Mush!Mt. Pleasant resident has once in a lifetime experience at Iditarod
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News
Mary Bixler was lively and animated as she sat at her kitchen table, looking over the souvenirs from her latest adventure.
“These are my favorite,” she said as she showed off the neon yellow dog booties.
Bixler had just returned from Alaska’s Last Great Race on Earth – the Iditarod.
Bixler’s fascination with the Iditarod began in 2014. She and her husband were on a Princess Cruise in 2014 when they stopped in Denali and visited musher Jeff King’s Husky Homestead.
“I got to hold a puppy,” she said as her smile spread from ear to ear.
The following year she and her daughter, Brandi, visited Mitch Seavey’s Kennel. To say the least, she was hooked.
“I just thought, what a cool experience it would be to see that race,” she recalls.
Bixler and her daughter began following the race and mushers, both citing Dallas Seavey their favorite.
However, it would be a few more years before they would witness The Last Great Race on Earth for themselves.
“My daughter got a job offer and moved from Phoenix, Ariz., to Anchorage in November,” said Bixler. “I thought it was just a great opportunity for us to do that together while she was up there. Things just kind of fell into place for me to be able to go and for us to see it together.”
The ceremony began in Anchorage on Saturday, March 4. “They have an event up there, it’s called Fur Rondy, it’s the kick-off celebration. They have all kinds of fun things to do like running of the reindeer or snowshoe softball,” she said.
Her favorite was the Dena’ina’ Center-Mushers Banquet. During the banquet the mushers receive their bib numbers as well as greet guests and sign autographs. Bixler points to the 2017 Iditarod poster on her kitchen counter, which is filled with musher’s autographs.
The morning of the opening ceremonies, the mother-daughter duo took to the streets of Anchorage. Thankfully, they didn’t have far to go.
“We actually found out that one of the routes the sled dogs go on during the ceremonial start was just a half a block from her apartment,” she added.
There were 72 mushers in this year’s race. “It was cold,” she says. “It was only three degrees that morning. But you dress for the cold and you have to live in the experience and the moment. That’s what makes it so neat.”
The two watched from Cordovo Hill where they could get a birds-eye view of the dog sleds going through the town. “It was cool to see people lined up all along the 11-mile ceremonial route,” she said.
And yes, the two did see their favorite musher, Dallas, who was hoping to hold onto his title as reigning champion and record holder for fastest time.
The thing that fascinates Bixler is the endurance of the dogs and the mushers.
“Just to understand how they do it, and survive. The dogs really are the main characters,” she said.
“It was way cool,” said Bixler of the race. “To think that someone from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa could attend one of the world’s top sporting events. It was just amazing.”
Bixler’s favorite musher, Dallas Seavey, didn’t win the race or hold onto his title or record of fastest time; although he did come in second. Instead, the reigning record holder was unseated by his father, Mitch Seavy.
Seavy, whose kennel Bixler and her daughter visited in 2015, set two records when he rode into Nome on Tuesday. Seavy, 57, became the oldest musher and set the fastest time (eight days, three hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds), according to the Alaska Dispatch News.
Given the chance, Bixler would love to go back and watch the race. Next time, however, she’d want to be in Nome, where the race ends.