Wednesday, March 11, 2015

back from Fairbanks restart Iditarod...

 of course, these are from the ceremonial start in you can see, the snow was not fit for the iditarod so the restart was moved much further north.  the cold and snow decided to make their way north just in time.  some of the teams left right after this ceremonial start and it was tough going with all the snow.
this guy above just looked so happy and excited!!
 i headed north on Sunday with very little sleep.  picked up my pet sitter VM-thanks!!  then tossed everything in the car and left.  wanted to hit the road asap so that hopefully i would do the entire drive in day light. i had heard there had been a storm and that there were cars sliding all over off the roads.  actually Jeff King had posted something about it on facebook.
 there was a line of cars headed north.  loads of dog teams, which was fun.  slow going for sure and the roads were slick.  the further north i got the more snow and the more slick.  there are some twists and turns and uphills/downhills which makes it even more tricky.  i actually made better time than expected. i think, in the end my trip took 7.5 hours.  i only stopped to pee and get gas.  really not a photo trip north.  felt i really needed to focus on the  task at hand...getting to Fairbanks without coming off the road.  the section between Nenana and Fairbanks was snow/ice/blowing snow and near white out.  a few friends were on the road at the same time and we send texts...those would go through anytime one of us hit a hot spot.  saw KP a few times, we were in the same line of cars for a bit.  eventually, she booked and i crept along.
 i got gas at Cantwell and i remember this dog truck that had military dog handlers took off in front of me...he was  figured that was the last i'd see of that truck, but then awhile later, i saw that truck pulling out of a rest area...behind him a trooper was pulling out.  not sure if he got a ticket or got out of it.  he may have been able to pull the "i'm trying to get to Fairbanks to start the Iditarod" card.  what i do know is that he got in line right behind me and followed me until he got close to Healy or beyond.  when we did have passing lanes i'd pull right over figuring i was going way to slow for him..but he kept getting right in behind me.
 it was fine with me...if anything happened to me out there i had all those guys to help out. like i said, loads of teams out there.  saw a handler after i got to Fairbanks, he said they had taken 10 hours and it was a tough storm to get through.  luckily, it sounds like everyone made it up there ok...i know one trailer lost wheels or some such thing.
 Anna Berington above.
 i am behind on my Iditarod news.  i know Brent Sass is out.  he was disqualified for using a wifi compatible gadget.  apparently those are strictly forbidden.  hopefully, i'll be better with the news as the days go on.  this trek north did through me off my rhythm and i go back to work either tomorrow or the next day.  will have to check that out tomorrow as well. it was confusing on my schedule.
 got settled into my hotel in Fairbanks to discover that the Iditarod would run right in front of the hotel.  it was starting at KH and KR hotel.  after all those hours i was ready for a walk anyway so i followed the trail to the Chena river and scoped out a spot for restart viewing.
 then i headed to my friends hotel for dinner there...tons of Iditarod folks there as Pikes was the hotel they were all set up at. ran into SC and saw loads of mushers and other iditarod volunteers...the place was beyond packed and i think it took us well over and hour to get our meal.  the place was just overwhelmed.  the parking lot was full of mushers and dog trucks.  my hotel had, i think, 3 team trucks staying there.  it was a fun atmosphere.  i think KH and KR had a blast doing meet and greets and getting extra photo ops with the teams.
 the restart in Willow generally starts at 1pm but this restart started at 10 am...thankfully, we figured that out during dinner.  i woke early so i could head to my spot.  found another friend MW in my hotel eating breakfast with her beau.  they didn't have a room there but had flown in the morning and had gotten a ride there by another friend they knew...they were unable to find a car to rent so i ended up chilling with them a lot and driving them to various places that i had wanted to go to as well.  i gave them a key to my place to stash their stuff and we headed to the river to watch the festivities.
 it was super cold and a bit breezy on the river.  great spot.  i battled it out with the clipboard chick.  she was with security and wanted me to stand a mile away from where i wanted to stand.  i was behind the flag but that wasn't enough for her. the river had open water behind where we were...they were going to start the race on the river by the other hotel but there was loads of open water there so they ran it in front of my hotel and down another street to the river.
 this security chick and i did not see eye to eye on this situation.  next thing she did was go grab fencing from another area and put it up right in front of the end i was standing exactly where i had been standing that she wanted me to move from...but now there was  a fence. honestly, the fence probably should have been put there in the first place to prevent a team from running into the open water...not to keep it from running into one lone amatuer photographer.  i was willing to take the risk of being run over by a dog team, but as KH pointed out, if the dogs did run that way, the risk was of them going into open water.
 there is always some power hungry person with a clipboard i find...that is the life we live.
 thought this came out nice of DeeDee...always a favorite musher.  she's not young and yet she returns each year and she is generally in the top 10-20 finishers.
 we all had a great time out there despite being a bit chilly. there were quite a few who joined us in the beginning but people left as the time went on...the cold and the wind i suspect.  did notice that some of the professional photographers had picked the spot i did too so we did good i think.
 after that i took MW and beau to their hotel to check in and we grabbed lunch.  later i wandered around the ice sculptures place and then joined them for dinner, it was MW birthday.  felt bad as we skipped the cake part to rush to the ice sculptures again before it closed to see them.  we whipped through it but got to see them all lit up.  MW and beau did the ice slides.  temps in Fairbanks dropped even further.
 this seems to be a sign of a committment.  there was an article yesterday/today?  not sure but it was about the sister Anna with the other musher Charley Bejna and their relationship which really took off during the brutal run of the Iditarod last year.  i actually guessed they were together by watching the GPS tracker.  anyway...having an article always seems like it would put a bit of pressure on a newer relationship to me...but that is how hollywood works and the iditarod is a bit of the Alaskan hollywood...most mushers here would not be recognized too many other places but in Alaska...that is a different story.
 pretty dog.
 i added a third night hotel onto my stay.  that meant that Tuesday i could head out to Chena hot springs.  i have wanted to check off a few things that most Alaskans have done that i have missed so Chena was one.  as it turned out MW and beau had wanted to do this as well, but had no car so they joined me.  i was happy to oblige...they are pretty easy to chill with.
 Lance Mackey...he's had a lot of medical issues, cancer being the main has caused other issues which make it tough for him out there but he still loves running the team.
 the drive to Chena is just over an hour..or it is with snow and ice on the ground.  the place was packed with tourists.  Japanese...everything is written out there in both English and Japanese.  the Japanese are crazy for the Aurora. apparently there is some thing about conceiving a baby under the aurora, outdoors under the's supposed to make the baby super human i guess..not sure exactly.  probably good luck of some sort.
 we hit the somewhat cheesy ice museum.  still pretty and another one of those on the list things.  i opted out of the $15 martini in an ice glass at the ice bar but joined them at the bar and taste tested it...not bad.
 after that we hit the hot springs.  for how crowded everything was there the actual springs weren't too crowded.  we were not the only people there it wasn't very crowded. i think we soaked for a bit over an hour.  it did feel really great. not sure i'd rush out there again and again.  if i lived there perhaps more.
 of course the girl at my hotel desk was telling me after i got back that her friend worked there for a bit and was constantly having to stop the Japanese tourists from copulating in the hot springs.  i really didn't need to know hot springs and semen cesspool. nice!!
 this shot above reminded me of the opener for the Brady old tv show for those from a different era.  the kid are in squares checking each other out.
 above Martin Buser and below a rookie.  apparently, 1/3 of the mushers this year are female.  girl power i guess.
 after returning from Chena i just wanted to crash so i headed back to my hotel.  wanted to make a fairly early start of it today to get back home and i had no idea how bad the roads would be.
 temps were 25 below in some parts of town.  i picked up a new extension cord as i had forgotten one.  Fairbanks is good about having outlets to plug in cars in many places.  the hotel had them so i wanted to get back earlier enough to get a plug in spot.  i hadn't the night before.  prime real estate in Fairbanks.
 i did get the spot and i settled in, ordered delivery pizza.
 this guys a rookie from Norway.  he seemed photo worthy.
 no idea what sort of photo's i got this week.  hopefully i can start looking through them tonight.  it was another long drive today.
 it was much better than the drive up but still a bit rough in places.  the area between Fairbanks and Nenana was much easier with improved visibility and less ice on the road.  after Denali the glare ice was there along with blowing snow.  i'd say that was pretty much an issue from Denali to Byers, then things improved but there was some glare ice at times.  after Talkeetna the roads were clear.
 i did take the time to wander Denali.  the road was only open to mile 12 i think.  a few miles short than what i expected.
 i had a good day though as i saw some ptarmigan, a bull moose and a group of caribou.  not sure i got many photo's. the ptarmigan were too fast so i know i missed them and the caribou, well i was so excited and probably watching them through the lens more than paying attention to what the camera was set at...i think for much of that the focus was set on manual but i wasn't focusing it.  blast.  i'm sure the professionals never do silly things like that.  haha.
 it was fun during the ceremonial start to watch the poor dog handlers try to deal with the dog teams in all that slush.  not easy!!
 those dogs are strong and it's tough getting your footing in slush.  i was surprised at how many handlers i saw who were wearing what looked like tennis shoes.  not a real good choice.  i bet they were cold by days end.  it was a "warmish" day but the wind picked up and wind can make any day cold in a hurry.
 more handlers with dogs.
 not sure what the race standings are. i'll check up when i get this posted.  they are on their way though.
 i stopped in Nenana and looked around.  it was a check point.  if i'd planned out life i may have made the drive over to watch them there but i think after my stressful drive the day before the last thing i wanted was to make that drive over the pass again.  still cool to look around today at Nenana as a check point.
 dogs will  be mixed with general Fairbanks stuff.  haven't been there in the winter before.  we didn't get any aurora views.  i put my name in for wake up calls but never got a call.  bummer.
 chatting with the iditarider.  they bid for a ride with the various mushers. obviously some are more popular than others.
 today i  went for a short walk at Creamers. went in and the guy was chatting about the birds there.  it was super cold in that part of town.  my walk was in -25F  from what the guy said.  wanted to give him the WARIS card but Creamers was the one group that had refused to sign onto the letter to the Governor from all the other groups of sanctuaries and refuges.  not sure why they refused to participate but standing there in their gift area i found myself a bit annoyed and decided to just not say anything at all for fear my annoyance would come across.  i didn't purchase anything and just headed out.
 no word from the Governor or Fish and Game guys about the petition i sent off.  guess i shall send the article to the ADN and see if they want to do anything with it.
 another iditarider ...they sure look happy.
 the dogs look happy as well...they don't really mind the slush.

 well, i guess i will try and look at a few photos and get an update on the race...hopefully, i can give you more information later with fun pictures to go along with it.
thankful for: A.  safe travels to/from Fairbanks B.  happy dogs to come home to C.  another fun is good!

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