Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 11 , 2004
Six are on Their Way Home, While 81 Continue to Nome

The big news at our house is that Judy Merritt scratched from the race. We still do not have the full story but something happened outside Rohn that involved water. According to Bill, there are two places she could’ve gotten into water. One is at the bottom of the Dalzell Gorge where the trail jumps back and forth across a creek, which always has open water. The trail is connected by ice and snow bridges some of which will be collapsed over cavernous holes twenty feet deep. The musher will have to keep up a good speed to make the crossings or they will find themselves in big trouble on sloping ice ledges, with some dogs suspended midair, held up by the gangline. This Gorge is only about two miles long but will seem like twenty. Once a musher exits the Gorge, they find themselves on the Tatina River, which always has overflow and shallow open water. Bill fell into this same water even though he made across all the ice bridges.

Whatever happened with Judy and the water, the trail sweeps offered help (at least that is what we heard) and Judy must’ve accepted. Only certain types of help are allowed under the rules of the Iditarod. Anyway, whatever occurred out there, Judy scratched in Rohn, which is the same place she scratched in 2002. Melinda Miles scratched in Rohn and Carmen Perzechino scratched in McGrath. That makes six total that are out of the race and 81 are still moving up the trail towards Nome. Jeff King was the first to reach Ruby, winning the First Musher to the Yukon Award. Among his winnings was a seven-course meal prepared by Executive Chef of the Millennium Hotel. Filet mignon stuffed with pine nuts, apple and chilies was followed by a field green salad with sun dried cranberries, bosc pear and blue cheese. Next was cream of brie soup, pan seared venison tenderloin with shallots and wild mushrooms, kiwi passion fruit sorbet and bananas foster bread pudding with flambéed rum sauce. A wine is served with each course. After dinner, Jeff King was presented with an “after dinner mint” consisting of $3,500 in crisp one-dollar bills presented in an engraved Alaskan gold pan. King will also be staying at the Millennium in a suite during a more relaxed time where he will be served the same feast again.

While Mr. King was dining, we were driving to Fairbanks. Our plane ride to Ruby with Missionary pilot Earl Malpass was waiting for us there. The roads were snowy and coated in some areas but in others, it was warm and melting. The windshield washer was in constant use. Wasilla to Fairbanks is a 6-hour drive. We arrived about 5PM. Earl’s wife, Lynn, prepared a marvelous halibut dinner. Afterwards, we drove over to the airport to plug in Earl’s plane so the engine will be heated for our morning departure. The northern lights were out in full force over the runway. A huge arch of green bands swept across the sky. Awesome!! We dropped by the Ice Sculptures but they were about to close. Over the fence we saw some really neat, lighted ice carvings and a huge ice slide for the kids. Back at Earl’s house, we watched some of his mission videos then ate a bite of ice cream and called it a day.

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