Hanging in our kitchen is a dry-erase board that sports a list of things we want to do this summer. We try to add and subtract from this list whenever possible. Featured on the list since its inception has been Midnight Sun Run Fairbanks. I read about this 10K race, which commemorates the summer solstice with a 10PM start time, in the book Real Alaska Livin’, which describes it as a crazy costume party through a gauntlet of squirt guns and neighborhood BBQs. The race happens annually in conjunction with the Midnight Sun Festival, a single-day event in which people come from all over the state to celebrate the longest day of the year with the dubious American pastime of eating overpriced fried food in a crowded parking lot.
Friday we loaded our camping gear into my car (now with all four spark plugs!) and began the seven hour trek from Girdwood to Fairbanks. Outside Anchorage we stopped for a hike at Pioneer Ridge Trail in Palmer. From the trailhead we hiked three miles up a series of steep switchbacks until finally clearing the alpine and gaining view of the Knik glacier and Chugach Mountain Range.
The following afternoon we reached Fairbanks to a dry and clear 8o degrees. After a so-so dinner at Soapy Smiths, we drove to the finish in Pioneer Park and caught a shuttle to the start.
Despite being questionably organized for its 29th year, the race was a hoot. The 6.2 mile course snaked through normally quiet neighborhoods, now abuzz with live music and hard-drinking locals, and finished in a historic theme park. Because the course was flat and not too crowded, I was able to rock a 7:40 pace and finish with a new PR. Jess had a great race too and after a hooker shower at the Chena River campground, we headed back downtown for a celebratory drink.
The next day we drove to the waterfront to have a look around. Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska, and honestly I have no idea why. When it comes to beautiful scenery, interesting architecture and thriving culture, Fairbanks has none of these. The whole city has the feeling of an abandoned strip mall. The winter lasts nine months. Everything costs a fortune. And the people are, well… frankly kinda spooky. Granted we only spent a weekend here, and I’m embellishing for your amusement, but the plain truth is that Alaska sucks at cities — a fact I’m guessing is fine with most everyone.
We decided to break up the long drive home with a night in Denali. We found a gorgeous pull-off campsite along the river on Highway 3 and set up camp in the back of the Outback. With nobody around for miles, we indulged in our own brand of weird with caribou sausage, boxed wine and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti on full blast under the midnight sun.