I was exhausted upon arriving in Galena, I just couldn’t wait to get inside and into my sleeping bag, but there was much to be done before that could happen.
I spread large amounts of straw for the dogs and quickly offered them a bunch of snacks, which they snarfed up with enthusiasm. Then their harnesses came off – that is a sign for them that they can settle in for a good long break. The veterans knew this routine – the rookies looked at me wondering what I was up to this time! I then got their meal soaking and slipped into the checkpoint building to see if I couldn’t find something to eat for myself while I waited. I scored big on that count, finding all kinds of fabulous dishes donated by the fine folks from Galena. The checkpoint was literally buzzing with activity; many mushers were taking their layovers here. I sat and visited at one of the tables until I realized I was dozing off as I was chatting. I knew I needed to finish up my dog chores and get to bed.
After the dogs got fed, I spent time applying foot ointments, Gold Bond powder to Nahanni’s harness rub, rubbed Algavyl into wrists and feet, wrapped the odd wrist, and scratched a lot of ears and Grover’s belly. When everyone was settled in and napping, I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed inside to do the same.
I had so been looking forward to the beds I knew were available here, but with all the mushers 24’ing, there were none left. Hmmm, I guess traveling further up in the pack isn’t always such a great thing. With the checkers promising to wake me as soon as a bed became available, I threw my sleeping bag into a corner of the busy room and within seconds of crawling in, was fast asleep.
I have no clue how long I slept, but as promised, the checkers woke me and steered me towards a real bed when the next musher left. I quickly got my sleeping bag laid out and was back asleep.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure of the true sequence of events in Galena. I know I sat and talked with Jason Barron for awhile, chatted with the vets, I know Paul Gebhardt gave me some great ointment for my cheeks, which had some windburn on them, I visited a bit with Lynda Plettner, Mike Williams, and other mushers I’m sure I don’t remember talking too! I was very tired. Between the visiting and sleeping, I snuck out to check on the dogs a few times. They were curled up in the straw, sleeping soundly and I could see no good reason to wake them up.
The rooms we were using had 4 beds in them with a divider down the middle. Dean Osmar was in the bed next to me. He was still really sick and I was sympathetic, but he fussed and fidgeted constantly. Up, down, light on, light off…..ARGGHH!! Many hundred miles later I was much more sympathetic and understanding of his situation.
The day was wonderful. The checkers had my team in a terrific spot – sheltered and relatively secluded from the bustle of the checkpoint. As the afternoon wore on, the sun came over the building and the dogs were able to bask in the warm rays. I caught Grover and Squeaky sleeping on their backs to enable them to better soak up every last bit of the sunshine.
It was funny to watch the difference between the veterans and rookies in my team at this point in the Race. After 10 hours or so of rest, the 7 veterans were sitting up and watching me, wondering when we were going to get going – the rookies were still a little ‘shell shocked’ and zonked out.
As I was puttering around an older native gentleman came over and told me I had a very special dog in my team. I smiled and asked which one he was speaking of – of course, I think they are all special. He pointed out Grover, who was sitting up watching us. I smiled a bigger smile and told him I thought he had great taste – that Grover was my favorite and I thought, the best dog in my kennel. “I’ve been watching him all day”, he said, “and that is an exceptional dog.” I thanked him for the kind words and went back to my chores with a bigger grin on my face.
A little while later I decided to take each of the dogs for a short walk. This allows them to stretch their legs a little, gives me a chance to take a look for any soreness or stiffness that may have set in while they rested, gives the boys a chance to pee on snow banks (which they love), and is just a general positive thing for them all.
While I was doing that two ladies with children came by and were watching the team. Chester was sitting up and fixated on the little kids. He just loves visiting with kids and I know he was trying to figure out why these kids weren’t coming over to say ‘HI’. I told the Moms that they were welcome to pet the dogs. I don’t know who was happier, the Moms, the kids, or Chester!
One of the women then told me that they had been talking to Sydney Huntington earlier and he had told them that he had been watching the teams come through the checkpoint and he had picked out 5 exceptional dogs out of the whole lot. He had indicated to them that one of those dogs was on my team and asked if I knew which dog he was referring to. I said he had been by and complemented me on Grover, but I had not known that he was Sydney Huntington. Sydney is father of 1974 Iditarod Champion, Carl Huntington, author of one of my very favorite books, Shadows On the Koyukuk, and an accomplished and respected dog man. I was so very honored. I desperately wished I had had my copy of his book to get autographed, but I know his words will stay with me for always.
After getting the dogs fed and settle back down, I went back to the checkpoint. Palmer Shagnoonik asked if I liked lobster. I emphatically replied ‘YES’ and he split his lobster dinner with me. YUM! Now in a REALLY great mood, I phoned Mark. We had a great talk and I shared a bunch of stories and information with him. Afterwards there was more visiting, eating, another stop outside to check on the dogs, and then it was off to bed again. Did I mention a shower?? Somewhere in the day I also had a shower - ahhh. The soap Mom sent worked much better in the shower then as a snack! Where was Bill Gallea to take a picture of me now?
Finally, my break was winding down. I got up, packed up my gear, abandoned my bed and headed out to offer the dogs another meal. They all seemed totally revitalized and ate with gusto.
Several hours later we signed out and headed back onto the river. My dogs never seem to charge out of checkpoints when we are well into a race, even after major rests, but this time when I whistled them up, I they took off with enough energy that I had to do some fancy sled driving to manage the 90 degree corner out of town without landing on my face! I couldn’t have been in better spirits!