AND THE SPIRIT OF ST. PATRICK AWARD GOES TO...: Though St. Patrick's Day is still a few days away, volunteers at the White Mountain checkpoint are getting into the spirit of things.
They've decorated the checkpoint with shamrocks and put glittering leprechauns atop the trail markers that guide the mushers from the Fish River into town.
''We try to have a theme every year, said Carolyn Mashburn, of Sacramento, Calif. Mashburn is serving her 7th year as volunteer at the White Mountain checkpoint.
Last year's theme was ''Aloha from White Mountain.'' The checkpoint was decorated with pink flamingos and the mushers were given leis, Mashburn said.
''They get here and they're dragging and tired and every year we try to have some fun, Mashburn said. ''The less sleep you have the more fun you have.'' --
DOGS DOWN UNDER: Iditarod volunteer Jason Strenger of Sydney, Australia is hoping to get some tips from the top teams.
Strenger, who owns 17 Alaska huskies that he trains and races, said there are about 200 mushers in his homeland.
Since snow is scarce in much of Australia, most of the races are held on dirt, with the mushers trailing on all-terrain vehicles, he said.
''One of the reasons to come up is to learn from the big guys,'' said Strenger, who is serving his second year as a volunteer. --
HARD CORE FAN: After 10 years of following the race from afar, and occasionally sleeping outdoors to get into the spirit of things, Richard Rudy is getting his first close-up look at the race as a tourist and volunteer.
''I think the guys are just awesome. What they do out there, them and their dogs, fighting the elements,'' said Rudy, an insurance agent from Flora, Ill.
One morning, after sleeping out on the deck of his home with his dog, Jack, his wife, Lynn, opened the door to find him covered with snow.
Ramy Brooks, of Healy, Alaska checks on his dogs after arriving into the White Mountain, Alaska checkpoint about 75 miles from the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Monday, March 11, 2002. Brooks is behind Martin Buser who is leading the 1,100-mile sled dog race.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
''She said 'you're crazy,''' Rudy said.
She decided to indulge his obsession, giving him a trip to Alaska for the Iditarod as a Christmas gift.
''She's amazing,'' Rudy said of his wife of 21 years.
Rudy was a volunteer at the start and the restart and has been out to the race checkpoints at Unalakleet, White Mountain, Elim and Nome.
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