The great Alaskan sled dog race is in 2/3 of the way through, which means most of the participants are frost-bitten, sleep-deprived zombies tripping on their own brain fluid.
The race, which covers more than 1,000 miles of frozen-tundra-that-is-not-Lambeau-Field, began last week with dozens of riders vying for the title of, oh, who knows — Iditarodian Lordship. Granted, watching men in bulky coats mush tired dogs is not a fun spectator sport, but the challenges of the race are plentiful. Sure there are the elements, the condition of the dogs, and trying not to get fucking lost in a snow-covered desert, but there's also the threat of freaky hallucinations. Last year's Iditarodian Lordship, Lance Mackey, is currently in the lead again this year, but told reporters he's started seeing things on the most recent leg:
On Thursday night, he was riding the sled and saw a girl sitting by the side of the trail doing something, probably knitting.
"She laughed at me, waved, and I went by her and she was gone," Mackey said of his hallucination. "You just laugh."
He's in bat country! Granted, no, most Iditarod hallucinations aren't "Fear And Loathing"-level, but they do liven up the story line a bit. In fact, one site devoted to helping sled dogs has a pretty good rundown of the ghosts, trains, goblins, and ghouls that roam the tiny alcoves of Idiatrod sledders' fragile, eggshell minds.
Here are some of my favorites from past competitors:
• "I was exhausted and had already begun to hallucinate during the last hour of traveling, seeing the small people of the woods, hearing low-flying airplanes in the middle of the night."
• "I've seen villages, freight trains and cabins that were not there"
• "I saw animals-a rock pile became a bison, a stump became a moose."
• "I was home from school, about 7 years old, standing in my grandmother's kitchen with my chin just about counter height, watching, smelling while Granny slathered a slice of homemade bread with bacon grease."
I can't wait until they see the reptile zoo. Remember the golf shoes.