“Absolutely no seal oil is permitted in the vehicle, or an extra charge of up to $ 200 may apply.” —Car rental agreement, Nome.

FRIDAY WE PICK UP Peggy Fagerstrom, who describes herself as “our trusty Native guide” to everyone she introduces us to, to the great hilarity of all, and we drive east down the coast to Solomon next to a wide sand beach littered with silvery gray driftwood and handfuls of tiny cabins and shacks and tents, each with its own drying rack. But the coolest thing about this road is the driftwood tripods stationed at regular intervals, with reflectors nailed to them to show the mushers the way into Nome on the last leg of the Iditarod. It is a sobering reminder that, no matter how tropical things seem today, with the sun shining and a soft onshore breeze kissing our cheek, the last leg of the Iditarod is often the worst, with Bering Sea blizzards screaming on shore. It was at a checkpoint on this shore, during one of those fabled blizzards, that the lead musher’s dogs refused to get up again after a rest stop. The musher returned to the roadhouse and started drinking whiskey. Not a whole hell of lot else to do in that situation, it is still generally agreed, and the story has now passed into the lore of the Iditarod.

Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 3146-3154). Gere Donovan Press.

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