Dat Kopper Kontri Hound Rase

Growing up my dad instilled in me a strong sense of pride to be a Finlander.  SISU wassaad-sisu-avatar2 probably one of my first words and I bet most of my friends growing up didn’t have a clue who the Flying Finn was, but I did!  In my dad’s world, if you were finnish, then you were kin!  When we bought our cottage on the lake the first people we met were all the finlanders.  My dad would drive around and see a finnish name and that was invitation enough to drop in.  In the summer we would drive to the U.P. to visit family and it seemed like I had family everywhere.  We’d pull off on a road where logging was underway and there would be a relative.  We’d stop in the local Rockland Bar and we’d find family. Passing through Bruce’s crossing we’d find relatives.  I grew up to love the U.P. and all its unique qualities and I’m very proud to have family that still live all over the western side of the U.P.   Every year that Bruce and I come back to the Copper Country, I just revel in the all the unique things about this special place:  the mines, the finnish street signs, the ice sculptures, all the pasty shops, the old buildings made out of rock and, most importantly, the friendly souls that live here.  I truly love da U.P. and I’m proud to have roots here!  It’s not surprising that my dad retired here and my brother went to college at Michigan Tech.  Now, I am following tradition by racing dogs here.

One thing that I’ve noticed has changed in the U.P. is that the unique yooper dialect has virtually disappeared.  Every once in a while you’ll find an old timer that has that fun cadence, but you don’t hear it very often.  This is sad to me as it was one of the very unique things about the area.   Growing up my family spent many nights sitting around reading old finglish folk tales.   Finglish is part English and part Finnish; which is where the yooper dialect hails from.  As a kid, I can remember watching the adults sitting familyaround drinking beers, taking saunas and telling finglish folk tales.  Some of my relatives speak finnish and they could add a real authenticity to these stories that just made you cry in laughter.  In honor of the good old days and to this unique dialect I thought it would be fun to share our Copper Dog experience in my version of finglish since I don’t speak Finnish.  To truly enjoy this story you must read it out loud in your best finglish accent!

Dat Kopper Kontri Hound Rase

Brusee and I rolled into da town of Calumet early Tursday eveneen und vee vere retty to rase.   Vee hat ten hunds vith us; Sedona (vee call her dona fer short), Kaloof (vee call heem idyut fer obvyees reasons), Durbin, Triscuit and Zesty (dey are from da cracker litter), Sik Sik and Spike (dey are da main leaders), Provo, Penny und den dare vas Drift (a bik galoof of a hund).  Dem hunds vere ready to roll or so vee thought.   Fritay night vas colt and dey vere calleen fer temps dat could freeze yer ass hairs off or in dem hunds case dere pecker hairs.   Dis vas very concerneen to us as dog jewelsseveral of our hunds have no hair on dere jewels.  Dey as naked as jaybirts.   Dat meant vee hat to protect dem or dem jewels vould vind up being ice cubes and den dere might be no jewels.  Vhat goot is a boy hund vith no jewels?  Dem girl hunds be lookin at him vondereen, “Vhat da hell do vee do vit dat?”  Sooo vee hault out da bodycotes und suited dem hunds up.  Dis included some of da girls dat have hat babies as vee didn’t vant dere udders to fall off.  So most of da team vas dressed for da artic.  Vee put da boots on fortee damn feet.  Oh siit, dat is bad on da back.  Geeze-o-Pete I felt like I been on a berry pickin maraton dat lasted a year.  I manich to git straight upright und vee hooked da hunds onto da gankline.  Dey vas howleen und screameen like a pack a volfs, eh.    Earlier I hat traded in my stocking chuke (hat) fer an Alaskan kromer complete vith a bik fox tail.  I vas feeleen artic sexy vhipping dat tail arount da place and I vas varm like a hund in front of da fireee.  Vhile vee vas vaiteen dough I started to feel varm, but da veather idiyot said it vas goeen ta be 12 below da zero, eh.  I kuld not belief vhat I vas feeleen, but it vas too late; da hunds vere headeen to da soot.  Holy Wah, da team took off like a Floridian fleeing da snow.  I high fived Brusee and yelled, “Give er tarpaper, eh!”  Vhen I got back to da truck the temps had risen and vee had a virtual sauna at 8 dekrees.

In da Eagle Harbor vee vere assigned a parking spot right befur da timeen finiss.  I vas concernt dat dem hunds vould run to da truck befur dey crossed da line.   Dey ain’t no dummies; dey know where da varm bed is und all da goot vittles.  Da formal finiss line vas 200 yards furder down da road und da situation looked hopeless.   After I assed, da officialees told me dat vee could stand right by da timeen line.  Dis vas goot so I kuld call dem flying hunds to me and hopefully avay from da snow tank, eh.  It vurked!  Vee averted disasteree.     Da team vas in goot shape, but Brucee hat many troubles on da trail.  Da lead duo decided dey was too smart fer dis siit und started flakeen out on all da road crosseens.  I guess dey didn’t like all da flasheen lights und glowing people.  Guess you can’t blame dem, da crosseens look like an accident scene.  Youda tink dat Grandma got run over by a reindeer!  Anyhoo, a friend say dat wee were faster den everyone on da trail, but vee lost a ton of time on da crosseens.  duct tapeBrucee said at one point he vas being taped vhile he undid a big tangle and he pretended he had duct tape on his mouth so he didn’t say vat he vas really tinkin.  Dere could have been a lot of bleep bleepees on dat dere tape, eh!  So our circus act vound up vith da 6th place after stage 1.  Vee had some vurk to do.

On day two, vee left vith 9, vich vas our plan.  Da hunds vere happy und vee hoped for a goot run.  Vee vent vith no boots on da hunds.  My back vas tankful for dat.  It vas still above da zero vhen da team left.  After da team left, I did vhat any goot handler vould do; I tore tail outta dere und headed straight to da Tamarack fer some hangover hash!  Dems some friendly folks dat run dat place and holy wah, dats a goot breakfast.  Da hunds came in lookeen spry und happy.  Dey past dere visit vith the hund doctor vit flying colors.  Vee had some sore feet und von girl had a minor sore bicep, but she’s a tough one und I felt I could vork it out fore morneen.  Afta vee doctored dem up vee vent und ate some more vittles.  I tink I found 5 pounts at dis checkpoint.  Vhile vee vere eatin da craziest ting happen.  I vas laid by da vet team.  Yeppers, ya heard dat right.  I got laid right dere in da restaurant.  It vas nutz I tell ya.  A vet gal in a flowered shirt vith some flowers in her hair come over and she put this red plastic lei thingy arount my leigirlneck.  I bout died laugheen.  Boy, dat don’t happen at many rases.   Anyhoo, vee talked to several teams dat eveneen and it appeared dat da 2nd stage sorted out a few teams as dey struggled vith some injured dogs.  Vee vound up takeen da 3rd placee  on dis stage.

On day tree, vee woke up und hell hat frozen over.  It vas -12 below und da vind vas blowin like a hund on beans.  I vas too lazy to haul out the artic kromer und so I just froze my ars off.  Ya ain’t no true yooper until ya got a little frost bite on yer face, eh!  We walked da hunds vhen vee got up and dey all looked goot axsept our bik galoof hund.  He vas bein a bik babee und limpin a bit.  I cided to pull him so dat Brucee didn’t vind up giving da 68 lb lug a ride home.  Dat vould have been like hualeen a Volvo in da slederi, eh!  Vee took off vith 9 hunds und dey vere all happy to go, but von of dem sonsabeetchs vas lyin.  Brucee vas makin goot time, but den about 8 miles from da finiss a team dog, dat SOB dat vas lying, startet necklineen and needed to be put in the sledari und dis shut da team down.  Soon after von of da leaders started falleen off und da udder vas pulleen him like she vas draggeen a cow to da field.   Brucee debated about moveen dat dragger out, but didn’t.  In hind site, he should have as it may have been the forty seconds vee lost to canuckAaron Peck.  I tell ya those damn Kanucks you invite dem to a race and not only do dey vin the damn think, but den dey beat ya by forty seconds and vorse dan dat dey beat us in da hockey!  Damn dem Kanucks from the Great White North.  Dey sure do know how to train some fast just hunds dough, gotta give dem dat.   Vee vere tinkin our team must have snuck a pasty or two as dey didn’t have vhat it took dis veekent.   Dats da dog raceen dough.  You vin some und you lose some.  Dis veekend vee lost da rase, but vee von from the experience and da friendships. 

This year’s Copper Dog drew the best field of competitors to race in this area in a long time and it was very exciting.   Competitors came from all over the continent.   We saw teams from as far west as Alberta, Canada and Alaska and as far east as Ontario, Canada.  Representing the middle of the country were teams from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.   Some of these teams could have stayed at home and avoided long drives, but instead they chose to come because they preferred the tougher competition!

The race didn’t disappoint and a spectacular event was put on, once again.  Smart decisions were made on the fly, improvements from past lessons were obvious and the energy was awesome.  We cannot commend the RGO of Copper Dog enough for the outstanding event they pulled off.  Their enthusiasm, energy and efforts show in the world class event they put on and it is appreciated more than you’ll ever know.  Aaron Peck spoke openly about his concern for our sport as there are fewer and fewer races being put on, but he was given renewed hope for our sport after experiencing the Copper Dog.  The manner in which this community embraces our sport brings tears to my eyes.   During this one weekend we experienced; gifts from the hotel where we stayed (AmericInn), discounted meals from restaurant owners, drinks bought for us from fans of the sport, random fans wishing us luck and the friendliest and most welcoming feeling from the community.   We have raced in several different parts of the country and none are able to top the overwhelming friendliness or the spirit of copper country.   If you have not put this race at the top of your list for 2015, you need to.   This is not just a race, it is an experience; an experience you will take with you for a long time.

I would also like to be so bold as to encourage other RGOs to really look hard at what this race is doing.  You may find answers to your low entries and many other problems plaguing your race.   These guys have figured out a way to be progressive and to build a symbiotic relationship with mushers that works towards constantly improving the event.  They understand that the race, the competitors, the community and, most importantly, the dogs must all benefit from this event.  We cannot have a successful mushing event without all parties working together.  Our sport is changing and race organizations, as well as, competitors need to evolve to help keep this sport alive.   Too often we get stuck in a rut and continue to do things status quo because we’ve always done them that way.  We are afraid of change or we are afraid that change will leave us behind.  If you are one of those people, you need to watch the video, “Who Moved My Cheese” to understand how evolving in life and not being let behind is truly dependent on constantly changing.   There are so few races out there and too many that need to move some cheese. cheese

Posted in Dog Racing 2014 | Leave a comment

Back In The Saddle

It’s amazing how much happens in this race in just two days.  I feel like it’s been a week since I last blogged.   We woke in Big Piney to -11F, which was much warmer than they had predicted and the winds were minimal.   Our goal this day was simply to break our dog bagging trend and have a clean run.  So we pulled everything out of our arsenal to get rid of the bad juju.   First we requested the services of some of our big lobed friends to sprinkle good juju around the truck.   One wonderful friend actually danced around the entire truck sprinkling her good luck; if only I had a video!  Other’s came by and wished us luck.   Another left sage on our truck; which we also put in the sled bag!!   This was great since the enlargement of Bruce’s lobes was a total failure.

We hooked up 10 healthy dogs.  Everyone was booted and several were coated to protect them from the bitter temps.   Nearly every team was fully booted and many dogs were wearing protective coats and furs.   This was the first time in 9 years of coming here that we saw so many teams booted and coated for multiple stages.  It was really nice to see the care being given these amazing athletes.

Bruce said the trail was punchy, but not as bad as we’ve seen in the past.   There were sections where the dogs would punch through 7-8”.  The down hills really had to be controlled in the punchy stuff to prevent injuries so they were very slow.   Bruce’s leaders went a bit flat after punching through for several miles.   They motored along, but they were still running cautious; which slowed them a bit.   The good news was that our juju elimination efforts had worked and we successfully completed the stage without bagging a dog.   This was cause for celebration!celebrate

So there might be some out there arrogantly thinking, “No wonder you’re doing so poorly if you’re setting your goals so low.”   Well, that’s one way to look at it, but if you’ve never done this race and never rode the IPSSSDR roller coaster, you will never understand.   Those of us who seem to have permanent tickets on the coaster understand the emotional strain the ride causes.   You get on that coaster feeling confident and energized.   You sit in the front row and are ready to ride with no hands!  The first hump is exhilarating and then you do one of those long swoopers that take your breath away and you want off the damn ride.   It is guaranteed that at some point in the race you will say, “OMG, I cannot believe we have 4 more stages.  How are we going to finish this race?”   Sometimes it even crosses your mind to pack the truck and head home.   Then before you know it you will be thinking, “Geez, I cannot believe it is almost over.”  One minute you are on top of the world and feeling invincible and the next minute you are a slug sucking mud.  So after having 4 long swoopers in a row we had lost our stomach for the ride.   To regroup and get through this thing we knew that we needed to take baby steps and it flippen worked.    We broke the cycle and moved up in the standings to be within striking distance.

We are cresting the hill, but we are not so confident that we didn’t take the opportunity to garner some more good juju and so we went big.   You can call it ironic or maybe it was fate or I suppose it could be coincidence, but the juju thing went to a religious level when apriest man of the cloth sat at our dinner table last night.  That my friends is some good juju!!  I felt it was a sign and when he blessed our dogs; I damn near jumped with joy.   If he only knew how perfect his timing was!

As it stands now we are slugging it out for 5th place with Alix and Stacy.   There is 4-5 seconds between us and Alix and about 4 minutes between us and Stacy.   We were very excited for Kemmerer as the team seems to be over the hump and are now getting hardened and re-energized.  They were all bouncing out of the truck this morning.  Everyone was eating and drinking and attitudes were high.  We felt awesome heading to the staging area and knew that this stage could really mix things up.

The drive in to the staging area was a little concerning.   We had heard there were going to be 30-40 mph winds and snowfall anywhere from 4-12”.  The area is wide open with lots of rolling hills and no trees.  It was snowing and overcast and all you could see was blinding whiteness with some glimpses of a fence line.  At times it was difficult to see the edges of blizzardthe road.  As you drive this ribbon of a road until it dead ends you start to feel all alone and every year you can’t help but question if you are going the right way.   As we neared the starting line the weather became worse.   It was so bad that a plow truck was coming at us from the opposite direction and we couldn’t see the road well enough to move over to the side.  I had to lean out of the window to see if we had any room to move over.

The mood in the staging area was a bit reserved as everyone was realizing that they were in for a very rough day.   I knew that I would be a wreck worrying all day as we have seen too many scary things happen on this stage.  We prepped everything as the wind literally beat us with snow.  Then as I finished greasing the last dog’s feet I looked up and saw Jenny Gregor taking dogs off the line and back to the truck.  I thought, “WTH, did she scratch?”   I continued my prepping and then I saw Bruce talking with some other mushers and then disappear.   A minute later he comes back and said, “The stage is cancelled, we are not going!”    Apparently, the groomer could not get through as there was 36” of drifted snow on the trail and the winds were so strong the trail markers kept blowing over.  They were too afraid that if they did get through they wouldn’t be able to keep the trail open for the return.

It was disappointment, relief and bewilderment all rolled into one.  However, being all too familiar with the challenges of this stage in inclement weather we supported the decision and understand the safety concerns behind the decision.    I just wonder why this couldn’t have happened on one of our bad stages?  Instead, it happens just when we need to make a move; hmmmm is that more bad juju?  The last time this happened to us we were in a close battle for a higher position with Doug Swingley and it was the very last stage.    Nothing is more disappointing then to not get your shot to correct things in this race.  It’s one thing when you run out of racing, but when the weather denies you the chance to race, it pretty much sucks.

So we have one stage left now to right this ship and we will be coming to the line with everything we got!

 

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Oooops We Did It Again

When we woke this AM it was -20F and when we arrived at the race site it was -25F!  Just COLDa tad chilly.   It was strongly recommended by Race Marshall that all teams booty dogs and that if any dogs were not booted they would be checked for splits and pulled from the team that day.  Every team I saw had booties, with the exception of a couple dogs, and many had coats and furs to protect the dogs.  The temps stayed frigid the entire day with no relief.  When we pulled out it was still -23F on the temperature gage!  The trail was in awesome condition and the best Bruce has ever seen.  However, we threw some salt on our frozen wounds with another bad run.

In the words of Britney Spears, “Ooops we did it again!”  That’s right we bagged another dog and the brave soul that I am is telling the world.   This time we went for broke and carried the 55lb dog for 40 miles!!  Certainly, there must be a puke green bib for this huge feat.  We have now acquired Master Dog Bagging Status.  It’s like being a black belt and takes years to perfect!

So the big question is WHY???  How can you keep winding up in this situation?   Good questions.   We can now rule out that Lander has bad juju.   The only obvious answer is that WE have bad juju.   Over a couple of slaw dogs we further investigated this “Cosmic Luxa Flux” with some fellow mushers after the race.   We learned that both of us have small luck buckets BECAUSEEEEEEE, according to ancient Chinese face reading theories, we both have small ear lobes!   That’s right; small ear lobes. lesson_7_small_ear  Go figure.  The problem was right in our face; literally! I presently have Bruce’s ears attached to strings tied to the door knobs on opposite ends of the room in an effort to increase the size of his lobes.  Plus, I have arranged for fellow big lobed friends to show up at the truck tomorrow to sprinkle a little luck around the truck. fairy cartoon

If you’re thinking that this is starting to sound like crazy talk, you are on to something.   These are the type of conversations that occur after running 5 stages.   This is the craziness that seeps in when all you want to do is find answers to your problems.   Shoot, I’d by a crystal ball if I thought it would help.  Here is what I can tell you.   We bagged the same dog today that we bagged on day 2.   He was checked over thoroughly and palpated in every way imaginable.  Muscles checked out great, mood checked out great, hydration/nutrition were great and he was moving fine in the parking lot with no obvious gait issues.  This dog was ready to go.  We thought that he was bagged the first day due to cramping and the way he jumped back quickly led us to further believe this.   He was on fire in the chute.

3 miles out he literally laid down and said, “NO, I’m not going!”   So Bruce bagged him.  He was now faced with 40 miles to go, -25 below temps and 9 dogs left on the line to make it up several long climbs.  Bruce was dressed like a Polar Explorer and given the situation he should have had on running shoes and spandex. Needless to say the situation overcame his emotions and after many expletives and cussing at everyone he could think of (including myself), the team immediately went flat.   He realized that it wasn’t the team’s fault and quickly got control of his emotions to try and make the best of his situation.  The team got passed by a couple of teams and this jazzed them up and they started rolling.  The desire and training was there, but they were handicapped and we couldn’t overcome to try and maintain anything in the top ten.

The vets looked at the dog and agreed with all muscular assessments and then noticed the dog was seriously out of adjustment as one side of the ribs was flat and the other was rounded.   This observation was only noticeable to the trained eye.  It was a relief to see that they found something and a bummer that we were not skilled enough to catch it.    We also learned that one of the other dogs that was bagged in Lander had a rib out of adjustment and muscularly she is also fine.  The dog that was bagged in Alpine just ran the last two stages and led Pinedale and has been on fire.

To the best of our abilities we are going to try and break this cycle tomorrow and it’s all in the big guy’s hands.  The trail is supposed to be 38 miles.  Temps are expected to be -20 – 25F again so we expect to booty and coat our dogs. If all goes well, Bruce’s ear lobes will be so huge in the morning that we could not possibly have bad luck!lobes

 

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Lander Has Bad Juu Juu

I was talking to a friend the other day that was telling me her theory on life.   She calls it the “CosmicLuxaFlux”.  According to her, you have to give back to get good stuff in return.  If you are too cocky in life, you’re taking from your luck bucket.  No one knows how big their personal luck bucket is if you are not re-filling it; it could be empty or running out.  Well, I’m here to tell ya; I don’t know what we did, but our Cosmicluxa is flucked.  It’s either that or Lander just has bad juu juu!

Telling today’s story is tough as the feeling from today is all too familiar to us and it’s getting a little old.  Girl’s just wanna have fun!!  If you can hear a banging noise; that is us banging our heads against the wall, AGAIN!    Someone please remind me why we do this year after year?

I begrudgingly will share the down and dirty of today’s events; however, I am only doing this for all my fellow mushers out there that are familiar with head banging.  Know that you are not alone!

We woke to zero degrees and calm weather.   As we drove South pass up to the trail head cold-cartoon-manthings began to change considerably.   Upon arrival it was -7F and windy with blowing snow.   It was frigid with the wind chill and our immediate concern was protecting the dogs.  So as per usual the big bootie dilemma became the topic of conversation.   Do we or don’t we.   One thing we learned is that we cannot talk to western mushers for their advice on this matter as it never seems to translate to our dog’s feet.   Their dogs are conditioned to run in that type of snow and environment and they do not experience problems with the feet to the extent that we’ve seen.  At any rate, the consensus amongst mushers was about 50/50 on whether or not to wear booties.

Streepers showed up to the line with both teams fully coated and booted.   Aaron Peck did not.  Dave Turner did not.  Stacy Teasley did not.  Dennis Laboda did, Jeff Conn did, JR Anderson did, Jerry Bath did not, Jenny Gregor did, Ryan Redington did, Andrew Letzring did, Frank Moe I do not believe he booted, Alix Pearson did not, Slyvain did.  Given what West Yellowstone had already done to the feet we made the decision to booty.

As the teams left it was apparent that our close competition was going for broke as they did not booty.   We expected that the non-booted dog teams would have better runs and they did.  We had to run our team and our situation and we went willingly into this situation.  What was not in our estimation was that we would run into further problems on 223734-royalty-free-rf-clipart-illustration-of-a-big-dog-carrying-a-man-by-dennis-cox-at-wackystockthe trail; which resulted in yet another bagged dog.   We are not missing physical injuries, but seem to have some other issues going on that we are trying to work through.  In the meantime, we may now have the record for most consecutive bagged dogs.  Is there any day money for that?

So tomorrow is a 43 mile run.   The weather is expected to be -20F in town and we were told that at the trail head we could see -25 to -28F!   They have told us the trail is windblown in sections and they are going to try and groom tonight.  We’ve been here long enough to know that this means the trail could be pure hell tomorrow.  Last year there were sections that were wind-blown bottomless pits.  Well, doesn’t that sound like a total blast?!?!?   We had a long 4136R-175discussion today about the booty situation and we have committed that we will booty in these temperatures regardless of what it does to our standings.   We are going to proceed with this race in a manner that is most comfortable to us and let the cards fall where they may.  Too shay!

A huge shout out to Stacy on her win today – You rock sista!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Train, Train

So I’m seriously slacking in the blog department.   Yesterday I thought I was over the hump on this head cold only to discover soon after the race I was not!  My energy meter went below zero and I found myself bed bound for the entire evening.  Nothing like having a major head cold during an 8-day race to make it enjoyable; makes Monica bunches of fun!

So enough of that, let’s talk racing.   We woke to 2 degrees and snow falling steadily.  This year they shut down Yellowstone Avenue and had the start right in the heart of the town; which drew more spectators than the previous year.  They brought in snow to make a nice trail down the main avenue.  It was about 1/2 mile of trail to get out of the town.   Bruce left with 11 dogs.   He was conservative going out until they got into a groove.  The trail climbed on the way out  for about 19 miles then there was an 11 mile loop on top and they descended on the same trail they came in on to the finish line, which was a few blocks from the start. The trail had 2-3” of fresh snow on top of mealy snow, but there was some hard packed areas of the trail.  At about 6 miles one of his leaders stopped and turned into the team for no reason, which was not a good indicator.  The team got back on track and they were moving nice.  Stewart caught him 7.5 miles intrain and they just stroked by him.   On a long incline Bruce spotted Buddy coming. At this point in the blog you should click on this link  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuWt8Y9RvLw and listen to Blackfoot’s “Train, Train” to get the full effect of what it is like experiencing the Streeper machine approaching you on the trail.   Imagine a dog freight train, smoke coming out of their noses, no whistles, but a rhythmic pounding of their pads.  The rhythm starts out slow and rapidly picks up pace.  Now you’ve got the picture.   Bud caught Bruce at 16 or so miles and literally left him.  We have raced Bud’s team several times now and this year, thus far, has been something different.  The team is so strong it leaves your jaw hanging after they cruise by.  Funny thing, this year in our first race our team plowed through 18” of fresh snow for the win and I believe I used the term “freight train” to describe how they plowed through that snow.    I now have a new reference for freight train and I realize that we were merely a toy train.train-cartoon1

When the teams crested the mountain the weather declined.  The wind started whipping and visibility went to hell.   You could see your team, but you could not see the trail.  Bruce just kept focused and hoped the dogs could tell where they were going.   Bruce started to catch teams at the top of the hill as they got jazzed when they started seeing other teams.  When he caught Jerry Bath, he learned that Jerry had gone off trail due the visibility.  The trail went right and his dogs went left.   He was unable to hook down to guide them back to the trail so he patiently coaxed them back to the trail.   As I understand it went something like this, “Please gee, Puleese Gee, Gee, GOOOOD, Gee!”

About 3 miles from the finish, Bruce’s dog Zephyr started slowing the team downhill.  He had been off all day, but wasn’t holding them up until they started to descend.   Bruce put him in the bag for the ride home.  He could see Aaron Peck up ahead, but did not know it was him.   Had he not had to carry Zephyr he thinks he would have caught him.

Jeff Conn came in first and he had a very nice run and the team looked good.  The Streeper teams came in one right after the other and looked like they were ready to do another 60 miles.  I was looking for any weak dogs in the team and found none.  Seriously, every team usually has at least one dog that is off when they come in, but these dogs looked like they had just run 10 miles.   We’ve seen Streeper’s dominate in the past, but we’ve not seen a team of this caliber before.

Interestingly, an armchair musher made a public post after the Alpine leg stating it was boring to see the Streeper’s dominate year after year …… and that he really hopes the other musher’s take it seriously and train teams just for stage racing otherwise, there is no competition…..   WELL….. HUGE SIGH ……  I cannot possibly let this go without putting my 2 cents out there.   Never before have I seen a group of competitors take something so seriously.   Let’s see is living in a trailer on the mountains training your dogs all season serious enough?   Is selling your home to live in a condo to make life easier to train dogs serious enough?  Is foregoing a home, but keeping your dog yard serious enough?   Is putting your entire life on hold for 2-3 weeks to race dogs serious enough?   Is selling your vehicle to get the cash to come race serious enough?   I could go on, but I won’t.  This group of mushers is some of the most serious competitors we’ve ever run across and they are not afraid of competition; they seek it out.  The Streeper’s are giving us everything we ask for (and then some); we will all be better teams as a result.

The level of competition at this race is beyond comprehension unless you experience it.  Each of these teams comes from their respective areas with wins on their resume.   They are all great teams.  When you put a bunch of great teams together you quickly have a yardstick of how great or not so great your team truly is.  This is why we all come here.  It takes a certain type of person to come here year after year to take your beatings and try to relish in your small successes.  Sure it can be discouraging to be defeated by the Streeper machine on a consistent basis, but, in my opinion, if you are a true competitor you look at their success with admiration and, most importantly, a strong curiosity to figure it out.   So to that armchair musher …… take a hike!   SEE I FEEL MUCH BETTER NOW THAT I GOT THAT OFF MY CHEST!

Now, it would be nice if the Streeper machine didn’t have to beat everyone by such huge margins every stage.   Couldn’t we work out some arrangement where you took a picnic lunch about 5 miles from the finish?   Let’s mix things up a bit?

Back on topic.   Bruce’s team is healthy with the exception of some feet issues.   We believe Zephyr cramped up and so he should be back in the game after a day or two off.   The day off today was awesome.  We’ve only done two days of racing, but it feels like a week already.   It was a great day to work on dogs and get things back in order.

Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the lower teens and it will be a hard, fast trail.   The stage was cut down to 28 miles due to a lack of snow.   This should make for an easy day as we will be on the road to Pinedale much sooner and will have a little downtime to care for the dogs and this damn head cold.   Until next stage …..

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Ladies & Gentlemen We Have Blast Off!

There is an exciting energy at the race this year with lots of new changes and new race crew members.   There were some last minute rule changes that didn’t go over very well due to the delayed announcement.  This is understandable; however, most of the changes were in the interest of safety for dogs and others so it’s hard to take issue with that.  Due to the rule changes there was a wee bit of tension at the driver’s meeting, but nothing the new Race Marshall, Terry Adkins couldn’t handle, especially since he packs heat!   LOL

The ceremonial start went off flawlessly.   There was one change this year and that was that the times do not mean anything.  They used to determine your starting order for the next day; however, this year we will start in Alpine based on when we signed up.   Bruce will be the 4th team out.    The trail received a foot of new snow on Thursday and given that we will run this stage on Saturday, we expect to see quite a bit of snowmobile traffic.  This means that trail will most likely be soft and a bit of work for the dogs.   It was a very wet snow, so we are hoping that an early start will have a freshly groomed trail and we can beat the sledders heading out to the mountains.  As of this evening they intend to do the 58 mile loop.

Here is our 2014 Stage Team:

Meet Cora, 3 years old.  Billy x Ira   How can you not love that smile?  Don’t be fooled this little gal is tough.  She helped lead Bruce out of some very tough conditions last year in Kemmerer.

2014 team 002 This is Toohey 4 years old  Fireball x Turtle   Penny is one of our main leaders and will be paired with her sister Penny.  They are the only two that can put up with each other as they both have lots of attitude to go!2014 team 003

Meet Drift  2 yrs  SikSik x Caliber.   This behemoth ran on our team last year as a yearling and he is as serious as they come.  He absolutely loves to go ….. everyday we’ll let him! 2014 team 007

Melba 3 yrs  Della x Dash  This girl proved how tough she was running three stages in Yellowknife last year.   She has tons of speed and is an everyday dog that is tireless. 2014 team 008

Typhoon 3 yrs.   Utah x Stina  This newcomer is a firecracker with lots of speed and desire to run.   We are looking at him to be an everyday dog for us. 2014 team 012

Zephyr 3 yrs Utah x Stina  This is Typhoons partner in crime.  Like his brother he is a fluid speedster.  He has endless energy and can also run up front if necessary. 2014 team 013

Provo 3 yrs.  Utah x Wendy  This one is a serious sled dog.  She is all power on the line and drives super hard.  Gifted sled dog that we are looking for several stages from.2014 team 016

Penny 4 yrs.   Fireball x  Turtle  This is Toohey’s sister and a main leader.  She is the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet until you hook her up and then she goes ape!  2014 team 017

SikSik 6 yrs   Marmelade x Porcha   One of our main leaders.  Hard driving and fast.  He will be paired with his brother Spike who I neglected to get a photo of.  Imagine same dog, but all white! 2014 team 019Sedona 7 yrs  Ricky x Witch – Sedona is this years seasoned veteran.  Having run every Stage Stop with us since she was a yearling, this dog is invincible.   She is having one of her best training seasons this year and is remarkable.   She is a leader and cheerleader for the team.

2014 team 020Triscuit 3yrs  Della x Dash  Super point dog that has proven she is a multiple day stage dog.  Outstanding speed and she will run up front if necessary. 2014 team 022This is Kaloof.   4 yrs  Sedona x Kenny brother to Durbin.   This dog is nuts.  He got it from his mother.   An absolute powerhouse on the line.   He had bad luck last year after getting into a tiny spat before the race and it took him out of the race.  He is back this year with a vengeance. 2014 team 023Breezy 3 years  Utah x Stina   This is one tireless dog.  It will be interesting to see if she ever tires.   If she is like her Aunt Sedona, she should prove to be an energizer bunny. 2014 team 024 Durbin 4 yrs Sedona x Kenny  a veteran stage dog that gives us multiple days and has gifted speed.  He is Kaloof’s brother and a key part of the team.2014 team 005

Not pictured - Spike 6 yrs.  Marmelade x Porcha  — Spike is the brother to SikSik and a main Leader.  The two of them led my winning TCSDR team this year in 18″ of fresh snow; they were like a freight train.

Not pictured – Zesty 3 yrs  Della x Dash — sister to Melba and Triscuit this dynamo is a super point dog that is a proven multi-day dog.   She loves to run fast and looks awesome doing it.

The team and the rest of the crew are ready for some racing tomorrow.   So let’s get’s this party started!!

 

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Sick For Mushing

I’m feeling pressure.  The pressure of the blog.   I keep getting e-mails or inquiries “Where are the blogs?”  “Make sure you blog!”  The fact is that I’m not feeling very funny or bloggy.  Most likely it’s because I have a head cold and my head is in a fog.   Hard to be funny when you feel like crap.  It seems like every year at IPPSSDR there is some funk going around.  You often feel like you are trying to dodge a bullet before the sickrace starts.

My husband came down with it first and I was tormented being locked in a motel room with him sneezing every 5 minutes and blowing germs all over our tiny little room.  Evil thoughts were running through my head as I kept popping vitamins and supplements to ward off the floating germs.  Seriously though, where the hell were the germs going to go?  Those germs were probably on every surface in that room and at one point I was sure the air in the room was ½ germs.   It was grossing me out.   I was not meant to be a nurse or doctor as I have no bedside manner and I’m hardly sympathetic.  Every time he’d sneeze I looked at him like he insulted me and I’d mutter, “For Gawd’s sake cover your nose!”  I did offer him some essential oils to ease his discomfort, but that was as far as the nursing went.  Thank goodness he is not high maintenance when he is sick; I’d be a huge disappointment.

As per usual, the cold was a surprise thrown into the race plans.   Seriously, what would IPPSSDR be like if everything went as planned?   I can only dream.   I think next year we will make race plans that include catching the flu, a few surprise injuries, at least one truck or equipment problem and, of course, trail conditions that are the opposite of what we are prepared for.   This will ensure that we are healthy, injury and problem free and totally prepared to kick ass on a perfect trail.   It’s only taken us 9 years to figure out how to plan for this event.

So we are down to the 11th hour.  We had our last run today in Alpine; which got a foot of fresh snow last night.   It was not the romantic picture of running dogs in beautiful Alpine, but rather a scene of minor misery.  It was gray and hazy and snowing; which matched well with our head colds and lack of energy.   We were both crabby and the thought of running dogs all day in the wet snow was not appealing.  The minute I got outside my nose was running so bad I should have just stuffed Kleenex up my nose.  On 2nd thought, I should have borrowed from a fellow musher and stuffed tampons up my nose. runny noseNothing is more disgusting than having an out of control runny nose and then having to booty 20 dogs.   Our dogs are licking machines; it is in their gene pool.  Now I know this is gross, but it sure came in handy today as they kept cleaning up my mess! I think they felt bad for me.   Well, at least some of them.   As they are getting amped for the lickingrace it often feels like you are in a room full of loud, hyper-active 3 year olds that aim to drive you nuts.   This can drive a sick person to the edge.  By the time we were done we were too exhausted to head into Jackson and chose to stay and relax in Alpine.

While I was kicking back I traced the germs down to the Streepers.  Yep, I think they are the responsible party.   We saw them on the first day that we arrived in West Yellowstone and we all exchanged friendly hugs.  Lina informed us that they had all fallen ill after they had arrived.  Unfortunately, she told us after the hugs!   I wonder; could this be a strategic maneuver on their part?  Everyone be leery of excessive hugging by the Streeper Crew!   Sorry gang, the word is out and your plan is foiled!  Yeah right, as if the Streepers have to resort to germ warfare!  Now, us on the other hand ……… I think I’m feeling a little huggy for Friday!!   Hee hee Heee

Aside from the cold I haven’t felt like there was much to blog about on this trip.   Every time I come up with an idea, I start to worry that I’ve already blogged about it.  My memory is such crap these days that I fear I’m a blogging broken record.  I don’t want to be blogging about something I’ve already blogged about.  That would be blogging ridiculous.

The trip thus far has been pretty uneventful.  The GPS hasn’t led us astray, but she has tried to break up our marriage a few times.  I started a blog on that one, but it got really ugly.   Frankly, I don’t need any rumors spreading that we are on our way to divorce court so I’ll re-visit that blog later.   We all know how the gossip flows in the mushing circles …… quickly and way off base!  Gee, that might be a good blog!

The weather has been great so there haven’t been any white knuckle horror stories to tell.  I can’t rant about the cold or the heat; it’s simply been perfect temps.  Training was awesome and there were no eventful moments to share.    Things have been going so smoothly and have been so uneventful that I’m becoming paranoid that a good blog is just around the corner.   Here’s hoping that it is about Bruce and the yellow bib!!

Speaking of blogging, there was a new addition to the IPPSSDR website with regular blogs by Lloyd Gilbertson.  It was interesting to read about Aaron Peck’s strategy to stay away from all the other teams and the comparison game that inevitably occurs.   This struck a funny note with me as he couldn’t be more accurate.  I read this blog this evening and laughed because of how true it is.  When you are with a group of competing mushers the comparison game is inevitably going to happen.  You must be prepared for it.

While running the trails this past week I intentionally ignored the other teams.  I envydidn’t look to see how they were moving.   I didn’t turn around to see where they were.   I looked only at my dogs and my GPS.   I didn’t watch them feed and tried to just ignore all teams within my vision.  I was like a 5 year old covering my ears and singing, “la la la la la LA LA LA I can’t hear you!”  Despite my nursery school efforts, little comments that floated around kept trying to seep in.  I found myself starting to question things as my worry wart ways took over.  As I ran the dogs I’d be looking at each dog and crazy thoughts would start.  “Boy that dog looks weird.  No one is on their tug.  It feels like we are crawling.  The leaders have lost their edge.   My gawd, that can’t even handle 28 miles how will they handle 50?  We should just pack it in.”   Then I’d look at the GPS and the dogs would be flying and I’d have to stand on the pad; which would bring back a little confidence.  Thankfully, Bruce is unlike myself and is very confident in the team and what we’ve done for preparation.  The comparison situation does not faze him.   He’d come in and say, “Man that was an awesome run!”  I’d nod and hang my head in shame.   Then to make matters worse, if your own mind doesn’t mess with you, there are always mushers out there that like to get into your head for you.   It’s called mind games.

There’s always the musher that is setting land speed records with their dog team and climbing mountains faster than the speed of light.   The same team always has great stools, eats everything put in front of them and is so hydrated they could put out a 3 alarm fire with one leg lift.   It’s no surprise that these super dogs are never injured, have great feet that never get fissures and are capable of running all 8 days in a row.  Mushers playing psychological warfare often make little comments about your team.  “Wow, you have a lot of red dogs.  Did you ever hear that red dogs are more injury prone?” “I don’t like furry dogs, they cause wind drag.”   Worse, they comment on your training, “Wow, you’re doing a 30 miler?  I haven’t done one all season!”

paranoiaIf you let this crap in, it can impact your mental focus and inevitably your performance.   You can start to question and lose confidence in your team.  You start to see all your red dogs bobbing with potential injuries.  You swear the furry dogs are running slower; must be wind drag.  You consider shaving them.  You really panic and cut back all your runs to 5 miles.   This drives you to steer away from your game plan and get sucked into their game plan.   This is BAD!

We were laughing this week at how many different training strategies that mushers are using.  Everyone is doing something different; it’s really quite funny to listen to.   Talk about 100 ways to skin a cat.  Truly, only the teams that have multiple wins under their belt have a proven and successful method.   The rest of us are partially clueless as we seek the elusive win.  This makes you realize the power that those winning teams have.   They could tell everyone that they do 100 5 mile runs with no day off and a whole host of mushers would be running 5 miles 100 times.   If they announced that they watered their dogs with Red Bull; the local stores would be empty.  This is a crazy sport with many unanswered questions and a continuous learning curve.  It could drive a person mad; hence the large fallout of mushers after a bad season.

So we made it through comparison week unscathed and sane.  We are ready to head into the Hole for some serious racing.  We will be wearing our blinders and ear plugs until the start of Alpine from which point the trail will tell the story.racing

Posted in Dog Racing 2014 | Leave a comment

Mushing Through Menopause

In my head I’m still 21 and in this fantasy world I’m still young and cool. I tacoollk cool, I dress cool and I understand cool. Damn, it is cool to be so cool. I am invincible! Then BAM! Just as if someone turned out the lights, I am thrust right smack into reality and trust me when I say, “It is not cool!” My reality begins every morning when I wake up. First, it’s the aches and pains that remind me that the body is no longer young and cool. I often wonder, daily actually, how in the hell a person can wake up being sore. I never remember sleeping being so painful when I was younger; if it was, I had done something significant to earn it! Now, just laying on my side can cripple me for the day and Lord help me if I was to sleep on my stomach….. get the wheel chair!

Despite the pain, I manage to drag the old butt out of bed and try to stretch; no easy process since stretching these days can be akin to ripping flesh off of bone. Then I plod over to the mirror and make my 2nd mistake of the day; I look into it! I can hear the 80’s music in my head come to a screeching halt as if someone scratched the record. It is replaced with some syrupy elevator music; slow and old and so NOT cool. Holy hell, what happened to the 21 year old? I stammer about perplexed. I was 21 just yesterday. Where did all of these crow lines come from? Oh, and the bags under my eyes; I never got those in my youth even if I partied all night. Then the hair; no wonder my body is sore it looks like I was break dancing on my head all night. Actually, it sort of looks like hairmy old 80’s hairdo ….. hmmmm ….. NOPE …… NOT cool! I used to wake up when I was young and look refreshed. Now, I look haggard and beat down. This just sucks and I ponder how I can gain my youth back. Crazy thoughts start to enter my head; plastic surgery …… liposuction ……. $200.00 face cream ….. the list goes on. After a half hour of this torture, I pull myself together and move on with my day. One of the greatest things about getting older is that it no longer takes me 2 hours to get ready in the morning. What in the hell did I used to do for all that time. Man, I was some kind of crazy, high maintenance back then. Now, it’s ½ hour max. I just love the freedom of not giving a shit.

So as you can see I’m not aging well. I’m not embracing this crap. Screw the wisdom, self-assurance and self-love and all that other crap that you hear, mostly Hollywood, women proclaim about the joys of getting older. Easy for those beeutches to talk about all that when they dump hundreds of thousands into maintaining their youth. They’re a bunch of 70 year-olds that look 50; which just messes with the heads of us real chicks. Come on, Cher is damn near 70; where the heck are her crow lines? Not to mention she can wear 6 inch heels and her thighs don’t rub together. That is just not real. I’m real and reality comes with crow lines, sagging everything, mood swings and no way in hell can I wear 6” heels without hospitalization. “Wisdom, self-assurance and self-love……my ass”, I say!

So if the aches and pains of reality were not enough to destroy my young and cool fantasy world, the grim prospect of menopause peaking around the corner buried it for good. Now before I continue with this rant, here’s my disclaimer; I’m not yet entering menopause. Soooo don’t plan on me tripping off the deep end at a dog race or anything; at least not yet. My familiarity with this subject comes from a whole host of friends, relatives and acquaintances that are in the midst of or have been through the big “M” plus a bunch of research I’ve done in preparation for this fun filled portion of my life yet to be experienced. At any rate, I thought it would be fun to bring you into the mind of a menopausal musher. Hopefully, you won’t be afraid to get on the trail with any of us aging female mushers after this!

menopause4Our first menopausal subject should definitely be hot flashes! Every woman that is in the know has had some form of experience with hot flashes. It’s something you often hear women joke about; which is amazing to me. How do you find something funny about feeling as if you’re about to burst into flames? It boggles my mind. “Look at me I’ve got flames coming out of my head!” Yep, that’s pretty funny. On the upside, hot flashes can be a welcome thing when you’re hanging out in sub-zero temps; nothing like an instantaneous bonfire when you need one. Too bad you can’t ask for a flash when you want one. “It’s -26F and I’d like a flash to go; make it a medium please!”

Unfortunately, flashes have a mind of their own and they don’t usually come at menopause1convenient times. They come at times like when you’re in the truck wearing three layers of polar fleece and a huge ass parka plus hat and gloves. These flashes require emergency clothing removal and let me assure you that this is no easy task in a parka. Imagine being wrapped in a huge sleeping bag and the only way out is by lifting it over your head. You start the process and progress is slow. You are burning like a meteor and find yourself stuck in the middle of your parka. This is usually with one arm stuck to your side and the other still in the sleeve and your head is somewhere in the middle. This situation causes you to start to lose consciousness from the heat and now you can no longer remember which way is out. Panic sets in. You look like a giant parka worm rolling around in the front seat. The observer can see your parka pulsing as you pound your fists against the fabric trying to get out. There are lots of muffled cuss words sneaking out on occasion. Finally, in a big ball of sweat your head emerges. Your hair is full of static and standing on end. You are flushed with red blotches and there is sweat dripping down your face. This would be a mushing hot flash.

Now guys I don’t want you to feel left out and stop reading because you’re thinking this is too gender specific so imagine, if you will, that someone just lit your jewels on fire and you have on a one piece mushing suit with a pair of serious snow boots (the ones that take two people to pull off) and you’re wearing beaver mitts. Welcome to our world gentlemen! So now you know why some women mushers are practically wearing halter tops in the dead of winter. It’s not because they are so tough that the cold no longer bothers them; it’s because they are walking meteors! Hot! Hot! Too Hot!menopause5

Since we are on the subject of heat, it seems only natural to move right into night sweats. Yep, we are talking Sweaty Betty in the Beddy! This is a time when most women probably wish they were single. Nothing like the hubby reaching over to spoon you and you’re awakened by his yelling, “Ewwww, what the hell! Did you wet the bed?” You bolt up and start feeling the mattress. OMG, it is wet! You pat yourself down and realize your pajamas are wet! OMG, you start to wonder if you’ve now lost control of your bladder function! Slowly you realize your hair is wet and your pillow is wet. There’s no way you wet the bed unless you were sleep walking all over the bed and peeing at the same time. Whew, what a relief; it’s just night sweats! Now imagine being a musher that is planning to sleep outside in a sleeping bag or inside at a checkpoint. Neither situation will allow you to strip the clothing and try au- naturale to keep cool. You just have to suffer and stick it out, but definitely bring a change of clothes. Unfortunately, an outfit change in the middle of a race leads other mushers to think you’re a Diva. You can’t win on this deal. Frankly, I think older women are much braver mushers. No one else would risk hypothermia with a sweaty sleeping bag and damp clothing?

The fear of losing control of your bladder function comes as no surprise given one of the symptoms of menopause is increased urination. Yep, as if chicks don’t have enough issues with this subject matter; let’s just exaggerate the problem ten-fold as we get older. For a chick musher, increased urination is serious agro; it’s not as if there are port-a-johns all along the trail. You have to stay hydrated so it is not as if you can go without fluids. You cannot leave your dog team to go sauntering off into the bushes; assuming there are bushes in whatever god-forsaken snowy locale you find yourself in. The longer the distance, the bigger the problem this becomes. I once heard of a woman that held it for so long that when she entered a particularly rough section of trail it took all of her concentration and her bladder just let loose. This was not even half way into a 90 mile run in extreme cold. Can you say, FUN! Thankfully, our suits always have that dog pee smell!

So what does a gal do? I have no idea to tell the truth. I have heard of devices you can wear which allow you to pee on the fly. However, I’m not sure sporting a pee ice cube in -26F would be much fun. Then what do you do when you arrive in the checkpoint? You would have to melt your cube to empty the device, right? “Excuse me. Don’t mind me I just have to melt my pee cube over here on the wood stove.” Yeah, right! You could go the diaper route, but those have their drawbacks in -26F as well. Imagine the thigh chafing you’d experience if you had to run or pump in a frozen diaper. Then when you walked into the checkpoint sounding like you were wrapped in frozen canvas with cubes falling out of your pant legs surely you’d be dubbed Ice Queen.

urinatingThat leaves the only realistic option; stealth peeing. It requires some flexibility and coordination; often another problem for older woman. First and most important, you must look for fellow competitors; there must be no one around. Then you must manage to pull down your bibs with one hand. I don’t know what to tell you about the fact that you probably have to take off your glove and it’s -26F out; frost bite or bladder burst – your choice. Then you must squat real low. The key is to keep the moon as incognito as possible so as not to draw attention. Then let loose as quickly as you can. We don’t have time to waste here; it must be quick like a superhero! While you are being quick, don’t forget to be accurate. You wouldn’t want to risk frost bite only to discover that you peed right into your bibs; defeats the purpose, right? Then superhero quick, stand up and pull up the britches. If anyone makes mention that they thought they saw your white buttocks in the distance, you just tell them it was the spray of snow from your rooster tail while you were leaving them in your dust. Yep, no moon here … just dust baby… WHITE DUST!

Dry skin is another fun symptom of the big “M”. Great, it’s not enough that running dogs outside in sub-zero temps is sucking every ounce of moisture from our bodies, but now our hormones are going to help do their part. Pray for the women in the west that are aging mushers they are literally experiencing what it is like be a piece of freeze dried fruit. When I was a teenager I worked indry skin a retail clothing store and one day this older lady came to the counter and slapped a bag on it. She muttered and looked away, “I want to return these.” I approached the bag with some caution as it was wrinkled and the top had been rolled and folded as if it had been being carried around for weeks. I unrolled the bag and dumped the contents onto the counter. There was a pair of sweatpants turned inside out. Then to my horror I noticed that they were completely covered in flaky, dead skin. I almost hurled. Looking back on that moment I wonder if she was a musher going through menopause! I should have had sympathy, right?!?! So I’m just warning you folks NEVER EVER call an aging gal a flake! This would be taking life in your own hands.

Since we are walking freeze dried fruit, it seems only natural that we would develop brittle bones. Now that is something a musher doesn’t need to be concerned about; falling in snow is soft, right? Yes, snow is soft when there is several feet of it, but trees and icy snow are not. Take your vitamin D chickees or you’ll be sporting a cast.

After all of the above, is there anyone that dare ask why anxiety and irritability are symptoms of the big M? I should hope not, I get bitchy just writing about it.  This one is a blog in and of itself.

I had to laugh at the final symptom; painful intercourse. Seriously, what sweaty woman with flaky skin that has to urinate every 10 minutes and is irritated by just about everything wants to have sex? Need I say more?

So my friends have a little sympathy for your aging chicks out on the trail. They are probably some of the toughest and bravest folks you’ll ever run across. And please don’t do anything to piss them off; just let them have their space, offer them a cool spot and maybe some hand lotion or chapstick. 7dwarfs

Posted in Dog Racing 2014 | Leave a comment

ICE ROAD DOG MUSHING: THE MOTEL

After the longest drive of my life, we FINALLY arrived in Yellowknife.   We endured crazy, royalty-free-driving-clipart-illustration-42929bad roads and had a very close call when 40-50 mph winds blew our truck across the icy highway causing the truck to slip on the ice.  This, of course, happened just as a semi-truck was flying by in the opposite lane.  Lloyd handled it like a pro and kept it under control.  I watched everything in slow motion and held my breath wondering if we would wind up in the ditch or in front of the semi.   I don’t think I breathed for several hours after that.   The wind was so strong it managed to blow two complete bales of straw off our roof.  This has turned in a major inconvenience as we cannot find straw anywhere now.

The weather finally cleared up and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.  We stopped in Fort Providence for the night.  That was interesting.   Had Lloyd not been with us, we would never have figured out they had rooms at this place.  The rooms were in one of those metal buildings that reminded me of what you see at a construction site.   We got the only room left with two single beds and barely any heat.  Lloyd graciously took the floor, which I’m very thankful for since he was the only one that came equipped to do so.  Plus, I later learned there were remnants of prior visitors from years past; socks, toilet paper rolls etc.  I slept in my clothes and cranked the itty bitty room heater they gave us and, surprisingly, sometime near morning it was hotter than hell in that little room.

Fort Providence was 3 hours from Yellowknife and the road was a frost heaved ribbon through sparse trees and whiteness.  As you near Yellowknife it gets very rocky.   Then just like that you see a city pop up out of nowhere and I do mean nowhere!  Yellowknife is quite a metropolis complete with high rises and lots of people.  It is not only the capital of the Northwest Territories, but also the only city in the territories.   It reminded me of Fairbanks.   You see people walking everywhere and they are all bundled up in serious parkas and facemasks as they head to their destinations.   The current population is ethnically mixed.   22.2% of the population is aboriginals made up of First Nations, Me’tis and Inuit.  Of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories, five are spoken in significant numbers in Yellowknife: Dene Suline, Dogrib, South and North Slavey, English, and French. In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Somba K’e(Som-ba Kay) (“where the money is”).

Yellowknife came into existence from gold mining and today it is diamond mining.  Nearly 95% of the population is employed, which is extremely impressive.  Everything you need, except straw, can be found here.  They even have a Wal-Mart!

Upon arriving, we headed immediately to Grant Beck’s place to run on his trail.  This place was booming.  Grant looked exhausted and said that he had another 4 days to endure before it would slow down.  The touring business is getting 200 visitors a day!   Often times they arrive in groups of 50 or 60.   They had marketed the business in Japan, South Korea and China over the past year and things just took off.  They do several types of tours, but the main one is to see the Northern Lights.  They have these huge sleds in which they cram a bunch of people in the sled and take them out on the lake.  Grant said the sleds can hold, “7 Japanese or 6 Chinese, but only 5 Canadians!”

While we chatted with Grant in his room full of trophies we learned that Roxy Wright Champaigne was coming to the race this year.  She was not coming to watch either; she was coming to race.  What a thrill!   We had the opportunity to meet Roxy the year we visited Alaska and spent the evening listening to stories.  It was fascinating to hear our pedigrees come to life from the very person that ran these famous dogs.  We never imagined we would have the opporunity to someday actually race with her.   This lady is a legend and we are beyond thrilled to be here and experience this.  The rest of the roster is not confirmed yet, but it is looking like an awesome group of mushers will be here.

After the run, we got out of Grant’s hair and headed to lunch.  This was when I learned that Bruce had not made room reservations.  I had to ask the question twice because I couldn’t believe my ears.  I knew that we were on a waiting list just to get the room for the nights he had booked, which I learned wasn’t until Thursday.  It was Monday when I heard all this good news.  I’m not sure what he was thinking, but I’m sure he had some reasoning behind it.  I, however, did NOT want to hear the reasoning as I was convinced I wouldn’t get it.  Instead, I ordered a beer, left my body and immediately began my search for a room.   Shoot, I thought the Fort Providence room was cold; what in the hell would I do sleeping in my truck at 10 below?   Monica had entered the crabby zone.   After three attempts and no rooms, I gave the phone to Bruce.   He made a few calls and nothing.  Then he landed one.  It was too easy.  I’m happy, but I’m scared.  Call it instinct, but I was correct to be scared.

thCAR79C7KWe found the room right smack in the middle of downtown.  Trust me when I say that Yellowknife’s downtown is no different than any other downtown.  There were a handful of rooms.  The place looked a tad run down and there were obviously folks that LIVED in this motel.   We took the only parking spot.  On the window of the room directly in front of our truck was a sign taped to the window, “DO NOT KNOCK, I’M SLEEPING.”   Great, I’m sure this person will be totally understanding of the dog’s happy feeding barks.   We grabbed our gear and headed to the room.   As I opened the door I was assaulted with the most intense smell of smoke.   We had landed a room in a literal ash tray.  There were burn marks everywhere on the carpet, in the bathroom and even on the bed spread.   My mind was freaking.  I could barely breathe in the room.  reh991207clx_tnbMy quick scan of the room had images of bed bugs, roaches and other things running through my mind.   I started to feel as if I might cry.  Bruce thinks this is funny; bad move on his part.  I made a mental note to deal with him later.  I went into survival mode; how in the hell was I going to survive the evening in this hole?  Suddenly, -10 below in the car didn’t sound too bad.

While Lloyd and I were waiting downstairs for Bruce to fill water buckets, we got to meet several of our new neighbors.  There were a couple guys standing outside smoking who were the first to engage in conversation.  The drunkest one assured us he would be at the race to cheer us on, BUT we had to beat the Streepers and the Becks if he was going to root for us!  Alrighty then, no small task there; note sarcasm.  I’m not sure how you guys lost this fan, but we’re more than willing to give him back!  I hope he forgets that he ever met thCAZD41U5us.  We were saved when some woman came and drug him away.   Then the guy with the window sign came out eating a sandwich in his t-shirt in -10 below.  “Oh, you gonna let them doggies out?”  This turned into a fascinating conversation in which he expressed how much he loved the Yukon Quest.  We asked him if he had run it and he replied, “OH HELL NO, I would have had to eat my dogs before the halfway point!”   OMG, I’m seriously freaking now.    Then we discover there are at least two other people in the room with our sandwich eating fella as they emerge from the darkness.   I hoped he had plenty of sandwiches in there since my dogs would be right outside his room.  Then in the room next to sandwich guy there was a lady yelling at someone in the room who was yelling back.  They seemed like a very happy couple.   I, on the other hand, was seriously not happy and told Bruce we needed to go get some locks for our dog truck.

On the drive to Wal-Mart I pondered what would happen to me after staying one night in this room.  Would I be screaming at Lloyd and Bruce just as our lady neighbor was?  Or would I be eating a sandwich in -10 below in my t-shirt the next day?  I couldn’t see that so I concluded that I would be the drunk standing outside.  I would have to drink just to sleep there and I would have to be outside for the only fresh air.  I realized I just entered the movie, “Psycho” and I was staying at the Bates Motel.  Yes, I could foresee my future just from one night.  Thankfully, I was spared this future of doom as Bruce made the decision ON HIS OWN to seek another room.   He must have caught my vibe when I was making mental notes!   We got lucky and one opened up at the Super 8 just minutes before we called.   We were willing to take a hit on the other room, if necessary.  It wasn’t about money at this point; it was about getting as far away from there as we could.   We went back to retrieve our stuff and Bruce told the lady at the desk that he should have looked at the room, as she had offered, because his wife was allergic to cigarette smoke and there was no way we could stay in that room.  Yes, we’ll probably burn in hell for the lie and if hell is worse than that room, I’m screwed.   The lady was absolutely wonderful and fully refunded the room.  Thank goodness as rooms around here don’t come cheap.  They wanted $130.00 for that ashtray!

We spent the evening tucked away at the nicest Super 8, I’ve ever been in.  Not sure if my viewpoint is skewed or if it was truly that nice.  We never even met one of our neighbors at the Super 8.

Today we investigate the city.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

ICE ROAD MUSHING: THE DRIVE

Friday morning we got up early, hooked up 14 dogs to the snowmobile and took them for a 20 mile speed run.   After the run, we loaded the dogs into the truck, checked to ensure we had everything and then headed to the UP to pick up Lloyd.   Lloyd was packed and ready to roll.   We stuffed all 6 foot something of Lloyd into the backseat and hit the highway.   We weren’t going to make the mistake we made going west this year by trusting our GPS.   Oh no, that wouldn’t be a problem as we quickly discovered that our GPS had no road data for Canada.  So we started out the manual way with the Atlas.   It was like doing math with your fingers and not the calculator.    Resorting to antiquated methods must have made us a little nervous and it was Lloyd that first dialed Yellowknife into the navigator on his phone.   I decided to give it a whirl, as well.   At one point we had three devices all screaming directions to the driver,   “Turn left at highway 11,” said the radio.  “In 600 feet, turn left on highway 11,” said one phone, which would be interrupted by the other phone, “…..on highway 11 turn left.”   I would then jump in to try and interpret, “I think we’re supposed to turn left.  Did she say 7 or 11?”   By this point, the driver would be so confused that we usually missed the left turn.   All three devices would start bossing us back to the route and unconsciously we were all talking back to one or more of the devices.   “Good, idea.   I think I’ll turn left.”  “Shut up, I don’t want to go that way.”  “Hold your horses, I’m443734-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Big-Man-Driving working on it.”  The madness had already started to set in and this was only day one.

Bruce drove, then Lloyd drove, then Bruce drove and I’ve already lost count.   I haven’t driven.   I’m the navigator and entertainer.  I must keep everyone abreast of the latest dog sled race stats.  This is an important job when you have sleep deprived drivers.  It was not a problem until we hit Canada.  I’ll tell you about that later.   Let’s talk about the border crossing first.   Since I’ve been going to Canada, I have always hated going through the border crossings.   These things are nerve wracking.   I’m an honest, law abiding citizen that winds up ready to confess to murder, sex trafficking  or drug smuggling by the time they are half way done  with the process.   It is my nature in these situations to try and make light humor.  YOU MUST NEVER DO THIS AT THE BORDER.   The guards are trained to be Supreme Buttheads with no sense of humor; NONE.   Any attempt at humor thCA9ST2H4usually goes sour fast.   On this crossing it all appeared to be going well.  The guard was stamping away at our Visas.  We had answered the questions and it looked like we were home free.  Ohhhhh no, we were instructed to park on the side and head into the office …. “ALL of you,” he commanded.   Great, as I feared there might be a rumored anal cavity search in a sequestered room in my near future.   I have it all planned in my head.  I’m going to fight.   This won’t happen to me.   I’ve already got my jail cell picked out.   I grab the vet book and we head in.  There are three unsmiling, unfriendly buttcustomsheads in uniform.  It is so quiet in this office you could hear a pin drop.  I wonder how in the hell anyone can work like that.  After about 15 minutes and no communication, two of them put their coats on and say they want to look at the dogs.   We are instructed to open every door and show them 16 dogs.   They ask the ages.  Bruce stutters and says with doubt, “ummm I believe I have everything from 2 to 6 years old.”   They look at him odd.   Can you blame them?  I can see the little thought bubbles above their heads, “This guy doesn’t even know the ages of his dogs?  Hmmm that’s odd.”   Little do they know that when you have more dogs than you can count, half the time you’re not even sure who you have with you let alone their age.  We didn’t share that though.   On the 2nd dog they say, “What type of dogs are these?”   “Alaskan Huskies”   The guards look at each other and go to the next box.  “What did you say you do with them?”   “We race them in dog sled races.”   The guards look at each other.  “How OLD are they?”  Repeat question, crap they don’t believe us.   “They don’t have any FUR?  They don’t look anything like what we pictured????”   We’re thinking, “OH GREAT, how the hell do we explain this and make it sound believable.”   Bruce manages with a few smooth and a few not so smooth efforts.    Finally, after dog 16 they give us the blessing that we are free to go.  WHEW, I’m practically running to the truck.

So we are in Canada.   We are way overdue for an Iditarod update.   Awesome, we have 5 bars.   Several frustrating attempts and we cannot connect.  What the hell?  I ask Bruce, once again, “Did you order global service?”   He insists he did.   I spend another hour only to work myself into a mini sense of rage.  This will require a phone call and it’s not going to be me.   Bruce is much more suited to sitting on hold forever, plugging through an endless menu of options until you finally reach Bob from India.   Bob hooks us up for a little more cash and we are elated.  We will have entertainment.   No, we won’t.  Does not work.   Repeat process until we reach Harry from India.  Finally, we are able to get updates.   It was like walking the desert and coming across a can of cola.

We powered through the night and into the next day.  Thus far it has been a mind numbing ride.   Some of the flattest and most boring scenery and it never changes.    It’s as if Nebraska became a continent.  No offense to any of you that call these places home.  It is just very hard coming from the land of trees and hills to endless stretches of white nothing. 721175-CLOCKWATCHER I was barely inspired to blog.   I see white.  Yep, some more white.   Ohhhh, look a bush.   Hmmmm nearest town is 300 miles; can’t wait.   We’re here?   Really?   Did I miss it?   There’s only one gas station?   It’s closed.   Nice.   Let’s keep driving.   Look another gas station.   It’s closed.   What the hell, it’s dark behind the dumpster; throw the feminism out the window we are peeing outside.

Clip Art Graphic of a Cute Brown Dog Cartoon CharacterAmenities are few and far between on this route.  Bathrooms were a daily issue.   At night they are all closed and during the day they are too far apart.   Today when we finally found one, the water system had frozen and it was out of order.  Thankfully, they are friendly here and guided us to the local community center.   Food was also an issue.   I had wanted to pack a bag of goodies, but was denied due to time.  Soooo it has resulted in an endless stream of gas station junk to get through the trip.   When we were unable to stand it any longer we would attempt to stop for food.   This morning we were all geared for a good breakfast after making it non-stop through the night.  We found a café and it was closed.  A nice local fellow guided us to the only place for breakfast; A&W.  Not exactly what I was looking for.  I choked down a burger at 8AM or something.    My spirits were brightened when I realized we would be in Saskatoon at lunch/dinner time and our friend JR had recommended a great place to eat.  Unbeknownst to me at the time was how big Saskatoon was and so we expected this restaurant to be right off the highway where we couldn’t miss it.  No such animal.   I searched feverishly on the internet.  No such place.   We settle for the first place in our vision only to discover we entered a very scary buffet only restaurant.  One looksee at our options and we headed out the door.   Right across the parking lot is a bar and grill; we go for it.  The appetizer was our first clue there was danger ahead.  We ordered Mexican fries; fries smothered in cheese, onions, sour cream, salsa and tomatoes.   We received dried up tater tots sprinkled with the above accouterments.  I’m frightened now.   I ordered dry rubbed ribs, buffalo style and a Cesar salad.   When it arrives I have a plate of salad and next to it a pile of deep fried chunks covered in a pink sauce.   I choked through a few of the over fried meat croutons slathered in buffalo wing sauce and prayed I wouldn’t be hurling later.   We made a mental note to stay far away from this place on the way home.

Satellite radio has been a savior, especially when we were without internet.  You don’t do four days in the car listening to AM 760; trust me.  That would drive a person mad.  You must have variety.   When this trip is complete, I will have the world at my fingertips.  After endless hours of listening to several different subject matters, I feel as if I’m an expert on some.   Hours of Doctor Laura, political discussions and a variety of how to shows have enriched me.  After just two days I’m sluggish from junk food but inspired to fix my dysfunctional family, plant a garden and fight the white house.

Stay tuned; there’s more fun to come on this trip as we reach our destination!

 

 

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