The checkers in Safety were my friend Philip Walters and his brother, Jeffrey. I met Philip on the Don Bowers race this winter. He is a super nice guy and I like him a lot. He was cheerful and upbeat - really what I needed.
I was not pleased to be taking a break in Safety, but I knew I had no other option.
I took care of the team and wandered up into the 'interesting' little bar that serves as the checkpoint. Philip and Jeffrey offered coffee and a couch next to the warm stove where I could nap. I took advantage of both.
I did fret a fair amount over how long to stay here. I want to get going and get this over with but needed to give the dogs enough rest to stand a chance of straightening out their heads.
Finally, a headlight on the incoming trail and a slightly competitive internal voice that I had zero business listening to at this point in this race spurred me out.
Philip asked for a picture with me before I left. I was flattered but honestly couldn't figure out why anyone would want a picture with me. I wasn't feeling proud or confident in myself at all. Although it is still painful, I've looked at that picture a lot since the race. I see so much in my face.
The team left about as badly as they came in. "They'll get in the groove" I kept telling myself. They didn't.
Our trip over Cape Nome likely would have been faster if I walked it myself but we got over it.
There is a spot on the backside of Nome that is special to me. I've always stopped here to have a moment with my team. I take the time to thank the dogs for the journey they have given me. This year was no different. Although the journey wasn't what I had hoped for, it was certainly not the fault of my dogs. It's never the dogs' fault - and heck, although the going got tough they stayed on their feet and moving forward because I asked them to. They may not have done it particularly fast, but they kept moving for me. That is a huge thing. I was, and still am, very proud of them. I'm always proud of them.
Everyone got snacks, hugs and kisses.
This is also the spot that I scattered Snickers' ashes in '08. It was my first opportunity to 'visit' with and have a little chat with her. Hard to believe she has been gone 5 years.
I straightened out lines and called up the team, hoping that the few veterans I had left would realize where we were or that the rookies would realize a 'big checkpoint' was ahead. They didn't.
In fact, it was the first team I've ever driven into Nome that didn't pick up and get excited in the last miles.
As always folks followed the team along the roads, honking and waving. I waved but honestly, I would have preferred to just sneak into town.
I really wanted Tess to bring the team into Nome in single lead, as she had been doing for so much of this race, but she hates crowds, so I put her up front with Jinx, hoping she would be okay that way. She deserved to bring that team into Nome.
She was doing okay, but as we started up the ramp off the sea ice (which is next to the Subway) a bunch of kids clapped and cheered. That was too much for Tess and she slammed on the brakes. I jogged up front and put young Smartie in her place. "Whatever", said Smartie to the crowds, the traffic and the cop car with the flashing lights.
We trotted into Nome and under the famed burled arch.