Jeff is enjoying his day in beautiful Takotna. I spoke with him several times and he sounded great, getting plenty of great food and rest. He reported that this has been the most fun and cleanest dogsled ride/race he has ever had. He had no problems to speak of and the only thing that kept the moments in Takotna from being the perfect dream, “It could be a little warmer.” It was 20 below this morning when he made that comment but it had warmed up to zero tonight….. so, I guess it is the perfect dream! He was able to park his team in his favorite parking spot right outside the doors of the checkpoint. He had a steak dinner last night after feeding the dogs (they all ate great!) and then savored a 7 hour sleep. The dogs are in excellent condition; no soreness or lameness, eating like tigers and perfect stools (a Musher’s dream). Several of the dogs, notably Titan and Alamo, were standing and barking for breakfast this morning after their peaceful night’s rest.
Cadet has been a total blast and Jeff said that he will never forget her name again : ) Dollar, Viper and Sussex (“He is one of the best dogs I’ve ever driven in my life.”) have been outstanding. Ross has been letter perfect and could not get any better. Colonel is a special needs guy (and quite fat) with somewhat of a lack-luster performance unless there is a crowd nearby. He was screaming to leave Nikolai and garnered much attention from impressed spectators. Titan has been spectacular; happy, trotting smoothly, effortlessly leading, eating great. Berkeley is her usual growly, feisty self but moving beautifully. Charger will lead but gets too excited in that position and moves into a driving lope which then gets the rest of the team a bit too amped, so she has been staying back in the team for now.
Two inches of new snow on the Burn provided a trail for the dogs to follow, though still quite tussocky and bumpy. He had to ride the drag all the way from Nikolai to Takotna to keep the team’s speed down. A nice problem to have! The trail should be good for the next day or so as the teams travel to Ruby.
Dave arrived in Takotna tonight with his speedy pups. His is one of the only teams that has been traveling faster than Jeff’s! Jeff and Dave will have some time to compare notes before Jeff and the team leave at 12:48 am.
There are a bunch of experienced, great teams on the trail this year. Each are making the best decisions for their race and their dogs. We see these different styles of racing emerging now as the teams move into their 24-hour breaks. Jeff’s team is very strong at this point in the race and it will be a daunting task for someone to upset their magic carpet ride. It is very exciting! But remember, the race is not even half way over! There is plenty of story still to be told.