he is stuffed.

According to the exhibit, the justification for the Alcan was to protect and re-supply a series of air bases, called the “skyway”. Stretching from the lower 48, through Calgary, Prince George and ending in Fairbanks, the bases served in ferrying “lend-lease” aircraft to Russia during World War II. 7,835 aircraft were transported to Fairbanks via the skyway. In Fairbanks, Russian pilots took over and flew the planes on to Siberia and, finally, the Russian Front.

Here at the cyber café, I was given access to the University internet service, even though I’m not an official guest, allowing me to work on the blog for a couple of hours. I’ve been trying to record notes on my computer, then dump them onto the blog whenever I can access the net.

Outside the motel this morning, found a fellow looking over the bike. “That’s my bike,” he said.

“You have one of these?”

“No. I want one. I have the 650.”

Chris is from New York City and commutes to work on his bike. Now THAT’S adventure riding!

Returned to Sears with one of the gas cans I had purchased. Its locking spout could not be unlocked, but I no longer needed it, so I really didn’t want to exchange it, as the cashier offered. “Can I just get a refund?” She agreed, and I handed her the dusty, battered, gas-stained container. Left with a smile. “No more slippery little can.”

Alaska reminds me very much of California 40 years ago, when it seemed like everyone was from somewhere else. Each person I’ve spoken to here says the same thing: “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.” That too sounds like California of long ago.

Well, it's 11:30 p.m. and I'm "packing it in." The outdoor patio is still crowded with biologists here for an international conference on evolution. They're gathered in little clusters, sipping beer and wine, chatting, laughing. It looks like late afternoon out there.

No comments: