I didn’t expect to have time to write with my schedule, but I ended up with the day off today. My shift on the dog lot was cancelled due to the plane with 80 dogs coming in yesterday, rather than today. I’m sitting in the bar, with an Alaskan Amber watching the floatplanes land and take off from the ice on the lake out back. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I am starting to miss home though and my favorite Amber drinking partner!
You may have noticed I’ve been busy with social media postings (what do ya mean you’re not following? What part of ‘I need those numbers for editors” don’t you understand??? Kidding. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of it all but I truly do need numbers for editors.) ANYWAY…I’m having an incredible time. If I were to sum this experience up in a word or two…During the craziness of pre race and the start ~ amazing or better than I thought. Since then I would say eye opening. The behind the scenes of this race are crazy. Many separate parts all working within their own parameters, but in sync to a common goal.
I’ll give you a brief overview, but not too much information. You will have to wait until next year, March issue of Alaska Magazine for the full write-up. I have an “on spec” agreement for an article for Iditarod writing from a volunteer standpoint. Send me good vibes for putting together something amazing they can’t live without.
The Ceremonial Start is basically for fans and the press. Honestly. It is normally an eleven mile route through Anchorage, but this year, due to lack of snow, they cut the route to three miles. I was originally slated to stand as “trail guard” at the end. They moved eight miles of volunteers into the first three miles. And yet, they still needed to move me. To the starting line. Talk about a crazy place to be. Every two minutes a musher takes off down 4th Avenue. The fan favorites would be surrounded by press. My job was to block a spot in the fence that was open for “dignitaries” to come through. My instructions were, ask for their badge. Only blue media pass gets in. No one told me how to handle the State Troopers in charge of the governor! Everyone understood my role and didn’t get “too” cranky about me asking for badges. I ended up having a great conversation with Governor Walker himself. I will say five hours on my feet, no potty break, was hard, but being on the starting line was really hard. NOT
The race Re-Start. Evidently, because of the masses of crowds heading from Anchorage to Willow, there were areas of the trail that ran over roadways that became dangerous for the dogs and the mushers (and I guess the onlookers). This is how the Ceremonial Start came to be. They teams run through town, pack back up, sleep, and then the next morning head to Willow~the location of the Re-Start.
The Re-Start happens literally on Lake Willow. The lake is about twenty eight inches of ice with eight to twelve inches of water under that. Not very deep. What a sight to see at 10am. No crowds yet, the start banner was up, and the mushers were starting to make their way in. I had about three hours to play before I had to report to my post for volunteer work. I made my way into the mushers area, my arm badge granted me access. How cool is that? Unfortunately, the first thing I saw was a girl on a snow machine hit a bump on the ice out on the lake and flip her machine. Her helmet came off and she laid splat on the ice. I guess it’s bound to happen in the masses of people that show up for these events. She eventually got up and walked with help to the first aid cart. From there, a big breath for me, shake it off and start walking the area and made my way to SP Kennel spots. They were already in place, so I got more pictures of their dogs! Aliy wasn’t around but I wished Allen good luck and hit the trail. Well, not really. Well, yes actually. My post was along the trail at a road crossing. My job, keep traffic from crossing when mushers were coming down the trail. I have great videos of Aliy and Allen and once I figure out how to overlay my yelling with some music, I’ll post them on my facebook business page!
I can’t tell you how much of a family this type of event creates. There are volunteers here with twenty-seven years of service to the Iditarod and they make us newbies feel like family immediately. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world, press people, vets, and volunteers. It is definitely amazing.
Now, I’m alternating shifts on Stats in Comms and Dropped Dog Lot for the next week. Much calmer atmosphere. I get to enter stats as mushers move along on the trail. Eye opening for sure on that process. On the dog lot, I get to feed, water and love on dropped dogs. Tough job. Only by the fact that it’s five hours in the weather, no matter what. I can deal!
Please post any questions you have below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks for reading!