Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wetaskiwin, where the cars cost less

I understand from my native Albertan friends that this used to be a common jingle heard on television. Andrew and I didn't, however, go to Wetaskiwin to buy a car, although we did go there to look at them. Early on in the week, when the weather for the weekend looked less chancy I'd suggested to Andrew that we should go tubing on the Pembina River. However, as the week drew to a close, the predicted weather indicated rain and cooler temperatures so we had to re-vamp our plans. Instead we decided to go the Reynolds Museum in Wetaskiwin, about an hour's drive south of Edmonton. We'd heard from a few people that it was a good museum and since our time in Alberta is counting down, we thought it was about time to check it out.

The Reynolds Museum is a museum of old cars, farm equipment, and aeroplanes. We'd considered also going to the Alberta Art Gallery (as I still haven't been) and to the Royal Alberta Museum (which Andrew hasn't been too). What clinched the decision for us was that the Reynolds had a feature display of 1920's luxury cars. Both Andrew and I appreciate the aesthetic of old cars and Andrew especially finds the earlier cars appealing. I actually grew up around antique vehicles to some extent (unfortunately I didn't absorb much in the way of mechanical know-how) as my neighbour stored and restored them in his barn (the barn only housed vehicles, neither they nor we lived on a farm). I have a clear memory of riding around in the rumble seat of their 1932 (I think that was the year) Oldsmobile. Also, my father eventually bought a 1968 Dodge Monaco, which I...er...fondly (?) referred to as the beast (it's giant, it barely fit in my parents garage at the time, and it's pea green).

The morning started out grey and windy, although we saw no rain, so were quite happy to be spending our day in doors. I ended up turning off of Highway 2 earlier than necessary and came into Wetaskiwin along 2A, which was considerably less busy, although eventually we hit construction where the road went down to a single lane and had to wait for an escort car to take us across that stretch. Then as we approached the Museum we came across a mother duck and her ducklings who had ventured onto the road. It looked like mamma had started to attempt the crossing then realized it wasn't safe to continue as they were all huddled a foot or so from the edge. We didn't see any squished fowl on our way home, so I'm hoping/assuming they made it safely out of harm's way.

At any rate, the museum. The entrance fee is ten dollars for adults, which I think is quite reasonable for the size and collection on display. The first part of the feature collection was arranged in the entrance hall. I don't recall all the specific makes and models of the cars, although the last one before you entered the permanent collection was a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Posted with each car was their original newspaper advertisement, which were highly entertaining as they frequently aimed to flatter the intelligence or style of the buyer. They also listed the car's features and original pricing. The condition of the cars varied as well from fully restored to cracked windows, ripped upholstery and rusted bodies. Later on in the museum you can peek into the restoration work house and see cars in a range of states of repair.

An array of vehicles make up the permanent collection, ranging from bicycles, to motorbikes, cars that were basically a horse buggy with a motor, home-modified vehicles and farm equipment. I think most of the vehicles were purchased and used in Alberta. We started out taking our time and reading all the available information about the introduction of motorized vehicles to Alberta (including registration requirements, the lack of roads/signage, etc), but eventually recognized we were going to be there all day if we didn't hurry up. The home-modified vehicles were interesting--perhaps not surprisingly--largely having to do with making early cars hardy enough to endure winter. We rocketed through the farm equipment, not being quite as keen on tractors and combines, but slowed again to take a closer look at some of the remaining cars, and the second section of the luxury cars of the 1920's.

One of the luxury vehicles, I think this was the one that sat right up at the front, it was gorgeous.

Andrew standing proudly next to a Detroit Electric (one of the earliest electric cars, circa ~1910, I think). If we had the cash, he'd love to buy one, but they're rare and rather pricey. They're quite an attractive car.
One of the cars in the permanent collection.
A rather classy looking pick up.
Unfortunately we didn't make it out to the air hanger. It was close to 1:00 pm by the time we were done with the cars and we were both getting super hungry. When my parent's visited the Museum last summer they went to a restaurant called Huckleberry's Cafe, so we decided to do the same. We were seated and served quickly (probably thanks to arriving after the lunch crowd). The food was good (and cheep) and our server very friendly. After lunch we took a quick drive downtown to see what was there, there's a local history museum, but as it was closing in on 3:00 pm at this point we opted to head home. All-in-all an extremely pleasant day, nice to get out of the city and see a place we hadn't been to before.



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