A quiet Monday morning here at Goose Lake; the only sound being the murmurs of the Iditarod Insider video playing on Carrie’s office computer. Tessa, our exceptional crew and I arrived home last night around 8:00 after the Restart in Willow, unpacked and immediately fired up our Insider. The 2010 Iditarod Sled Dog Race has begun!
This Iditarod start weekend had a very different flavor than any other year. With Jeff announcing that this will be his last competitive attempt at The Last Great Race, the air was scented with so many varied feelings: surprise, relief, a bit of melancholy, but mostly excitement and apprehension on the winds of change. Jeff carried an overall calm about him as he also tried to savor the smorgasbord of emotions. Our Iditarod Start festivities have become so familiar, like the traditions of a family Christmas. We look forward to seeing all of our Iditarod friends and family and the comforts of settling into the warm embrace of the race routines. This year brought a heightened sense of awareness of all of these precious moments knowing that they will soon be placed in that special catalogue of cherished memories.
Friday was a full day; the Cabela’s Travel Group breakfast, a presentation following, book signings, Meet and Greet at the Inlet Tower and the off to Aurora Fine Art Gallery downtown. Twenty years of send-off parties at Aurora Fine Art were celebrated that night. I produced a commemorative print in honor of Jeff’s Iditarod career that were available that evening and once again our hearts were warmed by the people and support who shared the evening with us.
The ceremonial start in Anchorage could not have been more perfect. Jeff’s Make-A-Wish Iditarider, Darian Stengrim from Wasilla, was a very fun addition to our team. Jeff made an extra effort in celebrating the start by bringing his very traditional Alaskan freight sled complete with Gee skis, adorned with his most recent black bear disguised as a rug. Darian tucked himself under the rug in the basket of the sled well before departure time and entertained his fans from his regal perch. His smile never faded. As the team slogged its way down 4th Avenue to the start line, we were joined by the “cherry on the top”, Buddy Streeper, five-time Champion of the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race, who jumped on the runner tails of the sled, strapped his GPS onto the handle bow out of sheer habit, and proceeded to learn how to wave like a Distance Musher as Team King traveled the nine mile trail through Anchorage.
Jeff quietly puttered the rest of the day Saturday getting ready for the next day and getting some time to relax and reflect.
The Restart on Sunday, though the excitement level had definitely increased, was still filled with a feeling of calm. The dogs, of course, were not! Another thrilling send off and a sigh.
This year’s team:
Charles and brother, Sussex (Types of spaniels)
Deets and brother, Call (Lonesome Dove)
Shannon and brother, Dublin (Irish cites)
Alamo and sister, Dollar (Rental cars)
Charger and brother, Titan (Football teams)
Colonel and sister, Cadet (Military ranks)
Viper (Top Gun)
Teddy (Types of bears)
Ross (Friends TV)
Viper and Alamo are the only intact males and Charger the only spayed female. Dollar began the race in heat (could be good, could be bad!). Viper and Berkeley are the oldest with the most Iditarod experience and both will be retiring from competitive racing after this year. All of the team is now sold with the exception of Viper and Deets, who will remain at Goose Lake. This year’s rookies are Alamo, Teddy, Cadet, Charger, Titan and Colonel.
As I complete this, Jeff and the team are out of Finger Lake. He was planning to try to get through the Dalzell Gorge in the light. The trail did get some significant new snow to Rohn but the other side of the range is rough and snowless which makes for a tough go for the mushers trying to hang on the back of the sleds. Jeff was hoping to be very conservative until he can get the team safely to Nikolai. He has a second sled that he had shipped out to McGrath in anticipation of some fallout from the rough trail.
Be sure to sign up for the Iditarod Insider for the very best coverage of the race! I will get an update out each morning here at www.huskyhomestead.com.
Also make sure to check out the blog of our very own Dave DeCaro as he makes his rookie run to Nome with the puppy team!
Meanwhile, enjoy the race!
Here are a few pictures for you to check out: