Biggest Ball of String

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Again, with the Iditarod! Can’t get enough!

on March 6, 2013

On February 27th, I talked about the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod in Anchorage, and on March 3, I talked about the OfficialLance's Team Restart of the Iditarod in Willow, but I have more to say! (Big surprise, I know.)

We had so many random experiences and had so much fun, even though (as I mentioned), it was the coldest I’d ever been in my entire life!!  Technically, the temperature at the hotel said -10° Celsius (14° Fahrenheit), which doesn’t sound that cold, but it was like the frozen Coffee Shopocean air and the frozen glacier air came swirling down and wrapped itself around me!!  But, it’s not just not my imagination – it actually froze my battery in my camera! (A local coffee shop let me recharge my battery, though, thank goodness! Could you imagine if I couldn’t take pictures!!?? Nightmare!)

The Ceremonial Start is very festive – the mushers take off in order, and theyIditarider stay in order (not really racing yet – the real race starts the next day at the Official Restart).  Some (most?) of the mushers have guests who ride in their sled (called Iditariders) – the Iditariders bid for the exciting adventure of riding along.

I’ve never seen anything like the dog teams! 16 dogs, raring to go!  They are so anxious to run, theThe Handlersy have anchors on the sleds, handlers for almost every other dog, and often people piled on the sled, just to hold them in one place! They yip and yap and bounce around! BUT, when it’s time for the countdown, they are sooooo quiet!!  No sounds at all, once the countdown hits about 8!

The 16 dogs all have jobs – leading the pack are the Lead Dogs.  They listen to the musher’s commands, and guide the team.  Swing dogs come right behind the Lead Dogs, and they are responsible for helping turn the team (which means they also have to listen to the musher’s command).  Wheel Dogs come Tangledright in front of the sled, and are the muscle – they pull the sled around turns and obstacles.  And Team Dogs- all the rest of the dogs in the middle – their job is to help pull the sled, and not get tangled up.  This works like clockwork (unless someone buries a reindeer hotdog (IT WASN’T ME) somewhere near the track…)

We’ve been to the Iditarod twice, so my memories are getting mixed up – which experiences belong with which visit.

Sarah PalinFor example: there’s the guy who made me pay him $1.25 to take a picture of his duct tape splint.

We met Mrs. Alaska.  And, speaking of beauty queens, we did get to visit a tiny bit with the (then) governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin (we didn’t really actually meet her, because she already knew one of the people we were with). (Also, not going to talk about anything political, here, but Sarah seemed very nice!)

Then, we met Leo! When Daisy & Coco (our two little miniature dachshunds) can’t come with us, we (well, I) bring their littleDaisy Deux Coco Two counterparts: Daisy Deux and Coco Two (gifts from friends from once upon a time when I was sad to leave the actual Daisy & Coco behind).  So, I had Daisy Deux and Coco Two out for a picture and someone came over to introduce “Leo”, her lion mascot, and set him into the picture I was taking.. Apparently, Leo has been everywhere – including into Outer Space!

The teams are all brought out in trucks and you just can’t believe the noise of the excited dogs!! (I don’t know how to include a video of my own, but here’s one from youtube for 201o, one of the years we were there…be prepared, if you watch it, that there’s some icky pictures of someone carrying a pelt…but, it really is what you see when you are there…)

A teamThe BIG event, though, is the Official Restart! The festivities from the Ceremonial Start follow to Willow – less carnival-y, but the media comes out, the fur kiosks, and tons of spectators.

The greatest highlight was that, after deciding to root! root! root! for Lance Mackey – our fleet of snowmobiles ended up parked within the general vicinity of “Mackey’s Maniacs”…

Lance and the other mushers and teams were all on the other side of the fence with the media, and we couldn’t go over there, but before long, the media came out to meet the Maniacs, and Lance came shortly after! (AND, the Maniacs were nice enough to let us elbow our way in to their visit.)Mackey Maniacs

Speaking of nice! Lance, and his wife, Tonya, were so nice and friendly – and, even though they were so busy, they stayed around for photos and autographs and more photos.  Forever solidified as my favorite!!

Lance and TonyaShannan, Evan, Lance, me

So, the first time we went, Lance was one of the first teams to start, so, right away, we headed out down the trail about a mile, to find a spot on Long Lake, so we could watch the teams go by.  It was amazing!! With all the noise and excitement at the start, it was a surprise to see the silent determination from the teams as the shwooshed by – all you could hear was the “shhhhhhhhhh” from the sled skis going by.  (And, then, after Lance went by, we went back to the start to watch the other mushers take off.)Peach Schnapps

To get to Long Lake, we went by snowmobile, of course, and I thought it was going to be just a short trip. So, I didn’t dress appropriately…in that, I didn’t strap on my hat, and I didn’t completely bundle my face, and I didn’t latch the top of my coat… and I was COLD! I was SO COLD, I think the cold air somehow got into my goggles (or maybe I didn’t have them on…I don’t remember) and froze my eyes (not in a way that caused damage, but in a way that caused complaining).   I can tell you right now that there was only one thing that fixed that level of cold, and it was peach schnapps.  (Not sure why, but only peach schnapps works.  And, thank you – whoever brought them and then shared 😀 You know who you are.)

The second time we were there, Lance was leaving later, so we stayed and watched the Restart, Rarin to goright at the beginning,  and then went out to find our place on Long Lake after.  There’s so much hype and excitement with the teams, it’s really worth watching the restart!! but watching the calm precision of the teams in motion is worth watching too. It’s nice to have the option to do both.Team 4

Back at the Restart (the second time we went)… Right away, we met a girl (Michelle) who was waving a Jamaican flag, so (with the same mentality as hanging around with Mackey Maniacs), she was nice enough to let me follow her around – actually, I talked her into walking around with me… I figured that if anyone was going to get to meet the Jamaican Dog Sled team, it’d be the one and only Jamaican girl!! (Loved her -she’s still one of my Facebook friends…in fact.)Mush Mon

So, off we went – with the goal of meeting the Jamaican Dog Sled team musher, Newton Marshall.   I can’t find the article now, but I did read that Newton trained on sand. I can see how that would be effective!!  And then, for the cold, he came up and trained with Lance Mackey.  (That was then – this year he trained with Kelley Griffin.)

Needless to say, with some determination and a little bit of a trek, we did get to meet Newton!
Newton and MichelleNewton and me

The first year we went, I searchedDogsledding with camera and searched for a sled to sit in for a picture. All were being used, and no matter what, I couldn’t get in. The second year, however, they had (which is a great tourist-y thing) a 1/4 mile Dogsled track. They use dogs in training, and you can do the little circuit.

Every year, I “watch” the Iditarod on www.iditarod.com and follow-up articles at www.adn.com.  I track the progress of each musher, every day.  I’m completely hooked.

This year, 66 teams started ~ Lance started #5. Newton started 8th. (Sebastien Schnuelle, mentioned in my previous blog, is a correspondent.)  The official Restart was this past Sunday.

Currently, Lance is #3.  (Apparently, this year, he met an onslaught of fans, at one point – not saying they slowed him down, but I did wonder why he slowed down…and also, apparently, he has cameras making a documentary about him this year – currently being called “Lance.” He really is fascinating! You should read more about him and his goals and wins! (Not to mention his antics and strategy out there on the trail!!)

I feel like I could go on and on and on, but there’s no way I can explain the Iditarod – you just need to go and experience it for yourself!!The End

The side-effect of this blog, and the fact that the Iditarod is currently mid-race, has made me nostalgic.  So, guess what! Looks like we might be planning a reunion! 2014 Iditarod!! You should come!

Sunday, I’ll be talking out our Roadtrip of the Disposable Car… unless I write more about the Iditarod… but I THINK it’ll be about the disposable car….

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One response to “Again, with the Iditarod! Can’t get enough!

  1. Shannan says:

    Let’s go!!!!!!

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