Last week, Josh and I went on a bike ride after work. It was a clear, sunny night in the tundra north of Nome. It was 9 pm, but by the sun, it looked like mid afternoon. We rode a path tucked next to one of the main roads going out of town. We call this path the greenway, though, right now, there’s nothing green about it.
It was 20 degrees and boy, we were cold. A kind snowplow had come through and cleared the bike path, so there were stacks of snow built up nine or ten feet high on either side of us. It was amazing. I felt like we were riding through a snow tunnel.
At one point the path rose above the snow, or the snow melted down, and we rode by a woman feeding her sled dogs on her dog lot. (In case you’re curious, dog lots are where mushers keep their sled dogs outdoors year-round, with wooden boxes to sit on, hay to sleep on, and chains to keep them from running away. If this seems cruel to you, consider sled dogs descended from huskies, and the Arctic winter is their natural home. As sled dogs, they get to live outdoors in their preferred habitat without any fear of survival. They get a constant supply of food, secure territory, and plenty of exercise.) Josh and I watched the woman grab hunks of frozen salmon from a bucket. Nine or so huskies stood at attention. We waved and she waved back.
Josh turned to me on his bike and smiled, joking, “Yep, time to break out the barbeque. Grab a couple of cold ones. Have the kids run through the sprinklers.”
We laughed and talked about how amazing it is to live in a place like Nome. And how much we’ll miss this when we move back to the Lower 48 next year–the closeness to nature, the quiet, and most of all, the sense of community. Nome is a place where two goofy-looking strangers on bikes wave to a long-time Alaskan and the person waves back.
Josh and I kept riding, giddily cold, taking in the beautiful clear blue sky, the quiet, the snowy tundra unfolding, empty, on either side as far as the eye could see, and the still frozen sea. A big smile growed across my face. I felt so grateful. I’ll never experience a May 1st bike ride, a year, or a community, quite like this.