If they ever hold the Iditarod Banquet in your town, you should go. Over 2000 people attended and more than 200 of them had completed the 1000 mile Iditarod dogsled race, so you know the story telling was fast and furious. Jessie was a star with fans asking for her autograph, television crews and journalists asking for interviews, and a gang of Jessie admirers stopping by the table to wish her luck.
What a bunch of characters. Walking past one table, I overheard a guy complain about the banquet food. “My dog team wouldn’t eat this stuff,” he said. The guy next to him said, “Give it to me then. My dogs would eat it and the plate and the spoon.” The prime rib was great by the way. There was a lot of talk about a place on the trail called Dalzell Gorge where the trail is steep, narrow, and winding, and it drops precipitously onto a partially frozen stream. Mushers were standing around quietly discussing strategies for tackling the obstacle. I asked Jessie how she planned to approach Dalzell Gorge. Jessie said, “Oh, gee, I don’t know. I’m counting on Ranger or one of my lead dogs to figure it out.”
One 3rd-time entrant, “The Mushing Mortician,” Scott Jannssen, a mortician in Anchorage, advised fellow racers to be careful during the race. He plans on resting afterward and he doesn’t want any extra work.
I’m staying in Wasilla, a few doors down from Sarah and Todd Palin, who will get words of thanks and encouragement from me if I end up standing next to them in line at McDonalds. Jessie and crew and dogs are in Eagle River, with the family of Aleah, 17 year old winner of Montana’s Race to the Sky. We’re getting together to make final preparations, check dog harnesses, purchase last minute supplies, etc. Aleah says Jessie is compulsive about packing her sled, and she expects Jessie to pack and repack her sled a half a dozen times today in preparation for the Iditarod Race start tomorrow.
We will keep you posted through the start of the race.