Monday, March 30, 2009

Coal, Reindeer, and the North Pole

Not often do you get to visit an Air Force base, tour a coal-fired power plant, ride on a coal train, feed someone's pet reindeer, or visit Santa’s house at the North Pole. But, it was my lucky day. Not only was I missing work because of a volcanic eruption, but Rebecca and Ray gave me the opportunity to do all of these things on my bonus day in Alaska!

Ray drives through the town of North Pole (which is 15 miles SOUTH of Fairbanks!) every day on his way to work. Even though he had the day off that day, he was kind enough to take Rebecca and me there to check it out.

The town of North Pole takes its responsibility to be the representative of Christmas seriously. That’s what makes it so fun to visit.



The street lights are candy canes:


The post office has Christmas wreaths, even in March:


The streets have fun names, like these:




The bus stops, playground equipment, and even the Senior Citizen Center have a Christmas theme:


This is the entrance to the local welding shop:


Even the pole that holds up the McDonalds sign is a candy cane!


We stopped at Santa’s house, which was closed for the day. But, we did get to drop off some mail for him:


And get our picture taken by the slightly scary, enormous statue of him out front:



Ray works at a coal-fired power plant at Eielsen Air Force Base. Since we were already close by, he was kind enough to take us there and give us a tour. It was great! We got to wear bright green hard hats and ear plugs as we climbed up, down, and around the plant. I was impressed with the conveyor belts carrying coal, the bright orange of coal burning in the boilers, the generators they powered, and the amazingly clean smoke stacks (which I didn’t realize were smoke stacks at first, even though I was standing right next to them, because their equipment did such a good job of capturing the ash and not releasing it to the environment).

One of the highlights was taking a ride on the train that carries the coal into the plant. Here’s a photo of the coal train from the top of the plant:


Here’s a shot of me, Rebecca, and Ray just after finishing our ride on the coal train. Thank you Ray and your coworkers for making this happen!


As if that were not already a totally amazing day, when we returned back to Fairbanks, we had the chance to go to the home of one of Rebecca’s friends. Her name is Jane, but Rebecca and all of their other friends call her “Reindeer Jane”, to distinguish her from the other two Jane’s they are also friends with.

Reindeer Jane and her husband have three pet reindeer, and they were kind enough to give me the opportunity to interact with them. Thanks for sharing Ruby, Olive, and Willow with us, Jane!




1 comment:

Grandma Kate said...

This trip just keeps getting better and better. If I ever go on vacation again, I'm asking you to plan it - as you certainly know how to have a great time. For a snow lover like me, I think Alaska might just be a little bit of heaven on earth.