The Safety Roadhouse
Solomon Travel Blog› entry 30 of 38 › view all entries
My helicopter departed for Bethel which is in southwest Alaska, far downstream from McGrath on the Kuskokwim River. One of the guys on the survey crew that we are working for rode with the aircraft. I was to fly down there tomorrow or Sunday after doing a fresh inspection on our other ship out at Council camp tonight. I rented another vehicle - a small Ford SUV that was available - and had all day to get out to Council.
After exploring the abandoned ruins of the Solomon Roadhouse earlier this week, I decided to make a stop at the Safety Roadhouse to see what an 'operating' roadhouse looks like. The two-story place is located about twenty miles east of Nome on the narrow spit of wind-swept tundra between Safety Sound and the Bering Sea.
The corner entrance led to a spacious lounge-like living room which contained a sofa and a recycled wooden spool - once used for lengthy cable - as a coffee table. Two wood-burning furnaces shared a single stove-pipe but this morning's warmth entered from a large window facing the east. A pool table with a U.S. flag propped out of a corner pocket had an overhead light in the shape of the blue #2 Miller Lite NASCAR Team race car, a Dodge. The ceilings and walls had a rather unattractive, scaly, shaggy appearance by dollar bills taped or stapled to them - often scribed with a name, date, or snappy phrase by their donor.
I crossed the room into the bar area.
The Safety Roadhouse is only open during the summer months and briefly in March for the running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It serves as the final checkpoint on that race. I was able to find bits and pieces of Iditarod memorabilia between the dollars on several of the walls. One of the most interesting was not on a wall though, but on the bar - a journal handwritten by Tom Ellanna.
Tom hauled supplies by snow-machine from Nome on March 6, 2008, to open up the Safety Roadhouse bar and restaurant for several snow machine and sled dog races culminating with the grand-daddy of them all - the Iditarod.
March 10; minus 2 degrees with no wind, the Iditarod crew began to arrive to set up the checkpoint. March 12; while Bering Air helicopters shuttled supplies from Nome, the first Iditarod mushers arrived from the previous checkpoint at White Mountain which is 70 miles east and a mandatory 8-hour stop. Twenty-five teams arrived by midnight.
March 13; A Discovery Channel crew arrived to document what goes on at an Iditarod checkpoint.
March 16; The last three mushers reached White Mountain in white-out conditions.
March 17; The last musher passed through Safety toting the traditional red lantern.