Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 12 , 2004
“Grand Central” Ruby, Mushers Hit the Yukon River.

Today the plan was to take off for Ruby early. After saying goodbye to Lynn and Jeremiah, Earl needed a piece of stovepipe for warming his plane so a quick stop at AIH, Alaska Industrial Hardware, took care of that. Next stop, the airport, and we were off. The weather was great, even warm for interior Alaska. It is always amazing to be in the air, looking for miles and miles and miles, over tundra and mountains, and not seeing a road, house or another airplane for hours. I always have to wonder just how much of that wide-open space is untouched by human footprints. The beauty of Alaska is so awesome.

We landed gently on the airstrip in Ruby with Earl at the controls. The pastor in town, and a friend of Earl’s, Tim Ungry, met us with his pickup truck. That was a blessing as the walk into town is over a mile. We transferred all our gear into the back of the truck and dropped it off at their home, met the family: wife Lisa, daughters Emily and Naomi, son Timmy and little Bonnie. Next we headed over to the checkpoint.

Front runner, Kjetil Backen was long gone when we arrived and Charlie Boulding was soon to pull out. Among the sleeping mushers in the Community Center were John Baker, Mitch Seavey, Martin Buser and Rick Swenson. Ramey Smyth was parked in the afternoon sun, as was rookie, Hugh Neff. Most of our afternoon was spent wandering amongst the teams, but not too close, while taking photographs. A most pleasant surprise was being invited to lunch with local residents, Annie and Don Honea, Jr. Annie had made some wonderful soup and sandwiches for us.

As the afternoon wound down, mushers booted up their teams and headed down the slope to hit the mighty Yukon River. After Charlie Boulding pulled his hook, next to go was John Baker. A short while later Martin Buser blasted out and then Mitch Seavey. Susan Butcher was out and about, talking to everyone. Sonny Linder’s team was resting. Jeff King stayed until 6:05PM and rode into the sunset on what he calls his new OMS, old man’s sled. More teams pulled into Ruby, such as Aily Zirkle and Bill Cotter. The checkpoint was bustling with activity as planes flew in and out and mushers came and went. After Earl helped a pilot who was having some plane difficulties, he picked us up to go back to the Unger’s home for dinner. While we were sitting around the dinner table, some of the next mushers expected in were Joe Garnie and Melanie Gould.

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Town of Galena, AK