Friday, June 25, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 12

With a full day in Fairbanks, I set out to see some stuff around town. By this time, I had already met several people back in Anchorage and along the highway who recommended places in Fairbanks for me to see.

Several people recommended the River Boat ride. Fairbanks has two river boats, one of them you can ride, and the other stationary inside of Pioneer Park. The one you ride costs $54.00 a head, so I opted for cheaper, stationary river boat, which is free.

The "Nenana", a river boat that once paddled up and down Tanana River

Pioneer Park shows you what Fairbanks was like in the old days, except it's all presented in something that looks like an amusement park. It's similar to like Old Town San Diego, except looking something more like Knotts Berry Farm.

Today I also got the oil changed on my Honda ST. I took it into the Harley dealer to get it done. It's called "Furthest North Harley-Davidson", and they get so many riders coming in from all over US and Canada that they do a lot of business servicing bikes. They even service BMWs.

This BMW rider was snoring on his helmet while waiting for his bike

It only took an hour to get my bike done. The dealer has a set of picnic benches outside where you can wait. I sat there with three other guys, a Harley rider, and two BMW riders. One of the BMW riders was taking a few hours to get his oil changed. I figure the wrench who works on all the BMWs was probably really busy.

I also got to see the Alaskan Pipeline. There's a place just outside of Fairbanks with a visitor center that tells you all about it.

Fairbanks is a lot smaller than Anchorage, but it still has a decent sized downtown area with a lot of bars and coffee shops. But it doesn't have any tall buildings. It's like a small-town downtown.

The Alaskan Pipeline runs just outside of Fairbanks, AK

And unlike Anchorage, where the downtown is more liberal, and outskirts is more conservative, in Fairbanks everyone seems to be mixed together.

A lot of people recommended I visit the Howling Dog Saloon in nearby Fox, AK. They knew I ride a motorcycle, and so they figured I would really like that place. I got there about 5:00pm, and the place only had a few customers in it, but they told me around 9:00pm it would get packed.

The Howling Dog Saloon dates back to the 1970s. It was originally located in Ester, AK and then moved 21 miles to its current location in Fox. Just looking around inside you can tell this place has history. Thousands of one-dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling, each one celebrating a moment when some folks shared a really good time together. People stapled their t-shirts to the walls and ceilings as well as caps, bras, and business cards.

The Howling Dog Saloon, Fox, AK

The bar counter itself is frought with people's names carved in. You could spend several hours reading what's on the bar counter.

Interestingly, directly across the street from Howling Dog Saloon is the Silver Gulch Brewery & Bar. The Silver Gulch is the more "trendy" and "yuppie" place, where the families and urbanites so. The Howling Dog Saloon is where all the smelly, dirty, hairy, grungy people go.

So I decided to visit both places.

Around 6:00pm, Mike showed up at the Howling Dog Saloon, and the two of us walked across the street to Silver Gulch. We managed to find a couple of seats at the bar, but we had to wait to get them. Silver Gulch brews their own beer, and it's not bad, but not really that great of beer. While it's a brewery, it's actually a restaurant and bar. There are a many breweries like this, that put more focus on the food, and use the brewery to attract customers.

The Silver Gulch Brewery & Restaurant, Fox, AK

I managed to strike up conversation with a hockey player from Juneau seated next to me. We talked about beer, and life in Juneau compared to Southern California, and bought each other rounds.

And so around 9:00pm, Mike and I left Silver Gulch and walked back across the street to Howling Dog Saloon. It was definitely rocking by then. They wanted to check my ID at the door and hit me up for a $5.00 cover fee. So I paid it, and had one more beer. We still had a good time at both establishments that night, and memorialized the moment by stapling a one-dollar bill with our names on it to the ceiling.

Today I'm thinking of heading up to Chena Hot Springs to enjoy a soak in some hot water. I'm not sure what Mike is going to do. He still wants to ride up to Coldfoot, and possibly even Deadhorse, but right now it's raining up there, and it's mostly unpaved road. He's talking about staying another night in Fairbanks and seeing if the weather is any better tomorrow.

I don't really have an interest in riding that much dirt road on a sport-touring bike, just to say that I went up above the Arctic Circle. I mean, it would be cool to get that photo of me with the Arctic Circle sign, but I'd rather spend time enjoying Alaska.


Inside the SS Nenana are these little dioramas of towns the ship used to visit


Caribou Steak Sandwiches and Reindeer Hot Dogs


A rain barrel inside Pioneer Park, Fairbanks, AK


There's a guy that does carvings out of rams' horns, Pioneer Park, Fairbanks, AK


A very eclectic gift shop in downtown Fairbanks


These "pigs" crawl through the pipeline keeping it clean


The bar at Howling Dog Saloon, yes you can smoke inside.


Female customers sign and toss their bras at Howling Dog Saloon


Across the street, the Silver Gulch is clean and modern


Silver Gulch food and beer, both are ok, but not great

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)