A long drive down Richardson Highway
In order to get back to Anchorage, I either needed to drive back down the Parks Highway, or cover new ground on the Richardson Highway, which forms a loop to the east. I knew parts of this road would be beautiful, so I decided to take the long way around. Plus, I needed to visit Santa.
Just outside of Fairbanks, you'll find the town of North Pole, Alaska. It has fully capitalized on its holiday theme, with attention centering on the Santa Claus House -- a giant gift shop where the holidays never end. I visited Santa, bought the appropriate souvenirs, and headed on down the road.
The next big attraction on the Richardson Highway is the end of the Alaska Highway, which connects Alaska to the lower 48 states. I'd love to drive it someday, but for now, I had to be happy with seeing where it ended.
Further south, there isn't much in the way of civilization, but the scenery gets much better. I detoured for a while onto the Denali Highway -- a mostly dirt road that cuts across the loop made by the more developed roads. With no gas stations in sight, I held my breath and clinched the steering wheel as I coasted into Gakona, Alaska on fumes. The innkeepers at my roadhouse in Gakona were kind enough to sell me some gas. I really, truly, almost didn't make it.
I ate a burger at the bar next-door to the roadhouse, then drove around a little on my newly-purchased fuel. The sunset, looking towards Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, was fantastic.