The real deal! At the last minute the restart had been moved from it’s usual location in Wasilla to the community of Willow. In 1998, when I was ‘Chasing the Race’ the restart was held here, so I pretty much knew what to expect. For mushers, the Willow restart is a delight. No double sledding, no roads to deal with, you are out and right onto the trail!
Our morning started really early. Vivian was wonderful enough to get up and cook steak and eggs for breakfast. What a treat, especially when I didn’t know when or where my next meal was going to be.
As we were sitting in the Willow Community Hall a reporter from the Anchorage News came over and asked if he could talk to me about my Siberians – gosh, I find it sooooo hard to talk about my dogs ;) We had a nice interview and it resulted in, what I thought was a good article in the Anchorage paper the next day.
When I eventually wandered out to the dog truck, Mark told me that the drug testing crew had been by and collected urine from some of the dogs. We laughed and wondered if they knew something we didn’t – usually they only test the top teams.
Microchips were checked on the dogs, the sled was packed, checked and rechecked and eventually – it was Show Time!
I made a last minute decision to put Camilla in lead with Gus instead of Oreo. It wasn’t a good decision, as Camilla seemed preoccupied with the crowds. Sure enough, they felt like a herd of cattle thundering out of the chute – which was confirmed by a picture that ran on the front page of the A.D.N Sports section the next day. The dogs looked happy and enthused, which was cool – but you couldn’t even tell who was supposed to be in lead! Oh well, it was still a LONG way to Nome.
The team didn’t feel good right from the start. They seemed to lack the focus and power that I had come to expect from them through out the season. I vowed to be patient and let them work through it. In no time at all Dee Dee’s team BLEW past us. She brightly called out ‘Thanks Karen’ as I stepped on the brake to allow her an easy pass. Shortly after Rick Swenson’s crew passed too. I still find it quite the thrill to share the trail with teams of this caliber.
The trail winds along a river until it hooks up with the Yentna River. The weather was great, the trail lovely – a great day all and all.
Well before dark we pulled into Yentna Station. Last year I had gone right through here, having stopped earlier on the trail, but with the change in distances due to the restart being in Willow, a 4-hour break seemed wise. I got the dogs settled in and fed and got up to the Roadhouse for a great feed of spaghetti! Sure was tastier then, say – extra firm TOFU would have been!!
There is a little inside joke to this. Lloyd had been trying to convince me the entire time we were in Alaska how good Tofu pancakes were. I was thoroughly unconvinced (and still am). This led to a lot of jokes going around about Tofu. When I pulled into Yentna and started unpacking my sled to cook for the dogs, what did I find in my sled bag but a package of extra firm TOFU. Seems Greg and Marie Stevens from BASH thought this would get a good laugh out of me – and it did. The checkers probably wondered what that twisted musher was doing over there, laughing away to herself!