Iditarod ride just the latest adventure for FL couple

Mike and Nancy Rosman go behind scenes of famous race

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

Mike and Nancy Rosman like adventure. They might even be called thrill-seekers. From riding a zipline in Belize to skydiving for their 25th anniversary, the Forest Lake couple has fulfilled much of its bucket list.

Mike Rosman (seated) of Forest Lake enjoys a sled ride through Anchorage, AK courtesy of Ken Anderson’s dog team. Anderson is a former Forest Lake resident himself. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley)

Now, the Rosmans can cross off another line. Last month, they rode in dog sleds through the streets of Anchorage, AK during the send-off for the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

“It was fun. It really was,” says Nancy. “…I’m always up for an adventure, and my husband’s willing to tag along.”

For a couple big on traveling and excitement, the Iditarod is a natural fit. The world-famous race, which covers nearly 1,000 miles across Alaska each March, pits man versus nature in all of its glory.

“I think it’s the adventure part of it that drew me in,” Nancy says. “I do wilderness canoeing, so it’s that kind of solitary wilderness kind of thing.”

While researching this year’s race, Nancy stumbled upon the “Iditarider” program, which allows fans to bid for the right to sit on a sled as each team makes its way 11 miles from Anchorage to the official starting point of Willow, AK.

The Rosmans had visited Alaska for the first time three summers ago, and the decision to return was simple.

“We always said we’d go back in the winter, so this was the opportunity,” Nancy says. “We’ll go back many more times, I’m sure.”

Bound and determined to go, the Rosmans won the auction for veteran musher Ken Anderson, who grew up in Forest Lake. With one seat secured, it was decision time.

“When we tell our grandchildren this story, are we going to say grandma did it but grandpa didn’t?” Nancy recalls saying. “So we went for two and it was well worth it.”

The Rosmans check out a mural showing the course of the thousand-mile race. (Photo submitted)

They ponied up a smaller price so Nancy could ride along with three-time Iditarod musher Karin Hendrickson.

Upon arriving in Anchorage, the Rosmans were treated to a champagne toast and dinner with the mushers on the Thursday leading up to the race. Orientation took place Friday and the real fun took place on Saturday. The Iditariders had VIP access on the streets downtown during the final preparations, then joined the sled teams for the two-hour procession out of town.

They got a kick out of the varying levels of experience and equipment the field of 66 displayed.

“Ken has a beautiful sled with interchangeable runners for cold snow and hot snow,” Nancy says. “My musher comes in with her beat-up pickup and homemade [gear]…But I got to do harnessing and all that, which Mike didn’t get to do, because she didn’t have a crew.”

The crowd packed the sidewalks and cheered the teams out of town, then the riders were treated to a dash through the scenic countryside. Nancy was struck by how serene she felt listening to the whooshing of the sled and the pitter-patter of the dogs pulling through the snow.

“It’s very contemplative, very nice,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I could get used to this.’ And she was like ‘This is why I mush.’”

The experience was not without its fair share of adventure, though. A race official had warned the mushers of a moose in the area. The great mammals are among the biggest dangers to Iditarod teams and were in a particularly foul mood this year due to huge snow totals which limited their access to food. Hendrickson simply warned Nancy to lean forward if they came across a moose so she could “bop him on the head” with an axe.

Fortunately, no such meetings took place. The Rosmans also lucked out as the temperature hovered in the mid-20s. The balmy conditions made it comfortable for the humans, if not for their naturally insulated canine companions.

The Rosmans did not fare so well in their other quest on their nine-day trip. They hoped to see the Northern Lights. Aurora activity was forecasted to be the highest it had been in years, so trekked 450 miles across the state to Fairbanks. However, they were greeted with clouds and snow, while friends at their point of origin reported beautiful viewing conditions.

All was not lost, though. While in Fairbanks, the Rosmans checked out the world’s largest ice-sculpting competition.

Between that and the yarns they heard from the famously enthralling crew of mushers, the Rosmans should be able to keep their grandkids’ interest for many storytimes to come.

“There’s just such great stories,” Nancy says. “The tales are just hilarious.”