Tok and Fairbanks

Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Day 57 – it was with just a little sadness that we packed with the plan of breaking camp and leaving Walker Fork Camp Ground to head for Tok (pronounced “toke”) to get some important errands done. This night before departing, however, we spent some nice campfire time with Allen & Joanne Hardtke who originally came from Wisconsin and now live in Montana. They were headed for the Klondike in Canada and had too much beer for the crossing, so we helped them drink some, then purchased the overage, just as a gesture of friendship, and of course, we never can have enough beer.

Arriving in Tok on Thursday, we camped at the 3 Bears Campground, which is behind the 3 Bears Sports Shop and down the street from the 3 Bears Grocery (which turned out to have quite a variety of items, including hardware and clothing) and next to the 3 Bears Fuel Stop.  Don’t get us wrong – they have competition – but their camp ground, though spare was the cheapest in town, and they had clean, hot showers (the bottom line). We had electricity and internet so that’s when we posted the blog before this one. Laundry, propane, showering, dumping, welding bike rack, replacing our wrecked camp chairs, taking on fresh water – all the routine chores of living on the road were accomplished in short order and by Saturday, we were on the road again – bound for Fairbanks.

They really take care of thier sod roofs in Tok!

They mow the roofs in Tok!

On the way out of town we stopped at the BLM/State Police office to check out mining claim information and get anything else that might be of help as we tackled the Dalton North of Fairbanks.  The office was closed, but they had an excellent interpretive sign about the Purple Heart and the naming of the Richardson Highway as Alaska’s Purple Heart Memorial Route.

Purple Heart Highway interpretive sign

Ric poses with the Purple Heart interpretive sign

Walking back to the car, we noticed something hanging down under the trailer – turned out to be electric brake crossover wire, which took Ric about ½ hour to repair – THEN we were back on the road toward Fairbanks.

A really pleasant surprise along the Richardson Highway between Tok and Fairbanks was an historic interpretive complex known as Rika’s Roadhouse. We stopped here on a whim and were really pleased that we did.  Comprised of several buildings and a beautiful garden, and an inconceivable number of items of daily living from the gold rush era, this free park was an incredible education on the frontier life of the gold rush era in this harsh environment – a must see if your by this way.

Garden at Rika's Roadhouse

Beautiful Garden at Rika's Roadhouse

Unlike the "kempt" sod roof in Tok - this one at Rika's Roadhouse was probably more accurate!

We have lots of friends in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts that would enjoy having a stove like this!

While enjoying one of the numerous interiors of the buildings, we happened upon the below antique lithograph on the wall of Rika’s Inn that apparently depicted ancestors of Ric & Linda’s (that they didn’t even know they had!) canoeing one of wilder tributaries that flow into the Tenana River as it wends its way to the Yukon River far to the Northwest.

Vintage Wilderness Canoeists

Morgan-O'Connor ancestors experience close call with bear - exhibiting much the same emotions as us, their descendants!

We spent that night in the woods at the intersection of 2 old logging roads behind the rest area at mile marker 290 – Linda won Scrabble 321-309.

On the last leg of the trip into Fairbanks we stopped at a place called the Knotty Gift Shoppe, a huge footprint in which there was a huge variety of stuff, with some very cool hand made sculptures crafted from the Northern Alaska version of “Knotty Pine”.  This burl laden wood provides phenomenal texture and shape varieties for the artisan to work with.

Knotty Critters at the Knotty Shoppe

Knotty Critters at the Knotty Shoppe along the Richardson Highway in Alaska

There was also a large wild animal diorama – it was impressive, however the artistry and craftsmanship and lifelike feel, did not begin to compare to the Teslin Inn in Teslin, Yukon (between Watson Lake and Whitehorse Junction- see our post a couple of weeks ago) display.

One of the first places we encountered upon entering Fairbanks was the VFW – as always, we were ready for a VFW.  Incredibly kind folks with a very active Post, they support families of deployed troops from near by Fort Wainwright.  They have an auxiliary and the President of the Auxiliary, who was at the bar, presented Ric with a Post remembrance pin, which Ric promptly affixed to his “Vet Center” booney hat.

Fairbanks VFW - #3629 The "Golden Heart" Post

Fairbanks enabled us to obtain some of the items we were unable to get in Tok including a new filter for our wilderness water pump and an opportunity to order a replacement glucose monitor for Ric (the one he had succumbed to submersion during the “Episode on 40 Mile River”).

Boon docking at the Walmart also gave us an opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with long lost memories of the cacophony of civilization as well as doing some necessary repairs. Looking forward to the Dalton Highway and our sojourn to the Arctic Circle.

Ric Fixing Screenhouse Support

Ric working on screen house support repair at the RV City in Fairbanks WalMart

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Filed under Alaska Journal, Been There Done That, Veteran Site

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