Friday, September 16, 2016

Leaving on a jet plane---

I have to get up at oh dark thirty tomorrow to catch a flight out of El Paso at 8:30. It's about 70 miles from home to the airport on the SE corner of the city..Four plane changes later I will be in Fairbanks where it was 46 a few minutes ago compared to 87 here in Alamo. I am carrying a shirt-jac although it will look dumb in Phoenix. I will just say I am going to Alaska!!

I've been working on this for over two years now so to have it finally coming to pass is a near-miracle. I am so excited--scared but eager, too. I am very grateful to have this opportunity and will do my best to make the most of it. I still do not know how long I can and will stay but that is really not important now.

It will be special to meet some new dogs and get up close and personal with them--like feeding and picking up after them and maybe riding behind a few of them. I do not presently ambition to actually drive a team although that may be remotely possible. I would not risk it unless I was sure--and my hostess also--that I would not let the dogs come to any harm and hopefully not me!

I just stopped by the SP Kennel site and looked over the dogs and puppies. The new three are not up yet and the "fan club' does not open until October. There will be some changes in the lineup since a few more of the old timers have retired and will not race this year and the Surfivers are past two now and some of them will be running more this season. Whether I will get out there or not remains unknown. I do not think Slow Rush Kennel is all that far from Two Rivers although closer in to Fairbanks but I won't have wheels and will probably be kept pretty well occupied. For this trip, my purpose is those
'boots in the snow" I have mentioned and as much hands on experience as I can manage in a few short weeks--and when I am back home, by mid-December at the latest, I will feel it was very short, I am sure.

I hope to be able to post here fairly often and include some photos each time. That is also not certain yet. At any rate I am truly very grateful to have this work out and believe it will be a big step toward making "Women Who Run With The Dogs" into a real book in another year or so. I look at my picture with Aliy and Deedee and know that I too must dream it, dare it, and DO IT!! Thanks to them for their inspiration and to my very supportive brother who will keep the home fires warm and take care of the Red Dogs while Mama is off on her crazy adventure.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Big Events and News!!!

Yes, this area has been silent for some tieme but I have been busy behind the scenes. I just did not have enough firmed up to share for awhile. It was not real easy to manage but I now have a place to go --a real live kennel so I can get that boots in the snow feel for this whole adventure. I will be flying to Fairbanks on September 17!

Most of  the major mushers want young, active, wanna-be racers to come aboard for helpers and handlers. I totally understand that and did not ever try for many of the help wanted ads posted on the  "Sled Dog Central Help/Handlers Wanted" site. But I did try a few; many did not even deign to reply but one called me shortly after she got the email--it was about 1:30 NM time--that is the o-dark 1:30!
And she called again before I got the call returned the next morning. We talked for thirty or forty minutes and she agreed to have me com up. She has two regular helpers, one there I guess full time and the other due in October. We will be sharing a couple of cabins and worring hard but I think having fun as well.

I will be staying at Slow Rush Kennel and will be a kind of working guest. The owner, Kyia Bouchard, has also run a mushing museum in Fairbanks which she has just closed as of the end of August. For some reason, attendance was very poor and not enough income to pay the rent on the building. I find this both sad and perplexing. I do have a few ideas to pitch to her while I am there and have slight hopes of getting things back up and going by next summer with this. We'll see. The museum in Knik with a large amount of iditarod stuff is barely hanging on as well; what we need is to get some deep pocketed folks whoa re serious musher fans to step up and help with this to perhaps create a central one-stop place for visitors to learn and observe "all about sled dogs" and the history of mushing around the world.

Kyia has done many things in her life and was a late arrival to Alaska and dog sledding--she's put in about ten years there now. No, she has no big race wins and not even too many small race finishes but she does have a kennel of about 45 dogs and makes a point to have many different kinds from the current speedy "Alaskan Husky" mixed breed dogs (some retirees from well known kennels) to the Siberians and a few of the big, heavy Malamute type freight hauler dogs, the "Percherons/ lydesdales" of the sled dogs.

The kennel is off the grid and I think they use solar in some weather and generators for power. I expect it to be rustic and can deal with that. I am not sure how much internet time and access I will have but intend to keep up both this blog and my FB posts as best I can. No promises except to try! If I don't get much done, expect a barrage when I get home. I may try to get an extra car for my camera so as to be able to save a gazillion shots! But can also download them to my trusty little Acer travel netbook.

At present, my return date is set for 13 December--I had to set one when I made my flight reservations--but that is subject to change. Since I am not the only helper or even a regular one, I won't feel bad and like I am letting my hostess down if I find I have real issues dealing with the lack of sun and the cold.  I'm just going to give it my best shot. I've acquired quite a bit of cold weather attire and can borrow a few things and maybe buy a few more locally before real winter sets in.

I feel that ninety days is the most I can fairly be away from home since I have my fiction work to continue with, other duties and activities, and my brother will be keeping my two dogs--one of whom is now on special eye drops just like I am. Turns out Ginger has extreme dry and irritated eyes just like her mom does! So that is probably the latest possible return home--before the holidays. It could be sooner but I want to learn as much as I can and get as much experience and understanding of the back-of-the scenes stuff that all the mushers have to do. It doesn't matter if they are long distance racers. sprint  racers, expedition folks or simply hobbyists--the care and training of the dogs is very much the same with only a few minor adjustments for what you expect them to do.. I may get to see a few of the major mushers in the local region while I am there--a number of kennels are scattered around the Fairbanks area.  SPK, Page and Cody's Squid Acres,  Lance Mackey, Jody Bailey etc.

Anyway, next Saturday or Saturday week will see me arriving about 9:00 p.m. local and being picked up by Kyia and taken out ten miles or so to the kennel. In time there will be lots of pictures and reports, so check back every few days and see what is going on!