August 5th…Tuesday. Our Denali area adventure had come to a close. The Alfa was now headed north, again. Fairbanks, Alaska was our next stop on our flexible itinerary with a stop in the North Pole!
120 miles up the road the Parks Highway ends in Fairbanks. It was a rather short trip, once again in the rain. However, reaching Fairbanks in the later afternoon hours, brought us sunshine for a brief time. After a quick Walmart stop to restock our essentials, we found our next campground; the Riverview RV Park. Situated along side the Chena River, this campground offered us an unusual amount of wide space and green grass; unlike the normal Alaskan gravel campgrounds that would wedge our Alfa in so tightly that we could “pass the grey poupon mustard” to the next motor home next door, without getting off our dining room chair.
A trip to Alaska would not be complete without a visit to the North Pole. The city light poles are decorated as candy canes, and the spirit of Christmas is always in the air. Unlike the Michigan town of Frankenmuth, the North Pole does not portray the same ambiance, but gives it a good try. To our knowledge there is only one year around Christmas Store, and of course, we stopped there to see what we could see. Once again, certainly not close to what Frankenmuth offers, but we did get to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus; they were both quite awesome!
August 6th…Wednesday. 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, there is an Ice Museum. Also, at the end of the road, there is an old, but renovated resort which offers 108 degree hot springs to its’ guests, locals, and travelers. We headed there!
However, prior to reaching the hot springs we stopped for a very interesting lunch at “Mia’ Café”. The restaurant is in the dining and living room of what appears to be a fairly new vinyl sided modular home. The owner/chef/waitress is a 45 year old Korean woman with a bright smile and hard to understand English. One cannot be in a hurry while dining at “Mia’s Café”. She greets you at her door, takes your order, wanders back to the kitchen which is located in the attached garage, and prepares a homemade delight. There are 3 tables and maybe 15 chairs. She open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was definitely a pleasant and wonderful tasting experience.
Next was our arrival at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Nestled in the green tree covered mountains, the resort offered the hot springs wrapped in large rock, a lodge for its’ guest, a great lounge with dining, a greenhouse where they grew the flowers for their landscaping, dog mushing and ice skating in the winter, much more, plus the Ice Museum.
The next tour of bitter cold museum was scheduled shortly. We entered through the large locked wooden doors, wrapped ourselves in oversized parka’s while in the foyer, stepped through another set of duplicate doors, and entered into temperature that did not exceed 22 degrees. We had certainly had enough of cold weather, but wanted more! NOT! There was a young woman as we entered bundled in Artic wear from her head to her toes…carving ice martini glasses. These unusual stem wear pieces were used inside the museum at the ice martini bar! All of the interior ice sculptures’ were precisely carved by herself and her husband. A team of jostling horses and riders were authentic large carved ice pieces. There was a coca cola bear, an igloo with furniture, two separate bedrooms, complete with a single stool toilet. We had 30 minutes inside this ice wonder…after 10 minutes I was longing for warmth and hot chocolate. I had taken all the photos I wanted, and stood at the large wooden doors to be the first one out!
Immediately, to the hot springs. We did relax in the mineral smelling waters and even soaked up some mountain sun. This place is suppose to be an excellent location to witness the mysteries of the Aurora Borealis….the “northern lights”. With still too much light in the night sky, this time of year, we have not been able to observe the odyssey of the brightly colored dancing lights that often appear in this part of North America.
The evening hours came quickly for this day, and we headed back to our motor home. Early to bed, for the next day was laundry day and checking out downtown Fairbanks.