Stage 3 – 18 Mile Iditarod

The expression today was….”WOW, what a day!”  After yesterday, there was some tired souls that arrived at the starting line only to find out that they were in for another slug fest.  We were informed at the musher’s meeting that there was not a groomed trail to speak of due to severe winds.  This was too much for some teams after a bad day yesterday.  Grant Beck, who carried 2 dogs in Lander for many miles decided to scratch after he got the news.  It was confirmed that Mary scratched after Lander due to her team quitting 8 miles out and Lloyd had to bring her some leaders to bring her in.  However, Terry Adkins did not scratch and was in good spirits.  The concern level got to an extreme high due to the amount of road crossings that are involved on this stage and mushers were voicing their concern about the present situation.  They decided to delay the race an hour so that they could try to groom as much as possible, get markers up and put as many people available at the road crossings.  Some mushers were still not convinced and they attempted to convince everyone to protest.  This did not work and we found ourselves going through the motions to start at 10AM.  The winds in the staging area were fierce and it made for an uncomfortable wait.  We took 8 dogs, which is a very manageable number for this stage and all the road crossings.  We put Maximus and Mary in lead and the rest of the team consisted of Indigo, Mikka, Shiner, Blizzard, Billy and Dickens.  The team was absolutely amped and the photographer got at least a dozen photos of the dogs going nuts.  Shiner was jumping 2 feet in the air and ears were flapping like plane wings and Mikka was on her hind legs screaming with all her teeth showing like a vicous beast — it was hilarious!

All the teams got off to a good start and the caravan pulled out.  Within minutes we couldn’t believe the conditions we drove into.  There were 60 mph winds and we were in a literal white out.  Everyone had their hazards on and we were crawling down the highway.  One dog truck had a sled literally break in half from the wind.  You could not see the car in front of you and had to look for the highway markers or pieces of the yellow lines.  I was a little freaked out, but not enough to avoid taking some photos.  Check out the gallery.  At times I literally had to almost stop the truck because I could not see the road.  I was very concerned for the mushers.  You felt helpless because there wasn’t a darn thing you could do for them.  I saw Wendy and she looked like she was doing everything to keep from being blown from the sled and I cannot imagine how she could see anything.  Then I came up on Mel and she shouted, “This !@#$@# sucks I cannot see a damn thing!”.  It was horrible.  I then passed Jacque and a minute later I saw Bruce.  The team was moving good and he had Doug in his sights.  I hoped for the best as I drove on.  After one handler drove a truck off the highway we sat dead on the road for a few and then another truck went off.  I managed to white knuckle it again and make it to the finish line.  We were there about a 1/2 hour when the announcement came that they were stopping the race at a ranch and we had to go back.  So we went back out onto the miserable highway to pickup the teams.  It was a vision.  We were in a virtual white out and then suddenly you saw faint police car lights and then some cars parked along the highway and then right on the side of the highway along a fenceline sat 17 teams barely visible in the blowing snow.  It was unreal.  I parked and ran over to the team which was in a knot becuase some were so anxious to get moving they chewed the tugs.  Poor Mikka was a complete blanket of frozen ice and shivering like crazy.  They all looked a little dazed and confused.  We had to walk the dogs through 2 1/2 feet of snow across the highway to get them in the truck.  The stage turned out to be 18 miles.  Bruce said the dogs drove hard in the wind and never faltered.  He had a couple tangles and they took one wrong turn and lost a minute or two.  He said that it was unbelievable.  At times he could not see his wheel dogs and for about 10 minutes he rode that way hoping that they were still on the trail.  When they got to some real deep snow that is when Doug and Jacque really pulled away from him.   Wendy caught him and they ran together until the finish.  We were really impressed with Max becuase we weren’t sure how his head would hold together with all that and he was brilliant as was Mary.  He finished 7th as Sam, JR and Doug inched ahead of him on this stage.  He is still 5th overall, but this is one heck of a close race at this point.  Overall consesus was that this was the worst conditions many of the mushers had ever seen or ever driven dogs in and it quickly made everyone forget about how tough Lander had been.  The bad news is that it’s still blowing and snowing and we may be in for more of this tomorrow 🙁


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