Wednesday at the Teacher Conference is traditionally FIELD TRIP DAY!
Trust me… those words bring as much joy and excitement to a group of teachers as it does to a class of third grade boys!
Our first stop was Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla to observe the vet checks. Mushers bring their trucks full of dogs in to have the final vet checks finished before the dogs are sent down the trail. The dogs’ microchips are checked and recorded and vets are on hand to do the final examinations, or, mushers can have the exams done by their own vets and just turn in the paperwork.
There were several mushers on hand yesterday taking advantage of the complimentary exams. Spotted in the crowd were: Matthew Failor, Zoya DeNure, Jason Mackey, Scott Janssen, Anna Berington, Yuka Honda, Al Eichens, Ben Harper, Al Eischens, Charley Bejna, Rick Casillo, Marcelle Fressineau, Cindy Gallea, Karin Hendrickson, Trent Herbst, Brian Wilmhurst, and Thomas Waerner!
As I have come to expect, the vets were thorough, knowledgeable, and careful in their exams. The mushers and vets are a true team who have the best interest in the dogs well-being in mind. The conversations that happened between the two over every single nuance of every single dog was just amazing.
After taking probably a million pictures, collecting autographs, and taking in all of the action… the teachers headed down the trail to a delicious lunch at Settlers Bay. I was thrilled when Monica Zappa texted to say that she and Tim Osmar would be able to join us! When she arrived, I ducked out into the parking lot to welcome her and there was a special surprise… DWEEZIL! She got him out the truck and he and I got to hang out for a few minutes. I told him that TJ and my whole class are his biggest fans! Monica says he will be running the ceremonial start, but will probably not be going out on the trail (GLS boys – don’t worry – you can keep him on your fantasy team!) Monica and Tim came in and greeted the teachers and answered a few questions. She is excited to get back out on the trail for sure. She has a larger sled bag this year, and admitted she probably over packed again… but as Tim pointed out, you need to be prepared for everything and anything. She is really excited to be going to Huslia. Many people have been talking about how amazing it is that the race is going through Huslia, the home of the famous sprint musher George Attla given that he just recently passed away. Also, the new route more closely follows the Serum Run route and it’s the 90th anniversary of the original Serum Run. Both examples of coincidence? Or both examples of divine intervention? Anyway, Monica charmed the teachers and has earned a whole new busload full of fans!
Our final stop for the day was Matt Failor’s 17th Dog Kennel. Matthew seemed a little nervous at first, we were his first busload of “tourists” – but, as with most mushers, once you got him talking about his dogs and his racing he totally relaxed and enjoyed himself! His whole family was there to get ready to send him out on the trail.. in fact, I think there may have been more family members than teachers! His mom made lots of yummy goodies for us! Matthew had all of his gear lined out and graciously allowed the teachers to touch and try on and take pictures and ask questions. But of course, the highlight was when he let the puppies in! Matthew ran his first two races with dogs from Martin Buser’s kennel. Last year he had his first race with his own kennel. This year he started his training program and has had his first litter… they are named after World War II fighter planes: Spitfire, Zero, and Stuka. Matthew also commented about the new trail. He echoed Nathan’s concerns about the river run being boring for the dogs. He commented that on the regular trail there are lots of turns and bumps and things to crash into to keep the dogs excited…. river travel is wider and smoother and straighter. But, he agreed with Monica that going to Huslia is going to be a real treat and he is excited to see some new parts of the state.
Last evening, my friend Kerry and I were able to go to the Bear Tooth Pub to see a movie called The Great Alone. What an amazing piece of film making. A documentary crew followed Lance Mackey on the 2013 race and interspersed with clips that told Lance’s life story. The cinematography was just amazing. It really gave you a sense of the majesty of the land the race goes through and the challenges the mushers face on the trail.
Tonight is the Musher Banquet where the mushers will finally draw their starting numbers! It’s getting closer and closer!