MAR 7, 14 (Part 1) .. THE 2014 IDITAROD – I

Well .. Long Pause .. here we all go on a lengthy .. four part post of The Iditarod 2014.  So grab your popcorn .. sit back .. and take a little trip with me! I so hope some of you really enjoy the ride!

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Patti 99520-2591 and Larry ‘C’ 99521-0795 .. This Post Is For The Two Of You!

Patti ..

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You Patti were there the instant that I said to you in early January 1998 .. “I think I will go downtown and sign-up to become an Iditarod volunteer.”  And so the Iditarod adventure bore-wings and immediately took flight! You well remember the crippling .. two-year depression that I was experiencing.  We both thought that maybe .. just maybe .. IF I could get out and get active in the Iditarod that it would help my mood. And? It took-some-time but by April 1998 I was again on-my-feet moodwise.  And? YES my intense involvement in the Iditarod was crucial!

Larry ..

 

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You Larry have always been my closest associate in the Iditarod from the moment we first met in 1998 each of us working the telephone room until literally ‘right now’ this instant in the early-morning hours of Thursday the 6th of March 2014.

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So Patti and Larry .. I Salute And I Humbly Thank Each Of You For Your Crucial Part In My Iditarod Experience!

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This will be the first of four (4) posts concerning this the 42nd running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

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The race is approximately 1,000 miles in length.  The race begins in Anchorage Alaska at l0AM on the first Saturday in March and ends (the Good Lord willing and no catastrophic weather issues develop!) in Nome Alaska approximately 10 days later on the following Tuesday one-week-removed.  This year there are 69 Mushers entered .. each with a team of from 12 to 16 sled dogs.  During the race a number of the dogs will be retired and removed from the race for various reasons.  A musher MUST have a minimum of 6 sled dogs still running when they arrive in Nome.

The running of the Iditarod is one of the greatest annual events in the State of Alaska.

Because it is far too broad and overwhelming a subject to fully explain here .. The Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race Official Rules number 15 pages with 52 individual rules! ..

In Part II below in this series of posts I have printed the contents of Iditarod Race Rule Number 16 for you edification!

I have decided that IF (oh that Big IF!) you are interested in additional detals .. please ‘Google’ the following:

1.  Iditarod.com

2.  Wikipedia Iditarod

3.  Wikipedia 1925 Serum Run to Nome .. This is a don’t miss site!

IF these three references just ‘don’t do-it-for-you’ then just keep going down the hits after you have ‘Googled’ the above three web-sites.

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On a personal-note .. I have worked as an Iditarod Volunteer off-and-on .. when I have been home in Alaska and not traveling in India .. since the March 1998 race.  In addition to the pleasure I’ve experienced from the usual activities such as answering incoming telephone calls from all-over-the-world and posting constantly incoming updates from the trail Check-Points onto the Iditarod headquarters computer .. I have also worked the race both in Anchorage and in Nome and in Manley Hot Springs Alaska.

Three sets-of-memories stand out for me.

First .. from January 1998 .. until the beginning of the race in March 1998 .. I worked here in Anchorage on many pre-race activities.

Then during the March 1998 Iditarod I was in Nome Alaska where the race ends.  I had the honor to supervise the telephone room in Nome and to perform many other duties-as-needed at the Nome Headquarters. To do this it seems that one needs to border on .. or to actually be .. a tad MANIC! 24-hours-a-day I had telephones to be answered and mail to be given mushers and questions to be answered from many sources and I had to keep people out and away from Stan Hooley and Joanne Potts the top officials of the Iditarod so they could do their jobs .. And? After the race I was in charge of cleaning things up from the dorm where we all camped-out to .. well you-name-it.

The phone room in Nome proved to be quite-the-challenge.  I was given Iditarod ‘volunteers’ to assist me.  The problem soon proved to be my ‘keeping volunteers’ on my staff!  Why? The Iditarod as an entity has a myriad of souvenirs (to rival the NFL?) of all sorts from trinkets to clothing to you-name-them.

As soon as I would get a volunteer trained to answer incoming telephone calls .. in-would-swoop the Iditarod merchandise staff who were working their souvenir booth in Nome and take-away my volunteers!

Bordering on being from ‘bothered’ to ‘frantic’ in my efforts to keep the telephones being fully staffed .. I decided that I needed to recruit MY people loyal to ME and NOT loyal to the Iditarod merchandising staff. So out into the crowd at the finishing line I dashed.  Ah-Ha .. look at that couple with a young son standing over there by the fence oogling over the entire scene!

BILL and BRENDA and JORDAN 30144!  Hello!

Putting my arms around the couple that I would know as Bill and Brenda I said cheerily .. “How would you like to become a working-part of this race? I need people to answer the telephones in the phone room! Will you help me out?” .. they paused .. “What about our 10-year-old son?” .. “Bring him in! He will be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT to talk to other young callers! Do we have a deal?”

WE HAD A DEAL!

And? The Rest Of The Story (thank you Paul Harvey!) .. In the year 2002 Bill Borden entered the Iditarod .. Bill not only entered the race but he finished the race.  The last time I visited Bill and Brenda and Jordan .. their home town had a sign at the city limits stating Bill is the first person from Georgia to enter and to finish the Iditard Trail Sled Dog Race!

An Iditarod memory?  A LIFE MEMORY!

Bill has gone on to host the Iditarod pre-race auction here in Anchorage and to be an active member in the Iditarod community.

While in Nome in March 1998 I was 1 of 28 entrants in a 3-mile 3-sled-dog sprint race.  I still treasure my second-place finishers plaque!  I have 35mm photographs of myself in the sprint race taken by friends in Nome but I have no way to get them into a digital-format to post here.

And? The Nome adventure in 1998 proved to be my One-Night-Stand.  In 1999 I ‘wintered’ in India as I have contiuned to do many years since.

Second .. in March of 2003 the Iditarod began in Anchorage and then the teams traveled North to Fairbanks Alaska for a re-start due to extremely low levels of snow in the more Southern parts of the state.  As a result the race passed into and though my home town of Manley Hot Springs where a full Iditarod Trail Check-Point was established.  So I was able to see up-close and personal and participate in the workings of a Check-Point.

Third .. while answering the telephones in the telephone room .. I have two specific Iditarod incoming telephone calls that I shall never forget ..

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The first of my two most memorable calls was from a lady.  When I am HOT .. I am a bing-bing get-to-it rat-a-tat-tat person!  This lady was herself a bing-bing get-to-it rat-a-tat caller.  When our call (of perhaps ten minutes!) was finished I said to the lady .. “Your call has been the most spectacular incoming call that I have ever fielded here at the Iditarod Headquarters! I have never ever spoken with a caller who knows-her-stuff as well as you do! .. There was a long pause .. then the lady quietly said to me .. “I’m Susan Butcher.”

In all of the 42-year history of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race .. and of course this is my own personal opinion .. (the late) Susan Butcher stands alone at the tippy-top of the list of most-famous ladies associated with the race and at the tippy-top with all of the most famous participants in the race p-e-r-i-o-d .. male and female! Sadly Susan passed away August 5th 2006 of leukemia.

For ‘openers and closers’ I submit to you: Susan Butcher won the Iditarod four (4) times (1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990) .. was second three (3) times (1984, 1989 and 1992) and third one (1) time (1991).  Do-the-math .. from 1984 until 1992 (with the sole exception of 1995 when she scratched) she was either first or second or third!!

During the 1985 Iditarod!  Susan Butcher was forced to withdraw early in the race when two of her dogs were killed by a crazed moose! Despite Susan’s vain attempts to ward the animal off, thirteen other sled dogs were injured.

So this and many following interactions with Susan Butcher were indeed special!

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The second of my most memorable incoming telephone calls was from a gentleman.  After we had finished our call he asked me to pass along his best wishes to Stan Hooley the Executive Director of the Iditarod.  In closing he said .. “And this is Norm Vaughn.”

I said .. “No Sir! You mean you are COLONEL NORMAN VAUGHN!”

Colonel Norman Vaughn is famous in the annals of the history of Alaskan Adventurers and I had NEVER EVER heard him called ‘Norm’.  ‘Google’ Colonel Norman D. Vaughn .. and there you find him on Wikipedia! Col Vaughn passed away December 23rd, 2005 four days after he celebrated his 100th birthday on December 19th, 2005.

As I write about these above memorable moments dozens of others have started flooding back to me!

So before I begin another chapter-in-my-book I will just conclude by stating that THE Iditarod is near-and-dear to my heart!

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Let’s begin with some photos of where the race actually starts.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race starts on the first Saturday in the month of March in downtown Anchorage Alaska at the intersection of 4th Avenue and ‘D’ Street.

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Across the street from the above street sign is a beautiful sculpture/monument to the Iditarod.

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Two close-ups of the above memorial plaque.

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The following photos show you overviews of 4th Avenue and the general starting area of the Iditarod.

The below yellow building at the corner of 4th Avenue and ‘D’ Street becomes a ‘land-mark’ for many of the other photos that follow.  The topmost photo above is of the street sign on the traffic-light pole you can see in the below photo.

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If you will please notice .. there is NO significant snow to be seen in these photos of 4th Avenue!  The sidewalks and 4th Avenue itself are basically ‘dry’ with ‘small smidgens of snow’ on them! On Wednesday the 26th of February when I snapped many of these photos .. the temperature here in Anchorage was IN THE FORTIES!  You know .. 40 F and higher.  In fact we set an all-time-record for high temperatures when the thermometer hit 49 degrees F (ABOVE NOT below zero!).  See your yellow building on the left of the below photo.

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I mean just look-at-the-street in the below photos!  It is nearly ‘dry’.  Little or NO snow.

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I will now ‘jump-ahead’ for a ‘sneak preview’ of race day .. Saturday the 1st of March.

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Well? Do all of you see LOTS OF SNOW in the above photo? AH-HA!  Friday afternoon and evening and well into-the-night City of Anchorage crews haul-in-snow to provide snow for the mushers!  This is ONE ENORMOUS TASK!

Below are some ‘general interest’ photos of the 4th Avenue ‘scene’.  The Log Cabin below is a famous ‘land mark’ here in Anchorage.DSCN3766[1]

So too is the ‘locally famous’ Army-Navy store on 4th Avenue.

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When they say .. ALL WEATHER OUTFITTERS .. they mean exactly and they mean precisely what they say!

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Other 4th Avenue ‘land marks’ in the ‘D’ Street vicinity.

Larry ‘C’ advised me that Colonel Norman Vaughn used to watch the start of the Iditarod races from the window on the second floor of the below building that faces directly onto 4th Avenue.  Larry is a absolute fountain of Iditarod history.

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IF the start of the Iditarod is one thing .. it is a big and a happy party with Carnival rides and Cotton Candy and You-Name-It foods-for-all tastes!

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Sweet Huh?  We are talking one grand event here!

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Please scroll down for the continuation of The 2014 Iditarod in Part II below.