Sunday, February 22, 2009

Riddle #43: Closer to Home

Yes, the riddle took a break last week, but it's back now. Here it is:

A company in a large city had 60 employees. The company was fairly centrally located, and the employees lived in all different directions: north, south, east and west. Their homes were located all over the city, and some even lived in the surrounding small towns.

The CEO decided to relocate all 60 employees to another single new corporate headquarters location. After the move, all of the employees were closer to home. How could this be?

NOTE: The correct answer has been guessed. To read it, see the comments section.

Lateral Thinking Puzzlers by Paul Sloane has lots of classic riddles, clues and answers. Click here to order it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beargrease Part 5: Cold Weather Tips

The race we attended was the second coldest Beargrease race ever. The low the night before was 17 below; the high was 3. Then there were the windchills. Cold is bearable IF you're prepared. Here are some cold weather tips I learned from my experience:

Dress in layers. You'll need more layers than you think. I had a snowmobile suit, and under that I wore long johns, fleece pants, a turtleneck, pullover sweater and fleece jacket. Fleece is my friend. On my feet I had two pairs of wool socks, chemical foot warmers and good waterproof boots. On my hands I had wool glove liners, plus Thinsulate mittens and chemical hand warmers. Some people like the mittens that you can flip open when you want to use your camera. On my head I had a ski mask, neck warmer, scarf, fleece lined cap and ear muffs. Even so I got cold from time to time and had to step into the warming tent or get close to the fire.

Stay hydrated. You don't think about drinking water when you're cold, but it's just as important, if not more important, to stay hydrated in the cold as it is in the heat. Keep a water bottle with you. At the race, they gave away free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

Protect your skin. The first day I put on a moisturizer with sunscreen. It wasn't enough. The second day I put on regular sunscreen and Aquaphor, a petroleum based product similar to Vaseline. It felt weird putting something that greasy on my face, but I needed it.

Expect problems with your camera. Digital cameras do not operate well in the cold. Take extra batteries and keep them with a chemical hand warmer or in a pocket close to your skin. Keep your camera in an inside pocket close to your skin and/or with a chemical hand warmer, and only get your camera out when you need to use it. My lens cap kept getting stuck closed, and I'd have to warm it up with a hand warmer, take a few shots, and then put it back in my pocket. Some of my videos have dark shadows where the lens didn't come open all the way. You may want to bring along a disposable camera or team up with a friend, to make sure you don't miss any good shots.

Click here to see more Beargrease photos.

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Beargrease Part 4: The Race!

We could hear the dogs barking from blocks away. They knew what was to come, and they were eager to get started. It was fun to watch them tug at their lines, wanting to GO!!

If you've never seen a dogsled race, there's no way to describe it. The sights, the sounds, the chill in the air, the excitement. It's amazing to imagine what the team is about to do.

The first racers were the mid-distance mushers, with eight-dog teams. Here are some videos I took of the mid-distance racers:

Montage of several racers:
Tom Benson start:
Rhonda Hendry O'Hearn start:

After the mid-distance came the marathoners, with their 14-dog teams. An amazing amount of power in those dogs. Above is Jason Barron's team. (Jason won the race.)

It took at least a dozen people to hold the dogs back. Here's a picture of the team moving to the start line. Here's a video of the same thing:

After watching most of the start, we headed north of Duluth to a spot where the dog teams crossed the road. Pete had invited us to come join his family, friends, and the race officials.

It was a great way to experience the race: shivering in the birch forest, waiting for a team to emerge from around the bend, almost silent, except for an occasional "ching ching ching" from the gangline and the musher's "on by" to keep the dogs from stopping to taste our chili. We stood close enough to talk to the mushers as they sped by. Some would ask how close they were to the next checkpoint or comment on how good our food smelled or thank us for our support. We'd call out encouraging words, knowing that for some of them it was their first race. It was great to be away from the crowds and the hype, seeing what it really was like for the racers.

Here is a video clip of the teams at the road crossing:

Click here to see more Beargrease photos.

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Beargrease, Part 3: Opening Ceremonies

Another great time to be a fan is at the Opening Ceremonies and mushers' banquet and bib draw. This was held at Grandmother's Sports Garden, the same place as the mushers' registration.
First we enjoyed some traditional Native American music. The race is named for John Beargrease, a Native American who delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, Minnesota, in the 1800s. In the winter he often used a dogsled, and today's mushers use the same trail for part of the race.
You can hear the music on my YouTube page here.
It was another great opportunity to be a fan girl. I was able to get autographs of several mushers. Here are Harmony and Jason Barron signing my program. Harmony has raced the Iditarod three times, and the first time my daughters and I followed the race, we particularly followed Harmony because we liked her name. So it was a special treat to meet her.
After the meal and entertainment, each musher went forward and drew their bib number, which determines their start position. Here, Cindy Gallea looks over her race instructions.
Click here to see more Beargrease photos.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beargrease Part 2: Being a Fan Girl

The day before a sled dog race is a great time to be a fan. Marcy and I woke up early, put on as many layers as we could, and headed out to vet checks. We were earlier than most of the mushers, and it didn't take us long in the sub-zero air to realize we needed more layers, so we headed to Minnesota Surplus Outfitters to buy more stuff. Armed with new ski masks and mittens, we headed back to the vet checks.

It was then my long-time dream of meeting an Iditarod musher was finally fulfilled four times over. The first Iditarod musher I met was Cindy Gallea. She gladly posed for a picture with me.

The second Iditarod musher I met was Jason Barron. He's quite famous, and I really wanted to meet him. When I saw his truck with lots of handlers milling around, I asked one of the guys which one was Jason. "I am," he replied. I'd seen him on TV, but somehow he didn't look the same in person. "Can I help you with something?" he asked. "Oh, I'm just a fan," I replied. "Of me, or of the race?" "The race--oh, and you too." I'm surprised he still talked to me after that, but he was very sweet and posed for a photo with me.

Most of the dogs that race are Alaskan huskies, another name for a high-tech mutt bred for racing. Most people comment that they are smaller and skinnier than they expected. I guess they are kind of like marathon runners--lean and made for running.

Inside the bar, where the mushers registered before vet check, I got to meet two more Iditarod mushers: Blake and Jen Freking. I recognized them right away. I even confessed to Blake that up until the week before the race, I thought they were from the country of Finland. (They're actually from a town in Minnesota called Finland.) The word "sauna" appropriately appears behind our photo. (Saunas originated in Finland--the country--and the Frekings like saunas too.)

The Frekings race Siberian huskies--beautiful dogs that are what most people think of when they think of sled dogs.

To see my video of vet checks, click here.

To see more Beargrease photos, click here.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon - Part 1: Getting There

As you might imagine, I have a dream of attending the Iditarod. But a trip like that is just not in the budget. Plus I have this strange fear of traveling. No, it's not a fear of flying. It's just a fear of being away from home and being out of control.

But when I heard about the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, I thought, "That I can afford. And if I can handle traveling there, and if my budget allows, maybe I CAN go to the Iditarod in the future." My friend Jackie and her two sons (who are all big Iditarod fans) agreed to go with me, and the plans were set. I booked a hotel room on-line for myself. It so happened that the only non-smoking room available had two beds, and somehow I managed to make nonrefundable reservations (still getting used to doing things on-line), but I was set.

Then a few days before we were to leave, Jackie's plans changed and she was unable to go. Now I was experiencing my pre-trip stress out, so if those motel reservations had been refundable, I would have cancelled the reservations with a sigh of relief. But they were nonrefundable, so I found another friend to go with me. Miraculously, my friend Marcy was able to clear her schedule at the last minute, and we made plans to go. Now, I was glad I had those nonrefundable reservations, AND that the room had two beds.

Highlights of our trip out there: Staying with Marcy's friends in Austin, Minnesota, and seeing the pens that her friend made out of cast off wood.

Having lunch with my old friend Barb in Minneapolis

Having pizza with an Idita-buddy from the forum named Pete and his daughter, Faith, on Friday evening.
Click here to see more photos from the trip. (Click on the first photo to make it larger, then you can click "next" to see each photo.)
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Monday, February 9, 2009

Riddle #42: over thirty foreign countries

Here's the next riddle:

An ordinary American citizen, with no passport, visits over thirty foreign countries in one day. He is welcomed in each country and leaves each one of his own accord.

The correct answer has been guessed. To read it, see the comments section.

Lateral Thinking Puzzlers by Paul Sloane has lots of classic riddles, clues and answers. Click here to order it.

Lateral Thinking Puzzlers by Paul Sloane has lots of classic riddles, clues and answers. Click here to order it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Riddle #41: Two Pigs

This is something that really happened: A man had two pigs that were identical twins from the same litter. However, when he sold them, he got 100 times more for one pig than the other one. Why?

The correct answer to this riddle has been guessed. To read it, see the comments section.

Lateral Thinking Puzzlers by Paul Sloane has lots of classic riddles, clues and answers. Click here to order it.