(pic to come) Friday we bought a used ATV to run the dogs with since my pedal cart burned out a tire and I had to finally admit that it was much too small to be safe anymore with the race team. With it I've learned a couple of new things about myself and my dog team. #1 I'm really not as young as I used to be, but I still know how to have fun! #2 My race team is a LOT stronger than I originally imagined! Other things I've learned will be more entertaining as I tell you what happened.
Saturday bright and early it was boardering on 50 degrees, and I was eager to try out this new toy, but also cautious. I put on a sweatshirt and uncovered my new prize. Flipping out the kick start and thumbing the choke to max, I attempted to start the ATV.
An obvious sput of the engine was all I received for my trouble. More determined, I jumped on the start pedal with all of my weight! It sputted again, but still nothing. I started jumping up and down like a monkey on crack, but as stubborn as I was, it was even moreso. Sweating and puffing I sat on the seat, trying to figure out how this thing liked to be started. I tried putting the choke back off, I tried giving it gas while kicking, I tried putting it on the reserve tank... still nothing.
Determined not to let a machine get the better of me, I began rolling it down the hill towards the stream. Halfway down, I popped the clutch and the engine sputtered then caught to my delight. I suddenly realized how close the stream was to my perilous course though, and strained to change the direction, barely missing the line of saplings and briars. Congratulating myself, I spun the ATV around and started back up the hill about a foot before it died.
There was all manner of colorful metaphors running around in my brain at that moment. So, I jumped and I jumped on the kickstart again and again. At that point in time anger had replaced stubbornness, and I was going to make that sucker start no matter what! So I slowly turned it around jumping on the kick start to make it move. (It was a bit heavy to push uphill) Facing back towards the stream, I managed to get it rolling again and popped the clutch. This time it roared immediately to life, and I gassed it hard to be sure it wouldn't sputter out. The trees mocked me.
I got them back by smacking their branches with my forehead, but I was moving and I'd be damned before I let that ATV quit on me again! Hoping the neighbors weren't watching and having the hillbilly entertainment of their life, I climbed back up the hill powered by the 250cc engine. I spun it around in a 160 degree arc as if I was a pro, and shut it down so I could hook up the dogs.
The gangline I had was set up for 4 dogs, but I had an extension somewhere that would hold two more dogs, so I searched and searched and scrabbled through mounds of ropes and junk you collect in sheds that somehow multiplies and has little junk piles of its own, but could not find the extension. I searched through my closet, the front closet, laundry room, and the bits of mushing gear whereever I stashed them last. No extender.... No way was I going down to the bee and spider infested barn that early in the morning. I needed more coffee....
With a sigh I realized I was only going to run 4 dogs, and since this was the first time with the ATV, I thought it would be a good idea to take the slow team. With the brilliance of a two day old planarian, I thought it might be grand to give Princess a try at lead, so hooked her up next to Samantha. Ace had not yet been on the team, so I was determined to give her the chance, so hooked her up in wheel. To have some kind of pulling power, and because Buck is always so full of energy and I wanted to tire him out, he went next to Ace. So, I had 3 rookies and a so-so leader on a 4 dog team. I thought everything would be ok after I got going, but the problem was, getting going.
This time the ATV started up, but the puppies tangled themselves irreparably. So I stopped the engine, got off and unhooked them one by one, untangled the gang and tug lines, got back on, and by the time I got the start pedal out, they were tangled again. This happened about 4 times before I finally manged to get the ATV started again before they tangled up. Princess was so eager to get moving, she pulled Samantha along for the first quarter mile, and I think Samantha was lulled into a false sense of security which was broken by a quick dart to the side of the road where a deer carcass lie in abject temptation. It was a smell Princess could not resist and the other puppies dutily followed their leader.
Despite the many hours of show training, Princess is still a dog that wants to roll in dead things. She proved this to me Saturday.
Several more colorful metaphors later I had them back moving, for a couple hundred yards when Princess found something else interesting off the side of the road and tried to drag the team up the side of the mountain. So, I straightened the team out again, but by the time we hit the three-quarter mile mark, I gave up and removed Princess from lead and put Bucky up front.
I also figured it was a good point to turn around at... This proved to be one of the worst come arounds in the history of sled dogs. Something yummy was hiding just over the burm of the side of the road, and the team kept coming back my way to check it out as I was trying to simultaneously urge them towards the house and 'manhandle' the ATV to turn it around. I ended up with the gangline wrapped securely around the front axle at least three times, and trying to pull the dogs away from the oncoming pickup truck. I'm sure wild tales are floating around the town of Stamping Ground as I type this. The old couple passed me with eyes as big as saucers and toothy grins as they waved in child-like glee. I'm not entirely sure that was a good thing, but I smiled and waved back as I tried not to use more colorful language at the hopelessly fouled gangline.
I'm not sure how long it took for me to unhook the line from the axle, but it was long enough for my son to walk lazily down to where I was cussing and ask me what was wrong. He held the dogs still so that I could pull the final bit off from the hub. We then proceded to untangle the dogs again, and I started up the ATV. Buck and Samantha still wanted to roll in the dead thing, and instead of going homeward, turned right smack around and proceded to tangle the gangline again. James helped me straighten them out once more and I asked him to start them off by walking them about a hundred yards down the road. So much more slowly than I would ever want a team to walk, we started out again.
James caught up with me again at the next place that Buck wanted to stop... Samantha put up a cursory resistance, but soon gave in to his interest. At that point in time, all I could do was laugh or cry. I opted for the former, and Jamed and I straightened out the lines and got the team going again. On the far side of the bridge, Buck and Samantha decided it was time for a bathroom break and headed off into the field to sniff for appropriate places. James and I coaxed them back on to the road and finally got them back to the house.