Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Lifelong Dream...

This page is dedicated to Simon J. Mcloughlin, my landlord, nextdoor neighbor and friend.  Simon, a New Zealander living in Fairbanks for the last 20 years, is the original "Alaskiwi. " Read on:

 Simon at the YQ300 staging area today. Helene Genet, our neighbor and scientist at UAF, generously offered to be Simon's assistant throughout the duration of the race.

 Simon giving Helene pointers on how to keep "Charlie Brown" (his ancient Ford) under control

 Porky Mcloughlin, Ph.D., discusses her soon-to-be-published scientific paper on climate change. But for now, she has a dog team to lead to victory!

Eager faces ready for adventure: Elsie, Blob, Jasper

2nd Street, Downtown Fairbanks. 17 F above zero, a warm one!!! Normally the race starts on the surface of the frozen Chena River, but recent warming made City Fathers concerned about 3,000 + souls standing on thin ice!

 Most photogenic dogs in the 2014 YQ 300: Lassie, and her sister Blob. They drew spectators and cameras like flies to honey! Simon, you should charge, I'm just sayin'!!!

Cow, Buddha, and Lassie.

Most important bag.

 Allright, now they are FINALLY ready!!!!

Yukon Quest/ Iditarod Champion, the great Lance Mackey, just shook Simon's hand and congratulated him on his first YQ. I love this. They are both heroes: Alaskans, Fairbanksians, mushers, men of a shared heart.  Thank you, Lance, for encouraging Simon on his first Yukon Quest!

  Porky catches my eye as if to say: HECK YEAH, FINALLY!!!!!

Meanwhile, Buddha and Lassie are like: "300 MILES?? REALLY???

Life in Fairbanks would not have been half as enjoyable (let alone bearable) if it wasn't for Simon and his son Gareth.

Simon and Gareth taught Joe and me the WAY to enjoy ourselves during the long dark winters. And they taught us that sled dogs are the life and soul of interior Alaska. A good dog will be your friend, your protector, your more-than-willing means of transportation and recreation through the frozen wilderness of spruce and birch over hill and dale, across frozen rivers and lakes and ponds, through overflow, and on until you come to a snug little cabin in the mountains. They give all this, and willingly spend the night outdoors snuggled in a bit of straw for some warm food and a scratch behind the ears. Back home, they'll also happily drape themselves on a couch in front of a TV or before a blazing fire.

This year, a life long dream has finally been realized.

Before we knew Simon, he was an up and coming musher at Trailbreaker Kennel, working for Dave Monson (husband of famed Iditarod winner Susan Butcher). Simon was the first New Zealander ever to be signed up on the Yukon Quest 1000 race roster (2008).  A neck injury forced Simon to scratch.

Five years passed before Simon would find the ways and means to make his dream come true, and race the Yukon Quest.

An accidental pregnancy of his dog Smoky (of Trail Breaker bloodlines) with a Mackenzie River husky male produced nine lovely, strong, happy, athletic pups: Blob, Brownie, Buddha, Cow, Elsie, Jasper, Lassie, Polar, and Toby--and within a year, Simon had a dog team of eleven--including Smoky's clownish and athletic sister Porky, also a Trail Breaker, who quickly became lead dog of the family pack in harness.

I myself have experienced the rocket-ride with the Mcloughlin Group--on a February afternoon in 2011, I volunteered to be strapped in with not only my skis and poles, but also Simon's moose rifle (them moose can be right ornery!). In just eight minutes we flew up our road and into the local woods to Goldstream Sports, our neighborhood bike/ski shop.


Simon at the start line today

Live Tracker--Follow Simon's progress HERE

A walk down memory lane (courtesy of Gareth's You Tube Channel):

Future Yukon Quest Pups at mealtime (Don't all charge at once!!! There's NONE in the BOWL!)

Mcloughlin Group First Time out of the Driveway (GOTTA see THIS!!!)