Thursday, March 19, 2009

Iditarod--The Last Great Race Run By Great 2- and 4-Legged Athletes

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, events here in Alaska is the Iditarod sled dog race. The Last Great Race, it pits man and his best friends against the elements of the Last Frontier. While the rest of us are snuggling close to our wood stoves or sitting comfortably in our easy chairs as the central heating kicks on, these brave and hearty men, women and dogs are traveling over 1,000 miles across some of the roughest terrain around, during some of the harshest weather.

About ten days ago, a field of 65 mushers, each with a team of 16 or so dogs, set out from Anchorage (well, Willow is the official start. Anchorage was a ceremonial start.) to Nome. Both human and canine athletes were prepared for anything the Alaska wilderness could throw at them. They hoped. Checkpoints, GPS, and aerial monitoring, veterinarians and doctors, assure that the teams are as safe as possible. Still, some ran into difficulties, a couple suffered broken equipment, and sadly some dogs were lost. More than a few mushers scratched, for various reasons, but at this writing nine are in Nome and another 40 are still making their way there.

The winner this year, Lance Mackey, took his third Iditarod Championship in a row. He joins the three-peat ranks of mushing legends Susan Butcher and Doug Swingley.

Lance and his team were the first into Nome, but all the men and women and dogs who set out are to be commended and respected for their toughness and spirit. Read some of the stories about sleds turning over and mushers smacking into trees and rocks. Of dogs getting tangled, of one that ran off in fright and was thankfully returned to his musher. Of the dogs that died and how the mushers grieved for lost friends. BTW, this is not the place to complain that dog sled racing is inhumane or cruel. A good musher treats his team with the utmost respect and care. They are his friends and his lifeline. Man and dog are truly teammates, and if you've ever seen an interview with a musher as he or she raves about the greatness of their dogs, or grieves at the loss of one, you will understand the heartfelt connection there.

So congratulations to Lance and his team, but the entire field, even those who scratched, deserve major kudos just for taking that first step onto the trail.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Ah, Spring

Spring is a week away, though you wouldn't know it by looking outside. The several feet of snow we've accumulated over the winter is being added to by a deceptively light snowfall. Invariably, I will see this kind of snow coming down and think to myself, "Oh, this won't be much at all." And then the snow will continue to build for hours and hours as I delude myself some more. "It *must* be stopping soon, as there is barely any snow falling at all! Stop, snow. Stop stop stop stop STOP!"

It rarely heeds my cries.

So while the calendar says spring is only a week away, we know better.

Despite the faulty calendar, it is Spring Break here in the semi Frozen North. The kids are out of school until the 23rd. I won't have to dread an early morning call from the school secretary asking me to substitute for an ill teacher or aide. (Besides, she already has me scheduled for three days the week we return.) Sleeping in is a favorite activity, and now that the kids are old enough to get their own breakfasts and keep themselves occupied without my wondering if the quiet means something needs my immediate attention, I can stay in bed until only my bladder forces the issue.

As an added bonus, I have four days without kids or hubby (he took them to visit some friends in our former town and to the Big City to buy groceries and a new washer--Yay! new washer! Oh, that is as sad as it sounds isn't it, to be excited about a washer...). I plan to enjoy every peaceful, undemanding, ice cream for dinner moment. And tonight there is a blues/jazz musician in town I want to go hear (ETA: If the damn snow stops.). He played for the kids at school yesterday. Very talented, but I can't recall his name. Somehow we get the amazing artists and musicians to come visit our small, relatively remote town, and I'd be a fool not to take advantage of the opportunity (if the damn snow stops). But that's fodder for another post.

I also hope to get some writing and housework (ha!) done. If it warms up some, perhaps I'll be able to scrape the inch or so layer of ice off my front walk. But by looking at the temperature do-dad at the corner of my computer screen, and at the thermometer outside my front door, I doubt that will happen today. Or even tomorrow. No worries. Spring will come. Eventually.