Saturday, December 30, 2006

The eyes don't have it

Heed my warning: don't sleep with your contacts in! I've been doing it since I was 13...I've also been sleeping with my contacts in since then and now, all the years of neglecting my big brown peepers has caught up with me. A couple days ago my right eye exploded. Ok, not really but it did erupt in infection goodness and now, after a stern lecture from an optometrist named Dr. Coon, I'm not allowed to wear my contacts for at least a week. A week! At least my glasses are funky, but still, it's a royal pain trying to mush dogs with glasses. I can't wear my neck gaitor up around my face because my glasses fog up and I can't see and so my nose gets frostnipped. Plus, the dogs like to swat them off my face and because I'm so blind (glasses since grade 3, thank you very much) I can't find them for some time. My glasses! Sigh.
A couple days ago I bumped up the dogs to 20 miles. We're still on the four-wheeler so when I do get them on the sled, we can easily double that to 40. They're really strong now and still happy and enthusiastic.
I think Sam's coming with me today which is always fun. We'll see. We've got a bonfire tomorrow night at friends Erin and Aaron's house to bring in 2007.
Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day!

I hope everyone had a very merry merry. We had a great Christmas and are now wallowing in turkey satisfaction. On Christmas Eve many friends came over to stand around our bonfire and enjoy homemade treats and spiked cider. It was a lot of fun with around 20 or so people showing up to celebrate. Again, it was an interesting mix of people and I think everyone had a great time. Our friend Bob brought over an eight-foot inflatable Santa, which added a nice amount of creepiness to the party. Christmas morning we rolled out of bed, ate some quiche (which I made, ahem, thank you very much) and unwrapped gifts from each other, friends and my parents. Sam got me a SB 800 digi Nikon flash that I've been eyeing for some time and some mushing clothes to keep me warm. Thoughtful and practical...what a guy.
We got some lovely things and we definitely feel spoiled this year. It's strange though; there were a few gifts that friends had stuck under the tree at the party one of which was a lump of coal in an ammunition box, wrapped in tin foil and masking tape. Very funny but also creepy because we have no idea who left it. We're thinking it was friend Jeff who works on the railroad but we don't know for sure.
I might run dogs today, if not, tomorrow when I will bring the 12 yearlings here to our house. We've gotten a little bit of snow over the past few days and I think it's time to get on the sled.
Anyway, here are some pics from the party and Christmas day.

Lil' Eli approaching the giant Santa.
Eric and Eli checking out the spread.

Chris and Meg...not sure what they're doing with that fork.

The Old Murphy Dome crew sticking together. No wonder they have no other friends...
Sam being shy on Christmas morning.Bully canoodling with a toy duck my mum sent for him. He has no idea what to do with it or why it makes such an obnoxious noise.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

For most people, December 21 is the first official day of winter. For us here in the north, December 21 is the longest night: winter solstice. From now on we will gain light each day. Hooray
Sam's gifts are wrapped and nestled lovingly under the Charlie Brown tree. We also got a couple boxes full of gifts (even one for Bully!) from my parents. Thanks guys! We're having a bonfire Christmas Eve and we'll make turkey Christmas day. The usual. We got a free turkey from Fred Meyer yesterday. We didn't read the fine print on the coupon we had, so the guy just gave it us rather than go through any hassle.
Sam and I were going to take a couple dog teams into the White Mountains this weekend but we still don't have enough snow. Even though there have been mushers training in the Whites on sleds, this would be Sam's first trip and rather than have a rough trail with lots of hazards, we decided to postpone the trip so that his first time isn't a bone-crunching ride.
Training the dogs has been going well. They are very strong now and hard to hold back. The other day I hooked up 12 dogs, set the brake on the four-wheeler and was walking (running, actually) to the front of the line to unhook the leaders. Well, the dogs managed to pop the brake and when I looked back the four-wheeler was coming right for me but the leaders (Bull and Hazel) were still tied to the post. The result was massive tangle in which I had to call Ken to come and help me. By the time we got out on the trail I was sweating buckets. The rest of the run was flawless, however. I've been running at night because it's easier to see cars when we have to cross the road. The dogs also run better at night and when it's clear out, it's really beautiful. Anyway, we'll go again tomorrow. I might hook a dog or two up to a toboggan at the bonfire and give kiddy rides down the driveway. We'll see.
Happy holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My polar bear can beat up their polar bear

Well, this is my last day in Barrow. What a not-so-long, yet-very-strange trip it's been. I now find myself in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at, sucking the last bit of wireless out of the King Eider Inn. I was just informed that the washroom is for guests only and since I've already checked out, I can't go pee in their loo. Hmmm. Tricky. Very tricky. Instead of making a big deal (they are letting me loiter in the lobby until my flight) I might just have to pull a Trisha E. around back. We'll see. I'm also chugging their complimentary coffee like it's going out of style. I should probably stop drinking since there's no facility.
So. This morning I was at Pepe's for breakfast and the manager (owner?) Joe was telling me about how he has a museum in his house. He informed me he has a stuffed polar bear that measures 10 feet. "It's about three feet bigger than the bear in the lobby of the Top of the World Hotel," he said. Then he giggled (he's kind of a sketchy dude) and said, "My polar bear can beat up their polar bear." I laughed, a little too hard, and he got serious. "It can," he said.
I wanted to remind him that the beasts were in fact dead, and therefore not capable of fighting each other, but instead I nodded solemnly and bolted for the door. A while later, my cab driver told me that Friday night he was bombing along the point road doing about 80 km per hour when a polar bear sauntered out in front of him. He told the story with such gusto that my heart was racing. "What did you DO?" I half-screeched. He said he just sat there, in awe, and watched it. The troopers showed up a minute later to scare it out of town.
Ok, one more polar bear story.
Yesterday, I got dropped off by a woman cabbie on the beach of the Arctic Ocean to take photos of some old whaling boats and bones. I told her to come back in about half an hour. When she returned, I was still down on the beach, but I had left my camera bag in the snow bank where she dropped me off. She pulled up, saw my belongings but not me, and thought I had been dragged out to sea by a polar bear. When I finally did show up, she was near panic. I apologized and said I didn't realize that I shouldn't have done that. After hearing stories from a friend who lived in Rankin Inlet for a while about how a siren would be set off whenever a polar bear came into town, I just thought the same would go for Barrow. Not so.
On one of my walk-abouts around town yesterday I passed a house with a couple of German Shepherds tied out front. As I was passing, a guy opened the door and came outside. By his side was a little puppy, probably three months old or so. The puppy ran to me and I played with it for a minute, waved at the dude and kept walking. The puppy followed. I tried to shoo it off and told it 'go home'. It kept following. Finally I looked back at the guy, hoping he'd call it back. He didn't. "Just take it," he said. I almost did, but really couldn't. I resorted to using my big-boy voice and scaring the crap out of it until the puppy realized that going home was the lesser of two evils and trotted back to the guy, who let it in the house.
I sent my photos off the Chicago Tribune last night (they asked for 10, but I sent 14 because I have trouble editing my own work). They were received and the editor seemed pleased. I was so nervous coming here for this assignment but it worked out really well. Despite the darkness thing, there are some great shots to be had. I went to the Inupiat Heritage Center, the library, the grocery store, the rec center, a local craftswoman's home, bingo (bust) and just walked around town. I took a tour out to the point to photograph some old houses and walked along the beach. I like this place, it's neat, but after only three days, the darkness is driving me a little batty.
Here are some leftover pics (not the ones I sent to Chicago) from the trip. Even though some of the outside shots don't look like it's that dark out, I was using long exposures with a tripod.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Carhartts on a plane

Welcome back, sports fans.
Ok, I don't have time for long-winded post but here's a little teaser about Day 1 and 2 in Barrow, Alaska:
- Getting felt up (not in a good way) by a husky woman in security because my Carhartt bibs kept setting off the metal detector.
- Explaining to two half-cocked women on the plane that the white things in the sky were clouds.
- Realizing that the 'hour of twilight' in Barrow wasn't really light at all. It's dark here, and it's dark all the time. Creepy.
- Getting yelled at and then kicked out of Bingo for trying to take pictures. (I shared a ciggy minutes later with the woman who did most of the yelling...I think she had forgotten.)
- Laughing with my Philippino cab driver about getting kicked out of Bingo.
- Eating sushi as big as my head.
- Eating breakfast at the Mexican food place.
- Taking a self-portrait in front of Arctic Hair and Tanning in downtown Barrow.
- Watching the desk clerk make a face of disgust when I came down to the lobby in my long johns to get more coffee.
- Getting asked in the library if I knew whom Beth Ipsen was. Very Creepy.
Ok, I'll elaborate more on these stories and more in a while.
Things are going well here but, honestly, Fairbanks is enough wacky Alaska for me. I am, however, enjoying the running water, cable TV and wireless internet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There are no ethics in Christmas cards

Well now. All I have to say is: it ain't easy being cheesy (or sleazy). You will all see what I mean when you get our Christmas cards. They're cute. Ok? CUTE! AND FESTIVE!
Who am I kidding? Fromage. Meh. And if you don't get a Christmas card from us, you know why.
Anyway, I ran the huskies today and took out a 14-dog string. I only got run over once. It's a Christmas miracle. Fourteen dogs can muster up a lot of power. When I stop the team, which is not often when there are 14 dogs on the line, I set both the front and rear brakes, turn the engine off and make sure it's in first gear. When I began training the yearlings, they didn't know how to work as a team but they've learned and also caught on to the fact that when they do work together, they can pull the 500-pound ATV with brakes set. That's when I a) run beside the thing and hop on (a la Dukes of Hazzard) or b) throw myself in front of the four-wheeler and get run over which only slightly slows the team down. So all went well today. It also went well on Saturday when Sam came with me. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of Sam on the back of the ATV. He was a big help and I appreciate it. Are you happy, now?
What else? Oh yeah, I got a photo assignment for the Chicago Tribune which will send me to Barrow, Alaska, on Sunday. Barrow is the northern-most village and is very cold and very dark this time of year. I will fly in for the day to photograph the subject and the town and then fly home that night. Details still have to be worked out but I'm pretty stoked about the whole thing. What a cool assignment. I hope it all works out. I had an impromptu meeting (ok, we went for a beer) with the staff photog from the Associated Press last week and whad’ya know? He called today with this assignment for the Tribune. And the best part is, the subject is a dog musher!
So, anyway, I'll keep you posted. I'll be spending Friday and Saturday out at Windy Creek Kennel to run the dogs some longer distances and also to keep Gwen company. Ken and their handler will be at the Sheep Mountain 150. Ken won it last year and is hoping for another good race. Gwen was supposed to compete but has come down with a mysterious illness that has left her incapacitated. All her joints are swollen and she's in quite a bit of pain. It came on suddenly and so far has doctors baffled. So, I'll get some movies and some junk food and hunker down with her for a couple days. I'll bring my dogs with me.
Decorated the tree yesterday. We don't have much in the way of tree bling so I found some random things around the house to adorn the Charlie Brown branches. Sam even got a picture of me topping the spruce with a flying Santa on a weathervane ($0.99 at Value Village). I realize I'm telling you about photos and not actually showing any and yeah, there's a reason for that. Maybe tomorrow.
We're planning a Christmas Eve (housewarming, green card) party/bonfire here. Pass it on. (Purple monkey dishwasher)

Methamphetamine is just a fancy name for trouble

Ok, so I've been slacking on the blog. I have to go run dogs right now but stayed tuned. I've got stories and photos from the trail. Sam came with me on a training run on Saturday and though he was a little stiff, he was a big help and I think he might have even had a little fun (don't tell him that). We hacked down a Christmas tree from our yard and the house is looking very festive. Still no snow but we're coping.
Christmas cards are on the way...for those of you who haven't been kicked off the list...
I still need addresses for Gramma Rogers (you can email me), Libby, Theresa and Jeremy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bohemian by default

This week, for the first time in a while, I was actually busy. I was, if you will, a woman on the go. (I miss you Barb.) I got some freelance gigs, I ran dogs a few times and yesterday I did some Christmas baking. Now, I like Christmas, don't get me wrong. But gone are the days of panicked shopping, wrapping, consuming, buying...for me at least. Again, I like Christmas but in a mellower sort of way than even just a couple years ago. I guess it was Finland that made me see that you don't need all the crap to enjoy the season. We exchanged small, mostly homemade gifts, had a sauna and ate a fine meal. We still worked, just not as much.
So yesterday, I went out with Meg (Mumpkin) and got some neat second-hand decorations as well as some funky new ones that were half-off. It's not much but it's nice and it's enough. Then Meg and I tried our hands at making Christmas candy. Some of the candy was good. Some was really, really bad. I made a spicy peanut brittle, which is good, and some hard-rock cinnamon candy, which was bad. Meg made some cheesecake bites, which were good and some truffles, which weren't as good. The cinnamon candy didn't harden (I don't have a candy thermometer) and I put too much cinnamon oil in it (on Meg's insistence) and when I tried the goopy, red candy it burned my mouth really, really bad. Meg caught the whole thing with my camera (me chugging water from the tap and then chugging milk from the jug), but the pics are a little too dark. There were some useable pics of us showing off the goods however.

Here I am with my too-hot cinnamon candy. If this doesn't put hair on your chest, nothing will. Oops.

Here's Meg's tasty cheesecake. Well done.
Here I am packaging up some peanut brittle for Kelly in Whitehorse with a special ingredient from me.

And in it goes...I'm just kidding!!! We all know Kelly's not getting any. (I didn't actually lick it, either.)Move over Martha! That, by the way, is my fake smile. The thumb's-up is real but I much prefer the high-five.

A few days ago I ran Ken's Iditarod dogs while he was away and man, it was a lot of fun. There's still no snow, so we're still training with the ATV, which is really not much fun anymore, but running teams of strong, fast race dogs made me realize how much work training the yearlings really is. The yearlings are great and it's exciting for me to see them progress but they're still young and there are minor problems are just about every run. The race dogs however, know exactly what to do and they just go. Fast. So Ken's back now and it's back to training the yearlings for me which is good but I have to prepare myself for some tangles and fights and chewed lines. If anything, I'm learning how to stay calm in stressful situations.
Today, I'm making more candy to send out for Christmas and getting ready for John's birthday party tonight and a Christmas party tomorrow night.
Tis the season.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don't try the 'I'm crazy' run-by...

Yesterday morning I was upstairs when Hazel went berserk. Now, the dogs have different barks and howls for different occasions and usually I can tell them apart. For example, Ruffles barks 'Stop it! Settle down!' when the puppies are playing too rough, which is a different from her 'Someone's here! Someone's here!' bark. The difference is subtle but there is a difference. So when a moose comes into the yard the dogs have their 'Holy crap, there's a moose!' scream/bark. This is what Hazel did yesterday morning. I went to the window but instead of seeing a big moose, I saw a bushy, red fox skulking around near Hazel's circle. The fox, which I called Mary, completely ignored the crazed, gray dog just a few metres away. No, Mary had other plans.

Just past Hazel was a big, fat raven (not my dog Raven, an actual raven) scavenging for some meat scraps near the chopping block where I, you guessed it, chop the meat for the dogs. Mary Fox crept closer then bolted toward the big raven, which cumbersomely flew to the nearest tree for cover. This made Hazel go nuts, but the other dogs couldn't see what was happening so they just sat there on stand-by waiting to burst into a frenzy. Mary sniffed around where the raven had been but then turned her attention back to the bird in the tree, which by now had squawked for backup luring several more huge ravens to the area. Mary circled the tree a couple times, tried halfheartedly to jump up in the tree, then lost interest and trotted into the woods leaving Hazel still barking and a disorder of ravens ready to defend their meat scraps.

Since the fox was gone, the ravens turned their attention to Hazel. Time went by and when I looked out again (because Hazel was suddenly silent) about six ravens had surrounded her. She tried to scare them with her bark but they sat, just out of reach, and stared at her. Eventually it must have freaked her out because she stopped barking and retreated into her house. The ravens just sat in a circle around her house. It was really creepy. Finally I let Bully and my Raven outside and they clumsily bounded into the birds sending them flying off in all directions. I haven't seen the birds since.
Wild kingdom indeed. I hope Mary comes back; she was a great source of amusement.

On a sidenote, I wanted to explain that the majority of my blog titles are song lyrics. However, sometimes titles are inside jokes or things I've heard or witnessed. In this post's case, the title is something the doorman said at the Marlin last night. A drunk woman and her man stumbled into the bar and when the doorman told them there was a cover charge, they both mumbled something inaudible and kept marching toward the bar. A guy sitting next to the doorman asked what happened, and the doorman said "He says his wife has the money, but she just did the 'I'm crazy' run-by." It was pretty funny. The doorman told the bartender not to serve them until they paid the cover charge. The woman took off into the back of the bar with the doorman in hot pursuit but the drunk guy just sat in the corner, enjoying the music and hoping not to be kicked out. Sam, being the ever generous beer drinker that he is, gave the drunk guy some beer. We left shortly after that.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

You look like a monkey...

Happy Birthday, Sam!
Today my lovely is...44! And honestly, he doesn't look a day over...44. He has to work today, but we're going to see some live bluegrass tonight at the Marlin. All are welcome to come and buy Sam a drink. I made him a photo montage entitled 'One crazy summer' with many photos of our cabin-building project this summer. I found a handsome frame with a a nice matte and I think it looks pretty spiffy. No one ever said I wasn't crafty. Then I made him some blueberry birthday muffins and gave him his spankings.
Last year I was in Finland for Sam's b-day and had some tourists step out of the sauna and sing Happy Birthday to him over the phone. Funny stuff.
I wanted to go over Sam's greatest accomlishments on this, the anniversary of his birth.
He married me. There we go.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Home again, home again jiggety-jog

Well, well, well. Ahhh. Where to begin? First off, I made it back home to my man and my dogs relatively unscathed. It was minus 40 when I left Whitehorse and by the time I got to Beaver Creek (four hours up the Alaska Highway) it was minus 45. That's just cold. I had the heat cranked and still had to use chemical heat packs in my boots and gloves to stay warm. I almost finished the 12-hour drive in one shot (which is surprising considering I had very little sleep and was mildly hungover) I got to within an hour of Fairbanks and started to nod off, so I had to pull over. I got home after midnight and after a reunion with the hubby I crashed. Hard. Whitehorse was a really, really great time and I miss it very much, but it was nice to come home. Home to a cozy, warm log cabin and a loving family. Visiting friends and family and mushers took up most of my time whilst in the 'Horse, but the week was centred around Trish and Graeme's going-away party on Saturday night. A skeezy local bar was rented out for the occasion and it was awesome. A few locals meandered in and out but few stayed to par-tae with the 75 or so who were there to see T and G off. It was a cool mix of people and I enjoyed visiting with some I hadn't seen in a long time. Then there was the tequila. Nice. Dancing, live music...the usual. My friends Tara, Kelly and I were a few of the first to arrive and were walking to find a seat when an old Casa Loma(that's the bar) regular grabbed Tara's arm. He motioned to the enlarged photo of Trish and Graeme that was in place for people to sign, and shook his head. 'They're so young,' he said to Tara. She shrugged. 'Yeah, I guess they're young.' The old man looked at the floor and shook his head. Then we realized he thought this was a memorial. Tara laughed. 'They're not dead!' she said. 'They're moving away.' The old man breathed a sigh of relief and proceeded to take a tupperware dish over to the food table and fill it up. Hilarious. The night was a good one and ended around 2:30 with the bartenders stealing our drinks away and telling us to get the hell out.
Anyway, it was a good trip. I brought back the coveted Canadian items requested and will be delivering them today. Mary, expect a box of Crunchies coming your way soon.
So here are a few pics of my trip to Atlin where I was reunited with two mushers who I worked with in Finland and are now over here working with Hans Gatt. Some other random photos including a herd of caribou on the side of the road on my return to Alaska. Also, a few party pics. Sorry kids, no boobs or butts (we are a civilized people) but fun with friends nonetheless.

A herd of caribou near Haines Junction.
Hans Gatt's kennel and home in Atlin.
Me, Kel, Jules and Leighann
Genesee, Sue and me.

Heading into Kluane.
Kelly Slessor-Crowe-corn-on-the-Cobb with Jason (Jules' hubby)
Me and G-Funk. Dude, we're getting the band back together.
I need a sign like this.
Sami, Tina and I. They are Swiss friends now working in Canada. Small world.
Trish and Graeme singing King of the Road at the shindig.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Think of this girl before you change your name

The reason I love it here:
I got in my truck this morning and flipped on the radio. The announcer said "It's minus 35 out there folks, so if you're heading to the pond hockey game on Chadburn Lake, you might want to pick up an extra double-double."
I laughed all the way to Tim Horton's.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A blonde, some handcuffs and a big, fat stoggie

The time is flying here. It's been really great seeing everyone and I've even managed to pick up a few potential freelance assignments for February and March (one with the CBC and two with the News). I have two interviews before I leave for stories I'm working on for a magazine in Fairbanks, so it hasn't been all play here. I'm relieved that I'm starting to get busy again. Being idle and having to rely on things like housework and cooking to keep me busy really, really made me want to stick my head in the oven (I had to wait for the salmon to finish cooking first). But thankfully I've got work coming in now and the urge to broil my noodle is gone. Heading to the KK tonight for foosball and one-dollar draft. Just like I get teased in Alaska for being Canadian, I'm taking a lot (A LOT) of flack here for moving to Alaska. I try to explain why (for the dogs, of course...kidding...Sam) but it's fruitless. We'll just have to move to Canada sooner than we thought....
Here are some photos of my old desk at the News and Steve, the owner of the paper, sporting his nice beaver hat...(where was Babs anyway?)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here today, Ghana tomorrow

So I made it Whitehorse after 12 hours of driving. I stopped only to pee, flip off some pervert who honked at my ass as I was peeing (there are rest stops, but they were locked up for the winter), and get gas (fuel). I did stop briefly in Beaver Creek (I said beaver) and I think I set the world record for shoving a burger down my gullet. Even the waitress was amazed. Well, I had to go, no time to do something silly like...digest! So I got the horse around 9ish at night, said my hellos to Kelly (the skank) and then we were off to find food and/or beer but about half a block from her house, a weird smell started coming from inside the truck. I know what you're all thinking, but no, it wasn't my stanky been-driving-for-12-hours odor. All of a sudden, the cab filled with smoke (and not in a good way) After suffering a mini heart attack, I spun around and parked the big beast (It's a mucho old POS beater pick-up, but it works...scratch that...worked). This morning I dropped it off at my old mechanic's and bing, bang, boom, it's $400 later and not fixed. They needed a part, but managed to jerry-rig it for now, so at least it's not smokin' anymore. I proceeded to visit with all my old cohorts at the Yukon News, had lunch with Trish and Graeme (the friends who are moving to Ghana and the reason for my trip to Whitehorse) went and saw Juliann and her two 20-month-old twins (Laker and Leif) and Tara and her new baby Maddox. Cute babies but I'm still not interested in popping any out...oh let's see...EVER. Tonight it's toboganning at minus 30 (yes, it's cold here too) and then beer with Trish and Graeme. Tomorrow I'm off to Atlin to see two Swiss friends who I worked with in Finland and are now working with a musher in Atlin. (can you say small world?) Anyway, dinner's ready. Here are pics of Shadow the cat and Kelly and Danny. Greets to Tracey and Claudia! Oh yeah, and happy thanksgiving to all the 'Mericans reading this. (Canada celebrates it in October) Peace.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A sidearm and low self esteem

Well. Where to begin? So much to tell. I ran dogs yesterday and while the first run was fairly smooth and the second was probably one of my top three worst runs of all time. It was very frustrating and I'm trying to chalk it up to a learning experience for me and a warning to the dogs not to make that angry ever, ever again. The dogs, I'm sure, will not heed this warning, but I'm puttin' it out there. The second run went something like this....

I put Puck and Hazel in lead (they are both two year olds who have run in lead together for me with few problems before) with six yearlings, my boy Strider and an older "reliable" leader named Kitty Cat in the team as back up. We hadn't even left the yard when Puck and Hazel started fighting. I ran ahead, untangled them and called for them to keep going. Instead they turned into the bushes. Just getting out of the yard is the big thing because out on the trail they usually settle down, but leaving home with 100 dogs barking like mad all around them is distracting and it's a common place for a clusterf**k to happen. So on the short 100-metre route to the main trail I had to stop the team about six times to line them out. By the seventh time I was sweating (at minus 30, I was sweating!) and, to my chagrin, felt defeated. The yard wasn’t even out of sight. I put every other dog I had in lead and no one would move forward. Strider simply lay down and then my "reliable" leader balked and tangled the team for the millionth time in about 10 minutes. My instinct was to just go back because on top of my dog problems, the four-wheeler wasn't starting right leaving the yard. But I continued on, metre by metre, trying to keep my cool and encourage the team. Anyway, I kept switching dogs until finally I ended up with Puck and Hazel in lead again. We made it about 20 minutes down the trail when Hazel saw a booty on a downhill and, at first, trotted right past it. A second later she decided she would like to eat it and turn around (on a downhill) to get the booty. The run went on like this for about an hour,(notice my leaders turned around) with me stopping about every five minutes to untangle, freak out and swear at the sky. By then, the four-wheeler had completely stopped working and the dogs had to pull-start it whenever we stopped. At least I was able to keep warm by constantly jumping off the machine and running up the line to fix the dogs. Eventually I realized that my state of mind was the problem and calmed down. Anyway, the trip home was much better (it always is) and little Kitty Cat came through eventually when, out of shear desperation, I tried her in lead again. We got home eventually and were treated to a nice sunset.
Last night I covered the Top of the World Classic (NCAA Division I) basketball tournament for a newspaper in Missouri. It was cool covering such a big event with lots of media and people who think they're important.

So here I am (I'm sitting on the floor) with the local sports TV guy beside me. Notice how (being such hard-working professionals) neither of us are actually shooting the game...we're both just watching with our cameras cocked and ready but we're not actually looking through them. Sam took this photo (he was also covering the game) and I thought it was hilarious. It's also funny because the TV sports guy is a sorce of constant jokes for me. It's a nickname thing. His last name is do the math.
I got home from the game at around 11 p.m. and had to write the article. I was up until 3:30 a.m. writing and had to get up at 7 a.m. this morning to go to a gun course that I signed up for some time ago. The course is a two-day workshop on how to shoot handguns (revolvers and semi automatics). Ok. How can I put this lightly? Alaska scares me sometimes. I'm taking this course so that if I'm out on the trail with the dogs and a moose decides to attack, I can defend them. That's all. That's the only reason. The other people in the course were there to defend themselves or their motor homes or whatever. I'm serious. It's really creepy. One woman said she was a homemaker and a mother of six and that she had "had some encounters with some people" in the past. So now what? She wants to shoot them? The best part was the video. It starred some washed up actors including the beefy, moustache brother from Simon & Simon. It was a video about women and guns. (Scary, right?) The woman in the show wanted to learn how to shoot to protect herself but, of course, before she could learn anything, she had to have ear protection to match her sweater and she made plans with the other lady shooters to go shopping after a day at the range. I was definitely laughing (and snorting) the loudest but we all had a good chuckle. We had a two-hour lecture by Joe Alaska Cop who talked about gun laws and when it’s OK to shoot someone. (I'm not even close to kidding) We looked at different kinds of guns, opened them up, felt around...At one point at I was holding a Glock and just had to laugh. Tomorrow we actually get to shoot live rounds and have to take a test. Then we can get a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Scary, RIGHT? Yeah. Man, this place is so whack it's dope. (Not really. Sam read that line in a magazine article and we laughed and laughed.)

Check out (Chris, you'll love this). It's all your favourite movies reenacted in 30 seconds. BY BUNNIES! Hil-larious. Seriously funny stuff. The unbleeped Resevior Dogs is my fav, although Jaws kills me too.
So that's it. I leave for Whitehorse on Tuesday or Wednesday and will try to post some photos of the debauchery that's sure to ensue back in Canuckland (Sans handguns of course.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

There's no single explanation

There's no central destination.

I went to the coffee shop with Meg this morning and guess what? They were out of coffee! I almost yanked the barista over the counter but instead, on the urging of Meg, tried decaf. Never again I say! Gawd. What was I thinking? No familiar jolt. No spring in my step. No....zzzzzzzzzzzz...oh man, sorry, drifted off there. I won't say which coffee shop was out of coffee but it starts with Lu and ends with Lu's.
Chatted on the phone with Sam's dear friend Mary from KC. Man. If all his friends are that nice, I better dial down the 'tude a notch before I meet them all in person.
Ran dogs yesterday and froze parts of my body I didn't know I had. Online it said that up in hills (where I train) the wind chill would make it feel like minus 50. And yeah, it did. I had those chemical warmers in my mittens and my boots and my hands and feet were still cold. I had something in my eye so it kept watering and eventually froze shut. I'm still using a four-wheeler, as there is still no snow. I mean, really, what fun is a nice cold Alaska winter with no freaking snow? The machine almost didn't start and the seat was frozen solid so it made for a pretty uncomfortable ride. The only consolation was that the dogs were amazing. They're handling the 13-mile route very well. Even Bull who I have come to rely on as my most consistent leader is lunging in his harness whenever we stop. Usually, in the course of a training run, I have stop a couple times to untangle dogs or line them out onto the right trail. Fussing with them usually keeps me a bit warm. But yesterday, they were perfect so, really, I didn't have to stop at all. Except that by about seven miles I couldn't feel my feet or hands, so I got off and ran some laps around the team and did jumping jacks in front of my leaders. It mostly just scared the bajeesus out of them. I must have looked like a lunatic (more so than usual) but I have to keep from freezing some how.

This weekend I'm covering the Top of the World basketball tournament. It's an NCAA division 1 tourney with college teams coming from all over the Lower 48. I got a gig covering the team from Southeast Missouri State for the newspaper there. The team arrives today, so I'll meet them at the airport to introduce myself and get some (hopefully) funny reactions to the frigid temperatures here.
Also this weekend is my handgun course. I think Sam's a little nervous. Crazy lady with gun skills? Yeah, I would be too.
Well, I think that's it for now. I'm heading to Whitehorse in a week or so to say goodbye to Trish and Graeme. They're two great journalist friends who are moving to Africa to work. I have a list of things to bring back from Canuckland so if anyone around here wants anything, let me know. Though I haven't got my green card yet, I did get a letter saying that I'm now legal and that the card is on its way. I am now a permanent resident of the US. God help us all. Me especially. Are you there, God? It's me Springy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cut the pumpkin cheesecake

So, as a diversion from the craziness of the last post and all the comments, I'm adding a new post. I really don't have much to say. Hmmm. Oh! The election. Republican Sarah Palin is Alaska's new governor. We were all disappointed and honestly a little shocked around here. Sigh. Another God fearing, pro-lifer is in the driver's seat. Incumbent republican Don Young retained his seat in the US congress. It's funny, his radio ads were obviously supposed to bolster his campaign but if I could vote here, I would have voted for his opponent partly because of his ads. They were meant to slam her but did just the opposite for many. They went something like 'Diane Benson ran for governor as a Green party candidate. She's for gay marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana AND she's opposed to drilling in ANWR and wants an immediate pull-out of troops in Iraq...'
I just have to laugh because the first time I heard the ad I thought 'she sounds great! Sign me up.'
But no. Not to be. She did get around 40 per cent of the votes, which is pretty encouraging.
And because the democrats now have control of the house and the senate, the focus on drilling in ANWR will now be dialed down a bit. The caribou will live on... for a while anyway.
Most people here want to drill in the refuge. I read the other day that in the 80s Chevron drilled a test well in ANWR (on the sly) and came up with nothing. That's the thing. They're going to destroy, not only the diverse ecosystem that is ANWR, but the porcupine caribou herds that use ANWR as not only a home but a calving ground and they don't even know how much oil is there if any. The caribou will be wiped out and the way of life for the Gwitchin people of Old Crow, Yukon, will also be destroyed. Anyway, now I'm in a mood so I better go.
Here are pictures of Bull and one of the newest cabinet installed. Yes, those are cookies on the counter. Margaret made them and I was determined to eat the whole batch, but I got to number 4 and now feel sick.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell

Chopping wood at minus 20 is really, really easy. The wood is frozen and therefore splits like butta. It makes you feel a lot stronger that you actually are. Sadly, these are the things that make me giddy. Frozen wood. (I said frozen wood.)
So I didn't get my green card yesterday. I did, however, get my work authorization card. The card won't allow me to leave the US but it will allow me to work. On the level, that is. Now I can invoice the people who owe me money from freelance jobs I completed this summer but who haven't paid me because, well, I wasn't authorized to accept it. Sweet. The card is very official. So much so that you really just have to laugh. It's splattered with 'Homeland Security' and 'United States of America.' It has my fingerprint on the front. It also has a picture of me on it. Now, let's get one thing straight. It takes a hard night of drinking for me to look bad. But, in this case, I hadn't had a drop of moonshine in some time and this photo, God in heaven, it's bad. I mean, it's really bad. I really, honestly look like a felon. The dude who did my fingerprinting took it. The camera was posed at a low angle and I have this smug look on my face that looks like I'm thinking 'Yeah, I just murdered someone. Whadya gonna do about it? Punk.'
I swear. It's awful. Even Sam, who tells me I'm beautiful first thing in morning before I've had my bucket of coffee, thought it was horrible. I was going to scan in the card so you could all see just how bad it is and have a good laugh, but I can't do it. It's that bad. I'm all for making fun of myself, but people, this is just too much. So instead, here's a picture that most resembles it.

I'm not kidding. Change the shirt and give him some tiny boobs and this is me.
Sigh. More trail work today. Also, we're working on the oil monitor because some idiot put gasoline in the fuel tank instead of diesel. Maybe I'll go chop some wood to make myself feel better.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You had me at suburbanite

Winter is here and JC it's cold. (about minus 18 Celsius during the day and colder at night)
Yes, friends, it will only get colder. Sigh. And darker. But, I'm getting prepared. This week I will purchase full spectrum light bulbs to combat the effects of the decreasing daylight. In short, each year around December and January, I want to stick my head in the oven until it's about medium-rare. That is to say, I get sad because, are you ready for this? I get SAD. I don't know about the name, but I do know that despite leading an active outdoor winter lifestyle, I call my father annually around those darkest months and tell him that either I'm moving back to Ontario or announce some other, equally rash, decision. Because Fairbanks is farther north than Whitehorse, it will be even darker here: just a few hours of real daylight at its darkest. I do have to say that Finland was very dark. We were above the Arctic Circle and had a month of polar nights (where the sun doesn't rise above the horizon.) That was tough to take and I again called my dad, who has been saying for years that my problem is the lack of sunlight. I must admit, on the day in Finland when the sun did peak up again, I was on a dog sled and came up over a ridge to feel the sun in face for the first time in a month and honestly, it was euphoric. Not to get too cheesy (too late) but it was a feeling of joy I won't soon forget.
Anyway, this year I'll be ready and will keep busy training the dogs and getting ready for the Quest 300 in February. (The Quest 300 is a 300-mile qualifying race for the longer, 1,000-mile Yukon Quest.)
I've bumped up my two teams of 10 dogs to 12 miles every two days. We're still running with the four-wheeler because there isn't enough snow to get the sleds out. The 12-mile trail is a really bumpy, winding route that has several road crossings and is therefore a little scary. But, looking on the bright side, when I'm nervous about a trail, I stay warmer because my heart's pumping like crazy.
So, I've been staying nice and cozy bouncing along behind my team.
I sent a portfolio package to the Associated Press yesterday in hopes of getting on as a stringer (regular contributor) for them. Fingers crossed. We're expecting my green card this week. (Toes and fingers crossed)
Had breakfast with the girls of OMD this morning. They're a group of musher friends who live up on Old Murphy Dome road (where I'm training the dogs). So we ate and gabbed and ate some more. They have some pretty hilarious mushing stories and some sound advice for a neophyte like me. I came home and worked on clearing brush from the trail that Sam put in yesterday. The sun went down, the full moon rose and the temperature plummeted. I was bundled up and had a fire going so it was nice being outside for a while.
I'm a little worried about Bull. Great lead dog, but since I've had him I've spoiled him rotten which includes a toasty warm spot on the couch inside the cabin. If he's outside for more than 10 minutes he tiptoes around like he's walking on hot coals. Each morning we go out to pee and he sprints back to the door and the couch. Sled dog. Pfffftt. Here are Bull and Strider chillin' on the couch with Hazel looking for something better to do. This was after Friday's run.

Raven and Strider have also taken quite a liking to the couch. I didn't feel so bad when I went to Julie's for breakfast and there were about half a dozen sled dogs in the house. Ruffles and Hazel will come in but just pace around until I let them back out again.
Side note: Sam's downstairs installing the last of the cabinets and, I'm not sure what yet, but something happened and, wow, I've never heard such a string of curse words.
Now he's muttering 'listen to your wife, listen to your wife.' I swear to God that's what he's saying. I told him it looked fine and to just leave it, but he's a perfectionist and had to fuss with it. Now it's cracked. Let this be a lesson to all you guys out there. Listen to your wife. In fact, go give her a big smooch and tell her you love her right now. I'll wait.
Done? Good. Well done.
I signed up for a handgun course later this month. I need to learn how to shoot my pistol before those ornery moose start charging dog teams around here. The guy who's teaching it lives on NRA Lane. He promised comprehension instruction and cookies. I'm actually just going for the cookies.
Speaking of cookies, Sam and I are going to a 'chocolate party' this month and I'm wondering what I should make. Any suggestions? I'd like to try something a little more elegant that fiddle-diddles or cupcakes, even though I LOVE both of those.
I love cooking and baking in the new digs. So much space.
Anyway, that's it for now. You stay classy, world.
I'd like to give a shout out to Sheila, Pat and Ruthie. Miss you girls.

The girls of OMD. Michelle, Gwen and Julie. The reason for the acronym is there was (is?) a show called The OC, which I've never actually seen but apparently was (is?) pretty popular. We were thinking of making an Alaskan spin-off called The OMD, but then realized we have no scandalous gossip that makes for good TV.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Say hello to the dogfather

Sam comes home tonight! Yippeeee! Unfortunately for some of you, he will not be making his usual stop in Kansas City. This time. But soon. We'd like to be able to make the trip together so I can meet all the fab friends he's told me so much about. I'm also dying to see Jon and Nancy's castle and meet their dogs. So not now, but soon.

Symposium weekend was great fun. Mushers from far and wide showed up to speak and give workshops, mingle and try to sell the latest in mushing trends. I saw the most perfect sled - flexible and lightweight, though sturdy - for just $2,800. I'll add it to my Christmas list. I saw a lot of dog mushers that I knew from Whitehorse and got caught up on all the Yukon gossip. You know, the usual. So-and-so sold this dog to so-and-so. So-and-so's shacked up with this musher...and so goes the drama. The highlight for me was meeting and hanging out with Wes Rau. I call him the dogfather. He's a physical therapist from Oregon who works on sled dogs (humans too, but mostly dogs). I had wine with him and some other musher friends on Friday and I let it slip that I was having ongoing back problems of my own. I have been seeing a PT, went to the doc for many, many tests, had X-rays...the works, but they found nothing. Well hell's bells if Wes didn't flip me on back and clickity click my spine a few times more pain! Unbelievable. I still can't believe it. What a guy. Today I took his spine, knee and hip workshop for sled dogs and brought Bull with me. I found out why Bull crabs to the left when he runs and was able to work on his back and hips a little. Great stuff. Now I can do these simple chiropractic moves on my dogs. Before the workshop was my first member meeting for the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. I got the race schedule and my first event will be a 19-miler on December 3. The ADMA is pretty much a sprint organization, but since we live right on their trails, I figured I should become a member and do some of their races for practice before the long distance events start in the new year. Let's all take a moment and pray for snow.
This evening I was invited to dinner by a woman whose book I reviewed for Mushing Magazine. She's a sprint musher and was in town for the symposium. As it ended up, Ken, Gwen and the whole crew were there so we joined them for some great prime rib and lots of funny tails from the trail. It was a great weekend and I resisted buying anything at the auction and trade fair. Now I'm waiting for Sam's plane after having frantically tried to clean the cabin (I'm the messy one).
So that's it for now from dog central.

Ken (on the left) talking dogs with Todd Capistrant between presentations at the symposium.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Upper deck, comin' up!

It was getting dark so these are kind of crappy. Here is a 180 view from the upper deck plus a pic from the back window. I wish we had some trees on our property. Maybe we'll plant some in the spring.
More later.
Peace out.