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2/25/2004 - Introduction to the 2004 Iditarod Sketch Pad
We're flying the Iditarod trail and we're taking you with us! Although I prefer my winter adventures from the back of a dogsled, this is a unique opportunity to see it all and share it with you.
We'll be flying with Ultima Thule Outfitters. The Claus family has become part of our family over the past several years. Paul and his father John are extraordinary bush pilots. Paul's wife Donna and his mom Eleanor keep their lodge functioning and family and guests well fed. The reason for the trip is the Claus daughter's first Iditarod race. Our Iditarod adventure coverage isn't only about Ellie, but since we've been so closely involved with assisting and sponsoring Ellie since her 2000 Junior Iditarod you'll hear about her fairly often.
We'll share pre-race activities with you and the mayhem and insanity of the start and restart as we handle for Ellie.
Once the race has started we'll be following the entire race. Iditarod race rules prohibit outside assistance to mushers, so our only contact with Ellie will be limited and monitored by a race official.
As far as Ellie is concerned, our two most serious problems to consider are 1) her team knows the family's airplanes like other teams know their dog trucks and 2) Ellie's training partner Maegan is the team's other mom.
Ellie's team has more frequent flyer miles than we do. They're used to being transported to and from the family's remote wilderness lodge by air. Ultima Thule is a 100 mile flight from the end of the nearest road. During the summer Ellie's team is also flown to and from high mountain glaciers to give clients a mushing experience. This team will instinctively home in on their planes. We'll be careful to land away from her team at checkpoints.
The second problem is Ellie's sister-like training partner, Maegan Mackey. The girls met at Junior Iditarod in 2002 and have become inseparable friends since then. The dogs view Maegan as their second mom and would happily rush to greet her on the trail. Again, we'll be very cautious about causing distractions.
Paul and the family have two decades of experience flying the race trail. Paul is usually the pilot of choice for the Associated Press reporters. We'll carry Arctic Oven tents and gear and camp along the trail. We will be flying back and forth over the trail, stopping at checkpoints, talking to race officials, volunteers, mushers,vets, and villagers. Jon and I plan to share all our experiences, Jon with art sketches and me writing my observations, so hopefully you'll feel like you're traveling along with us.
We'll be in Nome when the first team crosses the finish line, and time permitting for the last team in. We're curious about Norwegian, Kjetil Backen who'll have part of the 2003 winning Robert Sorlie team. We're anxious to see Jeff King's innovative new sled design-maybe also used by Martin Buser and Dee Dee Jonrowe.
We also look forward to welcoming Maja Seppala Hanks Ramsey to the world of Iditarod. Maja is Leonard Seppala's granddaughter-this is going to be a really great race-so stay tuned.
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
©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.