Tag Archives: Travel

Dressing my wanderlust –

Yesterday I traded in my puffy coat and survival gear for a wool trench coat with New York on the label but made in China.

I gave up my bunny boots for a pair of leather Kenneth Cole dress boots made in Italy.

What you wear is a reflection of your personality, after all.

And yet this concept confuses me.

I’m now one of thousands of men walking the streets of Chicago wearing a wool tench coat over a dress shirt and slacks and walking around in Italian-leather shoes.

To borrow a term, though I know not from where, I’ve blended in.

It’s funny how in leaving Alaska, you leave with the best souvenir the world has ever known. The ability to talk about having lived in Alaska.

“What part of Alaska did you live in?”

Definitely my favorite question.

My answer: Alaska is not like California. You don’t have a Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Sacramento and a million other points in between.

In Alaska, you have Anchorage and everything else. Also known as Anchorage and the real Alaska.

Our three years in Montana gave us good prep for Alaska.

Sparse, wide-open country with individualist people inhabiting it loosely.

We moved in winter and spent our money on smart winter coats, gloves hats and boots and some cross-country skis for good measure.

Within a few weeks, we fit in, at least in our own heads. Blended, as it were, with other Alaskans.

Though we were given away for Several months for the way in which we said Lower-48 instead of Outside and snow mobile instead of snow machine.

We moved to Chicago in the summer, so we had only to strip down a bit to fit in.

We should’ve bought Sox shirts to wear around our south side home, but we like the Giants.

Today as I walked from the train at Union Station surrounded by a mass of humanity, my leather-soled shoes clip clopping on the cement, and my coat swishing around my knees, I was reminded about permanence yet again, and how I tend to flee from it.

Necessity might be the mother of invention, but wanderlust is the father of re-invention. I’ve had it bad in my life. Lusting after new experiences and new vistas, wearing new hats and coats as if I belonged to one land or another, when in truth, my heart did not belong to any one place. Never has. I doubt it ever will. 

On Thursday I head to New York City. 

The Crisis of Time –

Just passed the three-month mark in Chicago. No matter how old I get, I continue to be blown away at how fast time seems to pass. The plans we make never equal the time in which our minds imagine they can happen. To that end, there were a few beach trips we didn’t take, a visit to the zoo, just a few untried restaurants, downtown streets and parks unexplored and neighbors unmet. I don’t know if it’s the relatively short stays in our previous locals or the general march of time, but we have always suffered from a desire to do too much in too little time. Or the realization that we did not do enough with the time we had. This leads to suffering regret, and I detest suffering regret. Maybe it’s the west or the familiarity of youth, but I know very well the list of undone things even in my own hometown.

The peaks unclimbed, the trails not hiked, the lakes and rivers not fished, the beaches where no sandcastles were built. All of those things were infinitely possible in the span of time I spent there in Cascadia. But I don’t regret the things I did instead. Those things shaped my life. No, I did not enjoy the solitude of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness or the view from Three Fingered Jack. But I did enjoy the benefits of the company of good friends, the hard lessons of childhood and the delights that come with living in a place with no thought of leaving on the horizon. Illinois is my fifth state, a tiny number really, but more than a great many people will see. And even though we moved here to give the kids a more settled lifestyle, there is in me a desire to try and experience it all, just in case the clouds fall again. Maybe it’s a product of being laid off in a bad economy from a dying industry. If that will not make you jumpy, nothing will. The thought of staying home on a weekend and doing nothing but watching some football, making good food and enjoying life is appealing to me in ways my adventurous nature kind of abhors. Is it age? Wisdom? laziness? I have a desire for permanence now that I have not felt before. Just as you might live in Alaska always prepared for the ground to shake under your feet, I still think about fault lines and magnitudes a lot. I was never a Boy Scout, but I have tried to live always prepared. Maybe it’s the wanderlust of my upbringing by missionary parents. When your life looks like a National Geographic magazine, the domesticity of the American Midwest makes life look like it’s lived at the slow crawl of a glacier by comparison. And as much as I always dreamed of seeing the things my father told us stories about, I find that I’m more fascinated by the untold stories next door to me or in the heart of this big, old city these days. And still time passes, and you realize that experiences will never add up to the amount of words you can write about them and analyze them with and carry them into the lobe of memories. Tim

Anchorage to Chicago: The rest of the journey –

Days 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 I had hoped to blog the entire trip from Anchorage to Chicago, but our time in Missoula was gloriously filled with too much friendship, if such a thing is possible. So I’ll break it all down into one post, we’ll call it Anch to Chi, the Highlights. Day 5 – Plains, Mountains and Borders We left Edmonton early, as everyone was looking forward to a couple days of rest in Missoula. The sun sprang up like a northern flower and showered us in golden warmth all the way to Calgary. The plains can be boring, if you have no imagination or if the sky doesn’t put on a show for you. Today we talked about seeing our friends, about living in Chicago and about the last few days.  After Calgary, the plains gave way to verdant hills that grew into mountains. The trail through the Canadian Rockies is beautiful and perhaps underrated.  The border crossing back into the U.S. was uneventful. A border guard asked if I had any guns. I said no. He looked at me for a long moment and said, “You coming from Alaska and all, I find that hard to believe.” I had no answer for him, and he let us go.

Days 6 and 7 – Missoula, our Mountain Home Our heart is in Missoula. So is our house, for that matter, but it’s the people from our community there that we miss dearly. The three greatest buddies a guy could have were waiting for me with a growler of beer when we finally arrived around 11 p.m. We conversed for a few minutes around a roaring pine-cone fire. As I recovered from more than 2,000 miles of driving through Alaska, the Yukon, B.C. and Alberta, I wanted to sleep, but the thought of missing out on any time with these guys kept me going. Though it was a blur, with kids farmed out across the city and trying to see as many friends as possible, I felt rested when we went to bed on our last night there. Day 8: A Thousand Miles in a Day I woke up motivated to get some miles under my belt. With Missoula in my rear view, Chicago and a new life loomed up over the badlands and all the flat country in between.  We flew across the familiar Montana countryside and gassed up just the other side of Billings. From there on out, everything was unfamiliar. New miles, new states for the kids’ collection. I had wanted to see the site of Custer’s Last Stand, or more appropriately these days, The Battle of Little Big Horn, for many years. When we left Montana in 2010, it was with some regret at not having seen so much of the breathtaking state. So we stopped and scoped out the battlefield in record time, hoping to make up the time with the 75-mph speed limits. Somewhere between the flattest parts of Montana, Wyoming and the South Dakota border, we saw the sky darken like night falling fast. The cold metallic gray filled the horizon all the way to the ground. Lightening struck in the distance, and rain drops plopped on the hood and window of the car like some giant’s tears.  Within a few moments, the skies opened, and a deluge filled the world around us. Traffic on I-90 slowed to a crawl as every driver lost visibility instantly. Cheryl and I scrambled to find the emergency flashers so the semi behind us would notice us before plowing through us. We crawled through the storm at 5 or 10 miles per hour. Eventually the sky lifted a little as the storm bounced off of us before setting down a few miles away and off the interstate. In a few more miles, the roadway was completely dry, evidence of the storm’s whimsical nature. We reluctantly passed by Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park, hoping to put ourselves within 8 hours of the windy city by midnight. Day 9: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois We left our Alaska-chilled hotel room on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota in a sultry morning heat blanket. We opted for air conditioning over gas mileage. Minnesota did not disappoint, the verdant fields were a great relief after the drabness of the western Midwest. Amish country rolled past our windows as if we had gone back in time. Suddenly we were at the banks of the Mississippi River. And even though the last 1,500 miles were in unfamiliar territory, there was something so final about crossing the wide blue boundary marker.  Wisconsin’s eastern border is beautiful country, worthy of coming back to explore someday. But the 101-degree heat and the road ahead kept us on the highway with the air conditioner blasting.  Madison loomed in the distance, but we drove through and lunched on the other side of the city.  The toll roads are the tell-tale sign that you’re nearing Chicago. We scrambled for change and dollar bills as we drove through half-a-dozen collection stations.  The blue dot on my iPhone’s navigation app drew ever closer to Our new home in Palos Heights. Finally we left the freeway and struck out over land, navigating out way through Oak Park, Worth and finally Palos Heights. The neighborhood, shaded as it was by huge oak trees, was as idyllic as one could imagine. Driving through, I could see my kids riding their bikes to their friends’ houses or skateboarding down the quiet streets as neighbors water their lawns. It wasn’t too hard to see this new place as home.  But more on that later. Tim

Day 3: The Menagerie Road –

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I peeked my head out the hotel window in Whitehorse this morning. 

After yesterday’s misadventure, I was hoping for a good day of driving with the kind of scenery I’ve been expecting from the great north country.

We ate a breakfast buffet under the watchful eye of a buff German woman who was so efficient, it made me laugh to watch her work.  We gassed up the vehicles and hit the road under big blue skies.

The roads out of Whitehorse were immediately better than those we drove yesterday, and we moved along at a respectable clip. We actually did the first 100 miles without stopping. 

The first part of the day was all verdant underbrush, Aspen forests and those wide, muddy rivers that I’ve been noticing lately.

We made good time and covered the first 200 miles In a little under 4 hours. The kids slept, and we got through most of the first part of “Game of Thrones” on audio tape.

Then we saw one, a little black shape just off the side of the road. I braked hard and pulled to the side of the road. I put it in reverse, and pretty soon we were side by side with a small black bear.

It was game on after that. All told, we saw 14 bears, mostly blacks with one grizzly, a lynx, dozens of wood bison, Trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and a Loon.

It was as if Paul Simon had written another road trip song, one I shall call “The Menagerie Road.” 

By the end of the day we had stopped pulling over, but we still pointed them out enthusiastically.

By late afternoon the rains came again, and we walked into Liard Hot Springs to stick our feet in the thermal waters there.

The Northern Rockies loomed large as we got underway again, but the going was smooth and there was little stress, if any.

I went through two bags of sunflower seeds and two thermoses of green tea, I listened to way too much Journey before noon, and I enjoyed this northern stretch of highway, this Menagerie Road.

Looking forward to a change of scenery tomorrow. Already we are far enough south for darkness, and that is a good thing for me. 

TAA

Day 2: The Klondike and Other Problems –

We woke up late this morning, assuming we’d have an easy 324-mile drive from Tok, AK to Whitehorse, YK. It was not meant to be. The sun was bright and warm as we left Tok for the 90-mile jaunt to the border. Papa was driving the U-Haul at a good clip, and the traffic was lighter than I expected. We stopped for a couple of potty breaks and for gas before we made the border, but things looked really promising for an uneventful but beautiful drive through the Yukon Territory.

The big YK sign at the border proved far-too cool to bypass, so we stopped for pictures. I noticed some very fresh bear poop on the grass near the sign, and I warned everyone to steer clear and keep an eye out for the bruin. Cole has been sick for two days now, and in his delirious state, he walked right through it. But we didn’t know this until he got back in the car, which promptly filled with the nasty aroma of whatever that bear had for breakfast this morning. We were all still gagging and holding our shirts over our our noses when we pulled up to Canadian customs. Driving into the Yukon is an interesting reminder of just how small we are in this world. We crossed so many wide rivers I lost count, and we drove in the shadow of so many peaks and saw so few people, it reminded me of a bigger, emptier Alaska. Like a leaden-gray wall in the distance, the Yukon opened up its waterworks for us as a welcoming sign. We left the sunshine in eastern Alaska and drove into a torrential furry that seemed somewhat normal for the surroundings, but it made for a miserable drive. Like doing a road trip in Oregon on spring break. We stopped and slapped ourselves silly trying to keep the mosquitoes off for a short trip to fetch salami out of the back of the truck or to order sandwiches at a Tasty Freeze. The road, or what might be called a road, or perhaps a trail, was so rough in spots we never traveled faster than 35 mph at times. You expect these patches on the Alaska Highway, but you cannot know how long and tedious they are until you finish a 324-mile drive 10-hours later and crash defeated into a hotel bed with the sick and snoring all around you. Towards Whitehorse, the trail picked up speed. my father-in-law took it up to 60, before the trailer started to weave back and forth dangerously. The other memorable part of today was the tremendously large dragon flies that I mowed down like so many windshield sacrifices. Ordinary bugs make their presence known with a gooey splat on the windshield, some of which you dread the task of trying to remove with the gas station squeegee later. Dragon flies in the Yukon look quite like a bird of prey coming through your windshield. I was so surprised by the sight of such large creatures smacking my windshield, that I actually flinched and swerved a few times. The second day is down, and the real test comes tomorrow. we have a 550-mile drive to stay on target. If we leave at 7 a.m., that puts us into Fort Nelson around 10 p.m., judging by these road conditions.

The Two Alaskas

Alaska picked an interesting time to put its best foot forward. The temperatures are hovering around 70 degrees, while huge cumulonimbus clouds spend the afternoons going nuclear over the Alaska Range. 

I haven’t seen Denali in weeks. It’s warm enough to sit outside until midnight, if you can stand the northern vampires that descend on you like a 600-Hz mini chainsaw of blood and horror. Slap one, and you’ll leave a memorable blood splatter. 

We’re nearing the Solstice, and as I’ve stated several times on this blog, I’m a bit adverse to the Midnight Sun. I think I’ve traced it back to my childhood in Europe, when parents a little more liberal than mine would allow their children to stay up until the sun set, while my bed time never fluctuated. Regardless of where the sun was on its daily journey, I was in bed at 7 p.m., listening to the sounds of children playing outside my window. 

Today, if I try to lay down and sleep while the sun still is casting a glow into the basement, I’m restless like I was when I was young. 

So I stay up late and write. 

Looking back on a year and a half in Alaska, I find myself having lived out a fine adventure indeed. Even as I admit the many things I did not do, the list of accomplishments I did not…accomplish, I’m flush with memories of remote villages, the smells of diesel and fish in Unalaska, Nome on the day they crowned the youngest-ever winner of the Iditarod, the stillness of an Arctic Circle village at 50 below. 

Journalists get a little deeper than the general tourist experience, and I’ll be forever grateful to the lady who brought me to Alaska, because she understood that I needed to get to know the place more than just the words in the book, “Coming Into the Country.” 

My wife and children had a different experience. They never got to see the two Alaskas. Instead, they spent a year and a half in Anchorage, which is like a cold Seattle. 

They saw moose and bears and spent a memorable few days in Halibut Cove. Cheryl and I spent a sleepless night above the one bar in Cordova, before a day-long salmon-shark fishing expedition. 

We drove to Fairbanks in the spring and saw the Northern Lights during the World Ice Carving Championships, and we soaked in the thermal waters at Chena Hot Springs. 

You can’t live this life and afford it too. That’s the beauty of adventure, of living life to the fullest. My children didn’t get to see all the things I got to see, and if you can imagine what I see on a daily basis as a journalist, well, that’s a good thing for their sake. But I tell them everything else. I relive my experiences for them much the same way my dad relived his adventures for my sisters, my brother and I. 

A year and a half later, Alaska still is a place of mystery. No less intriguing to me than it was before I ever set foot here.

 

There are millions of miles of wilderness, countless villages to see, and a handful of people I still want to meet. 

As someone told me today, “You now have a place to stay whenever you want to come back to Alaska.” 

And while that’s true, when you come to Alaska to visit, you see the Alaska with its best foot forward. The place as it was meant to be. The glistening glaciers and the slap of a big halibut against the decking on a fishing boat, the slow pull of a diesel train leaving for Talkeetna or points beyond. 

This was my chance to see the real Alaska, and from what I can tell, I liked it. 

The Week In Between

It is the week in between.

In Alaska, February falls into March like snow falls on the tundra. It’s a seemingly endless process, the glory and the bane of those who call the great white north home.

They are one month, sixty days with a leap year, a period of time in which Alaskans so cabin feverish from a January spent below zero and 114 inches of now dirty snow on the ground that they gather together to celebrate a midwinter festival.

A gathering of the various parts that make up the vast and varied state of mind known as Alaska they call Fur Rondy.

Not unlike carnivals and festivals elsewhere, there are recognizable elements in the rides, the frostbite footrace and the grand parade. But the similarities end there.

Fox, caribou and bear hides aside, the Rondy features a full-combat snowball fight with well-trained teams, outhouse races and the annual running of the reindeer.

But the Rondy, by comparison to the two events on either side of it, is absolutely sane and normal by most standards.

The Iron Dog is a 2,000 mile snow machine race that starts in Sarah Palin’s back yard, literally, and ends in Fairbanks, after traveling through Nome. You simply have to look at a map to understand even an 1/8th of the magnitude of this race.

Sarah’s husband, Todd, is a four-time champion of the Iron Dog.

There is nothing like chasing guys doing 90 miles per hour down the Yukon River trying to make slot for the 10 p.m. news.

After a week of breathing two-stroke fumes to the point of dizziness and conducting interviews on frozen lakes, rivers and seas, one is ready for a month’s worth of downtime.

Rondy marks the nonexistent divide between February and March. Somewhere in that Mardi Gras of the north there is a metaphorical change of the calendar page.

But the snow will continue to pile, and this year the all time record is in danger of getting buried.

The ice will not break for weeks, possibly months. The ski resorts will have powder skiing through May, and I will continue to take liquid vitamin D until the solstice-the summer one.

In this perpetual Narnia that magically converts to Never Never Land when you least expect it, March is as far from anywhere, as bleak as looking north from Barrow and as long and unending as the line of RVs on the ALCAN in July. 

And yet 66 men and women and their dogs will set out on a 1,000-mile jaunt from Willow to Nome.

You can’t blame Alaskans for wanting to get out and about during an Alaskan winter. They are unbearably long. But the question I have now and may always have is this: Why the extensive journeys testing every ounce of human endurance?

I asked myself this as I watched the Iron Doggers cross the finish line in Fairbanks last week. I’ll ask it again as I drive a snow machine up the Yentna River to catch the Iditarod mushers checking in at Yentna Station, the first checkpoint, on Sunday.

I’ll likely ask this again at the finish line in Nome under the burled arch and over drinks at the Board of Trade with Hugh Neff.

Three weeks that span the month of Febrarch, or midwinter, and this is the week in between.

The downtime, the deep breaths, the hugs from my daughter and reading to her at night and talking to the kids about Iron Dog and the Daytona 500, the only time of the year our necks get this red.

The trail starts again next week. The insanity that is the northern lights and 30 below and the yelping of dogs so excited to run they can’t sit still. Mushers mumbling like gold prospectors who haven’t seen another human being in years and tourists wearing sealskin jackets like Patagonia from REI.

Looking back and looking forward. The pause in the middle of the long, cold night. The celebration, the revelry and the realization of so much more in the form of snow and ice and melt and breakup and summer, finally.

For now I’ll relax in the week in between. Review the winter worn so far and the threads that will shield my skin from the arctic frost that will hang around like a common but little-loved acquaintance.

Nome Exposure

Finding good Internet access in Nome is tricky. WiFi is my lifeblood, so I’m always interested in finding the optimal place, preferably close to whatever location I happen to be working, to get a good signal.

During the Iron Dog, the world’s longest, toughest snow machine race, Nome serves as the halfway point. The turnaround where racers spend 36 hours resting and wrenching during their 2,000 mile race across Alaska.

I spend a lot of time shooting photos and videos, but I spend a lot more time waiting for 2 minutes of video to upload or writing captions for photo galleries.

On this trip, I didn’t want to hang out in the two-stroke-fume-filled Nome City Shops, so I spent more time at the ramp that both welcomes racers and sends them out again.

The Polar Cafe, which sits just down Front Street on the Bering Sea coast, is full of big, wide tables and chest-level electrical outlets to plug in all the various appliances that go with being a digital journalist.

On Tuesday, I set up shop in the Polar in the early afternoon. I worked quietly in the corner for several hours putting together a bunch of video clips and photo galleries as well as updating our social media.

The waitress, a slight, long-haired Alaska native, kept checking on me, and I apologized for monopolizing her space. She just shrugged and quietly told me that it was all right.

She served me two cups of terrible green tea, and because I felt bad about staying in the restaurant so long, I finally ordered a cup of reindeer chili.

Eventually an older Alaska native lady walked in. She was missing most of her front teeth and seemed to be much too old to have a 10-year-old son. But she called him son anyway. 

They ordered, and when the waitress asked if she wanted anything else, the older lady said she wanted to send a meal over to a gentleman at the bar.

“Please get him the halibut, a salad and a bowl of soup,” she said. “And take it to him at the bar.”

Eventually her husband and another young child joined the lady and her 10-year-old.

They ate quietly at the table for a half hour or so before two highly intoxicated gentlemen sat in our section.

Being a writer and highly distracted by human nature, I took in bits and pieces of the various conversation.

The drunk men wore camouflage and hats with American flags on them. They sat in a two-top near the window.

“Oh, they have fresh local halibut on special.”

The other man just nodded as the waitress set down their waters.

The older Alaska native lady spoke up, suddenly, loudly.

“Whew, boys, the fumes coming off you could light this place up,” she complained. “Why you gotta drink like that.”

When one of the men realized she was talking to him, he responded.

“We don’t drink like this, you know. It’s just today.”

“Oh, you’re just in town for a little good time, eh?” she said.

“Yeah, you now, it’s just today,” he retorted.

She asked him if he was King Islander. He nodded affirmatively.

I worked a little more, until the two men suddenly erupted into a one-sided fight in front of me.

I couldn’t see or hear the quiet drunken man, but the man with his back to me suddenly started spewing profanities at his companion. 

“Give me that,” he spat. “You can’t take that.”

He stood up and walked over the shoulder of the other man so he could yell into his ear directly.

“Shut up, shut up.”

He sat down again and put some food in his mouth.

“Where’s your hundred?” he asked the other man. There was no reply.

The older lady and her husband were discussing what type of beverage would go best for the drunkard in the bar for whom they’d purchased a meal.

“Get him milk,” she said.

“No, get him coke, the milk will curdle with all that alcohol.”

“Ah, yes, the milk will curdle in his stomach.”

Then a man showed up holding a bowl of soup. He staggered across the floor to a table near mine and sat down.

“Thank you Goudis,” he said. “Thank you for the soup.”

“I didn’t just buy you soup, I bought you a whole meal,” she said.

“What do you want to drink with it?”

The waitress appeared, and the drunk from the bar asked for a cup of coffee.

“Coffee, he ordered coffee,” the older woman said to her husband.

The waitress returned with a cup of coffee and a large plate of food.

“Oh, I get more food, oh, thank you Goudis,” the drunk from the bar said.

Working became impossible, as every person seemed to want to try to speak louder than the other person.

Suddenly the two men at the table in front of me erupted into a verbal fight again.

“You’re my best hunter. Shut up, shut your mouth,” the man with his back to me yelled.

The lady called Goudis by the drunk from the bar walked over to the two men and began to lecture them.

“You can’t do that,” she said. “You can’t yell those things. There are young children present. Can you see that?”

The man nodded and went back to eating his food.

Finally he muttered an apology.

Soon his partner got up and walked away. I had never once heard him speak.

The lady called Goudis continued to lecture the remaining island hunter.

Finally he apologized, and with bits of food on his fork, he paid the whole bill and left to return to the bar.

The drunk from the bar thanked Goudis again.

“Don’t thank me any more. I take care of the people in this town. They know I won’t buy them liquor or give them money, but I will always feed them.”

“Thank you Goudis,” he said and sauntered away tipping his cup of coffee precariously.

“Don’t thank me again, you’ve thanked me enough. I’m just taking care of you,” she said.

I folded my computer, detached my hard drive, my card readers, my iPhone and my iPad charging on the wall.

I paid my bill and thanked the waitress for putting up with me all afternoon.

She looked at me and shrugged.

“It’s fine, any time you can come work her. I’m sorry for all of that.”

I told her not to be sorry. It’s human nature.

“It’s just Nome,” she said. 

“It’s every where you find humans, my dear.”

Nomeward Bound

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.