Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mush You Huskies - The Iditarod

My friend, Slim Randles, has had lots of adventures in his lifetime. This is just one of them. Enjoy. While Slim is filling in here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with some fun from the Sunday Comics.

As you read this there are dozens of men and women and hundreds of dogs crossing a very cold Alaska: more than a thousand miles of it. It’s called the Iditarod by everyone who doesn’t drive a team in it. For those who have, it’s the Idiot Road.

There are deadly serious mushers in that race who are after that prize money, and a few of them will get it. But there are also the taildraggers. They know they won’t win. What they want to do, really, is finish this most difficult of all races. And more than that … to find out exactly what’s inside them.

Thirty-nine years ago this week, that was me.

I had seven dogs. The minimum that year.  And I had to borrow two to make the minimum. Most teams were in the 12 to 16-dog range. This translates to putting a VW bug in the Indy 500. Forget any prize money.

The front runners have snow machines half a day ahead of them, packing trail. With packed trail, those teams can average something like 80 miles a day. Without packed trail, you’re lucky to get five miles, on snowshoes. And all it takes to turn a packed trail into snowshoe time is half an hour of wind.

There have always been “recreational mushers,” like I was back then.  I lived 12 miles from a road in those days, and for six months each year, the dogs got us back and forth to the village. They were basic transportation and basic family.

But this race, this monumental journey from Anchorage to Nome, makes a person want to hook up the dogs and head out.

I wasn’t able to finish the race that year, 1973, because of an injury, and while I was on the trail, everyone passed me. And I guess it’s because of that that each March I say a little prayer for all the mushers and all the dogs, but especially for the recreational mushers, for the taildraggers. They’ll be out in the cold and the lonely longer than the winners, looking to find that certain personal something.

Packed trail and fresh dogs, people. It’s a very long way to Nome.
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To buy Slim’s books, go to www.slimrandles.com

7 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

You have more guts and stamina than I do! I wouldn't even try. Just thinking of cold hands and cold feet is bad enough!

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Maryann Miller said...

This is something that I always wanted to do. Maybe it was because I read Jack London's Call of the Wild and thought it would be fun to run behind a team of sled dogs. Of course, our fantasies don't have the bitter cold. LOL

Bob Sanchez said...

Hey Slim, good post. I lived in Alaska for a year in the late 60s and was just a tad too chilly in winter. While you mush your huskies, I think I'll curl up and read a nice Jack London book.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bob. Slim is now living in New Mexico. I think he likes the warmer temps there.

I'm currently reading a biography of Jack London written by Jack Haley, and it is quite good. Learning all kinds of things about Jack London that I never knew.

Helen Ginger said...

Enjoyed the post. I've never seen the race, although my husband's favorite movie is one about a young man racing in it. Just watching the movie makes me cold!

Maryann Miller said...

I think I saw that movie, Helen, but I can't remember the name of it. If I was a lot younger, I might give the race a try, but not at my age. LOL

The Golden Eagle said...

That sounds like it would be an amazing experience. If a little cold!