Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When in doubt, go to the gym...

It's been a while since my last post, and obviously a lot has happened, so I'll start with last week and work forward.

Friday night, it began to snow and I was itching to get out with the dogs. Matt was home from the slope so I conned him into helping me tie the sled onto the top of the Land Cruiser and promising to be a willing passenger in the sled if I'd let him drive some, too. Away we went to the dog trails. Amazingly, I didn't forget anything and we left the staging area without a hitch with me driving and Matt in the basket. After once around the two mile trail, I asked him if he wanted to drive. He jumped at the chance, complaining about the twig that had "stabbed him in the eye" while he was a passenger. Hmm, them's the breaks of being a passenger, I thought to myself. You have no control over where you're going or what's ahead! So I climbed into the basket myself and he drove me another time around the two mile. Annoyingly, he is quite a good sled driver even though he's only driven two or three times in his life. I suppose it has something to do with him be athletic (a marathoner) and a lot stronger than I am...and weighing more. Grr. I booted him out of the basket and did one more pass around the two mile trail by myself, with my headlamp off and the basket empty, just to try and get more of a feel for sled driving. I wouldn't say I'm a natural at this -- my balance is ok but I'm not the fastest-moving person in the world, so I'm taking things slow and easy if I can. At that point, Zed was annoyed that we had been around the loop THREE times so he flew past the U-turn (I wasn't going to go around again anyhow) and we headed back into the staging area.

All in all, the dogs seemed very happy that they had gotten out to stretch their legs, even if it was a bit repetitive. I remembered that I had the camera in the car and managed to snap a few pictures at the posts. Zed's "happy look" just cracks me up...that look is THE look that he gets when he runs. Happy to be alive!

Clover has a funny look on her face, too, for sure. It almost looks like I startled her! I wish that blue eyes photographed better -- her eyes always look red and it's not becoming of her.

On Sunday, Matt and I had to run into Anchorage to make a pass through Costco. It was a gorgeous day filled with sun and glimmering snow, so we decided to drive up Arctic Valley Rd. and take a look around. I snapped a few photos of the view from the road. What a gorgeous view! You can see Mt. Susitna in the distance in one of these photos. I tell you what, some days, living in Alaska gets old, but other days I can't say enough good about the beauty that there is all around us here.

Yesterday (Monday) I felt pretty spunky when I got home from work, and I debated for a while whether to go to the gym (which I needed to do) or to take the dogs out for a run (which the dogs needed to do). After hemming and hawing for a half hour while I ate my dinner, I settled upon taking the dogs out. After all, they needed the exercise. Since Matt is now back in Kaparuk, I decided that the safest thing to do (with me being a newbie sled driver) would be for me to take the dogs out with the ATV. Enter problem #1 -- the ATV had been sitting for over a week and hadn't been started. I sauntered out to the trailer expecting problems, and sure enough, there they were to greet me. The battery sounded weak (it was, after all, 0 degrees F at the time). I managed to string up three extension cords and drag them down the driveway enough to hook up my battery charger to the ATV to recharge the battery. Well, that would present a slight delay, so I ran into Eagle River in the meanwhile to gas up my truck. When I got back, I checked the battery charger and it said "FUL" -- indicating that the battery was fully charged. I tried to start it and it immediately cranked for me, which was a good sign. Maybe the night would go off without a hitch, I thought. Little did I know.

The coupler on the trailer was cranky and didn't want to close due to the snow and ice that had accumulated on it. A bit of work got it and the trailer ball to agree with each-other once again, so I loaded all five dogs and took off for the trails.

When I arrived, there wasn't a soul out there. I honestly like nights when I'm the only person using the trails, but they do have their drawbacks. For instance, if one were to have trouble on the trail, there is a 0% chance of encountering anyone who might be able to help you. That's something key to remember, you see :)

Within a few minutes, I had the ATV out of the trailer, the dogs hooked up and we were ready to go. I stayed around five minutes extra or so, trying to let them settle. Clover was having a fit to get going and all of that screaming drives me nuts. I thought she might give up after a few minutes but it turned out that I would be the one to give up. I shrugged my shoulders, silently cursing her insane physical conditioning with Ed Iten (she was up to 70 mile runs when I got her) and I hopped on the ATV. It cranked right up for me, again (which was odd! I should have been suspicious!) and away we went.

We were making pretty good time up the trail, getting at least 1/2 mile out of the staging area to the point where the trail begins to rise up a hill, when suddenly, the ATV gave a couple of coughs and promptly sputtered and died. Curses!! The dogs set to screaming in impatience and I tried to get the danged thing to crank again to no avail. After about ten attempts, I sat scratching my head, wondering just exactly how I was going to get myself out of this pickle.

I know, I thought, I'll just drag the ATV around and maybe the dogs can pull me back to the staging area in neutral. Off I hopped and I grabbed the front rack on the ATV and began hauling away at it with all of my might.

Tug, tug, tug. Pant. Tug, tug. Pant some more. Whew, a couple of inches progress! Now to the back of the ATV to move the rear end. Tug, tug, tug. Pant. Tug, tug. Pant some more. Repeat each sequence a dozen times. Slowly I realized that I was making little to no progress anymore.


I had gotten the ATV turned cross-ways in the trail but couldn't get it any further. I think that the dang thing weighs 850 lb, or at least that's what it says on the ATV/Snowmachine title that I have. (Could it really weigh that much?)

Drat, drat, drat. I tried to start the ATV again but to no avail. By this time, the battery started to sound lazy and I gave up. Who do I call?? Matt is gone, Jim is taking care of Bonnie, who had suffered an unfortunate accident last week...Lexi doesn't have an ATV anymore...ack! Enter my dear friend, Eric. I very apologetically made the phonecall at 9 pm (Eric is an early-to-bed type) and I explained my situation. He very calmly said he'd see me in a few minutes and that he was bringing his ATV to tow me back to the staging area. I closed my phone and then began the task of walking the dogs back to the truck.

First I had to tie the snub line to a tree so nobody would tangle while I was gone. I fished out the leash that I keep in my ATV bag and figured I could put a dog on one end and loop through a collar on the other, so that's what I did and I took off with Zed (great on a leash) and Calvin (decent on a leash.) When I made it to the car I realized that my keys were in my heavy parka on the ATV. DAMN. I pulled out my airline cables from the trailer and strung them out and put Zed and Calvin on them and then headed back for Balu and Clover. Balu is marginal on a leash (but is great with a halti, which I did not have) and Clover is HORRIBLE. I finally just turned Balu loose alltogether and hoped that he'd run back to the truck and visit with my other dogs, which he did. Clover and I had words many times on the way back to the staging area and I think she thinks I'm a crazy woman and I've lost my mind. If you ask her, I'm sure that's what she'll say, 'cause I kept yelling at her and trying not to be drug down the trail face-first in the meanwhile. By the time I made it back on this second trip, I was very hot and clammy in all of my heavy clothes in that zero degree weather. Trudge, trudge, trudge. Some more walking finally and I was back to Indi, who had been left by himself. Just as I was hooking the leash to his collar, I saw the headlights of an approaching ATV which, thankfully, was Eric's. I put Indi into a crate on the back of the ATV and hooked my gang line to Eric's trailer hitch and we tooled back to the trailer, and after much effort, got the danged ATV back up the ramp into the trailer.

So, all was good, or so I thought. After many thanks, I set out for home and made it about a mile before I realized that something just didn't seem right. Hmm. Head count. One short! Indi!! He was still in the crate on the back of Eric's ATV! OH MY GOSH, I am such a bad mother to forget my dog!!! So I just pulled over and waited for Eric to come by. In the meanwhile, he had realized the same thing and pulled over when he saw me stopped. We did a quick-change and I was back on the road again.

I finally made it home around 10 and had to feed the dogs, at which time Zed managed to clothesline me with his chain and I went flying across the dog lot to land on my back. Ouch. After sharing a bit of my mind with him (he didn't understand a thing I said) I hobbled to bed, already very sore from trying to move the ATV and now the flat-on-my-back fall. I curled up with Calvin and my iPod and drifted off to sleep but was awakened by an EARTHQUAKE. Can't a girl get any peace???

Today, I still haven't decided what to do this evening, but the more I think about it the more I think....when in doubt, go to the gym!!!


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