My plan for this afternoon was to go the the Nome Elementary School with Martha and watch the screening of Spirit of the Wind: The Story of George Attla. My plans, however, changed. As I was working on my “P” Team story, my phone rang. It was Terrie Hanke calling to notify me that Stan Hooley, Executive Director of the Iditarod Trail Committee, had invited us on a snowmachine trip to Safety. I was more than thrilled with the invitation.
About three weeks ago during the Junior Iditarod, I had my first ride on a snowmachine. Today I would be driving a snowmachine for the first time. We arrived behind the mini all bundled up and ready for our trip to Safety. Our caravan to Safety included Stan Hooley, Terrie Josie, and a couple of Donlin Gold sponsors. We departed the parking lot, headed out on the Bering Sea and joined up with the Iditarod trail. My initial thought was, “Wow, I am driving on the Bering Sea!” I then started to grasp the fact that I was driving on the exact trail that Dallas Seavey, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Jeff King, even Joe Redington, Sr. have traveled.
As we dashed up the rough trail, we passed many other snowmachines heading the opposite direction. Overhead we heard a few helicopters on their way to drop tourists off at the Safety checkpoint. The view was magnificent. I kept turning my head side to side glimpsing the sea on my right and mountains in the distance on my left. As I got more and more comfortable driving the Ski Doo, I increased my speed; it was such a thrill. The snowmachines are so high-tech, they have heated handle bars and even a heated throttle. My hands stayed plenty warm, they actually got a little hot.
22 miles after the start of our journey, we arrived at the Safety Roadhouse, the last checkpoint. I walked into the checkpoint to see a familiar face, Nancy Yoshida. Nancy is working Comms in Safety. She checks in the mushers and sends the information to Anchorage Comms and Race Stats, who then relays the information to Nome. We spent a short time in the Roadhouse visiting with other fans and locals who have made the trip to the Roadhouse. We also had the pleasure of witnessing a Iditarider bike into Safety for a brief stop and then he continued on to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Invitational is a race in which participants either bike or run the Iditarod Trail. The race started one week prior to the start of the Iditarod.
After our short visit at the Roadhouse we began our trek back to Nome. On the way back we made a few picture stops, enjoying the fascinating views. We finally arrived back at the Mini parking lot and parked our machines. What an amazing experience. I am so thankful Stan thought of inviting us on the journey to Safety. To be able to drive a snowmachine itself is quite an exciting experience, but to drive a snowmachine on the Iditarod trail is an unforgettable experience.