They Also Serve Who Only Sit And Wait

Mar 9, 2019

Mushing gear dries over a wood stove at the Ophir checkpoint.
Credit Ben Matheson

The press may cover the mushers in the Iditarod, but what about the parents who are left behind? Do they call their mushing kids on the phone while they’re out on the trail?

“Have not,” says Ron Kaiser, the father of Bethel musher Pete Kaiser. “I don’t call him, that’s for sure. I don’t try that. “

Ron’s son, Pete, has finished in the top-10 five times. 

“Same thing here,” Jackie Klejka, Iditarod rookie Jessica Klejka's mother, agrees.

Each has a child in the Iditarod.

Ron Kaiser, who has been here many times before, says that the Iditarod GPS tracker has become his best friend. It’s where he goes to watch and worry.

“I did take my anxiety medication,” he says. “That’s what being a dad of an Iditarod musher is. It’s a lot of anxiety and wondering, you know, 'what’s happening?'”

“Ron hit it on the nose,” agrees Jackie Klejka. “My rest/sleep schedule is totally out the window (laughs). That’s why I have the coffee right now. I was up late, of course, last night trying to watch her on the tracker.”

Bethel vet assistant Jackie Klejka is not new to mushing, but this is the first time she’s had a child in the Iditarod. She is also keeping a close eye on the tracker.

“You know, you get to a point where you go, 'Oh, I want to see her get through this spot (laughs).' I actually stayed up last night just doodling a little bit here. I drew a picture of Jessica and her dogs. I went ahead and painted it; I stayed up so late,” she said.

Ron Kaiser admits that there is plenty of tracking happening at his house, but claims that he draws a line.

“I do not get up in the middle of the night to look at the tracker, ‘cause I don’t really sleep well as it is. If I got up I probably couldn’t go back to sleep," he added. So I make a point till maybe the last day of the race, ah, I may get up in the night time. You know, it’s not too bad. I don’t watch it constantly, but check a lot of stuff.”

On Monday, March 11, Ron Kaiser and Jackie Klejka will be talking more about what it takes to raise and support a musher on the Iditarod. That’s Monday morning on “Coffee@KYUK,” right after the news.