Iditarod Musher James Volek at the Finish Line

I first met James Volek in the summer of 2012 in downtown Juneau.  He caught my eye because he was wearing a snazzy suit and loafers, and I thought to myself, "What is this jewelry salesman doing in a rogue place like the Viking Bar?"  I had to know more. 

C: "So... what do you do for a living?"

J: "I pick up dog poop."

C: "Pardon?"

J: "I pick up poop and mush dogs on the glacier."

This was intriguing to me.  I had just returned from an epic dog sled tour with Sebastian Schnuelle's Blue Kennels.  I was obsessed with the dog mushing sport, having served four months earlier as an official Iditarod volunteer in Nome.  Not only did I have Iditarod Fever; it was in my blood.

The topic of "Iditarod" naturally came up in our bar room conversation.  James - in his humble yet assured way - said, "Yeah, I'll be in it next year."  I was in awe.  It's not every day you randomly meet a brilliant athlete from a sport of which you are so fond.  I didn't quite believe this suit-clad fella when he admitted he would be an Iditarod contender.  I doubted James' statement until he showed me the two tattered Post-It notes in his wallet, each scribbled with the names of Iditarod checkpoints and the number of miles in between. Then it occurred to me: this Dude is the real deal.

When I saw those Post-It notes, I just knew.  One day, Mountain Man James would finish the Last Great Race on Earth.  And his long-awaited and much deserved moment came when he crossed the Iditarod Finish Line in Nome in the wee-hours of March 17, 2013.  I was so blessed to see my friend's ambitious goal come to fruition.  Congrats, James!  We are all so proud of you!

All smiles.

James and his legit fur ruff.

Signing the Final Checkers Report, making the finish official.

James with his very proud Mom and Aunt.

James with his mentor, four-time Iditarod champion, Martin Buser.

This, folks, is how you properly welcome a friend across the finish line!  I pulled out the St. Pauli Girl dress and topped it off, Alaska-style, with ermine earrings.