Like a ghost town

Lets get in another Iditarod related piece before the race is over. I know, it wont happen until next week, but I have only 1 chance in the next 9 days to blog, so lets go with it, while I can.

About a century ago, give or take a few years, Iditarod had a population of about 10,000 people. Nearby Flat, had a number between 6-8,000 depending on tales, and given their proximity, there may have been some double counting in there. On what is now the northern race route, was a much smaller community, Ophir, that got to between 100, and 200 people living in the area.

Now all have one thing in common, all are ghost towns. Iditarod was the first one to go, despite having been the largest, by the mid 1930’s, it was all but gone. Though strict ghost status only dates to this century, when the last trapper moved out of one of the derelict buildings, when he reckoned that the race coming through every 2 years made the place too lively for comfort!

Ophir survived the war years, but somewhere around the early 50’s, the gold ran out, and so did the last few people surviving there, heading for other points presumably?

Flat actually survived as a community until 10 years ago, though by then the population had dropped to 5! Then the post office closed, and like the mail, people no longer came to town. Funnily enough, the only one of the three not visited by the race, though I suspect a few trappers and the like, still make use of the buildings there.

I have no idea what its like to live in anywhere like the Alaskan wilderness of these areas, nor do I really want to, unless someone wants to provide an internet connection to the area lol! As for what it was like, a century ago, in the depths of winter, I hate to think.

But, at least all these places were once a community. Even more uniquely, there is one checkpoint en route, that only ever has people there when the race comes through, every 2 years! Cripple only exists as a checkpoint, to break up what would otherwise be nearly a 150 mile stretch between Ophir, and Ruby, not really practical. Its supposedly in one of the coldest spots in Alaska, in winter, and thats saying something! Probably why no one lives there!

I must admit, there is a perverse side of me that would love to visit Iditarod, just to see what its like now, and to imagine what it was like, just over a century ago, when the gold rush started there. Probably never will get there, but, until I know its out of the question, I can dream.

The video, a tribute to two tone music, and a comment on the Thatcher years over here, as well as an offering to these places

A man I admire greatly

Back in 2009, I wrote a story, called No Place Like Nome, last year it finally started to get an audience, when I started up my ebook publishing thing. But no, before you just pass on, this isnt a request to go buy the book, though I wouldnt mind if you did!

One of the threads of that story, was the 2009 Iditarod race, won by the incredible Iditarod legend, Lance Mackey. Seriously, in all, this guy has won this race (one of the hardest in the world, if not the hardest) 4 times, quite an amazing feat. But all the more amazing, given his long fight with cancer. It did also involve the serum run of 1925, but as I say, the reason for this blog is Lance, not the book.

The thing is, all the chemotherapy, and everything else he had to go through, has messed up his body. I know, it happens to a lot more folk, but they dont race for a thousand miles through bitter weather. Doesnt make them any less as a person, just means they havent walked into my life yet. Last week, Lance lost the last of his teeth, his jawbone is now such a mess, they had to go. Cost $8,000 or so! Cost to get a new set of decent teeth, that means he could get back to what he terms a normal life, about $30,000! Sadly all this means Lance wont be in this years race, he isnt in a fit state to do it.

Let me say, our health service system over here isnt perfect, but at least we have one. In the US, medical insurance is a must, as its all private, and expensive over there. Indeed, Lance does have insurance, but it doesnt cover the oral work he needs doing.

Oh, did I mention, Lance doesnt like being helped, he’s a strongly independent man, but he’s also a hero to many, so these things get noticed, and hopefully help is on the way. He has been convinced, by a friend of his, to let her start a campaign to raise money to help pay for this work, and thats why I’m writing this blog, to hopefully increase the audience for this. Oh, and for the few who read both, this will be tomorrow nights personal blog, just saying…Just had something else to write about there tonight.

The campaign is at so if you have a few spare dollars, pounds, euros, or whatever, please consider giving. I will be, hopefully so can you find it in your heart to do so.

The video, lets just ensure that Lance’s dream, of more Iditarod races isnt over.

Thanks for reading.

See Alaska by dog sled!

Yes, its that time of year again, when mushers and dogs set off from Anchorage (ceremonial only, Willow now the true start point) for Nome, covering about 1000 miles of Alaska in the process. You’ve got it, its Iditarod time! Starts Saturday folks, though the real long haul starts on Sunday of course.

Seriously, people enjoy covering 1000 miles of tracks, frozen rivers, and indeed at one point frozen sea, for the delights of winning a long distance dog race, you bet they do! Me, I think they’re crazy, but do I admire them for doing so, you bet I do! This year is my favourite route, the southerly one, purely because that means they actually pass through the ghost town of Iditarod, that the race is named after. Well, technically its named after the trail to there, but you get the point?

And finally, having endured temperatures that could easily drop to minus 40 and beyond, especially in the Yukon wilderness area, they finally roll into Nome, where they are quite rightly treated like heroes. It used to be easy to say that Lance Mackey would be amongst the front runners, but for the last couple of years, that hasnt been the case. I’m not sure if the Mackey era is over just yet, but it might be. But what he did, winning as many consecutive races as he did, amazing stuff. And such a nice guy too, from all I read and hear of him. No, I’m never likely to meet him myself, but have read too many people saying nice things about him not to believe it.

Fortunately, my holiday split means I should be able to follow most of the first week quite well, unfortunately the finish is likely to run into Cheltenham, but fingers crossed I can still keep an eye on things. One day I dream of getting to Nome, but given my age, the state of my knees for really long distance flying, and everything else, it probably wont happen, and will always be one of my regrets in life. Even Anchorage is pretty tough from here, but maybe, just maybe…I hope, even if its not at Iditarod time.

The video, what can I say, I dedicate it to all those brave dogs, who will do just this for 10 days or more, allowing for rest breaks of course, and thankfully there are plenty of them. The song, a true one hit wonder from 42 years ago!

Its A Dogs Life!

No, this isnt about Fenway, Kate, lol!

Well its the life of a number of dogs in the far north of North America at least! What you ask, long distance sled racing of course!

I have no idea how I first got attracted to the Iditarod race across Alaska, so please dont ask. All I know is, its been a few (at least 4 or 5) years now, and I’m absolutely hooked on following it. I suppose the fact that I’ve always had a hankering for Alaska plays a part, but the thought of running a team of dogs, for over 1000 miles, in those temperatures, in that terrain, truly amazing. I suspect the fact it ends up in Nome plays a part for me, lol! But alright, the ghost town of Iditarod intrigues me just as much, even if they only go there every other year.

In recent years, there is one name that stands out in mentioning this race, Lance Mackey. You either have heard of him or not, but try checking him out on Wikipedia, to find out just how amazing. The thing is, unlike so many sportsmen, he seems a really nice guy. Competitive, yes, will to win, you bet, but when it comes to saying the right words, at the right time, he’s a consummate professional. There are many others as well, probably just as nice, but Lance is the one that seems to be focussed on, for obvious reasons.

Oh, and you think a thousand mile plus race, the field would be spread out at the finish? Well to some degree it is, but one year, not so long ago, the Iditarod was won by 8 seconds. 10 days out on the tracks, and the winning distance, 8 seconds. The Yukon Quest winning distance this year, nearly as long a race, 26 seconds!

Two weeks from now, this years race from Willow (Anchorage nowadays is only a token start point, due to housing build up in the area) will restart, and over 60 teams will head for Nome. Not all will make it, but the majority will. And before anyone says its cruel to the dogs, not one has died, or been badly injured in the last 2 years! Hopefully we get the hat trick this year.

But yes, I will only be following this over the internet, funnily enough.

No music tonight, just film of the end of this years Yukon Quest. If the Iditarod is also this close, now wouldnt that be something!