Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Winner

This is the sled dog team of Sebastian Schnuelle, winner of this year's 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. The photo was taken this morning on the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska, one mile from the finish line. The temperature was minus 2 Fahrenheit, ideal for dog mushing. Schnuelle's team of ten dogs are confidently passing by the Hamilton Acres and Island Homes subdivisions. The trees in the background are on the Fort Wainwright Army base. Schnuelle's team completed the race in a record time of 9 days, 23 hours, 20 minutes, the first nine day Quest race.

This is one of many photos I am considering making into a post card to commemorate the event.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Canine Disagreement

In contrast to the peaceful resting fellows of the previous post, these two canines have issues. There may be a piece of meat between them that one chose not to eat but is nevertheless protecting. Or it could just be two males who can smell a female in heat up ahead in the line and they are "discussing" who might lay claim to her.

Note that the dog on the right is tethered by a tow line (longer) and the other dog gets a short neck line tether. It may be that the dogs in the previous post were less cranky because the straw focused their attention on rest rather than competing for a spot on hard-packed snow.

The caption on the reverse side suggests another scenario: "What do you mean, I didn't pull." While that's possible, usually a dog that is upset with another will not wait for the checkpoint to settle the score.

This postcard, dated 1994, was published by Leader Publications of Fairbanks, Alaska. An internet search did not turn up a Web site. The photographer is Vladimir Vinitzki. See another Vinitzki phototgraph at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Straw Beds In The Sun

Used with permission, Copyright 2008 Scott Chesney

"The best long distance runners eat raw meat, run naked and sleep in the snow." --From an Alaska Airlines ad

Though the above quote describes sled dogs well, more often than not they sleep on straw beds, like those in this postcard, rather than on the cold snow. These beautiful canines were photographed by Scott Chesney, a fellow Fairbanksan, gifted photographer and experienced musher. You can find more of Scott's images on at his website.

My guess is that these dogs have already slept and they are content to watch people at the checkpoint while half-dozing on their comfortable straw beds with the warm sun on their backs. Notice the blue coats the dogs have on for extra warmth. One of the simple pleasures of running and camping with sled dogs is throwing down the straw and watching the dogs circle and dig with their paws while fluffing up their beds. They respond to fresh straw almost as enthusastically as they do raw meat.

As I post this the sled dogs of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race are resting quietly on straw beds at Dawson City, Yukon Territories, Canada. They will resume the race following a 36-hour layover. The current leader is William Kleedehn of Limp-a-Long Kennels. Kleedehn is one of the nicest mushers to be on the trail or in camp with. He is a world-class musher with a wonderful sense of humor.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A 1,000-Mile Sled Dog Race on Valentine's Day

This postcard of lead dogs in harness is a very accurate representation. Not only does it show a typical pose of leaders while the rest of the team is hooked up, it includes booties on the dog's paws and a common x-back type harnesses.

Today is the start of the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. This year the race runs from Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada, to Fairbanks, Alaska, my home town. The race direction alternates each year. The views along the trail are spectacular because so much is run over the tops of mountains and 500 miles along the mighty Yukon River. It is billed as the toughest sled dog race in the world because the distance between check points are long --- one stretch is 200 miles ---, and the trail follows many of the old trapping and gold rush trails of the last century where temperatures often plummet down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The race has begun on Valentine's Day many times, as it did in 1996, the year I ran the race and finished 11Th. That year the race began in Fairbanks. The first checkpoint was at Angel Creek Lounge, 90 miles into the race. After arriving I opened my drop bags and found a Valentine surprise from my wife packed in among my supplies. Months earlier she slipped chocolate kisses and a handmade card inscribed with loving words. It was a welcomed surprise in the cold and dark on the first night of the big race.

Despite the title "Alaska," this wooden postcard was made by Vandercraft of Prineville, Oregon. According to Postcardy's blog, "Vandercraft used to have a website showing many of their cards, but their website is not currently active." Postcardy has several examples of wooden postcards. I bought this card in the 1980's.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Enjoying a day out with the dogs

The caption on the reverse side of this card states: "The sport of sled dog mushing is becoming a popular way to enjoy winter."

This was true in the early 1990's in Northern Michigan as several sled dog races were founded and many people began running dogs simply for the pure joy of riding the runners behind a team of panting huskies. Though sprint mushing (10-30 mile events) had been popular in both the lower and upper peninsula of Michigan for decades, the Upper Peninsula saw an explosive growth in mid-distance races (50-200 mile events), including Michigan's primier event, the UP200 and Midnight Run, run out of Marquette, Michigan.

This post card's picture shows my friend Dennis passing though the pine barrens near Marquette, Michigan, circa 1994. The photo was taken by Tom L. Porn. Dennis was out running his entire kennel -- eight very friendly and loveable Siberian Huskies. Dennis and family now live in Alaska and keep a small kennel of very friendly but roudy sled dogs. The lead dogs in the picture are Cassie and Raven.

Europa on choppy seas

This is not the German luxury liner, Europa, of today. Rather it is the SS Europa, built in the late nineteen-twenties for the Norddeutsche Lloyd line. She was one of two transatlantic passenger ships built for the German company. Her sister ship was the Bremen.

Both ships were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots. The ships were capable of weekly crossings in an era that required three weeks. On her 1930 maiden voyage she crossed the Atlantic in four days, 17 hours and 6 minutes. In doing so, she won the westbound Blue Riband, a speed prize, from her sister ship, the Bremen. Curiously she captured the record twice both on eastbound runs but never on the westbound crossing.

In 1945, Europa was captured by the allies and used as a troopship, sailing as the USS Europa. After the war she was given to the French for war reparation. In 1946, she broke free of her moorings during a storm, collided with the wreck of the Paris and sank. She was eventually raised, renamed the Liberté, and began passenger service to New York in 1950. She was scrapped in 1962.