Nomeward Bound

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Spend two days listening to KNOM, the local, Catholic radio station in Nome, Alaska, and you’ll find yourself in a ridiculously good mood.

It’s not just the short reminders about living a good, clean life or the playing of an Eric Clapton classic next to something from Foster the People.

Last night the two DJs played White Stripes and The Black Keys back to back for hours, debating which was the better band.

It’s not just the fact that they have great journalists who cover big events like Iron Dog and Iditarod with as much passion as a war correspondent or that they provide wide-spread news and cultural information around Western Alaska.

It’s not just the completely NPR-ish on-air personalities who sound exactly like a Saturday Night Live skit.

It’s a combination of all that.

People from other places look at me funny when I tell them I love coming to Nome. People in Nome know exactly why I like coming here. I like to keep it that way.

When we touched down with all the tenderness of a meat cleaver on Monday, I gazed at the powdered-sugar hills to the north of town hoping to see the herd of musk oxen that haunts those hills in winter.

My esteemed hosts picked me up in a lifted truck so big I needed help to climb inside. From such great heights I looked out over a sun-drenched and surprisingly warm city on my way to pick up the rental car.

Snow drifted into patterns based on where it was touched by the Nome wind. Alleys were scoured clean, while the snow piled into dunes. And these are beautiful, until you’re driving and find yourself barreling down on a snow dune.

When I approached my first snow dune, I was inclined to stop and inch through it, but I was going to fast and decided just to plow through. The high-walled tire tracks leading through the middle of the snow dune told me that this was what other drivers had done.

Maintaining control while speeding through the snow dune is of absolute necessity, as there is no telling how deep the snow off the sides of the road is.

Maintaining control while plowing through a snow dune at 55 is not easy.

But a sunny day in Nome proves too alluring for me to not venture out to get pictures. I decided to get in a quick meal at Airport Pizza, which I thought was the only restaurant in town until my second visit to this fair burgh.

After dinner, the sun seemed to hang enticingly at 20 minutes to sunset. I figured I could risk a few more snow dunes and venture down the Teller Highway a bit to get a good shot of the ball of fire dipping into the frozen Bering Sea.

It’s not a Kona sunset, by any means, the northern sun just lacks the power to really paint the sky. But if you like delicate pastels interspersed with lead, nickel and steel over bleak tundra, a Nome sunset is worth the price of admission.

As if to compliment my sunset drive, KNOM played something by a group of Arctic drummers followed by one of Bruce Springsteen’s less-played numbers.

I think I love this place.

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