Great American Bathtub Race

>> Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Northern Exposure might as well have been filmed in nowhere Nome, once Alaska's largest city, but now Nome is a 5,000-person, polar speck on the map (and a stone's throw from Russia) that hasn't seen the good old days since the gold rush over one-hundred years ago. But this sure doesn't keep these poor bastards from having a hell of a bash every Labor Day, when they stage the oldest bathtub race in America.

"Anybody that has a bathtub that can get it on wheels are welcome to join," says big-bellied, gray-bearded Leo Rasmussen, one of the race's founding fathers and the only swarthy citizen to have run the race for its entire twenty-two-year existence. While most racers excavate their crafts from the local dump, Rasmussen lifted his fresh from an abandoned house. He also keeps an extra tub wheeled and ready for any last minute entries. Each team who enters the race ($20) must have five members, one who rides in the tub (full of hot, bubbly water) and four who push and pull their cruiser down Front Street through the center of town.

Rasmussen's strategy is an arsenal of water balloons. But don't put your money on this slow-roller, because he rides an old iron clawfoot mounted on tires "that kill the horse that pulls it." In the race's history, Rasmussen's team has won only once, beating arch rival Arctic Lighterage, "and that's because they did their training at the bar." Booze, bathing, and barfing, there's nowhere like Nome.


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