Burning Down The House

house_on_fireWe arrived in Big Piney last night and got a room at one of only two hotels in the town.  You would think after standing around in the cold all day that mushers would welcome a warm room.  Well, not so much.  For many of us this is a virtual nightmare.   As we entered our little oven we both started to panic. “Holy crap, turn the heat down!” I yelled.  We then started shedding the clothes as we frantically looked for the source of our torture.  We started opening windows for fear we would perish from the heat.  Once we found the source we quickly discovered there was no thermostat so we basically dismantled the wall heater only to realize it was on low already and there was no way to turn it off.    So in -10 we chose to leave the windows open just so we could sleep. 

After three weeks of being on the road, you get a little sick of motels.  Every blasted one of them has their heaters blowing full bore.  You walk into the hallways and it’s like a sauna and then you enter your room and determine it would be more comfortable to sleep in the truck.   Then I swear some of these things are designed to never turn off.  You can put them on low and even turn them off and they will still run all night.   This coupled with the dry air in the Western US is absolute torturous to us Midwesterners.   I arrived like a wet sponge and now I’m a brittle, dried up and crumbling sponge.  I travel with a mini-humidifier just so I can breathe.  My skin is like crispy bacon and it actually hurts to touch it.  I’m red like a tomato and fees as if I aged 10 years.  Lord help me if I have to blow my nose, there’s so much blood I worry if I’ve had a brain aneurism. 

So after taking care of our room, we went to the banquet and then returned to drop dogs.  While we were dropping dogs we kept hearing Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep!  It just didn’t stop.  It was quite irritating and I was thinking that incessant beeping better stop before we try to go to sleep.  This motel has paper walls and a beeping such as this would certainly keep all of us up all night.  After about 10 minutes of listening to this I couldn’t stand it and I went on the hunt for the beeper.   As I’m approaching our room so was the Motel Manager.  Then I hear it, “Fire, Fire, Fire” coming from a smoke alarm.  Oh NO!  Half our gear is in there.  Why don’t I see smoke?  I hand the manager the key and we walk in to find Bruce’s Lobben boots melted on top of the heater.  The lovely aroma of melted plastic greeted us.  So, like we’ve done a few times this trip, we hung our heads in embarrassment.  The manager said he get it taken care of.  Well, the entire time we were dropping we kept hearing beep, beep, beep, fire, fire, fire.  Until finally the manager came to tell us he couldn’t get all the blue gunk scraped off the heater so he turned it off and left us a small electric heater.   Well, that’s one way to get your motel to turn off your heater; in case you are ever desperate.  Bruce now walks with a limp because one boot is taller than the other.

It was a chilly morning in Big Piney today, but nothing like Pinedale.   It is a brand new trail that is 100% groomed and apparently very hilly.   We looked at the snow conditions.  The snow was very dry and crispy.  The trail looked hard, but we chose to go with boots on all 11 dogs fearing it would break down and tear up feet.  When dry snow breaks up it is like mini-ice crystals and very abrasive.  We didn’t think our feet could handle if that happened on this stage.  A half mile into the race Bruce immediately started having trouble with a dog.  She was neck lining hard.  He coaxed her along, but she was controlling the speed of the descents.  It was odd because this dog had checked out fine, but we obviously missed something.  This dog is also a key leader.  They later discovered ab4_dogwheelchair0005 muscle strain in an odd place that I would not have found.  Bruce also had a leader that had never seen these type of conditions and we learned he likes to pout when the wind is blowing and the trail is tough so this effected the run.   He never quit, but he was not a happy camper.  The trail was tough and we took a bit of a beating in Big Piney.  We’ve been asking a lot of several dogs as we had some unfortunate issues early in the race.  We lost a dog after Driggs to either bronchitis or he has something stuck in his throat so he was out early and will require an x-ray to further diagnose his issue.   We lost a 2nd dog after Alpine due to a bicep injury at the insertion point; which is basically where the muscle attaches to the bone.  It took a few days to diagnose this as the dog was displaying a vast array of symptoms and it kept leading the vets in different directions.   So right out of the gate we were down two dogs.  After Lander we lost another dog to a pull in the iliopsoas muscle.  Then after Big Piney we lost the key leader mentioned above.  This has put a lot of pressure on key dogs and there are a core of dogs that have run every single day. 

In Kemmerer today it was one of the better trails Bruce has seen there.  We went with our two older leaders and a team of 11.  The team ran fine, but it was not enough and we can now add another key leader to our injury list.   JR and Jerry both had great runs and have pushed us now into 5th overall.  We will be patching everyone up for the last leg tomorrow to see what we can do.  Man, I hope we can come up with 8 dogs!  If worse comes to worse, I will resort to witchcraft!

You may have seen that things are getting interesting around here and mysterious things are happening to the Streeper crew.   Terry has succumbed to severe diarrhea, Alex was locked in the trailer just prior to having to hook up dogs and they had to replace a water pump on their truck.  Seriously!  I’m good, but I didn’t know I was that good!!  LOL Since I’ve been dubbed the “Head Witch” by the Streeper crew I’ve decided I’m going to live up to my name.  Why not, heh!  So tonight along with my broom I will be chanting over the cooker.000081-0028-000053

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adders fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

 Ehhhhhh, Ehhhhhhh, Hehhhh, hehhhhhh ….. that ‘s my witche’s cackle!!   See you tomorrow!

 

 

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Now It Is Cold – Stage 4 Pinedale

posthalloweenMaybe I don’t like winter!   Yesterday I complained because it was snowing and today I’m complaining because it is cold; real cold! We woke this morning to -16 below.  For us Floridians, that is like being thrown into a deep freeze naked and wet.  I feel sorry for the dogs; they don’t get to see the weather forecast so they can prepare.  They wake up and if it’s -16 or 30 above they are wearing the same jacket!  Not me, I pulled out the old parka, threw on another shirt and still couldn’t quite achieve that cozy warm feeling.  

At the start of the race it was about -8 below.   We wPrintavered between going with 10 or 11 dogs and chose to do 11.  We were going with ten and then Jerry Bath came by and asked how many we were taking.  When we told him 10 he said, “REALLY!?!?”  We were pretty set, but then we had another mini pow wow and changed our plan.  There are still some big stages left and we’d prefer to have 12 on those stages, but we were concerned about the trail as it often has drifting and a bigger team can be very helpful.  Due to the temps we chose to boot all the dogs as that frigid air and dry snow can wreak havoc on feet.  We also put a few body coats on some of our houndy dogs to protect their jewels.   JR did the same as us.   The Streepers had every dog booted and coated.  Surprisingly, there were several teams that came in later without boots or coats.   Bruce had the 2nd fastest time at the 6 mile mark behind Jerry Scidoris who had a magic carpet ride today.  The team hummed and ran the pace Bruce wanted for about 25 miles.  Before the halfway he passed Jeff Conn bagging a dog and he passed Chris Atkins.  At the halfway he was a minute ahead of Jerry Bath.  At mile 27 he caught Al and one of his front end started to flake out.   She was dictating the speed of his descents.  The trail was hard, but punchy and the leaders kept punching through; which was getting to her.  The two teams traveled and passed Austin Forney and then Al had to stop to resolve an issue.  Bruce passed and then his one leader totally flaked out.  He stopped and switched leaders.   He then re-caught Austin and Al and then they set a decent pace on home for 3rd place.   The dogs look good except one poor hound had his num nums rubbed raw and bloody from his body suit.  That didn’t work as planned; we tried to protect them and caused him issues instead. 

Jerry Bath was the winner today and now I’m suspicious.  Prior to the race he had been very uncertain about his team.  He has several young dogs and some unknowns on the team and he just wasn’t sure how they would perform.  He was not feeling confident.   Well, now I’m thinking that Mr. Bath might have been playing head games.  Trying to get all of us not to pay attention or drop our guard so he could unsuspectingly unleash the beasts.  He had a phenomenal run and his team is doing great!  We couldn’t be happier for Jerry winning his first yellow bib.  Yellow is your color Jerry!!  BUT don’t get used to it …. Wink …. Wink …… wink!!!   LOL

Then there is our friend JR, who took 2nd today and chipped off a couple more minutes that were standing between him and Bruce for 3rd place overall.  It’s ChessMatcha darn good thing these two are good friends because they can’t seem to shake each other in the standings.  It would be downright ugly if either one of them was the type that had to hate their competition to do well.   Instead, we high five and wish each other the best.  These two are the ultimate competitors in my book.  It’s competition like this that makes racing fun!

Al Borak, running our yearlings, had another great run and took 7th place today.  The kids are just shining and having a great time.   Emily Entrikin bagged a dog today.   Austin Forney’s team is starting to click and he had a very nice run.   Jerry Scidoris was absolutely ecstatic with his run today and very happy with his result.

The handler games were cancelled until tomorrow so stay tuned.  This is certainly going to be more exciting than the actual race!

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It’s Snowing in Lander Stage 3

000081-0025-000116Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor!   Yes, I’ll admit I prayed all freaking fall for snow and I was praying up to the minute we left.   Then the day we left Michigan gets hit with a major snow storm.  Then we get here and it hasn’t stopped snowing yet.  So HA HA HA , PRETTY FUNNY MRS. NATURE AND YOU CAN STOP NOW! 

Yesterday we had a day off to make the 3-4 hour drive to Lander.   We all met on Main Street and the town came out to meet the mushers.  One of the best community events on the circuit, in my opinion.   When we arrived in town it had started snowing and then it just kept coming.  Most years, we never see snow in the town of Lander.  Well, not this year it was blowing to beat the band.   There was talk that the pass might shut down as they had already shut down another road that shoots off of the pass.  So we went and got chains for the truck that night in preparation for a potentially hellacious drive.  That night we went to bed wondering if there would be a stage in Lander.

We woke up to 18 degrees and who knows how much new snow.  You can’t tell around here because it just blows all over.   When it blows you imagine you’re living in a snow globe.  The pass was open and we hit the road at 6AM.  After the first two leisurely days the 5:30AM wakeup call was a wee difficult.   At the driver’s meeting they were told that there was a very hard packed trail with a couple inches of snow on top and snowmobiles were going out in front of the teams.

We had 12 fresh dogs (Smoke, Sedona, Lumpy, Dime, Euro, Pence, Chepi, Penny, Sigfried, Kroner, Aslan and Ailer).   We only booted the sore feet.  You could tell the snow was going to play havoc on feet a bit as it was cold and balling up in the fur.  We greased well to try and prevent the snowballing.  While we were in the chute Bruce had a little mishap when a dog jumped up and bashed into his face.  Unbeknownst to him his cheek had burst open and was bleeding profusely down his face.  Imagine the horror of all the 3rd grade students sitting next to the trail when Bruce approached them and thanked them all for coming!

In the first 500 feet there were large moguls on the trail from packed down drifts.  Then it was basically a trail with a bottom and about 6 inches of very loose snow on top.  Bruce warmed the team up and then the trail starts to climb pretty quickly.  The dogs were setting a nice pace and climbing better than they’ve ever climbed.  He passed Wilomitzer within 5 miles and then he ran alone for a long time.  The speed on the descents had to be controlled as the snow was very loose.   The team ran a great pace to the half-way point.    At the half way point they came to a loop for the turnaround.  A guy standing there yelled, “It’s a hard 90 degree to the right.”  Bruce called, “Gee” and Sedona took a hard right.  Well, the trail then went immediate left, but there was a snowmobile track that went right off the hard right and down the side of a hill.  They had a snowmobile parked right in the turn, but not to block off the other trail.  The snow was up to Bruce’s thighs and he had to get the team out and back on the trail.  Just as he was starting to do this here comes Al and his team and they started down the hill.  Bruce caught them just in time and Al was able to run up and grab his leaders.  When Bruce got the team out of the mess they were in a huge tangle.  Al waited for him to get it sorted out.  As all of this was going on Dennis Laboda came upon them and thankfully, took the opposite direction in the turn around to avoid a bigger mess.   Al and Bruce determined Bruce lost at least 2 minutes in the tangle.  After the turn around the team passed Dennis back.  Alex caught Bruce around mile 25.  They ran together for about a half an hour.  They both passed Emily Entriken.  At this point Alex said he had to stop so Bruce passed him.  The trail firmed up a bit at this point and the team rolled home.  He was able to gain 3 minutes on Alex from this point. 

Jeff Conn said his run was very slow.  JR was pleased with his run.  Jerry Bath’s team tried to take a turnoff that they usually take to go home and he had a difficult time to gett000081-0024-000125ing past this point; which lost him some time.  Austin Forney was in great spirits when he rolled in and Chris Adkins was happy with how the dogs got through the trail.

Tomorrow we are supposed to see -6 below zero.  There is no new snow here and the trail is expected to be hard.   We’ll wait to see when we get there.  The handler games also start tomorrow.  Dylan and I have been teamed up with the Laboda crew and the Conn Crew.  We have been told we will be competing in sled dog trivia, dog dish curling and a poop memory game.  Hmmm this should be interesting.  Dylan is chomping at the bit to get these games rolling and we’ve already designed our curling dish!  Wish us luck!

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Resorting to A Life of Cheating

gofishFurred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

Episode: Resorting to a Life of Cheating

This crew has had a taste of the dark side and we can’t seem to pull away.   Unfortunately, the first two stages of this race have found us sliding quickly backwards to a life of crime.  Our altercation with the forest service got the adrenaline pumping, but it was the disappointing results of stage one and two that set the wheels in motion.   We are now going to add cheating to our resume.  After doing this for eleven years, we are done with playing fair.   We are going for broke this time and we’re going to compete like the criminals that we are.   The Streepers with their impressive outfit, need to be on high alert and I’m recommending they go into complete lock down.  The Mag Four are on the loose and they have reinforcements.  Yes, there are plenty of criminal minds amongst us.

The word on the street is that you can’t beat the Streepers doing it their way and you must be ready to seize any moment of opportunity.  Well, we haven’t been doing it their way and we’re STILL not wearing any yellow bib yet.   As far as the moments of opportunity; there hasn’t been any.   Buddy must have the biggest rabbit foot you’ve ever seen because he somehow manages to avoid the moose holes, the alligators, the dog flu, the open cattle guards, freak injuries etc.  How can anyone have so much luck?  What big guy/gal upstairs is he praying to?   These are all questions the rest of us keep asking and we just keep coming up with nothing.  So when your back is up against the wall, what does one do?  You resort to cheating.

Our criminal minds have devised several methods to create opportunities for the rest of us to seize.  That’s right; you read it here first.  We are going to sabotage the competition.   We have no choice.  It’s the only way and, in our minds, the right thing to do for the rest of us schmucks!   We must have that yellow bib come hell or high water.

First plan of action is tvalentine_toon_11o use our resource; the Candy Man a.k.a. Pakwa Peaceful and Al Borak.    The Candy Man will be sure to lure Bud and Alex with some of the candy that he carries on the trail.  Unbeknownst to them, that candy will really be laxatives.   Laxatives so powerful they had better have well behaved teams that will sit and wait for them while they wipe their hineys in the bushes (with their gloves tee hee).  Hopefully, while they are bare assed in the woods the Minnesota Mangler from the Anderson Three will come by and accidently kick their snow hooks releasing the beasts.   However, knowing our luck those dogs will just stand there waiting patiently.

Should that be the case, we have a Plan B for another stage.   Pakwa Peaceful being the ultimate team player is going to play a role in this one as well.  He is going to use his full arsenal of inexperienced yearlings to create the biggest tangle you’ve ever seen with, of course, Bud and Alex’s team.  We know just the friendly social yearling leaders to do it too.   We need at least 45 minutes so as Pakwa is in the midst of untangling he’ll be sure to unhook several tugs and necklines that aren’t his.  Bye bye leaders!  Damn, that probably won’t work either because their dogs all free drop; so again, they’ll probably just stand there.  The scary part is that this could really happen, but most likely it will be with our two teams.  Oh hell, let’s scratch that one!

We are prepared and we have a Plan C; the ole tainted meat snacks on the trail.  We’ve corrupted the Bonnie & Clyde of Lander from the Bath Duo to join us on this one since they have access to all sorts of meats.  Oil Queen Sandy will doctor up some concoction to lace the meat with that will cause poor performance.  Jerry will do the snacking just as the Streeper teams are rolling by.  Yum, yum, night, night!!  Seriously, do you think tBasic RGBhey’ve trained them to just leave whatever is on the trail too?

Feeling doubtful are you?   Don’t worry, we have a Plan D.  We’ll take this off the trail.  We’ve already placed phone calls to all the local McDonalds along the race route.  They will have special burgers just for the Streepers.  We’re calling it the McStreeper burger.  It will have a green racing stripe right down the middle.  They’ll be flattered until they eat it.  Bite one will bring on the worst stomach convulsions they’ve ever felt for at least 24 hours.  Hee Heee hello Mr. Commode!  You know, we’ll probably find out Bud and Alex are vegans and only Terry will succumb with the stomach flu.

Crap, this means a Plan E is necessary. We hate to do this, but we are dragging the little kids into this.  All of the scTitlehool kids that show up will be given “sleepy snacks” to give to the dogs.  How can anyone say no to a sweet innocent kid that just wants to give your dog a little biscuit.  Those pooches will chomp up the biscuits and when they go to pull their teams out of the boxes it will be like unloading 50 lb noodles.  Something tells me Terry can turn down a sweet innocent kid; he’ll probably bribe them with a mini-Canadian flag as a souvenir.  Then all the little rug rats will be walking around waving their Streeper flags to our dismay.  Dang, that’s a massive backfire.

Ok, we are on Plan F now.  This is where we tap into our technological resources.  Dylan the Villain will hack into the Eukanuba email account and send an email that directs them to a new race start location an hour away.  They are always arriving just in the nick of time and this will certainly cause a delayed start.  On second thought, they will probably email every official they know and confirm that it was a fake.

The G-I plans a3D burglarre seriously hard core.  They involve dark clothes, face masks and gloves.  This will give Bruiser Magnusson a slimming effect and no one will ever suspect him.  We are talking slicing tires, swapping wax with some grip wax, messing with their engine and somehow reprogramming their GPS to read only kilometers.  Wait, they’re Canadians so they work in kilometers, but they speak miles?  Dang, skip that one.  Tires are a sure thing unless their rig has an alarm system that goes off from tire tampering.  Then, of course, the wax is probably carried in a metal bullet and explosive proof suitcase.

You know it might be possible that we can’t pull this off.  Possibly, we’re not as good of criminals as we thought.  This team seems to have some sort of protective force field around them.  This is more frustrating than rolling on the legal side.  Besides, I’ve gotten more handler hugs from Buddy than any other musher in this truck.  Now I’m torn.  Moral or Immoral; that is the question.   We need to call all of our fellow mushers together to form a Musher’s Union on the premise of beating the unbeatable.  WE NEED HELP!!

DISCLAIMER:  We apologize to the Streeper crew if this causes any lack of sleep or symptoms of paranoia.  It is certainly meant with humor and respect.   If anything odd does happen, it wasn’t us!  

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Busted in Alpine – Stage 2

000620-0005-000010Trouble just seems to find us these days.  It’s like we are trouble magnets.  I’m on egg shells waiting for the next problem to occur.

We woke this morning to a couple inches of snow and temperatures in the twenties; which was a relief given what we had woken up to the previous day.  It’s very odd how all winter I was praying for snow and now I’m praying for no snow.  Even odder how the prayers keep getting ignored.  Have I been that bad?

Alpine did not get the snow storm we experienced in Driggs, but rather they got rain.   When we checked in last night the hotel owner told us there was an inch of icy crust in the parking lot earlier in the day.  We knew this would impact the trail.  So first thing when we got to the parking lot JR and Bruce went out on the trail to check out the conditions.   It was like icy gravel.  Both teams decided that booties were the right call and neither of us were willing to chance a run like last year in Alpine that resulted in extremely sore feet.   There were some teams that booted and some teams that did not.   We went with 12 again (Pakwa, Fala, Chepi, Lumpy, Dime, Sigfried, Euro, Kroner, Peso, Penny, Pence, Ailer).  Just prior to leaving someone tells us we couldn’t use the snowmobile to take the teams to the line because it didn’t have a permit.  Bruce then talked to the Forest Service Officer and the Executive Race Director and they agreed that we could use it and we would pick-up a permit after the race.

The trail was snow covered, but firm underneath going out.  Bruce’s team sailed the first half and got in a nice groove.  Around mile 20 one of his leaders started to have diarrhea.  We had a mild  one day bug go through most of the team during training and she must not have been one of them.  By the turn around he had caught everyone but one team.  Then his leader progressively got worse until she just wasn’t getting it done and unfortunately she was the throttle.  At mile 33, he switched out the sick leader.  The trail was now loose mealy snow and the team just went flat.  The leader switch he made was not working out well so around mile 37 he switched out a 2nd leader.  Buddy and Alex caught him around mile 49 and both teams looked great.  Around mile 50 the team started to slowly pick back up and cruised home.   

The team finished in 4th place.  The dogs are all healthy and their feet look great.  We moved into 4th overall, but we have our work cut out for us. 

Meanwhile in the pits, where all the real excitement happens, the handlers were standing around w130314_drawcol02337aiting and talking.  This is what we do and we do it for hours and hours and hours.  So as we were standing around innocently doing nothing, the law found us again.  This time it was the forest service.  Colonel Sanders in a green uniform not a white one approached and asked “Excuse me is this your snowmobile?” I replied, “Yes” He then said, “Well, you need a trail permit.”   I smiled and said, “Yes, they told us that when we got here and we plan to pick one up after the race.  We don’t intend to use it on the trail.  It’s just parked here so we can get stuff in the trailer.”  “Whelp, it can’t be on forest property without a permit,” he said.  I replied, “We plan to get one after the race.  I can’t leave here now to go get one.”   He responded tersely, “You have to have a permit or it has to be in the trailer.”  At this point, I wanted to tear the colonel’s handlebar mustache off.  However, I’m learning incredible self-control in my old age and I smiled, bit my tongue and walked away for a second.   I returned and he said, “You can drive to get a permit.  They sell them at the gas station.”   I repeated that I could not leave the parking lot with my vehicle as I wouldn’t be able to return to my parking spot.”  He said, “You can take the snowmobile.”  So with my brows furrowed I said very slowly, “So you are saying I can drive on the forest property and over the highway to go get a permit, but I cannot be parked without a permit.  I must be in the trailer.”  He nodded as if he had just had successful communication with an alien.  I smiled that smile that says, “You are Sir are a dip wad and I would love to tell you what a dip wad you are!”    Turns out Colonel Sanders was the same officer that had agreed to allow Bruce to get the permit after the race.  Colonel Sanders is not a man of his word!  So I did what anyone would do in this risky endeavor and I sent Dylan to take the risky drive to the gas station for the permit.  He successfully managed to avoid being arrested; which was a relief because I didn’t want to handle for two teams!spy

After our exciting encounter with the law we stood around some more until one of the vets entertained us with her team of three corgis pulling two little kids on a sled.  It was beyond cute.  Every race needs a team of corgis to lighten the mood.  Later I noticed a man kneeling down at the back of the truck.  I kept watching wondering who the heck this guy was and what he was doing behind our truck.  Is this espionage?  Was he from a competitor’s team?  Is this why our trailer quit working; someone is intentionally messing with our wiring?  What the heck was this guy doing?   As I watched I contemplated how I should approach the villain.  Then a light bulb went on and I realized it was the race mechanic and he was working on fixing our trailer brake situation!   Hallelujah, a prayer had been answered!!  As of now we should have no issues with the brakes due to the wiring.   Please let the bad juu juu be gone now.

We have tomorrow off so we can make the long drive to Lander.  We will then attend a Meet the Mushers event in downtown Lander on Main Street; which is always very fun.   We will resume racing Tuesday morning and they are calling for snow!!!  Oh happy day!

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The Life of A Handler

There are bunches of us out there.  We are faceless, nameless, behind th3d people - human charactere scenes and often under appreciated.  We are under estimated, overlooked and even disregarded.   We’re dirty, tired and wore out.  We can do a crap job, and I mean that literally, like it is nobody’s business.  Who are we?  WE ARE HANDLERS!!! 

It is a travesty how handlers are overlooked in this sled dog business.   We are an integral part of the team and yet, we rarely get credit.   Well, I’m done with being faceless and nameless.  I’m petitioning the government to make A Handler’s Day.   We will run with the motto, “Have you hugged your handler today?  If not dammit, get to it!”   Seriously, how many famous handlers can you name?  Why is that?   The guy/gal that spent countless hours on the runners helping to prepare the team for race day gets no credit?   Why do you have to stand on the runners at a race just to get a name and a face?   Why aren’t musher’s presented as a team?  This is Bob Mushy and his handler Joe DoEverything. 

It amazes me how many of us come back to handle year after year.  When you look at the job, it really makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with all of us.  Most dive into this with a Jack Londonesque vision in their head.  They start the job with visions of moonlight runs and being on the runners all day.  However, Jack London was never a handler.  So on day one new handlers will typically hear the loud screeching of a needle going across an old vinyl record.  This is when the dream is interrupted by glimpses of horror.

It can start with your toastybuns1accommodations.  The quality of where you will stay for 6 months can vary widely depending on who you were fortunate or not so fortunate to hook up with.  Here’s your yurt with your woodstove.  Yes, you must keep it burning when it’s -20 below and the wood is stored outside right next to the outhouse.  There’s a foam seat for when it gets really cold.  Here’s your musty basement that you’ll share with three other people; hang sheets if you want privacy.  Here’s your shed with no heat or water.  There’s a small electric heater that can kick out pretty good, but it will wake up all the black flies.  Here’s your non-private room in our house.  You can eat meals with us otherwise stay out of our sight.  Here’s your private quarters with all the amenities.  Holy crap, pinch me this can’t be real.

Once you’re settled in, the chores begin; which is usually the same day.  You’re given a scoop; not even your own.  Just a plain old public scoop.  Don’t try to be innovative and change the scoop to be more ergonomic either because mushers are set in their ways.  They are mushers not engineers.  Just use the damn scoop they give you no matter how ridiculous and back breaking it might be scooping up after oodles of dogs.  Yes, you are supposed to clean up after 60 dogs with a shovel; you’ll master it in no time.  It’s all about the wrist action.

If you’re lucky you’ll get to run dogs, but many find themselves never getting the opportunity to run the dogs.  They literally just take care of the yard.  Scoop iwomanpickup4_12n the AM, water dogs, feed dogs, scoop in the PM.  There’s a stimulating life.  Months on end of the same old poo (pun intended).  They are sure to develope Poomopia – a curable mental illness caused by daily and constant interaction only with poo.  These poor folks start to talk about poo, analyze the poo and even talk to the poo.   They are starving for anything not poo related.

 Now if you get to run dogs this can be a blessing or a curse.   Again, Jack London is a fraud.  He obviously never had to work for a meticulous, obsessed, demanding and partially nuts musher.  The sheer volume of inane rules that come with running someone else’s dogs blows those dreamy moonlight runs to pieces.  If you are handling for a race team, you quickly learn that nothing is for pleasure; it always has a purpose and if you’re enjoying yourself, YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG!!   You’ll also learn that Jack London never had to drive an ATV in pouring rain day after day in December in 34 degrees.  FUN!!  He missed that part!   If you are a married handler, folks will be surprised to learn you even know how to run a sled.   They won’t believe you actually race yourself and train the dogs too.  Yep, the musher does it all by his/herself …. you just show up for the fun!

The new handler is excited about the alluring opportunity to travel with a team and handle at a race.  What a crock of baloney that is.  You envision excitement and fame!   You experience boredom and maltreatment.   Yep, nothing is more fun than going 36+ hours without sleep and being yelled at like you’re deaf every time you see your musher.  I’m talking serious fun there.  You are on your feet constantly out in the cold and by the time the race is over your entire body hurts, you can’t do simple math and your face is puffy.  You will get NO sympathy because everyone thinks you sat around and napped for 36 hours; it was the musher that went through all the tough stuff.  Doesn’t it sound like fun to spend hours WAITING?  The highlight of your day is to rake up some straw or re-organize the meds.   You are living a real adventure if you get to dry and sort a hundred booties.  However, the real topper for me has always been cleaning out pee saturated boxes.   It is beyond explanation to stick your head in a box and almost pass out from the ammonia smell, but you have to get in there to get it out.  Then getting it out without getting it all over you; that takes a special talent.   I haven’t acquired it yet.   When I’m done, I have wet pee pee straw in my hair, all over my coat, my gloves and even on my boots.   It is so much fun I want everyone to try it just once.

So after you’ve been sleep deprived, covered in pee/straw/dog hair, sat bored out of your mind for hours on end you must then endure the wrath of your musher.   You can rarely do anything right.  You don’t run fastCavemen enough.  You are NOT running in the right direction.  You must know where they left something 5 hours ago; why don’t you have ESP?  Lord help you, if you moved something during your organizational activities.  If a dog spills his food, it’s your fault; why weren’t you watching.  Then PLEASE don’t ask a question.  For gosh sakes get a brain!

Yes, this is a peak into the life of a handler.  Why do we do it?  Where is the joy in this?  The joy is simply working with the dogs.  The heck with the mushers and all their primadonna ways.  We are in it for the dogs.  It’s because of the dogs most of us come back to do this year after year.  Some for the same teams and some just keep jumping from one to the next trying to find that team that will treat them with respect.  Those poor souls.  A handler can find themselves living the life of a nomad searching for that elusive “perfect team”. 

This is why I ask you, “Have you hugged your handler today?”   If not, get er done!  Show some love and respect for these hard working dog lovers.  They make your life easier doing what you love to do and deserve to be in the limelight and not the shadows! 

HANDLERS ROCK!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Driggs – I’m Already Tired

ExhaustedFor some reason I’m exhausted.  So tired that it is actually difficult to talk.  Since my energy light is on low, the humor meter is bouncing in the red zone.  So here’s a quick update without all the fun.  We got through the ceremonial start in Jackson Hole without any serious issues.  One of our leaders decided the loud music, the throngs of people and the other leader biting him in the head were too much and he just wanted out.  So we had to switch him out in the chute; which is always a tad exciting.  Then we had a team dog that also got freaked out by all the hoopla and decided he wasn’t going to contribute for 2.5 miles because he was too busy running with his head spinning 360 degrees.  On the bright side, Bruce had a really fun Junior Musher who was having the time of his life high fiving all the spectators and he never even noticed!  He told Bruce he is signing up again and asking for Bruce to be his musher!  Man, it is cool to see young people experience this sport for the very first time!  We’ve had very cool experiences with the junior musher program.  One of our junior mushers from Alpine still comes to Jackson Hole and to the start of Alpine every year.  Our junior musher last year wound up being Al’s junior musher this year.  This is a great program for introducing kids to the sport of mushing.  In some cases it actually changes their life.  Our current handler, Dylan, was a junior musher at Stage Stop and wound up coming full circle experiencing it from the handling side.  One day he aspires to run it.  This program is every parent’s worst nightmare! 

During the day on Friday, we had heard weather reports that there was a major storm LetItSnowrolling in and in this case the weather forecasters were spot on.   It started snowing sometime in the late afternoon and just kept on going.   After the ceremonial start we quickly headed to the Eukanuba hospitality dinner to grab some food and then we hit the road as we had a very long drive to get to Driggs.   Trucks with trailers are not allowed to take the pass so it is a 2 hour drive on good roads; which we didn’t have.  So it took us a little over 3 hours to get to Driggs and we made it right around 11PM. 

When we went to bed it was snowing.  When we woke up it had stopped, but the amount on the ground was significant and we knew there would be more on the mountain.  The roads and parking lot hadn’t been plowed; which wound up causing lots of issues.  We got there in plenty of time and had no problems; however, others weren’t so lucky.   Many came from Jackson that morning and several mushers arrived late for the driver’s meeting.  There were a few cars that went into the ditch and a few trucks with trailers that got stuck in the parking lot.  There was so much chaos getting everyone parked we started to wonder if they would delay the start.  They did not.    We hooked up 12 (Smoke, Sedona, Lumpy, Dime, Euro, Dollar, Peso, Aslan, Pence, Kroner, Ailer, Chepi) and went with no booties.  The team was fired up and ready to go.  We were parked more than a football field away from the start and it was all uphill.  We hooked the team to the snowmobile; which JR was nice enough to drive.  I now know that he did it with the intent of seeing me keel over from heart failure.  I know because he told me and then he laughed.  This is my friend!  Hmmmm  I started out ok, but quickly started gasping for air and then the legs went jello in the deep snow.  At one point I was ready to drop and roll and just let the team go.  To my horror they were videotaping as I arrived half bent over, unable to communicate and gasping for air.  I’m convinced that I’m so tired right now because I was severely oxygen deprived this morning.

Bruce said the team started out great.   The trail crew had taken a drift buster out for about 3.5 miles before it couldn’t pull the snow anymore.  This was a depressing sight for the mushers as many knew it would be hell from there on out.  From this point, they went down to a single snowmobile track.  There was about 16-18” of new snow on the trail and the team had to work.  Bruce made the conscious decision to run the team conservatively since they hadn’t seen snow like this all season.  He did not feel confident just letting them roll.  The team climbed well and handled the rollers well.  He held them back on the downhills because there was lots of punchy stuff to stumble in and he didn’t want injuries.  At the turnaround one of Bruce’s new leaders started to pout and understandably so.  This was a dog that had most likely never seen this type of trail and was accustomed to the firm footing of the Alaskan trails.  Our 9 year old Sedona kept him moving though and worked her hiney off.  Another new dog we acquired also soured a bit in the conditions.  The team went flat.  At about 18 miles in he was passing an 8-dog team head on and an 8-dog team behind the one he was passing decided to pass from behind.  This resulted in a head on crash with our leaders.  The crash was hard enough to be heard.   Thankfully, at this point, our two dogs appear to be ok, but this could have been a disaster. 

Then the trail started firming up as they returned home and the new leader perked right back up.  The last 5 miles Bruce had to stand on the pad to keep them under 15 mph.   This meant that the team had alot left in them; which means he was too conservative.  This run puts us in 6th place about 12 minutes out of first place.

JR Anderson had a bad encounter with an alligator leader from another team; which freaked one of his dogs out.  The dog broke his neckline and almost got run over by the sled.  The dog was shaken up enough that upon encountering someone else on the trail the dog just laid down.  So JR wound up carrying the dog from about the halfway point.

Jerry Bath was very happy with his run especially since he has a bunch of young dogs on the team.  The team had seen a few runs in exactly these types of conditions and handled it very well.   Al Borak pulled off 10th place much to our delight.   He ran 6 yearlings and 4 adults.  They had flawless passes and a perfect run.   All of the young dogs handled the conditions brilliantly and were happy when they came in.  The old dogs were wishing they had been overlooked when the team was selected and were eager to get in their boxes.

To put a cherry on top of our crappy race start sundae, the trailer decided that it wasn’t through with all the bad juu juu.   So we found ourselves, once again, with the police on our tail.  As we were heading down the highway and attempting to get in the middle lane to turn left the brakes kept faulting.  We were herking and jerking down the road like we were driving one of those Mexican lowKicking riders.   It was so bad we had to stop in the middle of the road and stop traffic completely as we tried to unplug the brakes.  Thankfully, it wasn’t Officer Younglove so the officer merely provided us assistance as we inched our way  off the road.  He must not have been aware of our law breaking reputation…. Wink wink!

So to go along with our three busted tires, faulty sensor that was preventing us from exceeding 50 mph,  we can also add faulty trailer wiring.   Yeah!

Tomorrow’s stage is in Alpine.  The forecast is cold weather and no new snow.  They got snow from this storm so we’re just hoping for a groomed trail.

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Episode 3: Busted In Yellowstone

PrankFurred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

Episode 3: Busted in Yellowstone

 Our seasonal family is now flirting with the idea of becoming convicts.  We’ve been walking the edge since we arrived in West Yellowstone; dangerously teetering back and forth between lawful and unlawful.  It started when we made the conscious decision to ignore the sign that said, “NO Overnight Parking.”  The rebel in us spoke loud and said, “Oh hell, what’s the big deal?  We did it last year!”  So we not only parked our huge rig right in front of the sign, but we did it for several days straight.   It made us feel alive!!  That was until we got a big sign posted on our window telling us to move.  So we sheepishly tucked our tails between our legs and moved; which wound up being more than a ¼ mile away from where we are staying.  It must have been the lack of oxygen from the long walks back and forth to the dogs because something tapped into our rebel juices again and we got a little more lawless.   You may have seen our Facebook post where we videotaped Dylan being pulled to work on a kiddie sled behind a snowmobile.   Not only was this dangerous, but it produced enough laughs that we wanted more!  This led us further down the path of criminality.

That’s how it works with criminals; we break a small law and get away with it and CONVICTSthen the next one is bigger and so on until finally we wind up in the clink dressed in striped pajamas.   It’s an adrenaline rush and we were feeling it.   We decided to go big on our next one and this time we put three of us on a snowmobile along with a large case and then we pulled Al behind on the kiddie sled with 4 buckets of food.  This felt like a felony!  This crew was living dangerously and it was a rush!  We were feeling the rush of adrenaline and were totally cracking up and wishing we had brought the video camera.

Then suddenly we heard Al scream something undiscernible.   It was loud, but made no sense.  This made us all laugh harder.   Until we all simultaneously looked back to witness Al roll off the sled with the buckets of food rolling alongside him right smack into the local Police Officer’s car.  It was like watching a drunk fall down and spill his cans of beer all over.  Thankfully for Al, the Police Officer had anticipated a disaster and had stopped prior to rolling over him.   This shouldn’t have been funny, but seeing Al scramble out of the way gathering his buckets was a little too humorous for words. 

Al, being the polite guy that he is, set his buckets down as the Police Officer exited the car and went to approach him.  The officer said, “Whoa! Do Not Approach!  Stand Back!”  Al quickly stepped back not wanting to have guns drawn.  Bruce, who had stepped off the snowmobile, was standing with his hands behind his back and when the officer flashed him a glance he quickly brought his hands forward.  I believe Dylan was standing behind the snowmobile; at least I hope he wasn’t lying face down in the snow.  I, who must be the dumbest or biggest rebel not sure which, continued to sit on the snowmobile with my back to the officer, carrying a large black case in my lap, giggling like a junior high kid.  If I had been back in Detroit, I probably would have got thrown to the ground with a piece to the side of my head.  Can you tell I’m a rookie at this criminal stuff?

The police officer, who appeared to have just graduated from the academy, had wrangled himself somyoung officere real rebels and they were not going to escape unscathed.  Officer Younglove, as we’ll call him, proceeded to tell us in his most professional police voice, “Well, folks I am pulling you over for this!”  He then waved his arms dramatically in a scanning motion to indicate all of us, our debris and our snowmobile.  OH GAWD, stifle laughter!   Then he proceeded to tell us he didn’t think we were allowed to pull a sled behind a snowmobile.  He did know; however, that we were NOT allowed to pull someone in it because they might fall off and get run over by a car similar to what nearly happened here.   “Oh Lord, stop!, I was saying in my head as I quietly tried to stifle my laughter.   The officer continued, “I also DO know that you are NOT allowed to ride three on a snowmobile!”    The guys just stood there nodding their heads.  “It’s a safety issue,” the officer said. Oh, this was too much, I was going to die.   The officer asked for Al’s driver’s license and he handed it over.  He then asked Bruce who replied, “I don’t have it on me.” He asked Dylan who replied, “I don’t have mine either.”  He then approached me.  Here I am with my back to the officer, holding a black case and giggling like an insane escaped inmate.  He approaches and then takes a slight step back when he saw the case.  I quickly realized that he was concerned about its contents.  I almost said, “Oh, it’s just a laser!”, but something told me to not say anything as I realized he might think I meant laser gun.  Holy crap, I’m really about to burst with laughter now!  Wonder Woman here is carrying a laser gun!  Thankfully, he only asked for my license.  Knowing that I was also going to reply, “I don’t have mine either.” I could barely keep from laughing out loud.  It was too funny.  Four, supposedly responsible adults, out riding three on a snowmobile, pulling a guy on a sled with a bunch of dog food at 6 miles per hour and none of us have id on us.  Really?  The Officer seemed a little taken aback that none of us had any identification.  Who were these unidentifiable law breakers?   Then very seriously he said, “I’ll need your full name so I can look you up while I’m checking into the law on pulling a sled.”  He asked me for my full name, spelling, date of birth and middle initial.   The rebel in me started wondering if I was getting the ticket.  What the hell?  I’m the middle passenger, they all hop off the snowmobile, leave me sitting there and now I’m going to get the ticket?  Something very powerful told me to keep my mouth shut and I proceeded to answer the questions with a smile and a stupid shit eating grin.    Much to my relief he proceeded to ask the rest of the crew for their names and birthdates.  When he got to Dylan he asked, “Full Name?” to which Dylan replied, “Dylan Harris” The officer repeated, “Dylan?”  “Yes, like Bob Dylan” this brought forth a full snort of laughter from me as I realized that the youthful Officer Younglove probably had no idea who the aging rock star was let alone how he spelled his name.  Shoot, I was surprised even Dylan knew who he was!

After the officer got all our info he explained that while he waited for an answer on the sled towing law, he would call all of our names in to check on our driving records.  If everyone’s was clear, he would let us go with just a warning.   At which point we all looked at each other and someone said, “Does anyone have anything they want tell us?”   Al then starts to ask the officer if he can leave to go feed the dogs (such handler loyalty), but that powerful force that kept Monica’s mouth shut also stopped Al mid-sentence.   The officer returned to his vehicle and Al proclaimed he was just trying to make a break for it.  We started laughing and very stupidly proceeded to discuss making a break for it with the snowmobile.  One could take the snowmobile and the rest could scatter.  I told the guys if they left me I was turning them all in.  More loud laughter.   We were having far too much fun considering we were 5 feet from the back of a police car.  Then we heard a snowmobile approaching and realize Officer Younglove had called in reinforcements.   This was gut busting funny.  Another officer pulled up.  Oh my gawd, this isn’t happening.   We realized that Officer Younglove’s window has been open the whole time we were discussing fleeing.  Oh man we could be in deep doo doo!  

Then as if we aren’t stupid enough already, one of us mentioned it would be great if the officer had us on video!  Maybe we could ask for a copy to post on Facebook.  At this point, we were nearly peeing ourselves with laughter much to the chagrin of the officers.

The newest officer came over and asked us what was in the buckets.  Probably, hoping we were running cocaine by sled.  We replied meat for the dogs; which led into a discussion on the cost of meat and how expensive it must be to feed dogs.  Meanwhile, we were thinking, “Yes, so please don’t give us a ticket.  We’ve already had to take out a loan to pay for tires on this trip.”  

Finally, Officer Younglove exited the vehicle and said that we all had clean records so he was letting us go with a warning.  We were also not allowed to pull the sled behind the snowmobile.  We quit smiling.  The thought of pulling 4 buckets of meat ¼ mile in the altitude pretty much stunk.  The newest Officer then chimed in with a smile and said, “It’s a very dangerous thing doing what you did.”  We all nodded with our heads bowed looking like scorned children, except me I was still smiling.  He continued, “One guy was killed not too long ago for the same thing.  Well sort of.  After he fell off the sled, his buddy came back and ran him over.  Granted they were drunk, but someone could get seriously hurt.”   Oh, thank gawd we weren’t drunk!

The officers bid us on our way and wished us a good day.  We followed orders and got to pulling the sled by hand.  We see an officer every day now as they drive by our cabin.   We must be on the Yellowstone watch list.   So every day we walk and pull, walk and pull.  We’re getting good exercise for damn sure, but we’re exhausted.  The more I think about it the more I get worked up.   Why can’t we pull a sled behind the snowmobile with just the buckets.  Who cares if a bucket gets killed?  This mushing business is tough enough without this extra work.  Walking ¼ mile pulling 200 pounds of food, in altitude, in slippery/slimy snow in snowy/cold conditions.  It’s just not fair.

W180913_demonstration_lrge’ve decided we were treated unfairly and are going to stage a protest.  We are gathering all mushers in the area to come support us.  Every musher is going to come to the center of town and we are letting all our dogs loose.  They will run in and out of the shops, down the roads and terrorize the tourists.  It will virtually shut down the town as dogs dogsign7-7wreak havoc!  We will be carrying signs that say, “Musher’s Lives Matter!” and “Dogs Pull – Not Humans!”   We’re hoping this will get them to start treating Musher’s with sympathy and that the laws will change.  If that doesn’t work, we’re thinking of violently throwing meat. 

In the meantime, we will be setting up a Go Fund Me Account to help us pay for a motorized meat wagon.  This will be of great assistance in saving our physical health for the race.   So please help us!!

DISCLAIMER:    In all seriousness, the officers were extremely professional and friendly and we appreciate the work they do.  This is all in good humor and by no means intends to disrespect the police or anyone else.   We realize that, “We were very, very bad mushers!”

  Next Episode of Furred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed will be announced soon!

 

 

 

 

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Episode 2 “Shoot the Vehicle and Put It Out of Our Misery”

Furred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

Episode 2 – Shoot the Vehicle and Put It Out of Our Misery

On day two of our trip, we got a slow start.  Slow as in 2 hours too slow.  This was thanks to a faulty motel room clock and our faulty brains that never bothered to verify it.

What’s a couple hours when you have a 1,950 mile trip ahead?

Then, of course, we awoke to at least 6 inches of fresh new snow.   Gee, we had gone all season with barely a flake of snow and the day we leave we get bombarded. 

No big deal!

We finished our morning watering and headed out on the highway.   After hitting cruising speed on the on ramp, we quickly came to a dead stop.  Highway traffic was at a standstill due to the road conditions.   It got moving though and we settled into a comfortable 30 mph for a couple hours.

No big deal; we have the patience of saints  

Our 3 day trip was starting to look like it might turn into 5.  Quality time with the seasonal family; perfect!  During day 2 quality time, we all learned to be Wazers.  Yep, you read it right.   Waze is an app that allows you to report road incidents, traffic situations and even report police presence.  The more you report, the more points you earn.  The further you drive, you get more points.   You can even chat with fellow Wazers on the road.  We were digging this. This was a great way to kill time, garner a few laughs and provide a service to society all at the same time.  Win, win, win!   We even got our own Waze names; High Points earner Al is now known as PakwaPeaceful and low points earner Monica is MoDoggy.  If you see either of us on the waze app traveling the highway, feel free to drop us a chat line! We can talk traffic and pass the time away.  We’d love all of us mushers to get on Waze for Stage Stop so we can keep an eye out for each other.  It will be wazingly fun; think about it!

After we became burnt out of Wazing we were left to our own creativity.  Thankfully, this seasonal family is full of innovative minds.  In the course of just a couple hours, we had a few brilliant ideas that were going to change the sport of mushing.  I’ll share them with all of you provided you pinky swear that you won’t steal our brilliance.  Deal?!?!? Gorilla2

Idea #1 — Have you ever seen the commercial for FarmersOnly.com    If you have, I apologize because now you can’t get that bleeping song out of your head, can you?   If you are not familiar, just give er a google and you will hate me forever!  FarmersOnly.com is a dating website for farmers where they can go and meet girls and guys that share the same lifestyle!   See, you already know where we are going with this?  We decided there was a need to develop a MushersOnly.com …. “You don’t have to be broke alone at MushersOnly.com!”   Seriously, who has a harder time finding someone to date, let alone stick around, then mushers!  Nothing more appealing to a potential significant other than 30+ dogs!!  The initial application will have pertinent questions that will allow us to match you up with your perfect musher.  This is important because it would be a disaster to hook the 2 dog, skijorer, with Pointers and a job, Dude up with the 50 dog, wanna camp in the snow with my Alaskans, living off the grid, gal.  So we’ll ask the important stuff:

  1. # of dogs (self-explanatory why this is a necessity –  2 or 50?)
  2. Breed of dogs (folks can be very sensitive about their breed – no hurt feelings on this website)
  3. Race or recreational (Can’t mix wanna have fun with win or die types; won’t work)
  4. Job or no Job (Need we say more)
  5. Location (The 2 dog cart gal in Florida won’t be a good fit for the 30 dog Alaskan dude)
  6. Type of sled you prefer (This is like dating someone with a piece of crap car)
  7. Races won (Appeals to the ego types)
  8. Brand of dog food (This would be like mixing religions)
  9. Type of harnesses (Half harness folks and X-back folks just don’t get along)
  10. Preferred # of dogs on a team (2 can’t keep up with 12)
  11. Night running or day running (Says a lot about how the dates will go)
  12. Camping or no camping (Same as above)
  13. Typical age, sex etc. questions

We are confident this will be the next great thing.   We’ll be hooking up mushers left and right and when they get divorced due to the dogs, they’ll have a place to go to start over.  Perfect!

Another innovation that came out of this quality time was by Dylan and only Dylan.   None of us can take any credit for this brilliance.  This guy is always thinking and analyzing.  His bobsledanalytical mind came up with an idea that tops even the sit down sled.  We are talking a lie down sled.  He is going to invent a bobsled type of dogsled where you can lay horizontal in it!  I guess he likes to sleep?!?!   There will be room for a dog or two, of course!  It will have brakes and a window; have to give the impression you’re driving this thing.   It will have built in GPS for those races that allow and all the comforts of home; built in headphones, cup holders and backrest.   The best part is if the trails are like last year’s Iditarod, it’s no big deal if you tip over because you are perfectly encapsulated; warm and protected like a bug in a cocoon.  When you stop, you just reach out the door and set your snow hook.  He was going to call it the Bob-Dog, but why give Bob all the credit?  I think he should make his name in the sport and call it the DylanSled.

I’m sure this high level of entertainment I’m describing is making all of you want to hitch a ride with us next year, but before you get hasty I must get to the not so fun part.  In the midst of our random stupidity we must stop to feed ourselves; which we did.  Lord help us if Monica has to skip a meal.  After the meal, we returned to the truck to discover that we had bent the rim on one of the brand new trailer tires and you could actually hear it hissing.  It was like it was hissing directly at us like an angry viper.  The seasonal family stood there processing as they did the night before.   When the heck did this happen?  Was it when we hit that huge bump, remember?  Was it from maneuvering in this parking lot when we ran over the curb?  More p-r-o-c-e-s-s-i-n-g.   The chick recorded the moment for prosperity and the dudes got to work changing the tire.   It was pretty quick as we are now approaching NASCAR pit quality tire changes.  The seasonal family then returned to the truck to continue out onto the highway, but this time there was concern in the air.   We had only gone 3 states and had already blown 3 tires.   As the family sat quietly in the car; they each pondered how many more states did we have to go and what did the highway ahead have in store for us.

Stay tuned for Episode 3 “Breaking the Law” of Furred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

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Furred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

1453177583Imagine a dream where you are thrown in a car with 3 other people and forced to travel and live with them for 3 months.  Can you sense the impending horror?   Ever take a long trip with the family and by the end you just wanted to take a family member out?   Have you ever been in a vehicle so long your legs, back and buttocks are in tortuous pain?   Have you ever been so exhausted that even talking hurts?   If you can’t imagine any of these things, come along for a ride with a bunch of mushers.   This is our life 3 months of the year.  Life on the road with mushers is a comedy of tears.  If we weren’t laughing; we’d probably be crying.

The typical mushing rig usually consists of more than two people.  We call these folks our seasonal family.  Meaning, we aren’t related, but we spend so much time together in close quarters from October – March we practically become related.   It’s a love hate thing; just like family!  We all have one thing in common and that’s the love of dogs and this sport.   Aside from the dogs, we may not have anything else in common.  It’s likely we may not be close in age, we may come from different parts of the country or world, have different political views, different financial situations, different tastes in music, different tastes in food and most definitely different personal quirks and habits.   We take all this difference throw it into a tin can with wheels for 3 solid months, shake it up and pray for the best.  This would be a great reality show wouldn’t it?  The drama, the intensity, the emotion and the boredom; we are talking Emmy material.  Either that or the next great “B” Horror flick.

Furred and Afraid, Stinky and Delayed

                                                     Episode 1 – Vehicular Meltdowncar_automobile_130336

Rarely does a mushing road trip go without a hitch; that’s part of the adventure, right?   It is inevitable that something will break, not start, completely croak out, get lost or all of the above.   On our first trip this year it only took two hours before an irate driver pulled up alongside of us screaming and fist shaking.   Immediately the brain started to panic, “What, what …. Are the dogs ok?  Does he hate mushers?  Did we cut him off?”  This was when a huge part of the vehicle was observed flying through the air and the sound of grinding metal became evident.  Holy crap, we had a problem Houston!  In only minutes the “seasonal family” was standing by the side of the road inspecting our newest challenge.   A trailer with a missing fender, two missing wheels, a missing hub and the other one smoking and chewed up looking!  At first, the family members were in a little bit of shock as each of us tried to process the mess. This couldn’t actually be happening, could it?  Our family consisted of three dudes and one chick so you can imagine the processing was on completely different pages.  The chick, of course, was thinking about 10 things at once going 90 mph.  Full on survivor mode kicked in as only chicks would understand.  Us chicks can’t afford to sit stranded on the highway; we must act fast and concisely to get off the highway.  We don’t fix crap; we just make phone calls!   The dudes, on the other hand, were each slowly taking one piece at a time and processing.  Sitting on the side of the road is an opportunity to fix something; not a survival situation.  The chick meanwhile was saying, “The stores will close in an hour.  We need to decide what we need fast.”   She was googling her brains out.   The dudes were processing.   The chick asked, “I’ve got a place, what do we need?  We’ve got to make some calls quick.”   The dudes were still p-r-o-c-e-s-s-i-n-g.   The chick was now amped.  She was ready to just call and say I need some fricken tires; who needs details, they’re all round and black …. Just bring me some tires.   Finally, the sexes met on the same page.  An inventory of what was needed was determined and the chick had a store on line that had everything.  Problem was they closed in ½ hour and we were 45 minutes away.   The dude on the phone was reluctant, but the chick knew that she must use the sympathy card.  “Is there any way you could please wait?  We have a truck and trailer with 40 sled dogs sitting on the side of the highway.  This is not a situation where we can go to a motel and attack this in the morning.”   It worked…. Chick score!!

It was decided that the chick and one of the dudes would head for the store and the remaining two dudes would stay with the truck.   Time was now of the essence.   So, of course, the trailer hitch wouldn’t come off.  The hitch jack could not be put in the upright position because tongue was sagging and it was frozen solid.  Out came the propane torches, hammers and car jacks.   Chick began to have an anxiety attack.   Finally, after what seemed like hours, they were unhitched and on their way.  “Where are we going?” asked the driver?   Chick couldn’t get the phone to work.   Google is freaking out like it couldn’t handle the pressure.   She was unable to obtain the location of the store.  Meanwhile, driver is yelling, “Where do you want me to go?”  Tersely she responded, “I don’t fricken know, just stop the vehicle.”  She panicked trying to google what she thought was the name of the store.  It was wrong.   “BLEEP, BLEEP, MOTHERCellAnger BLEEP THE BATTERY IS DEAD!”  Phone sailed through the air as she grabbed another phone.   The tension in the car was as thick as pudding.  On the new phone, Google came up with different search results.  Minutes were passing.  FINALLY, she found the place.  They started on the highway and realized that they were now 20 minutes later than they originally told the guy.  They called him and told him they were on their way, but traffic was a bit slow.  LIARS!  He patiently said he would wait.  THANK YOU HALLELUJAH!!

I’m sure you’ve had to get somewhere and it seemed like it was taking forever and every car on the road was in your way.  This was the case as they headed to the store.   Good thing the chick wasn’t driving or there would certainly have been a ticket in the whole ordeal.   Like a true miracle, the store guy waited as promised and had everything they needed.  The bill was sizeable enough to urge one to start a Go Fund Me Account, but in this case they actually felt good about having to hand over a sizeable chunk of unexpected cash.  They were beyond thankful and would have paid triple.

Things should have been on the up and up at this point, right?    Wrong!  As they were driving back, it started snowing considerably and it was now dark.  It hadn’t snowed all flippen winter, but it was going to start snowing like hell now; how convenient.  As they were driving, they realized that in their hasty retreat they had paid no attention to what exit the trailer was actually left at.  Oh, that was just brilliant, heh!  As they argued and scanned the exits, they didn’t see the trailer. They recognized a street name and decided to take a wild stab at it.  They got lucky.  The remaining family were waiting patiently by the trailer and the work commenced.   Thankfully, one of the family members was a regular MacGyver and he took over.   The chick became just an annoying commentator trying to maintain levity in the miserable situation.    She did make herself useful by disappearing down the highway to retrieve the fender.   It seemed a lot closer while driving in then it actually was walking to get it.  If you’ve never walked along the side of the highway in the dark on very snow slippery roads with cars flying by, it’s not recommended.   Suddenly, the imagination started to get the best of her.  What if a car slides?  It will come straight for me.  What if someone pulls over?   What if it is a rapist?   Suddenly the chick was running in the ditches of the highway muttering, “Where is the bleeping fender!”   Then SCORE … there it was in all its bent up glory.    She quickly headed back in a trot, barely breathing and proud like she had just scored a big kill and was dragging back the meat.  As she walked back she saw the debris of many other stranded travelers; hubs, tires and various car parts.   She knew she was not alone on the big, miserable highway.

When she returned, the guys were deep into the re-build process and the snow just kept falling.   The chick paid close attention should she ever find herself having to re-build an entire wheel assembly.  First put on brake.  Than get to sqoozin the bearings.  Her word for putting grease in the bearings.   She made a mental note to pack rubber gloves for that nasty task in the freezing temps.  Then assemble the outer drum thingy yadda, yadda, yadda and finally the wheels were on and they were ready to roll.

However, a full on winter storm was in effect and the roads had become a slippery mess.  The crew was way past dinner time and so the executive decision was made to call it a night and head out in the morning!  The weary travelers headed to the nearest motel to find food and sleep.

Join us next week for Episode 2 “Shoot the Vehicle, Put it out of our Misery” of Furred and Afraid, Stinky and Delayed

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