Tag Archive for Iditarod

From dog sled racing to dreams of RAAM

Living our dreams has never been a problem for my family.

My sister Penny went from a high school dropout to regional manager of a children’s clothing firm, before starting a second career as an administrator of her son’s school. My brother Jim took up the mandolin several years ago, and now plays bluegrass throughout Northern Colorado.

My brother Eric is the (slightly) less hairy one.

And my oldest brother Eric earned a Ph.D in particle physics before moving on to a career in geophysics and environmental reclamation work. Then walked away to fulfill a life-long dream to run an Alaskan dog sled team.

Not bad for a kid who grew up watching Sgt. Preston in the Valley.

He’s competed in the famed Iditarod four times, finishing three — 1200 miles through the Alaskan wilderness in the dead of winter. The last time he ran, he had his fastest team. But held them back in the face of a severe storm, choosing to protect his dogs over finishing well.

There’s one story, though, that will tell you everything you need to know about my brother Eric.

The one year he didn’t finish, a series of mishaps left him with a broken leg, wrenched shoulder and a frostbite on his foot, forcing him to drop out of the race and seek shelter in a drafty shed, in the face of gale force winds and temperatures well south of 30 below.

But before he settled in to wait for rescue, he made sure his dogs were watered, fed and safe from the storm. Then refused to be evacuated until his team could be rescued, as well.

Now he’s taken up bicycling.

But I’ll let him tell you that story.


Eric's new bike, a GT Transeo 3.0

You would think that a grandfather with a Ph. D. in Physics would know better.  It started innocent enough.  We are involuntary retired living on fixed income.   With gas over $4 / galleon and my vehicle being a Silverado 2500 HD 4×4 dog truck (ok just read 8 mpg in town), I was feeling more than a little trapped.  I’ve been listening to Ted’s bike stories for some time, but I hadn’t ridden since I got my driver’s license at 16 (no I won’t tell you how long ago that was),  but just maybe I could ride some of my short errands and save some money.

Rather than buy a bike I might not ride (and really could not afford), I could borrow one and try it.  A good friend had a Wal-Mart mountain bike from Key West just sitting around and loaned it to me.  Ah, the slippery slope.  My first ride was 0.1 miles – from my house everything is downhill – that part went fine.  Riding back my legs almost fell off.  But it was enjoyable in a masochistic kind of way.

A week later I was riding a whole ¼ mile, all the way to the bottom of the hill and back up.  Man how I wished that bike had a grandpa gear!  Two weeks later I rode the 13 miles from my house to my VA appointment (Anchorage has great bike paths).  The feeling of freedom was every bit as good as getting my license at 16.  I was independent and could go wherever and whenever I wanted.  A month later I rode 24 miles to a meeting and rode back again.

I was hooked and went straight to the hard stuff.  Reading stories like “Miles from Nowhere”, discovering the Adventure Cycling and Crazy Guy on a Bike websites – Furnace Creek 508 and RAAM only fueled the fire.  I’ve got a daughter in Goldsboro, NC and visions of riding from Anchorage to see her are dancing in my head.  Time to buy my own bike.

With dreams of long distance touring, but reality of short commutes to meetings and errands, this has got to be a versatile “one size fits all” kind of bike.  I dreamt about riding the Novara Safari or Surly Long Haul Trucker, but choked on the price tag.  I’m haunting Craigslist, ebay, LBS, and REI.  Three weeks ago I found a GT Transeo 3.0 at REI that had been ridden and returned.  A “comfort bike” – I liked the sound of that.  Aluminum frame, front suspension, disc brakes, braze-ons, and best of all, this one had a 22t chain ring – Grandpa gear!

Of course you can’t let a good thing go – I’ve added fenders to ride in the rain (typical August through October weather in Anchorage), a Topeak rack and milk crate, water bottles, lights and lock.  I found studded tires for winter ridding on Craigslist.  I’ve ordered a trekker handlebar from Nashbar that is due next week.

For a guy that has run 4 Iditarods and signed up for the 2012 Yukon Quest, this might be serious.

Pray for me!


Extra added post pre-Iditarod post

My brother set out on his fourth Iditarod Sled Dog Race this morning, leading a team of 15 dogs 1,150 miles through the frozen tundra of the Great White North. As a recent profile in the local Anchorage paper made clear, he’s not going to win.

To put it in cycling terms, it’s like if you, by some miracle, found yourself riding in the Tour de France.

You know you’re not going to win. But you’re still competing on equal terms with the best riders in the world.

And what could be more cool than that?

Only this. Imagine competing in that race in some of the most forbidding conditions on earth, through snow up to 12 feet deep and temperatures far below freezing, if not far below zero. And your only companions are a team of dogs — experienced athletes in their own right, who love racing every bit as much as you do.

You can follow his progress by visiting the official Iditarod website, and clicking on the link reading View Full Current Standings link. Just look for the name Eric Rogers, bib number 60 — which was also his starting position.

As I write this, he’s just under 4 hours into what should be somewhere around an 8 to 10 day race. And he’s already moved up 25 spots to 35th place.

He won’t win.

But damn, I’m proud of him.

Extra added non-bike related bonus post

Funny how things work out.

On New Years Day, I wrote about taking chances. Big chances. Like the time I loaded my belongings in my car and started driving across the country, with no destination in mind.  Or when my brother set aside his doctorate in particle physics, and walked away from a successful career to compete in the Iditarod — a 1,200 mile dog sled race through the wilds of Alaska.

A few days later, a writer associated with Fermilab — one of the world’s leading research facilities in the field of high energy physics — did an online search for particle physics.

And somehow, was lead to my humble blog.

Now she’s written about the intersecting point of high-energy hadron deuteron collisions and sled dog racing — i.e., my brother — for Fermilab’s online magazine.

You can read about it here.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

The year of living dangerously

It is better to make a mistake with the full force of your being, than to carefully avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit.

— Dan Millman

When I was in my early 20s, I worked as assistant manager for a local jewelry store in my hometown.

Every day, I would follow the same route on my way to work. Which meant that every day, I would stop at the same intersection along the main highway through town, and turn left.

That lasted for about a year, until I started to wonder what would happen if I turned right instead. So eventually, I quit my job, packed everything I owned into my little ’74 Fiat, kissed my family goodbye, and drove back to that intersection.

And this time, I turned right.

I woke up the next morning in a rest area somewhere in the middle of Missouri, with the most incredible feeling of absolute freedom — with the knowledge that I could point my car in any direction, and go anywhere I wanted. And for perhaps the first time in my life, it seemed as if all things were, in fact, possible.

That was probably the single greatest moment of my life — up to this point, at least — and certainly the most pivotal. Because everything that has followed came from the choices I made from that moment on.

And those choices led me to where I am right now.

And this is a pretty good place to be.

My older brother, on the other hand, took a different route entirely. Despite spending most of his childhood right here in L.A., he dreamed of one day touring the Yukon with a dog team of his own, just like his hero Sgt. Preston.

Like most childhood dreams, though, it was brushed aside, if never entirely forgotten. He served in Vietnam after college, eventually returning to get a PhD in particle physics, before raising a family in Houston, Texas.

Then one day, life offered him a chance to trade the Texas dust for the snows Alaska. And after years of training and false starts, just a few years short of his 60th birthday, he led his own dog team across nearly 1,200 miles of frozen tundra, to cross the finish line of the world’s greatest sled dog race.

The Iditarod.

To put it in bicycling terms, that’s like finishing the Tour de France. By yourself. In sub zero temperatures. When you’re old enough for AARP.

He’s also competed every year since — despite suffering a broken leg, a wrenched shoulder and severe frostbite in the 2007 race.

Is it any wonder that I want to be just like him if I ever grow up?

And he’ll be competing again this year. Except now, he’s an experienced musher, with an experienced team — and a real chance to do more than just finish. (He’s also looking for sponsors, if anyone is interested.)

The point is, the greatest risks in life come from taking chances. But do the greatest successes — and the biggest rewards. And as long as you’re breathing, it’s never too soon, or too late, or too hard, or too crazy, to take a chance on living out your dreams. Whatever they may be.

So my resolution — my only resolution this year — is to stop making excuses, and start taking more chances.

Starting today.

So what’s stopping you?

Best wishes to all for a very healthy, happy, safe and prosperous new year!

In case you missed it, a local biker decided on a whim ride across the country to attend the inauguration. Meanwhile, congrats to Will, who set a goal of riding 3,000 miles this year — and more than doubled it. Gary finished last year with an assault on the road in WeHo — here’s hoping 2009 sees him, and all of us, a little safer. The Cycling Lawyer discusses the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, and gives credit where credit is due. Evidently, 3M’s new reflective tape can look cool in the daytime, and light your bike up like a Christmas Tree after dark. Victoria, BC discusses making cyclists pay for their own infrastructure. And finally, cycling beats driving — and rickshaws, for that matter — even in Delhi.

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