Someone Throw Us a Life Preserver – The Pas Day 2

We woke this morning to 32F and sunny skies; a musher’s nightmare.  As the morning went on the temp kept rising.  We didn’t learn from the day before and decided to visit c115934_sMcDonald’s again.  It was encouraging when we pulled in and the parking lot was empty; surely there would be no wait.   There was no wait for food, but trying to get someone to open the locked bathroom was enough to bring out the Detroiter in me once again.  I vowed that there would be no more McDonald’s this trip or I was going to wind up in jail.

Anyhoo, after we grabbed breakfast we drove out to the trail to check the conditions and found them to be very icy and crunchy.  The trail had not been smoothed out after the previous days run and there were frozen chunks and paw prints all over the trail.  At that moment, the trail was going to be tough on feet, but there were still 1 ½ hours before start and temps were continuing to climb.  Temps were expected to go above 40F+ and overheating was a major concern.  It was obvious there was going to be no good choice or decision.  If you booted, you’d protect feet, but risk overheating dogs.  If you go without, you might hurt feet, but dogs will be cooler and able to handle the temps better.  We chose the lesser of the evils and hoped the trail would break down enough by race time so that going without booties would not be too much of an issue.   We the team selected and then we heard a rumor that there was a possibility there might not be a day three so at the last minute we switched things around with the intent of giving it everything today just in case.  We went through all the dogs and made another last minute switch as we felt that dog’s feet were already too sore to go without boots and he was a dog that ran a little hotter.

The team consisted of Sedona, Smoke, Pfister, Nickle, Dime, Euro, Kroner, Peace, Anders and Teller.  They were excited in the chute and that was very promising.  We doused a few of them with a pan of water just before take-off to hopefully prevent them from getting too hot.  We stole this great idea from Marco and Anny Rivest.  Bruce intended to hold them back a bit in the beginning and didn’t fly out into the mess right away.  Before the turn-around, they were already a few teams struggling.  At the turn-around he thought he was in 8th place and Bud & Lina were about 2 minutes ahead.  Going into the turnaround Bruce took a major crash to please the crowds and they obliged him with applause and some oohing and aahhhing.  It wasn’t worth the attention as he is now in considerable pain.

For the great majority of the race he was trailing Anny Malo and they passed teams and were moving nicely.  At about 30 miles, Bruce’s front end started to slow down and Anny started to pull away.  He stopped to try to snack with cubes, but they wouldn’t take them.  He then stopped to let them dip snow and move a leader.  In the process the leader got loose when his harness loop broke that Bruce was holding onto.  He ran about 300 yards up and was, thankfully, caught by a Kinsman at the road crossing.  He got that situated and the team started rolling again.  About 2 miles from the finish, a 2nd leader started slowing down.   He could see that there were obvious feet issues.  He caught Rachel about 1 ½ miles from the finish and brought them home for 5th place.

c674450_sThe team was moving decent when they came in and they didn’t appear overheated or exhausted, but their feet were a mess.  It absolutely sucked to see this and it sucked having had to make a decision with no good options.  From the looks of things, we may be done for the season, but we’ll re-evaluate in the next day or so before we make any decisions.

The temp reached 47F today and the parking lot was a swamp with at least a ½ inch of water over ice.  Since we were on a lake, I was starting to worry about sinking or not c409813_sgetting out over the embankment.  Here I was at a dog race and wishing for some muck boots, a life preserver and a canoe.   You couldn’t even joke that we were dryland mushing as there wasn’t a dry piece of land to be found!  Seriously, there is something wrong with this in the middle of February.

Trying to work on feet in this was virtually impossible and not effective.  After going through all the dogs, we had pretty much decided we were probably not going to run the third day as the conditions were not conducive to running happy dogs.  Thankfully, the RGO surveyed all the mushers and then made the decision to cancel day three.  It was a great decision, in our opinion.  The RGO did a fantastic job with what they had to work with and it is unfortunate that they were put in this position.  However, the decision was in the best interest of the dogs and we fully support those types of decisions.

We are disappointed that Mother Nature got in the way of another dog race, but we enjoyed the two days of racing and really appreciate how hard the Kinsmen work to put on a great race.  We will definitely be back in the future; (ahem) provided there is snow!!

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Blizzard, Rain, No Snow – The Pas Day 1

c165781_sIn the past week, we’ve covered all the winter conditions that Mother Nature has in her arsenal.  As per usual, the Mushing Gods threw several wrenches into our winter plans and as per usual we bitched and made the best of it!   We were so excited that after Stage Stop we were actually going to get to stay and train dogs as opposed to flying home and then flying back again.  We drove back to West Yellowstone on Sunday after SS.  Trained dogs on Monday and then on Tuesday we were greeted by a hellacious winter storm.  Bad enough that incoming roads to West Yellowstone were closed as were several roads in Wyoming.  Suffice it to say, we decided to skip training.  Wednesday things went from bad to worse as the storm turned into a major rain storm; which continued into Friday.  You can imagine what a mess it makes when a little city with twenty foot high snow banks gets torrential downpours for three days straight.  There was water everywhere and even in our little cabin.  As the snow melted it came in under the door and flooded us a bit.  The worst part; we didn’t bring our muck boots.  We were able to resume training on Saturday as the temps dropped significantly and everything froze solid.  Perfect for trying to speed the dogs up except the trail was frozen chunks of snowmobile churned snow and we were down to the 11th hour.

In the next three days we sorted through the dogs and found out who would run in The Pas and who would not.  We found ourselves down two leaders, two core dogs and we had a bitch in heat.   We decided to pull five dogs from my Stage Stop team; two leaders and three team dogs.   This ruined our plans to run two 6 dog teams in The Pas as we were out of leaders.

We then drove like crazed mushers 1100 miles on crappy roads, through crappy scenery only to arrive to what appeared to be a dryland mushing event; there was NO snow.  Not exactly what we had planned on, but again we’re flexible and we were going to make the best of it.  We drove part of the trail the day before the race to look at areas of concern.  The biggest concern was the ability to hook down and what the trail was going to do to the feet.  It was very well groomed and maintained, but it was little ice crystals and patches of dirt.

Today, we awoke to temps around 17F and they were expected to be 40 degrees.  We arrived at the starting chute later than we would have liked thanks to the local McDonald’s and their very prompt service (note sarcasm).  Seriously, how long can it take to slap a rubbery egg from a tray, a piece of cheese and a piece of rubbery ham onto an English muffin.  NOT FOREVER!  They should feel lucky that I hastily grabbed my egg mcmuffin and left the building without harming the staff; especially after I learned they messed up the order to boot.  My Detroit side was coming out this AM!  Ooooh scary!

Anyhoo, breakfast in hand we arrived at the race site.  The team would consist of Smoke, Yona, Nickle, Dime, Grover, Teller, Anders, Kroner, Peace and Euro.  All the dogs were in great shape and ready to go.  We chose to go without booties out of concern for some slippery corners/sections and the potential heat coming later in the day. Bruce said the team was stroking it and he was on the pad hard trying to keep their speeds under control.  Bud and Lina passed him somewhere around 6-8 mile mark and were moving faster than he wanted to that early in the race.  Don Cousins and Rachel passed him and Robbie Turner was also ahead.  This group all ran together to the turnaround.  He could see the Streepers and kept them in sight.  He got by Robbie before the turn around and then got Don and Rachel in the turn-around.   As they came out of the turn-around, he passed Bud and Lina.  It looked like Lina was having some issues as she had slowed down a bit.  After the turn around the trail broke down and the pace significantly slowed.  Bruce ran by himself for quite a bit and then he caught Harry.   He and Harry passed by Richard.  At this point, he could see the front two teams and he was running in third place.  The team was gaining on the front two leaders.  According to sources, Bruce got to within a minute and a half of Tommy.  However, the Musher Gods threw us a curveball and one of Bruce’s leaders started having issues.   By the last three miles the leader was now significantly slowing the pace.  However, he was still moving at 14.5 mph and Bruce felt it was better to keep him moving at this pace to the end as opposed to bagging him.  It was in the last three to four miles that Buddy and Anny passed him and pushing him into 5th place.   The team was in a great mood when they came in.  Feet had a few nicks and dents, but they are in relatively good shape.  Tomorrow will hold more challenges as it is supposed to be warmer still and it doesn’t feel like it is going to get cold enough tonight for that trail to set c291079_mup.  We are expecting a slower trail.

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One Second, One Poop, One Bowl

We’re number ONE, We’re number ONE!! Yep, but not in the sense you normally here this mantra.  Nope, we switched it up a bit.  We like to do that to keep things interesting.  That damn number ONE haunted us this past week.  First, my eight dog team lost by ONE second!  One darn second.  Do you know how many times you can make up ONE second?  Ohhh, let me count the ways! Just as I was getting over that defeat, I was forced to face another defeat when the handling crew including none other than Bud Streeper beat my handling crew in stage one of the Handler Games by ONE POOP in the poop scooping c167348_scontest.  I was ONE poop short of a win; how many people can say that?  It was humiliating.   I was struggling with these two defeats.   On day two I had to skip the Trivia Day to run dogs and it’s probably a good thing because as things progressed it would have seemed inevitable they would have beat us by ONE question.  Day three of the handler games only got worse as we were beat by this same crew by ONE bowl in Dog Bowl Curling!  Can you believe this? One second, one poop, one bowl; it feels so wrong.  No one can be this lucky or should I say no one can be this unlucky.

I had tried everything from talking smack to a little psychological warfare, but it was met with defeat. All my attempts to make that prize wagon of the Streeper’s a little lighter failed miserably. However, I am not one to give up so easily.  Let’s be real folks, it is just not right that they filled that prize wagon with not only the biggest race checks, but also the handling prizes to boot!  It’s prize hogging and I intend to put a stop to it!  I have tried the witchcraft; didn’t work.  We’ve tried getting religious; didn’t work.  We smudged; didn’t work.  I tried intimidation; didn’t work.  For Pete’s sake what the hell does one have c964913_sto do?  Bud suggested I take up knitting!  Well, Budster I just might do that and then I’ll pitch to make that a handler game and then I’m taking you down!!  SOoooooo get out your needles dude and start “purling”!!  Yeah, bet you don’t even know what that is!!  Ohhhh  Yeah!!  One purl, two purl ……

Ok, let’s talk about racing. In Kemmerer we woke up to temps in the twenties with overcast skies and no wind.  This was great news since we heard it had been windy all week.  We had some concerns about heat if the skies cleared up and the sun came out.  We decided to go with eleven dogs in case Kemmerer threw a curve ball at us in those hills.  The team was happy and raring to go.  We had some sore feet after Big Piney, but nothing too serious.  However, we were down to 14 dogs due to freak injuries and we had 4 dogs that we did not feel we could run back to back.  This situation stressed us a bit throughout the race as we tried to strategically rest these dogs and fully utilize what they could bring to the table.   The two dogs that were out of the race we had counted on to be everyday dogs for us and not having them threw a huge wrench into our plans.  Once we saw that the deficit was too big earlier in the race, we made the conscious choice to be conservative and try to just hold onto third place.   We intentionally raced conservatively as we knew that we were being held together by band aids and it could seriously jeopardize a top three finish if we really tried to race hard.  Sometimes, the smartest thing you can do for your team is assess your situation and make the decision that will bring the best outcome and not necessarily the win.  So the plan going into Kemmerer was to just be conservative and try to maintain 3rd place.  We left with Sedona and her son Pfister in lead.  She’s won this stage before and we wondered if she still had it in her.  She was backed by Chepi, Durango, Aslan, Euro, Dime, Grover, Jasper, Peace and Kroner.

Bruce went out slow and warmed them up. As soon as he let them, the team started rolling.  He struggled with one dog in the punchy deep snow as it was mentally wearing on him, but as soon as the trail firmed up he was fine.  Sedona was on fire and the team just rolled through the hills.  Much to our surprise Bruce came in 2nd place by ONE second over Dave Torgenson.   There’s that number ONE again!  The dogs looked good, but some of our power house boys were really tired as some were on their 6th day of running.   As it turned out the deep punchy snow played havoc on a few rear ends and we lost 3 key players for the next day.  Another huge disappointment.

Evanston was in the high twenties in the morning and it was snowing wet heavy snow. We heard that it was supposed to stop snowing by 8:00AM and warm up.  Pretty typical for this stage.  Bruce woke up sick and feeling like crap with a chest/head cold.  At the driver’s meeting they informed everyone that the trail was 5 miles of ice under a thin layer of snow right out of the chute.  Then there was 7 miles of plowed trail near the turn around.  So the teams were looking at about 17 miles of crappy conditions.  We went and investigated the trail out of the chute and nearly wiped out as it was extremely slippery. There are two huge climbs on this trail and some serious switchbacks so booting the dogs was a major concern due to the poor trail conditions and potential warm weather.  This was not an ideal situation on the 8th stage as there are always some sore feet and we had to know who would run on them as we didn’t want to hurt shoulders or anything else.  We decided to go with 10 dogs and stick with our conservative plan.  We had a good cushion, but we never underestimate any of our competition and knew we had to be very smart and not make any dumb choices.  We led with Pakwa and Fala and they were supported by Sedona, Pfister, Euro, Dime, Lumpy, Jasper, Peace and Chepi.  The team was revved up and ready to go.  This makes us so proud.  All week long folks kept commenting on how amped and excited our team was in the chute; which speaks to the aftercare we provide post racing and this makes my heart happy.

Bruce had problems within 3 miles when a leader stopped to take a dump and caused a huge tangle. He had two dogs come out of their harnesses and they had to be put back on.  This was, of course, on the icy section and his hooks wouldn’t hold and they kept dragging him down the trail until finally an official on the trail came and stood on his sled so he could get things in order.    He got going and noticed they were flat.  By the turn-around he could see JR had about 6-7 minutes on him and the rest of the pack was about even.  He just kept them moving slow and easy.  He was enjoying himself and having conversations with other mushers on the trail in no hurry.

Meanwhile, in the pits an official had informed me early in the day that Bruce was having trouble with a point dog before the turnaround. This left me with a pit in my gut as I started to worry and unlike my musher I was not enjoying the wait.  JR was the 2nd team in at about 1:50PM and then all the teams started to follow.  Nearly all the teams were in and still no Bruce.  I was in a shear panic as I kept looking at my watch.  It was now about 2:04PM and still no Bruce.  I suck at the math and even though Bruce had a large cushion,c165284_s I was freaking out that it was going to be down to the wire.  I HATE the last stage with a passion and this was driving me INSANE.  I started to prepare for the possibility of getting booted out of 3rd place on the last day.  My imagination was on overdrive.  Did he bag a dog, two dogs?  How could this happen?  Did he crash?  Is the team sick?  It was the worst feeling made worse by my wild imagination.  Everyone kept reassuring me that he had plenty of time, but I was having none of it.  I wanted to barf! Lannie even gave me a red M&M and told me to make a wish on it.  I’d never heard of this, but what the hell!  She’s probably still chuckling!

Just about when I had worn a rut into the snow I could see him coming in the distance. He didn’t have anyone in the bag, but probably should have put his point dog in.  However, he said that the dog really didn’t start having issues until about a mile out so he chose to labor in.  He was in a good mood and oblivious to the fact that he had given me a mild heart attack waiting for him.  There’s the difference between mushing and handling right there!  Despite the long wait, he managed to still finish in 5th for the day.

We finished in 3rd place overall and this was by far our most consistent and best race yet.  We managed 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 5th place finishes.   No one was more surprised than us as we didn’t come with a lot of confidence this year.  We were very concerned about our front end as we were lacking driving leaders and we were counting on a 10 year old.  We also knew that we were going to have to strategically run dogs as we didn’t have 16 everyday dogs and to top that off we were questioning some new training techniques that we had tried.  So it was a pleasant surprise for us to see it all come together; which helps build confidence going into next year.  We are still learning so much from this race and, believe it or not, it often feels like we have no clue what we are doing.

As usual the end of the race was bittersweet. We love seeing our Stage Stop family every year and we hate saying goodbye.  These folks are truly some of the greatest professionals in the sport.  I was blessed to share the trail this year with all of the mushers.  Someone said at the banquet that there is no other race they’ve ever competed in where you truly feel the camaraderie out on the trail like you do at stage stop and I have to agree.  It was the friendliest and coolest group of mushers I’ve ever encountered.  On the Driggs stage when we had to head on pass everyone, we were high fiving, chatting, giving tips and cheering each other on.  It really embodied what stage racing has meant to us.  We love the level of professionalism demonstrated from the vets, trail crew, race organization, mushers and handlers.  It is by far top notch. More importantly, we truly love this group of people and feel blessed to have the opportunity to come and spend 8 days with them every year.  It’s much more than just a dog race.

Congratulations to the Streepers for taking all the prizes! ONE day we intend to lighten your load!



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Throw Us A Bone

It’s been a busy two days so this will be a quick summary of the past two stages.  Pinedale is now somewhat blurry. It was in the low twenties and snowing.  The trail head was windy and blowing and everyone got their parka’s out.  Our game plan today was to be conservative and maintain.   We went with 10 led by Sedona and her son, Pfister.  The team was super excited in the chute and ready to roll.   Bruce went out conservative and

Illustration of three tortoises running and jumping with smiles

the team got stronger and stronger as the run went on.  At the end of the run the team just ate up teams to the finish.  The trail visibility was extremely limited due to the treeless landscape.  The only time he could see the trail was when they were in the woods.  He was happy with his run and the team looked good coming in.  They finished in 3rd place.  There were no great stories from the trail.

The big excitement today was in the pits. The Handler X Games started and the first stage was today.  It was a Super Pooper Scooper Challenge.  One member of each team was blindfolded and the team had to guide that person within a defined area scooping up 10 balls that were scattered about.  They had 5 minutes to scoop up as many as possible and then dump them into a bucket; easier said than done.   On my team, me and Laura Daugereau’s dad, Bill, were paired up.  He was blindfolded and I was the bossy one – go figure!  We were just cruising and got 9 balls out of 10.  We smoked the other team we were paired up with and thought we might have this in the bag.  Then the two other teams competed.  One of which had a Streeper on it!  I told Buddy if he beat us in the handler games, I would not be able to tolerate it.  Well, he beat us in the handler games and I’m not tolerating it!   This past week I have now lost a race by one second and a handler X-game by one ball!!!!  I am on edge.

Big Piney was in the single digits in the morning and we got word that they had 80 mph winds and blowing snow all night. We were oblivious in our cozy little motel room.  The c209379_sroads were plowed and we arrived to the trail head in good time.  Last night’s wind storm only became obvious when we saw the bathroom.  The wind had filled the entire bathroom to the roof with snow and you couldn’t even see the door.  This was a problem.  Dan Carter, Sandy Bath, myself and Elizabeth Chapman got to digging.  We dug until the smell overwhelmed us!  The ventilation in the bathroom had been completely blocked with snow and the airless room was probably explosive when we finally opened the door.

The forecast was for 4 inches today and in the low twenties. The snow was dry and windblown.  We went with 10 dogs led by Pakwa and Fala.  The team was excited again in the chute.  Bruce’s plan was to be fairly conservative again today.  At this point 3rd place is his to lose so he can’t make mistakes.  Going after the Streepers with their current lead could prove to be an effective way to blow up the team and let 3rd slip through our fingers.  After he got out there he realized the hills were much bigger than he recalled and twelve dogs would have been helpful.  I got a chance to go out on the trail today with a team of spare dogs and the 4 miles I saw were pretty wicked.  The trail was wind blown and very difficult to see.  The trail had a base, but it was punchy in areas and had at least 6 inches of slippery sugar snow on top.  The wind was whipping something fierce.  It was going to be a tough day for the teams.  I was glad to be a handler!!  Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!!

The team ran well and looked good coming into the finish. Bruce was happy with the team’s performance.  We finished in 3rd place.

As for the handler games, Liz and I let down our teams as we had to run dogs so we withdrew from Trivia. Thank goodness because the Streeper team won today’s X-Game stage as well!  As I said before, I would not have been able to tolerate it!  I would have hadc409049_s to protest or something.  Geez, throw us a bone!  I’m sure they pull that damn trailer just to haul all their prizes; where else would they put all their winnings? I’m going for broke tomorrow with dog bowl curling.  It’s on!  I’m going to win this damn X-game if it kills me!  There will be one less prize in the Streeper Prize Hauler!!

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We Need To Smudge This Place

Start burning the sage!! Lander was full of negative energy today and many Printof the teams suffered as a result.  I’ve already had enough so I’m not taking any chances.  I’m going to build a bonfire with sage and I’m going to smudge all the way to the end of this darn race.  I will be carrying a smudge stick, there will be sage burning from the back of my truck and I might even smoke the crap – can you do that?!?  Whatever it takes!

We woke up to about 16 degrees, but by the time we reached the trail head it was already over 30 degrees. It was going to be a warm one as the sun was out and shining brightly.  Beautiful day for the handlers not so much for the dogs.  Hydration was a concern and dogs not tolerant of the heat.  We went with eleven as it looks like our dog that was injured in Alpine is most likely out for the remainder of the race.  The team was Pakwa, Fala, Lumpy, Dime, Aslan, Euro, Kroner, Grover, Cache, Durango, Chepi.

So the bad energy became apparent when JR Anderson left his truck for the chute. Here’s the visual.  We are all parked in a parking lot up against a 3-4 foot high bank of snow.  You must hook to the front of your truck and go up the bank and climb a little higher to the trail and then turn left to the chute which was about a football field away.  On JR’s way out as they were on a very steep cambered hill one of his handlers fell off the runners which caused JR to spill and drag.  During this, the sled broke a stantion.   He screamed toc410390_s his handler, Elizabeth, that the sled was broke.  Elizabeth, who had been running for her life to stay in front of the team as it careened out of control now had to run back to the truck and very quickly come up with a way to save the day.  Her quick thinking is something out of a MacGyver episode.  She saw a poop scooper with a removable handle and grabbed that, a roll of electrical tape and some duct tape.  She then ran all the way back to the chute; which nearly killed her.  She somehow ran a half marathon in 5 minutes in 8000 feet elevation.  Can you say, “Superstar”!  In the chute, JR remained as calm as a cucumber, so I was told, as they quickly taped the poop scooper to the broken stantion.  Then off he went on his newly designed Super Dooper Pooper Sled and we all said a prayer that he would make it back in one piece.

Minutes later it was our turn to the chute and the dogs were absolute beasts! Flipping and spinning and barking and screaming.  We were delayed getting in the chute because two dogs flipped right out of their harnesses.  Something we had never seen either one of them do.  We had to have 4 people helping us in the chute because the dogs were so crazed and we had already had to put harnesses back on the two dogs.  One dog in wheel was out of his mind and had to be held.   In the craziness of the start, Bruce’s snow hook fell out of the holder and was bouncing wildly as he screamed out of the chute.  Thank goodness he didn’t snag one of the school children and take them for a wild drag. That would have been a story. After the teams left, we were like, “Holy Crap; what just happened?”

The wait was delightful today as we all, except the Anderson crew who were busy searching for spare sled parts to repair the Pooper Sled, basked in the sun and enjoyed a rather calm day at the trailhead; which is a rarity. Just before the teams were supposed to arrive the wind started kicking up and I was quickly reminded of how this trailhead usually is.  Lina was the first team in and her team looked good.  Then JR and Bruce came in butt to butt about 7 minutes later and we all let out a sigh of relief.  JR had made it back alive and the Pooper Sled was still taped together! When I spoke to him he c283070_ssaid he had a wild ride.  There was a crazy downhill section that brought to quick realization that his bridle was pulling off the stantion on an angle; which affected his steering.  This made for a wild ride as he careened down the mountain hitting speeds up to 20 mph.  His brake was useless due to the broken stantion and the sled swung wildly due to the poor steering.  He used everything to keep the sled upright as he knew if he crashed the sled it would break in half.  Somehow he did it and has achieved a whole new level of sledding!

Bruce had a decent run, but it wasn’t flashy.   The trail was in good shape for the most part and hard.  There were some wind-blown sections though that slowed things up.  Up to the half point the dogs ran exactly how we had trained them and he was happy.  After half way they started to slow down from the heat and we fell off pace.  Several other teams were also affected by the heat.  Jerry Bath fell way off pace as he had to alternate between bagging two dogs affected by the heat.  Jeff Conn felt his team had really felt the heat.  There were other teams that had bagged dogs as well.  Comments from mushers in the parking lot were along the lines of; “My run sucked.” “It was an adventure.” “It was slow.” and “They were flat.”

So despite the lovely weather, the day was a bit of a downer for the great majority of teams.   We look forward to some cooler weather tomorrow and there’s a rumor we can expect another hard, fast trail.  JR has his sled issues resolved as we lent him our spare one; we figured he is more than capable of driving it without hurting it since he kept the Pooper Sled in one piece!  He just better not kick our ass on it!  Wink Wink!!

I must go smudge now!c272058_s



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The Recovery – Alpine Episode 3

c1034083_sI woke up on Sunday morning and I felt GREAT! It was amazing.  The Drigg’s trail must have scared the shit right out of me as I had no symptoms.  It was going to be an amazing day.  I was fired up and I had John in my sights.  I knew this team could do it and I just had to manage them properly.  I could taste the win this morning and I had my game face on.  I have never been this calm before a race start and it was awesome; why can’t they all feel like this?  I pulled out my secret weapon and led with Yona and Smoke, Anders, Magnus, Teller, Nickle, Nero, Jax.  It was about 3 degrees this morning and anticipated to get to 30 later in the day.  I hoped the trail was not 6 inches of sugar as it had been the Thursday before the race.

We took off and the trail was all groomed and you could still see the groomer tracks. The team was fired up and started cooking.  I was doing everything to keep them around 14.5-15mph.  For me this was amazing as I had never raced in the mountains and I couldn’t believe they would climb over 15.5 mph.  I was thinking, “Holy beans, I’m on the pad going uphill!  Should I be doing this?”  I stuck to my plan though and then as I neared the turnaround I

saw Liz coming on the return.  I’m a mathematical num nut and cannot calculate time in this manner so I had no idea how far apart we were, but it appeared I had gained a little on her.  Then I made the turn and not long after I saw John.  It seemed really close, but possibly he had gained on me.  I knew I had to make my move.

Then I let the beasts out of the cage and they responded accordingly. These dogs love to roll and they do it effortlessly.  Smoke was brilliant and kept us hard on the right side right on the groomed track so we had hard, firm footing underneath and Yona was on a mission.  Every time he saw a team, c505435_she put the after burners on and we charged right at them.  It was truly awesome to be a part of this team as they ate up the trail. I kept my mouth shut, kept a close eye on them and let them do what they were trained to do while keeping the wheels on the buggy.   We started picking off teams and then I saw Liz and I knew we were cranking.  We rolled past her and kept going.   I have this thing when I’m racing that I NEVER look back.  My focus is forward and I refuse to look behind me.  So we were running for all we were worth and for all I knew John was on my tail.  We got to no man’s land and there was a team and I had a mild panic attack as I knew they didn’t have to give me trail and we were very near the turn off to the finish line.  Thankfully, Dave Hochman is a real sportsman and gave me trail just before we had to turn.  Unfortunately, the turn is not such a brilliant situation as the man trail goes straight to the parking lot with all the rigs and they turn you off right in front of the parking lot to go a ½ block to the finish.  I was the first one back and there was no one manning the corner.  There was no lathe just a few fluorescent sticks.  So as I’m flying towards the turn there is a guy and a dog in the trail.  I yelled, “Heads up”.  They start running towards the parking lot and guess what my dogs wanted to do as I barreled into and through the sticks.  Run to the parking lot as our truck was right near the edge in viewing distance.  Thankfully, disaster was diverted as we got back on trail and headed to the finish line.  A handful of teams behind me also had a similar problem including both the Stewart teams.  Not a great way to have to finish when teams are so close in the standings.  I hope they return to stopping the time before the turn next year to avoid this sort of unfortunate mess.

I was very proud of my team and the young dogs did fantastic.   We won the day and lost the overall cumulative by ONE second!  If only I had pumped or ran a few more of those hills the day before, if only I hadn’t stood on the pad so hard on some of those downhills, if only ……………..

I sucked up all the good juju today as Bruce didn’t have a great day. He and a few other teams decided to boot today as we are highly cautious of the Alpine trail due to what it has done to our feet in the past.   He left with the mother son duo Sedona and Pfister in lead.  For those of you that don’t know, Sedona is 10!  She is a total phenom that can’t figure out she is getting older.  We swore she would not make the team this year and she blew our doors off and put herself on the team again.  We decided to put her in lead to keep the pace down a bit, but apparently she was on fire.   They team stroked it to the turn around and Bruce figured Lina only had a minute on him and he was happy with this especially given he was booted and she was not.  Right after the turn around at mile 31, Bruce had a dog suddenly just crumple and go down.  He had been running perfectly and saw nothing.   It became apparent he would need to be carried and so he bagged, of course, a 62 pound dog for the remainder of the race.  That team worked their butts off and he was thankful that the trail had held up pretty decent or he could have been out there for a while.  The dog is ok, but they think he might have miss stepped or something and it affected one of his vertebrae as they were able to duplicate the crumpling and ironically it is right where a harness pressure point is.  They were able to adjust him, but they want to monitor before we decide if he can go again.  It was one of those unlucky, tough breaks that we seem to know so well.  Surprisingly, Bruce still managed to pull of 4th place.  However, he has some work to do to in the overalls to get back up in the standings.

We have a day off tomorrow and then it’s off to Lander. Stay tuned!

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The Explosion in Driggs – Episode 2

There I was at the race start trying to shove a bagel and peanut butter down dizzymy throat so weak I kept dropping the bagel and covering myself in peanut butter. I washed it down with Gatorade hoping for a reprieve, a brief glimpse of feeling better.  It was not to be found.  I slowly went through the motions of getting ready.  I had no energy to talk to anyone and had to sit periodically as I was very dizzy.  This was serious and I was wondering how stupid I was to take a dog team out in this condition.  Should I scratch?  Should I hope for the best?  I didn’t know what to do.  Like the true Finlander I am I kept pushing forward.

zombieThen I puked behind the trailer; not once, but three times. What the hell am I doing?  By now it was time to hook up dogs and before I knew it I was at the starting line with my Sons of Anarchy crew.  The name should say it all.   They are a bunch of bad asses and I just hoped they didn’t give me grief.  Leaders: Penny, Yona, Nickle, Magnus, Teller, Eva, Nero, Anders.  It is all very fuzzy.   Thankfully, the fresh cold (1 degree F) air woke my butt right out of the stupor I had been wandering around in and I was able to focus.  I knew though that I was going to be useless on that sled going up the hills, but I was going to make the best of it.   Right out of the chute the team climbed a steep hill and I was thankful it was right out of the chute.  I didn’t have to wait long before we encountered more.  The first hill I attempted to pedal quickly overcame me with exhaustion so I had to just allowed the dogs to work.

Bruce told me the trail was not technical and it was beautiful and easy. Lesson One – Never listen to husband!  As we started rolling along, it was gorgeous and I was really enjoying the twisty, rolling trail through the woods.  Then just as I was relaxing and enjoying life; it changed.  We had rolled nicely up some descents and as the saying goes, “What goes up, must come down” and so we did; hard and fast.  The trail suddenly became technical and I was doing a little wrenching on the sled to keep her upright.  This made me forget all about my physical problems as I focused on not rolling it.  To make it more exciting, we started to meet all the teams head on coming from the turn around.  We’d be flying down the switchbacks only to curvy roadcome around a blind corner to meet another team on the return trip on the wrong side of the trail.  At one gradual decline, I saw Lina Streeper coming up hill and she yelled, “There’s a really steep corner coming up Monica!”  I’m thinking, “Oh shit, this one required a warning!”   Yep, she was right.  We came down fast and for you flatlanders sometimes you are cooking 17+ mph while on the pad only to have to come off so you can make the corner.  It takes your breath away!    Apparently, there were a few teams that spilled and rolled in this section.  Then after what I’ll now refer to as Lina’s turn, I came to a complete “U” in the trail.  That was fun!  We used to rate scary things by their butt pucker factor.  Well, I had no worries about my bowels letting loose as things were puckered at about a 7-8 during this section. There was nothing getting through there to my delight.

I was very thankful I took leaders that stayed to the right, as it gave me a measure of confidence on so many blind corners. I had one exciting pass as I came down the hill and there were two teams coming up; one on my side and another on the other side.  The team chose to hug the right even closer and we blew right through them.  Whew!  Then just as the trail came down I realized all those people going the other way coming up were running and pumping with 10-12 dog teams and soon that was going to be me with an 8 dog team.  I knew it was going to suck.

We made the turn around and started to climb and it sucked. I had to help the team as some of these were steep.  Unfortunately, I was a useless lump of flesh that day and my best was barely an effort.  I was definitely the weak link.  I kept wondering why I had signed up to do this.  Despite the tough climbs the team had spunk in them and when we started rolling back they were ready to run.  I allowed them to open it up a bit, but cautiously kept them under 16 on the downhills.  They did so well on the climbs out that I was shocked at the down hills on the way back.  When I knew we were close I let them open it up and the team was hitting 17.5 mph with ease and I was impressed.   They stopped the time at the top of the first hill thank goodness because I cannot imagine racing down that thing to the finish.

After the race was over I felt a ray of hope that I might have crested the hill of my illness as I was no longer dizzy and I was starving. I very cautiously got a sandwich on the drive over to Alpine and then I waited …… the suspense was torture ……. No rumbling ….. bonus ……..No need for the bathroom … bonus …… please let this be over!!    At the end of day 1, I was 3 minutes behind John and only 20 some seconds in front of Liz.  It was close, but I really had my work cut out for me to make up 3 minutes on a 28 mile trail the next day.  The question was, “Would I be able to function on Sunday?”

Bruce had a great run and was very pleased with the dog’s performance. His superstar Pakwa had a great day and was the team’s throttle.  He realized as he was going down the hills that his “non-technical” explanation was not going to go over well with me; “OOPS!”.  He finished 20 some seconds behind Lina and only a couple minutes in front of JR.  It was a very close field.  Leaders: Pakwa, Fala, Lumpy, Dime, Aslan, Euro, Peace, Jasper, Guru, Durango, Kroner, Chepi.

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The Build Up – Episode 1

Disclaimer: The next few episodes are full of toilet humor.  Pure redneck, disgusting, in poor taste, toilet humor.  If you don’t find that amusing, I highly advise you seek entertainment elsewhere!

As per usual we stayed in West Yellowstone for a couple weeks just prior to the race to get the dogs acclimated. This year we stayed out of trouble with the law so I had no material to work with; hence no blog!  Seinfeld was able to write hilarious bits about everyday mundane life, but I, unfortunately, have a hard time being inspired with nothing to work with.  However, I was not to be disappointed and material soon came forth like a tsunami!

We left West Yellowstone for Alpine on Wednesday and I had been feeling a little off, but figured it was just the altitude. By evening I had no appetite and I relished the idea of less food = weight loss.  This was quickly replaced by the thought, “Please God, help me!”  There is nothing worse than getting the flu while you’re on the road, except getting the flu while you are racing on the road AND sharing a room with a stranger.  Yep, that is about the worse and I lived to tell about it.  Anyway, back to the tsunami.  After returning from dinner Wednesday night my intestinal track started rumbling like stomach achereally bad plumbing in an old house.  It was gurgling, burping, growling and moaning and dreaded what was to come.  Then like an over shaken pop bottle the gates of hell broke loose.  So much fun when everyone is only 3 feet away in the same room.  I was mortified.  Relationships quickly reach a new level in these situations.  The three of us quickly became close as we had to discuss my condition in great detail every day.  “Do you guys remember what the hell I ate that was red?  Please Think!  I had to have had something red either that or I’m bleeding internally!”  Despite the fact that I was visiting the throne every 5 minutes like I was waiting to be knighted, I didn’t feel too poorly.  I quietly hoped it was something I had eaten.

It wasn’t something I ate. On Thursday morning my predicament was a bit worse and I had started feeling poorly.  However, we had dogs to run; the show must go on!  We ran in to JR Anderson at the trail head and he graciously tried to doctor me up with an assortment of pills and oils.  I smelled great, but still felt like doo doo.  The day progressed and so did my predicament.  I forced myself to eat as I hadn’t eaten anything since Wednesday.  This was a mistake!

Thursday night did not include much sleep as I lay coiled in pain. I wondered if JR had tried to poison me.  By morning I was a mess both physically and emotionally.  It was the start of race day and I was unable to leave the commode for any length of time.  I couldn’t believe it; I had worked all season for this race and now I was going to have to scratch because I was stuck on the shitter.  It couldn’t be happening to me, but it was.   I bawled like a baby to Bruce not knowing what to do and looking for some sympathy.  He consoled me in the best way he knows how (very similar to someone patting you on the back with a broom and saying, “There, there!”) Unfortunately, he didn’t make me feel better, but he calmly said stay in bed a few more hours and we’ll head to the vet check later than normal.  He ran to get some Ammonium AD as the Pepto was useless.  Those precious couple hours and the new drug enabled me to get functioning.  I wandered through the entire day on Friday like a zombie sipping my Gatorade and trying not to spread my cooties.   In a pure act of stupidity, that afternoon I daringly ate a cup of tomato soup and some bread.  Another mistake!

By the grace of God, my system allowed me to make the 3 hour drive to Driggs before it had a major meltdown. We pulled in around 11PM and I was exhausted and running completely on fumes.  As if it knew we had made it to the motel room the plumbing started shaking a rumbling like nothing I had ever heard.  Bruce and Liz were afraid for me as we listened to the prelude to fartingmy volcanic eruption.  The tomato soup and Ammonia AD must have had a chemical reaction!  Now if I thought the first bout of this illness was embarrassing, the 2nd bout was beyond explanation.  This motel had paper thin walls.  We could hear folks next to us and above us and the bathroom was like an echo chamber and boy did I make the walls vibrate.  I tried to be discrete with the old run the faucet or the vent trick, but quickly discovered it was futile.  The 2nd round was going to be a noisy one.  When I made a 5 minute appearance from my new office and encountered Bruce and Liz laughing followed by, “Gee, have a little gas?!?!”  I decided I had reached an all-time low.   At that point, I didn’t care anymore and there would be no holding back.   And there wasn’t.  All night long I sat alone (sort of since half the hotel could hear me) in a cold bathroom with paper thin walls sobbing and playing my butt trumpet.  It was a solo, I never want to repeat.

On Saturday morning I was now lacking nutrition, fluids, sleep and a sense of humor. I was cooked and very worried.  I knew I had to have fluids and something to eat in order to get through this race.  I ate some more AD.  By now there was nothing left to pass and even the anal acoustics had subsided, but I was so weak I could barely stand without feeling like I was going to pass out.  Should I race?

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A Man Among Women; A Story of Survival

Disclaimer: Men and women are created equal.  In no way does this blog suggest that one gender is superior to the other.  However, some of us are from Mars and some of us are from Venus (read the book if you don’t believe me!).  This makes us uniquely different.  So please don’t get your panties or briefs in a ruffle after reading this blog!

girlsIt was the start of the 2016/2017 season and our seasonal mushing family was lined up and ready to get underway. This year the family was different.  Different from anything we’ve seen in previous years.  Different in a softer, more feminine way.  Different because it was all women!

The kennel was about to enter the estrogen zone. I just hoped for all our sakes we were all on a different heat cycle.  Sorry, a little dog humor.  Seriously, for me this was exciting and I welcomed the estrogen comradery since I’m usually the only woman amongst an all-male crew.  I’m used to it though as I’ve been doing it all my life; golfing, snowmobiling and working in a male dominated industry.  A woman develops certain coping skills in those situations; a tolerance for toilet seats never being down, an immunity to musky smells, a very thick skin and most importantly the ability to wear the “bitch” hat proudly as you earn that label instantaneously just for having an opinion. So I welcomed this new change with open arms.

nervousBruce, on the other hand, had good reason to be a bit trepidatious about our new situation. He was born into a male dominated household and has worked in a very male dominated industry since he was young.  This left him ill prepared for estrogen overload.  It didn’t help that his wife had the above skill set and; therefore, further removed him from a world of femininity.  This new situation was about to rock his testosterone laden world.

We started the season with 4 women at the training kennel and if that wasn’t enough, in December, we threw in one more from South Africa just for good measure. Then when that wasn’t enough we had another one come visit during the TCSDR race.  This was on top of all the women who call him regularly during sled season to talk dogs. As a friend so eloquently put it, “Bruce was floating helplessly in a sea of estrogen.”

I wanted to prepare him, but then on the other hand I didn’t. He would not be getting a life preserver from me; I wanted to watch!  It was sort of like not being able to look away from an accident.  Horrifying and intriguing all at the same time.   Bruce was going to need to get in touch with his feminine side in a major way.  All the football games and endless sports talk that I endured over the years would finally be paid back; YES!!!

Initially, we didn’t notice the different dynamics of the team, but after a while they became more evident. Our first observation was the after dinner conversations.  They were far from the sports and political analysis of year’s past and more akin to the Vagina Monologues.  We referred to them as our after dinner therapy sessions.  To some men this would be their worst nightmare!  However, Bruce didn’t let us see him sweat.  He would sit in his lounge chair calmly listening, but I’m sure, there were times he was cringing in fear the conversation might take an uncomfortable turn.  To his credit, he was a great participant and willingly gave his male perspective on issues.  This was welcomed and, at times, met with silence and wide eyed stares when he missed the mark.  It didn’t faze him though; in true male fashion, he carried on oblivious.  He stayed engaged, but never gained an understanding of why we constantly talk about wine and chocolate.  From his perspective, “For gosh sakes it’s food and booze – get over it!”  Pshhhhh, MEN!

Bruce may have dug deep for some conversations, but he literally quit digging when it came to emotions and there were A LOT of emotions! The emotional dynamics of the team were a bit much for him and when they reared their weepy head he retreated like a gazelle from a hungry cheetah.  His cardio is top notch now.  This retreating, of course, left me in charge of placating the tears and mini-meltdowns.  Not something I can credit myself for cryingbeing very good at.  At times I worried these poor women would need therapy after the season was over as I patted them on the back with two fingers saying, “There, there; it’s ok”   When that didn’t work I was famous for, “Ok, it’s over; now get over it!”  Yep, Mrs. Sensitivity!  Just another coping mechanism from the male dominated world, but I had to toughen these chicks up!  If I didn’t, it was going to be a long winter.

I’m not sure if we succeeded in toughening them up emotionally, but physically that was another story. Bruce quickly learned chivalry would be the death of him.  When normally he might be the guy to do the heavy lifting for a gal, he realized that if he continued to do that he would be the only one doing the work.   He had to refrain from being chivalrous so that he wasn’t a lone man working while a gaggle of women stood around and watched.  This created tension when he didn’t transition back and forth for the sake of his marriage.  I’m pretty low maintenance, but I appreciate chivalry in my marriage. I recall carrying a box on top of another box of heavy gear walking in the snow while he stood and watched.  He got the look; however, he had done such a good job transitioning he had forgotten what the look meant.  Suffice it to say, I had a few doors slammed in my face as he exercised his new found freedom.  I understand though as he had to treat us all equal; Lord help him if he carried a box for one of the girls and not wifey; what a disaster that would have been!  He did so good that I fear it could be a long road transitioning back.

Some transitions were easy, but one area he never really got comfortable with was the girly giggling fits. Downstairs all you could hear was giggling.  He would announce he was gigglingcoming down out of courtesy, but most likely he feared what was so funny down there.  He is still not comprehending that sometimes it’s nothing specific; it’s just something that overcomes them.  Snow in the tire, that’s funny.  Food is funny.  Snow is funny. Shit, we broke the snowmobile that’s funny.  The list goes on.  Bruce; however, didn’t find much of it funny.

He especially didn’t find broken stuff funny. Mechanically, he was the only one with any mechanical skills.  As we went about our business breaking shit; Bruce was called upon to fix and repair it.  There were the emails down state;

Kennel – “The truck won’t start.”

Bruce – “What is it doing?”

Kennel – “I turn the key it won’t start.”

Bruce – “Did you hear a clicking noise?”

Kennel – “Clicking? What kind of clicking? I don’t think so.”

Bruce – “Is the battery dead?”

Kennel – “I don’t know.”

Bruce – “It will have to wait until I get there.”

Kennel – “Never mind, it started.”

WebThen there was the time the snowmobile wouldn’t shift out of reverse and he had to drive 5 miles home at night backwards. I wasn’t sure how he found time to run dogs.  He was a tornado of fixing some days ….”Bruce can you fix this?”   “Bruce, I need help.”  “Bruce!”  On the other hand, he certainly felt needed.

Feeling needed didn’t last long on most days. The women were very conscious of a clean space and went over and above cleaning up their living quarters and the gear.  I became self-conscious for my husband and worried that he would expose them to his manly habits.  “Don’t leave your shit laying all over the kitchen; the women eat here!”  “Have you bathed lately?” “OMG; I’m sure they heard that fart all the way downstairs!  Put a cork in it!”  “You can’t walk around in your underwear; there are 5 women downstairs!”  It was tense as nothing gets by chicks.  He was forced to slightly alter his ways.  Do you think I’ll get lucky and he’ll refrain from farting ever again?  Probably not; oh well, can’t blame a girl for wishful thinking.

Now I would hate to give the impression that this situation was full of negatives for Bruce as that simply wasn’t the case. There were plenty of upsides to his situation; so don’t feel too sorry for him.  One; he never had to do dishes or lift a finger to clean anything.  There were so many women; they were fighting over the dishes (some actually like doing them).  As for cleaning, there were a couple that like things clean and organized so they were all over that.  The cabin was like a scene out of Sister Wives some days.  Secondly, we provided him with plenty of laughable moments.  There was the night I had to park the truck and trailer after we moved it for the plow guy.  A 30 minute attempt that resulted in the entire rig jack knifed in a 90 degree parking position in the middle of the parking area. Between my poor backing up skills and the poor directions being doled out it was a task that became impossible to resolve.  Bruce was amused at the end result.  We provided hours of amusement with stuck groomers, drivers tipping over in the deep snow on snowmobiles and various other miscalculations.  So you see he avoided all domestic chores and had a lot of laughs; not such a bad gig.

We all had to be very careful though that Bruce didn’t develop a KING complex. Everywhere he went he had a harem of women in tow. You can imagine this guy walking into a local Yooper bar with 5 chicks. If you’ve never walked into a Yooper bar it goes something like this.  You walk in.  The 10 men sitting at the bar all stop, turn and look.  You can almost hear them thinking, “Who the hell is that?  They ain’t local.”  We raised eyebrows for sure.  Then to do it on more than one occasion; hell, Bruce is probably revered by the local men of Newberry at this point!  If that wasn’t enough to contribute to a KING complex, he is presently traveling with two women and only booking one room at all the motels.  Ohhhh, the looks!  Despite what it sounds like, we managed to keep him grounded in reality.  A reality that compelled him to seek ways to escape.

The realities of living with a house full of women taught him to appreciate those quiet moments alone in the woods where there were no women, no words, no broken shit, no giggling and he could fart to his heart’s content. Running dogs took on a whole new meaning this year.  Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t decide to start running 50’s and sign up for the Iditarod.

I think we can safely say that Bruce got in touch with his feminine side, purely for survival. His manly man ways are ingrained deep and I have no concern about finding him painting his nails in the back room or having to share my chocolate and wine with him. Thank Gawd for the latter.  However, it has had a profound impact on him.  He’s already pussy hatconsidering an all-female crew for next year and at this very moment he is listening to an all-female sports show called Trifecta!  He has become a believer; “Chicks Rock!”  However, he’s thankful that the “Women’s March” occurred after we all dispersed for racing season as he was absolutely adamant the kennel would NOT be acquiring pink pussy hats!

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The Cab Ride

crazyredneckinpickuptruckHave you ever watched a horror movie and screamed out loud, “Don’t go in there!”, “Run” or “He’s right behind you!”   Well, I have.   I’ve told the characters how stupid they were for not realizing that the innocent fella they were talking to was really an axe murderer about to chop their heads off.  I am convinced I would never be that dumb.  I would survive any horror movie!  Or so I thought……

We called a cab to take us from Evanston to the Salt Lake City Airport so that we didn’t have to drive the dog truck and trailer through the urban jungle; which would certainly stress all of us and the dogs.  The cab was scheduled to arrive at 10:00AM, but did not.  We called and the dispatcher assured us the cab was on its way they just had to stop to get something to eat.  They?  Whatever.  5 minutes later a woman in her late 40’s stepped into the lobby asking for who called the cab.  We immediately got up and told her it was us.  She explained that she came in because we probably wouldn’t recognize her car as a cab.   We looked at the SUV parked out front with no decals or any indication that it was a cab and agreed with her.   As she started to load our briefcases, we realized there was another woman that had come along with the cab driver.   I thought, “Hmmm, this is odd.  An unidentifiable cab driven by two women.”   Then I talked myself out of my mini-paranoia.  I felt comfortable with the two women.  There was no need to run.  This was not a horror movie.

We no sooner pulled out onto the main road and the two ladies got into a fairly animated conversation.  I only picked up a few things as I was trying not to be rude and had checked out.   The driver was basically complaining about some man and I got the impression he was the law.   Despite my efforts to check out, the driver started directing the conversation towards us and we got sucked into her private hell for the next 1 ½ hours.  She proceeded to tell us that just weeks ago one of her rides had called and complained that she was driving her cab drunk and had been drunker than hefretr passengers.   She was aptly pulled over by the police, who were harassing her, but she got in their face and told them to give her a breathalizer as this would be the only way to prove her innocence.  She claimed to have passed the breathalizer, but for some reason she was expected to be in court for this issue within the next week.   The first of many, many red flags started waving at this point.  I noticed the two drinks in the console and wondered immediately if they were truly just soda pops.

We quickly learned that this was not the first run in Cruella the Cabbie has had with the law.  She took us back through 25 years of her life starting with her husband dying from Marfans disease a year ago to back when she was with her drug addicted ex-husband straddled with a child.   It was about this point I realized I might have stepped into my own personal horror story and no one had screamed at me, “Don’t get in the cab!”    Cruella the Cabbie continued to explain that the law has been after her for years and years, harassing her and trying to get her put in jail all because of her drug addicted ex-husband.   She was accused of sexually abusing her children and of being StraightJacket2gay.  As a result the Mormon Church ex-communicated her and got her into trouble with the law.  “No one pisses off the church without some sort of harassment.”  She has been harassed by the law in three different states; which is why she lives in Wyoming.  She started in Salt Lake, but left and they kept giving her trouble everywhere she went and they were starting now in Wyoming.  She’s smarter than them though.  They won’t get her. 

Bruce and I were expressionless and staring straight ahead for fear she’d make eye contact and that would set her off.  My mind was going about 90 mph, I was wondering what he was thinking.    Cruella the Cabbie proceeded, “The spirits talk to me.  They told me one day the cops were coming.  So I told my daughter to get the hell out of the house because the cops were coming.   Sure enough they showed up.  Those spirits were right.  Ehh, haa ehhh, haaa!” She cackled with a dry smoker’s laugc0325_20090925h that sounded evil.  I asked, “Why were the cops after your daughter?”   She explained it was because she had run away and had been missing for a year.   This was the good daughter.  Her other daughter got caught up in meth for many years.  She was clean now, but she was a mess for a long time.  There is also a third and she is trouble too.   I kept thinking, “Lord, I’d be doing meth to if this lady was my mother.  Thank you for the mom I have!” 

Cruella talked non-stop the entire ride, but this was not the worse part.  As we were intently listening to certainly the worst horror story ever, we were acutely aware of thSpeedere fact that we were doing 80 mph on the curvy, mountainous highway to Salt Lake.  It wasn’t ½ hour into the trip and I was white knuckling the door handle.   These are not like Michigan highways; straight and flat.  They have 7% grades and severe ess curves requiring 50 mph speed limits.   Ms. Cabbie was oblivious to this as she set the cruise on 80 and approached the ess curves with 50 mph speed limit signs without ever touching the brake.   You could feel the gravity pull on the vehicle as we slung around the corners and I just kept praying that we would not roll.   “Then there was the time I was accused of murder!” You see her look in the rear view mirror.  “Holy shit, we are going to die!” I thought.    I was either going to die in the car or these two bimbos were going to take us down a deserted road and kill us.   I started to assess whether we could take them.  They were both very heavy set.  I figured Bruce could take the driver who was certainly tougher and I would take the passenger.

“Yep, the spirits came to me one night and showed me this gal drinking and falling down the stair cracking her head open.   So I told someone about it.  The next day I learned that she had gotten drunk, fell down the stairs, cracked her head and died.  So they thought it was me. Them damn officers don’t know crap.  I didn’t have any money to fight them so I had to put up with their crap.    The spirits watch over me.”    I asked, “Do all Mormons have conversations with the spirit?”   She explained fervently, “Oh no.  They don’t talk to everyone.   They’ve been talking to me since I was a child protecting my family.  I’m Native American ya know.”   I wondered why the spirits didn’t seem to want to protect her from the law.  I also hoped my spirits were stronger than her spirits.    I looked and we had 46 miles to go to Salt Lake.   I wasn’t going to make it.

We approached more ess curves.  I tried looking off into the distance to admire the scenery.  I was starting to think morbid thoughts, “At least the last thing I saw was beautiful!”   At this point the passenger started to tell her to slow down to which she snottily replied that she was.  She’s now spending more time looking in the rear mirror or at her passenger, but definitely not at the road.  The car was equipped with a lane sensor device that indicated when she was outside the lanes.   So on top of her incessant ranting was this consistent beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.   She argued it didn’t work as she would jerk the car back in the lane.   I now have sweaty palms and am starting to take deep breaths.   I consider telling her that I’m having a panic attack could she please slow the car down as it stresses me out when I’m in this condition.    I look at Bruce and he has the death stare straight ahead.  I think he’s left his body.

“You know the spirit talk in parables.   The Mormons are stupid though because they don’t read the bible and they don’t understand parables.   They think I’m ignorant because I didn’t finish school, but they don’t realize that I’m an intellectual and I read.  I read the bible.  I read a lot of stuff.  The spirit talks to me for a reason.   The Mormons have all these rules and they think you shouldn’t smoke.”   The passenger replies that it is against the religion to smoke and it tells you so.   Ms. Cabbie retorts, “It is a sin for you to do it, but the spirit told me that I could smoke.  He wouldn’t tell you that because you are not chosen and he doesn’t talk to you.”  She proceeds to ramble several parables and dissect sections of scripture.    I’m hoping that she isn’t pissing off the guy upstairs as I don’t want to be wrongly affiliated while in this dire situation.    26 miles to go.    I will never make it, I keep thinking.  Please no more ess curves.    Oh Gawd, a 7% grade followed by ess curves ahead.   50 mph signs.  A semi to our right and a median barricade to our left.   She’s not watching the road.  Beep, beep, beep.   I start to notice the passenger using her finger and her spit to clean a large stain off the roof of the passenger side.   Is it a milkshake that spilled?   From rolling?   Holy crap, is it blood?   I’m near hyper ventilation and feeling dizzy. 

Ms. Cabbie proceeds to rant about religion.  You know Jesus Christ was a Jew.  We ignore her.   She starts in about her husband converting to Mormonism from Catholicism.  Then they ex-communicate me.  It doesn’t matter because they are dumb.  I’m now praying she doesn’t ask for my religion as she has had a problem with all of them except the unidentified spirit she talks to.  We then learn her husband was jailed for attacking a police officer.  It wasn’t his fault.  It was the cops fault.

Thank you Jesus I see a sign to the SLC airport ½ mile.   What if she doesn’t take it?  She’s not slowing down.  Man, I’m going to have to grab this lady around the neck and put something to the side of her head to get her to turn this car down the right exit.   At the last minute, we jerk down the exit.  I’m literally wiping my brow free of sweat.   Just keep quiet and you’ll make it out of this cab.   We pull up to the curb and I literally jump out before she was done rolling.   As she comes around the back to collect the cash she says, “Oh look you both have the same coat on.  How cute.  We explain that they were gifts from a dog race we had just participated in.” To which she replied, “Oh, I drove you folks the other night.  Yep, took you across town!”   “No, it wasn’t us.”   “Yep, I took you guys.”     We smiled and then quickly dashed off.  As soon as we entered the airport Bruce looks at me and asks, “Should we kiss the ground?”   I burst into relieved hysterics.

By far the Salt Lake cab ride was worse than the one in Detroit where we only did 75 mph in a 45 mph zone zipping in out of traffic nearly missing the bumpers of other cars and screeching wheels as we turned corners.  That was nothing compared to Salt Lake.  Yep, I am never taking a cab ever again.  I am listening to the voices in the horror movie, “DON’T GET IN THE CAB!” You should listen too; unless you want to die.  Ehheh haa ehhh haa hha eehhhh!!!

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