I arrived at the Atlanta Airport in plenty of time. I was delayed at security because I was carrying soft hand weights made of metal BB’s that showed up on the x-ray scan; and had to have my backpack unpacked and sent back thru the scan without the weights, before I was cleared to enter the boarding area. I probably set off other risk profiles, being male, traveling alone, and using an E-ticket. I repacked the backpack to make sure nothing was left behind. In the hustle and bustle of clearing security it is easy to forget something. I once left a beeper in Nashville and didn’t realize it until I returned and went to work without it.
I went down the escalator to the trains and checked the board for departure gates. I was suddenly reminded of Doug’s remarks in January, when he told me that I was directionally challenged, and the Iditarod was no place for false pride (it could seriously hurt you and your dogs). I was directionally challenged and began to think about what I could do to avoid getting lost when I ran the Iditarod or minimize the effects if I did get lost. I had read stories of a musher who got lost. One took the wrong trail, several others followed his fresh trail and got tangled as the first musher turned around and came back upon those who had followed. Another musher went two hours out of his way; by the time he realized his mistake he was four hours behind and his dogs were tired so he had to rest them and lost four more hours because of his mistake. Doug was constantly telling me to think of the dogs first and be ready and willing to give myself for them, because they would give themselves for me. I would talk to Doug about strategies to keep from getting lost and what to do if I did get lost. One strategy came to mind from my training earlier in the year. At the first sign of doubt, STOP and park the dogs, set the hooks, undo the towlines to the wheel dogs and turn the sled over on the snow hooks if necessary, then walk out ahead of the dogs to look for signs of the trail.
When I arrived in Missoula I did not see his truck. I turned on my cell phone and got the message that he was at a Vet check and Melanie would be picking me up. As I turned around to look for her, she came out of the airport and we hugged hello then got into her “new” car. Doug called to tell Melanie that things were not going well at the Vet’s. Veterinarians are not Doug’s favorite people. He likens many of them to thromboses hemorrhoids; both are pains in the butt. The Vet check was for a horse Doug was going to sell to a couple from England and the Vet was being particularly picky. He told Doug that the horse was lame in the right rear quarter. Doug was not buying it. When he asked the Vet about it, the Vet said the horse was subtlety lame. Melanie and I got groceries and headed home. We talked about what we had done all summer, how things were going at her place and mine, and what we would be doing this week.