Imagine 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
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, MOTHER 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