We arrived in Big Piney last night and got a room at one of only two hotels in the town. You would think after standing around in the cold all day that mushers would welcome a warm room. Well, not so much. For many of us this is a virtual nightmare. As we entered our little oven we both started to panic. “Holy crap, turn the heat down!” I yelled. We then started shedding the clothes as we frantically looked for the source of our torture. We started opening windows for fear we would perish from the heat. Once we found the source we quickly discovered there was no thermostat so we basically dismantled the wall heater only to realize it was on low already and there was no way to turn it off. So in -10 we chose to leave the windows open just so we could sleep.
After three weeks of being on the road, you get a little sick of motels. Every blasted one of them has their heaters blowing full bore. You walk into the hallways and it’s like a sauna and then you enter your room and determine it would be more comfortable to sleep in the truck. Then I swear some of these things are designed to never turn off. You can put them on low and even turn them off and they will still run all night. This coupled with the dry air in the Western US is absolute torturous to us Midwesterners. I arrived like a wet sponge and now I’m a brittle, dried up and crumbling sponge. I travel with a mini-humidifier just so I can breathe. My skin is like crispy bacon and it actually hurts to touch it. I’m red like a tomato and fees as if I aged 10 years. Lord help me if I have to blow my nose, there’s so much blood I worry if I’ve had a brain aneurism.
So after taking care of our room, we went to the banquet and then returned to drop dogs. While we were dropping dogs we kept hearing Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep! It just didn’t stop. It was quite irritating and I was thinking that incessant beeping better stop before we try to go to sleep. This motel has paper walls and a beeping such as this would certainly keep all of us up all night. After about 10 minutes of listening to this I couldn’t stand it and I went on the hunt for the beeper. As I’m approaching our room so was the Motel Manager. Then I hear it, “Fire, Fire, Fire” coming from a smoke alarm. Oh NO! Half our gear is in there. Why don’t I see smoke? I hand the manager the key and we walk in to find Bruce’s Lobben boots melted on top of the heater. The lovely aroma of melted plastic greeted us. So, like we’ve done a few times this trip, we hung our heads in embarrassment. The manager said he get it taken care of. Well, the entire time we were dropping we kept hearing beep, beep, beep, fire, fire, fire. Until finally the manager came to tell us he couldn’t get all the blue gunk scraped off the heater so he turned it off and left us a small electric heater. Well, that’s one way to get your motel to turn off your heater; in case you are ever desperate. Bruce now walks with a limp because one boot is taller than the other.
It was a chilly morning in Big Piney today, but nothing like Pinedale. It is a brand new trail that is 100% groomed and apparently very hilly. We looked at the snow conditions. The snow was very dry and crispy. The trail looked hard, but we chose to go with boots on all 11 dogs fearing it would break down and tear up feet. When dry snow breaks up it is like mini-ice crystals and very abrasive. We didn’t think our feet could handle if that happened on this stage. A half mile into the race Bruce immediately started having trouble with a dog. She was neck lining hard. He coaxed her along, but she was controlling the speed of the descents. It was odd because this dog had checked out fine, but we obviously missed something. This dog is also a key leader. They later discovered a muscle strain in an odd place that I would not have found. Bruce also had a leader that had never seen these type of conditions and we learned he likes to pout when the wind is blowing and the trail is tough so this effected the run. He never quit, but he was not a happy camper. The trail was tough and we took a bit of a beating in Big Piney. We’ve been asking a lot of several dogs as we had some unfortunate issues early in the race. We lost a dog after Driggs to either bronchitis or he has something stuck in his throat so he was out early and will require an x-ray to further diagnose his issue. We lost a 2nd dog after Alpine due to a bicep injury at the insertion point; which is basically where the muscle attaches to the bone. It took a few days to diagnose this as the dog was displaying a vast array of symptoms and it kept leading the vets in different directions. So right out of the gate we were down two dogs. After Lander we lost another dog to a pull in the iliopsoas muscle. Then after Big Piney we lost the key leader mentioned above. This has put a lot of pressure on key dogs and there are a core of dogs that have run every single day.
In Kemmerer today it was one of the better trails Bruce has seen there. We went with our two older leaders and a team of 11. The team ran fine, but it was not enough and we can now add another key leader to our injury list. JR and Jerry both had great runs and have pushed us now into 5th overall. We will be patching everyone up for the last leg tomorrow to see what we can do. Man, I hope we can come up with 8 dogs! If worse comes to worse, I will resort to witchcraft!
You may have seen that things are getting interesting around here and mysterious things are happening to the Streeper crew. Terry has succumbed to severe diarrhea, Alex was locked in the trailer just prior to having to hook up dogs and they had to replace a water pump on their truck. Seriously! I’m good, but I didn’t know I was that good!! LOL Since I’ve been dubbed the “Head Witch” by the Streeper crew I’ve decided I’m going to live up to my name. Why not, heh! So tonight along with my broom I will be chanting over the cooker.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adders fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble
Ehhhhhh, Ehhhhhhh, Hehhhh, hehhhhhh ….. that ‘s my witche’s cackle!! See you tomorrow!