Friday, June 30, 2006

Alaska Day 45

Thursday June 29, 2006 Fairbanks AK Log 16 Miles
The important accomplishment today was getting the RV serviced. Expressway Lube in North Pole was suggested to us. We checked it out and found a neat clean knowledgeable service facility. Changing the air filter was tough as the hoses connecting were stuck by time and heat. The air filter was expensive, maybe we can find a source, as it is not to be cleaned or reused and looks as if it may need regular changing under dusty conditions. After service, we moved to Pioneer park where camping is allowed in the large parking lot.

The fun thing was panning for gold at El Dorado Gold Mine, which is a family owned, working gold mine. Our mining train took us through a tunnel, where we learned some mining techniques and saw prehistoric bones that had been dug up. At the mining area we saw the placer method which involved water running from a cliff into the pile of "paydirt" and washing it down a narrow trough or sluce box lined with astro turf, intending to wash away the rocks and dirt, leaving nuggets and flecks of gold. Dexter and his wife, Yukon, demonstrated how to pan, then gave us a small sack of dirt and a pan. It was amazing to see the flecks of gold in our pan after we correctly worked it. We couldnt help thinking how much gold was inadvertantly spilled into the panning tanks by inexperienced tourists!!! Getting rich is hard work. We were excited to collect our gold into our containers and take it in to be weighed. Herb's was four and a half grains worth $9, and Wilma's was two grains for $4. While feasting on the complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, we found souvenir baseball caps we had to have, and paid a total of $16. I don't think our catch of the day covered the cost!

Returning from gold mining, we stopped at a view point for the Alyeska Pipeline. This pipeline carries our oil from the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay to Valdez AK. Where it is loaded on tankers for the rest of the journey to our refineries and then to our fuel tanks. Approximately 1 million barrels of oil per day move through the pipeline at about 4 miles per hour, cooling from 114d F. to approximately 65d F. at Valdez. It takes about 9 days to make the trip. The pipeline must be above ground in areas where thawing of the permafrost would cause instability in the soil. In cases where it has to be buried in these areas, elaborate procedures are taken to insulate and even cool the soil to keep it from thawing. Approximately half of the 800 mile pipeline is above ground.

Back to Pioneer Park for Greek food and ice cream, and many, many hugs and pettings for Jake. Tonight's entertainment at the park was a storyteller at the gazebo. As we were leaving and he was packing up to leave, Jake spied one of his props. It was a duck. Jake broke away and retreived it for Herb. Everyone laughed as Jake stole the storytellers prop, now he will have a new story to tell.

Pictures are here.

Walldog, Willie and Jake

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