Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 1, 2003

Ceremonial Start where 68 of 65 teams leave the Chute

Bright and early today we drove into Anchorage for the ceremonial start of Iditarod 2003. We passed several dog trucks doing the same thing. Parking is not a problem if you get there really early and you get to walk among the teams, petting dogs, visiting mushers and taking photos. G.B. Jones' team looked great in their red, white and blue bandanas and Bootie Brigade specialist, Becky Griffith, was there cuddling Sport, now known as "her" dog. [See Photo Gallery] The Seavey bunch was scattered on different streets but we got by to see most everyone. The Linwood Fiedler Factor had become the Wild Hat Gang today which complemented the bright neon yellow doggie booties for the team.







Bill spent awhile with Lynda Plettner and had to act as her publicity agent at one point when he saw her being interviewed and photographed with her hair stuffed under (his words) an ugly green and blue hat and no make up on. Bill told her to let her hair down, lose the hat and get some lipstick on. He saw the reporter later and had him go back to Lynda (another of Bill's practical jokes) and tell Lynda "Now that you aren't wearing that ugly hat any more I can take your picture." All the while Lynda's husband Dan, son Shane, handler Sue Allen and Bill were laughing their heads off while watching this encounter take place. Frank Silher had two of the dogs that were in Jordan's Jr Iditarod team, purchased from Bob and Maureen Morgan, in his starting line up, Casper and South. Charlie Boulding was looking well as was DeeDee Jonroe, considering they are both battling cancer this year. Clint Warnke was in great spirits with Sonny King's dogs. Jerome Longo helped Melanie Gould get their dogs to the line. Palmer Sagoonik and family were celebrating and waving flags on the way down the chute. Susan Butcher walked around the crowds several times and some say Libby Riddles was there but I did not see her.

There are 64 teams in the race, 65 bibs counting the honorary mushers but 68 left off the starting line today. Numbers 66,67,and 68 were Doug Grilliot, Rick Horstman and Judy Merritt who were asked to take their Idita-Riders on the eleven mile trail to BLM Campbell Airstrip.

Judy Merritt asked Bill to ride her tag sled and he was thrilled!!! Had a blast doing it. He became her publicity agent, like he did for Lynda, when Judy's rider expressed interest in riding the runners instead of sitting in the sled basket. Bill said to Judy, "Get in that basket and do your parade wave and everyone will want to take your picture." Sure enough, everyone did just that as her 60+ year old rider drove the sled to the starting line while Bill controlled the team from the tag sled.

I rode with Bill Merritt to the airstrip to watch the last few teams pull up. It was very muddy by then and 40+ degrees as the teams packed up to get ready for Fairbanks.

The Anchorage Daily News says today, "The National Weather Service issued a special statement Friday warning that a mass of frigid air will likely flood the state from the northwest beginning Monday. By this time next week, Anchorage could be descending below zero." This should make for an interesting race as weather conditions will be a big factor. Interior Alaska is always much colder than other areas of the state. And wind on the Yukon has shut down many a team. Most mushers seemed worried about the mental aspect of the miles and miles of boredom on the huge Yukon River but all seemed to acknowledge that weather could move in at any time. MP3, tape or CD players will be almost required equipment.

Check our photo gallery for more pictures from the start!!


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