As I said at the start of this year’s blogs if the 2016 blog had been something of a psychological examination of the effects of sleep deprivation and experiencing a different way of life and 2017 was something of an interrupted observation of the difference in going Whitehorse to Fairbanks rather than the other way then 2018 might be a more of a travelogue. So the aim is to pick up on some of the details of the environment, what handlers and mushers have to do to get down the trail and what challenges we run across this year. However you can probably expect some psychological ramblings towards the end of the race.
So that is a long introduction into explaining that this blog is about leaving Whitehorse and travelling to Meet the Mushers at La Qinta Inn in Fairbanks and on to Melinda and Chris’ kind and wonderful hosting in Two Rivers.
We headed out of Whitehorse with 14 wonderful athletes (and their musher) and pulling 50 Iditarod drop bags in the trailer as well. On Thursday we were to deliver those to an intermediary logistics company who would make the final delivery for Rob. I’m always amazed how after an hour and a half of travel we are still barely out of Whitehorse and after three hours we are just about reaching Haines Junction.
We had our first stop of the journey just outside Haines Junction to get an hour of recuperation before the next leg. This “run, stop, run, stop” approach was to be the routine for this trip to make sure we had plenty of rest to travel safely. Other notable stops along the route we to include Destruction Bay, Beaver Creek opposite a very shut Buckshot Betty’s, Tok but without a visit to Fast Eddies and Delta Junction where we made the usual coffee stop at the IGA market.
The roads in in Fairbanks are “slick” this year but although an 18 hour road trip is in itself pretty special there was little else remarkable about the journey. We saw a couple of Mouse from a distance and at one point drove through a herd of Elk not far out of Whitehorse. After an 18 hour journey we managed to arrive at our destination 30 minutes early.
As this is my third Yukon Quest the Meet the Mushers events have become something of a routine too with not a lot changing from one year to the next. This year the one new thing was that we were selling merchandise at the event and James an I spent the evening manning our table and it turns out James is good at that too as well as batting away people who want discounts for buying multiple items.
This part of the preparation for the race always seems to me to go very slowly. We drop dogs, we put them back in their boxes, we drop them and they are fed, and they go back in their boxes. But it is all part of the important run up to the start.
The day after Meet the Mushers is always meetings day. There is a handlers’ meeting, a rookies meeting, a Finishers Club meeting, a full mushers meeting and the lunch for the Quest guests. Lots of meetings. I got to have a shower in the afternoon which was one of the day’s more remarkable events. It was my first since Vancouver on Monday morning and was very, very welcome.
The final event of Thursday is the Start Banquet and starting order draw. We were lucky this year to have a table of so many friends of the kennel at our table. It made for a raucous evening.
Rob said he wanted either 1 or 4 from the draw. In fact he drew “1+4” – 5. Still this was a great draw.
The last task on Friday was to say goodbye for now to those dratted drop bags. On Friday morning we dropped them with Jason at the logistics company, Hurst, who would be conveying them to Iditarod while he was down the trail back on the Canadian side of the Yukon Quest.
And so for final preparations, coffee and one more glass of wine and then to the start………