Mushers and the ides of March

Am not sure of the name of this musher, but I caught his entire ensemble (in orange) with Ollie and a friend in the foreground.

Am not sure of the name of this musher, but I caught his entire ensemble (in orange) with Ollie and a friend in the foreground.

Tomorrow I’ll get to watch the finish of the Iditarod in Nome on Alaska’s west coast. But it was fun to catch the start as well. I went with my daughter’s 3rd grade class to the front yard of a classmate. The musher’s trail ran right in front of their house, so we all stood there and shivered and drank hot chocolate and ate hot dogs. Lots of folks were standing around watching each dog-laden sled. Some of the mushers had on crazy hats and nearly all waved to us and we yelled out encouragement. We stuck around for the first 30 mushers but after an hour, the kiddos were freezing, so we had to return to the bus. Would have liked to be closer to the starting line but it was a mob scene there and I heard later that the buses charted by the city got people there more than an hour after the start. If you’re interested in learning more, check out iditarod.com. It’s a race of about 1,000 miles through some really rough terrain in central Alaska and on the coast. As it turns out, I’m working on a magazine piece for The Washington Post that requires me to fly to Nome tomorrow (March 17) for the end of the race, so hopefully I’ll get to see the finishers. The mushers are moving so fast, I might miss the front

Musher Nicholas Petit is racing by us here.

Musher Nicholas Petit is racing by us here. Mushing in sub-zero temps is a lot harder than it looks.

runner, but I’m hoping to stand along Front Street and see some of the others. Veeka, aka Ollie, isn’t going with me but is staying in Fairbanks with a sitter. This week is spring break, so I’m taking a break myself to work on the aforementioned article plus my taxes (!) The latter is the most hated thing I do every March, but since I always get quite a bit of money back, it’s a necessary evil.
One thing I have gotten to do is ski one of the few local downhill ski places there are. This place was called Moose Mountain and you haven’t lived until you’ve skied when it’s 0ºF out! There’s a whole different feel to the air than when it’s in 20s or 30s. Your face just burns, as does your nose. You have to wear some kind of sunglasses or goggles, as your eyes get cold as well. There aren’t real high hills in Fairbanks, but Moose “Mountain” had some really nice hills and a 1,300-foot vertical drop. There was not a lift, but there were school buses that picked you up at the bottom and brought you to the top. Sounds kind of dumb but it worked quite nicely and gave us a chance to warm up on our way to the top (which you don’t get to do on a chairlift). The place was not crowded at all and I had some lovely runs through the birch trees in the late afternoon sun.
One nice piece of news I got last week is that I won a contest for best magazine reporting. There’s a group called the Religion Communicators Council and they award prizes called the Wilburs each year.

Me at Moose Mountain in 0-degree weather despite the sunshine.

Me at Moose Mountain in 0-degree weather despite the sunshine.

I’d done a piece for More magazine on Nadia Bolz-Weber and without my knowing it, More submitted my piece to the contest. I was up against all other writers for major national magazines and I came in first. This link explains it all. The awards ceremony is April 11 in the Washington DC area, so….I decided to go! I have just enough frequent flier miles to get there on two different airlines. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough for Ollie to come along so alas, she must stay with a sitter again. And no, More magazine didn’t offer to help out. My brother Steve won a Wilbur last year for his work for the Oregonian. I had won in the newspaper category in 2002, so I’ve been to their banquets before. They are very dressy affairs. And it will be SO pleasant to be in DC during all the cherry blossoms being out.

journalism, life in Fairbanks, TravelsPermalink

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