As we headed west, the music on the radio was interrupted by a woman’s voice:
“Follow the road. In 2/10ths of a mile you will run into a dead end as the road is closed for the winter. Follow the road. Follow the road.”
Well, it didn’t actually happen that way. She didn’t really tell us the road was closed; instead we came upon the road closed sign and she only had one thing to say, “Follow the road.” I was very proud of my reaction when that bitch in the box led us two hours out of our away. I looked at her (sitting in the radio) and I said, “Really? WTF? Are you kidding me? WTF?” She replied, “Follow the road.” I swear she had irritation in her voice. “YOU FOLLOW THE ROAD YOU PSYCHO BEEYATCH!” and then I turned her off. Take that! I felt I had been very self-controlled given that I wanted to take a bat to her and permanently end her career as a Logistics Director. I grabbed the atlas and confirmed we weren’t imagining our predicament and there it was, “Road Closed in Winter”. We looked at each other and shook our heads. We should have known. When they put that disclaimer on the screen that we had to accept prior to being navigated, we should have pulled out the atlas. We had more clues as it was not the first time this trip she had led us astray. This was our first time leaving directly from the kennel and traveling the northern route through the Upper Peninsula, Minnesota and North Dakota to our destination West Yellowstone. Normally, we leave from down state and head the southern route straight to Wyoming. Miss Logistics struggled with the northern route constantly telling us “You are entering an unknown area. Follow with caution.” After several of these we should have known, but we’re slow. Then in Billings she took us 1/2 hour out of our way via business 90. We wondered if she was getting kickbacks for guiding traffic through town. Even still, we continued to be blindly guided by the voice in the box. Thank God she didn’t tell us to drive off a cliff.
Needless to say, the entire trip took us a day longer than anticipated. As luck would have it, as soon as we turned the rig around the high winds they had been calling for kicked in and then it started to snow. Roads became fun as I now refer to them; simply FUN! We white knuckled it for a while commenting as we do every year about the insane, reckless truck drivers that seem invincible to road conditions. This never ceases to amaze us. We no longer drive straight through; we need our beauty rest. Besides who the hell can see at night. Bruce claims he can, but then he’ll be 80 and blind before he would ever admit he’s less than perfect! This worries me. I will have to figure out a way to get him to take an eye test at some point to ensure my future safety.
The trip thus far has reminded me that I am not aging gracefully. I REFUSE! Traveling with dogs is a constant reminder that I’m another year older. For starters, traveling for four days in a car used to be easy. Now, not so much. After several hours of straight sitting, the dog drops are a welcome reprieve from the front seat. However, climbing out of the truck is when reality hits me; you’re getting old chick. It usually starts with me forgetting that there are running boards to provide a step down. Instead I step out into thin air and whoosh I go straight down hitting a knee or something on the door or running board on the way down. This creates the first of many aches on the trip. As I get up I realize that I cannot stand exactly straight up. I am in a semi-permanent sitting position. I struggle on. Then my neck is curved over from hours of working on the computer and that is also in a new position. I am in the shape of a “C” with legs. By the time the dogs are dropped and put back into the box, I am fully straightened out so that I can return to the truck and re-bend myself into a non-human position.
3 days of driving and a few bad motel room beds later and I’m a chiropractor’s dream. However, I don’t want to try and find a chiropractor in a strange city. So I push on. I’m finally done in when I make the fatal mistake of throwing on a pair of those Trans Alaskan boots. When I wear them I feel like I’m wearing a pair of KISS platform boots. I can rule the world; NOT! So now I’m several inches taller and handling rowdy 55lb dogs in slippery snow as they twist and abuse me in every direction. Moving quickly in Frankenstein boots is nothing short of a joke and my spine twists to and fro. I decide to wear them on the snowmobile which forces my knees up into my face and torture myself through 60 miles of pain and exhaust. By day two of the boots, constant pain has set in. Bending over to booty puts the icing on the cake. I’m top heavy as it is and adding two inches to my legs puts unnecessary stress on the lower back from the new weight distribution. You engineers will understand that. By the evening of day two, walking to dinner is a level 8 on the pain scale. I need beer reliever fast. Bruce’s concern level raised and he became very supportive when he was threatened with having to do all the dog work by his lonesome. So our evening out was spent shopping for heat/cold packs, beer and pain meds. I slept on an ice pack; is that normal?
My evening of treating the back pain was relatively successful and I eased the pain to a 5, but I’m no dummy to this crap and realized that something was seriously out of whack so I began the search for help. Lo and behold, West Yellowstone had ONE chiropractor. This could make things easy and it could make things a little scary. What if he is a quack? However, this doctor was special; not only did he hail from Minnesota, but had had also worked on a grizzly bear! Bonus points! If he can manage a 700 lb. grizzly, surely he can handle an aging, crabby musher. The doctor did a couple little checks and said, “Holy cow, you’re all skewed. Oh wow, you are locked up bad.” This went on as he continued. After a series of somewhat intimate positions with a strange man throwing his body on me, I walked out of there smiling with a spring in my step.
So if the failing back wasn’t warning enough that I’m aging, I started to realize as we were still unpacking the truck two days later that aging mushers travel with a ton of extra gear. Like my brand new Brookstone Heated Neck and Shoulder Massager. This is the next best thing to traveling with your own masseuse. Bruce used to be my masseuse, but after 21 years of marriage a gal gets a little nervous with her husband’s hands around her neck! That and the fact that his idea of massage (having never had one) is a tad high on the painful side and can leave marks! Then there is the bag of pills, meds, concoctions, herbal remedies etc. Holy crap, I’m a walking Holistic Store! Essential oils for every ailment known to man; you got a problem, I have the oil. This Witch Doctor in training has cured warts, chest colds, gout and night terrors. I’m still looking for that oil that reverses the aging process. I’ll have to speak to my mentor about that.
I’ve brought bottles of vitamins to keep me feeling energetic and alive. I had to get rid of the damn Red Bull so now I just pop 5 pills to be bright and alert; what a trade off! Vitamin D since I’m a northern chick that rarely sees the sun and must take prescription levels to avoid insanity. Fish Oil for ensuring I don’t look like a dried up raisin from all the elements. Who the hell minds fish burps when you skin is soft like a baby’s ass?
Then there is the skin care regimen. The west does horrible things to a gal’s skin. I’m not running around with a whole lot of moisture to begin with and so two days on the road and I’m a lizard. That lizard flesh must be removed to retain any sort of youthful appearance. So exfoliating is a must. I packed my brand new exfoliating scrubbing thingy to do a really good job. I’ve practically removed the first layer of flesh leaving me with a mottled skin color and a whole host of new skin flaws I never knew existed. Where the hell did that scar come from? This washing/exfoliating routine must be followed by a Burt’s Bees Sage Mask for intensive moisturizing. Yes, I sit around with white goo all over my face at night in my motel room. You can hear my skin sucking it up like a vacuum.
So if a failing back and hundreds of pounds of gear to stop the aging process wasn’t enough to make me throw in the towel, the failing eye sight nearly did. I started to lose my eye sight at 40. I was the only one in my family who did not wear glasses and that made me feel like some arrogant prodigy. Then nature played a cruel joke and what seemed like days after my 40th birthday I suddenly started having trouble reading. Found out I needed glasses, which equaled pure devastation. I hated them. I resisted, but then eventually relented and now can’t live without them. Can’t read a damn thing if I forget them and every year it just keeps getting better. I worry what the future holds and keep torturing myself with images of glasses an inch thick that make my eyes triple their normal size.
For those of you blessed to not wear glasses, allow me to share how fun it is wearing glasses and participating in a winter sport. IT SUCKS! It is nothing shy of torture. First you walk out of the building and they fog. Every time you bend over they fog. If you move quickly, they fog. If you breathe, they fog. If you go back inside, they fog. Running dogs with them is akin to being blind. In short, they are always fogged, which fogging sucks!
Dogs love eye glasses. They love the feeling of glass lenses on their tongues and must continually try to get a taste. Sometimes it helps with the fogging, but not for long. Getting wacked in the face by one of those special dogs with exuberance overload is very special with glasses. I’ve had a few good ones that made me wonder if I would have to have the glasses surgically removed from my face.
I finally went to the eye doctor in exasperation. We decided to try contact lenses. Well, that was like teaching an old dog a new trick. I had to practice getting those damn things in. The first couple times I nearly freaked when I couldn’t get them out and wondered if I ever put them in. Panic ensued wondering what the hell would happen if it stayed in there for days. At any rate, I can now put them in fairly quickly, but they are not the perfect cure. I can run dogs in mine, but I can’t read in them. This is challenging for looking at feet and for reading your GPS. Typical training session: “Bruce how far have we gone?” “Read your damn GPS.” “Yep, did that. Just answer the flippen question; how far have we gone?” “You can’t read your GPS?” “If I could read my fricken GPS, why would I torture myself by asking you?” Then, I get the look and I never do find out how far we’ve gone. Worse yet, I’ve learned that contact lenses also fog a tad in very cold weather. I know am living life in a constant fog.
So let’s sum this up; I am barely able to walk, I’m a pseudo holistic expert with failing eye sight. Did I mention that the ski pants didn’t fit? Yes, all you ladies will understand the moment of truth. That moment when you have to put your ski pants on that you haven’t worn since last year. Will they fit OR won’t they? Well, the first pair I tried on gave a whole new meaning to muffin top. We are talking muffin top on steroids. A muffin made from beer. Imagine a beer muffin poured in to tight ski pants. Holy shit, this vacation was ruined on day one why did I even come.
We are having a great time seeing all our old friends and we’re very thankful we can still remember their names. We’ve also met some new folks and have written their names on our hands to ensure that we don’t screw up. Over half the teams are already in West Yellowstone and it’s been great training with other teams out on the trail in perfect conditions with the most beautiful scenery imaginable. I’m taking as many photos as I can manage so that I will remember I was here. Stay tuned.