June 2 (UPI) -- An award-winning sled dog racer arrived home Tuesday with 24 dogs in a historic plane after being stranded in Alaska.
Thomas Waerner, 47, of Norway, who won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, told CNN he'll remember the past few months and the historic ride home for the rest of his life.
"Winning the race and then going back on the plane ... I think this was one of the cool things that happen in life," Waerner told CNN in a phone interview.
The Iditarod is a nearly 1,000-mile annual race in its 48th year on the trail from Anchorage to Nome. Waerner won the race March 18. After that, travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic left him stranded in Alaska, but he came up with an escape plan for both himself and the dogs.
"I would not leave before I had a solution for the dogs," he said. "And I think that was the right decision to make, because I don't think the dogs would make it back until October or something," otherwise.
Word that a local airline had been attempting to sell a DC-6 aircraft to The Museum of Aviation History in Sola, Norway, sparked the idea.
The historic airline had made its maiden voyage in 1946 and flew to three separate continents over its 60 years of service. Waerner happened to know the plane's owner and with help from his main sled dog race sponsor, Qrill Pet, was able to hitch the lift Tuesday, along 16 dogs of his own dogs and eight left behind by one of his competitors.
"Life is a little strange," Waerner said. "But I am a forward, positive guy. If you're just positive you will always find solutions and you will overcome your obstacles."