With Fairbanks temperatures reaching -40° F and below in winter, I need to stock up on winter gear. I could spend hundreds of dollars on high-end branded gear from places like REI. Or, I could grab better stuff for much cheaper from the local military surplus store. GI Joe’s Surplus in Fairbanks easily has the biggest and best selection of military clothing I have ever seen.
I’m now in Fairbanks, Alaska, one week away from starting my new job as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Readers here will recall that I had accepted a job as a met tech on St. Paul Island, with the intent to move into an actual forecaster position once I got a glitch in my qualifications straightened out. I’m still going to take the one class I need to be “perfectly” qualified, but it didn’t matter in this case; I got the Fairbanks position anyway.
Needless to say, St. Paul Island was right out once I got this offer. Not only will I be in the comparatively civilized city of Fairbanks, but I’ll also start three whole pay grades higher than I would have in St. Paul. In fact, I’m getting the highest possible pay grade without previous direct experience doing the job.
As it happened, I would have backed out of the the St. Paul Island position anyway. Life took me in a new direction shortly after I accepted it, and increased financial obligations would have made living on St. Paul Island impractical.
The one drawback to the Fairbanks posting is that I have to pay to move myself up here. When starting new in the civil service, one generally has to do this, but from then on your relocation expenses are paid courtesy of Uncle Sam. St. Paul Island was an exception to this rule. Due to the extreme cost of getting household goods out there, the government would have paid for that move. Moving to Fairbanks is still expensive, but (hopefully) worth it.
Right now I’m living in an expensive hotel and renting a car. My first priority will be to find a permanent residence. I tried doing this remotely, but it’s impossible; I have to be able to physically visit properties I’m interested in. Hopefully I can find a place soon and stop bleeding money on this hotel room. Unfortunately, several thousand US Army personnel have recently returned to Ft. Wainwright, and now the Fairbanks rental market has gone nuts. Availability is low, and prices are through the roof. Even my hotel was unsure if they could extend me past the two days if I need it. This will be interesting.
The last time I changed towns was 8 years ago, and that was after regular access to Tucson for a few years before that. Today was my first ever day in Fairbanks, and only my second in Alaska, if you count one night spent at Elmendorf Air Force Base (now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson). I’ve definitely jumped right out of my comfort zone. To say it’s disorienting is a bit of an understatement.
In future posts I’ll detail the trip up here and my first impressions of the Golden Heart City.