What a day of fun! I’m a reunion kind of gal and so this is my favorite part of Stage Stop; Day one. You get to see everyone after being away for an entire year and re-kindle old friendships and begin new ones. It is a day full of laughs and socializing. We started our day at The Bunnery. OMG, I love this place and if you ever come to Jackson Hole, you must make it a point to stop their for breakfast and a pastry or two. My truck had a couple bags of goodies stashed in there to get me through the day. At one point Chris Adkins asked me if I had a stock pile in there as he witnessed me shoving another croissant in my face. BUSTED with crumbs all down my parka!
So we walked into The Bunnery and had to laugh because there were Mark Nordman and Denny Albert sitting in almost the same exact seat as last year and when we all 4 saw each other we started laughing. They said, “We were wondering where you two were!” It is becoming a pre-race tradition 🙂 Then Mel Shirilla and John Stewart came in followed by half the Moderow gang. What a perfect start to the morning. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the huevos rancheros were the bomb!
We got to the vet check and trucks started rolling in. Everyone was walking around socializing and catching up on the past year. We ALL talked about how special this race was because of the friendships you form. Lots of hugs, smiles and laughs.
The vet check went very good. All 16 dogs passed with flying colors and the young dogs handled it with ease. Denny did our check this year and as always was great help answering questions and such. There was a new vet on staff this year that is a chiropractor and we got to talk with her and had her do thermal imaging on one of our dogs. Very fascinating and helpful lady. It is always an amazing experience working with these top caliber vets and the information that they share is invaluable.
After the vet check we headed to the driver’s meeting for the official signing of 100’s of banners and a review of the rules. It was especially touching this year because unbeknownst to many of us until we got to Wyoming, we learned that Frank Teasley had been in a car accident in 2009 and had to undergo a couple brain surgeries. This race is always quite a feat to pull together and this year it is truly a miracle that they were able to pull it off despite the obstacles. We are all very thankful for Frank’s recovery and to him and the race organization for making this thing happen. HUGE applause to all of them.
There had been a ton of rumors prior to the race about changes to the course due to a lack of snow. Well, we received the good news that the stages are the same and one of them is actually longer. We were told Lander 43 miles, Pinedale 44, Big Piney 64, Alpine 54, Kemmerer 60, Evanston 45 miles. So Pinedale, which used to be a short 25 miler has been nearly doubled. What used to be a stage that we all just tried to get through without injuring dogs has now become a real challenging stage. It will be fun to see what an impact this has on the race.
The race started at 6:30PM. Bruce pulled starting #13 and on a Friday no doubt…what luck! We went out with Vail and Ivan in lead. We wanted to give Vail experience in lead with crowds. Then we took two youngersters Perry and Umea for the same reason and Mikka came along as a backup in case Vail freaked. Well, those young dogs got out of the truck and started screaming as they watched team after team heading out. I get no greater thrill than watching young dogs experience the race atmosphere and decide they really like it. Perry, was tugging on the gangline and screaming like a fool. Quiet, reserved Umea was a nut job and Vail was jumping 3 feet in the air. I was like a proud momma watching those kids soak it all in and really embrace it. It’s quite an impressive start with lots of people and loud music and it is a really good experience for the dogs.
So for those of you not aware. This stage is NOT timed. Your finish determines what place you will start for the first official stage in Lander. They always start in reverse order so if you come in last, you will start first in Lander. Our plan was to shoot for last. Bruce came in and said, “I think I went too fast. I passed Aaron Peck and Buddy never passed me.” Aaron went out right before Bruce and Buddy right after Bruce. Then we all teased Aaron later because when Bruce passed him he was stopped on the trail camping out working hard for that last place finish!!! We were seriously cracking up because it was obvious that lots of folks were racing for last and that was funny because you never see that in a race. We finished in 12th, which means we will head out in 6th position in Lander. We are pleased with this starting position.
Tomorrow, we have the entire day to drive to Lander and get all the last minute details worked out. We’ll have a banquet that evening and then we race Sunday morning.