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Touching the Pope's Red Carpet

I have so many stories to tell from my 2017 trip to Denali. Maybe as time passes I'll get to all of them. For the moment, I’ll share a short one about how I happened to touch the Pope’s red carpet.

To get to Denali I flew in and out of the Fairbanks airport. Before my return flight home I spent most of a day and evening seeing some of the Fairbanks sites including the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North and the nearby town of North Pole (like I said, a lot of stories for another time).

Of course, if you’ve read any of my previous posts you know no visit is complete without checking out a couple of breweries. On this occasion that included Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling located about 10 miles outside Fairbanks near the little town of Fox. By the way, I actually drove by an exposed section of the Alaskan pipeline on my way there.

Silver Gulch is much nicer than your typical brewery. It’s more restaurant than brewery. Nothing at all wrong with that, just not my normal style. It was dinner time and the Alaskan Hush Puppies I ordered were a real winner, made with Alaskan halibut, shrimp and coconut, and definitely on the spicy side.

This is one of the rare times you will ever hear of me eating seafood or fish. It happens about once every two years, or more. It just seemed like the thing to do at the moment. Kind of a when in Rome do as the Alaskans do thing.

Speaking of Rome, see what I did there, that gets us to the heart of this story. Rome, the Pope, get it? Nevermind.

Photo of Howling Dog Saloon outside Fairbanks Alaska
Howling Dog Saloon outside Fairbanks, Alaska**

As I started to climb into my rental car to leave Silver Gulch I noticed a place across the street called the Howling Dog Saloon. A long, stretched out building, it reminded me of an old roadhouse, just a fun dive bar. That’s exactly what it was. I loved it. Come to find out it’s considered one of Fairbanks’ top live music venues.

The ceiling, supporting poles and many other parts of the building were plastered with autographed dollar bills. Old sports pennants, permanently stained with nicotine, along with a wide assortment of women’s uh, err, undergarments also hung from above.

I sat in the non-smoking section at the bar, one seat over from the smoking section, literally. They had a sign hanging above the bar, about halfway down, no smoking to the left, smoking to the right.

I had a couple beers, talked for a while to guy smoking beside me who was working for the oil companies. He said he worked up there for a few months at a time, 12-hour days, seven days a week, and then would go back home, out of state, to his family with enough money to last them the rest of the year.

Before leaving I wandered over to the dance area, an attached but separate, very large room. I noticed a worn out old red carpet on the stage but didn’t think anything about it until I got closer and started reading the sign propped up beside it:

Photo of music stage with red carpeting from Pope John Paul's visit to Alaska
The Pope's red carpet in the Howling Dog Saloon, Fairbanks, Alaska**

Holy Stage

“This stage is carpeted with 100% pure pope carpet

It’s the red carpet used by Pope John Paul II and President Reagan on their historic visit to Fairbanks, May 1984

We at the Howling Dog another great Alaskan institution are honored to be its keeper and will display it proudly!”

That’s how I came to touch the Pope’s red carpet. I’m not sure it will get me into heaven but I’ll take all the help I can get.


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