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."
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!