Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Fairbanks to North Pole

8th November 2010 by Helen
North Pole street decoration

North Pole street decoration

Back down in Fairbanks, we found our way around and stopped for some supplies at Safeways and caught up on emails using their WiFi (but no power available).  All pretty normal stuff. 

We didn’t try it but apparently in Fairbanks you can still pay for goods in the shops in gold nuggets and there is still a bit of a frontier town feel to it. This is about as far north as ‘civilisation’ really goes in Alaska and there is still a strong culturally diverse community here.

Only real problem we can see at the moment is a modern one in that we don’t have an inverter in the car and soon we won’t be able to charge phone, camera batteries or laptops.  With that in mind we found a café called the Red Couch that advertised having WiFi and where we could charge the laptops while we were there.  It’s a fascinating little café, very homely with a couple of couches as well as tables with chairs, selling home-made baking.  The owner has found out what customers want and set out to provide just that.  And doing a pretty good job of it.

Snowman Lane

Snowman Lane

Just as well we stopped at the Red Couch because right at the last minute a new email came in telling us that Landy’s container won’t be stopping off at Japan as originally planned but going straight to Seattle, and now due to arrive in port on the 13th.  That put us in one heck of a spin I can tell you.  What it means is that we now have to go straight to Seattle, and fast.  So if you’d been following our plans to drive through the central states to Florida – that’s changed!!  First stop – Seattle.

Rumour has it that Landy’s heard we’re driving a J**p and so, with the aid of rescheduling his arrival in Seattle, plans to catch us ‘in flagrante’.

Which all means, that, rather than an overnight stop just outside Fairbanks and a planned look at North Pole (the town, that is) where they celebrate Christmas all year round, we headed straight out of town south down the Richardson Highway.

Santa Claus House North Pole Alaska

Mural on side of Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska

We paused at North Pole and took some photos in the dark of Santa Claus’ House, and some of the road names, like St Nicholas Way.  According to the various guide books the town started with the Davis family, who moved there in 1944.  When they were bought out the town was renamed North Pole in the hope of attracting toy manufacturers to set up there.  When the Millers moved there from Fairbanks in 1952, Con Miller, who had previously lived in Fairbanks and been in the habit of dressing up as Santa and known to all the local village children, was recognised by one of those children who asked if he was building a new house there.  And so the idea of Santa Claus’ house was born.  What can I say.  Apparently the locals are all proud of their town and celebrating Chritmas all year round.  The serious guide books give it little mention.  I don’t think I could live there!!

We struck lucky for our campsite tonight when we found a summer season site by the edge of Birch Lake.  Although closed now for the winter it’s still possible to get down there and use the facilities, and so we did.

Route travelled: Fairbanks / North Pole / Birch Lake campsite

More wonders

18th September 2010 by Helen

Saturday 18th September

After a late night last night Dima returns and picks Paul up at 10.00 am and they go off to buy some oil.  German takes me back to his apartment where I can finish off checking emails while Paul and Dima finishing working on Landy.  Later we take a walk around town, stop in a café, do a bit of shopping. 

It’s time to brave the attempt to get a new SIM-card.  Remember this is Russia, only holders of Russian passports can legally buy a SIM-card.  But we’re going to try anyway.  We stop in a grocery shop to buy some fruit for supper.  Once again we are a source of curiosity here.  Another customer is interested in where we come from.  She follows us out of the shop and we indicate we are looking for a phone shop (Russian shops here are like the ones in Mongolia and Kazakhstan – from the outside it is largely a guessing game as to what the shop sells).  She points one out but comes back when she sees Paul has stopped to finish eating his ice-cream before going in.  She decides to come in with us to make sure we are able to get what we want.  We tell the girl behind the counter we want to buy a SIM-card.  She asks for Paul’s passport, looks at it and says ‘no’.  Our escort is indignant on our behalf and buys the card herself.  We pay.  Once again an angel has come to our rescue.

We could in theory leave Gusinoozersk now but Paul still needs to do battle with his technology gremlins, and we have heaps of writing and downloading of photos to do.  In effect we need to stop somewhere for another day and so have decided to stay here until Monday morning.  We may not have hot water in the shower at the hotel but we’ve brought our Hozelock shower in from the car and there is a kettle with which we can heat the water.  It’s warmer here and the beds are comfortable.  We’ve met loads of friendly and helpful people (although a couple of times we’ve been advised to keep our hands on our money).  There’s a restaurant in the hotel, a café in town and shops that sell other bits we might need.  The only drawbacks are that the restaurant is not open when they have a wedding or other celebration to cater for, and as it appears this is the only ‘venue’ in town, that will take up most of the weekend, together with the lack of easily available good quality internet access.  So, come Monday we will head off to Ulan-Ude where we have been told we can get Wi-Fi at an internet café to send and upload the work we do here before heading off to a place called Chita.

A day in town

27th August 2010 by Helen

Thursday 26th August

After an easy morning pottering around our overnight campsite we set off into town to tackle the slow internet connection.  It’s unbelievably frustrating after being used to hi-speed connections in the UK.  Did a bit of shopping and had a meal in the same café as yesterday (no knives at all as we both had meat that was already cut into what is presumably considered to be bite sized portions).

Getting out of town created its usual problems, this time all the more so as darkness was falling.   The larger the town the more tracks there are leading out, and there’s no telling from the town itself which tracks will converge and in which direction they will ultimately go.  After finding our first choice of track converged with some others going the wrong way, getting back into town, finding another track that led to a tarmac road that ended abruptly at the airport, and an episode of the driver shouting at the navigator, we finally found ourselves travelling in the right direction.

Campsite – just outside Daladzadgud

Distance travelled – 36 km