Stage 3 was in Driggs, Idaho and it is the first time Driggs has been a stage in the IPSSSDR. It is a cute, little ski resort type town. The town welcomed us with open arms and provided some great food in a fantastic facility. The mayor was there to greet us and it was very exciting to feel the town’s enthusiasm for our sport. We booked a little cabin that became comically cozy, well at least in my opinion. It’s always tough traveling with others, but even tougher when you’re all forced into a tiny cabin when you’re tired and under racing circumstances. I thought it was quite humorous that we had to climb on Al’s bed and step over Kat’s head to get to the bathroom and that if we needed our luggage, the cot had to be lifted up. After a few of these moments, you had to giggle or you might cry.
We survived the night and can say we know each other just a wee bit better than previously J It was 15F degrees this morning when we arrived at the staging area; which felt exceptionally cold since we had all been thinning our blood in the warm temperatures out here this year. We are quickly becoming soft. The staging area was basically a road that dead ended and at the end of the road was a huge hill. We all lined up along each side of the road trying to stay on the thin patch of snow/ice that ran the length of the road, but only on one side. The snowmobile would definitely be needed again to get to the starting chute. We were pleased that we got there early to get a spot right in front of the starting chute; however, this wasn’t such a premium spot when it came time to leave.
So like Alpine, the snow here was crystallized ice. I walked up part of the trail and talked to the trail boss and he said the trail would be the same the entire way except that above 6500 feet it looked like winter, but there was no new snow. So we decided that our plan today would be to boot the dogs no matter what; for whatever that was worth. We figured, there were a lot of stages ahead and to further hurt feet could jeopardize the race. Given the potential hazards and all the climbs and descents we knew that this stage would be determined by how conservative or otherwise one wanted to be on the descents. After talking with others we learned that JR and Jerry Bath were going without boots. All the Streeper teams were going to boot and so was Dave Turner. Laboda & Redington had a mix of booted and non-booted. Al Borak and Monica Zappa booted only the rears. The rest I never saw. I must say it was very nice having the booty decision done immediately after we arrived as opposed to dragging it on for hours on end.
Bruce left the chute with Bud Streeper on his tail. Bud caught and passed Bruce at about 20 miles when his team went flat in some softer snow. The team was flat for about 3-4 miles, but was able to keep the chase. Bud stopped his team and Bruce passed again. At this point the trail got firm again and they kicked in another gear. Bruce finished about 1 minute in front of Bud. Bruce said the trail was beautiful, but had some dicey areas on it. There was a section about a mile long where the trail ran around the mountain and there was cliff with a sheer drop off on your right. Bruce ran his hard right leader; which was good for the head on passing, but a bit unnerving running tight along the cliff. The trail had about 5 miles of switch backs with a few aggressive corners. One in particular, Bruce found himself in the trees. They did some head on passing in the switchbacks, but it was in a section where you could see the other teams coming. He made it through without issue and was pleased with how the dogs ran. Everyone was happy and healthy; which is a great feeling.
Al’s team came in first today and the young dogs looked great. He had a nice run, but felt that all of our snow training was actually a disadvantage on the hard fast trail today. The teams haven’t seen hard trails like this all year.
We often refer to the Stage Stop as a roller coaster that you must ride and survive the dips and rises. However, this year it has been more like putting 15 mushers into a bottle shaking it up and dumping it out onto the table to determine the finishing times. So far each day we’ve got dumped in the bottle, tossed around a bit and then thrown out to surprisingly different results. I keep hearing Taylor Swift singing, “Shake It Off”, but the words are changed to “Shake It Up”! I’m not sure if this is better or worse than the roller coaster yet. I’ll let you know in about 5 more days. In the meantime, let’s shake it up!
Today, JR Anderson and Jerry Bath shook things up by taking 1st and 2nd place respectively. Congrats to both of them on their awesome runs. Whoop Whoop!! Then, if that wasn’t enough to stir things up, the Streeper’s 3rd team driven by John Stewart took 3rd place! Great run John; you must be a dog whisperer! Bud and Bruce finished in 4th and 5th place today. They had a nice chat while out on the trail; turns out they are planning on organizing a race in Nebraska mainly because it is FLAT! I’m still trying to figure out how Bruce had the breath to even have a conversation. After speaking with most of the mushers, they all had uneventful decent runs. Ryan Redington had a bad run having to bag his favorite dog and Dennis Laboda bagged the largest dog in his team. Jake also had a bad run, but not sure what went wrong. Hang in there guys, you’re getting tossed in the bottle tomorrow and who knows where you’ll get thrown out!
After the race we weren’t allowed to leave until all the 8-dog teams came in, but basically we couldn’t get out anyway. I quickly regretted having arrived early as it meant we would be the last to leave. Leaving involved having to back our gigantic rig down the road to a turn around. I was thankful that it was an out and back so that I wasn’t expected to demonstrate my backing up skills. They are entertaining at best. The wait seemed like forever and the crew got to see what happens when Monica isn’t fed. I am incapable of patience when I am existing on a ½ of stale croissant that I found in the truck. It was about 2PM when things started moving and by then I was seriously irritable. We were all standing around talking about how hungry we were when John Stewart spotted a bag of meat Jerry Bath left on his truck and he ran toward it yelling, “Food, Food, Food!” It was quite hilarious and I was thankful for the levity. It didn’t last long though, but I still managed to hold off and resist directing traffic.
It’s snowing in West Yellowstone right now and actually looks and feels like winter; what a concept. So now we have fresh snow on the trail. I think we should start talking about bootying tonight!