Sunday, October 2, 2011

On a String and a Prayer

The dogs are back home! All the dogs. Darrel and I travelled to Juneau last weekend and brought our canine family home. It wasn't without adventure of course which is pretty normal for us. I am highly stressed if the proverbial poop doesn't hit the fan when we travel. This trip was no different.

It started with the 6 a.m. flight to Juneau which seemed like a good idea when I was doing the booking. Get there early. Enjoy some time in the capitol city.

The trouble started as soon as we got on the plane. Well actually getting up at 3 a.m. was really when it got crappy but that's to be assumed. We boarded the aircraft and the plane was in a Disney motiff. As in Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse and Pluto, Disney. Aaargh. I hate Disney. The very word makes me cringe.

This summer the Disney ship Wonder docked in Juneau and so Saturdays for us was Disney day. That meant untold numbers of children and inattentive parents at our dogsledding camp. Our dogs are friendly enough but a fast moving little kid or a squealing toddler triggers a prey drive in most huskies and Disney days set me on edge. I used to want to go to Disneyland. Now I'm quite certain I'd rip the ears off Mickey and slap the tiara off Tinkerbell's head if I did. I think I have issues.

The best way to cope with all the Disney crap was to close my eyes and sleep. Which I did. Well until I woke myself - repeatedly - because I was snoring. So was Darrel. And the guy across the aisle. Did I mention we were awake at 3 a.m?

We got to Juneau and saw our dogs. They look awesome. Fit. Muscled. And deliriously happy to see us. The feeling was definitely mutual.

The ferry wasn't leaving until the next day so we figured we'd head to the hotel for a nap and then do a bit of shopping. Darrel tried to start the dog truck. And tried. And tried. Battery(s) were dead. So we got a jump start and off we went. Straight to Napa - for windshield wipers. I don't pretend to understand my mechanic husband's mind.

The dog truck doesn't start with a key. Oh no. You tilt the steering wheel a bit and then manually cycle the glow plugs and then hit a toggle switch which will hopefully start the beast. here's what it looks like.

Next stop was the Super 8 Motel. Not fancy but it's clean and comfortable. And pet friendly. And the manager is awesome! We decided to have a 1 hr and 10 minute nap and woke up 3 hours later.

After we woke up we got some wine, ordered a pizza and just had a nice quiet night together. Next morning we needed another jump start. While I had breakfast with Naomi, from the summer, Darrel went and bought a new battery.

We went to camp, loaded dogs and headed to the ferry. About 5 miles down the road, not even off North Douglas Island, the truck started to shimmy like mad and smoke poured out the front. Diagnosis was a seized brake caliper. My awesome husband backed up and rolled forward which did the trick. We were off again.

For some reason I thought the ferry left at 3 p.m. It does - every day except Sunday, the day we were travelling. On Sundays it doesn't depart until 4:30 p.m. So we took the dogs for a drive to keep fresh air cooling them off. Finally we got on the ferry. It was an uneventful trip...until we went to the car deck after docking in Juneau. PeePee the amazing lead dog had chewed a hole in the roof of the dog box, stuck his head out and promptly got stuck. I still wonder why none of the ferry workers called us. We were the last dog truck to leave Juneau so it wouldn't have been hard to find us. I am just thankful that no other dog followed suit. Having 34 dogs running around on the car deck would have been awful.

We couldn't exactly drive down the road with a dog stuck in the roof of the truck. What we needed, besides a new truck, was rope. For some reason we had stuffed some in a cubby hole and so Darrel and I got PeePee unstuck and roped the roof down.

You'll notice in this picture that there are 2 wheels mounted on top of the box along with the dead battery. Juneau Napa wouldn't warranty it so we're taking it to the one here in Fairbanks. And that's the rope holding the roof down. Pretty slick really.

We drove straight for the Canadian border because it closes at midnight. And then we dropped dogs for their pee and food break at the top of the pass. I thought it would be cold and miserable up there like usual but while chilly, it was clear and calm. After taking care of the dogs we turned off our headlamps and stood in awe of the heavens. The stars, the milky way, the northern lights - what a gift!

We loaded up dogs again at 1 a.m. and then drove. And drove. And drove. We grabbed a quick nap and then drove some more.

We arrived at the American border. Now I know we kinda look like the northern version of the Beverley Hillbillies but the border agent was a butthead. He asked us 3 times how many people we had in our rig, what we were transporting (despite all the canine faces peering at him), if we had run into any RCMP in Canada and how I knew Darrel. Makes me wonder if he had ever seen a musher before. Finally in Tok we dropped dogs again. Many thanks to the nice lady at the motel across from the musher's hall who gave us water for our canine crew!

After a quick bite to eat at Fast Eddy's we hit the road and made it home at supper time. It took us about 3 hours to get everyone settled and fed. And then we slept. For 14 hours.

I'd just like to thank Lance Mackey who gave us the dog truck. He is a generous man - even willing to loan us his good truck if the old beater wouldn't start. He only asked us to pay it forward and we have. And will continue to do for that's really the best way to live.

Here's the truck. We love it. Thanks Lance!!


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Mountainrose said...

Life would be boring if we didn't have a few adventures tossed in. Sorry you had to deal with so much stress. Everyone made it back home safe and sound and that's what matters most.

Kudos to Lance Mackey, And yes. We "Pay it forward" in the lower 48, as much as possible.