The rumors start earlier every year, now well before Thanksgiving, just like the ads for diamonds, drones, and dolls. I guess they are an improvement over the rumors and attack ads whenever we have an election, but these seemed just, well, mean-spirited. I was hearing it rumored that Santa wasn’t real, and the North Pole workshop was just an urban legend. Perhaps it was the Grinch and his boys, or Scrooge and his social media team. “Fake News!” they said. “BS” (as in Bushido Samurai) I said.
Fake News! Fake News! Just because it is reported on Fox doesn’t always mean it is “Fake News.” I’d heard these rumors before, but I wasn’t buying it. This was a job for B.S. (Billy Smith) de Bunker. I called the TravelWorld editor and got an assignment (no expenses paid) to check it out. I proceeded directly to plan my trip to the North Pole—red-eye into Fairbanks, snowmobile to Fort Yukon, dog sled to Artic Village… I was determined to find out once and for all whether Santa’s workshop was really at the North Pole, and, well, whether Santa himself was real.
After the usual battle getting to Fairbanks (not the flight so much as getting into the airport and finding parking), I grabbed a cup of hot coffee and a cinnamon roll from The Cookie Jar and then started checking the usual sources, local newspaper archives, and locals at Fairbanks watering holes.
Soon enough, I ran into my new best friend Bernie, a friendly old-timer who said he could set me up at his resort “to get adjusted,” while he got me the forward lodging and transportation I would need to get on to the North Pole and see for myself, once and for all, whether Santa was real or just more fake news.
His resort was not Saint Tropez or even Mar-A-Lago, but it did have a few amenities, like a hot tub (adult attire only) and the famous Aurora icehouse and bar, featuring frozen appletinis in iced martini glasses. (No kidding—the glasses were made fresh each day from vegetarian farm-to-table chunks of ice, cut locally, on-premises). I partook of both, but briefly, wanting to get a good night’s sleep and an early start the next day.
There aren’t a lot of roads on the way to the North Pole, and what there were really were not all that passable. So fortunate I was that Bernie had engaged Matt, my snowmobiling guide, for the next leg of my journey. I geared up, which was quite a process, one I secretly resented until I learned that snowmobiles can travel well over 100 miles an hour in some cases, and it is pretty darned cold when you are not inside a car with the heater going.
Anyway, before nightfall I had arrived at Bernie’s suggested two-room suite, only to find out that my second room had outdoor plumbing and a pre-chilled seat. I was thinking I’d have been better off to book with Tom Bodett, and have him leave a light on, and perhaps the furnace, too.
I will say the scenery on the way was spectacular, fast-moving water (it knew how to avoid freezing, even if I did not) and beautiful, silent birch trees. I assume they were silent—it’s hard to tell with a snowmobile’s engine running right beside you. But I made that night’s stop in time for my afternoon nap, which was a good thing because I was told outside of Fairbanks was the ideal spot for a nighttime light show. I set my alarm for 11 pm and got up in time to see the midnight sun and the stars all at once. Really a special treat, and just an appetizer for what was to come.
The next leg of my trip would help me understand that cold was not defined by winters in Detroit or Boston, or even by the wind whipping off Lake Michigan in February. No, cold is a few hours on a dog sled. It looks romantic, and it is exciting, but it is also COLD! Even with big gloves and a Russian Ushanka hat with the flaps down.
But the dogs don’t run forever, and it was on a rest stop, chatting with my musher, that my trip was saved. I asked how much farther to Santa’s North Pole, and he said, “Santa’s North Pole? I was told to get you to the polar North Pole. That’s different. Santa’s? That’s less than an hour away.” Warmed by his comments (well, not really), we set off, the course now corrected.
And soon enough, we rounded a bend and cleared the trees, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Santa’s 2021 Distribution Center, complete with forty bays, and forty sleighs—but I digress. The Distro Center was strategically placed next to the decorated Christmas trees and the Santa blow up by his marketing elves, and in front of his workshop, which looked out on—wait for it—Santa’s North Pole! I jumped for joy! I was so happy, and maybe starting to feel warmer, too. (It could happen.) I’m still not sure whether the scene was real, or I had just been in the sled too long, I reached out and actually touched the North Pole and I noticed a bit of graffiti welded on the Pole (check it out—“Bob,” as in Bob was here), so I knew it must be real.
Well, just one more thing remained for me to check out. I ran up to the door and asked a couple of elves who were just leaving where I might find Santa. “He’s in the back,” they said. I pushed onwards, really excited now, and there I saw him, taking only a little license, “in the flesh.” He was real! Fake News, fie on you! I was just going to get an interview on my trusty tape recorder, when I heard bells, not church bells, maybe more like alarm bells, like on my alarm clock. I sat up in bed, wondering was this just a dream? No interview, how could I prove this was real? Fortunately, this story was on my computer, so I knew it. I knew it was real. Santa’s North Pole—Not Fake News!