"Until you've ridden a dog team you've trained from puppies on a full moon with a hard trail and feel their energy and hear the panting of their tongues, the jingle of their collars, feel the surge of power that comes through the handlebar, I don't think you can appreciate what it's really like," the 54-year-old said. "But that's exactly the reason."We touched down in Anchorage Thursday night. Kinda felt like coming home, haven't been back since last summer. It was good to be around familiar places, even though I'm still at a loss when it comes to getting from here to there. Picked up my car, that was weird after our 7 month separation. (which did not have my map in it... Josh? Sam? What happened to my map???) Evidently I haven't forgotten how to drive it. Spent the first night with my friends Ang and Brandon and kids. Skylar was getting ready for some State Hockey Games. His team would eventually go on to win second! Good Work Skylar!
Friday,we quickly adjusted to our new home, also the "Headquarters of the Iditarod", The Millennium Hotel. The parking lot was full of mush-mobiles featured left. Obviously, we immediately had to have our own impromptu meet and greet with the dogs. Of course, Steph and I were secretly sizing up our future competition;) We have now invented the co-op dog sled team. Our motto?? "Together We Mush!" We figure if we each keep collecting dogs between the two of us we'll finally have a whole team. Unless of course I can find a cute, single, christian musher man who doesn't want a cook, but rather would like help mushing, hummm, let's revisit that one another time, lol. Anyway, below are many touristy shots of us. We were supposed to hit the slopes, sadly that did not happen due to my taxes taking an incredibly long time to complete and the 'avalanche' danger at Alyeska. The mountain was closed all day. Unfortunately that was the only window we had open to take advantage of it. Oh, well, luckily we understand the tumultuous reins of Alaskan weather and its all too powerful hold on one's plans. So we did what any flexible sourdough would do, we changed gears. I had been looking forward to meeting up with Mike (remember the boys' foreman who is a friend from this summer), he was going to be part of the Alyeska extravaganza too. But was willing the revamp his itinerary as well and joined us in downtown Anchorage instead. He didn't really stand a chance, poor Mike.
Steph and I conned him into taking us shopping while the boys went back to the hotel to wax skis for the quicker than I could appreciate approaching Tour of Anchorage on Sunday. Mike was a good sport though, he led us to some rocking deals on new carhartts, lol. It obviously wasn't the typical shopping spree that might be why he hung in there with us so long. His comment? "I've never seen anyone care what they look like in carhartts until now. I believe I've seen it all." When Steph and I were trying to decide if the women's carhartts were too big in the hips.
Even gave us a tour of what was left of the ice sculptures (see picture). What is it? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, thanks Mike! Later we cruised out to Girdwood to eat at Chair Five, a fun restaurant with kicking pizza. Aside: Still not as good as the Moose's Tooth. Then to Alyeska Resort to listen to the bluegrass yodels of Peter Rowen. Wow, is he ever good.
Below is a pic of the whole village herd of us soaking up the Iditarod 2010 (Principal Eric w/Einer, Sherry w/Addy, Dirk, Me, Jim and Steph).
Sunday... We Came to Service Highschool picked up our bibs and tried to stretch. I wondered what I thought I was doing. I felt that all too familiar sense of impending doom, when sleek skier after skier sophisticatedly discussed which waxes they prepped with and what training they had done up this or that mountain. All I could hear in my head was Principal Eric assuring me my skis would be waxed, which I appreciate immensely (and they were, but unfortunately as he had apologized and informed me only moments before...not with the good wax) you see, Dirk used all the good wax on his skis for the 25 K. Thanks a lot Dirk. Though at that point the good wax really was the least of my problems. I was about to attempt to ski 40 kilometers of uncharted territory with little to no real training (unless we count ski joring and a handful of runs). So to distract myself from that which was now out of my control I rummaged through my pockets to inventory that which was still in my control, my trusty survival kit:*2 large handfuls of gummy candy for energy from the packages I bought at the gas station last night because I forgot to get 'Gu' "check"
*1 'has seen better days camera' to take pictures of the 'Tour' lest I forget I had no business out there trying to 'race'. "check"
*1 GCI cell phone to call people. Thankfully in Anchorage there are not as many dropped calls as in the village. In case I think of something important I need to tell people along the way for instance, oh I don't know, something like ..."Help Steph, Jim, come pick me up at such and such a place"..."check"
"Okay, I'm ready to go!" I doubted enthusiastically to myself. Then as if a gift of encouragement from God, just when I stepped onto the snow I overheard one skier say to the other...
"So you skied Birkie? How was it?"
"Yeah, I just got back it was great! Now this will be a piece of cake."
Ahh, I breathed a sigh of relief, a secret message from home. If I can finish Birkie I can finish the Tour De Anchorage. The announcer beckoned Wave 8, we staged, "Skiers take your mark, ready, BANG!" The journey of 40 K begins with one push...WHOOSH! The ol' rock skis ride again...
We Skied across the football field into some of the most stunning scenery. The first 20 kilometers wound through thick pine forests, playing hide and seek with the mountains, crossed over creeks with bridges (I'm certain were close to where mom and I were nearly trampled by that moose and calf last summer. I'm confident they were being chased by a bear which made me thankful that bears hibernate so I could 'bearfreely' enjoy my ski through the woods this morning). It was definitely Birkie-esq. My strategy was to try to think of a strategy. I started out trying to stay with Principal Eric, that didn't go as planned so I took some pictures of him before he skated out of sight and scratched that idea. Bon Voyage Boss, I can't keep that pace. Not if I want to walk tomorrow anyway. So my digital tour began... for the rest of the race I stopped to smell the roses, maybe better put is, stopped to smell the trees. Either way I breathed in the surroundings. Even bothered some spectators to take my picture as you can see. The next 15 k was across overpasses with tons of traffic zooming beneath, through tunnels with traffic zipping overhead, and along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (whom by the way, I passed at about 30 K). Yep, Tony Knowles himself was classic skiing the whole thing. The trail was like skiing along the north shore of Lake Superior back home. Until of course, the last 5 K...
We Conquered in our own minds anyway. That last 5 kilometers was a nonnegotiable! So much that had I known what the seemingly short leg was in comparison to the other 35 ...I'd have seriously considered throwing in towel. That's right I might have just forfeited. That last 5 kilometers was insane, at best. Uphill, who finishes a race uphill???? It was tough. I managed to slog it out but it wasn't pretty. Nobody was getting any tips from my form, well maybe they were, maybe a coach could have used me as an example for a skier in training "You see that? I don't ever want to see you looking like that! You got it? That is not what skiing is supposed to look like." The deal is, I finished, enough said. It was a beautiful blue sky, sunshine day. We topped it off with Addie's first birthday party at the Moose's Tooth. A day well spent. Thank You God. Washed the car and said good bye until May.
Monday this morning we had breakfast at Gwennie's. Caught our plane back to Bethel then on to Quin.
Meanwhile back at the ranch....Justin who had been watching Animosh called with some interesting updates regarding Ani's activities while I was gone. Take a look at what Ani had been up too. Apparently he didn't want to be kept in the entry over night...so he remodeled. Justin found him curled up on the couch the next morning happy as a clam. I fixed it with cardboard and duct tape. What a dog! Welcome home, eh?
"Not a cedar in God's garden came close to it. No pine tree was anything like it. Mighty oaks looked like bushes growing alongside it. Not a tree in God's garden was in the same class of beauty." Ezekiel 31:8