A win at Kusko!!
Wow! What a weekend the Husky Homestead team had! Were you following along with the race online?!?! On Sunday morning at 11am Jeff crossed the finish line of the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race, marking his NINTH victory in the race!! All the while sporting that Kusko 300 belt buckle and a lucky bib #9 (that he picked out)!
Let’s go back in time just a bit to fill you in…
Last Thursday (1/17/13) was a busy day for mushers in Bethel: vet checks continued with the teams, musher food drops were due, there was a musher autograph session, musher meetings and then the draw for starting positions. Jeff chose bib #9 for the race start and he was pretty excited about that! Why? Well he had won the Kusko 8 times…. so, perhaps having bib #9 was a sign that a ninth win is on the horizon??
The race began on the riverfront on Friday at 6:30pm. The wind was whipping and the locals were out to see the start of the race! (Check out this video of the start by KYUK of Bethel!) In the midst of the mad dash to ready the team with booties and make sure the sled bag is zipped up and everything is on board, Jeff was informed by the race committee that he would be carrying a rider across the starting line and through the chute with him – no further than one mile down the trail. Jeff began quickly trying to fill his rider in on the “how to’s” of riding a sled – and if you’ve never been around the start of a dog sled race we can assure you that speaking to someone and having them ‘hear’ you can be quite challenging!!
The start was fast approaching and everyone was good to go: dogs, rider… Jeff? Well he thought he was ready to go… just had to throw his anorak on over his head – or not. It turns out that when Jeff had pinned his lucky Bib #9 to his anorak, he pinned through both the front and the back therefore making it impossible to get on. With trusty helpers beside him, everyone kept trying to help get the man dressed. Haha! The problem was remedied and the team was off!!
Well… they were off until they hit glare ice about 100 feet past the starting chute… where they began to tip over. Then “like a shingle in a snowstorm” the rider was gone…. Jeff spent the first few hours of the race in wonder about his rider and hoping he didn’t end up with any broken bones.
Jeff carried Deets during the first part of the race and he rode in the basket like he had been doing it is whole life! (Deets had been practicing – see above picture!) Even with the speed and excitement of the team Deets was perfect – so very cooperative and didn’t give Jeff any grief. He even began to lean into the corners just like a pro!
On the way upriver Jeff stopped in Kalskag for his six hour rest. After doing chores and getting the dogs fed and bed down, he spent some time talking with other mushers and enjoying a nice hot meal himself. He had also been worrying about the brake on his sled since he had been riding it pretty hard – and with the hard surface area of the trail he thought it may not last long. That proved true as he caught and passed Rohn Buser (current race leader at that point) on the plowed road leading into Aniak. He was standing on it with both feet… then bam! Broken brake and of course then completely useless. With only his drag brake left to slow the team down for the remaining 150 miles of the race, Jeff chose to take this as a sign from the Mushing Gods to get off the brake and let the team go. And that’s just what he did!
All the dogs were exceptional in the race! Rebel, Burglar and Skeeter were outstanding leaders, but the over-the-top enthusiasm and endless appetite of Menace made him this teams All Star. After the teams mandatory 4 hour rest in Tuluksak Menace continued to jamming his harness all the way to the finish. While running solo wheel, Menace would playfully bark and bite at Jeff as he would walk down the team on his way back to the sled – “Come on boss, let’s go!”
Another stand out dog from this team was the only rookie dog on the team – Ebb. At only 18 months of age this guy was sensational. Upon leaving the warmth of a checkpoint building Jeff headed back out to his team to assess their readiness to move down the trail. He found 13 of the dogs all nested and sleeping, and one Ebb – sitting up tall and alert, barking rhythmically into the darkness. Reminded Jeff of the little RCA dog! Ebb finished all 300 miles of this race with a smile.
Oh, the Bun Wamer/Hot Seat, you ask?? It turns out is was dormant for the entire race and will have to be tried and tested on another trail at another time. Jeff said that there just didn’t seem like there was enough time to do it. And perhaps he wouldn’t have wanted to let go of the handlebars long enough to fire it up because for the first time in his 37 years of mushing – Jeff got blisters on his hands from holding on!
Handler Ellen Donoghue was on hand at the finish line in Bethel to welcome the team back. She came armed with a pile of fresh meat for the dogs and an ice cold Pepsi for Jeff. The dogs and the crew headed back to their host house family where the dogs and the musher got to take a well deserved snooze. The banquet and awards ceremony took place on Monday evening, and Jeff was presented with the trophy to proudly display on the wall in our theater here at Husky Homestead.
For a full list of finishers of the Kusko race, head on over to their website. We would like to say congratulations to all mushers of the Kuskokwim 300, the Bogus Creek 150 and the Akiak dash!
In more good news…. We won the sled! Virgil Rides in 2013!!
It took some fast fingers on this end of things, but in the last minute flurry of bidding we were able to secure the purchase of the Iditarider spot in Jeff’s sled for our very near and dear Virgil Trout!
In the end the sled went for $1500. Thanks to your contributions we raised $1030 towards the sled!! Another very generous anonymous contribution came in this week making it possible for us to completely fund the $1500 price tag.
Jeff phoned Virgil on Wednesday morning and spilled the beans on our little ‘plan’. [cue evil laughter: muahahahaha!] Needless to say the guy was pretty darn excited and picking one word to describe Virgil’s reaction, Jeff chose “giddy”. We are now anxiously awaiting the start of the Iditarod so that we can see for ourselves the excitement on his face. This has got to be on his Bucket List!
Again, thank you so very much to everyone that made this possible!
With that… we’re signing off for the weekend and heading out on the trail to enjoy some of this fresh fluff that we received! We love snow!
The HH Crew