Thursday, December 15, 2011

Farmpark Challenge and Some Lessons Learned

Had a great time again this year at the Farmpark Challenge in Ohio!  We didn't take the RV as there were more leaks than I could seal in the cold weather.  By the race, though, the weather warmed up too much after being severely cold the week before.  Makes for great hiking weather, but no so great for running dogs.  This race though, is one of the most fun, the people are great, the venue/track is pretty good, ahd everone is usually very friendly and helpful.  I enjoyed this race immensely last year and this year was no different, in fact probably even better.  I met back up with some great people whose company I enjoyed last year and had an even better time this year.  I must really congratulate our young friends who came last year looking to get in to the sport, and did so with a vengeance this year winning several trophies.  Way to go!

It was great to meet the Ditmars and Clyde Risdon as well!  So many wonderful folks!

My friend Kathy even got the chance to run my team on a demo run on Saturday afternoon around most of the track (even though they were only supposed to go down the hill and back up.. lol).

Thanks again to the Ohio chapter of the Trailblazers for putting on the race!  We had a blast!

On to lessons learned.

My team, though, did not do as well this year, but I'll put that down to a few lessons I learned, or hope I've learned.  Not having our powerhouse Bandit on the team was a big difference, and since I trained my team almost all for speed, I had not put enough time into strength training.  That and we only got to race on Saturday as the temperature was too high Sunday.  We made up a lot of time on Sunday last year once Freya was familiar with the trail.  I think in the future it will benefit us if I can get there early and walk her along the trail the day before I will do much better. (if that is allowed that is)

Our lack of strength training was apparent on the uphills.  I had even lost weight since last year, but our uphill progress nearly stalled each hill.  Princess is not the muscular equivalent to Bandit, and our lack of uphill strength training really showed without his help.  So I have had a while to rethink my training program and try to come up with better ways to ensure my team's success without Bandit.  I think perhaps having individual weight pulls might be the answer and a way to keep the pups fit in the summer without too much exposure to heat.  I've already been thinking of pulling rocks out of the stream to make a good foundation for a small grooming cabin, perhaps even making the whole thing out of local stone.  So I may combine training with my ambitious building plans, and have the dogs haul the rocks in the wagon to help tone and strengthen them.  Doing these pulls in the early/wee hours of the morning will be good for both them and me. 

The first few team hookups will also need to be pure strength exercises, and I will just have to have patience before experiencing the rush of excitement of a team at full speed.  I will need the ATV back in working order to do this, so I will have to buckle down and take it in for repairs once the savings get back on track.  (A series of setbacks have ambushed us this past month.)

I have also determined that I will need to get a second bike for my own strength/endurance training to help me be a better help to the dogs.  Unfortunately, I still need to save up money for a good rig.  It seems like every time I have the funds, something else comes up to spend it on.  Ah to be independantly wealthy and not have to worry about this stuff! 

We had also planned on attending the Land Between the Lakes Sled Dog Challenge this month, but Jim's father was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday night before the race (after we had already packed up the RV and were only waiting on Friday morning to leave).  Jim ended up leaving for Virginia instead to be with his mother and visit his father.  He was not in good shape, but was recovering as of yesterday.  He had a setback today while Jim has been driving back home though, so he may end up going back to Virginia after James' graduation.  So our future race plans are uncertain at this point.  I had hoped to attend the Mackinaw Mush, but not sure at this point what the future holds.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sinnemahoning Part 2

During the night the dogs had their usual wakup at 3 am to potty.  A light snow was falling, and I was smiling as the tiny flakes stuck for an instant on my jacket then melted into nothingness.  My breath fogged the air as I walked the dogs two by two from our campsite, through the trees and over dead leaves whose wet slightly sweet decaying smell rose as our feet disturbed them.  We walked around the bath house and circled back to the camp.  It was then I discovered that if I walked Bucky with Yukon, he would actually pee.  Bucky is notorious for holding it when he's in an unfamiliar place, and I worried about him eventually having bladder problems because of it.  With this newfound confidence in the shadow of his father, it relieved me that Bucky was finally learning it was ok to pee when his dad peed.  This may seem insignificant, or irrelevant, but to me it was a great relief to see him try to be a bit more regular.

At 5am the dogs had me up for their morning walks and breakfast.  It was nice to have a kitchen with us in the motorhome with which to make hot coffee and hot oatmeal as well as feeding the dogs items still frozen in the freezer.  They each enjoyed a frozen whitefish filet with their morning meal.  By 7:30am we rolled out and went to the race site.  It was part of the Sinnemahoning park a bit further south from where we were camping.  The stream was cold and beautiful as it wound its way over a rocky bed through trees clad in the many colors of fall.  Mountains formed an ampitheater in which we could view the glory of each sylvan fashion as Mother Nature showed off her creative hand.  The snow had become big wet flakes, clinging to everything in soppy wet caressing embrace.  It was a bad time to have no cabin heat in the motorhome.  We tried firing up the Onan, but it kept cutting out after 5 minutes of run-time.  Probably a low oil level.  I made a mental note to bring a couple of quarts of oil on our next trip, as it seems the Onan was leaking.  It will be another project for next spring/summer to rebuild the seals on the Onan.

We attended the mushers meeting, got my numbers and I gave a few dollars to James so he could buy himself 2nd breakfast (boy thinks he's a hobbit) from the kids selling cakes and cinnamon rolls.  First up was the 6 dog pro, and I watched as the teams took off with great enthusiasm.  We were up with our four dog team after, so I got out the drop line, got the cart out, hooked up the quick release rope and spread the gangline.  I then harnessed up the dogs inside the motorhome them took them out to the drop line one by one.  Princess and Bucky were quivering in excitement and howling to go.  Freya was excited but as always projected calm patience.  Yukon was happily investigative, and I hooked him in to the gangline.  His gorgeous face and gentle nature are always a draw to the kids even if they are intimidated by his size and blue eyes.  When he is close to them, his ears go back and he makes it clear that he is friends and wants a good petting.  As usual kids begin to crowd around him and pet him, and Yukon is happy.  Bucky on the other hand, is a bit shy but too excited to back off.  I caution the kids not to crowd Bucky as he is so excited he has the tendancy to grab and pull on things to try to get running/going forward.  Case in point, while my back is turned, he chewed the tie off for the cart in half, and I realized my folly of putting him on the drop too close to the tie off.

I quickly retie the rope as it is getting close to the time for our start.  I hook Bucky in to the gangline, then Freya and last Princess.  The team is screaming to go, and we wrestle them to the start line.  It is a wet, cold, and soggy day, and the ground squelches under the tires as I do my best to hold them while the race marshall counts down.  At the 'GO!', we rocket off into the green, yellow, orange and red trees.  Our pace is fast and the team eager to run.  The grass gives way to blacktop which we follow down to the first turn.  "Haw Freya!" turns her onto the gravel with ease, an excellent turn, and I praise her for it.

The trail winds on to packed dirt through conifers and a few maples in full color.  Overhead a hawk circles and cries out in the gray miasma of falling snow.  We are still making great time, though I'm having to help the dogs on the slight uphills.  All is well until we hit more soggy grass.  I can feel the cart bogging down and the extra weight and pull on the dogs as they slog it out.  Our pace slows dramatically, and I realize I have not trained my dogs to pull over such difficult terrain.  This turns out to be the majority of the run, and I'm alternating running and riding with the dogs.  White caps the grass to either side of the trail and covers the limbs of the connifers, but I'm getting tired and the dogs are tiring.  We come back to a small stretch of road where Freya executes a wonderful Gee. 

A short distance ahead and I call Freya to Haw into the grassy trail again, but she doesn't want to.  She wants to follow the road.  Can I blame her?  Behind me now is the second team, so I jump off and hold the dogs to the right so he can pass.  My team ignores his and I'm proud of them for not bothering (all except Bucky who thank goodness is on the far side of the gangline and though he strains to see and socialize with the other dogs, he is kept in place by stoic Yukon.  The team perks up a bit after they pass and Freya allows herself to be led to the grass trail and takes off.  After the first hundred yards though, she begins to tire then slow to a trot.  I try to encourage them, and they perk up when I run with them, but slow down as I tire and ride, unable to keep up with their pace.  I alternate running and riding as much as I can, and the heat begins to steam out of my jacket.  But it was too wet to open my coat.  My clothes are soaked, my boots are soaked, my mittens are soaked and sweat is running down my face.

I realize I was probably overdoing it, but I couldn't let Freya and the team slog out the last of the trail dragging my fat butt on a cart.  About a mile into the trail the faster team comes back at us and I pull the team over left and let them pass head-on.  I'm very proud of my pups.  All of them ignored his team as they steamed by, even Bucky stopped pulling towards them when I said "Leave It!"

We finished the loop and slogged back down the grassy trail towards the road, then on to more grass, then across the road again to the cones.  Freya did a good Gee on to the grass chute marked with cones, but kept trying to go haw again back to the parking lot.  It was a bit difficult to keep her going towards the finish, but she finally got it and we crossed the line.  When I got off and James pulled her left, she was more than eager to go to the motorhome.  I unhooked them and put them in the motorhome, pulled the cart up the hill and put it back on the trailer, then went in to snack, unharness and check the dogs.  They were in good shape, no foot problems and no injuries, but very tired.  They all curled up on my bed in the back except Moony who hadn't gotten to run yet.  I was exhausted and overheated.  I could feel the dehydration eating at my body and I tried to drink a bottle of gatorade then water.  I was too tired to bike with Moony.  So I informed the marshall I wouldn't be running the bikejor.

We stayed for a while, and James and I had a cup of hot cocoa, I walked the dogs a couple of times and took a couple photos, but my head was beginning to hurt from overheating and dehydration.  Even though I drank about a gallon of water and took aspirin, it didn't seem to help.  In the mid afternoon, we left to go find a bank teller, and a general store.  Little did I know this would be a two hour fruitless search before we finally found a tiny store without an ATM.  Ah well, I procured what we needed and we found our way back to camp.  There were a few leaks beginning to show in the roof of the motorhome as we set up camp for the night.  I also discovered there was water damage in the left outer panel by the electric plug that would need fixing.  The snow turned to rain then back to snow, but fortunately the heaters kept us warm.  The dogs made sure my bed was well coated in mud before I went to bed as they kept pulling down the covers to make nests... sigh.

We wandered over to the lady on the hill's camp where we stayed for a while, but my headache was beginning to bother me plus not being a night person, I begged my leave, took several aspirin, drank more water, went to the bathroom, then to bed.  3am and the dogs were walked, and 5am they had us up again.  By this time my skull was pounding in an attempt at migraine, and though I tried to stave it off with ibuprofin and gatorade, it was still lurking.  The dogs seemed eager enough to run again, but I knew they would be hard pressed to make another slog through the grassy trails, and I knew I wouldn't make it.  I pulled from the race for that reason, plus, my son had forgotten to bring his allergy meds so I had given him half mine which left none for either of us for that evening.  I decided it would be best if we just headed for home.  Turned out to be a good thing as the heavy snow hit that night, but we were safely back in Kentucky long before then.

On the way back, we passed by a huge bull elk grazing on the side of the road.  A magnificent animal, so majestic, so beautiful and awe-inspiring.  I can see why they are sometimes referred to as the spirit of the land.  Off to the other side of the road was a cow and a calf, all wonderous creatures, and I was glad that they had been re-introduced to the east.  May they live and re-populate and never again be hunted to extinction!

By the time we were out of the mountain range, and I had drank probably another gallon of water, my headache began to recede.  (Thank goodness I didn't have to drive all the way back feeling nauseous!) It was a wonderfully fun trip, and I wished that I had been able to compete Sunday, but I was sure I had done the best thing possible for myself and the dogs.  I had a great time and thank those who put on the race.  I learned what I wanted to learn, and that was whether or not my dogs could compete at the pro level.  I believe they can, but unfortunately I don't have the time or the means to train them properly for it.  Until I put in a trail on my property that I can run them on, or until I move to a place that has trails I can run closer to my home, I will have to content myself with running in the sportsman class.  My dogs are great sports though, and are able to pass by and head-on without an issue, which makes me proud of them.  Freya is an awesome leader and for the most part listens to commands except when they clash heavily with where she wants to go.  Which may someday stand us in good stead as she is very intelligent and may find the right way on her own when I cannot.  Here's to you Freya my goddess of sledding!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sinnemahoning part 1

With a bit of excitement and no little trepidation, we set out in the Motorhome's maiden voyage, a 12 hour trip to Pennsylvania, and Sinnemahoning State Park.  Very early on, my son, James and I discovered that the Mallard's cabin heater was completely non-functional.  The only thing that was working was the fan on the defrost setting (no heat, just the fan).  The temperature was close to freezing, and for the entire trip, we could see our breath as fog.  The dogs loved it, and spent a lot of time sleeping on my bed and bedding in the back when they weren't trying to crawl in my lap or look out the windows.  With us went Freya, Princess, Bucky and Yukon for the four dog team, and Moony was going to be my bikejor dog.  The trip would have taken just about 9.5 hours according to the GPS, but it doesn't have to stop for dogs or boys to go potty.

James was a good help holding back the dogs as I took them for walks, but we discovered a flaw in the door structure of the Mallard.  When a dog jumped on the door and slid their paws down, the door opened.  Bucky was the first to discover this while we were stopped at an Arby's for lunch.  Fortunately I was close enough to him to stomp on his leash to prevent him from going anywhere, and double fortunately none of the other dogs were close enough to get out the door before I could get to it.  Bucky was a good boy though, and headed right to me as I was bringing Princess back from walking, which allowed me to get a hold of him so quickly.  I stomped on his leash, snatched it up, leaped to the door and shut it just before Moony could get out.  I then carefully let Princess back in, used the key and set the deadbolt before taking Bucky for a walk.  My heart settled back in to a reasonable beat after I had all five dogs walked and stowed safely back in the motorhome.

The scenery driving through the Pennsylvania mountains was amazing.  Fall was in her full-color cloak spread along the mountainsides broken only by rivers and signs of habitation.  It would have been perfect except we were freezing, and the motorhome had a bit of trouble on the steep grades.  The four-barrels had their own sense of timing, and decided only to work when they wanted to rather than when we needed them.  The Mallard also had the tendancy to catch every breeze as if it were a sail on a tall ship.  So I was constantly correcting our heading to stay reasonably in the same lane.  The brakes on the motorhome were rather slow to respond, and was rather like running dogs, you hold on and pray the brakes are adequate.  They were in good condition and worked as they were supposed to, but I was still getting used to the fact that there would be no instant stopping, even for the deer that jumped out in front of us.  Fortunately the stopping power it did have was just enough to miss the deer. 

I'm sure many of the folks driving along the same highway as us in the dark were non-too-pleased to be behind my overly cautious rate of speed, but, well, I don't think my heart could have taken another deer incident.  We finally found the campground at around 8pm (after dark), and with the help of our camping neighbor, we got settled in rather quickly and they already had a fire going. which they shared with us.  It was just starting to snow lightly, little flakes that turned to water almost instantly.  After walking the dogs, we settled by the fire for a while to socialize until I grew sleepy.  Being a morning person, and not a night owl has its drawbacks.  At least with the Motorhome plugged in, we were able to fire up the ceramic heaters we had brought which made the inside pleasantly warm. I slept with Freya, Yukon, Bucky and Princess in the bed with me while Moony slept with James.

(more to come)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Work Like a Dog!

Friday afternoon Jim and I drove up to Indiana to pick up a used Motorhome.  It is a 1988 Mallard Sprinter, 28', and not too large, but big enough for us and the dogs.  The engine was well cared for (though the rest of it was in less than pristine condition), and ran incredibly well, transmission and brakes seemed to be in order, so we paid the man for the vehicle and title.  I drove it back while Jim drove my truck back.  It was an interesting, and a bit of a harrowing experience.  I hadn't driven a motorhome for quite a few years, and this one was power-assist brakes, so rough on stopping power.  It also has a floppy right mirror, so I had little view out the right side (passing was nerve wracking, but hard not to when folks go down the highway at 60 mph in a 70 zone).  But being cautious and extending lead and reaction times, we made it home without incident (a bit rough driving on the narrow mountain roads, but by then I'd gotten used to the handling of the beast).

Saturday early, I harnessed up the race team, woke Jim and James, and grabbed the hd vid camera.  My intention was to vid my run, but the camera had other plans.  We hooked the dogs in, I hopped on and released the catch.  The first few seconds of the run are always frantic holding on and minimal braking, but once stablized, I fumbled with the camera one-handed as we approached the bridge.  I was able to turn it on and press the button, as we careened around the corner and up the hill.  we passed the trailer, flew around the railroad corner, and stormed up to the barn as the walkie fell out of my pocket.  Oops.  When we got level with the barn, Freya simply halted and turned around without being asked.  ???

I got up, and pulled her back towards the donkey farm, but as soon as I went back to the seat, she had pulled the team around again.  I pulled her back to the proper direction again, and went back to the seat, and she again pulled the team around, only this time, she went between Bucky and Yukon and really balled up the team.  Exasperated, but trying not to show the team my frustration, I ended up having to unhook Bucky who was hopelessly tangled in tugs and gangline while holding on to the leaders neckline to keep them from injuring him.  He was so badly wrapped up, that if they had lined out, they might have broken a leg.  Having straightened out that mess, I weighed the decision to keep going or to return to the house.  Not wanting to deal with another ball up.  I let Freya keep her homeward direction and started up again.  When we got level with the walkie, I scooped it back up and we continued on home. 

Jim and I then washed up and did our weekly shopping.  When we got back and everything put away, it was time to start work on the motorhome.  I had thought I would simply have to wash down the roof then begin re-caulking and sealing.  When I got on top, however, my initial glance had not done justice to 23 years worth of dirt and neglect.  There were lichens growing on the paint!  The soot and oxidation was very thick, so I had my son bring up a scrub brush.  For six hours, I scoured the top of the motorhome from front to back.  It was late by the time I was finished, so I let it dry overnight.

Sunday I got up and harnessed up Moony, Ace and Bandit.  I then tried for over an hour to convince Demon that he wanted to get harnessed and run with us to no avail.  With a sigh, I woke Jim and James, and got the three dogs out to the cart.  When Bandit was hooked up next to Ace and she saw him whining and leaping to go, she panicked and tried to back out of her harness.  She put on that scared stubborn face I knew meant that she was not going to run.  I asked James to remove her, and took off with just Moony and Bandit.  They did excellent considering the weight they were pulling, so at the .5 mile mark, I turned them around and let them run home for a full mile. 

After taking care of them and putting everything away, I checked the top of the motorhome only to find it was still wet in some places and damp in others.  So I waited a couple hours for the sun to dry it out while I vaccumed and steam vac'd the inside.  I checked the roof again, but it wasn't drying fast enough.  Armed with towels, sealant, sealant paper, scraper, screwdriver, brush and determination, I scaled the ladder and started to work on the rear most vent.  It took nearly four hours to scrape, wash, sand, wipe, paper and seal the vent with three coatings of sealant, but I think it was pretty well protected by the time clouds began to roll in.  I painted sealant on some other spots that needed it and hoped it would dry enough that rain would not wash it away.

With the brush as clean as I could get it, I went out back of our house to pick up walnuts out of the yard.  Two more hours and I had 22 bags of walnuts that I hauled up the hill and had my son take from the back porch and put them on the front patio.  Around 5 pm I washed up and started up a boiler of crab legs for my birthday dinner.  My favorite meal has always been snow crab since I first learned their taste.  More succulent than king, far smoother than lobster, they are a delicacy that delights my palate.  So I enjoyed every morsel before settling down with an ice cream sandwich and cuddle up with Bucky, Princess, Moony and Samantha to watch a bit of TV.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Team is Looking Good!

Saturday I took out the race team, and they are really shaping up and working really good together.  It was a fine fall morning at about 47 degrees F.  The leaves have begun turning colors in earnest, those that haven't already fallen that is.  The smell of them lining the street with fresh dew on them is the essence of the season, an aroma that will always be one of my favorites.  Bucky was acting up again this morning, more than eager to get moving, having missed his chance to work during the week.  My bad shoulder still ached in the cool air, but it was much too nice a morning to stay indoors. 

All four dogs were whining and jumping, and letting me know that they were more than ready.  Seeing their energy and level of drive, I decided I'd extend their mileage a bit.  The routine is getting easier for my son and husband, and despite my injured shoulder, we were able to be ready to rock in less than 5 minutes.  As soon as I released Freya and Princess' leashes, I ran back to the cart as Jim unhooked Bucky and Yukon's.  All four dogs lunged into their tugs as I hit the quick release and we were off!

The sprint down to the bridge was incredibly fast, and equally fast up the hill as I pedal assisted, but they were so fast I wasn't really much help.  We were around the bend and down to the turn off to the mini-railroad in record time.  Freya slowed a bit when we approached the barn, waiting to hear my commands, and I told her "On By" and "Hike Up!"  With glee she threw herself in to the run again, the primal wolf within her glorying in the pace. 

Up the small hills and down, then to the donkey farm, I finally called the halt and "Come Around".  All four dogs still looked great and eager.  Freya executed a good come around, but Bucky stepped over the gangline and caught his right front leg between the gang and neck lines, so I had to tell Freya to "Wait" (several times as I held on to the gangline for dear life and hope to keep Bucky from getting injured.  They were still incredibly strong and eager even after the two mile almost flat run to get to where we were.  It took all I had to keep them from taking off while I untangled Bucky's leg even with the brakes set.  When he was free, I couldn't hold them, and slowly let them forward as I held the gangline and let it slip until I could grab the cart. 

As fast as possible, I half leapt, half fell into the seat of the cart, swung my leg over as we started off despite the brakes still dragging the back tires.  I let off the brake and we were off as fast as when we started.  They were eager, strong, and elated, but I held a little pressure on the brakes on the downhill so they wouldn't trip.  They ran swiftly all the way back, even up the hill to the house, even in to the yard and only halted after I called the halt in the front yard.  What a ride!  They were incredible, and still looking strong and eager while being unhooked and taken in to the house for their snacks.  I think this team is going to do great! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Well, she finally did it.  Princess managed to get even the stoic Yukon all riled up on a bikejor.  Monday I decided to switch up her and Bucky partnering so that she ran with Yukon and Bucky would run with Freya.  Well, that was a mistake I will probably not make twice.  When I hooked her in, immediately she and Yukon began pulling hard.  I had to hold them back, and well, Yukon when he pulls is as strong as an ox!  Consequently I had an uncontrolled start, a sharp jerk on the gangline, and off into the left side ditch I went.  This time on my right side, which has always been a bit less graceful.  My shoulder impacted the pavement and I managed my first more than superficial injury.  Had to go to the Dr. and get xrays.  It still hurts, but the swelling is finally going down, and I should be able to manage a cart ride by this weekend.  I'm thinking a bit of training is in order for Princess.  I love her motivational power, but her uncontrolled starts will be the death of me if I don't get her to hold back until I'm ready.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shaping Up and Moving Out!

As you can see in this pic, Yukon really leans in to his tug on the team.  Not sure why he doesn't take bikejoring seriously, but he is sure a good team wheel dog.  Maybe he knows I need to pedal more to be in shape?  Hehe clever boy.  It was 44 degrees this morning and I didn't want to take the chance it would get too much warmer, so took off just before dawn. 

Fall is just beginning to give color to the maples and oaks, the sycamores and walnut trees simply turn yellow then brown and drop their leaves, fall's spoilsports.  Above the trees is a deep royal purple tinged with blue as the sun begins to paint the sky to the east.  The road is a barely visible gray line, so I put the collar lights on Freya and Princess.  Princess loves the little light, and is excited when I turn it on.  Hooking Bucky and Yukon in wheel, James brings out Freya and Princess behind me, so I quickly get them hooked in.  Princess, Freya and Bucky are screaming to go, Yukon quivers in excitement.  I jump quickly in the seat, and hit the release with an "Okay!" and they are off flying down the road. 

This time I brought the camera to document our run, and we are down to the bridge in a flash.  We round the corner and run up the hill while I pedal assist.
Up ahead is the curve before the gutted trailer.  The sign is just on the apex of the curve.
Rounding the bend, we come almost level with the trailer when a pickup truck was coming the other way.  I pull the team to the side, so he can pass, and he stops to tell me I have beautiful dogs.  I thank him and he passes.  Freya tries to follow, but I say no, and "leave it" and she immediately turns back forward.  What a great leader she is.

The road curves around the property of the gutted trailer.  To the right you can see the rock retainer wall that used to be decorated with fancy grass, bushes and flowers.  When we first moved in there was a guy there that abused dogs.  He has been gone now for over a year.  A family lived there for a short while, two or three months, but they too moved out.  Makes you wonder.  The owners of the property have not been back since the roof fell in, but the deer love to congregate there and eat the lush grass.
There is a cautionary sign regarding possible flooding up ahead.  This is on the inside of the curve where the road branches left and right.  The left going to the railroad and the right towards the donkey farm.  This is just over half a mile.
Getting ready to make the turn.
Past the turn there is a peak of the purple sky overhead.  On the right is the old barn and something very odd.  I did not notice it when we were running but looking at this pic I see what looks like a flying red turtle.  There is nothing reflective on the old barn, and also the thing is in front of the trees and not behind.  I'm stumped.  Going to hike down there later today and see if I can find something reflective.
The break in the trees leads up to the donkey farm and is almost the two mile mark.  One more hill and we turn around for two miles back.
Turned around and on the way back to the barn.
There is a reflective property marker on this tree, but this is obviously a reflective tape.  One reason I want to hike down and check the area of the old barn.
Dawn is turning the eastern sky orange and beginning to show the colors of the trees.  The little drive ahead and to the left is the old barn.
I wonder if that white dot is the same something we saw earlier?  We are just level with the old barn again, it is off to the left this time.

Up ahead is the turn off to the mini railroad and the street sign.
Heading back to the gutted trailer.  The road is beginning to lighten up with the sun peaking over the rim of the world.

You can see some of the fall colors as we pass the drive to the trailer.  The numbers still shine on the mailbox.  Wonder how long it will remain there?
You can see a little color on the trees with the sun doing its best to imitate in the east.

Back in to the tunnel of trees and heading towards the bridge.

Bracing for the sharp curve!  We excellerate downhill and I have to hold on tight!

Up the hill towards home.

Riding off into the sunrise.
Time for snacks, rub downs and lots of praise!  This team is really coming together well.  Princess and Bucky make a dynamic motivational duo and Freya lends brains and muscle while Yukon is a good worker when in the team, and does his job in wheel very well.  Overall I'm very pleased with them.

Monday, October 3, 2011


This morning the dogs seemed almost inclined to let me sleep in.  Only Bandit softly howled his deep low howl to let me know he was anxious to run.  At 5:07 it was 35 degrees, perfect weather after two days of running dogs on the weekend.  The dogs were playful, but not overly anxious to run except Princess and Samantha who constantly bugged me as I got dressed and put my socks and shoes on.  I got the bike out and ready, then went back in to harness up Bucky and Yukon (having already made my choice last night).   Escorting the rest of the dogs out back before shutting the door, I put the leashes on them and got the rest of my cold weather gear on. (Balaclava, thick lined jacket and gloves) 

The morning was crisp, the air still and stars shone brightly.  The cloudy pattern of the milky way stretched across the sky, and I saw a meteor streak on the horizen to the west.  

I walked Bucky and Yukon out to the bike and Bucky whined and quivered, but didn't pull excessively.  Yukon is Yukon, a stoic philosopher, and though he gets excited, he keeps good control of himself, which is why he makes an excellent partner for Bucky doing Bikejor.  I quickly hooked up Bucky's tug, and he sat politely!  Was that Bucky?  He whined and quivered, excitement oozing off him, but he kept seated while I hooked in Yukon!  I praised him highly as I turned on the collar light, and hooked up their neckline, releasing their leashes, and Bucky still sat there!!!!

I couldn't believe my eyes!  It was such a good start to the morning!  As soon as I let go of his collar and grabbed the gangline though, he lunged forward, but stopped when I said "Wait!"  Whining and screaming he eased off his tug even, and waited for me to say "Okay!"  and off he went!  Who is this dog?  Certainly not Bucky the Wild Man!  He was so well mannered this morning I may have to give him a new nickname!

Once he took off, though, he was off!  He flew down the road practically dragging Yukon behind him, and Yukon is a very fast dog!  I had to brake back so Yukon could keep up, and once we hit the corner and the first hill, Yukon was able to gain his momentum and they both pulled together.  Over the hill and Bucky again stretched out, pulling Yukon, so I braked again to ensure Yukon pulled on his tug.  Another meteor streaked in the night sky as we broke through the cover of overhanging trees by the remains of the mobile home on the right. 

The roof had collapsed straight down on the base after the people took the metal roof off and rain made the insulation heavy.  It was now a sad silent lump of metal and wood that we quickly left behind for the living tunnel of trees on the other side.  Up the slight rise, down and around the bend where the road went right and a side road for the mini-railroad butted in to the left.  Bucky didn't need the "Gee" command, but it was a reinforcement of direction.  With the slight downhill, he was leaving Yukon behind again, so I had to brake to hold him back again.  On the up hill, both dogs were on their tugs, and we passed the old barn.  At the 1.5 mile mark I called the halt "Whoah!" and "Come Around".  Yukon lead the turn this time surprisingly enough, and executed a good come around gee! 

"Easy!"  and the boys simply trotted to tighten the gangline.  "Okay!" and they took off!  It was awesome to have them beginning to learn to slow down at the "Easy" command!  We lit off back towards the house.  Yukon was leaning in to his tug up until the hill past the turn, then he started slacking off again on the downhill, unable to keep up with Bucky.  So I applied the brakes to slow Bucky so that Yukon could keep up, but he still slacked on his tug.  I'll have to check him thuroughly and have the vet check him out to be sure there is nothing wrong.  If Bandit continues to perform well and not have any seizures, I may substitute Bandit for Yukon in the team.

Bucky and Yukon sprinted up the last hill, even though the neighbor dogs were running by us barking their fool heads off.  With a "Leave It" they paid them no mind, and ran all the way up to our mailbox when I said "Easy".  But instead of trotting on, they stopped, Bucky intent on trying to socialize with the neighbor dogs.  I had to pull their tugs to get them to follow me in to our yard.  Disappointed, Bucky finally got it and trotted ahead of me as I picked up the leashes.

Yukon loves to run, but he seems to be slowing down this season. He'll pull if the pace is slow enough, but Bucky is a bit fast for him. I may have to trade Yukon out of the race team for Bandit should he continue to do well.