Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Of "Dog People" and the Iditarod...

It’s that time again…time for some caffeinated dog-talk.  No typo here.  It’s Iditarod time in Alaska.  If you’re a “dog person,” no explanation is needed as to the allure of a 1,000+ mile race from the Mat-Su Valley, through the Alaska Range, to the Yukon, to the Bering Sea and, finally, to Nome.  If you’re not a “dog person,” no explanation for this trek is possible.  For example, only real “dog people” will understand why 60-year-old Rick Swenson, who broke his collar bone yesterday going down the zig-zag steps leading to ironically named Happy River, continued his 20th race today with only one good arm.

I am blessed to serve the only United Methodist Church whose property actually abuts the Iditarod race trail.  OK, it’s the trail they use for the ceremonial start in Anchorage where sponsors pay big dollars to ride in the sleds as cheering fans beg riders and mushers for souvenir dog booties.*   Nevertheless, it’s a chance to see these unbelievably ambitious dogs and their mushers up close and personal.  And, to see them before 7 to 10 days of weather and sleep deprivation take their toll.

Though this is only my fourth Iditarod I’ve witnessed here in Alaska, I already am captivated by the various stops along the trail.  From the famous Rohn Roadhouse, located in Rohn, AK, population 0, to Kaltag, population 234, home of the widow of one of the original Iditarod mushers who delivered life-saving diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925, each stop has a unique blend of Iditarod history mixed in with the unique personalities of those who live in these remote villages of just a few dozen families.

“Watching” the race in recent years is a testimony to the rapidly advancing world of technology.  Each sled is fitted with a GPS device linked to a website.  For a $20 donation to the Iditarod folks, you can “watch” the sleds progress through the Alaskan landscape thanks to Google maps.  You can also catch 60 second video interviews that the mushers give at various stops along the way.  If you’re one of the few “dog people” who don’t know about this, go to www.iditarod.com and check it out.  If you’re not a “dog person,” you can roll your eyes now.

So…excuse me for this brief and shallow reflection this week (as opposed to the longer, yet still shallow, reflections I offer most weeks).  But, the leaders are all bunched up at Nikolai and I’m wondering if Lance Mackey will again sneak out while competitors sleep as he did several years ago.  On to Nome…

Pastor Jon

*Those of you who read my Facebook page already know that I am married to the middle aged woman who yelled, “I love you!!” to 4-time champion Lance Mackey and got a dog booty for her efforts.  

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