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Library speaker will recount his dog-sledding Alaskan saga

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outdoors River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the lower level of the public library, Wisconsin native Jim Ryder will speak about his incredible journey to Nome, Alaska.

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In early 2011 Ryder traveled solo, by dog team, 800 miles from Nenana to Nome. His trip replicated the original Serum Run, which follows part of the Iditarod Trail.

The Serum run goes along the same route that was taken by a sled-dog relay that carried the diphtheria antitoxin to Nome in 1925.

One of 13 children, Ryder was born and raised in Eau Claire. He credits his parents with instilling a sense of adventure.

"I grew up when you could go out and explore," Ryder said. "I was given a lot of freedom."

In 1995, this father of three boys, one girl and grandfather to three, and his wife, Liz, moved to Madeline Island.

While on Madeline Island, Ryder and his wife ran a dog-sled adventure company that offered area rides.

Always looking for an adventure, Ryder took up the offer of his hero, adventurer Norman Vaughn, to join him on the Serum Run. Unfortunately, Vaughn died before the two could go.

In Feb. 2010, Ryder decided that he needed to complete his mission. He applied online to compete in the Serum Run the following year.

Blizzards in 2010 helped Ryder and his dogs prepare for conditions they would face on the trail.

"I wanted to go out in bad weather, so the dogs thought it was just another day," he said. "Alaska was not a shock to them (the dogs)."

Leaving on Jan.5, 2011, Ryder arrived in Alaska three weeks before the run so as to adjust to the drastic temperature drop.

"It was -30 or -40 prior and that acclimated me. It was better than if it had been warmer," Ryder said.

Before his adventure, the only thing arranged was the trapper's cabin he would be staying at for the first three weeks.

When Ryder arrived he found out he was placed on the alternate list for the race. "They didn't think my dogs could keep up -- they were too slow," Ryder said.

Undeterred, Ryder decided to go it alone. He sent dog food to six villages along his route.

With a plan in place, Ryder's number No. 1 rule was to survive.

"It was going to have to be something big to stop me," Ryder said. "I'm going."

More on this story available in the Jan. 19 print edition of the Journal.

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