Friday, January 29, 2010

The Tustumena 200

Jim and I went to see the start of the Tustumena 200 sled dog race last Saturday morning. 

For some mushers, this is a qualifying race for the Iditarod. The full race is a 200-mile round-trip course starting and ending in Kasilof, about 20 miles south of us. Mushers must start the race with no fewer than 10, and no more than 14, dogs in harness and end the race with no fewer than five in harness. Although some dogs obviously preferred to drive rather than run.
It was -4 degrees out when we left the house that morning. By the time we got to Kasilof to watch the mushers harness up their dogs, it was an even zero degrees. Jim and I were quick to realize we do not own enough furs to keep warm on a windy negative temperature morning, but that's for another post...

There was a yurt for a musher's meeting place, and yurts have become an ongoing inside joke for us and Amy for oh, more than a year now, I guess. So you know we had to take a picture of it for her!
This is what it looked like inside. Like a nice big collapsible baby gate with canvas on it.
Strollers are *so* Lower 48.

And in case you're wondering, not all the mushers are rough hairy men. This is musher Kristy Berington.

Going to this race gave us a lot of perspective on Moya's attitude. Many of the dogs looked much, if not VERY much, like her - leggy and lean. Had she remained with the musher who originally owned her litter, she would have been a good racer. Well, if she would have learned to obey, that is! This dog (and thank goodness it was tethered at each end of its traces) couldn't wait to get started. And helped us understand Moya's Miracle Vertical Jump.
This is Iditarod favorite DeeDee Jonrowe. Her distinctive breast-cancer-awareness pink kuspuk and gear makes her easy to recognize.
Even her dog team wears pink.

This is another Iditarod favorite and back-to-back Yukon Quest and Iditarod winner, Lance Mackey. I included this picture so you can see that his team is tethered to the yellow snow machine to keep them anchored and avoid a false start. A dog team can literally move a parked car if they decide they want it moved.

Lance tops the hill past the starting chute and off he goes...

And this is Jeff King. Iditarod favorite and winner of this year's T200!

Cim Smyth came in second, and DeeDee Jonrowe came in third.

A few dog sled racing fun facts from the T200 website:

A working sled dog requires between 10,000 and 26,000 calories during a 24-hour period. Contrast that to a Tour de France cyclist, who burns 7000 - 8000 calories per day.

The booties the dogs wear to protect their feet on the trail cost about 80 cents each when purchased in bulk, and an average musher will go through approximately 200 booties during a race.

The T200 has the largest purse for a 200-mile nationwide.

The fastest time for the T200 was Paul Gebhardt's 1996 run in 26 hours, 4 minutes - an average of 7.7 miles per hour!


We didn't stay to see the T100 (the half race) mushers start off. It was getting pretty cold and I forgot to wear heavy socks (duh) so we headed on back. The race ended the next day but we opted to stay home waiting for race results on the 'net instead of waiting at the finish line.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Leaving James at GCC

Hello, everyone! Sorry for the late update, but there's been a little drama here since I last wrote. I'll get to that later. But for now, the important stuff:

James seems to be settling into school nicely and is meeting people and making friends faster than I can learn their names. Here he is, caught unawares, hanging out with two friends in the Student Union:

And here he is, outside the Student Union, about to go out to dinner with his parents one more time before we go back to Alaska:

We decided to go to Eat'nPark for dinner, and we had a good time there. Much hilarity, most of it from James, naturally. Jim and I were having withdrawals already so we weren't quite our normal sparkly personalities, haha. Here's James with me, in my new Grove City College Mom sweatshirt (thank you, Jim):

And here he is with Jim:

Lamp hats! (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

I'm so glad I got to go on this trip to see where he's living now. The campus is beautiful and in the spring, when the flowers are blooming and the grass is lush, it's going to be breathtaking. Oh, and before I forget, here are some pics I took of the random architectural details that caught my eye. I love a building where things were put in just because they are beautiful.

This is the pulpit in the Harbison Chapel:

And this is the balcony (where James says it's easiest to get out quickly if you have to run across campus to your next class, which he does):

This is some tile work in the lobby of the chapel:

And when even the storm grates are pretty, you know careful thought and love went into the making of the place:

James's updates on Facebook (yes, we have to use Facebook because he's having trouble receiving emails on campus) indicate that he's having a good time. He's got a new blog going that you should check out, here at Pookie Must Be Heard!

Now, why didn't I update the blog earlier? Well, it took us almost exactly 24 hours to get home after leaving the hotel in Grove City, so we were pretty tired when we got home on Wednesday morning. We got a few hours of sleep before cleaning out the freezer - which had thawed while we were away and we lost nearly everything that had been in it. Stinky meat and drippy blood, gross. We needed to go pick up the three dogs at the kennel in Sterling, too. Tate had been moved to the indoor area because she seemed too cold, so she stayed nice and clean, but Belle and Moya needed baths. So there was that to do, too. Then Lysol out the freezer, go to town to get groceries to begin to replace what we'd lost, come home to cook up what meat we were able to salvage, all while trying to get our feet back under us from the trip and the weirdness of coming home without James.

On the bright side, though, the weather has been gorgeous. Frosty cold in the teens, but gorgeous. The sunshine is lovely and the snow is so sparkly it looks like Liberace should be wearing it.

Tomorrow there is a sled dog race in Kasilof, the Tustumena 200. Jim and I are planning to go see the start of it, and drive around looking at the ice sculptures being done in Kenai. Are we taking the dogs with us? Oh heck no. The last thing we need is for Moya to see other dogs running flat-out and figure out that's what she was bred to do. We'd never be able to walk her normally again... As if we could in the first place!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grove City College

Hello at last from Grove City, Pennsylvania! I'd have posted sooner, but James pretty much got right into the midst of college activities when we got here, and I haven't had many opportunities to take pictures of him. I think I have as many pics of the campus buildings as I do of James!

Here's James in front of the Lower Campus sign.

The buildings really are pretty to look at, if you like Gothic-type architecture. Which I do. There are lots of arched doors and arched halls, leaded glass, and interesting pointy bits on the roofs. This is one of the main doors into James' dorm, Ketler Hall.

Ketler Hall was built in 1938. James' room is the top left triple window. The single window on the end of the building is a small room at the end of the hall, separating James' room from one like his on the other side of the hall.

And here's James, carrying some groceries up to his room. He's got a dorm fridge all to himself. Which I expect he'll keep stocked with only healthy foods like raw apples and milk. Right?

At the bends in the stairs going up to James' room, there are little alcoves with leaded glass windows. I think this one is a nod to the engineering department, but I'm not sure. I would totally bring a beverage and a book and sit here if I could.

The campus map.

James, checking his mailbox. "Hey, Mom, this is where to send some noms. I mean, raw apples and milk. Yeah."

Jim and James in the entry of the gorgeous 1931 Harbison Chapel. I have some pictures of the inside, which hardly do it justice, but which I'll post later anyway.

And James with me.

Today is the first day of classes for James, and when we see him this evening to say our goodbyes, we'll find out how they went. He has more classes in the morning that start before we need to leave for the airport, so it's unlikely we'll see him after tonight until he comes home for Easter break in March.

And the newly-empty nesters are already looking forward to that!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blurry photos and bleary eyes...

Hello again! I'm writing from Terminal B of the Anchorage airport, waiting for our flight to Pittsburgh that will take James to begin his college adventure. We haven't slept since this time yesterday, except for a nap James took in the car, so if nothing in this post makes any sense, blame it on that.  ;^)

During this past week, we got a new type of bird coming to our feeder. These are Common Redpolls. I'm sure Jim has some better pictures of them on his camera, but I forgot to get his pics, so you'll have to see mine and imagine them as being a lot redder, okay?

Remember when Zoe and James made graham cracker houses? Well, they were getting a bit old so James put them on the balcony for the birds, and one of the redpolls hopped onto the roof.

We also tried out the Kenai bowling alley. James said the retro scoring station made him feel like Checkov from Star Trek.
(Yes, I know Spock did the hand thingy, not Checkov, but still...)

Yesterday, James and I took the three dogs to the kennel in Sterling, about an hour from home. This was the longest car ride the three of them had taken together, and it went pretty well. Here's Tate, photobombing. LOL.  Goofy thing.

That's about all I know for now. I hope to get some sleep on the plane and be able to string together more coherent thoughts next time I post. And also hope to have some nice pictures of James' new environment to show you! See you in Pennsylvania!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Six Months

We've been full-time Alaska residents for six whole months now. And things are going pretty darn good.

Moya has started to settle down and become less Moya the Destroya and more Moya the Enjoya. Tate is starting to feel her age and have some problems, but as she nears 13, it's to be expected. Belle is happy to sleep in Jim's office near her favorite hoomin. They'll all go to the kennel in Sterling on Wednesday when we get ready to.......

Take James to college!

He'll be entering Grove City College in Pennsylvania as a second-semester sophomore with almost 60 credit hours under his belt. He's got his college address now so if you want it, email me so I can get it to you. I'm sure he'll be glad for letters from friends.

We'll all leave really early in the morning on Thursday, flying out of Anchorage to Pittsburgh. James has an orientation on Friday, over the weekend we'll do some shopping for the dorm items he needs, and Jim and I will have a couple extra days to explore before leaving on Tuesday. We won't get back to Anchorage until past midnight, so we're thinking we'll get a hotel and do any shopping we need to do while we're in The Big City before heading back home.

We're proud of James, and while we'll certainly miss having him around the house, it's exciting to see him start on this new chapter of his life's story.

We love you, Bud.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I have to admit, I'm a little sorry to see 2009 in the rear-view mirror already. It went by so fast... Some of it I barely remember. Good thing I kept up the blogging, right?

We woke up this New Year's Day morning to a dense fog. While I do love the fog across the lake, this one was thick and hazy and not pleasant to look at, but when it burned away in the bright winter sunshine, it left the trees coated with a fresh sparkle of frost. I do so love the trees that way. The low trajectory of the sun kept the sparkles on the frosty branches like a spotlight.

For those who may have had a year you're glad to say goodbye to, I hope that it rolled away like a morning fog and has left your world sparkling anew, like freshly glazed trees in the bright morning sun. May this be the year you hope for, full of health and friends and love.