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.