On the Iditarod Trail with Bob Jones

To Nome on
snow machines

BY CHRIS COWBROUGH
S-E Sports Editor

At an age when most men are happy to just be breathing air and be ambulatory enough to still be able to use the television remote control, local raconteur Bob Jones is on another Alaska outback odyssey.
Jones, 77, and his sidekick and friend, Josh Rindal of Spokane, began their almost annual chase of Iditarod race mushers over a week ago from Fairbanks, AK. Usually, what has been referred to as The Last Great Race starts in Willow, AK, just north of Anchorage. But some sketchy snow and trail conditions in the Alaska Range necessitated the move.
The winner is expected in the old Gold Rush town of Nome, on Alaska’s western coast by Tuesday or Wednesday.
For Jones and Rindal, the trip to Nome will be decidedly more leisurely—about three weeks. The two are grizzled veterans of the trail. Jones says he can’t remember how many trips he’s made chasing Iditarod mushers with his camera. After all, the memory tends to wane when you get older.

Solo and tandem

Jones concedes that he’s probably too old to be doing what he genuinely loves—following the Last Great Race with a camera and on his trusty customized snow machine.
Jones has been following the Iditarod race for years—solo and in tandem. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s too old to solo the forbidding trail in the wild and wooly Alaskan outback. Jones is the first to concede that having somebody younger than he to ride with is the only way this would work.
AARP-plus meets relative youth.
For the Kettle Falls businessman, there is nothing quite like following the trail to Nome and renewing acquaintances long ago forged.
While the Iditarod typically takes from eight to 14 days for mushers to complete, Jones and Rindal take the leisurely approach to traversing the unforgiving trail, which calls for a sundry number of blizzards and whiteouts, sub-zero temperatures and a lack of snow at times. There are gale force winds that can drop the wind chill to bone-chilling depths of from 75 to 100 below.
Where are my plane tickets to that all-inclusive resort in Cancun?
To each his own. Fun and a good time is however you choose to define it.
This year’s race started March 5 and will traverse about 1, 000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature can create. There are jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests and miles upon miles of windswept coastline.

See Bob's daily diary (days 1-6) in the March 15th edition of the Statesman Examiner.