Upon our arrival at the Fairbanks Airport, we were met by our first Orbridge guide, Tom. This nice man with the red hat had spent his career working for the National Parks Service, and turned out to be knowledgable, affable, and well-organized. There were to be 34 in our group for the first part of the trip, and it seemed that most of the 34 had come in on the same flight. When we got on the bus to take us to our hotel, Tom told us that we had arrived on the biggest day of the year in Fairbanks: The Summer Solstice! He said that a street fair was going on and the bus would get us as close as possible to the hotel, but we were going to have to form a procession for the final couple of blocks. We found this mildly exciting.
Springhill Suites Fairbanks is an ordinary sort of place, nothing special, but clean and comfortable. We had just a short time to settle in before the first group activity was to occur.
Down we went to a conference room where wine and hors d'oeuvres were being served, and we met the other 32 travelers. The trip had been arranged, as I mentioned, by Orbridge, a company that specializes in university alumni group trips. There were perhaps a dozen universities represented by our group. We introduced ourselves briefly and then Tom gave a bit of an orientation talk. Next, we were introduced to the company that was handling the optional excursions at our next location, and signed up for two of them. The goodies being served were tasty, but at this point we were thinking about some kind of a dinner, so outside to the street fair Joe and I went!
We stopped here and there, picking up this and that, enjoying our first reindeer hotdogs (delicious), spinach bread (trust me!), and a lovely blueberry/rhubarb cobbler, all munched as we perched wherever we could find a spot.
I noticed that while I had found Seattle to be ethnically and racially diverse, Seattle had nothing on Fairbanks! I thought back to Michener's book, Alaska, that I had read a couple of months back in anticipation of this trip, and as I looked around, I swear I could see evidence of every single group that he mentioned!
We had a very early wake up call scheduled for Monday morning, and knowing that the sun would not really be going down at all and the band would be playing until god-knows-when, we decided to go back to the hotel where we were delighted to discover (a) that our room was not on the side of the hotel facing the festivities and (b) it was equipped with black-out curtains, we settled in for the night, knowing 5:00 would be here before we knew it and we had a train to catch!