Well, we have successfully completed yet another drive across the continent. For me, this was my forth time north bound from the state of my youth, New Hampshire. It was Steph’s second, and for the dogs of Tukaway, it was their first northbound trip! Going from North to south is always fun. It means I am heading back into familiarity. Heading to a region I will always consider home. New Hampshire is a place where I learned about cold wild weather, and it is also where I learned how to run dogs. It is where my parents live, and a place where I know I can always count on my brother dropping whatever he’s doing when I say, “let’s go fish up at our secret lake in the mountains where the biggest bass live!” New Hampshire is a security I know I will always have. Some of my best friends in the world live from Vermont to Maine, and for me, I am lucky because New Hampshire is sandwiched right in the middle. But as much as I love Northern New England, I have never been one for living comfortably. I will always take to heart what an old soccer coach once told me, “If you want to get better, you have to get out of your comfort zone!” Sure you can apply this to running suicides, Jonesy’s, stadiums, or finding energy left somewhere in some cells hidden way down in a region you never knew you had until you find it. But for me, I apply this to everything. Life for me, is about experience away from all securities. For many, driving across the continent twice in one year may seem like a ridiculous concept. Especially when sleeping in your truck every night in sketchy truck stops and road side pull offs is your main manner of rest. But for me, being on the road has always been a place that just makes sense! Meeting strangers who quickly become friends of the road, and traveling through regions you thought you would never see and maybe never see again is something I thrive for. Haha, there are of course those times when you just don’t want to be anywhere near where you are. Not because you do not like the area but because you don't want to deal with a broken truck! Take breaking down in a mechanics parking lot in Glasgow, Montana. Yeah, it wasn’t fun camping across the street from his shop at the fairgrounds parking lot of this small town. But if it wasn’t for the pulley that spins the belt in the engine completely breaking off, we would have never met the incredibly kind folks at the Chevy Dealer who made special arrangements to fix our broken Ford! Then there was Bag Lady Sue! This nice lady I met just east of Pittsburgh, PA which is where my parents and many of my relatives are from. She lived up to the Keystone state’s slogan. ‘You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania!’ She approached us and asked about our dog truck. Turns out, this lady is a comedian who performs all over the country, but spends a good bit of time up in our home town of Fairbanks, Alaska! (Bag Lady Sue, if you are reading this, don’t forget to look me up! I owe you a dog sled ride!)
My point is, the road is a fun place. The U.S.A is an amazing place! Driving from one end to the other and through the beauty of Canada and greeted by their incredibly nice people is a drive I would stand up and do again with the drop of a hat! As for the dogs…. We’ll, let’s just say they are now seasoned travelers. Being exposed to as many experiences is never a bad thing for a dog. Traveling and meeting strangers is the life of a sled dog. We as mushers want our dogs to be as friendly and outgoing and comfortable in as many situations as possible. The Tukaway Crew proved they are just that with this drive. Many people stopped and took time to pet our amazing dogs at every stop when we let them out of their boxes so they could walk around and relieve themselves. We even had a few chances to hook up and run along the way! My crew can now say they have run and pulled in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska. How about that for diversity!
I love the road. Traveling and having new experiences out of your normal everyday comfort zone is what makes me excited to get up in the morning! But now we are back home at our cozy COMFORTABLE cabin in Two Rivers, Alaska. Well… It sure feels good to be home! We have settled in nicely. Going on dog walks and training runs every day and bringing a few dogs in each night for some house/movie(Game of Thrones) time sure is nice! It beats having a big 18 wheeler diesel come idling to a halt and parking right next to you at 3am when you are trying to sleep. Let’s just say, there is no way in HELL I would park my dog truck with fifteen of my best buddies sleeping sound in the back next to those fumes for the remainder of the night! I drove around until about 4am in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin in search of another spot to car camp until the morning light which came much quicker than I wanted! But what a sunrise it was!
So here we are, with our new kennel we built in the heart of some of the finest dog mushing in the world. This will be my third winter in Two Rivers, and just to give you an idea of how great the dog teams are here, well, think about this. There are at least ten one thousand mile championship teams here going back to 1977! If you count that fella up on the hill two towns over there are 18 champion teams! Plus the numerous other extremely accomplished mushers that inhabit the trails surrounding Fairbanks. There is a wealth of dog knowledge going back to the days of trap line teams and freighting back when dog mushing was more about working, and all the way up to some of the finest long distance and sprint racing teams in the world. If you have ever had a question about what dogs are really all about. The dog mushing mecca of Fairbanks and the town of Two Rivers are a great place to start! I have always seen dogs as something even more amazing than just ‘Man’s best friend’ but after spending time around a dog community such as this, dogs are set on an even higher pedestal. They are looked at as kings and queens and talked about like old American folktales. The legend of such famous dogs as Togo, Zorro, Granite, Quito, and Salem will live in the books forever! And this is where I now consider home. Its a place where dedicating everything you have to your dog team is the norm. Where human life comes second to the life of the dog. It is a place of great adventure and a place that thrives on making sure one is never truly in their comfort zone. Alaska, the Yukon, and the rest of the Great North is a region still full of surprises where around every corner an adventure always awaits!
Anyways, so now we are home and dog season is in full swing. The team is cranking along nailing ten mile runs as we prepare for the ACE 65, Two Rivers 200, and our main goal of the season the Yukon Quest 300! It’s a season of yearling training. Slow and steady with the goals of building a monster dog team to unleash on the racing world in the years to come! They are certainly exceling in every task I ask of them, and with the help of some great dogs from Pete Kaiser, I think we have a pretty solid young team for this race season! Don’t expect any titles, but do expect some happy tails coming into the finish lines. If we can pass a few teams as we go, I’m sure we’ll be all right with that too! So here we go, after a long drive we have arrived in the land of short days and Looooonnnnngggg nights as we begin our season of ‘Run long, SLEEP LESS!’ mentality. Sure we’ll enjoy our comforts of cozy cabin living, but being back on the trail in the depths of an Alaskan cold where frost finds comfort clinging to any exposed skin and numbness from the cold spreads throughout one’s body is where we will spend the season. Bring it on!