Alaskans believe in global warming. “It’s only snowed here twice this winter,” my friend Nancy Babb Stone groused when Peggy and I joined her and her husband Bart for dinner at their home in Anchorage. Many years earlier Nancy and I had taken a small, sleepy non-profit and turned it into a major player on health and environmental issues in Alaska. It was great to see her again. We spent a fair amount of time reminiscing.
The winter, or lack thereof, was cutting seriously into Nancy and Bart’s winter sports activities they told us. It was also melting the snow at the Fur Rendezvous’ snow carving contest. Peggy and I, along with our son Tony and his family, had been there twice to check out the sculptures. I was afraid if we looked away for a few minutes they might dissolve into large puddles of water. Even in their semi-melted forms the snow sculptures were fun, however. I was particularly attracted to the snow monsters.
Thankfully, it was colder at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks. As I mentioned in my posts on the competition, the ice park also included a kids’ play area and the pond where the ice for carving is located. The carvers have nicknamed the pristine blue ice that comes out of the pond, Arctic Diamond.
It wasn’t the purity of the ice that captured the attention of our 3, 5, and 7-year old grandsons, however. It was the fact that the park was full of ice slides, things to crawl on, over and into, and fun ice sculptures. The kids couldn’t get enough. They were given special permission to stay up late. We shut down the park. “Would you like us to leave lights on for you?” a park attendant asked at 10:30 p.m.— and was serious. I really couldn’t imagine that happening anywhere other than Alaska.
Our furthest north adventure was at Chena Hot Springs, about an hour from Fairbanks. We spent two nights there, and, I wish to report, it was ‘put on all your spare clothes’ cold, dropping to a minus 10˙ F at night. Our adventures in ice carving continued at the Aurora Ice Museum, home to Steve Brice, 15-time world ice carving champion, and his wife Heather Brice, six-time world ice carving champion. Both had participated in the Fairbanks competition.
Chena had great food and friendly people, but the lodging left a little to be desired, especially for the $200 a night price tag. I’d go with second-hand shabby as a description of our room, which they never got around to cleaning at the end of our first day. I could have lived with this except for the lack of sound-proofing.
Whenever anyone came in or went out the door banged. If they lived upstairs, the banging was followed by a mini-earthquake clomp, clomp, clomp. Again, it would have been tolerable had it stopped, say around ten. But on our second night, it went on and on— until one a.m. The lovely Peggy slept through it. I got out my sound maker and turned it on high. No luck: slam clomp, clomp, clomp! I put the sound maker three inches away from my ear: slam, clomp, clomp, clomp! I put a pillow over my head: slam, clomp, clomp, clomp! every 15 minutes, like clock work. I begin to contemplate doing things that a peace-loving guy like me doesn’t do. I begin to hallucinate. Our hotel was drug central for Alaska and people were carefully scheduled to pick up their illegal stash every 15 minutes to avoid running into each other.
The next day a friend suggested another possibility. It was a cross-cultural lesson. Chena Hot Springs occasionally provides views of the Aurora Borealis. Asians, and particularly Japanese, so I was told, believe that a child conceived under the Northern Lights will have great gifts. Our hotel was pretty much packed with people traveling from Asia. What if every 15 minutes or so, one of the husbands would go outside and check to see if the sky was dancing while his wife waited patiently for the great moment? Had I known that, I would have sat in my doorway and wished the guys good luck!
NEXT BLOG: Queens, dogs, and a very large colon in the Fur Rendezvous Parade— and an exciting Outhouse Race.