It might surprise some people to know that one can rent a car in the tiny Alaskan town of Russian Mission. But travellers arriving at Russian Mission Airport have plenty of car rental options to choose from.
Arrival in Russian Mission
Russian Mission, called "Iqugmiut" by the local Yup'ik people, was founded in 1842 as a Russian fur-trading post. The Russian-American Company ran it until the sale of Alaska to the United States, when it was named "Russian Mission." It's a small town whose population at the time of the U.S. Census in 2000 was 300, and residents are predominantly Alaskan Native/Aleutian. The principal religion practised in Russian Mission is Russian Orthodox, but there is a small Roman Catholic minority. The sale of alcohol is prohibited in Russian Mission.
The airport has seven car rental companies: Right Cars, Enterprise, Cheap Tickets, HolidayCars.com, Orbitz, Ace Rent-a-Car, Vehicle Rent. In Alaska, it's often wise to rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive, but of course, that depends on the traveller's itinerary.
Driving in Russian Mission
Road conditions in Russian Mission depend largely on the weather, so visitors should plan their trip around a reliable weather forecast. Drivers should clear all snow from the car, including the roof and the hood, and try to have more than half a tank of gas at all times because gas stations may not be open, especially during the winter. Visitors should let someone know where they are going and what time they expect to arrive. They should also carry a cell phone at all times, even though reception can be spotty in Alaska.
Solo travellers should be extra-careful, and all travellers should avoid driving at night. It's especially important in Alaska that drivers be prepared for car trouble by carrying blankets, food, water, and a source of light.
Things to See and Do in Russian Mission
The Yupiit Piciryarait Museum in Bethel is a museum specialising in Native Alaskan culture, with an emphasis on the tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Owned and operated by the tribe, the museum shares a building with the Regional Cultural Center and the University of Alaska Kuskokwim Campus Library. There are three galleries, a permanent one dedicated to Native history and culture, and two short-term ones. The museum gift shop features art from local artists.
The Northern Lights, officially "aurora borealis," is a spectacular atmospheric phenomenon that occurs 60 to 70 miles above the earth's surface and can project hundreds of miles into space. The most common color is yellowish-green, but the Northern Lights can also be red, purple, and blue. An old Alaskan legend says the lights are the spirits playing.
They're difficult to see during the summer, when the days are so long here. But winter's a great time to see them, and the spring and fall also offer decent views. Some Alaska hotels offer a Northern Lights wake-up call. Visitors should check with the front dest or contact the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the best viewing times.
Returning Rental Cars
Finding an open gas station in Russian Mission is touch-and- go, so travellers should fill up whenever they have the opportunity. They should also consider keeping a can of fuel in reserve.
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