We arrived in Fairbanks with absolutely no plans other than visiting Barb’s cousin Lori and her husband Jim. We left 5 days later with two unexpected visits and lots of adventures under our belt!Barb grew up in northern California/southern Oregon with her mom, dad and younger brother. Although they occasionally visited aunts, uncles and cousins they did not spend a lot of time visiting family. As everyone got older they lost touch, people moved, got married and had kids of their own. Barb had seen her cousin for the first time in 20 years when Lori stopped by in Wisconsin in 1989 for a few hours while on a family road trip. Barb did not see her again for another 19 years until 2008 when we flew up to Fairbanks to spend a week with them.
It was at this time that we all noticed something really bizarre. Although not the same age and they don’t look alike, it was as though these two were twin sisters separated at birth. Their likes, dislikes, habits and thoughts mirrored each other, in no time at all it was like they had known each other all their lives! The fact that they both married great guys named Jim was just icing on the cake!
To be honest, it is exhausting just being around them. Jim and I spent most of our time hiding out in the shop working on his 1929 Caterpillar 15. He had found it in an old mine a couple of years ago, totally broke it down, clean, repaired and painted each part, nuts, bolts, everything…..totally fixed it up and reassembled it. As a matter of fact when we were there his goal was to put the final touches on it and fire it up! Two things amazed me about this project; #1 was the history, the fact that this 87 year old piece of equipment could be brought back to life. The second was the time and energy it took to do it. Jim has well over 1,000 hours into this project and has many more putting the final touches on it. This was first time trying to start something with a hand-crank. I tell you what, those mine workers must have been seriously strong as I was whooped after 8-10 cranks! In the end he got it running and took it for a spin down the alley. I am glad I got to see it and help out in the small way I did.
Jim has several cool toys; a 1952 Chevy coupe, a 1950 Chevy pickup and an airplane. Weather prevented us from getting out in the plane but we did manage to get the pickup out for a drive.
|Jim's plane in the background|
One of the coolest things is that Daisy met her cousin as well! Jim and Lori also have a puggle.....Vinnie is a little bigger than Daisy but even they look a lot alike!
|Daisy and Vinnie|
|The Bunko Girls!|
|Anita, Lori and Barb|
There was one stop along the river where Tekla, the daughter of Susan Butcher did a dog sled demonstration. For those of you who don’t know Susan she was a 4 time Iditarod winner before passing away at the age of 51 of leukemia.
The highlight of this event for me was stopping by the Athabascan Village where we saw what life was like for the natives and early settlers. Very interesting.
|Salmon in the smokehouse|
|The one in the middle is reportedly worth $20,000|
|Granite, the lead dog in Susan's 4 winning Iditarod races|
|I could live in one of these!|
Be prepared though it can be crowded, we had ~800 people waiting to get on the ferries and when we all got off at the village, it was a sea of umbrellas!
|Waiting in line to get on the boat|
|Lots of people!|
On our way back home we stopped by Alaskan Raw Furs. A very cool shop where you can get raw fur material to make anything you want. Up here where it is not uncommon to have -40 degree days or lower, fur has been found to be the best defense against the cold. I could have spent hours in there going through each of the furs.
|Barb sporting the latest fashion|
That night we all went out to dinner at The Turtle Club. A hangout for many of the locals this supper club serves only prime rib, prawns and crab. It reminded me of the old time supper clubs we used to go to as I was growing up in Wisconsin and in my later years with my sister and her husband. Great prime rib and endless salad bar at a pretty reasonable price.
|Yummy prime at the Turtle Club!|
Our two unexpected encounters involved one couple we had not seen since we have been on the road and another couple we have virtually seen since being on the road but have never met in person. A former neighbor of ours when we lived in Wisconsin has been following our blog and had also planned an Alaskan vacation this year. He and his wife happened to be in Fairbanks the same time we were! We got together for breakfast one morning, we shared with them what we did and saw in the areas they are heading to and they filled us in on the goings on around the old homestead. It was really great seeing them!
|Bob, Lorraine and Barb|
The other encounter occurred by happenstance as well. Fellow fulltimers Faye and Dave were on an Alaska caravan and would be spending a few days in Fairbanks as well. We have been following each other’s blogs for years but have never been close enough to meet so this was our chance! Where else would we choose to meet but Silver Gulch Brewing Co! They brought another couple, Mike and Liz, with them. It was great to finally meet them and get to know them better. Their caravan came from the direction we are headed so it was great to hear about the sights ahead of us.
|Mike, Barb, Me, Faye, Dave and Liz|
We could have easily spent another 5 days in Fairbanks (we discussed it at length in fact) but we have tentative plans to be in Glacier the first week of September. So with tears in their eyes the girls said their goodbyes and we headed down the road.
Next up Chicken and Dawson City!