Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Midnight Drive of CB; or trying to explain to those who have not been here why I wanted to return to live in Alaska

It's so HARD to describe....
The desire/yearning/longing to return to Alaska that had infected me since I left in early 2012.
Every month away, every news story about Alaska, every television show, every e-mail with my friends still in Alaska made the desire/yearning/longing grow.
It's not like living in Unalaska and the Port of Dutch Harbor was easy.
Long days, hard work, friendships lost, and heartbreak were present just like everywhere else.
But so was the breathtaking beauty, fabulous friends, chance encounters and near miracles that somehow seemed greater and larger than life.
Followers of the earlier incarnation of this blog know I traveled the World. 
All over the US, Europe, Asia and even Africa,
But there is no place like Alaska.
Again, its so hard to describe....
But perhaps maybe what happened last night will allow those of you who have not lived here a brief glimpse of life in rural Alaska, and why I needed to return.

It had been a long day. 
I was up at 7 am and did not get back to my apartment till almost 8 pm.
It was my first day as the General Manager of the Aurora Inn and Suites in Nome, and just about everything that could go wrong did.
The morning plane arrived a bit early, just as the last rooms were checking out for the day, and between a lobby full of guests wanting to check in or leave there was also the Car returns and rentals.
This was all around noon when it seemed everyone who wanted to rent rooms for the next few months decided to call for reservations.
Did I mention that one of the Front Desk Clerks called off sick that morning and the one on the desk had only been working there for a few weeks?
Oh, and the computers locked up and I had to restart then several times?
Then there were a few car issues, some of the apartments I rent out needed repairs, emails to return and a conference call with Discovery Channel for the Summer rental of Vehicles for Bering Sea Gold Filming?
On top of all that I was reviewing application for new housekeepers and staff to be added for the very busy upcoming summer months.
Add in a visit from the also newly hired Safety Director for the Corporation, bank deposits, mail to pick up and send, and vending machines to buy for and stock and the day just continued.
Finally at 8 pm I made it home after stopping at AC for a rotisserie chicken since I had no time to cook dinner, and needed to eat. 
 I thought the night was at an end so I posted a new blog and after a shower was ready to call it a day.

Then, at 11:30 pm the call came.

"Brian, a rental car blew out two tires out near Safety Sound. The Vehicle attendant is gone for the night and I don't know what to do. The renters cell phone is almost dead, there are 5 of them with a very young child."

After trying to call in another attendant and failing I did what I think any Alaskan would do to help someone in trouble. I Got the Car's ID and description, the renters Cell Phone number, and directions from the Desk Clerk to Safety Sound.
It's only about 20 mile drive but on  gravel and dirt roads that had not received any winter maintenance it would take about 45 minutes to get there.
To give you an idea of the distance from Nome:

 The first part of the trip the roads were pretty rough. To my family back home imagine about 5 miles of dirt road like Hayes Road in Kersey before it was paved where that spring used to come up in the road just past Ernie's Barn. For my friends in Unalaska think about descending Overland Pass into Summer Bay. 
 The Snow pack is still pretty heavy here in spots so the melt is making the road even rougher.
 But once out past Cape Nome the Road smooths out and you can get up to a decent speed, making up for the slow going of the first 5-7 miles after you leave Nome's paved roads behind. 

 Traveling along the barrier islands is like taking that long drive down the Outer Banks in North Carolina, salt water on both sides, little summer fishing camps replace those obnoxious beach houses though.

 Finally though I reached them. Sorry no pictures, I did not want to take pictures without their permission and really I did not know what to expect. I know what the reaction would be of guests of former properties, I worked such as Amangiri or Hilton's.  Outrage, indignation, and a very long uncomfortable drive back to the the hotel. I was fully prepared to be miserable and be berated for the entire drive back.
This is what we are conditioned to expect in far too many jobs. It does not matter if you are a doctor, a hairdresser, a waiter, an airline attendant, a policeman or a hospitality worker. When a person feels wronged they take it out on the nearest representative of the entity that they feel slighted by. It does not matter that the waiter did not cook the food, the policeman did not commit the crime and the doctor is all too often just pointing out the end results of your own failings.We come to expect to be treated like crap for things that are not our fault, are told to just "suck it up" and move on. And after over a year in the lower 48 I expected nothing less.

 You see, I forgot. I forgot ALASKA
 When I got to the vehicle they were just happy I came to get them, smiling and laughing and having a good old time. It was just another adventure in this amazing state. And they were not alone. TWO other vehicles, people they did not know, guys probably coming back from a day of fishing or working in the rock quarry down that way had stopped when they saw a vehicle in distress. These guys had worked all day, were as exhausted as I was but they still stopped. They still cared. They did not know these people, might never see them again in their lives, but they Stopped. Would that have happened in the Great Cities of our Nation? In Washington DC, New York, Chicago LasVegas or Los Angeles? Miami, Baltimore or Boston? Would I have escaped a tongue lashing of epic proportions by guests at my old Hilton or Aman Properties?
Here we got into the car and started talking. We were out of cell phone range and a large hill blocked the radio signal from Nome so we talked. Turns out the Dad had fished out of Dutch Before and we traded stories, kept the little one entertained and Laughed a lot. Especially when about 1/2 way home the ladies needed to take a "potty break". So the Husband and I did the "guy"thing and went and smoked on the other side of the car while looking at the sunset and just talking . The above photos are three different shots of the sunset with different I phone settings. We continued to talk and laugh all the way home....yeah, Home
 I was laughing at the joke and the fun we were having on the way home, but I was also laughing at the fact that here I was, a country farm boy from the mountains of Pennsylvania, who had worked in some of the greatest hotels in the country from Amangiri to Miami and even the Maldives in India, and I was driving into the sunset at 12:30 am on barrier islands that flank the Bering Sea in Alaska and I was HAPPY. Happy to be at Home.
 A nice red moon rising in the east while the sun was still setting in the west was just about the perfect cap to my first day at my new hotel. Keep your Fancy Spas, your gourmet meals, your overpriced wines, your crowded pollution filled cities. Give me Alaska Any day.

The smiles of this happy family of fellow Alaskans is more than enough for me!



Laura said...

Fantastic story! Hope the new chapter in your life is wonderful for you - thank you for sharing with us!


sasha said...

Wow! What an uplifting story. Not only were they appreciative, you going out of your way to help them exemplifies a good hearted nature.
Glad you’re back in Alaska and sounding so happy there! Nice to hear from you.

Hugs and kisses from CA

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you! There really is no place like Alaska, and once you know it, you can't forget it. Welcome back home, CB! Thanks for once again sharing it with us!


Awesome bro! Glad everything worked out! Love ya!

Janice from Jersey said...

Glad you're back, have followed since Dutch Harbor and stumbled upon your updated blog. Looking forward to new tales, Janice from New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

I am so so happy you are back! I missed your stories about life in dutch, then continue reading your blog in AZ. Then nothing! It was like you disappear from life itself. But I kept checking your blog, still the same, no word from CB, but today on a whim I check your blog again, but today I found a happy surprise, you are back to writing your blog, along with your amazing stories and breath taking photo's and you found your way back home. I really did miss hearing about your life in Alaska and look so forward in hearing them again!

Anonymous said...

Glad you are back. Call me at the shop when you get time. We missed you! You old pal in Dutch.

Bitsybug said...

Wonderful story, glad for you that are home again.