On Friday, March 1, 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage was bustling with cars, buses, taxis and people everywhere. That night, truckload after truckload of snow was hauled into the over 13 city blocks and dumped in the streets. Overnight, 4th Avenue changed from a busy car street to a busy dogsled trail. This is it – the Ceremonial Start of the 41st Iditarod.
I showed up at the starting line at 8:00 AM with the three 2014 Teacher On The Trail finalists as well as two past Teachers On The Trail. People were starting to filter in and within the hour dog trucks were finding their assigned spots. Soon the street was filled with dog trucks, dogs, sleds, and fans. I made my way to find the musher who would be giving me the ride of my life.
At 16, Noah Pereira is an awesome driver. No, not cars (I know better than to get in a car with most 16 year olds) – dogsleds. As winner of the Junior Iditarod he had the honor of leaving the chute at 9:56 AM in the number one position with his IditaRider – ME! What a great feeling to be the first at the starting line of the 41st Iditarod. The crowd cheered and wished us well as our team of 10 dogs pulled us down 4th Avenue in Anchorage. With all the confidence of a champion musher, Noah made the sharp, 90° turn to the right at the bottom of the street onto Cordova without losing me or his dad who was in a tail sled. We headed out of the city streets and onto a beautiful trail system.
People cheered for Noah and his dogs as they congratulated him on his recent win. Once out of the city, the fog lifted, the sky turned blue, and the mountains could be seen above the trees. It was an amazing site. It was fun to be in the crowd of people, but indescribable to be alone in the woods watching the dogs do what they do best, run. As we headed into the Campbell Airstrip, Noah, his dad and I were disappointed that we had reached the end of our journey.
I am truly honored to be a part of this race. Noah – thank you for the ride of my life.