Fort Kent’s place on the international media stage, courtesy of Kaci Hickox, the nurse who came home to Fort Kent after returning to the U.S. from West Africa, where she treated Ebola patients, was cemented Saturday night when NBC’s Saturday Night Live cold opening aired Gov. Chris Christie vs Hickox.
It was funny. Darn funny, in fact. And for those of us caught up in the story here in Fort Kent, just a bit surreal to see our town’s name splashed across an SNL skit.
All last week up to 50 shivering reporters, photographers, camera operators and sound crews were camped out along the road in front of Hickox’s house, which is surrounded by birch and spruce trees in a field of healthy northern Maine puckerbrush. That did make NBC’s choice of using Portland Head Lighthouse as a backdrop for the fictitious Hickox house in the skit somewhat puzzling. But heck, maybe they never got the chance to pick up a copy of a Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer on their way north from New York.
And that lighthouse did go well with the diorama of nautical knots visible behind the faux Hickox, played by SNL’s Kate McKinnon introducing herself as “Kaci with an ‘I’ as in, I don’t care if I have Ebola, I’m riding my damn bike! Yeah!”
On Thursday, before a judge lifted the in-home quarantine sought by Gov. Paul LePage, Hickox and her boyfriend Ted Wilbur left their home for a quick six-mile bike ride down the Fort Kent Heritage Trail, a multi-use track along the old railroad bed.
I can only describe the ensuing media scramble when the two pedaled off their property as looking very much like what happens when I toss one frozen smelt treat to 10 sled dogs. Total feeding frenzy. Looking back, I think my sled dogs show a touch more restraint.
Hickox’s ride quickly went viral on the online news sites and social media, even catching the attention of Bicyling.com. Thanks to Hickox, from this day forward, any reason to forego a ride for an afternoon snoozing on the couch just looks lame.
“We won’t tell you what to do if you’re under quarantine, but next time you want to skip a training day, just think that Hickox is under a state-issued quarantine, is being publicly scrutinized, and can’t ride without being tailed by police and journalists—but still managed to get out for a spin,” wrote the editors at Bicycling.
The nurse also gave some national exposure to local pizza joint The Moose Shack when she mentioned the eatery during a press conference early in the week, saying she was looking forward to some of their “amazing pizza.”
Soon after, national news crews descended on the tiny restaurant. The world soon learned her favorite pie from the Moose Shack was pepperoni, black olives and mushroom, after the owner delivered what may go down as the most scrutinized pizza in the history of takeout to Hickox and Wilbur Thursday afternoon.
That night, perhaps in an attempt to spread the wealth of media exposure, Wilbur came out of his house for a brief talk with the gathered reporters and listed virtually every restaurant in Fort Kent as recommendations to get a good meal. There is no word yet if any shows from the Food Network will be in town for some sort of Fort Kent foodie followup.
I had hoped SNL would pick up on the Moose Shack angle, but sadly pizza only got a brief mention. In the skit it was pointed out many feel she was behaving in a “cavalier” manner with regards to the quarantine.
“Yeah many people are intimidated by a smart, strong woman who has lost her mind,” Hickox/McKinnon replied. “I stood up to Ebola, I’m not going to be scared off by a governor who looks like a cartoon on a pizza box.”
Agree or disagree with Hickox’s stand on her level of asymptomatic isolation, but there is no arguing she has put Fort Kent in particular on the map as a cycling and pizza destination.
Let’s hope no one is too disappointed when they don’t see any lighthouses.