Northern Exposure

2007-11-09

It’s 5 in the morning, and I feel fine.

I guess it’s odd to be talking about Northern Exposure when I am somewhere South of Paris, but this is where is was filmed and it’s does get pretty cold up here in winter.

I’ve never been much in the way for tourism, so a trip up to Roslyn, the physical location for Cicely, Alaska seemed like a pretty daft idea, but sometimes you have to just go with these feelings. Cliff was kind enough to offer to drive me up there. The trip there was, well, flat then hilly. The dividing line between the desert and the trees is really quite sharp. It’s maybe a mile from the first tree to the full out forest. Once you get to the forest, it really starts to look like Northern Exposure territory.

We got into Roslyn late; we’d stopped for a quick lunch which had taken ages, after they lost the ticket (the offered us a free starter, but Cliff just got his cash back instead). The sun was still up, but there wasn’t much left. The town is tiny, but relatively compact — no urban sprawl here. There is a central road running through it, which is actually at right angles to what appears to be the main road on TV. In the fading sunlight, the place was beautiful; lots of wood construction everywhere, peaceful and with the intense smell of coniferous wood smoke everywhere.

The effects of Northern Exposure can be seen on the town, but only in a small way. Joel Fleischman’s office is now the Cicely Alaska museum. Just over the road is the corner store and at the bottom, the Brick. The famous mural is, as it says, on the wall of Roslyn(‘s) Cafe, rather than the Brick which is the impression that you get. The Cafe, as far as I can tell, is not featured beyond the mural. KHBR radio is just over the other side of the main road; it’s still there with Minnifield Communications network up on the door. We stopped for dinner (veggie burger and fries) in the Brick; inside it bears little resemblance to the TV version; it’s much, much bigger than it appears, has a stage and long bar, and a big log stove in the corner. I guess that the interior shots are actually studio based, and not here at all.

The town itself is much as it appears to on TV. But there is more to it. It’s mining heritage is lost on TV (which would have placed it in the wrong area). The museum they had there was wonderful. As well as the camel mural, there are several others, including celebrating Roslyn’s past. And just outside KHBR radio is an "war" memorial to those who lost their lives in the mining industry. I like these small towns; I could have happily spent a couple of days there, hung over, drank beer, drove (or walked!) up some trails.

The experience of being a dumb fan-boy tourist was a little uncomfortable for me, and combined with the declining day light, I didn’t quite get the pictures I wanted (forgot to take on of the doctors office), so I’ll have to go back another time.

It was a strange way to spend a day, but it was a quintessential American experience. Spudnuts and coffee to start (you may view the spudnuts here, but please prepare yourself first — it’s not pretty). At lunch, we got fast food, and I got to see Cliff complain (no one complains like an American), then we drove for hours for little readily apparent purpose, to a place where I took lots of photos of nothing apparent. Wonderful.

Originally published on my old blog site.