I am sitting in the back room of Mary’s shop, Arctic Trading Post, the gathering spot of all who desperately need that morning latte. The hiss of the active espresso machine in the background, KNOM radio station giving us race updates and a couple of well-loved boxers at our feet are just a few of the comforting sounds of our Nome home.
I arrived in town via Alaska Airlines last night and after some wonderful catching up time with Mary and Howie, I headed the two blocks down the street around 11:00pm to the Mini Convention Center, the Iditarod Headquarters here in Nome. A computer and updates along with an uncharacteristically quiet building greeted me. I arrived just in time to watch Jeff’s little icon arrive into White Mountain! The Breakers Bar was next with dear friends… a photo was taken to prove that I actually DID walk into a Nome bar (peer pressure….). However, the Wet Buns Contest was already completed with the happy winner carting away enough prize money to instill courage. Nome is a special place abounding with Alaskan traditions, a few of which are best left right here in Nome : )
Out on the trail, Jeff and the dogs are watching the sunrise as they make their last run toward the Burled Arch and the possibilities that a new future holds. When we experience familiar things for what may be the last time, our awareness is sharpened, details become powerful and our reactions to these moments take on a deeper meaning. I imagine Jeff on the runner tails taking it all in. Thinking about his last 30 years of mushing experiences; the dogs, the people, the competition, the successes and the challenges. He is a rich man holding these moments and memories securely in his vault.
Just one of the cherished connections that have come to us through Jeff’s racing career is our affiliation with our incredible sponsor, CABELAS. They came on board with Jeff 17 years ago. An amazing company and now wonderful, life-long friends. Last night while visiting with friends (in the bar, I might add), I looked up (way up) into a familiar and unexpected face. A soft, “Hi, Donna.” was enough to activate my brain and check the catalog…. Jeff Smith from Cabelas, or Smitty in the familiar. Jeff has not only been representing Cabelas for years here around Iditarod time but was also brave enough to take a crash course (very apropos…) in mushing and then hop on the runner tails and race the Knik 200 Mile Race, and on paper, beating his teacher/coach!
So, back to the race: Jeff is only 26 minutes behind Hans. That amount of time can be made up in this last run and Jeff’s run time was a bit faster than Hans’ coming into White Mountain last night…. time will tell!! He always has a way of keeping this exciting!!!
By the time I blog tomorrow, Jeff will be here and showered, rested, hugging a hot latte and maybe ready to talk about the trail. Stay tuned…