2018 July 12 – Fairbanks, Alaska

As my sister correctly surmised after reading yesterday’s blog, today was a museum day.  Fairbanks has a lot of museums.  They cover just about every topic you can think of.  But, we only went to two, plus the Pioneer Park.  That being said this is a very photo heavy-text light blog.

We first went to the Ice Museum in downtown Fairbanks.  A young Asian fellow with fractured English hustled us quickly into a darkened theater where a film showing the Northern Lights was playing.  When it ended he said there was another film about the Fairbanks International Ice Sculpting competion, to be followed by some time in the cooler with some ice sculptures and then an ice carving demonstration.  We could hear him escort other people into the theater during the film and by the time it was over there were about a dozen of us.

It took 4 ice sculptors 45 days to make all the items in the cooler.  The museum is only open during the summer months and they make new sculptures every year. They were all ‘interactive;’ meaning you were encouraged to stand beside or sit on or put your face through the appropriate spot for photographs.  I thought at first the museum staff was going to take the photos and then charge us for them, but no, we were given warm jackets and allowed to wander among the ice figures at will and enjoy ourselves.  It was fun. The ice is some of the purest in the world and a group of volunteers cut over 1,500 huge chucks of it out of the ponds and lakes for the sculpting competition.  They also send blocks of ice to other countries for special events  It is clear as glass when smoothed.   The sculpture that was used the most was the ice slide.    In the lobby there are photos of some of the ice sculptures from former competitions.  Some of them are huge!

We drove around downtown Fairbanks and then headed out to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. We had been told that we MUST go to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.  It is a private museum built by the collector and features about 60 of his 88 cars at a time.  They rotate them regularly.  Everyone of the vehicles are in running condition and staff or the owners will take them for a spin down the road on occasion.  All the mechanical and nuts and bolts restoration work is done at the shop attached to the museum.  Bodywork and paint is done in either California or Michigan.

I am not a huge classic car buff, but this was by far the most beautiful collection of beautiful cars I have ever seen.  There were no cars more recent than the 1930s and the collection also included some of the first vehicles ever brought into Alaska.

What made the whole place so unique was the companion displays of vintage clothing, shoes, bags and hats that are his wife’s passion.  We spent almost three hours in there and I took 280 photos!  I did a very quick look through and picked out some of my favourite cars or clothes and, more wide shots of the whole floor than all the individual cars.  Car and clothes pics coming right up…. This gorgeous dark plum car is not part of the collection.  It is too new.  It belonged either to someone working there or someone visiting.

You can’t see it really well, but the insides of the doors and the edges of the seats are trimmed in a matching green and white patterned fabric. Many of the cars have very unique stories or are one of a kind, and several are the only surviving one of the particular make and model and year.There was a closet of riding coats, hats (both ladies and mens) and goggles that you could put on and have your photo taken in this car. There were vintage films about early cars and early car journeys and the troubles encountered by automobiles in Alaska.  And around the perimeter on the walls were huge photos of the early days of the automobile.

I know that is a lot of photos of cars and usually you would never catch me taking that many pictures of cars.  But, I loved this museum.  All of the vehicles were so beautifully restored and clean and all the vintage clothes just added to the look of the cars.  It was a great place to spend some time.  And, despite all the photos of cars you need to be thankful that I only post so few.  Really.

After we had some lunch we took the path through the woods and across the footbridge to the Pioneer Park.  This is a 44-acre complex that has old cabins and buildings from the early days of Fairbanks and area that have been saved and moved here.  There is also a huge art gallery, an antique airplane museum, rides for kids and large open grounds for picnices and fun.  Most of the cabins are little shops. This is Buddie.  His owner has a shop in the little cabin but when no one is inside they sit outside.  Buddie is a two year-old Fawnequin Great Dane.  Danes come in solid colors of black or fawn and there is a black and white patterned coat that is called a Harlequin.  Buddie is a fawn and white mix and yet his skin under the fawn brown spots is black.  His genetics got mixed up.  No one that his owner has spoken to has ever seen one, including vets.  Buddie was having a nice snooze and took no mind of people stopping by. And, finally, the day is done.  We walked back to the hotel and rested our weary feet for awhile before going out for a late dinner.  Tomorrow we leave Fairbanks and drive south to Denali National Park.  We are spending the night at a little town called Talkeetna.  It would be absolutely glorious if tomorrow was as nice a day as today.  There might be a chance to see most of Denali if that is the case.  Denali is the new official name for Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America.  The name was officiall changed last year.  Denali means ‘high one’ and it is rarely fully visible.  Maybe tomorrow will be one of those days.


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