Indiana

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Chloe enjoys the view from our favorite motel.

I first stopped at Welsh’s Motel in 1993 on my maiden voyage west from Indiana to attend the University of Montana in Missoula. I met Mr. Wes Welsh that day, and ever since I have looked forward to his warm greeting and smiling face when I walk through the lobby door after a long day of travel. Time passes, and over the years I’ve driven this 1700-mile route 40-some times. This last June, though, Mr. Welsh was not there. When his daughter, Kelly, greeted me, I knew our Mr. Welsh was gone. Kelly has the same big, open heart and beaming smile of her father. Over the registration counter, we shared memories of both her dad and my parents (who had also stayed at Welsh’s over the years). We couldn’t help but cry. They were tears of painful loss but also much joy. We both know how fortunate we are.

I’m traveling west again soon. Headed to my “homes” in South Dakota, and then Montana. Home is where you share your heart. Thank you, Mr. Welsh, for sharing yours…

And Kelly, we’ll be seeing you soon.

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Tyler Short (L), Karen Land, Steve Brinkworth, and Romano

Laura McCracken, a devoted Iditarod teacher from Northside Middle School, Columbus, IN, writes:

Tyler Short was a Trailblazer last year when he was in seventh grade. He was captivated with the Iditarod and with meeting you and Romano, seeing an actual Iditarod sled and all the gear. Each of his classmates wrote a letter to an Iditarod musher using an address provided via the Iditarod education website. However, Tyler took his letter writing to the next level. He wrote one very good letter and we photocopied it. Then he painstakingly addressed each envelope by hand. He sent a letter to every single musher who provided an address. This came out to be about 60 letters.

During the summertime, he enjoyed checking the mail because he received replies throughout the summer. Seventeen mushers wrote him back. Dallas Seavey sent his Iditarod identification pass, some brochures, and a very kind letter. Tyler also received lots of dog booties and photographs. Pete Kaiser sent a two-page handwritten letter and some booties.

Tyler explains: “I was having a great time learning about the Iditarod and when Mrs. McCracken said we were going to write letter, I got super excited. I was excited because I was actually about to write to a musher! Someone who had actually gone through the Iditarod and knows what really goes on! Then I had the idea of writing a letter and sending it to all the mushers. I talked to Mrs. McCracken and she said that they could pay for the stamps and that’s when the determination kicked in. I actually had a letter done in 20 minutes and sent that exact letter to every musher. It took forever to fill out all the envelopes and sign all the letters.”

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The details of the parts of the sled are VERY accurate!

 

Over the last 16 years, I’ve collected crates full of wonderful art made for me (and my dogs) by students from all over the United States. I try to hang as much as I can in my home but sadly I don’t have enough free space for each and every beautiful piece. SO I’ve decided it would be fun to post a few chosen ones on this blog! I will begin this IDITAROD ARTISTS series with a drawing I received in the mail a few weeks ago. The main artists are Ryan Coughlin, Brandon Harbin, Brennan Thoele, Nick Manning, and of course, the rest of the class at Tri-Valley Elementary in Downs, Illinois who signed this thank-you card. Thank you, I loved all of the cards you sent!

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I can’t get over how much this looks like Romano!!!

 

I found this 1970 Montgomery Catalog among my parents' possessions.

I found this 1970 Montgomery Catalog among my parents’ possessions.

I am sure Mom and Dad kept it because of the cute puppies. They were dog lovers too.

I am sure Mom and Dad kept it because of the cute puppies. They were dog lovers too.

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I wonder how many puppies Montgomery Ward sold that year!?! Thankfully, my Mom and Dad chose to let us adopt an “accidental” mutt instead.

Misty, a beagle/collie mix, was a wild yet wonderful part of our family for 18 years!

Misty, a beagle/collie mix, was a wild yet wonderful part of our family for 18 years!

And she taught me to love snow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...!

And she taught me to love snow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…!

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Borage, my beloved husky sidekick and business partner, back in his day… and me looking a little bit younger as well! I miss you, Borage.

2016 will be my 16th year giving Iditarod School Presentations across the country! Contact Karen and Romano now to get on the 2016 talk and/or Skype schedule…

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Yes, there is a student somewhere under that Trans-Alaskan suit…

Thank you to Kate Walters and her dad, and the staff and students of Meadowbrook Elementary School in Forrest, Illinois for making Romano and me feel right at home! We really enjoyed our afternoon “talking mushing” with you. The students were an engaged, well-prepared (they knew all of the answers!), and perfectly-behaved audience. It was a fun day.

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race begins Saturday, March 5, 2016. If your school or library is interested in an Iditarod presentation or Skype session, email me now to get on the 2016 schedule. MUSH!

Romano enjoying a free run through the beautiful local cemetery after the talk.

Romano enjoying a free run through the beautiful local cemetery after the talk.

Today, Lolo is enjoying the early arrival of her 14th winter. DSCF2564It’s hard to believe that it has been almost eleven years since Lolo (along with Pig, on the right) led our 16-dog team out of Anchorage on the 2004 Iditarod…

2004RacestartAnd, of course, both of my tiny, 40-lb. girls led the entire 1,100-miles across Alaska… girl-power at its finest. The photo below is our team climbing up off of the sea ice of Norton Sound and onto the Front Street of Nome. That year was our best time at 12 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 19 seconds…

DSCF0338At age 14.5, running still brings Lolo joy… which, in turn, makes me smile too.

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Mush!