I'd like to resume the photographic tale of Cousin Deirdre and the Fabulous Mike's visit to the Kuskokwim-300. I will spare you the details of the reasons for my delay. I won't even go into the topics of procrastination or distraction. I won't talk about the corncakes I made to heat the hovel when our heat went off and it was cold, and windy, and 60 Below. Or about the piece of art that one particular fur hat sewing district attorney gifted to me….indeed, I won't even talk about how he sewed a fur hat out of green astro-turf. (Though I will – soon – and in the meantime shall pause, for just a second, to again ask you to join me in persuading Tom to start a blog of his own.) I shall even restrain from talking about my favorite fried egg sandwich in town.
I'm going to save all that for later.
Here – and now – I shall, finally, resume the photographic tale of a visit of two very fun folks, the memory of which still has me glowing from the combination of good people, good times, and smoked fish.
So, here we go……
When we left off, the ever-adventurous Cousin Deirdre and the Fabulous Mike had learned their snowmaching skills on Mission Lake and then demonstrated their snowmaching prowess on a trip down the Kuskokwim River. After going through a few sloughs, and past a few wintered-up fish camps, we returned to town, crossed Mission Lake, sped through Alligator Acres, and popped over to Pat's to meet Hugh Neff's dog team.......
After playing with the dogs, Mike got to work and helped Hugh to swap out the "regular" runners on his sled for a pair of "race" runners. (Do keep in mind that only a few hours before, Mike got to work and helped a pizza delivery guy that knocked on my door to pull his car out of the ditch in front of my neighbors house.)
If ever there is a musher that is generous with his time and enthusiasm for dog mushing, it is Hugh Neff. I really am grateful to him for taking time out of his day-of-the-race morning to talk with my visiting family about dog-mushing and to let us play with his team!
Be sure to look for him in the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. He's good people!
Eventually, we had to leave to start our official race-day volunteer duties. Our next race-related endeavour took us to the neighborhood called Kasayuli. This time we drove - I drove. Cousin Deirdre and the Fabulous Mike were too polite to express any fear at the prospect, and I am very happy to say that we arrived safely....and early! Oh, that Cousin D - she has always been such a good influence on me! In any event, we were on truck support duty, assigned to help musher Jim Lanier get his sled to the start line. Our pick-up is not equipped to transport dogs, and so we were there - literally - to transport the sled. Alas, there was some confusion and a dash of chaos with the folks that were assigned to transport the dogs. Eventually, fortunately, a plan was hatched. Bethel-style - meaning we made it happen with the resources we had. Here is the team getting the bulk of the team loaded up into a pick-up equipped for transporting dog teams.
The other dogs rode inside our pick-ups. One rode in the cab of my pick-up (while Mike rode in the bed of the pick-up, making sure that the sled and gear did not fall out - oh! he's a good man!), two dogs rode in the bed of my friend's (with his wife and my cousin Deirdre, each holding onto a dog), and a few rode inside the jeep of Jim Lanier's host family. But they all arrived! A little later than we had planned, but well before the last musher arrived. Without any delay, Jim Lanier got his sled set up and started the process of moving the dogs from the pick-ups to their harnesses.
And then, amidst an excitement that I may never be describe though I hope never to forget, we lined up and helped Jim Lanier get his team to the starting chute. Cousin Deirdre and the Fabulous Mike jumped in and helped, even though I'm fairly certain that they hadn't ever handled a team inside the starting chute of a world-famous dogsledding race amidst an eager and excited crowd. They were incredible.
(For the record - I wasn't the only one that thought so. Indeed, the very next morning after the race start, we stopped by the Saturday market at the Cultural Center and Cousin Deirdre discovered that there was an entire crafts table devoted to pictures of Deirdre and Mike at the starting line....pictures, postcards, greeting cards, magnets, photo albums, etc.!)
One Mr. Lanier's team was off, we were free to watch the rest of the teams make their way through the chute. Here's few pictures of the crowd. They don't do justice to the scene, but I suppose they make a good introduction.
And once the last team was through, we wandered over to the Hovercraft to partake of the free hotdogs and hot chocolate being offered to the community. Alas, they had run out of everything! And so we settled for a picture.
(Why - yes! This is the very same Hovercraft that carried us to the village of Akiak where Josh proposed to me last April!)
The night continued with fireworks. And I introduced that poor duo to more people than they could possibly have dreamed they'd meet in such a short amount of time. And then I had to enlist their assistance in moving a stack of frozen lasagnas from one pick-up to my pick-up. And then, exhausted, we came home. And slept. Hard.
The next day, though, the adventure continued...........
The Akiak Dash !
As I near the end of this post, I must make a confession: this summary of Cousin Deirdre and the Fabulous Mike's visit is abbreviated. I am purposefully reigning myself in, lest I unleash the verbosity and gush about how much it meant to me that my cousin would travel so far, in winter, to visit us. In my determination to post something, I am not posting nearly enough to properly describe how fortunate I find myself to have a cousin that is also such a dear friend. But, like I said, I'm abbreviating here. Condensing all these days and adventures, and moments of gratitude, into one blog post.
But even with this quest for brevity, I would be remiss if I failed to make a few references to a legacy of cousinly rivalry.....more specifically, to a match of Scrabble and to a certain card game called Spit - actually, to a tournament of Spit that is well over a decade old!
Dear Dee - I do look forward to being 70 years old and still competing for the Ultimate Spit Championship!