2004 Iditarod Sketch Pad

Jon & Jona Van Zyle's exclusive sketches, stories from the trail

Lighting the way
2004 Iditarod Poster
Jon Jona Van Zyle
Jon & Jona Van Zyle
Sneaking Out
2004 Mush Poster

Visit Jon Van Zyle's Iditarod Art

Main Page Meet Jon & Jona Introduction Bootie Call Drop Bag Delivery Day Vet Check Jr. Iditarod
3/7 Iditarod Restart 3/8 Trail Notes 3/9 Rohn to Takotna 3/10 Takotna a.m. 3/10 Takotna p.m.
3/11 Takotna 3/14 Unalakleet 3/15-16 Unalakleet 3/16 Unalakleet
3/17 Unalakleet to Nome 3/19 Nome 3/20 Nome Finish Line Group Photo
Jona's Reflections

3/2/2004 - "Drop Bag Delivery Day"

It's early Thursday morning February 19, 2004 and we're fumbling around in the cold, dawn's early light tightening the plastic tie wraps on Ellie's army of bags. Ellie makes a last check and then we stack them in the van for the drive into Anchorage.

We make quite a procession, Jon and I lead the way with Ellie's parents. Paul and Donna Claus riding with us. Ellie, Maegan, Valerie and Ellie's younger brother Jay and the drop bags in the van follow. Paul's parents, John and Eleanor follow in a third car with Ellie's younger sister Logan sleeping in the back.

We head into town by the airport to the Air Land Warehouse. The big cold building is bustling with people and activity. The football sized area is marked with stacks of drop bags for each checkpoint.

An efficient team of Iditarod volunteers quickly unload the van, weigh and record each bag and distribute the bags to the appropriate checkpoint piles.

We pass Mike Jonrowe, Dee Dee's husband on the way in. There is Mark Nordman, Race Marshall, Jack Niggemeyer, Race Manager, Stu Nelson, Race vet... it's a fun annual reunion. Ellie busily clucks over her bags like a mother hen. There are the always nagging doubts about forgetting something important. Finally, the moment comes to write the $699.00 dollar check for her 1,750 pounds of supplies for the trail. You can see a huge weight lift from Ellie's shoulders as she takes another big step closer to the start.

Drop Bag Delivery Day

Jon and I decorated each of Ellie's 55 drop bags with cartoons or colorful designs to brighten trail. The bags are causing quite a stir which brings Ellie great pleasure.

We head out past mountains of plastic shrink wrapped bales of straw and forests of orange tipped wooden stakes to mark the trail. Ellie has her vet, Sandy Farris coming to microchip her team. Later, Dr. Stu Nelson will stop by to offer some pre vet check advice. Race vets have offered this extra service to race mushers.

A spell of sunny mild 15-30 degree weather is giving the dogs some nice R&R time before the race. The dog yard looks like the beach with dogs sprawled in the snow or reclining on their houses relaxed and sunning themselves. Race day draws near.


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For more information about Ellie and her home at Ultima Thule Lodge you can visit their website at www.ultimathulelodge.com

More information about Ellie Claus can be found on the Iditarod website www.iditarod.com

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2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
All material in the Iditarod Sketch Pad remain the property of Jon & Jona Van Zyle and may not be reproduced in any manner.