Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith is like a bluebird you see from afar...

Had a visitor the other night in the backyard. A Juvenile Steller's Jay spent time in our trees during a very windy part of the day. Steller's Jays are my favorite type of bird that we have. Yes, they beat out even the incredible Bald Eagle. (One of the Steller's in our yard can make the same sound an Eagle makes, it's hilarious!) With the bird just sitting there it gave me enough time to run into the house and grab my camera and big lens. I kept creeping closer to him to get different angles and what not. It was super windy so a lot of them ended up with too much motion blur, but I got a few decent ones. Check them out (and don't forget to click the "read more" to see all of them!)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Changing of the Guard: Jonrowe says Iditarod 2018 to be her last

If you grew up watching the Iditarod like most children in Alaska did in the 80s and 90s you knew DeeDee's name. If you were female, in Alaska, and growing up in that era you definitely knew her name. DeeDee Jonrowe was one of the women who people wanted to see win. Who knew she'd win. In many ways, DeeDee was supposed to champion what Susan Butcher had made common place - a female Iditarod Champion. Jonrowe was the media darling after Butcher retired to start a family. Jonrowe was as tough as they came and yet fought to keep her "femininity". She wore make up, had "styled" hair, and of course let's not forget all that pink (which as a kid I forgave because she was a lady musher poised to make it to the top).

She was a dominant name in the 90s, coming in second to some pretty fantastic champions three times, and never seeing a finish out of the top ten in that decade - except for 1999 when she scratched due to dogs balking at the winds of the Yukon River. Jonrowe has also had a difficult career due to personal crisis multiple time. In 1996 she was in a car accident that took the life of her grandmother and hospitalized herself and her husband. Her mother Peggy famously battled cancer several times throughout the last 3 decades, before finally losing the battle in 2015 just weeks after DeeDee signed up for the 2016 race, and while wildfires destroyed the Jonrowe Kennel and home. The Jonrowes lost just about every material possesion along with most of the property's structures (all but one retired sled dog, and one cat, survived thanks to the quick action of Jonrowe and her friends). In 2002 DeeDee herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery to remove both breasts, and after completing her chemo in January she ran the 2003 Iditarod where she placed an incredible 18th place (this was the first time Iditarod would run from Fairbanks to Nome, and was difficult for all teams). Through it all DeeDee pushed through, overcame, and continued to land herself consistently in the top 20.

This morning, the Iditarod Legend (and she deservedly owns that title) took to Facebook to report that the 46th Iditarod will be her last. The last few years have been an extreme emotional roller coaster for Jonrowe, with a lot of emotional posts coming through on social media. She also had a more pessimistic view in many of her interviews as she ran each race. While retirement seemed inevitable, the announcement was still a surprise to many in the mushing fandom. DeeDee is a recognized figure throughout the world and her name is synonymous with Iditarod.

I personally cannot remember a time when DeeDee was not a competitor in the Iditarod. Her first race was 1980, five years before I was born. She has entered every year I've been alive. Next to Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher, DeeDee Jonrowe was the next big thing. The torch passed from her to the next generation of dominant lady mushers a few years ago when Aliy made a splash first in the Yukon Quest in 2000 and then later on in Iditarod. Aliy seemed poised to be the next female super star (and she is) but now Jessie Royer and Michelle Phillips are hot on her tail ready to surpass her. No woman has been a dominant figure as long as DeeDee Jonrowe. While she may never hold the title of Iditarod Champion, she's every bit as known, loved, and respected as those who do (and in some cases she's more so). Next March may be the last time DeeDee runs the Iditarod race as a musher, but she will forever be a part of the Last Great Race.

Thank you for teaching girls world wide, but especially in Alaska, DeeDee how to stay strong and battle through the darkness! May this coming training and racing season be the best one EVER.

Share your favorite DeeDee Jonrowe memory in the comments below.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Phone Scam Alert!

Last night (June 16, 2017) as we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and the caller asked to speak with Alan Reitter. My dad said that was him, and the man on the phone said that there was a warrant out on him because he failed to appear for jury duty. Dad is scheduled for Grand Jury duty in July, and he informed the man on the phone of such. The man continued to say that my dad had incorrect information, that he'd missed his court date, and that there was a warrant out for his arrest if he didn't show up at a location to sort this all out.

Mind you, this is well after hours for the court - and it's also not "illegal" to have missed jury duty. This man didn't care, he stated he was with the Alaska State Troopers and that if my father didn't drop everything and do as he said, they'd have to arrest him.

The caller's call dropped several times but he called dad right back. Each time the caller ID said "private caller". While my dad continued to get information from this guy about this supposed warrant I kept saying it was a scam, but no one believes me without me having someone else back me up (which is a rant for another day), so I texted my friend who is a prosecutor here in Kenai. He texted back SCAM!!!!! My dad informed the man on the phone that he was going to have to call the police and make sure this was legit as "an ADA just told me you're a scam." The man's call conveniently dropped again.

My dad reported it to the Kenai Police Dept. Soon after he was done with that long call the SCAMMER CALLED BACK. I'd had enough, and I answered the phone (dad was on another call with the Alaska Office for the FBI - who gave him the number to call the office in DC!). The scammer once again asked for my dad and I asked if this was the supposed officer from the Alaska State Troopers. He said yes and that he needed to talk to my dad. I informed him that we've already talked to the police and they said not to talk to him any more. He told me that WE CALLED THE WRONG DEPARTMENT and that we needed to talk to him only. I got REALLY pissy at this point and told him absolutely not that the KPD WAS EXACTLY WHO WE NEEDED TO CALL and to STOP CALLING OUR HOUSE. He said he was going to send troopers to our house and I hung up.

We had dinner, went to the movies, came home - he'd not called again and it's been over 12 hours and no trooper has showed up to arrest anybody.


The info the man used to Identify himself as "legit" were:
Name: "Lt. Steven Harris of the Alaska State Troopers"
Case Number: FTA 0079-81-10CV
Phone number: 907-290-3015 ext 3

Again, we've spoken with folks at the Kenai Police Dept AND the FBI and both say this is a definite scam and that it's been going around the Peninsula for a few weeks now. IF YOU GET THE CALL - CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT. They use it to get more statistics on who they are calling it may help them track down where they're getting info.

Feel free to share. You can contact me with more questions if need be.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Calling all readers - I need your help

I am getting ready to move into a new office (yay!) in my new job (I forget, did I mention that previously?). I'm going to have wall space to display photos on, and, well... you know me and pictures - I got a lot of them. So I'm asking for help. I'm going with an Alaska theme (I love my state) and each wall will have another sub theme...

I've narrowed down the photos and I'm now polling my friends, family, and readers to choose from those I've chosen to make the final cut. You can like/comment on as many photos as you want.

The first batch of photos is Iditarod/Mushing themed (and I have SOOOOOOO many photos it's crazy!):

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bear Sighting

A few weekends ago my bestie Kassy and I went on a short road trip to Anchorage. Just an overnighter so I could get my car fixed and she signed us up to help with an Operation Christmas Child information booth at a Christian Women's Conference. It was fun, but it was a quick up and back and I was tired (I dealt with migraines all weekend). On our way home (much later than I'd originally planned but we were at the mercy of the mechanics) we were stopped just outside of Sterling. I originally thought it was due to an accident until we looked to the side of the road and saw a sow brown bear and her two yearling cubs! We spent over a half hour taking pictures and watching idiot drivers/people. This is only the 3rd time I've seen a Brownie in the wild (and so close to the road!) and the very first time I've seen cubs in the wild! So awesome!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Who Are You?

Why are bathroom selfies some of the better lit photos?
I've gotten this question, or the "I didn't know you..." comments, a lot lately. I've realized in the last few years of social networking I have more followers that really don't know who I am or what I'm about. Not that I'm anything overly unique or special, but I figured I'd go out on a limb and give a little introduction to those newly following me.

  • My name is Antonia Reitter, but I go by Toni (or Tonichelle online). I was born and raised in South Central Alaska, which pretty much solidified my introvert personality. Big country, small population. I love small towns, it's why I can't imagine living anywhere else. I can breathe here - plus little to no air pollution makes breathing a wonderful exercise!
  • I am a professional photographer. I received my first camera at 7 years old and I learned mainly by trial and error until taking actual classes in high school and college (meaning I've had a camera in hand for 25 years). No degree to show that I know my stuff, but sometimes my work speaks for itself. Photography has given me ins to worlds I would otherwise never be able to be a part of. I have been an official photographer for local triathlons and marathons (the only way you will see me at a running event. I don't run!), and of course I've been an official photog for sled dog races (mainly the Tustumena 200). I've also been hired by a few major Iditarod teams to take photos of their four legged athletes. I've also had several photos of mine featured on Alaska blogs, magazines, and websites.
  • Speaking of mushing, I LOVE the sport even though I have never actively participated in it. Growing up in Alaska, Iditarod was a normal part of the vocabulary, but it wasn't until 2007 that I really started to understand and have a great appreciation for what these teams do. I got an inside look while working for an Iditarod Champion kennel as a summer job. I worked for them for 4 summers. It was fantastic. I never trained the dogs (didn't really do much with them at all), but I worked as support for the mushers and their handlers. It's still one of my favorite jobs of all time, and has allowed me many opportunities. (And those that hired me have no one to blame but themselves for creating, in me, an "obsessive Iditarod fan". You know who you are.)
  • I live for Disney - this is no surprise if you've followed me for any length of time. I love the films, the history, the Parks, the merchandise. I am a total Disnerd. Since 2001 I've been to Disney World six times, and since 1990 I've been to Disneyland five times (with a sixth trip planned early next year). I own every animated classic on at least one medium, and have many on multiple (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital). My walls are adorned with Disney photos and posters. I don't have kids, and I don't need them to justify being a Disney fan. What is the magic cut off age that suddenly it's "not okay" to be a fan. You don't just age out of a fandom. Lose interest, sure, but it's not an age thing.
  • I am a dog person - if the being obsessed with mushing wasn't enough of a give away. I've never had a time in my life where I didn't have a dog in my family. Maybe short blips as the loss of one meant grieving time for another, but it wasn't long before another four legged bundle of awesome wiggled its way into our hearts. Pugs are my breed of choice, we currently have two in our family. My parents have a fawn pug named Sushi, and I have a black pug I've named Stitch. Word of advice: that saying that "names give power" really works. If there was a live embodiment of a Disney alien character, my dog is it. He is SO NAUGHTY! But I love him. Pugs just have the best personality... and their squishy faces are just so kissable!

And a photo of Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland, because I can.

Just a few bullet points to give you an idea of what makes me, me. Hello to all my new followers! If you have a question or an idea for another blog post just ask! You can get ahold of me a multitude of ways, but leave me a comment on this post and I'll answer it either in the comments or create another blog post. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Just 77 miles

Mitch Seavey at the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, Ak. March 4, 2017
Mitch Seavey pulled the snow hook at 7:36am after his mandatory 8 hour rest in White Mountain. From there it's a mere 77 miles to the finish. If he keeps his pace what it's been this entire race he will be in sometime after 4pm, crushing his son Dallas's record for fastest time. It's just 77 miles until "Seavey the Elder" wins his third Iditarod championship. Just 77 miles.

But don't declare him the winner just yet. While it looks like it will take an act of God for any team to overtake him, it's happened before. Many times. Susan Butcher in 1991 lost her chance to win when a storm blew in - Rick Swenson kept going and won. In 2014 an insane windstorm caused Jeff King (who had such a lead over the rest there was "no way" he wasn't going to win) to scratch, and Aliy Zirkle to hunker down in Safety while Dallas Seavey pushed through to win. Today's forecast shows no sign of anything like that happening this time around, but it's Alaska. Weather is sometime unpredictable.

It's just 77 miles. Mitch and his team of 11 superstar dogs will run to the final checkpoint of Safety where he will put his bib over his parka, call up his dogs, and make the short jaunt to Nome. He'll have to climb one final mountain (which in normal years would be more like a hill compared to what they ran through, but this year is the biggest one). He's run along the coast until he pops over the seawall and runs down Front Street. He will stop to snack his dogs along the way. He will give them all a quick rub down and a bunch of "good boys!" as they munch on their snacks and hydrate.

There will be no more resting on the trail. Aside from the stops to snack and water the dogs, they're just going to run. It's just 77 miles, and then their race is done. They'll get all the rest they could ever want after they run under the burled arch. Their musher will also get the rest his body so desperately needs. The dogs have been pampered this past week, the musher not so much.

Dallas Seavey just left White Mountain with a 13 minute head start on Nicolas Petit. It's hard to imagine either will run down Mitch's team. It's possible, we know that, but it's highly unlikely. It's just 77 miles, and Mitch has an hour lead on them. It's just 77 miles before Mitch Seavey gets to stop racing and just admire what his team accomplished. It's just the 77 miles this team of dogs has trained for all year.

It's just 77 miles until someone, most likely Mitch Seavey, wins Iditarod 45.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hello from Sunny Nome

We made it yesterday. I am saving the story for a blog post I hope to send over to The Alaska Life. They asked me to be a guest Idita-blogger (because they're awesome!) and so I've decided to have some fun and give it a go with a "what to know before you Nome" theme for the next one I do. Hopefully. If I can stay awake long enough to shoot one out.

But here's a little taste at what I've done so far... more to come eventually. Internet is slow here at the Polaris hotel (which isn't as horrible as we'd heard so yay!)

Anywho, gotta edit some photos, tweet, and write a blog post.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mitch Seavey running to Huslia

Mitch Seavey at the Tustumena 200
January 29, 2017
It's not normal. Nothing about this race seems to be normal. It's odd to think that three days in everyone is on the Yukon. It's odd to see certain teams run a conservative race, while others break with tradition and head off down the trail. It's odd that we're even on the route we're on.

Now we're seeing Mitch play rabbit and head to Huslia ahead of the other front runners. At this moment he is still the only team out of Galena. Seavey is normally not the team being chased this early in the race. Past Iditarods Mitch has stayed with the pack, but never wanted to jump out in lead. However, Mitch is a man with a plan and he revealed he'd planned to take his 24 in Huslia, and that his team had given no indication that they needed to alter that plan. So now he's half way there and the rest of the teams are sitting in Ruby and Galena taking at least one of their mandatory rests. Just took a gander and Mitch is now resting on the trail, guess that answers if he took straw or not.

Meanwhile Wade Marrs is hanging out in Ruby taking his 24. He led the way into the checkpoint last night and his team looked peppy and strong. Wade had insiders scratching their heads as he was doing long runs on what is considered short rest. It didn't seem to affect his team too terribly, and now he's looking at charging up the trail and chasing the leaders just before 7pm Alaska time. Dallas will follow nearly an hour behind. Then it's onto Galena before they head to Huslia.

It's taking me too long to write up this blog post - both Michelle Phillips and Jessie Royer are now headed for Huslia as well. Michelle, you will remember, won the Yukon Quest 300 beating out Aliy Zirkle. Jessie Royer was on fire on this trail two years ago.

Dallas told insider that he's a little concerned that Ruby is too early to take his 24 - Mitch took it in Ruby in 2015 and lamented the rest of the race that he'd made a mistake - but Dallas seems to think this is best for his dogs. He is planning to drop two dogs (that means leave them in the good hands of the volunteers and vets in the checkpoint so they can be flown home), but that he may drop a third who has "questionable stool". This is concerning, we don't normally hear Dallas worry about his team (ever, but certainly not this early in the race). I wondered last night when he declared his 24 if there might be "trouble". It could be I'm just reading into things, but something just seems off, but as always Dallas isn't giving anything away.

With everyone taking their 8s and 24s, it's a good time to get other things done. I'm home sick with a cold (I know, right before I head to Nome!) but I do need to do a bit of packing to feel prepared for my first time at the finish! Just a couple more days since I head out! Yikes!