Four Down Two Across: Fairbanks And Ping-Pong Shenanigans

The thing about Fairbanks at this time of year is that the sun sets for only a couple hours a day. Even after setting, the sun is just below the horizon, so it’s not really dark out. I feel like I have jet lag, even though I’m completely adjusted to Alaska time and am sleeping fine.

Robert and I started the day at the Mr. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge at the edge of Denali National Park. The previous evening, as we’d been driving up, we had tried to figure out, through the haze, which of the monstrously high peaks in the Alaska Range was Mt. McKinley. We’d finally settled on one, which seemed higher than all the others, even though it didn’t match the pictures we’d seen.

Well, in the morning, with a clear sky, we finally saw the real mountain, which is twice as tall as the one we’d previously picked out. It is unbelievably huge, taller than anything you’d imagine — awesome in every sense of the word.

From the lodge we continued north toward Fairbanks, arriving in a little under four hours. We’re staying at the home of Jamo and Jane Parrish, members of the Fairbanks Interior Table Tennis Club, who are a retired lawyer and retired mediator, respectively. They have converted the garage of their beautiful, modern home into — guess what? — a table tennis room, with an athletic floor and excellent lighting. The four of us played there for over an hour.

Next we went to an outdoor party at the home of Diann Darnall, who runs the Fairbanks club. About 20 club members were there. Besides the potluck dinner, Diann led everyone in a couple original ping-pong-related games — like matches played with a 5″ rubber ball on a 3′x8′ table using egg cartons as paddles. Robert beat me in the final, and he was on the winning team in another wacky game later. In each case he analyzed the game before playing, figured out a strategy, and then applied a deft touch to his play. It’s no surprise he’s so good at table tennis, too.

From 7:30-10:30we played real table tennis with the Fairbanks club at the Patty Center at the University of Alaska. More than 20 players took part, with everyone playing everyone else. It was good fun. We’ll do it again tomorrow, this time with the event open to the public.

Regarding yesterday’s puzzle, my answers were DENIAL, NAILED, and LEAD-IN.

Here’s a new teaser: Take the last name of a famous person in American history. It has 8 letters, all different. The vowel-consonant pattern of the name is cccvccvv. What name is it?

Follow Will and Robert’s Trip across Alaska through next week at “Four Down Two Across.”