Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 13, 2004
Sunshine and Sled Dogs, The Middle of the Pack Hits the River

After going to sleep in Ruby, with the northern lights dancing outside our bedroom window, we woke up to a cloudy day with snow flurries in the air. Bill helped Lisa Ungry make gravy to go with her biscuits, eggs and sausage. Having a hot shower was a nice convenience and much appreciated. After everyone was ready to go, Bill, Earl, Naomi, Emily and I headed down to town to socialize with the mushers. Many had come and gone during the night while we slept, such as Joe Garnie, Randy Chappel, Mike Williams, Anna Bondarenko, Melanie Gould and Paul Gebhardt. While we were hanging around, the first thing we saw was Karen Ramstead and her team of sixteen pretty Siberians pulling in. Karen was in good spirits and the dogs looked great. One of them required two small stitches by the vets. I think it had pushed the dog next to it into a snow bank, and of course that created a little tiff along with a nip beside its eye. Bill Pinkham pulled out of town right before Peter Bartlett pulled in, around midday, and next came Ryan Redington. Both were having good runs so far. Cindy Gallea was looking good and parked nearby. Ed Stielstra had an incident right outside Rohn where he had slammed into some rocks when his sled blew sideways on glare ice before he could hit the brake. The swelling was going down and Ed felt confident that he should be able to run by tomorrow.

A bit later in the afternoon, the girls and I walked down to the only store to buy a soda and to the Laundromat, the only place downtown where there is an inside bathroom. You can also pay $2 for a shower if you wish. Neat. The walk back up the hill was much longer than the walk down. Not too long afterwards, Frank Siler, Karen Land and Doug Grilliot pulled in and shortly thereafter came the other pretty Sibe team belonging to Wayne Curtis. By now the sun was shining brightly and the temperatures had warmed considerably. The dog teams were basking in the sunshine and getting in some good naps. Annie Honea had brought some casseroles down to feed the mushers and invited me back to her house to learn to make her special tuna salad recipe. Her secret ingredient is the cream cheese she adds to her yummy mix. After my lesson and a sandwich, she and I took a walking tour around town. Annie showed me the library and some of the older buildings in Ruby. When we got back to the Community Center, Peryll Kyzer and Rick Mackey were in. There was plenty of time to walk around and take snapshots of the resting teams, visit with mushers who were not napping in the checkpoint and to watch the vets as they performed their duties with the dogs. Before long two more teams were spotted in the distance and Dexter Kancer pulled in with Noah Burmeister right on his heels, literally. Many of the mushers are taking their eight-hour mandatory stops here in Ruby and most have completed their 24-hour rest by now.

As darkness began to fall and after a wonderful halibut dinner with Lisa and the family, some of us jumped back in the truck to go back down to town see Ellie Claus. She had arrived about 6:00PM and by now had fed her team. The Ungry family, as part of their home school, chose to follow four male and four female mushers. Ellie was one of the choices, and a very impressive young role model to keep an eye on. Ellie’s Mom, Dad, sister, brother, and more were there to welcome her into town. Her dogs were now covered with fleece blankets of many colors (made by her Mom) and resting all snuggly and warm. Inside the Community Center, Ed Stielstra, Ryan Redington and Peryl Kyzer were having a hot drink and contemplating when they would be pulling the hook to head down the mighty Yukon. Ellie was worried that her schedule now had her running mostly in the heat of the day. Dogs run best at about twenty below and in these nice, sunshiny days, the temperatures are more like twenty above. Soon Karen Ramstead gathered her bunch and trotted them past the other teams, heading towards Galena and Nulato. As darkness fell, Peter Bartlett also headed down the river, but not before handing me Bill’s Leatherman. Peter had lost his Leatherman and asked if he could borrow Bill’s for the rest of the trip to Nome. “Sure.” But Peter had found that his had only slipped out of his pocket and was down inside his sleeping bag. I have heard many tales of all the ‘good stuff’ mushers manage to lose out there on the trail, from clothes to knives to gear. Anyway, we all headed back to the Ungry’s house to update the web and wind down from a busy day of “musher watching.”


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