The full moon shows bold and bright in the dark night star strangled sky. A greenish aurora dances on the horizon over the next mountain range. An icy road winds down into what seems to be a lake of ice fog and winds up on the other side of the valley. The spruce trees reach only half way up the mountains on all sides of the valley, while the shrub tundra on their tops is entirely blanked by snow. In this setting, the black of the spruce against the snow white create a spooky scene in the frigid cold night in the White Mountains.
Out of the nowhere, the sound of a truck disrupts the silence of the night. In the cold sub Arctic winter nights, sound waves carry noise far away from their sources. The noise increases steadily. Occasionally, the motor seems to haul like a tortured animal. It seems to take an eternity until the headlights of the truck coming from the other side of the mountain show up like flags in the sky. The truck comes over the top, rolls down the curvy ice road in the valley. The motor hauls as the driver uses the transmission to counter the acceleration caused by the slope, while the headlights reflect on the ice like on a mirror.
The sight goes down to about 20 yards or so (19 m) once the truck dives into the ocean of ice fog. The truck pulls off the icy road into what shows to be a large parking lot with about 20 other cars in front of what looks like an abonndoned old aircraft hangar with a house attached to the side somewhere in the middle of the lonesome valley. The ice fogs hides everything. No other houses are in sight.
A couple descends the warm truck and steps into the cold foggy night. Their breaths become visible in the frigid cold air. “Did you put in the rear so we get easier out when we want to drive home” the woman asks while they walk towards a door in what seems to be a hangar. “Yes, but I will have to run the car for a while if we stay longer than 2 hours” the man responses. As they open the door steam seems to escap the building in a hurry like the devil is behind it. The couple walks thru a short aisle that looks like a giantic wood box with doors on both sides.
After being on the other side of the door, they enter a large smoky room with little private booths on the sides, and rows of seats in the style of the cinemas in the 50s. There are some guests sitting on the wood benches in some of the booths in front of heavy wood tables drinking Alaskan Ale. Some men munch on one inch thick steaks the size of a dessert plate with a mountain of French fries that could feed a family of four. The three or four leaves of lettuce on the side look like they have reached their permanent wilting point weeks ago. The dish is called Miner’s steak.
In front of the rows of cinema seats is a large open space with polished wood floor covered with white powder. Three casually dressed couples are dancing swing to the music of a local band that performs on the stage next to the dance floor. A stairway winds up above the stage to a preaching pulpit with a crucifix on its front side. It is hard to believe that just 10 hours later there will be a Catholic mass hold in this same room that smells like a mixture of sweat, smoke, fries, perfume and old beer.
The couple leaves their heavy winter boots, coats, scarves, mittens and hats with the coat clerk. He puts them neatly in place as if it is the most normal thing in the world to also check boots. The couple sits on chairs close to the coat check to put on their dance shoes. Next they walk over to the bar.
“Long time no see. I wouldn’t have expected you making it out here from Fairbanks at forty below” the bar tender greets the couple. She is in her 30s. She wears her hair and cosette like around the gold rush time. All that is missing is a wide feather and flower decorated hat. Her full busen is tied so high that it seems to be a shelf just under neath her neck. Her bottom is a pair of skinny jeans with cowboy booties instead of a long skirt and lace-up booties. “It’s still the usual” she says while turning around taking two small bottles of champagne from the fridge. “Sure” the woman of the couple responses and puts a twenty dollar bill on the counter.
The bartender pulls two glasses from the shelf and hands them to the man. he holds them up against the light and returns one of them. The bartender says “It’s just spots from drying water.” “No, the water spots are not the issue. There is red lipstick.” “Red lipstick?” the bartender says looking puzzled holding the glass against the light herself. “You must have had a tourist out here” the woman of the couple says. “No women out here would wear red lipstick.”
When you like to read Alaska road house stories you may love the story about the white powder that scared the hell out of the intern or about Bigfoot.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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