In 2013, a fan from Florida placed an order with a restaurant in Unalakleet to have a pizza waiting for Matthew Failor when he arrived with his dogs. Would this be the start of a tradition? In 2014, there were five pizzas waiting for Matthew in Unalakleet, which he didn’t get to eat since he checked in and out of the checkpoint in a matter of minutes. Sadly, the pizzas weren’t from the same Florida fan who had them delivered in 2013. That fan had passed away earlier in the year due to complications with diabetes. Her friends didn’t let her down and decided to keep the tradition alive. Other mushers enjoyed the pizza, along with other food prepared by village volunteers for all the mushers.
Questions to use in the classroom:
What is the name of the restaurant in Unalakleet the pizza was delivered from?
What is your favorite pizza and from what restaurant? Find out how much it would cost you to buy your pizza.
Find out how much a pizza costs in Unalakleet at the restaurant Matthew’s pizza comes from.
Why do you think it costs so much more for a pizza in Unalakleet?
Read the story below from Matthew Failor. Make a musical playlist if you were making the run from Rainy Pass to Rohn (you only get 10 songs).
Since our Checkpoint Checkup last week was Rainy Pass to Rohn, I asked Matthew to share a little bit about his most recent journey. As he and his dogs were jamming to Ted Nugent, the sky was full of stars and the moon was as bright as the sun. It was a very fast and technical run, with barely any snow.
Here is what Matthew had to say about arriving in Rohn in 2014: “It was an unsettling, eerie feeling. Felt like I had just walked into a funeral home during calling hours. Dumbfounded mushers were standing by their sleds, not moving, not talking. I had been so focused on what I was doing that it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t the only musher who’d had a difficult time controlling my team in the gorge. Mushers with broken sleds, bones, and wills were log-jammed here in Rohn. My plan was to stay there only long enough to pack my sled, all in all maybe 15 minutes. I squeezed in snacks for dog and man, Heet and straw. After packing my sled for the long run to Nikolai, I dashed into the log cabin for a drink of water. I was full of sweat and showing signs of dehydration. By accident, I found the jug of Tang. It was tasty enough, so I slammed down 4 cups of that sugary stuff as fast as I could. As I was heading out the door I noticed my friend DeeDee (Jonrowe) by the wood stove. I stopped to give her a big hug, told her she was the ‘Queen of the Dalzell Gorge’ and that the worst was behind us…I was wrong. The worst was not behind us… When the smoke cleared a dozen or so mushers pulled the plug in Rohn.”
Trail crews had worked hard to prepare the trail through the Dalzell Gorge in 2014. With their hard word and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, the trail would be decent. Mother Nature dropped the snow everyone was hoping for, not much, but a couple of inches can make a big difference. Things looked reasonable; however, under a bright, radiant sun, temperatures warmed well above freezing as the race began in Willow and the precious little snow that had fallen began to melt. Conditions in the Gorge during 2014 were not at all typical of what mushers usually see or don’t see. If he were talking about his runs in 2012 or 2013, Matthew would tell a story about triumph and satisfaction in Rohn rather than shock and disbelief. While the red line on the map is the same, the condition of the trail makes each year of the race unique.