This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.



We're on the last lap of the Great American Reach Around. I'm excited by the prospect of finishing this massive endeavor, but I'm also a little maudlin about all of the great times we've had. We've seen pickup trucks crashed into Tim Horton's in Canada, we've gone on a tour of the urban cardiac arrest of Glasgow, and we've learned that Europe is a lot more like America than either group wants to admit, only European cities are more historical.

With two installments of this feature remaining it's time to begin our version of the lightning round. The remaining states and countries will be covered mostly depending on volunteers like you. This week on the American side we have a look at Alaska courtesy of yours truly and a trip to Colorado Springs with volunteer Greg "TheRain" Reilly. Our foreign representatives hail from two great nations. Tschisino is reppin' Switzerland and his home city of Zurich and Matt "Sunman" Kagan will be telling as all about St. Petersburg, Russia with a little photographic help from Vit "Gimperial" L.



Alaska; its name means frigid remoteness to most Americans. Those of us that have never been envision a vast plain of ice with a few deer somehow getting tangled up in an oil pipeline and dying horribly. Canada stands between we continentals and our northernmost territory and it is actually closer to Russia than to the rest of the Untied States.

Skewed though views of Alaska may be, even within the United States, there is no denying that it is a land of extremes. It is by far America's largest state, more than doubling the size of Texas, and with roughly 650,000 inhabitants for that vast land it is also by far the least densely populated state. If you've ever been to the big empty state of Wyoming, imagine how empty that state is, and then multiply that zero by five. You come back with five times the zero.

The reason for this low density might be the extreme weather in Alaska, the strange daylight cycles in its northernmost reaches, and the lack of anything to do other than be in the military or stare at nature. Alaska is home to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is frequently threatened with oil drilling by Americans that love pipes more than trees (most Americans). Despite all the nature and oil and military, the government still pays people to live in Alaska and offers massive tax incentives to people and businesses relocating to the state.

Free money from the government sounds like a good deal, but then you really think about it and realize the truth: you'll be living in Alaska.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is the modest capital city of the state of Alaska. It has a population of only around 31,000 people, but it sprawls to encompass over 8,400 square kilometers, making it twice the size of Cook County (Chicago and near suburbs) in Illinois and larger than Rhode Island or Delaware. It is Alaska's second largest city in terms of population, tied with Fairbanks and coming in well behind the bustling megalopolis of Anchorage and its 275,000 inhabitants.

Despite its northern exposure and close proximity to massive glaciers, Juneau enjoys a climate similar to Seattle or Vancouver. That is to say it's rainy and depressing rather than frozen year-round and instantly lethal to the homeless. Juneau is one of Alaska's most important ports and its accessibility makes it a prime stop for cruises touring the northern seas. During the summer months two or three big white eyesores from various cruise lines can be seen docked at Juneau.

The mixture of remoteness and tourism gives Juneau a unique character, a combination of self-sufficient and hardy locals and bright attractions for cruise line passengers. Four-wheel drive vehicles dominate the streets, often showing signs of rust from the heavy salts used to battle the snow and ice. Many locals also own light aircraft or float planes.

Locals not involved in entertaining the tourists are probably involved in fishing. Gold mining gave Juneau its break in the late 1800s, but its the Alaskan pipeline and the abundant fishing and natural splendor that have kept money flowing into the city. If you're eating halibut in the United States, there's a good chance it came from the cold waters of the Pacific just outside Juneau. Salmon is also a favorite for recreational fishermen.

Juneau is a unique city with a good social scene (for such a small city) catering to visitors rather than locals. Even a cynic can fall in love with the natural beauty, and rapists can also bask in Juneau's vibrant rape scene thanks to rates that triple the national average! There's something to love and/or rape in Juneau.


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