On Thursday, just one day from the start of the IPSSSDR, the excitement was starting to build. Several teams were at the Hoback Trail getting their last run in and you could just sense the energy. We got there early knowing that it might be a busy trail that day and the Streeper crew was already there. Buddy, Aaron and Bruce all took out a team and when they came back more teams had pulled into the parking lot. The Gilbertson crew rolled in followed by Lance Mackey and Newton Marshall, the Rossis, the Redingtons and then Slyvain pulled in. As we were all preparing for our runs, Lance took off with a 16 dog string and narrowly avoided a mishap as his team chose to run between the Streeper’s long rig and the snow bank leaving himself only a sled wide of space to get through. We all stopped and watched and then ran to the back to make sure he made it through. He made it through and didn’t even take off any mirrors; guess he’s been in tight spots before! Not even a minute later Ryan Redington came tearing through the parking lot on a 14 dog string and as he reached the trailhead he hit a burm and it tossed him right over and the team kept dragging him without even thinking of slowing down. Then he managed to get himself upright while still cruising. We laughed because just the night before we had shared with Ryan how our first Stage Stop we had entertained the crowd with a few mishaps in the first two stages. So we appreciated his entertainment! Unfortunately, Ryan’s mishap got him 7 stitches, but he is able to run the race thank goodness. Then Slyvain took off with 15 dogs with his handler in the basket as they neared the trailhead he slowed just enough for her to do a wonderful gymnastic move out of the basket. We applauded her grace and ability to land on her feet!
Our runs went great and the dogs were just amped to be with other dogs. They are ready to race. We tested out two new leaders and learned a lot. On the first run the team had to weave in and out of 6 touring sleds all lined up on the trail and then on the opposite side of them were at least 5 snowmobiles. They handled it brilliantly. The 2nd team we put another new leader up there and they handled some head on passes with those long strings out on the trail with ease. Bruce said it was the best head on passing he had ever done.
The long awaited Friday finally arrived and we headed to the vet check. We broke tradition and didn’t go The Bunnery for breakfast that morning and Denny Albert and Mark Nordman told us they had been waiting for us since 4:30AM; we’ll never break tradition again! The IPSSSDR vet check is the funnest vet check I’ve ever been to. It is like a reunion every year and it’s always so much fun to see everyone and then meet all the newcomers. You’ve got a lot of time to chat and check out everyone’s dogs/rigs etc. This year was a bonus because we got to go shopping! Erin Redington brought a boatload of fur hats and mitts that she had sewn and was selling them out of her pickup. She was an instant hit as everyone milled around checking out the goods. We got ourselves the coolest pair of Beaver mitts.
The musher meeting followed with the signing of the banners. There are literally hundreds of banners that the mushers have to sign and they will be all along the race route for the next 7 days. It’s quite phenomenal the support and participation from the communities for this race. New this year was live entertainment during the musher meeting. The traveling band had written a song for the IPSSSDR and they had us tapping our feet and grinning from ear to ear. The Pedigree program generously gave each musher and handler a parka, ball cap, scarf, knit cap and gloves along with a dozen dog bowls. It was some awesome stuff.
The rest of the afternoon was spent waiting and eating and socializing. Everyone was in good spirits and the running joke was how slow each of us were planning on running that night. Since the stage doesn’t count, but it does determine your starting order, most folks had realized they wanted to be the slowest team so that they could go out first in Lander on Sunday. There were talks of teams meeting at the Cowboy Bar, others were going to share a beer on the trail and others were thinking of camping. Not really sure who did what, but the times might tell us who did a little camping. I’m still not sure how Ryan could sit still that long after all the Red Bull he drank!!!
You can see the finishing times at the www.wyomingstagestop.org website. Bruce will be the 8th team out on Sunday. He ran as slow as he was comfortable and it put us out early, but not too early. We’re happy with the results.
That evening we had appetizers and drinks at the ski lodge where they did a fireworks display and skiers came down the mountain with lights. The music was loud and it was a party atmosphere. I got caught on video dancing with Newton Marshall to Black-eyed Pea’s “Tonight’s Going To Be A Good Night”!! Thank goodness it didn’t turn out :O
We drove to Lander today. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and the mountains were breathtaking. Took photos, but camera took a poop and I lost them all. Lander skipped the banquet this year and had a police escort for the dog trucks to downtown where they shut down the streets. There were tons of people that came down to see us and the dogs. They played music and folks were literally dancing in the streets. Hands down a winner idea, we loved every minute of it. So the festivities are over and tomorrow we race. It’s supposed to be warm so the trails will either be hard and fast if they settled or they will be mash potatoes. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!