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The winner of the Iditarod and his 16 sled dogs have been stuck in Alaska since March
Thomas Waerner mushes into Unalakleet, Alaska, Sunday, March 15, 2020 during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- Thomas Waerner won this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, but he is still waiting to return to his home in Norway.
Waerner and his 16 dogs have been stranded in Alaska by travel restrictions and flight cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
"I like Alaska a lot," Waerner said. "It's kind of my dream place. But I have a family."
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Waerner has five children and 35 other sled dogs in Torpa, Norway. He missed the 10th birthday of one of his children and misses morning coffee with his wife, Guro, who left Alaska in March shortly before health restrictions stopped travel.
The 47-year-old plans to fly home in early June on a DC-6 aircraft bound for the Air History Museum in Sola, Norway.
Everts Air Cargo of Fairbanks is selling the historic plane, and Waerner said the museum is expected to finalize the deal this week.
"We are hitchhiking," Waerner said. "The plane is going to Norway, and we are going with them. We are so lucky."
Prior to the trip Waerner is expected to undergo a COVID-19 test and collect his dogs from a kennel in Salcha owned by fellow musher Arleigh Reynolds.
Waerner said he has friends in the Alaska towns of Ester and Salcha and often spends a few days around Fairbanks after the Iditarod. This year, a few days turned into more than a few weeks and Waerner is ready to resume his normal life.
"My wife has been taking care of 35 dogs, the kids, and working as a veterinarian," he said. Once he returns home, " `yes, dear,' will be the answer for everything," he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.