Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Nome, Alaska

For starters, I have been so excited to post about the following. So don't turn off with the sight of a map and skip this post. It's so interesting!
Ever heard of it? I hadn't... But recently I met the neatest/nicest girl who happened to be from there. She's actually dating one of our favorite friends. I couldn't even imagine a place like this existing.
If you've heard of Nome it is probably because it was popular during the gold rush and it is where the dog sled race (forget the name) every year ends. But if you haven't heard of it--like me--then that makes sense too. After all, only 4,000 people live in Nome, Alaska.
It is located in the Northwest part of Alaska...super cold! My friend said it gets 60 below there in the winter. Can you even imagine? They can't leave their houses, and they have to constantly plug their cars into the house to keep the engine warm.
It is a prime location for grizzlies too.
Nome is located on the water...100 miles from Russia. In the winter when the ocean freezes over there, people snowmobile to Russia. And she said the drunk sometimes start to walking out that way and the patrol has to bring them in--random tid bit.
What I had trouble understanding was how a town of 4,000 people in the middle of no where survives. For example, the roads literally end on the outskirts of town. You can't drive to the nearest town--Anchorage. Rather, you have to fly to get out of town. Flying is cheaper than maintaining a road system. Their closest town in Alaska is just as close is Russia. Again, they fly or helicopter out when they want to go somewhere. (I think Fairbanks is closer but because you have to fly there too you might as well go to Anchorage where there is more).
Can you imagine how such a deserted place must cost to live in. A gallon of milk costs $7.99. And I think she said that gas costs $6.00.
Again, I asked myself and her multiple times, 'why Nome?'
Not only is it a port there on the water, but also they have a lot of success fishing and crab hunting. Makes sense. But what makes it survive is that it supports tons of native villages up in the northern part of Alaska....villages that can't drive in. They have to helicopter in to buy food provisions and so forth. The villages have natives to the land that speak different dialects and so forth. The government supports them because they were natives to the land first. Nome has a hospital and grocery where all these villages must turn to.
Which is why my friend was brought there. Her dad was exposed to Nome fishing and took his wife there when he became a Dr. to work a few years and 'get it out of his system.' They just never ended up moving. He is one of the few Dr.'s there but as I could imagine in a town of 4,000, they have a strong identity. My friend graduated from a class of 25. And she has no complaints. She loved it. Her branch was really strong.
Nome serves as a hub for diverse native villages far and wide. I think the largest village is of 800 people. Some just have 100 people. She said that Nome serves over area the size of Nevada. I imagine that is quite the melting pot of people.
I really showed my stupidity when I asked if people/the natives lived in Igloos. That was more of a nomadic thing back in the day. They do build a big one for the tourist around the time of the dog race.
Many would laugh at me having never heard of Nome. It's the go-to for most northern Alaskans.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Sonja. She is one of the most lovely confidant people I've met where right off the bat you know they're top quality... one of Nome's finest.


Pierce and Stacy said...

I just had to tell you something really quick... I was working last Saturday when this cute couple sat down in my section. As I went up to serve them the boy said, "Did you serve a mission to Chile?"... YES! "You were in my district or next door to me." Then I said, "Are you Andrew Checkett's brother?" He said, "YES!" WOW. I didn't even know he and I were in the MTC together, funny huh?! That's all.

ashley said...

That really made me want to go to nome one day and snow mobile to russia! How amazing of a place does that sound!

Steve and Dayna said...

Steve's all time place to go some day is Alaska. I wonder if he has heard of Nome. It sounds like a really amazing place- how interesting. And don't worry, I would have totally asked about the igloo thing too- ha!

Jim said...

So I kept looking for the part where you would say you are coming to Nome! Love your enthusiasm about the place but you're not moving here?

I'm living in Nome (google-alerts told me about your post when you mentioned Nome) and I'm the fact cop. Hope you don't mind a few cleanups?
You've got the gist right, but the record cold is -54, which obviously is pretty rare. We're in a cold snap right now and it is hovering around the -20 to -30 range, but won't last too long. It doesn't slow people down - people are still out snow machining, skiing, I ride my bicycle to work, people are out walking, etc. You just put on a couple extra layers.

You can't snow machine to Russia. The currents through the Bering Strait keep the ice there moving and all jumbled up. Very dangerous.

To fly around you have to take a jet to Anchorage or a turbo-prop to Fairbanks. ALaska Air has 3 jet flights into Nome each day, and the flights on Frontier to Fairbanks are not that often. To get the villages - there's 15 of them in our region (tons?) you fly Cessnas or turbo-props - sometimes single engine but more rare these days. There is only one place that requires a helicopter and that is only in the "non-winter" season: Little Diomede out in the Strait.

We actually have the second largest road system in the state with about 300 miles of roads. They just don't lead to cities - they're a great way to get out into the wilderness.

One year some guys built an igloo for the end of the Iditarod, but some drunks pissed on it and kids destroyed it, so they don't do that anymore.

But everything else was pretty much spot on! When you coming up? check out the photos here:

Rachel Ricchio said...

i always love your little informative tid bits!