For 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 rolling 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 low 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.