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Iditarod Dog Sled Race Results Nome Alaska March 2014

Iditarod Post Start Willow Alaska
Iditarod Post Start Willow Alaska

The Iditarod Race has come to a close for some; for others the run continues. In a very tight finish, Dallas Seavey beat Ally Zirkle by just two minutes.

Dallas caught up to the front runners during the last 50 miles of this thousand mile race, taking the lead for the first time on the last leg of the Iditarod Trail.

Ally, meanwhile, having kept the lead for two days, departed Safety, the last checkpoint, just moments behind Dallas. She took a well deserved break there to care for and feed her team. As Dallas breezed through, only stopping long enough to sign in, she followed.

Our real race favorite, Martin Buser, who held the lead for much if the race, took sixth place in the end. He still had 12 dogs on his team when he crossed the finish line; the highest number out of the front runners.

Martin has a long history with the race, having completed twenty races. He won four times, a record in itself, and also held the all time speed record for ten years.

Martin is the owner of Happy Trails Kennels near Wasilla, about an hour north if Anchorage. It is the most welcoming destination I’ve ever seen.

We spent the afternoon with Martin and his team the day before this year’s race and he had all the time in the world to explain the race intricacies to us. We were welcome to interact with the dogs and also saw a short film about the race itself. In the summer, he also has a mock checkpoint for guests to experience.

We can’t wait for next year’s race. Please give us a call if you’d like to join us on this or another Alaska adventure.

Martin, thank you for sharing your passion with us.

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Alaska Winter Vacation including Iditarod Race Festivities

One of my dream destinations was Alaska.  I wanted to experience the scenery, learn about the culture and meet the people.   As a U.S. destination, it was easy; no passport, language barrier or concerns for health care coverage.  From all that I’d heard from so many who had visited, I knew it would be a vacation to remember.

As a travel agent, I’ve sent many families to Alaska on cruise ships, several stayed for a land package too.  The cruisers who didn’t take the land package always seemed to regret coming home without really “seeing” Alaska or getting to know the people.

When I planned my own trip, I thought there was no better way to experience the scenery, learn about the culture and meet the people than to visit during the Iditarod Dog Sled Race.  After all, dog sled racing is the official state sport and the local people all celebrate the starts in full force.

The race begins on the first Saturday of March each year, a time when there are approximately 12 hours of daylight in Anchorage with another 10 minutes added to that  each day.  Unlike the summer months when you may find more tourists than local residents, the winter months are a time of celebration and excitement for Alaskans.

I was very fortunate to travel to Alaska’s Iditarod Race with Globus Vacations.  They took care of absolutely every detail.  My son, Jared, and I were able to visit during New Hampshire’s school vacation week, 2014.  We departed Boston with a stop enroute to Anchorage.  There are non-stop flights in the summer, but not in the winter time.  This fact alone proves that it’s still a best kept secret to visit in February.

The weather in Anchorage, like in most of the northern states, can be unpredictable and 2014 was no exception.  For us, most days were in the 30s during our stay.  This was a bit warmer than usual, with the norm for February being about 20 degrees.

When we arrived in Anchorage, our hotel was a short 10 minute ride from the airport.  We stayed right in the downtown area and were able to walk to a dozen restaurants, several stores and some museums too.  We found time to enjoy the Tony Knowles Walking Trail on foot; others were on winter bikes with studded tires, cross country skis and winter strollers.  The views of the MountMcKinley and Denali were amazing with the clear crisp air giving us unlimited sightings during our week vacation.  It’s not uncommon to see moose on this trail at all times of year.

Our Globus Tour set off on Tuesday morning for Seward via Turnagain Arm.  This scenic road in winter was magnificent, the views were just endless and the ability to pull over to take pictures and just gaze at the scenery made it all the more spectacular.

After visiting an animal conservation center and an aquarium, we headed to Alyeska Resort and Ski Area for two nights.  While all guests were given time on their own to partake in numerous activities, Jared and I opted for dog sledding one evening and then spent an entire day on the slopes skiing and in awe over the scenic views of the seven glaciers below.  We also came upon a team of rescue dogs and workers who were doing avalanche training on the side of the mountain and enjoyed watching them for a while.  The hotel and dining options in the hotel were great, as was the indoor pool, gym and spa services.

Musher Paige Drobney at Mushers Banquet 2014
Musher Paige Drobney at Mushers Banquet 2014

Back in Anchorage, we attended the Musher’s Banquet.  The banquet was another great opportunity for us to meet and mingle with the local people.  About seventy mushers and their supporters were at the dinner as well as hundreds of well wishers.  After a hearty dinner and lots of conversation while listening to some local entertainment, one by one each musher was introduced and called to the stage to draw a starting position from the boot.

Several mushers came to our table to say hello and answer our questions about the race and their dogs.  Lots of guests got autographs and had pictures taken.  This was a really fun event to participate in.  Not only were we able to learn about the intricacies of this exciting and traditional sport, but we began to understand the importance of dog sledding in everyday life for the villagers of the north.

On Friday, we visited the kennel of a musher; it wasn’t just any musher, it was Martin Buser, the four time champion who held the all time speed record for the race.  Martin has a true passion for his dogs and his sport and he seemed to enjoy having us there as much as we did.  With the race just a day away, he still had all the time in the world to show us his equipment and introduce us to his dogs and staff.  We were all surprised at how friendly all the dogs were, a true testament of the care and handling they were raised with at his kennels.

There was never a dull moment in Anchorage and we took every opportunity to be part of the non stop festivities.  The ice sculpture park was like no other, with twelve foot depictions of animals, characters and structures.  As part of the Rhondy Celebration, there was a carnival, shows and events all week. The people were friendly and welcoming here, proud to tell us about their lifestyles and those of their neighbors who live in the villages to the north.  We found this excitement and enjoyment in meeting people every single day while in Alaska.  And of, there’s Denali and McKinley again along with yet another amazing sunset!

Saturday was an exciting day in Anchorage.  The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Race takes place right on 4th Avenue, the main street of downtown.  While snow is plowed and taken away all year, in preparation for the race start, several tons are brought in and groom on the eve of the race to allow every musher and team the send off by thousands of local fans and tourists.  The streets were lined for several blocks; people crowded at windows above and parking garages were packed for a look at the teams as they left town on an eleven mile start to the Last Great Race.

On Saturday afternoon, over two thousand people, including Jared, participated in the Running of the Reindeer Event.  A minute or two after each running team started out, reindeer were released to race to the finish line before the runners.  This is a social event for Alaskans more than anything, and most were wearing some kind of costume; a few were wearing bathing suits and all were just there to have a good time.

On Sunday, in Willow, about an hour north of Anchorage, the true race would begin.  In two minute increments, lined up in the order established by the boot drawing at the musher’s banquet, each musher, sled and team of sixteen dogs departed the lake through the chute lined on both sides as far as the eye could see with fans.  Some had campfires and tailgate parties going on and others were on their snow machines or the backs of their trucks.

As part of the Globus Family, our viewing point was ready for us when we arrived.  We had a great location for seeing the starting line and hearing the announcers and timers as each team started off on the thousand mile journey to Nome Alaska.   Our hosts set up long tables with snacks and hot chocolate for us.  Although the temperatures on this clear and sunny day were in the twenties, we were still standing on a frozen lake so the hot chocolate was a welcome surprise.

Jared and I took time to visit with some of the mushing teams at the staging area.  With two minute increments in the start time, it was somehow just as intriguing to see the dogs who were waiting as it was to those who were off and running.  It became quite obvious that the dogs were excited to get out and have fun.  There were sometimes a dozen people needed to hold the dogs back until it was their turn to cross the starting line.

This visit to Alaska will always be remembered with excitement.  With each new day, we thought it couldn’t get better, but it did.  Each night when the sun set, I thought it couldn’t be more beautiful seeing the mountains and scenery but then it happened again and again.

For the people of Alaska, I say thank you for sharing your beautiful state with us.  To the mushers and dogs: a safe and happy journey.  To Globus: thank you for introducing me to this best kept secret.

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Iditarod Ceremonial Start|First Saturday in March

Iditarod Race Ceremonial Start 2014
Iditarod Race Ceremonial Start 2014

Each March, on the first Saturday, the Iditarod dog sled race ceremonial start is held in Anchorage, Alaska.  This is a major event for Alaskans, who consider dog sled racing their state sport.  They don’t have a football or basketball team to cheer for, but they know the mushers and even the dogs by name, discussing and analyzing their stats and strategies at dinner and at bars.  There are local favorites, of course, and even some family traditions.  The Seavey family has four different sleds/mushers entered in this year’s race.

The ceremonial starts is much like a parade in that each musher, in their actual race order claimed at the musher’s banquet, will cross the starting line on 4th Street in Anchorage with their sled and up to 12 members of the dog team.  Each team will have the musher, wearing his or her numbered pinny, as well as an honored guest riding along.  Read More

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Iditarod Race Banquet| Meet The Mushers

Musher Paige Drobney at Mushers Banquest 2014
Musher Paige Drobney at Mushers Banquet 2014

We had a fun night at the Iditarod Mushers Banquet, every course offered fresh and tasty abundant portions.  The highlight of the evening was meeting the mushers and hearing their stories.

Exxon Mobil had a table set up where they were giving away Iditarod Race posters.   The poster was a highlight for many guests who used it to get autographs from the mushers.  Some folks just went around the hall and asked for autographs, others took advantage of an autograph system that was set up along the outside of the hall.  There were tables set up where people opened their posters; they each had their own sharpie with them.   After mushers picked their starting position number on stage, they would walk along these outside rows of tables and sign autographs on the posters.  There were hundreds of people participating in this way.

We took a different route.  Jared and I chose Read More

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Newsletter – Alaska Travels

Solo To Group Travel 603-434-8100
Whale's Tail Alaska

Issue: 107

July 2014

Dear Guest,

This newsletter focuses on our neighbor to the north.  Alaska, the Last Frontier, is a must see bucket list spot for nearly everyone I talk to this summer.  The questions: Should I see it by land or by sea?  Will we visit in winter or summer?  In luxury or on foot?  Learn a bit about this beautiful land and the amazing array of options that can make your dream a reality.

For the cruiser, between the different companies and ships, not to mention itineraries and cabin choices, making an Alaskan cruise choice can be daunting. Allow me to help you navigate the waters and find the match that’s right for you.  Adventurist or luxury seeker, we even have a few cruises where you can have the best of both worlds.

If land adventure is more your style, take a look at land packages for all times of year. Would you like to spend a week hiking McKinley or kayaking around Glaciers?  We can arrange these as small group tours or for independent travel.  The Iditarod Tour, which takes place during the first week of March, was a highlight of our travels in 2014. Read about it here and in my blogs. These are all perfect vacations for a solo traveler as well as for families and other groups.

Do you want the best of both worlds? Maybe a cruise tour will match your needs. With a week or more at sea, add 3-7 days on land. Train tours are the easiest way to see Mount McKinley and Denali National Park. The dome car will assure you see the scenery and abundance of wildlife along the way.

Personalized travel services will help you make an informed choice on how you’d like to explore the Great North and planning help is available at no cost to you. Contact me today to start planning your next adventure to Alaska or other destinations. I hope to hear from you soon.

In This Issue
Alaska Travel Options
One if by Land
Winter Fun Alaska

Alaska Travel Offers
Visit this link to see specific offers for travel to Alaska this year and next.

One if by land
Alaska land packaged alone or with a cruise

The sky is the limit.  Join a group or go off on your own.  Do not miss the day. Alaska has something for everyone.  While most first time guests choose to cruise, many return by land.  An Alaskan land tour may consist of the dome train, a motor coach, rental car, motor home or RV rental or simply on foot travel.  While some guests will be met at the airport and escorted throughout their stay,others may choose a combination, having a local contact to help plan out the days activities, but spending time independently doing the things that are of personal interest.

There are still a few openings for many of these packages in 2014 and it’s not too early to make your plans for 2015. Click here for examples of Alaskan packages now on sale. Call today for details. 602-434-8100 or wendy@SoloToGroupTravel.com..

Two if by sea.
2014 sailings on sale now.

Cruise ship in port Dramatic savings on 2014 sailings now available. For the price conscious, sail Alaska in August starting at under $400 per person including taxes and fees, based on double occupancy. For the discriminating buyer, a limited number of aft facing balcony penthouses can still be found. Imagine watching the dolphins or whales playing in the ship’s wake as you sip a glass of wine and eat snacks delivered by your butler.  Call today for your low price guarantee.

Our Price: $400-$8400 per person for a 7 day cruise.
You decide when where why.  Let me take care of the how.  Call today 603-434-8100 for more information.

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Winter Fun
Step out of the Box: Don’t just think Summer in Alaska
Wendy in Seward
Wendy in Seward

The climate across Alaska surprises most visitors. During the winter, while the far north sees temperatures as low as 50 below zero (not a typo), Anchorage tends to see temps and precipitation similar to Maine. The weather in Ketchikan and south of Anchorage including the Inside Passage rarely goes much below freezing and is similar to that of sistering cities of Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. With rain forests and mountains bordering the sea, the clouds somehow add to the beauty of the seaside towns like Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, even on a cold and rainy winter day. This is perfect weather for the outdoor enthusiast.  We tried dog sledding, skiing and snow shoeing at Alyeska Resort in February.

With 12 hours of daylight by late February and March, the locals and tourists in Anchorage enjoy the Rhondy Festival with a full carnival, including rides and food vendors, as well as performances, tournaments and family activities. I was shocked to see both cotton candy and sausage trailers next to the ferris wheel in the middle of winter but it works. By the way, those sausages, you can choose between pork or reindeer sausages.

The ice sculptures are more magnificent than any First Night Celebration in the world and, like the sand castle contests of the Atlantic Ocean states, the variety and uniqueness made me want to stroll the streets of downtown Anchorage again and again.

The locals just love a good time. The Rhondy is wrapped up with a Trapper’s Banquet where the man with the longest beard is honored. Other guests often wear a beard that night too, just because they can.

On the final day of Rhondy, which happened to coincide with the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, about 3000 participants enter the Running of the Reindeer competition. This event is similar to the Running of the Bulls in Spain but much safer. Tourists, military, high school kids and men and women all have their own start.  They run about five blocks through downtown Anchorage trying to stay ahead of the approaching antlered reindeer running behind them. This event lasts less than an hour, yet several hundred people come out to cheer on the runners who wear anything from fur speedos to super hero costumes. It reminded me a lot of the Bay to Breakers Race in San Francisco each May.

I barely mentioned the main event, The Iditarod Race and a week full of events leading up to the race.  Read about it in my blog.

Thanks for reading.  Feedback is welcome.

Sincerely,

 Wendy Schoneberger                 Solo To Group Travel              15 Whitney Grove Derry NH            603-434-8100

Save $100
Book any Globus Alaska vacation and receive $100 off your final payment.  This may include summer or winter tour packages including the Iditarod Race..  Call for more information.
Offer Expires: July 31, 2014
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Winter Fun in Alaska

Winter Fun
Step out of the Box: Don’t just think Summer in Alaska
 i

The climate across Alaska surprises most visitors. During the winter, while the far north sees

Wendy in Seward
Wendy in Seward

temperatures as low as 50 below zero (not a typo), Anchorage tends to see temps and precipitation similar to Maine. The weather in Ketchikan and south of Anchorage including the Inside Passage rarely goes much below freezing and is similar to that of sistering cities of Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. With rain forests and mountains bordering the sea, the clouds somehow add to the beauty of the seaside towns like Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, even on a cold and rainy winter day. This is perfect weather for the outdoor enthusiast.  We tried dog sledding, skiing and snow shoeing at Alyeska Resort in February.

With 12 hours of daylight by late February and March, the locals and tourists in Anchorage enjoy the Rhondy Festival with a full carnival, including rides and food vendors, as well as performances, tournaments and family activities. I was shocked to see both cotton candy and sausage trailers next to the ferris wheel in the middle of winter but it works. By the way, those sausages, you can choose between pork or reindeer sausages.

The ice sculptures are more magnificent than any First Night Celebration in the world and, like the sand castle contests of the Atlantic Ocean states, the variety and uniqueness made me want to stroll the streets of downtown Anchorage again and again.

The locals just love a good time. The Rhondy is wrapped up with a Trapper’s Banquet where the man with the longest beard is honored. Other guests often wear a beard that night too, just because they can.

On the final day of Rhondy, which happened to coincide with the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, about 3000 participants enter the Running of the Reindeer competition. This event is similar to the Running of the Bulls in Spain but much safer. Tourists, military, high school kids and men and women all have their own start.  They run about five blocks through downtown Anchorage trying to stay ahead of the approaching antlered reindeer running behind them. This event lasts less than an hour, yet several hundred people come out to cheer on the runners who wear anything from fur speedos to super hero costumes. It reminded me a lot of the Bay to Breakers Race in San Francisco each May.

I barely mentioned the main event, The Iditarod Race and a week full of events leading up to the race.  Read about it in my blog.

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What to pack for a winter Alaskan vacation

I visited Alaska in February and needed to know what to pack for my winter vacation.   I kept a list of the things I brought and actually used, as well as the items that I wished I brought along.  The weather will undoubtedly be cold and there will probably be precipitation during any winter visit to Alaska.  Obviously, a lot of time will be spent outdoors to make the trip worthwhile.

My list is below:

Bathing Suit (there’s nothing more relaxing than a Jacuzzi soak after spending a cold day outdoors.

Warm winter boots and woolen socks. (I can’t say enough about the qualities of woolen socks, especially if you plan to stand on ice or snow for an extended period.)  My boots happen to be Bogs brand and they are great for water as well as for cold to -40 degrees.

Warm outerwear including a hat, scarf, winter coat, snow pants or skirt. (Most of the ladies in Alaska have snow skirts.  They look just like snow pants, but are shaped like a skirt instead.  They come in all different lengths, but if you are going to wear a sleeping bag around your body to stay warm, why not get it long enough to cover your legs completely.) Read More

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Musher Banquet for Alaskan Visitors| What to wear and bring

I had the privilege of taking part in the Iditarod Musher’s Banquet at the Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska last night.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet local residents, learn more about the Iditarod Dogsled Race and enjoy a great party.  There were a few thousand people in attendance, proof of what a big event it is for the locals.

The dress code ran the scale from casual to dresses and suits, but most people were wearing jeans and dressy tops.  There were at least 60 race participants there; most of them were wearing t-shirts or sweatshirts identifying their team and/or kennel name.  Sean Parnell, the governor of Alaska was in attendance and spoke for a few moments to wish the race teams a safe and enjoyable race.  He also introduced the other four past governor’s who were in attendance.  Sarah Palin came to the stage in chic jeans and a USA t-shirt; she fit right in with many other locals and guests.

We all had a really nice, huge dinner while watching video of past races and dogs.  It started out with bread and salad, followed by steak, potatoes and three different vegetables.  They finished it off with coffer an a huge piece of chocolate cake.  There was a bar for purchasing drinks, as well as a table selling memorabilia and a huge silent auction.

So, wear whatever you want and you will fit in nicely.  Bring a sharpie and or pen for autographs.  If you’d like to get something from the bar  or Iditarod sales table; if you plan to participate in the huge silent auction, bring some money or a credit card.  Aside from that bring a big appetite for a huge slab of meat and a great dinner.

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Visiting Alaska in Winter Time

Alyeska Resort Alaska
Alyeska Resort Alaska

Most people consider visiting Alaska during the summer.  Coming from New England, I decided to visit in the winter time.  The weather in Anchorage and the Seward area is pretty similar to my home state of New Hampshire during the winter months and the scenery can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

My favorite part of traveling is getting to know the locals and seeing their scenic land and  how they live.  While July guests to Alaska have the benefit of warmer weather and more cruise and train travel options, the bustling city looks nothing like the home the locals love during the other ten months of the year.

We arrived in Anchorage for the last week in February to participate in the festivities leading up to the Iditarod dog sled races.  While in town, we took the beautiful Turnagain Arm scenic road to Seward then on to Alyeska Resort and Ski Area for a few days on the slopes.

While in Alyeska, we went dog sledding at night.  The snow is so white and pure that it looks like there are diamonds sparkling through it.  Even late at night, a field of snow has sparkles that light the way.  The dogs, naturally nocturnal animals,  train best at the lower temperatures during the night and while their energy is highest.  It was about 10 degrees farenheit during our mush, which was chilly, although we came dressed properly and were able to enjoy the clear skies, the sound of the snow under the skis and the beautiful snow cover.  I’m sure this authentic experience could only be found in the winter months.

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Enjoy Polar Vortex Travel to Alaska or Antactica

Iditarod finish line
Iditarod finish line

Dealing with the Polar Vortax is easier than you think.  After weeks of hearing that the continental US is experiencing colder temperatures than Alaska and even Antarctica, I’ve decided it might just be the year to bundle up and visit these places.  If for no other reason than to warm up, we should take this opportunity to chase the warmer breezes and see some new places.

For me, the Iditarod calls out, with this year’s race beginning on March 2.  The festivities in the week leading up to the races might just be as much of a highlight as seeing the ceremonial start to the race in Anchorage or the post start the day after.

Imagine the excitement at the kennels when dogs are chosen for sleds, their positions determined and their mushers prepped.  I can’t help but think of Rudolph and his quest to lead Santa’s sleigh.

Wildlife and northern lights, both more visible in the winter skies, are another reason to venture north next month.

We survived the polar vortex in New England, why not survive it in it’s homeland?

There are only a few opportunities to visit Antarctica during the course of a year.  The months of December, January and February bring the warmer temperatures and the cruise companies are ready to offer clients the opportunity of a lifetime.   Celebrity cruises offer a 14 day adventure departing Buenos Aires.  This is the shortest full voyage out there, but for people with more time, the exploration can continue for up to a month.

If we are going to bundle up and accept this new cold as normal, let’s try to feel it in it’s homeland.

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