Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beargrease Blunders
Both Photos courtesy of Marc Bowen

  • Well, we had quite an experience at the Beargrease this year. I haven't had the energy to blog about it since we've been home, but thought I'd better since our next race is only 5 days away!! We were more than prepared as we left Gaylord. We had new plates on the truck, got an oil change, had our trailer tires checked just incase. We were READY!! We had a great uneventful trip until just after Ashland, Wisconsin. We were traveling in a white out, snow storm & going over a stretch of terrible highway. It was one of the worst roads we've ever traveled on! Whoever complains that Michigan has terrible roads, has never driven on this stretch of highway!! Suddenly, we got a flat tire. We were prepared, or so we thought. Our jack wouldn't lift our trailer high enough to put our spare on, so we called road side assistance. They got the spare on only to find out that it had no air in it!! Also, Mark, the tow truck operator, told us we needed larger ply tires on our extremely heavy trailer & was very surprised these tires had lasted so long. So, Mark took Larry back to Ashland to buy a device that would air up our tire on the highway & also to buy two new heavier duty tires & said he would put them on our trailer in the morning in Iron River. I was so hopeful that this would work!! Meanwhile, I had to wait on the side of the highway for them to return.
  • They came back after about an hour & aired up our spare. We put the two new tires in the back of the truck & started for Iron River. Only, we made it about 50 yards, our tire was rubbing against the inside fender & our spare went flat. So, we called Mark, the nicest guy on the planet, to come back & help us again. He jacked up the trailer, took the spare, our other rim & the two new tires back to Ashland to his buddy's house to put the new tires on our rims so we could proceed to Iron River. In the meantime, we were wondering why the tire was rubbing against the inside rim since it had never done that before. While Mark was gone with our tires, Larry took the fender off & the plywood that was on the other side of that with a hammer so we could be sure it wouldn't rub with the new tires on.
  • About 1.5 hours later, Mark came back & we were elated after he put the new tire on. We were thinking this would do the trick!! Wanting to be cautious with the new tire & not wanting to ruin it, Larry went forward with the truck slowly to make sure it wasn't rubbing. Well, it was, AGAIN! So, we stopped before we ruined the tire & then discovered our axle was broken!!!! Mark, who had been with us for going on 5 hours now, put a special dolly under our trailer & we limped into Iron River. We then fed the dogs & got into our hotel room at 3:00 am. We had to be up by 6:00 am, so that didn't leave much time for sleeping!!
  • Both of us had the worst, fitful sleep ever, dreaming about our broken trailer & how we were going to make it to the start of the Beargrease. Larry took the trailer down to A & L at 7 am only to discover that the axle was also bent & could not be welded. To top it off, we had to cell reception so comunicating with each other while he was with the trailer was useless. I was hopeful after he returned that everything was going to be fixed. Well, that wasn't so! Larry said, looks like we are not racing. We need a new axle. I was so disapointed and in shock thinking after all this training we would not be making it to our first race of the year.
  • Then, in one last ditch effort, Larry put an SOS on Facebook describing our hopeless situation & wondering if anyone had a dog truck or trailer we could use to get to the race. The support from all of the mushers was overwhelming!! My phone started to ring constantly after about 15 minutes. Only problem was, I couldn't talk to anyone since we had no service. I became a texting fool, trying to get the the bottom of this problem. Dave Turner & Thad McCracken were on the verge of putting Thad's dogs in Dave's trailer & coming to get us so we could make it to the vet check in time. We didn't want to ruin their races by having all our dogs on their trucks though because we had ALOT of dogs with us!! Turns out, we broke down in the right town. There were a few mushers in the area. Bob Wright had contacted Frank Holmberg about Natalie & Aaron Harwood having a trailer. Frank texted me the Harwood's number. Charlie Voldarski was spreading the word at the Beargrease and Eric Morris was trying to reach us to help out. I called Natalie from our hotel & she only lived 3 miles away!! It was a small trailer & we had 23 dogs, so we were in desperate need of a dog box of some kind also. I remembered our friend's Anne & Merlin Coy had moved to Wisconsin in the fall. I was thinking they lived in Superior. I found her phone number on my Facebook email & called her. When Anne answered the phone, I said, "Anne, where do you live??!!" I was elated to discover she lived only 10 miles out of Iron River. She told me they had some old dog boxes they were going to burn, but would put them on their truck & come to the rescue. Larry got Natalie & Aaron's trailer, Anne & Merlin quickly arrived & we shoved dogs & gear into every box we could. We had the speed of a well trained pit crew! So, now we were off to race the Beargrease in Anne & Merlin's truck with their dogs boxes & Natalie's & Aaron's trailer. We were so happy!!!!
  • We got to the vet check 3 hours late, but we made it! Now it was time to put the trailer stress behind us for now & focus on the race. The start of the race was sunny & warm for Beargrease standards. Usually it is bitter cold there. Or, it feels bitter cold to us fair weather Michigan mushers. I couldn't believe I made it to the start line!! After leaving the chute, I discovered one of our dogs running weird. Prophet is a dog I can put in the team & NEVER have to look at because he is always doing his job. Two weeks before the race, he had harness rub from us getting new harnesses & running him in too large of a size. So, I put a kid's t-shirt on him & ran him in a smaller harness until his special harness rub protection t-shirt arrived in the mail. I ran him with it on two short runs before the race & didn't see a problem. Well, there was definetly a problem today. He was not pulling & had short, quick strides & had his head down. I could tell it was that darn shirt! He pulled up the hills on the 1st leg, but that was it. I was really worried about him.
  • At the first checkpoint, Two Harbors, we discovered that the shirt sleeves had rubbed the fronts of his legs raw. We had a vet check him over & he looked fine otherwise, so we decided to take him on the 2nd leg. Right away, he was running weird. I had a sinking feeling that we made a huge mistake not dropping him. In the meantime, I had two leaders that were not driving down the trail & could not figure out who the culprit was. One of our females in swing, Fender, was in heat, so I figured she had something to do with it. 45 minutes into the 2nd leg, Eddie stopped on a hill & balled up the front of the team. I quickly decided to snack the dogs, move Franklin in lead, Eddie in swing next to his love interest, & took Prophet's booties off to see if this would make any difference. Problem solved!! The remainder of the 2nd leg went smoothly. George & Franklin rocked in lead, Eddie pulled hard in swing & Prophet pulled like a mad man the rest of the time.
  • After a 6 hour rest in Finland, we got the dogs up & walked them around to see if anyone was stiff. Eddie had two sore shoulders & had to be dropped. Everyone else, including Prophet looked great! I started the 3rd leg in 7th place & just hoped that nobody would pass me & we could hold onto our spot. My heart sunk when, right away, Prophet had that weird gait again. His fronts of his legs were obviously bothering him. I could have kicked myself for not dropping him in Finland, but he ran so well on the 2nd leg!! He didn't pull, except up the hills, so I slowed the team to protect him so he wouldn't have to have a ride in the sled bag. The rest of the team really wanted to fly, so it was tough holding them back. We even ended up catching two teams on that leg & finished in 5th place out of 37 teams!! Aside from making some stupid errors about our dog care, I couldn't have been happier. Prophet is one tough dog, because after all that, he made it to the finish line!!!
  • I got to enjoy my finish for about an hour, then the doom of finding a solution to getting home started to sink in. We spent the entire day on the phone to every place in Minnesota & Wisconsin that sold axles. We could NOT find ANY in two states, unless we wanted to wait 2 weeks!! We didn't have two weeks, we needed to get home. The other option was to rent a flat bed truck & put our trailer on it to get home. That would cost $800!! Right before the finish banguet, Larry hangs up the phone for the final time & delcares "WE ARE BUYING A TRAILER!!!!" We didn't want to throw away $800, so our only option was to spend the money & buy a nice, dual axle, 18' car hauler, flat bed trailer to haul our trailer back home. We could then build boxes on it in the summer & have a really nice, safer trailer to drive next year.
  • The next morning, we bought the trailer and went to Walmart & bought 9 heavy duty ratchet straps with 50,000 lbs of breakstrength. We stayed the night at Anne & Merlin's in Iron River and the next morning A & L lifted our trailer ontop of our new one & used the ratchet straps to tie it down to ensure it would make the trip home. We were finally on our way home!!! We drove 50 mph the entire way & made it!!!!!!
  • We would like to sincerly thank everyone that helped us! We would not have made it to the race or home without all of you kind people! I would also like to congratulate Dave Turner for an impressive win!
  • Our next race is this Friday, the Midnight Run. You can check our progress from our website: Also, our old trailer is currently getting a heavy duty axle put on so we can use it for the remainder of our races. We are hoping to have it back by tomorrow!!