Chilling out in Kotzebue, Alaska

Greetings southerners,         

My current work/travel gig finds me 30 miles north of the Arctic circle, in the town of Kotzebue, Alaska (pop.3100), and it is considered the big city in the Northwest borough of this wild and scenic state. Robin and I flew in 2 weeks ago and settled into a totally upgraded housing unit after spending the first night in a shared trailer in a towel-free, cramped single bed with a community bathroom with a trash bag for a shower curtain. After that less than stellar first impression, I started the mind numbing 8 day process of redundant credentialing and paperwork that included a dozen online courses, a reintroduction to dental management software that was a distant memory from 3 years ago in the Aleutian islands, and a drug prescribing process that makes the James Webb telescope operating instructions look like a Dr. Suess story.    

I finally started seeing patients last week, and that has been a highlight of interesting local folks that require a mix of dental procedures. The dental office and scheduling is a study in head scratching inefficiency and miscommunication, like when the folks at the front desk don’t think of telling the dental staff that a patient checked in 90 minutes ago?? So I’m being paid handsomely to see an average of 1-2 patients a day with a lot of down time to surf the net and write stories like this.        

In the good news category, we’ve enjoyed the best that Kotzebue has to offer, including hikes to pick tundra blueberries, some kayaking in the bay, hauling in a gill net loaded with salmon, biking around town and participating in the fall festival that including Robin placing first in the women’s division of the half marathon for a medal and some cold cash with me biking alongside as moral support. I also brought pickleball equipment, including some donated high end paddles for the high school kids and taught the game to a couple of gym classes last week that seemed well received. Plus last night we were rewarded with a great Northern Lights show at 1AM under clear and cool skies on the edge of town, which was an amazing display of galactic art.     We’re here for 4 more days, and then on to Anchorage to see the sights of the really big city before heading home to Colorado and the beauty of our home state. Hope your summer is going well and I look forward to some news from the lower 48 and beyond.


Arctic Bob

Northern lights along the road out of town
Kotzebue on a clear, sunny day
The shoreline road
Sunset at 11PM
Some of the 40+ salmon pulled in on the gill net
A local has a shack full of salmon drying on the racks
New pickleball players from Kotzebue High School
Kayaking along the shoreline

Local Inupiat dancers perform in the National Park Service office
Prior to the half marathon I came across some hard cider on the road that fell off someone’s truck
Robin crossed the finish line with a smile

First in woman’s class and overall female finisher
Haven’t made much headway with the language of Inupiat
The 17 bed hospital that includes the dental clinic
Clean and modern clinic of 8 ops, but few patients show up
The light show was a show stopper
Northern lights above the town