Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mush! Mush!

Well, I can now say that I'm a true Alaskan! I have done it all and can now move to a warmer state! Okay maybe not, but this weekend I did something I never thought I'd do! Brett surprised me for my birthday with a very non-traditional gift. (He actually knew better than to surprise me, so he ran this by me first. Smart man!) Before my birthday (see prior March 2nd entry) he said, "What would you think of driving a dog sled? I was trying really hard to be excited because he was working so hard to find a perfect gift for me, which is not an easy task. Inside I was screaming, "Is this man crazy?! It's so dang cold outside and I really don't like animals! What is he thinking?" Instead I calmly replied, "Okay, tell me more." After a little coaxing from my awesome husband and some research, I actually got excited! I was even happier when Brett found some friends of ours willing to watch our kids for the weekend. Thanks Bentley's! We owe you big time!

So with that introduction, let me guide you through our fun-filled day! (I know it's a lot to read, but hopefully very entertaining!)

When we got to Paxson Lake, we were introduced to Zoya and John, the owners of the dogs. Not only were they great hosts, but were a lot of fun to talk to. We learned so much about the dogs, (They own over 50 of them. In fact all of these dogs were right outside their front door.) what they eat, their different personalities, etc. You can look up their website for more information.

You can see their home in the upper left hand corner of the picture. There is a truck partially covered with snow and another car completely covered in snow and ice. There is a glacier that is beginning to take over their property. John said the water from the glacier travels underneath the snow, so both vehicles are stuck there until May or June when it warms up. I really don't know how they do it living there. I told Brett not to get any wild ideas!

After visiting with Zoya and John we got aquainted with the dogs, the part I dreaded most. I just knew the dogs would sense my lack of true love for them and would toss me off my sled or something. They were actually very well behaved and didn't try to jump on me or lick me so it was fine.

Then they showed us how to harness the dogs. They were so patient with me because I did it three times slower than John did!

Brett caught on very quickly and looked like a pro within minutes!

After harnessing the teams we took a little ride, about a mile or so, to help us get used to the feel of the sled and everything. He prepped us beforehand saying, "Remember the brake is your friend!" He also told us that no matter what, we were not supposed to let go of our sled because then the dogs would get loose. I just knew I was going to bite it and have the dogs drag me across the frozen lake! Well, I'm happy to report that I didn't fall off the sled that first run. I pretty much partially braked the whole time so that the dogs wouldn't go too fast. (They were probably thinking, "What is this lady's problem? What a whimp!") In fact Brett started behind me, but then caught up and passed me within seconds. Oh well!
It was a fun, quick trip and I thought, "Piece of cake! Bring on that 6-7 mile (each way) run!" What a nightmare that turned out to be! I started out fine, just cruising along, until one of my lead dogs decided to make a U-turn. (Remember the whole sensing my dislike for animals theory?) I immediately put both feet on the the brake and decided to see if they would somehow miraculously turn around. Brett was following me and his dogs got too close to mine and they all got tangled. John had gone ahead with a different dog team and one of his dog handlers, Chad, was ahead of us on a snowmobile. Chad turned around and came back to help. (I'm sure he thought we were total idiots!) After spending about 15 minutes untangling the dogs we got started again.
I was cruising along for about a minute when that same crazy lead dog, Chucky, did it again! At that point I began to be concerned for our 14 mile journey! A few minutes later, John came back to see what was going on. He switched Chucky with a different dog, and then we were off again.
I did pretty well for a few minutes and then the hour and a half nightmare began! My sled kept tipping over! Did Brett's tip over? Did John's tip over? Oh no, just mine! I would put all my weight on my right foot, steer my sled right and I would still tip to the left! Now remember the goal is to not let the dogs get away from you, so picture this...... I'm hanging onto the sled for dear life, while at the same time trying to stand up. Each time I attempt, I sink into the snow up to my waist. When I would finally get both feet onto my left ski (I guess what you need to know is that while driving the team, you stand on two skiis that are attached to the sled.) I would command my dogs and they would take off, which would cause me to lose my balance and then the whole process would start again! This went on and on and on. John kept coming over to give me pointers, but nothing would work! Poor Brett had to watch all of this from behind and really couldn't do anything to help. Every time he would offer a suggestion I would yell back at him out of pure frustration. (At this point I wanted to kill him for even suggesting this ridiculous idea! I couldn't believe I was paying these people money for this torture!) Anyway, to make a long story even longer.... my blood sugar was a mess because it was now about 2:30 and I hadn't eaten, and my legs and arms felt like jello from having to lift my big'ol body up over and over and over again!
After what seemed like an eternity, John came over, unzipped my sled and took out a big bucket and put it on his snowmobile. I guess it was filled with 40 pounds of meat to feed to the dogs. He hadn't realized it was in my sled. After that I didn't fall at all! It all made sense! I really wasn't an idiot! There was a reason that my sled kept tipping over. This bucket kept rolling in my sled, causing my sled to tip. When I would try to go it would roll to the other side for a little bit and then roll right back. After the discovery was made, my life seemed perfect! Within a half hour we made it to the little cabin for lunch and a well needed break! Yeah!

Brett and his team. I told Brett I was glad he couldn't hear all of the choice words I was using every time I tipped over! I still love him though!!

My patient, wonderful team! I stayed nice and toasty with my goggles, facegear and other snow clothes!

Chad cooked some mean potatoes and moose steaks. This was my first time eating moose! Not bad!

We wanted a picture of the little cabin. It had a little bunkbed and table. I loved how John ate his meal with his pocketknife! As we ate, John told us stories of some of the races he has participated in. It's just so fascinating to me that people have this as a lifestyle. His wife is so dang cute, used to be a model in Wisconsin, has raced in the Iditarod and will race again next year. They live in the middle of nowhere, have compost toilet in their house (It was a big toilet that you had to use a step stool to get on and you don't flush, kind of like a porta-potty minus the smell. It was a very cute bathroom too!) and take care of and race dogs all winter. Amazing!

The view was just beautiful and as we rounded the corner near the cabin we could see the river. It was just so pretty with the mountain behind it!

I loved the trek home! Even though it was windy and the snow was blowing everywhere, my sled only tipped a couple of times. When it did I was able to get it going again without any problems. The time zipped by and we got back so fast! (It took about an hour on the way back, but that was much faster than the two and a half hours it took us to get there!)

I can't tell which one of us this is (I think Brett), but it was just a gorgeous day!

I know this is Brett because I would have never let go of my sled and stayed on. He was a pro!

This is my favorite shot of me, at least I'm pretty sure it's me, because of the way the sun is hitting. It's just a great way to summarize a wonderful day!
I know this post was mostly full of complaints, but much of that was simply for your entertainment. =) Once the bucket problem was solved I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the dogs and the experience. Would I want to do it again? Maybe. Although you really should ask me another time when every muscle in my body isn't screaming with pain! Maybe I should extend my birthday another day and get a massage tomorrow! I love you Brett!

Go Away Ash!

Well it finally happened! Ash from Mt. Redoubt blew into Anchorage. I really couldn't complain too much because church was canceled today. (Man that is soooo bad of me to be so excited about that!) We had fun spending time together at home playing games, singing songs and taking naps. (I really enjoyed the nap part of things!)

Our lovely white snow, that I wish didn't even exist at this point, is now a dingy gray.

It looks like someone came by with a big pepper shaker. Snow cone anyone?!

I just can't even wait to start the cleaning process. This stuff is everywhere! Let the fun begin!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another Year Wiser?

Well another year has come and gone. More gray hairs, (I've even given up on pulling them out. I decided if I kept that up I'd be bald soon!) a few more wrinkles, (Botox, save me!) and one more year of surviving Alaska! (Sarah Palin gossip really helped this year fly by!) Okay seriously, this year was a great one! I am getting used to Alaska's darkness and long winters. Maybe my "happy lights" and vitamin B's did the trick! Thanks Costco!

As you will see below, I had a very fun birthday! I must say that if you haven't signed up for Facebook you must! I have never had so many "Happy Birthday" wishes in my life, well except for when I taught school. I heard from so many people that day.

So I started my day going to Jared's preschool with Brett and Jenna for Jared's special day! (Brett had the day off, which was wonderful! I think I will request that every year!) Anyway, about once every month and a half a parent goes in to help with a center at school and provide a snack for the children. Jared helped with calendar time and got to bring a special toy from home to share. It's so fun to spy on him and see how he interacts with other kids.

Later that day we invited our friends, the Geroux's, over to help us make pizza and party with us! Jared, Dallin and Jenna made the cutest cards for me and gave me some spatulas. I'll have to remember to use those when they misbehave!=) Brett's gift is coming later. Stay tuned!

Here's the pizza crew! Shouldn't I get some sort of commission from Pam, Prego, A&W and Dole for the advertising? We made a canadian bacon/pinapple pizza and a 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni one. They were so yummy!

They loved adding more and more cheese! Marci and Mikaela were very big helpers.

My favorite part of the day was when my friend surprised me with this beautiful cake. I LOVE lemon cake and this was so perfect! I think Brett was so relieved when my friend, Michelle, offered to make this. That let him off the hook. The whole day I kept thinking, "When is Brett going to make my cake? Has he forgotten about me? He's in big trouble if he forgets." (You know how those pretend conversations go that you have with your spouse? They start small and then escalate into this huge thing. Before you know it, you're mad at the person and they haven't done anything to deserve it? Am I the only one that does that?!) So, thanks Michelle! You are the best!
After the pizza party, we went to watch a local high school basketball game. One of the girls that I teach in church was playing so we wanted to go cheer her on! Jenna was quite the cheerleader as she yelled, "Go Cara go!"
All in all, turning 38 was a pretty painless experience! Thanks everyone for spoiling me!