Sunday, December 21, 2014

At perhaps checkpoint two...

To the left, I am communing with Quito, Aliy's wonderful little lead dog. She has such a sweet face and wise eyes. Her full sister Chico is the mother of the Alaskan Ginger. BTW the story of this litter, born the first of August or about then is amazing. It is available on the SP Kennel's web site and will make you cry but also rejoice. Here is the link:
http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2014-08-19T07:30:00-08:00&max-results=10&start=50&by-date=false
Sorry it is so long; I need to learn how to do the mini-link versions! But this is a powerful story for us dog lovers.

In terms of my personal race, I'm maybe just past the second checkpoint or so. It is cold and dark and the long, hard trail stretches out into the distance, mostly unseen and only imagined for the hard and the smooth spots it holds. As Tolkien said, the road goes even on. My far distant place waits ahead...

I've almost finished Mary Shields' book and have a new order from Amazon coming in the next few days of a number of relevant tomes. I read Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry which a friend turned me on to. As a mystery it did not seem to be on a par with some of my favorite authors' work such as Hillerman and J.A. Jance or Margaret Coel but she got most of the race stuff right. I will give her an "E" for effort and perhaps an A- for research and making the atmosphere live. Mysteries are hard to write; so far I have not managed one!

Yesterday a friend and I had a book signing at a small local store which sells used books to help support the city library. We gave a donation from our sales although they were not colossal.  The highlight of my day was a lady who bought a book but then saw my poster about The Admirable Snowwomen which is kind of a working title for my book. She picked up my brochure about this project and read my poem aloud; we both teared up. I do not think she has ever been in Alaska as I hadn't this time last year but she wants to and is another desert rat Iditarod fan. That poem was a gift to me, channeled from the minds and spirits of many who've run that incredible race. I do feel a lot from it and most readers seem to as well. Thank you to the folk whose hearts and spirits shared the emotions and visions with me. I pray for your continued help as I go on with this effort that means so much to me.

If you missed it the first time, here it is again:

Iditarod

Iditarod: far, distant place.
A dream. A myth. A trail. A race.

Beneath aurora blazing bright,
Through cold and wind and long, dark night.
Cheering crowds at start and end
But in between, rare is the friend
Who braves the wild to aid or say,
They’re with you in spirit along that way.
Out on that trail, just you and your team
The elements battle to chase this dream.

Those dogs on which your life depends,
Now closer and dearer than kin or friends.
Together, such trust and faith you share
For only true teamwork will get you there.
There are no losers; all winners complete.
Your goal you’ve reached and it feels so sweet.
Despite the pain and the tears you spend,
Somehow you hate to see it end.

Iditarod: far, distant place.
A goal, a dream, a test, a race.


© GMW 25 Aug 14

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Homesick" for Alaska

Even if I have never lived there, I really miss the place!! My friend and heroine Mary Shields quoted from Robert Service in her book, Sled Dog Trails which I am reading: "And I want to go back -- and I will," Yes, oh very much yes!!

By the way, Sled Dog Trails is a delightful read, full of Mary's humor and unique outlook on everything. She's a treasure! The children's books Mary wrote are precious too and I've got a set for my great granddaughter over in Tucson for Christmas. They are about kids and dogs, of course!

It is ironic that the gray dull days here depress me--but then they are not 'normal' or expected. I think I could handle them better in Alaska where they are a rule rather than an exception. We seem to be having quite a few which make the fair and warm ones even more treasured.

I feed my Alaska longing by following some of my other heroines on their blogs and Facebook pages. It is a busy time for the mushers as they work and train their dogs, deal with injuries and the special care needed to get their teams up to peak performance for the race season which will be starting very soon. There is not a lot of snow down around Wasilla and Willow yet and not a huge amount near Fairbanks but they are all working. I read and absorb every word!

Right now it is looking iffy to get to Fairbanks for the ending of the Yukon Quest but I have not given up hope. I got a private donation of sorts that boosted my account from the rather discouraging level on my Go Fund Me page although surprises appear there periodically for which I am fiercely grateful. If it is to be, it will work out. Maybe the Iditarod in March will be possible.

It is still mostly fall here in south central New Mexico, "the promised land" as my equally desert rat brother calls it. I took photos of the golden cottonwood trees in the town's Alameda Park yesterday and then went to another site to get a picture of my Ginger, the future sled-dog Ginger's doggie God Mother pretending she, too, was going to be a sled dog. No, not snow although the white gypsum sand at the White Sands National Monument almost looks the same. But for the blue mountains in the background instead of white capped, it could be the north lands...  I want to go back--and I will!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sled Dog Quilt is done

I put the binding on it today and did the tying through to secure the layers. I probably could quilt on my heavy duty Singer machine but I do not try to; I mess up too much as it is! Well, I'll just say I have learned from the Navajo women weavers who always put a small subtle error into their rugs because if they ever make a perfect one, it will be their last!

Usually I sell or give away my quilt projects but this one is going to stay with me "forever." Several special pieces of fabric in it were bought in Wasilla, Talkeetna and Fairbanks on my summer trip. I'm entertaining the idea of taking it with me on my next trip and getting the autographs of some of my favorite lady mushers in the lighter colored solid areas. Like all my quilts, this one is two-sided so there is no "front" or "back".



Anyway I will share some pictures of it. I also will share that I have enough fabric left that I can probably make a second one in the near future and that one just may be raffled off via my gofundme page or elsewhere to add some much needed funds to that slow-growing stash for the future trips. Yes, I continue to look for potential help--most of the grants for writers are really not well suited for this project but somewhere there is someone who will take a chance on an older lady and her big dream, on this very special project that I know needs to be done! Just as I know I am the one who needs to do it.

Be sure to follow Aliy's great blog at the SPDoglog (http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/) and her facebook page. Lisbet Norris also has both as does Paige Drobney and several of the other lady mushers. I'll share some URLs next time for those.

It's getting cold and snowy around Fairbanks now and of course down around Denali Park so the dogs are starting their training. The race season begins with some shorter runs after the first of the year. The Copper Basin 300 (miles) is one of the early ones and Aliy, her husband Allen Moore, and a new dog handler they have on the staff are all going to run in it. You can bet I will be following the action! Then Yukon Quest kicks off in February--the "other big race" which is often billed as the toughest race on earth for good reason so expect to hear a lot more about that one! Allen has won it a number of times and will start as the defending champ this time. Aliy won once several years ago, one of a very few if not the only woman to do so (need to research this some more) but she now concentrates on the Iditarod.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Alaskan Ginger is growing so fast!

I was just over to visit the SP Kennel Dog Log page and found that all the dogs in Aliy and Allen's kennel have new photos being posted. There was a shot of the photographer, whose name is Jeanne, holding "my" special fave puppy Ginger. I could not believe how that little girl has grown since I was there on August 10! Here is a link to the page. http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/

The photo is not mine to share although I grabbed it for my personal file but you can scroll down just a little bit at SP's page and see it. It's also on Aliy's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aliy.zirkle

There is also a good new portrait of Quito, my other fave of the SP dogs. I'm a 'fan' of both of them since I cannot be a sponsor for Ginger--too many ahead of me :-( but that is okay. That one still has a doggie God Mother in New Mexico named Ginger also!! They are both kind of red but my Ginger is definitely not a Husky of any kind.  She is still a special girl though and my 'baby' but it is neat to know she has a namesake in Alaska!!

On another note I have started the Alaska sled dog lap robe quilt for which I got some special pieces of fabric while on my trip. Like all my quilts, it will be fully two sided--no plain back with just one pattern or color of material--and the front is almost complete while the back is coming along. When I get it finished, there will definitely be pictures! It's going to be a special souvenir and inspiration for me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time to check in

I've been scrambling around looking for other sources of funding but that is a slow and complex process. Does anyone answer plain old letters anymore???Otherwise there is not a lot of "Alaska news" right now except on my daily walks with my two red dogs--including Ginger who has a doggie God-daughter in Alaska--I've seen that a ubiquitous Alaska plant also grows here. Yes, there is Fire Weed in New Mexico! I found it in my western weed book and it seems to grow all over. It's most commonly found as early growth in sites where there have been wild fires but it also grows many other places. The magenta flowers are quite distinctive. Of course we have lots of other fall flowers blooming now after the late rains.

It was a very wet late summer and early fall here in the desert southwest, at least from Tucson, Arizona to Alamogordo, NM. I paid a visit to my old home area--from Tucson south and east in Arizona--last weekend and did not see any Fire weed there but it does grow here. I thought that was kind of amazing! Here is a picture of it in the Wasilla area but it looks exactly the same here although not quite as thick and plentiful, mostly an isolated plant or two.

I have a customized weather.com page in my bookmarks and include Wasilla and Fairbanks in the towns I can check for current conditions. At midday Fairbanks was below freezing so I am sure that is making the mushers happy! Now if they just get some snow but at least they can be training some with their carts and ATVs now which is good. The dogs just cannot work at temperatures up in the 60-70 degree range. I am hoping for a good snowy winter this year for them.

Actually there has been a bit of snow in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico already so winter is coming even in our vicinity. Normally we expect the first frost by right around Halloween--which is exactly two weeks from tonight. The village of Cloudcroft, just sixteen miles from my carport but some 4,000 feet higher, could have some snow soon and probably has seen at least a light frost. TV indicated that fall color has come to the Sacramento Mountains which are close behind me here, to the east of our valley.

I think there are some other Iditarod fans in the local area and am trying to figure a way to reach out to them. Personals in the newspaper or some of the local sites like Freecycle and Holloman Yard Sale dot com? Hmm, maybe stand down on White Sands with a placard--"Honk if you love sled dogs." LOL.

It was odd--last spring shopping in Wallyworld, which is almost the only game in town, I passed a couple wearing t-shirts that read, "Safety, the last check point." It took a minute, for I  first thought of on-the-job safety, but then it dawned: Yes! OMG--Iditarod's final check point. I looked all over the store but did not find them again. Bummer. I surely wish I would see them and any others. Maybe I need to make myself a t-shirt and wear it whenever I go to town.

Anyway, please come visit often; I will try to update frequently and hope to have some exciting things to report before too long. I have by no means given up or stopped working on this. It's just that life and other obligations tend to take my time up a lot some days.

I will share a verse I wrote a few weeks back about the race, based on some of the things I heard from various mushers and have seen on the videos I have been watching on it.

Iditarod

Iditarod: far, distant place.
A dream. A myth. A trail. A race.

Beneath aurora blazing bright,
Through cold and wind and long, dark night.
Cheering crowds at start and end
But in between, rare is the friend
Who braves the wild to aid or say,
They’re with you in spirit along that way.
Out on that trail, just you and your team
The elements battle to chase this dream.

Those dogs on which your life depends,
Now closer and dearer than kin or friends.
Together, such trust and faith you share
For only true teamwork will get you there.
There are no losers; all winners complete.
Your goal you’ve reached and it feels so sweet.
Despite the pain and the tears you spend,
Somehow you hate to see it end.

Iditarod: far, distant place.
A dream, a goal, a test, a race.


© GMW 25 Aug 14

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Last of the Trip

And then, back at Wasilla, I passed my last few days in Alaska--for this trip!! Now it's been six plus weeks--seems much longer but looking ahead is like waiting for Christmas when I was a child. I hope so much that I can get back for the two big races! You can bet I will be giving that my best try.

It has now snowed a little around Fairbanks--maybe at Skunk's Place and Squid Acres and Mary's Tails of the Trail. And perhaps even some around Wasilla. I wish them lots of snow in the coming months and good training as winter rolls in. All the mushers I met and their great dogs feel like friends now and I want to be with them again.

Aug 15
Yesterday was fairly uneventful.I spent quite a lot of time at the Fairbanks airport since I had to turn the rental car in at the midday hour I had picked it up and my flight was not until late afternoon. Airports are rather fascinating for people watchers and most of us writers are people watchers. I made a game of deciding whether people were tourists or locals or at least long term Alaskans. No way to verify my guesses but it was fun. I read some, wrote some--just rambling impressions and emotions as I started the long journey home, with a stop back here in Wasilla.

Sadly although I was on the west side of the southbound plane, there were a lot of clouds and I did not get a peek at the peak--although I looked almost all the time. It only takes an hour, a trip of about 350 miles that would take a long day by car on the highway even in good weather. But if I do get back say in early fall next year there is a chance I may try it and make a stop in the Denali National Park. I did want my own photo of  the Big One but that was not to be although I got a number of post cards etc. which of course were better views than I could expect out a plane window!

Again it was one of the Q400 prop planes. It is strange after many years of jet flying to travel in such a plane.It is actually less noisy I think than a jet and I was sitting even with the wing and not that far from the engine on both flights The propeller--which is huge--is spinning so fast it blurs and you can pretty much see through it with just a faint distortion. All in all a rather novel experience.

This time I got an economy car, and it was the costliest of the trip for the least time but it was too late to catch the bus from Anchorage to Wasilla and I was not going to ask my hostess to pick me up again and then return me on Sunday evening so I left the airport around 7:00 pm, still in sunshine, driving. a silver gray Chevy "Spark." It  is kind of a mini-mini crossover, boxy, four door and a hatch back. Low and feels like you are riding in a boxed up skateboard LOL. But it got me up the highway back to Wasilla and back to the house on the lake. I was tired, no question.

Later today I went to the Wasilla PO and got some priority boxes (my hostess's very good idea) and packed up the books, prezzies and souvenirs and sent them on their way to Alamogordo. They will arrive a little bit ahead of me in all likelihood and I got money's worth out of one large flat rate box! It must have weighed twenty pounds! The other was not as heavy. Tomorrow my extra clothes and such start home, probably by UPS. I need to finish packing that and tape it up tonight.

It was drizzly much of the day and a few harder rains so I did not try to do anything else. I am  not sure if the city library is open tomorrow or not. If it is I may drop in and see if they have any more recent Iditarod year books since the Fairbanks collection ended in the early 90s. Of course they are more focused toward the Yukon Quest which is "their" race.

Aug 17
It was gray and drizzly this morning, kind of depressing, but I got my big box of clothes and personal stuff over to the UPS place and sent it home for less than I sent it here.  It is kind of going slow boat LOL but that is okay; it will get there in a week plus which is soon enough.

Then my hostess and I talked crafts and stuff for awhile. She makes some really neat dream catchers on caribou antlers--shed ones, not from killing caribou--and some jewelry like anklets with a toe loop.They are kind of like the slave bracelet linked to a ring but for the foot! We puttered around in the yard after lunch and then the sun came out some and she said, "Let's go up to Hatcher Pass." It's in some of the  higher mountains on the far side--NW--of Palmer and there is an old gold mine which is a state park and tourist place now. WE didn't wander around there--you have to pay a park fee and it was later in the afternoon--but took picture that show some real Alaska type mountains and a rushing stream, the Little Susitna River. It was a lovely drive and a nice end to my adventures. Tomorrow I will drive back down to Anchorage and hang out at the airport for a bit and then get on my flight to LAX and hence on to El Paso and then home.

Yes, I am eager to get there, pet my two beloved Red Doglets and fall into my own bed and start to recover LOL. I may get the last photos downloaded this evening but no guarantee. And tomorrow/Monday will be a very long day. But it will end with me home and more memories than I can sort out in a few hours. And I will be back; next early fall if not before. I have a new 'little sister' here in Wasilla and other new Alaskan friends and that is special too.

Aug 22
I kind of dropped the ball but I'll explain why! My final day in Alaska went by fast and nicely but the trip back to New Mexico was a bit of a challenge. I left my hostess's home in Wasilla about 1:00 pm and drove by the back roads down to Anchorage--Eklutna (neat little Russian cemetery  there but no pix as they had no parking signs everywhere) and on to Chugiak and Eagle River, now actually pretty much Anchorage "suburbs."  I also stopped at the Native Heritage Center just on the northern outskirts of the city. There was not time to really take it all in and turn my rental car in on time so I just visited the gift shop briefly--yikes, very pricey! I'll save the museum etc. for next time.

Anyway, got my car turned in and was of course very early so had to wait outside security until I could check my suitcase four hours before the flight and then finally upstairs and out to the gate area. I people-watched and read a bit. There was a very intoxicated old man who appeared to be at least part Native loudly proclaiming that he was straight and also drunk. It was funny but a little creepy too. I think security finally took him away. How he got through the TSA I have no idea but maybe he hit the bar on the inside of the check-in point.

Finally it was time to board and I settled into my seat, sharing the row with a young couple. At least no lap dog this time! I managed to catnap a little -- maybe 2-3 hours total--and we landed at LAX shortly after sunrise. I hope I never fly through that mad place again! There was lots of construction and perhaps some other issue as my American/Alaskan Air (kind of a joint thing)  flight landed at the Delta terminal. From there I finally found I had to take a shuttle bus to American and then another one to the American Eagle commuter terminal from which the smaller plane would take me to El Paso.

By then sleep deprivation and some dehydration were hitting. An hour touring the flight line (jet fumes are nasty!) in a diesel-belching bus took their toll on my allergies, especially eyes. By the time I landed in El Paso, I was as bleary-eyed as when I had the infection last year. So I had to take a couple of days using lots of eye drops and sleeping quite a bit to get back to semi-normal. But I was home and my two red dogs were very glad to see me and to snuggle on the bed or in my recliner while I rested. They were very comforting.

Looking back, it really was an amazing and marvelous trip! I am already planning to go back and will be working every angle I can find to make that happen in a few months to a year. Meanwhile though, I have close to 300 photos to be sorted out--there will be a new page on Facebook and on Pinterest soon and I will share links once I have those set up.

I'm sending out thank you notes and such, and will be pursuing some financial assistance along several routes. Also getting back to my other writing as well as starting to put together bits and pieces of Women of the Iditarod (working title as I want one with more oomph for the final version!) More on all that later. Thanks for traveling with me vicariously; that has its benefits as no airline miles are involved LOL.

More photos in a bit. Here is one of me that Gail took on our trip up to Hatcher Pass Saturday afternoon, the 16th. I'm looking over the Little Susitna River.  I wore that purple shirt-jacket everywhere; now it is very special with a dog track or two and lots of memories invisibly woven into the flannel.




Wrapping up Fairbanks Days, Aug 11-13

Here are parts of a couple of August posts that I made on my other blog just to continue the narrative of my trip.

***
Aug 11
My research today was more the book kind, I paid a visit to the Fairbanks Public Library and went through several shelves of books in the "SLED DOG" category. The bad news may be there are an awful lot of them, good, bad and indifferent if not downright ugly! The good news is there does not seem to be anything even close to what I plan to do. I skimmed many, read blurbs and noted who was involved and then made an extensive list to try to get thru inter-library loan and buy a few and start to compile a bibliography. I haven't done serious semi-scholarly writing in a while but I think I still recall how.

I finally located where the museum I wanted to see used to be but they are closed and moving. Not sure where the new site is but may be able to find it and whether or not they are open again. That was frustrating!! I went back to Pioneer Park and rode the little train around the park; seniors only have to pay a buck! I also went thru an art exhibit I had not looked at the first day and chatted with the volunteer who is also a quilter and told me where the fabric and quilt shops were in town.  Did locate one and got two fat quarters with northern lights design in colors that will compliment my planned Alaska Musher quilt. And a pattern for Mary Shield's summer parka. Then I came back to the hostel and have loafed in the grassy quiet back yard since about 3:30. I needed a kind of down day to pull myself together, get some notes down and just veg a little. It has been very hectic. Not sure what the schedule will be for the two last days but I think I have about run out of people to see and even close places to go but I will find something to do for sure.

***
Aug 12
I woke up to a drizzle today and it rained fitfully much of the day. Went up to the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska campus. It's one of the few I've visited here that has an admission fee but it is pretty impressive so I guess worth the cost. Even have to pay to park. I do recognize though that it costs plenty to operate and maintain such a facility.

They have a vast, varied and voluminous display of Alaska by region--flora and fauna, native peoples, artifacts and art and history. I took a lot of pictures which they allow. A few I got reflections off glass over displays but most of them were fairly good at first review.

I was especially taken by the basketry, beadwork and varied garments of the different native people.  I guess during the winter, if they were lucky enough to stock up on and cache food for the winter, they had time to do detailed and exquisite work. I was also impressed at similarities in some of the motifs although I do know basic geometrics are used by many in varied and diverse places. And the weavings of some, mostly the Tlingit people I believe, were beautiful too. I'm not sure at once how to incorporate such designs into any of my art and craft projects but I am sure something will occur to me  in time.

I spent close to three hours in the various galleries and displays and my legs got tired before I really saw it all thoroughly. Very impressive and well worth a look IMHO. I did see subtle connections that link the Navajo and Apache people to their distant Athabascan kin. That even extended to a sample Native house at the Pioneer Park that bears a strong resemblance to a traditional hogan with a faceted circular structure and a doorway faced east.

Apparently the Eskimo were the first to use sled dogs--again I recall from anthropology classes reading about eastern and plains tribes in the old US region who used dogs to pull drag-able pole travois to haul their goods. I suspect the women were the ones to tame and train the dogs because otherwise they would have been the beasts of burden. That might be worth mentioning in my book about the lady mushers. They may be carrying on a very old tradition. Yes, men used the sleds to hunt and haul in meat, but I'd lay a bet the women used them when it came time to move camp.

Otherwise there was not much on mushing but a lot on many facets of Alaska and life up here to include the gold rush and building of the railroad, main highway and later the pipeline. There was also a bit about the internment of Japanese and  Aleut people from out on the Aleutian chain and especially on Unalaska where a writer friend of mine lives now. That was kind of a downer and I went on by after a short time; not anything we as Americans can be proud of but in wartime many bad things are and will continue to be done. I'm not sure how to fix that.

The end approaches and I will be glad to be home among familiar things, pet my own puppies and try to sort out all the amazing impressions and experiences I have enjoyed.  But as I keep saying, a part of me is already drawn to a return; there is so much more to see and do and of course more dogs, the actual races and many mushers I have not yet met. Must go to Denali for real and maybe even a little farther north though I am not sure I want to go all the way to the Arctic Circle! But never say never. Also down to the Kenai and perhaps even the far southeast area... I am a little sorry I did not get started on all this this much sooner. Were I twenty years younger... well shoot. But I have been here and I shall, like McArthur, return!!

And below you have the Native house I mentioned, the Antler Arch near the Golden Heart Plaza and First Family stature and the Yukon Quest Headquarters Building. The race starts on even years on the frozen Chena River just behind me where I shot the picture of that traditional sod roofed log cabin.The locals pronounce that with a long e, like Cheena btw.









***
Aug 13
This is really a pretty town and fairly easy to get around in. But for the winters which I am sure would take some major adjustments for this desert rat, I could live here. With a solid vehicle with snow tires I could probably even get around most of the time. In the summer it is really lovely with the flowers and is mostly pretty clean and people are mostly friendly too.There are trains--I hear them night and day--the long days of summer are very inviting and inspiring.

I spent more time at the library today and then took a final drive up into the hills to the north east to the area of an old mining camp called Fox. My only real disappointment with the scenery is that the trees are so thick and even on a ridge top there is no view.I am reminded of Kentucky and North Carolina in that regard. You saw my pix of the mountains around the Prince William Sound on which Anchorage sits and Wasilla is just above but here it is a valley and the hills just roll away gradually higher and higher. Not looming and impressive.

So tomorrow I will fly back south and the final days will zip by. I need to pack and ship a couple of boxes by Saturday and maybe I can visit the Wasilla library and see if they have any mushing stuff that Fairbanks lacks. Other than that, not much left to be done. I am a bit tired; it has been hectic and busy but I feel I have made progress, less perhaps than I had hoped or wished but a good start.

Once I get home I will focus on fund raising efforts, taking stock of where I am and what else is needed and then lay out the next stage or two of the program. Of course other things will intervene such as stories to be written and sewing, my exercise classes, and the various normal chores. I'll be a few days getting back into that, I am sure. But I will. And life will go on with its normal joys and sorrows and frustrations and all the rest! But I did it; I set a goal that seemed very pie in the sky and I believed and made it happen!! The "theme" for that book to be is Dream it, Dare it, DO it!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sept 28, Rabies Awareness Day

I know the mushers are all responsible dog owners and all their dogs must have current vaccinations to compete but this is still an issue of critical importance to everyone who works with animals and folks who spend a lot of time out in the woods, mountains and deserts because many wild animals are infected and some seem to be carriers without appearing to be ill. Rabies is a very dangerous and nasty disease and we all need to know about it so I am passing along this article from a farm magazine. We'll get back to mushing and Alaska next post, I promise!

Rabies Awareness Day, September 28

Although the rabies virus is commonly known for causing a life-threatening disease, many people are unaware of what exactly it entails and how to prevent its transmission. In honor of World Rabies Day on September 28th, here is some information to help further raise awareness about rabies and how to help protect your family and pets from this deadly disease.
Rabies is an infection affecting the central nervous system, or brain and spinal cord, of humans and animals. This infection is caused by a virus that is transmitted primarily from bites, wounds, scratches, or tissue from an infected animal. It is nearly always deadly if not treated before the beginning of symptoms.
“Symptoms include fever, lethargy, seizures, and ultimately paralysis,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “This paralysis can include paralysis of the muscles that control swallowing, leading to a ‘fear of water’ or ‘hydrophobia’ that is often described with rabies.” Behavior changes leading to abnormally aggressive behavior may also occur.
Since humans and animals alike usually become infected through a bite by a rabid animal, many believe that it will be easy to tell when or if the disease has been spread to them. However, it is entirely possible for rabies to be transmitted to you or your pet unknowingly. Bat bites or scratches, for example, may be so miniscule that they go unnoticed.
“Bats are the most common carriers of rabies in the United States,” said Dr. Eckman.  “It is important to always avoid any contact with them. If you have come into contact with a bat, inform animal control officers in your area so they can submit the bat for testing, if possible, and contact your doctor.”
Although bats are the biggest threat to humans, household dogs can easily contract the disease if bitten by another infected dog or animal.
“Worldwide, dogs are a common transmitter of the disease via bite wounds,” said Dr. Eckman. “But it can also affect humans, cats, farm animals, raccoons, and many other warm-blooded animals.”
The time from exposure to the virus until symptoms appear is usually only a few months, and unfortunately, once symptoms begin, there is little hope in humans for survival.
“There are treatments that can be given after a bite and before symptoms begin (post-exposure) that are useful,” said Dr. Eckman. “They include human rabies immunoglobulin, followed by a series of rabies vaccines given over a two-week period.”  These shots help the body's immune system destroy the disease in its early stages, and getting them before symptoms appear is usually helpful in preventing infection.
However, prevention is always said to be the best treatment, and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to the rabies virus. The easiest method of prevention is to always steer clear of unknown or aggressive animals. This includes avoiding contact with stray dogs, bats, or any wild animals, as well as avoiding the handling of a dead animal.
Depending on the situation, preventative rabies vaccinations may also be a recommended method.
“Vaccination can greatly reduce the risk of infection for people who have a high risk of exposure, such as those who work with animals, including veterinarians,” said Dr. Eckman. “Companion animals and farm animals should be appropriately vaccinated by a veterinarian.”
If you think that you or someone in your family has been exposed to the rabies virus, wash the affected area with soap and water for five minutes after potential exposure and seek immediate medical attention. Rabies is more common than you might think, and preventing its transmission to you or your loved ones is the most effective form of treatment. 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aug 10, of Dogs and Celtic knots

Another re-post about the August 2014 trip. This one sets forth a very special day that was, as I say, a real highlight of my trip. It was amazing to actually meet and talk to Aliy and then to find her one girl puppy this year is named Ginger really put the cherry on my Sundae--and it was Sunday, too!
***
This afternoon I made it out to Skunk's Place, Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore's kennel. Skunk was her first sled dog and the name commemorates him, Aliy is just as real, sweet and funny as I had expected, totally warm and genuine and her smile could light up a room. She is one of those rare women who are beautiful for the light that shines out from inside them. She loves her dogs and loves everything she is doing and it shows. Her husband is a great guy too and they make a real and powerful team. I even met her parents who are wonderful folks about my age. They now winter in Florida but summer in Alaska and help support the SP Kennel efforts in many ways and their "grand dogs."

Aliy and Allen do not farm dogs out in the summer as they say the dogs can pick up bad habits and get confused by different handlers and different ways of running them even with hand picked people so they stay home. They get to vacation in the summer because they do not do well in heat and just take free walks and such, no pulling. Then in September the actual training cycle will start again.

They breed most of their own dogs and have a plan on that but occasionally go outside and pay a stud fee to get a specific bloodline or trait strengthened and prevent too much line breeding. Just one litter this year, four boys and one girl about four weeks old. You will never guess what the little girl's name is!! Would you believe Ginger?? I got a photo of Aliy holding her. I have to tell my Ginger that she may have a namesake running in the big ones in a couple of years. So see what I mean by Celtic knots? What were the odds of this happening? Sled dogs get all sorts of names from mythology to sports and TV figures, goofy ones like the puppies Mary Shields is fostering and so on. But Ginger--you could have knocked me down with a feather!!

I was part of a small tour group, several of which Aliy knew or knew of and even one of her old high school buddies from down in the lower 48 but I got a little one on one time with both her and Allen and the parents and got hugged twice and a picture together. All in all I was a kid meeting my rock star or sports hero and even got a pic with little Quito, Aliy's fantastic little lead dog; I think she will be retired soon but she has been awesome. Everyone was enthused about the book plan and that was very validating to me, also. So without a doubt this was the highlight of my trip but it has all been great and there are a few days to go yet. There is no doubt I have to come back and that is a good goal to march toward, the next checkpoint so to speak. This race of mine is far from over but I'm off to a great start!!

A week from tonight I will be getting to the Anchorage airport about now to turn in my last rental car and wait for my late night flight back to the desert. It is still my beloved home but Alaska has definitely taken a foothold in my heart, especially the wonderful dogs.

Monday, September 15, 2014

August 8, Adventures in Fairbanks

Note: For readers here who may not have heard about all of my plans for the Alaska trip, let me explain that Mary Shields is truly a legend in her own time. She was the first woman to complete the Iditarod, doing this the second year of the race, 1974. Then, when the Yukon Quest was started about a decade later, she also completed it several times, the first woman to do that as well. Of course I had to see her!

***

I called Mary Shields while I was eating breakfast and she could get me into a tour today so I decided to strike while the proverbial iron was hot. I already knew the way for the most part but asked directions again. Turned out I had passed her sign and gone too far up the last road yesterday but today I found it easily.
  
Mary herself is precious, a kind of hippie grandmother, but this  lady has done some fantastic things. Back in 1974 she decided it would be fun to run the brand new Iditarod mostly because it was a chance to cover a whole lot of new territory with her sled and dogs! At the start in Anchorage some spectator shouted to her to turn around now and stop while she could. She got her dander up and thought no darn way! So she ran the whole thing, finished in the middle of the pack just ahead of her frenemy, Lolly Medley, (the two were the first women to attempt and complete the race)  Mary then turned around and mushed back over half way home until the thawing Yukon stopped her and she had to be flown the rest of the way. She has also done the Yukon Quest and a special international trek across the Bering Straits to kind of commemorate the migration of the early people from Asia to the western hemisphere.

She came out from Wisconsin to work for the Campfire Girls one summer in the early sixties before she finished college; the next year she stayed. She decided she wanted to build a cabin and live in the woods but ended up rehabbing an old existing cabin and staying there for a while about half way down the train track to the Denali Park but then ended up in the Fairbanks area.She now has a gorgeous log cabin that is more of a neat, modern house inside but made of huge birch logs a foot or so in diameter. It also has a sod roof with wild berries growing on it! I took one shot outside but felt it would be too intrusive to take pix inside. She also has a beautiful flower garden with some veggies mixed in that is her pride and joy. I am just blown away by the flowers up here. They are astounding—everywhere you go.

She still keeps four dogs and may try for a litter in the spring with one female and keep a pup or two since one of the four is getting old and she has lost three the last two years, She still takes them out camping in the winter and drives them several times a week in the winter as well. She has a heavy old style sled she uses most, not a racing sled. She is also boarding three pups, litter mates, for a friend and they are terrors but adorable.

She has twenty acres up in the hills above town, about eight miles out by my rough figures, but most of it is in woods. It is peaceful and serene. There are neighbors but not wall to wall. I’m not sure I could do the winters—she says there is about four hours of sun in the midwinter time. That would bother me more than the cold, I think in truth.

But she is an amazing lady and full of incredible stories, very warm and caring and a confirmed ecologist or preservationist. I’m not sure what her major was in college but likely something related to that as it began to become popular when she and I were at that age—we are a bit over a year apart. Now she is not anti-racing per se but does feel too many resources are spent on it and it is far too commercial and such. In a way I have to  agree even if it has totally captured my fancy for some time now.

We discussed time. She took twenty eight days to go the route in 1974. She attributes most of the speed now to the breeding programs with more speed and less lugging "tractor power" in the dogs and some of the technology applied. That makes sense to me.

When I got back to the hostel in the afternoon and checked my email, I had a confirmation from Aliy ZIrkle to visit Skunk's Place, her kennel, on Sunday. It has been in the mid 70s today and a bit breezy. Fantastic weather although not so good for sled dogs. They tend to be pretty lethargic and no one runs them when it is warm.

Here is a shot of Mary, one of her cabin, one in the dog yard and one of her flowers!



Monday, September 8, 2014

More from the past--Wasilla to Anchorage to Fairbanks, 7 Aug

The day began very early and was full of potential little glitches but in each case the saints or angels who help travelers were right there for me. It is kind of amazing. really. I drove my rental down to turn in and had understood they were open 24/7 but not true. I managed with a phone call and then called a cab to go the couple of miles to where the bus stopped.That was fine and I got safely to Anchorage but sorting out the city busses was a bit more complex. When I finally got the right one I only had a $20 and they do not do change. The driver pitied me and gave me a free ride worth $2. I told him I would pay it forward. See what I mean??

I sailed through security and then had quite a time to wait before boarding.The plane was actually a big prop plane, not a jet! Two rows on either side of the aisle. I was sitting with a German couple and their son. He seemed to speak English ok and read it but she  not so much. I got a good look at Denali/McKinley but was on the wrong side of the plane to take any photos. That is one impressive mountain. It had clouds about half way up but this massive white bulk rose up from them like a ragged edged cloud itself. That was really awesome, in the turest sense of the word! Makes the biggest Colorado 14K peaks look like hills.  No, I do not want to climb it or even go out there really but I did want to see it.Now I have.

Landed in Fairbanks in just over an hour--faster and easier than driving up the Alaska 1 although that might have been fun. I was supposed  to get a little economy car but they had none so I am driving a Dodge minivan for the same price.I expect it may use more gas but I do not cringe from the big pickups and SUVs anyway! And that is what almost all Alaskans drive.

I found my lodging--very utilitarian but will do for the cost--$210 for a week when a lot of places are that for a day. Then I drove around. There was a musher's museum shown on the map but it really does not exist--if it ever did but a guy walking a dog there gave me  a couple of leads that were helpful. I have  general directions to Mary Shield's  place which I followed enough to know where to go when I set a time to meet with her.

Then I went to the fair, which is still ongoing through the weekend. I located the Iditarod booth and actually met Joanne Potts, the volunteer coordinator I hoped to see the end of next week in Wasilla and the third of the young female mushers who was with Lisbet Norris, not the Red Lantern winner who is from Canada but another young woman from Norway, or at least with Norwegian ties. So that was quite serendipity too. I will call Joanne after I get home probably since she will not be back at ITC Hqs as quickly as Donna Olson had said.

By then I was tired and came back to the hostel, picking up a few microwave dishes etc. at Safeway so as not to eat fast food out all the time. Healthier as well as cheaper. Sharing the room with one young woman of Oriental ancestry but she has studied in England and other places and quite cosmopolitan.Also met a young man from Australia who's thumbing, bumming and sometimes getting tickets to travel all around the north and will be going on to Canada tomorrow. So in a way it is interesting to stay a place like this and meet some young people from many places having their own adventures.

Since there are no new pictures today I will drop in a couple of cute "Husky" shots that I lifted from elsewhere and put in my files. I love the one--say, 1000 miles is equal to forty marathons FWIW!! And that other, now that is a real sled dog! I had to laugh a bit at that. Probably posed but worth a chuckle.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another re-post--Aug 6 activities

Trains, Planes, Automobiles--and sled dogs!

I almost didn't go down there--it is off a bridge across a kind of slough but it was well worth my time. It is called The Museum of Transportation and Industry and sits about a mile off the Parks Highway or Alaska 1 here just north of Wasilla. There must be twenty acres or so and one big steel garage/hanger sort of building but most of the best stuff is outside except for a few antique cars housed indoors. But wow, there are a number of airplanes since aviation played a huge role in the state's development in the post WW II period.There is also quite a bit of Alaska RR rolling stock to include about four locomotives and several assorted cars and some maintenance equipment, all retired and of various vintages. Then there are lots of the early "Iron Dogs" or snow machines, farm equipment, and autos of many types. It is amazing, really. I took quite a lot of photos and it will take some time to sort them out. It was a really fun place to wonder around even if walking through grass and weeds has given me a bad case of allergy eyes this evening. Hopefully that will clear up with generous use of drops. So should you ever get up this way I recommend this highly.

But of course I am here for the Huskies and I did that today as well.  First I went back out to the ITC Hqs. I talked a bit more to Barb Redington and was quite surprised she recalled me from the brief visit on Sunday. She and I think her father-in-law (need to verify this) were again unloading dogs for the rides and busy but we got in some chatting. I also took a ride this time behind eight of the dogs--who were rearing to go in typical sled dog style. They just go about a mile on a track through the woods behind the gift shop and all. From the feel of the wind in my face I'd say they move as fast as a brisk trot or easy lope on a horse. In short, moving right along. That's me on the cart. And in the back you can see a bootie tree--those objects decorating the small spruce are all booties used by dogs on the race! Is that cool or what?

After that I went up to the gift shop and talked to Donna Olson some more and showed her my first mule article but busses were coming inand she did not have much time. There were two with touring Korean families. Apparently they got a lot of them since Rose and Donna and also Barb Redington have learned a few words to speak to them as not all have much English, clearly. It still felt very special to be there!

Then this afternoon I went out to Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennels and got the tour--not too many there and very low key and casual. Born in Switzerland, he is very charming and nice. Speaks with a slight subtle accent but very articulate. I got there early--you know me--and he chatted some and let me look at the dogs. His son  Rohn, named for one  of the checkpoints BTW, did a lot of the talk and demo. He has won Jr Iditarod, run the big race twice and is now building his own team. He hopes to be a serious competitor in about two years. Nice and articulate young man. But Dad says he babies the dogs too much! I got a chuckle at that. I suspect Martin is all business when it comes to real mushing.

I might point out that most of these folks are far from the image of  unschooled unwashed sourdoughs. Whether formal schooling or not, they can "meet and greet" and are very much into scientific and medical research and such to improve their dogs and the breed in general.  This stuff is big business.

Busers have a bed and breakfast, do demos and tours and some dogs are in Juneau where helpers give cart rides with them. They also had two litters of pups--nine about ready to wean--maybe 6-8 weeks and four just two weeks old. Of course guests love puppies and these dogs are well socialized. Redingtons had two pups there also; again I'd guess 2-3 weeks old.

Another productive and interesting day. Most of tomorrow goes to getting to Fairbanks and settling in.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

And yet another day in Alaska--Aug 5

Networking and Connections:

This has been a very positive and progressive day. It's all about networking and reaching out to people with warmth and sharing, a willingness to be open and the connections form, link and grow.I was once too shy to do this but it comes easy now and talking with folks on a shared passion makes it easier!

First, as planned, I met with Lisbet Norris, the third generation of Norwegian folks who came to the US and to Alaska back probably during WWII or even before. Her grandparents started the first Siberian Husky kennel way back in the 40s  first down near Kenai and later on a homestead near Willow. They're part of history. Her mother came over from Norway specifically to mush and Lisbet herself has been in Norway and worked in the sport there. She is a very intelligent and articulate young woman and impressed me very much. She said she kind of always knew she'd race but took time to go to college and travel some, learn and grow. Very wise!! Now she'd ready to really dig in to it.

She was a rookie in the challenging 2014 Iditarod
and came in with the final three, just ahead of Marcelle Fressineau who won the Red Lantern.They had traveled much of the race together, three rookies just getting the feel of it. Even so, the time of the three for the race was faster than that of winners back twenty years ago or so. They followed Deedee Jolnrowe's advice to make the rookie run a learning experience and just to experience it with no pressure.

In Lisbet's opinion the biggest difference in the time is the trail. Because the Iron Dog snow machine race is not long before the Iditarod and basically over the same trail, it is beaten down and much more clear and solid than the old days of breaking deep snow and trying to find those illusive markers that may have been buried or blown away. Rarely is breaking deep snow an issue now--even when and where there is snow! Which was scarce over parts of the trail the last two years.

I even met one of her dogs, a two year old female name Mika or Meeka (not sure on this but that was what it sounded like). Lisbet told me this was one pup from an experimental accidental litter she has been working with and this one has become her bed-sleeping pet. Mika is shy like Ginger but finally condescended to take a few treats from my hand while Lisbet held her. She's a beautiful dog, still a lanky "teenager" and Lisbet is not sure if she'll make a team dog or not but will probably give her some chances when the training season gets underway this fall. She says they differ greatly in personality but many "Sibes"  are quite independent and not really wanting to be pets.

I also got a tour of the feed store her family runs, mostly dog stuff, and a good lecture on nutrition. Her father has compiled a formula which he has produced in the Midwest and shipped in that compromises between top quality and cost so the budget pressed mushers can afford it, not the best but definitely in the "better" level than your average commercial kibble.While I was there a couple of customers came in and bought that or other more costly brands and I chatted with one lady who is a musher but not a racer and hosts some of the Iditarod folks who come to train and prepare, especially the Norwegians as I think she is also of that ancestry. She too seemed very excited about my project and will be a good contact and perhaps a help in time. For the most part these are all wonderful people and very open and supportive if you are 'with them' in this special endeavor.

Later I did a little more tourist stuff--drove out to Palmer which is closer to the mountains and very pretty--there is a gorgeous garden in the middle of town that I took some pix of and then I visited the Dorothy Paige museum in Wasilla. She along with Joe and Viola Redington was instrumental in getting the  recognition of the trail and the race to begin back in the early 1970s. She must have been a fighter!

One more from the trip--Aug 4

I am still amazed at Alaska in general. And I've only seen a smidgen of it so far. The woods are so thick you can't see 100 yards in many places. That is a bit claustrophobic but novel. Pretty wild flower in places. I got a few pix.

Had a very brief chat with Deedee Jonrowe. She is up to her backside in alligators pretty much with some family and health issues and I really sympathize with her. So I went on up the highway to Talkeetna, an old mining town and now pretty much a tourist trap. Did all the gift shops and the museum. Got a few souvenirs/presents and took a few train related pix for my brother. They do some rail tours from there up to the Denali Park.

I saw a poster I would love to have bought but it was too pricey It said "God made dogs so mushers would have heroes." Isn't that really cool? I did take a photo of it. Also got some fabric with sled dogs for my long-delayed special little quilt. So it was a pretty good trip today.

Wednesday I do a tour of Martin Buser's kennels near here. He is a multiple Iditarod winner and his sons are now racing. He spoke on that video I saw at the ITC HQs the other day and I was quite impressed. Not sure what I will do tomorrow but we'll see.

Here is a few flower pictures. The magenta is fireweed I think and not sure the white, too heavy for Queen Anne's Lace. And the jagged peaks are across the inlet from Wasilla. Now those are mountains, eth? But nothing to Denali. Oh I learned Susan Butcher and Joe Redington scaled  Denali with a small dog team and sled! Now the park service won't allow so no one will ever do that again. It was quite a feat. Took them over three weeks and bad weather almost got them.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another report from the trip, August 2

This day turned out fine despite being off and on rainy, more so in the morning. I planned to go to Palmer, town to the east of Wasilla and up to the Independence Mine but decided it was not a good day for that as I wanted good light for outdoor pictures. So instead I headed back out Knik Goose Bay road and stopped at the Iditarod Headquarters. (The K in Knik is not silent!)

It was early and two pickup trucks were unloading some dogs with the normal pandemonium. It was the Redingtons, father and son (son and grandson of the famous Joe Redington who was pretty much the father of the recognition of the historical value of the trail and instrumental in the race as part of that effort.) I chatted a few minutes but they were busy. I didn't try pix as it was gray and drizzly. May go back. Young Raymie Redington gives rides to visitors with a wheeled ATV type vehicle such as they use to train dogs in the summer. Two bus loads of tour groups arrived soon and I got out of the way. I went on over to the museum and gift shop building and began to talk with two ladies there.

Turns out Donna Olson, whose ex-husband Dave ran in some 80s-90s races and I believe won once, has lived in Glenwood, NM just up the road a bit from Gila/Cliff where Joe Runyan lives. I guess her ex still does. But she is an active supporter to include working at ITHq in the summer. She is also a big mule fan!! This is amazing--mules and sled dogs as burning interests in several folks and links from New Mexico to Alaska! My usual Celtic knots and serendipity! I never cease to be amazed at these connections.

She gave me the name and number of the volunteer coordinator who is up in Fairbanks right now at the northern state fair but will be back the middle of next week. I hope to catch her before I leave. (hee hee, my timing is way off here!) I got a few souvenir and research things and saw the video they've done called Why Do They Run.

If you have any doubts about the dogs and their care or their real love for doing what they do, this will dispel them. All our dogs have better nutrition available now because of studies done for the huskies and many more advances are in progress. I got teary, of course. Not for the first time; I got a photo of the sign and the stature of Joe Redington and a favorite dog. I  really had the almost eerie feeling that I was walking on sacred ground. People are so passionate about this stuff and I more and more come to understand why. I also came away from the film with more respect and admiration for a few of the male mushers I had been inclined to think not so well of. They showed sides I had no clue existed. It was all a powerful quasi-spiritual experience.

Then in the afternoon I visited the museum on the former town site of Knik and met another neat lady. She is part Arapaho and grew up with horses as her parents farmed back in the northern Midwest and some in Alaska, I gathered. Knik was a booming town in the gold rush before Anchorage or Wasilla came to be but is now a  shadow with a few ruins and a few restored old buildings, of which the museum is one. Upstairs there is housed the Iditarod Hall of Fame, another pretty awe inspiring place even if in a bit of disarray and not well kept up. This is more due to lack of funds than care and wishes I am sure.

Anyway, this lady, Diane Williams and I had a great visit as I was the only person there for the afternoon. The downstairs was full of antiques and relics of the 1880-1920 period or so and again in a bit of disarray. I wish I had about $250,000 and a helper or two and we'd whip that place into shape but the modern area is under the management of a local Native Tribe who struggle to keep it going and are way down the totem pole in getting the support and funds they need. I may make a cause of this!!

So it was an amazing day and moving in a lot of ways. Now I need to call Deedee Jonrowe, who is an amazing lady also. She emailed me back and has been having family health issues which have been difficult and demanding but she hopes to see me Monday or Tuesday if I can get to Willow, about thirty miles up the highway in the direction of Denali and Fairbanks. Once that is nailed down I will see what else I may be able to do before Thursday morning and my flight to Fairbanks. Still this was a very good day and I feel I've made some positive steps on my project!

Here are a few pictures:  The Redington statue, the Headquarters sign and the Knik Museum


Friday, August 29, 2014

The trip north--re-posted intact from other blog

We (my friend Jim and I) left Alamo about 2:30. It’s about  90 minutes to the El Paso airport, which is smaller than I expected. Check in was mostly done by internet already and I slid through security easily. But then I noticed the flight to Phoenix was delayed.  Ooops, please no glitches right now, I prayed. The connection at Phoenix was tight, under an hour. So I worried—and waited. Finally the plane arrived and it seemed boarding took forever but at last we were off.

I always enjoy looking out—but there were too many clouds to track where we were, although they were pretty. It was sunset when we landed at Phoenix. Again everyone moves at snail’s pace but I was finally out and running. A couple from Las Cruces also heading to Anchorage went by me, old hands at this.They live in Las Cruces but have grandkids here. We'd landed in the B21 gate and were to leave from A26—about as far as it could be. I was thankful I had taken Jim’s advice and checked my larger bag. I ran on the moving sidewalks, recalling  how my brother Alex and I had done this years back on the way to Kentucky for our mom’s funeral. As then, they had closed the door to the jetway but let me and another woman board. Whew. That was too close but my prayer was answered.

It was pretty dark then but we followed the last strip of light west and north. I spotted as slim crescent of moon, crimson, probably from the smoke of many west coast fires, as it sank toward the distant horizon. I have never seen a crescent moon so red.  It was beautiful, though eerie. I sat beside an old gentleman who had a Chihuahua in a carrier that would not fit under the seat so that was stowed overhead and he held the dog the whole way. Thankfully it was a very well behaved little dog.

I don't  think I have ever been so far north—the sky stayed bright and even more so as we got closer to Anchorage. There it was deep dusk, like maybe five in the morning or eight thirty at home. The airport is big and busy—bigger than El Paso it seemed though no Sky Harbor, O’Hare or DFW of course.  I got off and went down to retrieve my suitcase and stepped out into the cool night, into an area crowded with trucks and SUVs since the evening’s last flights must have arrived en masse all at the same time! Pretty soon my hostess arrived in a big Dodge diesel dually and  we were off to Wasilla.

Anchorage, I leaned from a resident, has about 375,000  residents, half the state’s population and there you could be anywhere. It was a bit too dark, and too many trees along the road to see the mountains I had heard of but that will keep. Too dark for an arrival selfie, too, but that is okay.  I am here, on time and all of my stuff with me. The travel gods were good to me!

I got to bed about 4:00 am my home time so a good 22 hours up and going. Today I will rest and recover and tomorrow I  will start to get busy!

Later:
The site here is lovely, a bit out of town and on a small lake. There are lakes all over here! I've seen a bit of the town now, which is much more spread out than I had visualized but I will have the use of a car here most of the time.  So far the only dog is the resident Chocolate Lab, a big baby, but got a small doggie fix to hold me for now. Nice big house but three teens bopping around. I can deal with that LOL. I did take a few pix this morning but have yet to download. That's next on my agenda. Selfie and scenery coming up soon. But the big thing is I am here!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fast Forward to July

To make a long story short and pick up from the last post, I wrote lots of letters and scuffled around with some results but not a temporary job or other options to make my wished-for trip happen. Instead, I decided I was going to do it anyway and went out on a long and slightly shaky limb. I booked a flight from El Paso to Anchorage a couple of months in advance to get the best rates. That was when things began to fall into place.

Maybe there really is good karma. Several years ago when I lived briefly in the Silver City, NM area, I was active on a site/group called Freecycle. They have local groups all over and connect people with things to give away and people who need things they cannot really pay for. It's definitely win-win. I had used it in Arizona as I prepared to leave my long-time home there and am still using it.

Anyway, I made some amazing friends that way. One I have stayed in touch with and visited while I was in Colorado and since I moved back to New Mexico. We've done favors for each other along the line. When Constance heard about my plan to go to Alaska, she put me in touch with her ex-sister-in-law with whom she is still friends. Gail has a big house near Wasilla and maybe I could use her home as a base camp.

Well, it worked and I did, even doing her a small favor by kind of house-sitting and keeping tabs on her two teens while she flew to Las Vegas to arrange for her upcoming October wedding to her current partner. That's just one example. I also found a very economical hostel accommodation in Fairbanks and booked a stay there for a week. The only huge cost was rental cars--yowza but they were dear. But I still cannot get over how things fell into place for me! I am convinced this trip was meant to be and that my planned book is too!

Sure, I maxed out two credit cards and spent every spare dime, but I have no regrets. This turned out to be a feasibility and fact finding trip; I had so very much to learn and far too much to see, even in three weeks. But I did realize my long term dream of actually setting foot in Alaska and also determined that my project book was not only possible but received quiet a lot of enthusiasm. That's why I've set up a "go fund me"  site to solicit help in making the future trips that I need to make to do my project the way it needs to be done. Here is that link if you are moved to help out! http://www.gofundme.com/df04r0

Anyway, on July 30, I got on a plane in El Paso and my adventure began! I'll go back and copy several posts from my trip over to this blog next. Meanwhile here is my first "selfie" from Alaska, taken July 31st in my hostess's front yard on a lovely little lake north of Wasilla and the house in which I stayed. Needless to say, I fell in love with Alaska!


I wore that purple shirt-jacket everywhere--it was just right for the moderate summer temperatures. I also soon exchanged my Hurley, NM cap for one that read "Iditarod--The Last Great Race." I wear a cap a lot to shade my nose after having a small skin cancer removed a few years ago and to try to tame my fly-away hair.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

And another oldie where my wish began to take shape

This was written hours before the historic finish of 2014 which saw Aliy miss winning by a mere two minutes after a fierce blizzard that forced Jeff King to scratch out when his dogs were literally blown off the trail and he was in danger of freezing to death in the extreme wind chill. And the germ of my idea had just poked its tender shoots up through the ice and cold!!

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Which is what a musher says when they are wanting to take the trail and pass someone. Until the last stretch, the one asked has to yield. From the final checkpoint at Safety for the last twenty-two miles into Nome, it is each musher for him/herself and can get wild. There have been a few very close races including the famous win by a nose--where one musher's lead dogs stretched enough to get under the arch first. It may not be that close tonight but it could and this will definitely be one for the books from what I am reading.

Aliy is in second place, leaving the White Mountain checkpoint an hour behind four time winner veteran Jeff King who moved up the last day or two and grabbed the lead last night between Elim and White Mountain, passing Aliy. They ran within sight of each other all day yesterday. Despite some horrendous conditions, this is going to be the fastest time ever. John Baker, a native Aleut who won in 2010, set the prior record of 8 days 18 hours and some minutes. It is likely Jeff or Aliy will clock in around 8 days, 10 hours and even the rest of the first 3-5 mushers may beat the prior record. The two Seaveys are next after Aliy, two and four hours behind her. Some others who were front runners at some point have fallen well behind and stand no chance to make the first five. It is been one hell of a race, truly! I've been enthralled to watch things unfold.

Now, my little bit of personal news, or possible news-to-be. I've been an Alaska fan since about 1953 when I read my parents' copies of the two books by Bud and Constance Helmricks about their years homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness. Then I got hooked on the Iditarod reading about Libby Riddles' amazing victory in 1985, she being the first woman to win after daring a blizzard that most of the male mushers elected to sit out. Then Susan Butcher won four times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There have been a number of other lady mushers who did well even if they did not win but made a big mark on the race and have become legendary. I want to do a book on The Women of the Iditarod and also see something of Alaska for myself. I know I have to go in the summer as I doubt I could handle the cold and sunless winter months but I'm going to try to get there this year. If I can find a kennel, stable or some other place that will hire me for room and board, I think I can swing air fare and use the free time I would have from such work to visit and interview and so on.... So wish me heaps of luck!!

I'll post a short special once the race is over--at least the first few mushers are in and then let this subject go for awhile, honest!

A first repost from the past

This post appeared on another blog of mine back last March, the day before the Iditarod's ceremonial start in Anchorage.

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I've talked a little bit about mules before. We worked with them a lot as well as the horses I have spoken of in prior posts. There is a little monthly magazine called Mules and More. I began to subscribe to it about a year ago and around the end of 2013 sent them in some photos and then they asked for info on the pix and a little essay, which I wrote. I got the March issue today and lo and behold, little speckled mule Beano and me are right there on the cover!! It might not be Time, Life, or People but hey, a cover shot is a cover shot!! Like whoo-hoo!!! If you go to www.mulesandmore.com you can see that cover right on their home page. Inside there is a two page article with some more photos. I plan on doing a few more small features for them in the coming months but this was a neat surprise today when the mail arrived. I just had to share. Here is the photo as it looks in my collection,

Late note: I got some contributor copies of the magazine today (Sat, Mar 1) and will give away one or two--autorgraphed of course--to comments made on today's post!

And as for the race, that's the Iditarod, of course! The ceremonial start in Anchorage is tomorrow--less than twenty four hours now, and then real start is Sunday. Then they are off for a rough journey of nearly 1,000 miles across mountains, rivers, and parts of the frozen northland. It has been a mild winter in the northernmost state too--snow is scarce in places and the trail is going to be brutal with mud, raging steams, soggy slush and a really hard go for the mushers and the dogs. I am worried about them but they will race...and someone will win.

Naturally I am rooting for my gal, Aliy Zirkle. She has been second twice and got closer last year than the previous one. I am hoping this is her year but she has smaller and lighter dogs than some of the men and it may be pretty hard on them. However she has a wonderful rapport with her team and is one courageous, tough and determined lady. The pundits give her a good chance and you can bet that barring some disaster she will be in the first few if not Number 1. Go Aliy!!  And here is a shot of Aliy and her dogs last year; I lifted it and maybe should not share but anyway... This was her entry into Nome and the finish, about twenty minutes behind the winner. Consider that difference in terms of nine days and nearly 1000 miles and it was darn close!! And look at those dogs--do they look dead tired and wrung out?  This is so totally awesome!! I'd give a lot to be there and see the finish. I'd be crying I am sure.

I hope to make some new fans for this fantastic event! I support it with at least a small donation every year and talk about it every chance I get. They call it "the last great race" and I do not think that is a misnomer.