Hi Boys and Girls,
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel with a dog sled team? How much fun would it be to ride in the sled while a team of dogs like me pulled you? And better yet, what if you were in the sled at the start of the Iditarod and got to ride the first 11 miles with a team? Well some lucky race fans get the opportunity each year.
The IditaRider program is an auction that helps pay for the race. Every year race fans can go to the Iditarod website and sign up to bid on a ride in the sled of their choice. The winning bidder meets their musher a few days before the race. Then on Saturday during the start in Anchorage, they ride in the basket of the sled. What an exciting day for these bidders.
Nancy Livingston has been an Iditarider since 2001. Can you figure out how many times she has ridden in a sled at the start of the Iditarod? She has ridden with Alaskan mushers Dan Gavonni, Lynda Plettner, Mike Williams, Rick Swenson, and Robert Nelson and with Norwegian mushers Robert Sorlie, Bjorner Anderson, Kjetil Backen, Sigrid Ekran and Joar Leifeeth. She has been able to ride with the Norwegians 9 times.
I bet you are wondering what it is like to ride in the sled. Nancy says, “You hear the panting of the dog’s breath and the padding of their paws on the snow; you feel chips of ice and snow kicked back by the wheel dogs; you smell the forest…that scent of fir; you marvel at eagles in trees and watch them soar gracefully; you encounter another team and wonder which team will stop and which will do a pass by; you give up counting how many times the dogs grab at a mouthful of snow; you experience cookies, muffins, hot dogs, candy etc. tossed at you; and when I ride with my beloved Norwegians…the Sons of Norway always have a tuba or some musical instruments playing their national anthem at some checkpoint along the way.” Can’t you just feel what it’s like from her description? I can even smell those hot dogs.
Nancy has some great memories from the trail. She remembers crossing a creek bridge that had no railings but the dogs held the trail. Or the time two black labs were running and crossing in front of the team. Even though the lead sled dogs wanted to chase the labs they didn’t. And the best memory was when she felt like a true Alaskan when the musher taught her to ride the runners all the way along the Campbell Air Strip to the extraction point. WOW! How exciting for Nancy to get to ride on the runners of the sled. Do you know what that means? It means she got to be the musher and drive the team. I bet very few Iditariders get to try that.
Doesn’t all this sound like a lot of fun? Of course I get to pull a sled and I think that’s the best job to have. But if I was a human, and I didn’t have a dog sled team of my own, I want to be an Iditarider. I wish Nancy the best ride ever for her 14th time being an Iditarider.
I’ll catch you on the trail,