Dana Handeland already has one lodger, a Norwegian tourist and “I get five people tomorrow, four volunteers who are working their way up the trail and a guy who says he’s a stand-in on NYPD Blue who is bringing a lot of camera equipment.”
“The Iditarod traveler is a different kind of traveler,” Dana says. “They go to the church potlucks and the basketball tournament and the art show and the wet buns contest. Iditarod travelers like to experience the community, to get to know the locals.”
That goes both ways. “For us the Iditarod gets mundane,” Dana says, “and then a visitor comes up and it’s all new to them and they’re all excited and you kinda get into it again yourself.”
Dana used to volunteer for musher housing but when housing a musher you house their entourage, too, which the last time she did it included a musher’s fiance who stayed for three weeks. “He won the Red Lantern that year,” Dana says. “I don’t think she knew how long she was going to be here.”
Dana’s heard of people who rent two rooms and five sleeping bag spaces. This year she will host six people over a period of ten days. Like all the Iditarod volunteers she acknowledges that it’s a lot of work, but “The town appreciates the Iditarod as much as the Iditarod appreciates the town. I think each town on the trail feels the same way.”
—Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 3538-3545). Gere Donovan Press.