Live from Alaska: Frozen pipes, bachelors on credit and suggestive pizza.Posted by Donna Freedman on Dec 6, 2010 | 32 comments
Scenes from our trip to the Talkeetna Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition:
We arrived late Friday afternoon, driving directly into a blizzard. But after watching the Parade of Lights we knew we’d be able to get back out of town on Sunday: Among the vehicles in the parade were eight snowplows.
Room 12 was one-half of the top floor of the Latitude 62 Hotel. It had a microwave and a mini-fridge, but no hot water. Nancy, one of the owners, checked the line: frozen. She changed out the heat tape and offered the key to a vacant room so we could shower.
This reminded me of a previous year, when several women had booked Room 11, the other half of the top floor. It developed that they had hot water in the shower but their toilet was frozen, whereas our room had a functioning toilet but (again) no hot water. So we threw open the door between 11 and 12 and shared the facilities.
We also shared snacks. Theirs were better than ours.
This year’s treats were pretty good, ranging from homemade banana bread to high-end chocolate with a touch of chile. My own contribution: a bag of dried cherries, a free-after-rebate can of cashews, and several flavors of M&Ms that cost 75 cents to $1 thanks to coupons and in-store rebates. Gotta keep my frugal edge.
Five women on vacation can tear through a lot of goodies. The mint M&Ms went fastest. If you haven’t tried them yet, do.
How to get cheap accommodations
As of 10:30 a.m. Saturday, still no hot water. We weren’t charged for Friday night.
On a counter in the hotel entryway was a Nativity scene hand-painted by Nancy’s sister. The baby Jesus had been stolen. Perhaps to compensate, someone had placed a small pink-and-purple dinosaur in among the camels and angels. I think it’s an ankylosaurus.
As we left the hotel on Saturday morning I noticed someone had placed the saurid in a compromising position with one of the angels. I’m betting it was a bar customer, since beer makes people stupid. Also sacreligious.
Then again, we laughed – and we’d been drinking nothing but Diet Coke.
We laughed some more when we read Saturday’s special at Mountain High Pizza Pie in downtown Talkeetna. Made with dill-flavored crust and topped with salmon, it had a most unfortunate name: Salmon Dill Dough.
(If you’re not laughing, or blushing, read it out loud. Then read it faster.)
The waitress swears that no one noticed this until it was too late. Frankly, we didn’t believe her.
But the combo was pretty tasty even though I’ve never been much for fish on pizza. And no, I couldn’t resist asking whether Salmon Dill Dough had a stuffed crust. You would have done the same.
Stuffed ourselves, we wandered the balmy streets of beautiful downtown Talkeetna, which is about three blocks long. The temperature had shot up to 25 degrees by midday. Even so, the bachelors had set up a tall burn barrel and kept it ablaze.
Speaking of shot up: One woman recounted a remote ski trip during which the organizer couldn’t get the burn barrel to stay lit. It seemed he’d forgotten to drill holes near the bottom so that the barrel would draw. He solved the problem in a typically Alaskan way: Whipped out a handgun and blew a few holes around the bottom edge. It worked fine after that.
A canine paradise
Dogs were everywhere and off-leash in downtown Talkeetna: Large and small, timid and aggressive, happy purebreds and jumped-the-fence mixes. This place is dog heaven. Twice I spotted mutts trotting down the street while cars, pickups or snowmachines poked along behind, as though the dogs were vehicles, too.
(Which they are, sometimes: On the way in and out of Talkeetna we saw dog teams on training runs.)
I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring dog treats. Naturally I would have asked permission before feeding anyone’s pet, but I do like to have meaty bits handy. I briefly considered buying some in town but prices are a little scary. I picked up a can at random in the general store: 29 ounces of solid-pack pumpkin, $7.59.
Best dog moment: Flurry, a huge white German Shepherd, seemed to be taking the bachelor weekend to heart because he tried to hump any female who stood still long enough. His owner scolded, “Flurry! No shagging!”
‘I planned to take a shower anyway’
The first event of the Wilderness Woman Competition separates the women from the girls: Run to the end of the block with empty buckets, exchange them for full ones and return as fast as possible while spilling as little as possible. The top five finishers got to run the rest of the course.
It had been four years since I’d seen the Wilderness Woman Competition and I noticed some changes, probably for liability reasons. The water carry no longer has to be done in clunky, awkward bunny boots. The “moose” now gets shot with a Nerf toy rather than a paintball gun. The fishing pole used to cast for Styrofoam salmon is equipped not with hooks but with a Velcro-covered ball.
The fishing ball created its own new challenge: A couple of times unleashed dogs raced for the sphere when it landed on the snowy street. They were headed off in time, however. Come to think of it, watching the contestants trying to reel them back in would have been fun.
Part of the competition is to bring a sandwich and beer to a bachelor. Often the contestants throw the goods on the guy, so the volunteer is usually swathed in Visqueen. This year’s bachelor declined the protective cover, saying he’d “man up” and accept the splashy consequences.
Was he aware of just how frothy and mustardy he might become?
“That’s OK,” he said. “I planned to take a shower anyway.”
Love on the installment plan
Most – but not necessarily all – of the bachelors do shower before the auction. And we appreciate it.
This year’s event featured 38 men, at least two of whom are gay. (Quick aside to the ladies who bid: There may be a reason your date was a perfect gentleman.)
“Date” is not really the right word. A winning bid gets you a drink and a dance; anything else is negotiable. Talkeetna lore has it that one bachelor took his new female friend out for a snowmachine ride and the two went through the creek ice. So he did what any red-blooded Alaska man would do: Saved the snowmachine. That romance apparently died aborning.
Two emcees shared the stage: a tall, slim woman in black with a bright yellow flower jammed in her hair, and a young man wearing a powder-blue tuxedo that just screamed “1970s” – borrowed, he told me, from a friend who was “quite a bit older” than he was. (Hint: My junior prom dress was the same color.)
Another change: The auction now accepts credit cards. “You can buy a bachelor tonight and pay for him over the next 30 years,” the male emcee noted.
However, since the auction had partnered with the non-profit Talkeetna Historical Society, “all the men you buy here tonight are tax-deductible.”
Beefcake, bakery cake
The bachelors, who ranged in age from 22 to 70, were attired in just about anything you could imagine: Coveralls, chest waders, a bright-red union suit, snowmachine gear, a sharkskin jacket. One young man wore nothing at all except a fur G-string and a slightly abashed smile, much to the delight of the approximately 120 women in the audience.
This bachelor didn’t do the “foxtail dance” of previous years, i.e., sashaying through the crowd using the foxtail to tickle those would permit it. But the bidding went on long enough that the women got a good look at his not inconsiderable charms.
“I got a picture of his heinie,” reported one member of my party.
Well, the winning bidder got a picture of herself and the nearly nekkid man posing prom-like in front of a blue backdrop. Wonder if she showed the photo around the office on Monday? For all I know, it’s already on Facebook.
Some bachelors offered bid-on-me incentives: Dinners out, fishing trips, paintings, bottles of Jack Daniels (smooth!), flight-sees (Mt. McKinley, tallest peak in North America, is right next door), a free chimney cleaning, a raspberry truffle cake. One guy played the banjo to drum up interest. Another toted a box of wine, which the female emcee noted was “a $40 value here in Talkeetna.” (And you thought pumpkin was expensive!)
It’s worth noting that the woman who successfully bid for the dude-and-cake combo took the cake before taking his arm.
Then there was the bachelor who showed up in black tie and tails, cradling two bottles of wine. As the bidding topped $1,600 he spoke: “Do you know what goes with fine wine? Fine cheese. I have in my possession…the finest aerosol cheese.” He withdrew a can of Easy Cheese from his tux jacket. The crowd roared.
He went for $2,000. The winning bidder: His girlfriend. Apparently not all Talkeetna men are cheap and easy. Even if their cheese is.