Bellies Growling and Races Finishing


Talkeetna, Alaska

-1 degree

Sunday  morning found me nestled quite contently into the home of my good friend Debski. Debski is the world famous cook for the Nome checkpoint. She is an amazing cook and spoils everyone who is lucky enough to find themselves in Nome at Iditarod time.

We spent a lovely day visiting and catching up. She showed me the tables and charts that debskiare used to organize and order all of the people food that is sent out to each checkpoint. Every checkpoint gets food, but only the three largest hub checkpoints get cooks – McGrath, Unalakleet and Nome – and this year they aren’t sending a cook to McGrath as the owner of the cafe is going to cook for everyone!  At the other checkpoints, the volunteers take turns lending a hand with the cooking duties. She also showed me the food lists for the various checkpoints. Some of the things I remember from the list: English muffins, bologna, stew meat, frozen chopped onions, pilot bread, Tang, coffee, peach halves, berries, paper towels, pudding cups, bacon, M&Ms, and cereal bars.

So, I asked Debski, “If you could only take five ingredients from your list with you to Nome, which would you take?” Debski and I have a Chopped Cooking challenge for you to think about:  Suppose you were given her five favorite ingredients, what meal would you create? Remember, as the Chopped rules state, you MUST use all of the basket ingredients in your dish. Here’s her list:

Debski’s Chopped Basket Ingredients:

  • Breakfast sausage
  • Hamburger meat
  • egg beaters
  • spaghetti noodles
  • frozen stew veggies

The weekend’s races wrapped up also. Blayne Streeper ended up winning the Rondy races, and so our rookie didn’t hold on to win this time. Bailey Schaeffer, a 17 year old Inupiaq girl won the Junior Iditarod. One of the super cool things is that as the Junior Iditarod champion, she gets to be the first sled out of the chute for this year’s Iditarod. She will also get to go to Nome for the finisher’s banquet. What an exciting time for her!



Sunday was left as a travel day. The teams had to load up the trucks and drive everyone and everything to Fairbanks for Monday’s Official Restart. It’s about a six hour drive for the teams. I had it easy, I hopped on a plane at 7am for an hour long flight!

Pike’s Landing Lodge and Restaurant is the Iditarod Headquarters for the Fairbanks portion of the race. By the time I arrived, things were in full swing: the store was set up and there were planning meetings happening.

There has been lots of talk about how the Fairbanks Restart would be in comparison to the 2015 start; the last time the race was run out of Fairbanks. One thing predicted to be the same? The cold. It’s COLD in Fairbanks. Really cold. Like Alaska in the winter cold! What is different is that they are going to take a different route out of town… they are going to go right between the hotel and restaurant, taking a sharp right hand turn then a sharp left hand turn to head down on to the river.

2017-03-05 11.23.02My main job for today was to help my good friend Sara check in volunteer dog handlers for the restart. Sara’s official Iditarod job is the Restart Dog Handler Coordinator. In addition to the Musher Handlers (handlers who help out specific mushers and are arranged by the mushers themselves), the Iditarod arranges for ITC Handlers. These are volunteers who will help several teams get to the starting line. There are ITC Handlers who helped out at the Anchorage Start, but with the move to Fairbanks, we needed a whole new crop of handlers. And Fairbanks delivered about a hundred people or so volunteered to be ITC Handlers. As they checked in I gave them the list of rules:

  1. no tennis shoes, cleats, or spikes
  2. no things dangling around necks or from their ears
  3. meet at at the truck in the musher parking lot at 8:30 the next morning

Sara and I wrapped things up for that day at about 6:00, had some dinner, and then tried to get some sleep so we would be all ready for the next day!




Volunteer Gear!

Volunteer Gear!

There probably wouldn’t be an Iditarod Race without the volunteers! I made it a point this year to try to volunteer in as many different areas as I could so I could see the race from as many different points of view as I could. I will be doing most of my volunteer shifts once the race begins, but yesterday I had the chance to do two different shifts, one planned – one spur of the moment! I started yesterday working at the volunteer check-in-desk. All of the people who volunteer for the race have to check in through this desk in one way or another, so I figured it would be a good place to start, meet some interesting people, and learn about volunteering. It was a little quiet at the desk, but I know it will pick up more and more as the race start approaches.

When volunteers came to check in, we had to have them sign some paper work and then we gave them their badge and hat, thanked them for volunteering, and then they went on their way. There are so many ways to volunteer… here are a few that people checked in today for: volunteer desk, communications and stats, phone room, trail blazer, trail guard, dropped dogs, sales desk, banquet hostess, and doctors. One of the volunteers we checked in today was Alan, a vet from New South Wales, Australia. He has volunteered for about five years now and will be giving great care to the dogs at one of the checkpoints along the way.  He doesn’t even know which one yet, but his wife says he’s hoping for Rohn because he hears they cook up really good breakfasts there!

The lady in charge of the volunteers is Sally Smith. Her husband ran the Iditarod two times. She sure has a lot of stuff on her plate, but she is very organized and very well prepared. We looked on the data base and it looked like there are 1,047 people signed up to volunteer this year. In fact, they have stopped accepting volunteers, as they have filled all of the jobs. They start taking volunteer applications for next year’s race in September. We saw volunteers on the list from Australia, Hawaii, Scotland, England, the Lower 48, and of course lots and lots from Alaska.  I told her we needed to find two more so that there were 1,049 volunteers to match the ceremonial number of miles in the race (they say it’s 1,049 miles, but it never is exactly).  That’s like one volunteer per mile!

I worked at the desk with a lady who is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service here in Anchorage.  What a cool job! There are three branches of the NWS here in Alaska and her job is to help forecast the weather. She says that forecasting the weather in Alaska is much different then doing the same job in the Lower 48 because of the Arctic winds, the sea coasts, and the elevation changes. She said she started becoming interested in the weather when she was a little girl. She had a strong interest in math and science (although she admits she didn’t always get the best grades in them in school). She majored in meteorology in college and applied for a job with the NWS in Alaska three times before finally landing her “dream job” here in Anchorage.

My second, unplanned shift, was at the sales desk for the little shop they have set up at the Millennium Hotel. Someone got sick and called out at the last-minute, so I offered to stay. I didn’t buy anything while I was there… but I did make a mental shopping list of things to come back for later!

I met a very unique volunteer while I was there… Angel. Angel and her family are traveling through the United States and have landed in Alaska just in time for the race. Does Angel wish she was running in the Iditarod? I’m not sure, but she was quite the hit at the store with everyone who stopped by. She is a very amazing dog and even has her own blog about her travels:

Angel in her very own volunteer shirt!

Angel in her very own volunteer shirt!

Today I am traveling to Knick Lake to see the start of the Junior Iditarod. The high temperature in Anchorage today is going to be 27 degrees and they are calling for snow again most of the day. I am sure it will be colder out on the Lake. I’ll try to remember to check the temperature while I am there. Here’s the link to the Junior Iditarod page – link. I’ll write more about it later tonight!