Well folks, it’s been a wild and very rewarding two years. I haven’t wrapped my mind around it, but I am finishing my time at KNOM the first week of June. I’ve heard radio people on several occasions say that you never know what’s going to happen on live radio, and I think the same is true for my time in Nome. I didn’t know coming in that I would gain so much in the friendships I’ve formed and the incredible professional experience I’ve received.
The friendships are many, and I have to say that I’ve met the some of the most interesting, fun, and altogether awesome people in Nome. People know how to have fun and I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with incredible KNOM roommates and people outside of work. You’ve all made it great for me.
I tell people sometimes that I have the coolest job in the state. I’ve gotten to interview Alaska’s congressional delegation, the Governor, the Captain of the USCG Healy, whalers from St. Lawrence Island, Todd Palin, at least three Iditarod champions, mining executives, ice experts, police chiefs, business owners, education officials, and so many other interesting people.
It’s an absolute treat to be able to professionally ask interesting questions. I met a fluvial geomorphologist at a meeting a few weeks ago and got to ask about the process of moving a river. From the crow’s nest of the icebreaker Healy, I asked the executive officer about icebreaking techniques. I asked veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard about their service 70 years ago.
I’ve had the privilege to do this every day for the past two years. I’ve also been able to meet reporters statewide through the Alaska Public Radio Network.
As you’d expect, there are adventures to be had as a bush radio reporter. One time flying to Teller, I spotted what I thought was a grizzly bear on the snowy hillside. I (somewhat cautiously) nudged the pilot sitting next to me. Without hesitation he stomped the rudder pedal and we dove in for a closer look. “He’s a big one,” said the pilot.
I also had the special opportunity to report from the trail of the first running of the Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450 sled dog race. I brought my enormous bag of gear and set about interviewing 11 mushers about a new and long-anticipated local race. Between interviews, I got to help the mushers, parking their dogs and waking them up from naps. It was a stellar race, with DeeDee Jonrowe taking a blistering pace to Kaltag and back. The race then turned into a duel between Yukon Quest champion John Schandelmeier and rising star Pete Kaiser. The two kept it extremely close over the final miles, with Kaiser coming out on top after running a large portion of the 77 miles into Nome. I know I’ll never forget that special race.
Traveling to surrounding villages has been wonderful. Meeting some of KNOM’s biggest listeners and supporters and getting a glimpse into their lives has helped me in my job and allowed me to better understand this special part of the state.
I’ll say from experience that the Nome community is fantastic. One summer day in 2010, I was in a car headed north to visit Pilgrim hot spring. About 30 miles north of town, we pulled over to check out the scenery and found that the left rear tire was flat. We were driving a borrowed car and found out quickly that there was no spare in the car. This is 30 miles out of cell phone range on a gravel road. Not a place you want to have a car break down. Within a few minutes, a northbound man stopped to check in on us and offered us a ride back to town to get a spare. He took us back, adding 60 miles to his trip and all but refusing a few bucks for gas. To be honest, I’d much rather be in a tight spot in Nome than in larger cities. You can count on people stepping up and giving big when it’s needed. I’ve met people who give so much in time, effort, and money to make this community work.
And there are so many other highlights. Visiting ancient hot springs. Taking dogs out to play on the tundra. Fantastic local music. Bonfires on the beach under the midnight sun. Crabbing on the sea ice. Watching and freaking out under the northern lights. Rafting down the Nome River. Running a dog team. Dragging, pushing, and generally beating up my mountain bike.
I’ll miss KNOM and my coworkers in a very big way. It’s been an absolute thrill to take part in the mission, and I want to thank the KNOM family for letting me take part.