Tuesday, 25 March 2008

March 25, 2008 Tales Of The Trail - A City Mouse in Unalakleet

So, I've decided to do something different this year. Rather then try to tell tales in chronological order; I'm just going to tell different tales as the mood strikes me. There will be neither rhyme nor reason to the order - it is just going to be telling the tales that strike me at times that strikes me! Maybe afterwards, if time permits, I'll do a blow by blow of the race too.

Tales of the Trail - 2008

A City Mouse in Unk

The reporter that approached me stood out like a sore thumb down on the sea ice on the edge of Unalakleet. His neat, clean and obviously new Columbia parka and LL Bean boots were in stark contrast to my dirty parka and beat up NEOS. There was no doubt he had showered that morning before jumping on a plane. I hadn't showered in about 9 days - and wouldn't for another 3 more.

He politely introduced himself as a reporter for the New York Times here to do a story on the Iditarod. Could he ask me a few questions? I smiled and said sure as I worked on sorting out my return gear and repacking my sled.  As he flipped open his pad of paper, I could picture the conversation that got him on a plane for Alaska. I imagined some cigar chomping J. Jamieson type (for you Spiderman fans out there) telling him he was going to go to Unalakleet, Alaska to do a story on the Iditarod. "The what, sir??". "Well, the Iditarod, Boy. Men and women from around the globe traveling 1150 miles through the wilderness of Alaska by dog team". (Sleep deprived minds can go interesting places!!).

I wondered what he thought of all this - and what he thought of me. How different I must seem from the New York women he knows. But yet, under the grime and frostbite, I'm just a city kid too. How exactly did I get here?? It still boggles my mind.

He asked me to spell my name and then fumbled as he realized his pen wouldn't write in the cold. He stuttered a bit and then excused himself to find a pencil in his overnight bag. As he stepped away from me his shiny new boots lost their purchase on the ice and he fell to the ground in a heap. I smothered a laugh and suggested we just start all over.

He retrieved a pencil and walked over to me again, introducing himself as a reporter for the New York Times here to do a story on the Iditarod. Could he ask me a few questions?? I smiled and said sure..

His questions were the basics and focused around the big question most 'outsiders' have - why?? How do you explain to someone that probably doesn't even own a pet, that takes cabs and buses to get everywhere, that most likely doesn't even have a backyard, that lives surrounded by millions of people the 'why' of this???

Heck, there are times I barely understand myself. Why would any sane person choose to spend 12 days in the wilderness - dirty, bruised, sleep deprived, wounded.away from most family and friends .away from all warm, secure and comforting?

I gave him the quotes he was looking for, but deep down I knew he didn't get it. I smiled, he smiled but our lives were too different for the other to fathom.

His story turned out pretty good - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/sports/othersports/13dogs.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin  - but I really wonder what this clean, shiny New Yorker really thought of the dog mushers he met?

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