Two weeks ago I set off in a comfortable GMC Yukon SUV for an epic Seattle-to-Florida road trip. Far north of the Yukon, on that same day, my little sister, Jan, set off on a journey that makes my adventure look like a trip to the mailbox. Behind 14 happy dogs, she left Anchorage for Nome, on the 1,050-mile-long Iditarod race.
Of course, even qualifying for the Iditarod is a huge accomplishment and finishing this dangerous and grueling race is a personal victory. Jan is about to do just that. So far 50 teams have finished, 13 have dropped out or scratched and three are still on the trail.
While Jan's bruised, battered, and sleep-deprived, her spirits are soaring as she sets off on the last 70-mile leg of her journey. Like a nervous mother, I've been checking in, via the excellent Iditarod website to see how she's doing.
It's fun just reading about the stations -- wind-blown communities of corrugated tin igloos, with a couple hundred bundled-up residents who wait for each musher with warm bowls of soup -- and about the terrain between each station. Talk about a travel adventure... I'm dreaming of interviewing Jan on my radio program once she's back home in Seattle. I've got so many questions.
Today, Jan embarks from White Mountain to a station called Safety, across perhaps the most treacherous stretch of the entire race. When windy -- gale-force winds routinely whip off the Bering Sea here -- this can be treacherous -- even deadly. When the weather turns bad, mushers are advised to grab a shelter and wait it out. This morning the weather is calm and sunny, though 16 degrees below zero. I'm so relieved, as I imagine my sister is.
If you're interested, check out Jan's blog, and dig around in the Iditarod website for details. (Click on "2012 Race," where you can see the current standings or read about the terrain between her current checkpoints.)
Finishing in last place earns you the Iditarod Red Lantern -- something I'll admire on my sister's mantle for the rest of my life. Go Jan!!!