With training, genetics and pluck
And a dash of plain old good luck
With ice on his face
At the end of the race
He won thousands and a new truck
Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. Right now I’m in Nome, Alaska.
We walk through the cold and dark at 345AM to downtown Nome.
The festive atmosphere has reached its fever pitch with hundreds of people clustered around the finish line at the intersection of Bering Avenue and Front Street. Snow has been trucked in to cover the glare ice of Front Street, east of the Subway shop/Gold Coast Cinema, where a fresh snow ramp leads up from the Bering Sea beach. Camera booms, manned and unmanned, raise and lower; halogen lights turn a small circle under the burl arch into a gaudy imitation of day.
Two dozen inebriates stand outside the Board of Trade Saloon.
The sign outside the bank reads 15 degrees when we walk past in a light snow. I learn from the PA that every musher, as an unpaid employee of the US Postal Service, carries 2 pounds of mail that must be delivered before the musher officially completes the race. Mail mishaps over the years included packages left at checkpoints when lightening a load and mail burnt when a sled caught fire.
Loud teenagers cluster on my right, one climbs the temporary iron fence and yells that he can see the headlight. The Google helicopter hovers over the snow ramp, flying sideways to give the camera the best angle.
Then the dog team pulls into view, down the street, moving at a trot, the musher’s head lamp a white beacon. The dogs pull the sled as they have for the last 8 days/18 hours and 986 miles, joyously, their tails held high. One dog rides in the sled.
The musher will come away with $70,000, a new truck, a lot of smaller prizes, and the chance to make lots on endorsements.
We meander back to the apartment, hoping in vain for Northern Lights, and roll back into bed at 500AM.
I sleep till 715AM, when I pull myself out from under the covers. With a long experience of sleep deprivation, this morning I slept well in the absence of the vigilance of taking call, but I didn’t sleep long enough, and I jolt myself with the caffeine of hot chocolate.
The talk in the clinic centers around the race, and who did and didn’t get to see the first musher come in. With a very light schedule, I settle in to read my intranet email.
Brevig Mission Clinic closed because of heat failure. Power out on Little Diomede. Eye care and CAMP (the healthy lifestyle program) shortstaffed today. Iditarod Open Mic Night tomorrow at Bering Sea Bar and Grill. Watch out for the fox on the north side of the hospital who doesn’t seem to be afraid of people (no one mentioned he might be rabid).