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Iron Todd Palin

Posted by Sarah Palin Web Brigade on April 7, 2009

Iron Todd Palin

Wed, Apr 1, 2009

Men’s Journal

Features, Sports

Todd Palin Photo credit: photograph by Kevin Zacher

Last time you saw Todd Palin he was standing quietly, uncomfortably by his woman on the campaign trail, as she got alternately pilloried and praised. Now meet him on his own terms, as a blue-collar outdoorsman who competes in one of the toughest races on Earth.

By Daniel Duane


Todd Palin is trying to scare me. That’s what I’m thinking, alone on a borrowed snowmobile in the fading Alaskan light, cold as hell by a frozen lake. I can barely see Palin and his racing buddy Scott Davis a quarter mile off, near a few stumpy trees. But I can hear them loud and clear, revving their two-stroke engines, circling in their Arctic Cat F6 snowmobiles, punishing the winter sky with an ear-splitting whine familiar to nature lovers everywhere. “Ride over to that point of land!” Palin had screamed at me over the engine roar a moment earlier, struggling to be heard. “Then turn around! We’ll do a speed run past you, let you feel how fast we go!”

Little more than black specks now, obscured by their powerful headlights, the men turn toward me and charge. The wail gets louder and the headlights grow. Fifty mph, 60, 70, now less than a hundred yards away. Eighty mph, 90, on a bullet path right to where I’m sitting. He’s going to mess up and kill me. 

I take some comfort in reminding myself that we are talking about the husband of a certain prominent Alaska governor. A 44-year-old father of five. Would he really risk vehicular manslaughter? But then again, he’s also a motorhead country boy whose favorite recreational activity — the big dream of each calendar year — is the Tesoro Iron Dog, the longest snowmobile race on Earth. It’s a mind-numbing six-day run across nearly 2,000 miles of extreme arctic wilderness. Palin has won it four times and might have won it again in 2008, partnered with Davis, if he hadn’t smacked into a half-buried oil drum on the frozen Yukon River while doing 60, shattering an arm. He doesn’t mind playing rough. Do I chicken out and dive onto the ice?


Palin bombs on by, and the air cushion pushes my face. 


Davis now — a black lightning bolt. 

My brain takes a few seconds to process what my eyes barely caught: two Alaskan buddies in black racing duds and black helmets, leaning way back on their padded seats, gloved hands gripping heated handlebars, as they blow by me at 100 mph.

It’s the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration, and Palin may well wish he were somewhere else — like, just for example, at the United States Naval Observatory in DC, taking the keys to the vice-president’s mansion from Dick Cheney — but you’d never guess that from seeing him out here on his Arctic Cat, a black plastic mask and goggles hiding that familiar mug and a ridiculous amount of horsepower under his ass.





We’re at Davis’s workshop, where the guys are tinkering with their machines three weeks before the 2009 Iron Dog. The wall-mounted flatscreen, tuned to Fox News, is showing the pre-inauguration festivities, while Palin works the trigger on a cordless DeWalt impact-driver.


Hell of a noise, like an assault rifle. Like the one carried by Palin’s 19-year-old son Track, who is home on leave.

“All I have to say about the campaign,” Palin says, eyes flickering to and from the TV, “is it was awesome, okay?”


A once-in-a-lifetime deal, see — being catapulted onto the national stage and traveling the country and seeing cities he never dreamed of seeing, watching his wife speak at the Republican National Convention and in front of adoring crowds at rallies, befriending John McCain, a bona fide war hero. These are the takeaway experiences Todd Palin would prefer to focus on, even as McCain insiders portrayed his wife as uncontrollable and blamed her for the campaign’s collapse.

“I’m not going to get wrapped around the axles on a few people’s comments — ‘She’s a diva,’ or whatever,” Palin says. “There was no name attached to that, so who knows if it’s really true. I mean, all the little negative stuff out there that’s been exploited? To me? I have nothing but respect for the McCains, because they’re a class act. And some people, the detractors, they get bent out of shape.” He shakes his head, as if disbelieving that even some of his own Alaskans would turn on his wife. “They’re so full of anger, you know? I mean, why wouldn’t anybody be proud of one of their citizens being nominated to the VP? Unless you’re just a real hater?” 


A BlackBerry beeps on the workshop counter. The device’s wallpaper shows Palin’s baby boy Trigg — the one with Down’s — lying next to newborn grandson Tripp. It’s Sarah calling from Anchorage. So Todd answers and walks off across the shop, hunting for privacy.

“He’s busy. He’s way busy,” Davis tells me, watching his friend. “All the stuff that comes along with Sarah’s position…” 

While his wife is out still doing relentless TV, shopping a book proposal, and forming a political committee that may be a precursor to a 2012 presidential run, Palin couldn’t have found a better spot to hide out than here at Davis’s place near Soldotna, 200 miles from the Palins’ home in Wasilla. Davis owns a major construction company with lucrative state contracts, and this building — a kind of gearhead paradise, Alaska Rich Guy Version — is the reward, with a 40-foot mobile home parked along one wall, a shiny four-wheel ATV, and room for Davis’s dozen snowmobiles, or, as the locals call them, “snowmachines.” Four new ones — identical Arctic Cat F6s — take up the main work area, two for Davis, a seven-time Iron Dog winner himself, and two for Palin. A huge part of the run-up to every year’s Iron Dog is the time these two buddies spend in the surrounding woods, hammering over bumpy terrain and then hanging out in this shop, making tweaks and changing out parts on their F6s. 

“I’ve had days,” Davis tells me, “where I’ll wake up in the house at 6 am and walk over here in the dark and find shithead already sitting in his truck, waiting for me. That means he got at least a 2 am start out of Wasilla.” 

Palin comes walking back toward us, still talking to Sarah on the BlackBerry. “I must have just missed it,” he says to her.

Grabbing the remote, he turns up the volume. Fox News personality Glenn Beck has apparently just told Sarah Palin she’s “one hot grandma” and then asked her if Obama will be her president too. (“Absolutely,” she responded. “We are all Americans.”)

But by the time Todd gets to the TV, the show has ended, and Fox has returned to footage of the emotional crowds in the capital.

“Lot of excitement in DC, huh?” Palin, now off the BlackBerry, says to me, sounding a bit wistful.

Yes, lots of excitement in DC.

He nods, then returns to work on the Arctic Cat.



To read more of Iron Todd, pick up the May issue of Men’s Journal, on newsstands April 10.


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