Sunday, 26th July, we departed Eielson AFB, south of Fairbanks, about 0900. This was scheduled to be a short day and it was. The wind was terrible, buffeting the rig whenever we drove through a pass between the mountains. Generally, our route was south along the Tanana River. I have heard much about this river, but, on actually seeing it, I am underwhelmed. It resembles the delta regions we see in our larger Southern rivers, except the water is gray instead of brown. Fallen trees (all of the coniferous variety) litter the river and riverbed. Although the Tanana is in some places nearly a mile wide, when it is this wide, it is quite shallow. When it is narrow, it is a roaring torrent.
As we approached Delta Junction (our destination for the night), we stopped at Rika's, a restored roadhouse from the early days of the Richardson Highway. The Richardson is older than the AlCan; it runs from Valdez to Fairbanks. Rika was a Swedish lady, who ran the roadhouse from the 1920s to late in the 1940s. Her operation was nearly a total self-sustaining enterprise. She raised chickens, goats, sheep, cattle (both steers for beef and cows for milk) and had a huge garden for vegetables. Today, there is a restaurant (it is still a roadhouse), camping and a gift shop. Having already done our gifts-for-grandkids bit, I was a trifle bored with yet another gift shop. Well, this was not your usual gift shop. They had furs. Not the raw furs, dreadfully overpriced and poorly tanned, that we have seen elsewhere. These were finished furs – coats of many different styles, jackets, wraps, hats and boots. Hanging on the wall, somewhat apart from the remainder of the stock, was a Beaver Jacket. It was marked as a Clearance/Sale item. At my urging, Brenda slipped it on. Considering her not overly long proportions, we were surprised that it fit perfectly. I suspect the length of the arms of the jacket made it “unfitting” for most potential customers. That really is the last souvenir we are going to buy.
We drove a few miles further to camp. Bergstad's campground is on the road to Tok. We took a slight detour to get here. The Alaska Camping book said they had full hook ups, but “frequently no one is around to check you in”. I was curious about that...and, no, I wasn't planning on stiffing the management for my camping fee. We pulled into the campground and I found my way to the office. The first door, clearly marked “Office”, led to an enclosed porch with a sign directing me down the hall to a second door. In the hallway was the biggest house cat I have ever seen. He had to be 25 pounds. I did not stop to scratch his ears, just in case he did not like his ears scratched. At the far end of the hall, after knocking and being invited in, I was in the office/kitchen/sitting room/bedroom. A white-haired, elderly lady, seated in an overstuffed chair, greeted me and took my $15 for one night of camping with full hookups. For those of you who don't camp, that is about half-priced. Her companion dog – I think he is an Australian Shepard – never took his eyes off me. He wasn't threatening in any way, but then, neither was I. A bed was off to her left, about six feet from her chair. A small kitchen nook was directly behind her, likewise about 6-8 feet. The area to her right was filled with old magazines, bundles of “stuff”, and various pieces of old furniture stacked willy nilly atop one another. There was no unpleasant odor as one might expect from such a scene. Very curious. You, indeed, do see strange things in the Land of the Midnight Sun.