19 June 2009

On the Chena River

Feeling tired after a day of travel turned into sleeping soundly for 10 hours, rousing a bit only to sleep for another two. Today all we had to accomplish was find something to eat and move from one hotel to another, both of which were made simple by our hosts at the Alpine Inn. Breakfast was provided (and we arrived within the allotted serving time by the skin of our teeth) and their shuttle driver gave us a ride to their competition. Luckily, our transfer was accomplished by early afternoon, as the rains came toward the end of the day (I know, I know ... how does one tell when "day" is over in this part of the world at this time of year?) and it poured for hours, producing at one point a double rainbow of which, because of the airport, we could see both ends right down to the ground.

The transfer itself was almost inconsequential -- less than a mile, but difficult to pull off with two suitcases and the camera/computer case and no sidewalks. But, we moved from overlooking the exit for the Fairbanks International Airport to overlooking the Chena River. A world of difference. The other difference is that Pike's Waterfront Lodge, where our Road Scholar group is going to assemble on Saturday afternoon is completely full, making for exceptional people-watching and fascinating conversation.

This weekend is the summer solstice and, I am coming to understand, a very big deal. I sat next to a man on the airplane from Minneapolis to Fairbanks who grew up in Alaska, his parents having relocated from Minnesota when he was a child to open a hotel and restaurant. His mother died last December and unable to bury her because of the frozen ground they had chosen this weekend to come back for that ritual, to be made that much more significant given the solstice. I've counted at least four wedding parties between the two hotels, the date chosen not by the availability of a particular church but by the date on the calendar. And, this weekend marks the Yukon 800 Marathon, a high-speed, high-endurance Formula-One boat race. Teams leave Fairbanks on Saturday morning, go 400 miles downriver, and return tomorrow. A summer solstice tradition dating back 47 years.

Other than our move, some sustenance, reading our books and, since checking in here at Pike's, watching the river, we've had a very quiet day. That in itself is achievement enough.

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