Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Room with a View

Dateline: Somewhere along the Iditarod Trail

Propane bottles and the ass-end of a connex: fairly standard eye-fare for the seasoned village traveler. For non-Alaskan readers, connexes (connices?), those cargo containers that are transferred from ship to shore, are as ubiquitous in Alaskan bush architecture as are ATCO units (portable rectangular trailers that formerly housed pipeline workers). In this case, this one doubles as storage for the bunkhouse cafe.

As village accommodations go, this one is pretty upscale. There are beds with sheets and blankets, a hot shower down the hall, and real good cooking. There is even wireless - a technological upgrade that happened in the past year.

But it still has elements that make it unmistakably bush. Maybe its the 12 beds (three sets of double bunks/side) packed into a room - perfect for when the tired Iditarod mushers crash here on their way to Nome - but somewhat less so when it' s a bunch of construction workers assed out snoring (another reason to always stock up on ear plugs at the Frontier Airlines counter). There is the lack of working locks, although in this case, its for want of a key, and not because the door has been kicked in and/or jimmied so many times it's just easier to secure it with a hasp and padlock.

Or maybe its the constant buzz of four-wheelers, and the drone, somewhere, of oldtime country wheezing out of the local radio station (be it KNOM, KIYU, KSKO or KZPA). It's also the sound of kids playing all night long in the summer, and the occasional knock-em down that spills into the streets. Village Alaska is lots of john boats pulled up at the landing, and fish drying in the racks. It's diesel at $7.00/gallon, and a village store stocked with Tang, soda, and hot pockets. Except in this particular spot, one can also find upscale espresso drinks - because its a jumping-off point for high-end guided hunts and fancy fishing packages.

Village Alaska is also sitting around on weather holds, and gauging beverage drinking against length of time spent in a Cessna 206 - including doubling proposed flight time in case of a re-route or being forced back to point of origin because the ceiling lowered between take off and estimated time of arrival.

It's all these things and much more.

Yup, village-hopping, not a bad way to spend a summer.

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