Sunday, June 28, 2015

2016 sign ups!

Yesterday was the first day for mushers to sign up for the 2016 race and there are already  sixty two  names on the list! Wow. No rumor, Deedee Jonrowe is signed up and was one of two who won refund of her $3000 entry fee, I am happy for her there It was a lucky gift! Aliy and Allen are already there as are a number of 'old timers' like Martin Buser and Jeff King. Current champ Dallas Seavey of course and many others. I will post the list when I get home Just wanted you all to be the first to know besides the hardcore fans (like me!) This and much more is on the ITC web I am making fans of any of my readers here. That is one goal of mine, actually. Go mushers!!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The ITC Meeting

The meeting went well. It was above my low expectations but a bit below high hopes. It was real which perhaps neither of those quite were. I do have the verbal support of the current Committee and a stronger verbal support from two members with whom I spoke at a little more length. Aaron Burmeister is a musher and also this current board's treasurer. I admire him and told him so. He was mentioned a time or two in my blog posts while the race was going on this year. He was very enthused about the book and said it was a worthwhile and beneficial project. Dan Sievert, current VP and chair of today's meeting, may not be a musher, at least recently but is a canny business man and a strong supporter and something of a guiding light for the committee and the race. He too was supportive.
Last year shot; Teal shirt this time!

There were not a lot of mushers hanging around. I was told that Deedee was there but did not manage to catch up with her and apparently she did not stay long. It was the first day for mushers to sign up for the 2016 race and it appears she did so--what a gutsy, amazing lady!! I guess I should have called her but I hated to bother her under the circumstances. I may try once before I leave. I met a couple of ladies I had not met before; one who will still be a rookie next year since her dogs were not able to handle the extreme cold as she lives near Wasilla and had trained mostly with wheels instead of sled.She scratched fairly early. Of course everyone is hoping for good snow and a return to the traditional trail the next race but only time and nature will determine that.

There seems to  have been  eleven mushers or kennels impacted by the Sockeye fire but other fires threaten many areas to include check point villages and mushers on the Kenai and now a fire up not far from the Two River area outside Fairbanks. For now the committee recommends the Willow Musher's site for donations from "outside" (not Alaska) which I posted here and on my Facebook page with an update there today. They have raised about 29 thousand so far.

I'm still decompressing so will add more later, No pix--sorry. My bad. It was just too hectic and I was focused on more critical --at least to me!--things at the time. But again, I will be back and another time will happen.

Aliy and Allen were not there; Lance Mackey was not there and many others. Dallas Seavey was but I am not really too concerned with him at this point, winner or not. I did not particularly want his autograph. No further comment! Rick Swenson, the only five time winner ever, was elected to the board. I missed him sad to say but would have enjoyed his autograph or a selfie with! Someday maybe.
Most of the lawn was full of people,
canopies and confusion yesterday!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


The epicenter was west of the burned over Willow and it was 5.5 there, maybe 4.5 or a bit more here. I shook my head at that news--fire, earthquake... What next? Pestilence or flood perhaps. Yikes. Poor Willow-ans.

The small irony is that before I left home I was reading Degrees of Separation by Alaska based author Sue Henry. Earthquakes were a feature in that tale. She also wrote Murder on the Iditarod (I think her first book) and Murder on the Yukon Quest. Both were very good in portrayal of the races and a competitor's pov since one of her protagonists is a professional racer(female) named Jessie Arnold --almost a clairvoyant preview of today's Jessie Royer, 4th this year--and the other an Alaskan trooper with whom the racer is in a relationship by the end of book 1. Ms Henry is a good author and portrayer of Alaska or perhaps was since she seems to have vanished on the Internet and may be incapacitated or have passed away.

I spent some time in the main Anchorage public library today. They have a good collection of "Alaskana" to include a fair bit on the Iditarod but none of the newer race yearbooks I was hoping to scan and extract data from but all is not lost. I took some notes from several other books and have a list of titles to buy or seek through interlibrary loan facilites when I get home. I also took two shots of an amazing and gorgeous bit of fabric art hanging over the main foyer. It is almost a sculpture since it is somewhat dimensional. I want to clean up the pix before posting but will share soon. Still looking ahead to Saturday with high hopes--the real pinnacle of this trip. It has been warm so far but a bit cooler today with a high in the lower 70s. Mostly overcast also.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Welcome to Alaska!?

I got in late last night, after the plane sat for about 30 minutes halfway down the taxiway; still no clue as to why! I was taking a little nap about 2:30 still missing a couple of hours of sleep when my bed began to rock a bit. Yep, it was one of those notorious Alaska shakers. Not a big or bad one but as much as some I felt in the upper Sacramento Valley back 1970-83. My host said it
was my welcome to Alaska greeting.

It was mostly cloudy all the way from El Paso to Phoenix to Anchorage. I saw very little but was inspired with some phrases that will become a poem in time.  Chasing the sunset as it becomes the sunrise. Anchored by the crescent moon in the west. Mountains never free if snow gash through wooly clouds so close below, too close beneath this fierce fragile silver bird carrying me to advenutres yet unknown.
I forgot to set up the easy access to the dashboard here on this system and wrested with it all morning and finally got in. Stupid, bad me. Taking too much for granted! I will do better next time! More tomorrow; no pix yet!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In 24 hours I will be in the air between Phoenix and Anchorage. I have no idea what kind of internet my host has but I'll find a way to make at last a post or two to the blog here and hope to have some photos to share also. I'm all packed and ready to head off tomorrow. And I am very  much looking forward to the first of what I intend to be many returns to the wonderful north 49th!!

If luck holds I will be able to see Deedee Jonrowe sometime on this trip and give her a pink t-shirt from the Four Corners monument just to say my love and sympathy on her troubles and losses. She is exactly the kind of person I want to feature in this book because she is a real true hero!! Her dogs are still at Buser's kennel last I heard.

Lisbet Norris and Becca Moore, two other young ladies who compete, did not get burned out and I am so thankful for that. However about twelve others were and the Willow Mushers Assn had raised over $25,000 to help them as of last night but that is such a drop in the bucket when you realize what they have lost. And of course the treasured memories and irreplaceable things are gone and cannot be bought for any amount. My heart aches for them all. Maybe I can find some other ways to help. I will try.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sockeye (Willow) fire update

The fire is being contained but an estimated 50-100 structures, many homes, have burned. The horrible thing is it is probably a human caused fire! This makes me sick and mad.

It is true that Deedee Jonrowe lost her home and almost everything. She was at Martin Buser's doing a "show and tell" for a big batch of tourists when word came of the fire. She and Mrs. Buser made a frantic run with dog trucks 45 miles north to Deedee's home and barely were able to load the dogs and run for their lives, literally. I do not know the situation of several other mushers yet but I am weeping for Deedee. She is such a wonderful, courageous and inspiring woman and a true heroine of mine She ran her 30th race this past spring with frostbitten hands and brought fifteen of sixteen entered dogs across the finish line at Nome. Now all her gear, sleds and mementos are ash and she barely has the clothes on her back. Thank God though that she did save all but one old dog. This is so darn wrong it tears me up. I know she is religious so I am praying very hard that she will have help and did have insurance on her home. She's a survivor but this is a cruel blow.

There are sites already up and running for donations. I posted one and a link to a post about this from the Iditarod Trail Committee's page on my Facebook page.  You can click over to them to learn more. Here's my site:

And here is a picture of Deedee, in her trademark pink at Nome finishing her 30th race. This petite cancer survivor is a true HERO if there ever was one. God be with her now.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Terrible Wildfire near Willow, AK

I just learned of this today and am praying hard for all in the area, those who reside there, the firefighters and especially a number of mushers who live in that area and have been displaced, several losing everything except their own lives and their dogs and a vehicle or two they drove out.

I will probably have more news in a day or two but I do know other mushers such as Martin Buser who is about forty miles to the south have opened kennels and property for evacuees to camp, temporarily care for their dogs and wait out this devastating fire. I am not sure but heard a rumor that Deedee Jonrowe and her husband just got out with her dogs and have lost almost everything. Also Lisbet Norris and her grandmother are in like situation. Lisbet's parents are sheltering and offering camp space around their feed store just north of Wasilla which I visited last year. Here's a shot from the Norris store and Buser Kennel  during my August 2014 visit

The musher community is close knit despite the intense competition and will rally around those who are hurt by this destructive wildfire. But should I hear of any efforts to raise funds to assist these people, some of which I suspect may not have insurance on their homes and kennel buildings and other property, I will post it here and on my other blogs as well. I feel as close friends are at hazard here! if On the 27th when I attend the Iditarod Committee Meeting I may also learn more on what is happening in that area. I'll try to keep yuo informed. Please join in my prayers!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Going Back!

Three weeks from today I will be back in Alaska. I can hardly wait. By wonderful serendipity I planned this short trip to set some things up for a longer visit in the fall at exactly the right time. The Iditarod Trail Committee has their annual meeting on Saturday, June 27 which will be smack in the middle of my visit! I have already asked for a very short spot on the agenda to tell them about my project and hope that I will be allowed to do so although the annual election for board members is the main order of business. I am also hoping some of my key mushers will be in attendance and I can talk with them at least briefly. Other than that some odds and ends which I will talk more about later.

Again I am flying mostly at night from El Paso to Phoenix to Anchorage and back the same route. The powers that be smiled on me and I do not have to go through either LAX or DFW which are two of my least favorite airports--just too humongous and confusing and smoggy. I do have layovers in Phoenix but I can deal with that. It also means I won't have the horrid mad dash to catch the Phoenix to Anchorage flight that I just squeaked aboard last time by the skin of my teeth so to speak, It is hard to run with your stuff--thank goodness I had checked my large bag--and pray like crazy to the deities of travel that you make it. Is it St Christopher? I do believe it is--the one who is the patron and protector of travelers. Anyway I did make it but that was tooooo close!

Here's a shot from the Anchorage Airport last August, I will be there on June
24th at o-dark-thirty but it won't be very dark since that is only three days after the longest day of the year. Anchorage is not quite in the 'midnight sun' longitude but it will be almost light enough to read at 12:30 a.m. I am sure. My host for this trip says it is already close to that. Anyway I promise as many reports and also photos as I can share for the week I am there and then building up to a much longer visit in the fall before real winter sets in but after the training is underway for the 2015-16 racing season. And my goal is still to be there for at least part of the 2016 races. Say a prayer or two for me please and if you can add a few dollars over on my go fund me page to help me get there! That's at