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All Roads Lead to Nome (Except for 99.99% of Roads)

Several elements of life serendipitously aligned last weekend – I had time off, I had a truck to use (thanks to the friendly folks who were letting me house-sit/dog-sit), and my girlfriend Jen was free – for me to make my way out of Nome and hit the road. And oh, what options when it comes to road tripping in Nome! There’s a total of three roads to choose from. There’s the Nome/Teller highway, which goes about 50 miles west to … Teller. There’s the Nome/Council Highway, which goes about 50 miles east to … Council. And then there’s the Kougarok Road, which goes past Salmon Lake and Pilgrim Hot Springs before it just kind of peters out about 50 miles north of Nome. Beset with options, Jen and I headed north on the Kougarok, destined for Pilgrim Hot Springs, when the inevitable happened.

Youch. That’s one nasty flat. Miles away from town on a very slow-going and rocky roadway, we had to keep our spirits up. At least there was a nice cool breeze blowing, which kept the mosquito at bay! Jen and I got to work fixing the flat.

Jen had the foresight to drop the tarp and actually look at the car’s instruction manual to figure out where the spare was, and just how to get it loose. It was an interesting tension-wire contraption that took a little figuring out, but, we got it down easily enough. Look at those mountains! If you’ve gotta change a tire, change it near beautiful mountains.

I enjoy smiling moronically in pictures. You have to, if you don’t want to go insane when driving the roads around Nome. They’re rough, rocky, barren, and very far (read: an expensive tow) from any kind of car service. It makes driving far on those roads a treacherous proposition. I’ve heard reports of people blowing two, even three tires in a single trip. If I had a car up here, I’d be sure to drive slow(er than I did) on these roads, and have at least two spares on me at all times. Where else does having a single spare not cut it?

Jen getting ready to put on the new tire. She’s pretty handy with that kind of stuff.

Tightening up those lug nuts! After that, it was a matter of (very carefully!) getting back to the main road.

And on the way back? A moose sighting! You can barely see it in this picture, but that tiny brown dot slightly to the left and a little above the moose’s head? Pretty sure that’s a baby moose.

We never did make it to Pilgrim Hot Springs – a natural geothermal oasis in the middle of the tundra, where trees grow (in the not-so-frosty permafrost) and an abandoned orphanage makes for a spooky and owl-filled excursion – but our attempt turned into its own little adventure. We didn’t dare continue on the road with no spare, so sadly, we turned back and made our way gingerly back to Nome. Pilgrim will have to wait for another day. But it’s just an example of how even interrupted plans and unexpected events can spice up life in Nome. Getting a flat wasn’t my idea of a good time, but in the end, I really enjoyed the day. That’s just how life goes on the mean streets of Nome’s roads.

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