FAIRBANKS—Spectators began trickling in almost as early as some of the mushers Monday morning, with a few arriving to secure spots along the chute as early as 6 a.m.
Vicky Eicher of Charlottesville, Virginia, arrived at the start at 6:30 a.m., receiving a ride from a friend who was volunteering at the event. With three-and-a-half hours to go before the start, she picked the closest spot to the chute and settled in to wait.
Eicher said there weren't many other spectators when she arrived, "just the volunteers putting out the signs."
By 8 a.m., several hundred people were milling about the start, though many of them chose to wait in the nearby Pike's Waterfront Lodge where warmth and seating were somewhat easier to obtain.
Priscilla Gallagher waited with her three children, 10-year-old Hailey, 8-year-old Klara and 5-year-old Landen, about 30 yards down the chute. Gallagher and her husband moved to Eielson Air Force Base in October. She said they heard the restart had moved to Fairbanks for only the second time and felt they had to be there to see it themselves.
"We didn't want to miss it, so I dragged them out at 6:30 and said, 'We're going,'" Gallagher said.
Gallagher's oldest daughter, Hailey, was taking special note of three mushers in particular for a project her class is doing on the Iditarod. Her project is to follow the race and write a paper on her three mushers. The class as a whole chose Hugh Neff, while Hailey chose Aliy Zirkle and DeeDee Jonrowe.
By 10 a.m., as organizers prepared to send the first musher on to Nome, the first 100 yards of fencing along the chute was lined with spectators and hundreds more were spewing in with each passing minute.
Shuttles had backed up to the point that several would arrive at the starting line at once. By the time Rob Cooke, the first musher, was heading down the trail, some spectators had begun queuing to leave on the shuttles returning to the Carlson Center. The two-way traffic further congested the area, creating a lengthy wait to both load and unload the shuttles.
The same congestion took place on the other end, at the Carlson Center. Amanda Price and her two children, six-year-old Adrianna and three-year-old Aaron, didn't make it to the start until after 11 a.m. despite arriving at the Carlson center by 9 a.m., Price said.
The Carlson Center was closed Monday morning, so spectators waiting to catch a shuttle were forced to wait outside, sometimes, as in Price's case, for hours.
One spectator had the best view of anyone at the start Monday. John Bailey, a GeoEdu program manager with Google, isn't a musher, but he started the race on the runners of a sled driven by 1984 Iditarod Champion Dean Osmar. Bailey was carrying a 40-pound Google Maps backpack that, much like the cars that make Google Street View a possibility, would record a 360-degree view of his sled's trip.
Google Maps often uses its Street View technology as an outreach platform and an educational tool, offering interactive "street views" of places such as the Grand Canyon, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef.
Bailey, a volcanologist who worked for eight years at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, left academia about 18 months ago and took a job with Google. He said he's not sure exactly when the data from his trip will be available, but he anticipated it would be ready in time for next year's Iditarod.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.