Holiday rush

Home from the Arctic we set

At the Omaha airport we met

But, Oh! What a drag!

We can’t check a bag!

And we went to Vancouver by jet.

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, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with a return to traveling and adventures in temporary positions in Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania and western Nebraska. A month in the Arctic followed a month in Iowa followed 3 months in British Columbia.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

I finished work 15 hours before our flight’s scheduled departure. We acquired little during our stay, but the task of packing took all of Bethany’s considerable skills.  We cobbled together a supper of edible odds-and-ends.  We played one more Scrabble game but couldn’t fall asleep till 5 hours before we needed to get the taxi to the airport.

The airlines advise 2 hours for security and check in, but here we couldn’t check baggage more than an hour ahead. We slipped our ice cleats into the checked suitcase, gate checked our 2 roller boards, and fell asleep before the plane took off.

We spent the long layover with Les, a friend of 35 years and Anchorage resident for 30. Without the wind we’d faced for the last month, the Anchorage temps while a few degrees colder seemed positively friendly.

Contrast, as always, the essence of meaning, the big-city realities of Anchorage jarred our senses. We faced traffic, stop lights, food prices that don’t take the breath away, and stores the size of hospitals, and did our best not to stop and gape.

We helped move a boat and shop, then after dark found ourselves in an airport decorated with full body mounts of moose, musk ox, polar bear, brown bear, and halibut. We landed in the rain in Seattle.

Because of the very long times and distances involved, the vast majority of Alaska traffic overnights in Seattle and Anchorage, thus the large number of hotels close by.   Less than 18 hours after checking in, we landed in Omaha.

Less than 48 hours of mail, laundry, and friends later, back in the Omaha airport for Thanksgiving travel, Bethany headed to Virginia, and I to upstate New York.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with two brothers, three sisters, a brother-in-law, two nieces, two nephews, a daughter, and a son-in-law. I had to slide my internal clock back across 5 time zones, adjust to outdoor temps above freezing, and accommodate to twice the daylight hours.  I find sleeping in generally difficult but, due to a body clock both shaken and stirred, managed to sleep past 9:00AM.  Coffee in the morning, contrary to usual habit, helped.

Just like that Bethany and I met in the Omaha airport and headed back to Sioux City with 3 days to get ready for the next month in Canada.

The night before departure, Bethany looked carefully at the itinerary and announced we only had an hour layover in Chicago, where we changed airlines. We would not be able to check a bag.

Then followed a furious baggage editing. While we spent thirteen weeks in New Zealand with one roller board and one back pack each, we didn’t have to deal with serious cold.

We decided we could get trekking poles and sweaters in Prince George if needed.

In Vancouver, when asked the purpose of my trip, I replied, “Business.  Would you like to see my work permit?”  The young BC Immigrations man did, and asked me what sort of business I do.  “I’m a doctor,” I said.  “I’ll be working up north for a month.  And, boy, do I like your system.”

He looked up.  “Well thanks for coming! We’ve a shortage of doctors.”


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