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March 2010 Archives

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Last week, I wrote about a Park Ridge landscaper who's dream took him to the starting line of Alaska's famed Iditarod sled dog race. Pat Moon's dream ended early, when he crashed into a tree four days into the race.

Here's an update on how Pat is doing. This is an email he sent on Wednesday:

It has been a week since I scratched from the Iditarod. It has been a very long week. The two years preceeding the start were long, but nothing compared to what my little brain has been through since.
 
My race started amazing. The team was on track, stroking along like gangbusters. We were in and out of checkpoints on schedule. The vets looked my team over at every stop, told me I had a great trained team, and signed off on heading up the trail. The "Happy Steps," a portion of the trail where teams often get hurt or lose the driver, were over in an instant. I had made it through the worst of the technical portions. We were introduced to Alaskan weather at Rainy Pass. As I pulled in Monday night, it was minus 25 with a 40 mile an hour gust. By the time I was ready to head into the storm, it was 15 below with gusts only up to 25. I felt good. I was happy to roll out and test the team as a whole.
 
When we got into the Dalzell Gorge I was ready. There was open water flowing, but my leaders proved what they were made of. We were within sniffing of the Rohn Cabin. Safety and a much deserved rest.
 
I have no recollection of the incident. All I know is Belgium musher, Sam Deltour found me and offered emergent aid. I have since found out he is a medical student. And, he was running to raise awaremess and funding for MS. His mother is afflicted with the disease. I owe Sam more than he will ever know.
 
I was airlifted out and back to Anchorage. I suffered a broken nose, cheek orbitals, and a left hand. I was scratched from the race due to the obvious. I could no longer take care of my team.
 
I have been taken care of and welcomed by the Iditaord Trail Committee as if I was a son. I have been put up and watched. The mushing community is a small one. The professional Iditarod is even smaller. I will never win, but I was treated as if the race depends on me coming back.
 
Yesterday was the first day I felt I should have went on. I am not sure my brain has wrapped itself around the incident, and the fact that my season is almost over. I am not used to people asking for my autograph. After all, I am just Pat Moon, Ignatius grad and lawn mower. I have been in more pictures this week then my entire life combined, including my wedding. I have had my lunch at Wendy's paid for by random people behind me. I had a fire engine roll down the window at a stop light and wish me good luck healing and they will be rooting for me next year.
 
Next year is a long way away. I wrote last March that one year is only 525,600 minutes. It goes by so quickly. In the blink of an eye. Like hitting a tree. :) I am not sure what I am going to do. I have to talk to Mel and review our options. Training and running the Iditarod is insanely expensive. Most everyone would gasp and choke if the grand totals were published. The winners lose money. I however, get to spend time with my dogs.
 
Melanie and my Mom are on their way here tonight. We will head up to Nome in the morning to cheer on those that are still running. It is one of the fastest fields ever. Word is trickling in that the judges are pushing the "Back of thr Packers" to move along or move out. Who knows if I even would have been able to finish. I would hope so.
 
I do however know that this summer will be back to mowing lawns and going out on the speaking engagement world. If anyone would be interested in a presentation, please email me. I do both educational and corporate. Both tie into the prep and race life of a dog team, but they differ in message. Educational is following dreams and overcoming stuff, while the corporate focuses on team managment and how to get 16 dogs to do what I ask of them. It is mostly aimed at managers.
 
If anyone is interested, or have any questions about the race, dog sledding, or at this point, lawn questions, please ask. I am not really looking forward to getting back to the real world, but I have to raise next year's fees by mid-June!
 
Pat Moon
Iditarod 2010
Starting Bib #17

Airlines are going to be hit with huge financial penalties if they keep passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours.

The new rule seems like a big win for weary consumers, but this editorial points out a potential unintended consequence that could be bad for passengers:

By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service

A new federal regulation intended to limit how long passengers can be kept aboard a delayed airliner is already having an unintended consequence even though it doesn't take effect until April 29.
The rule says that passengers on a plane delayed on the ground more than three hours have to be given the option of getting off. That, in turn, creates its own problems. If the plane has pulled away from the gate, it loses its place in the line waiting to take off. In some airports it means arranging for a stairway and a shuttle to return the passengers to the terminal safely.
Rather than risk a potentially large fine for a delayed flight, the airlines are threatening to cancel the flight altogether. And the fines are huge, up to $27,500 per passenger, meaning in the worst case more than $4 million for a fully loaded larger airliner.
Even if the passengers are willing to risk sitting on the tarmac longer than three hours, the airline may not. The Wall Street Journal quoted Continental CEO Jeff Smisek telling investors: "Here's what we're going to do: We're going to cancel the flight."
Some think the airlines are exaggerating, insulating themselves from the inevitable complaints when they do have to cancel a flight. As a business model, effectively yanking your product off the shelf seems a little shortsighted. And it's not as if cancellations are an industry secret. Fliers can track them through the U.S. Department of Transportation and Websites like flightstats.com.
The issue of flight cancellation is rather a sensitive one right now because bad weather forced the airlines to cancel 34,588 flights in February, leaving many passengers stranded for days.
The fact is, flight cancellations are relatively rare. FlightStats said that last year United had the highest cancellation rate at 1.6 percent of scheduled departures and Smisek's airline, Continental, had the lowest at 0.5 percent. Long delays, over three hours, are also rare, some 900 flights last year.
The impetus for the rule was a singular event and one that shouldn't be repeated. Passengers aboard a regional airliner, diverted to Rochester, Minn., were kept sitting overnight because the crew had exceeded its allowable flying hours and an employee of another airline refused to open a gate at the closed terminal.
Until we learn to control the weather, delays in air travel are inevitable. But like so many problems they can be mitigated by liberal applications of common sense and good judgment.

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