Monday, 15 November 2004

November 15, 2004 Tribute to an Old Friend

Okay, first off, everybody settle down – the dogs are all fine, this is not a tribute to one of them. Promise!
You know, since we got involved in distance racing virtual everything in our yard and gear has been replaced – all the ‘original’ distance dogs are now passed on or retired , sleds have changed, harnesses, ganglines, clothing – everything EXCEPT for one thing – our Dog Truck. Oh, certainly it has gone through some changes, but underneath it all it is still the same truck.
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The truck was originally purchased new in ’94 as a new work vehicle for Mark. In no time it was serving double duty with a small dog box sitting on top of the truck box. That served us well for the ’95 season when we did our first 120 mile race and went down to Ashton, Idaho for the American Dog Derby, but when we were getting ready for our first Race to the Sky in ’96 we knew we would have to upgrade. The truck box was taken off, a flat deck put on and a shiny new, white 20-hole dog box added. Sometime in ’97 it gave up its day job and became a full time dog truck. In ’99 our friend Roger Morey decided that the boxes needed an ‘upgrade’ prior to our first Iditarod. He stripped the boxes down and totally repainted them, giving them their first red paint job and adding the flashy ‘maple leaf’ doors that have become somewhat of a trademark for us. The blue paint job on the truck now looked out of place, so it was into the shop for a black finish for it (bet many of you didn’t know that it was originally blue! The inside of the doors and cab has always been the giveaway).
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Now here we are close to 5 years later, the truck now has 291,000+ Km on it (most startling when you realize it sits, unused in the yard for most of the year). It has been to Alaska and back 5 times, Minnesota and back more times then I can remember, it has visited British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Yukon, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Alaska. Rust is starting to take over the truck, the boxes leak like crazy (I sucked 3 shop vacs of water out of 5 of the boxes before I could load the dogs to come home from MN), the upkeep bills to keep it running well are getting bigger and bigger each year, and the mystery rattle is now so bad I had to shut the truck off to hear the border guards questions when I came back into Canada last week.
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It’s ‘little’ ¾ ton frame has been battered and tested on virtually every trip by over 1000 lbs of dogs, the weight of the boxes, deck, dog food, etc, etc – usually hauling a trailer with one or two ATV’s on it too. It’s owes us nothing – we couldn’t have asked for a more reliable, dependable truck, - the only time it ever let us down was on the way home from Race to the Sky in ’98, but I’m convinced that was a plot by the Gods to get us to buy the house we are currently living in (while we were waiting for the new transmission we scooted from Whitecourt up to Perryvale so I could look at this property. We had already put an offer in on it, but I wasn’t keen on the size of the house and everything eventually fell through. When I saw the place though, I INSTANTLY saw why Mark was so keen on it and we made a new offer). It was once winched up a snowy hill as we learned that a trail packed by snowmachines is not suitable to drive a loaded dog truck on; it has hauled other dog trucks out of snow banks at races, it has weathered furious storms at -40; horrible trips with the dogs at 90F, rain, sleet, hail – you name it, it has seen it. We have laughed, cried, fought, schemed, planned, and celebrated in it. In fact, it was in that truck on the way home from the ’97 Beargrease that Mark told me to ‘Go Big or Stay Home’. My choice was ‘Go Big’ and that was the first time we discussed Iditarod as a goal.
Although we vacuum it pretty regularly and try hard to keep it tidy - the glove box, front console, dashboard and back seat are littered with memorabilia. The cheesy ‘tiger tail’ that Esso was giving out with each fill up on the way to one of our first sprint races still hangs from the rear view mirror, the stuffed moose that Draco picked up and carried home on a training run still graces the dash, along with a small stuffed Zuma (the Iditarod husky), Handler armbands from the last couple of Iditarod are wrapped around the visor. Mark claims someone could live for a week on the Power Bars and sunflower seeds you could find in there, zip ties, electrical tape, duct tape, tools, chains, matches…the list goes on and on.
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Now I’m sure many of you see where this post is going. A month or so ago my Mom called. My Mom is a pretty special lady, she can tolerate her daughter driving 16 dogs through the wilderness of Alaska, but she cringes at the thought of her driving alone around Canada and the US in an unreliable vehicle. So Mom had a plan. “You need a new dog truck.” she stated. I agreed, pretty much everyone knows that. She then proceeded to explain how exactly it was that we could juggle things around and afford a new one. Whoever it was that said you should always listen to your Mother may have been right. I could barely wait till Mark got up (he was working nights and sleeping until 2:30pm or so) to tell him the news.
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The long and short of this story is, indeed, that we have bought a new dog truck. The timing for all this isn’t really good, as we are now scrambling to get the truck, get new dog boxes built and have everything ready for Alaska but we are very excited about it all. The morning after we bought the truck, Mark got out of bed and asked if I thought Ford had started building it yet. Ah, men and their trucks! It is because of that that Mark will be writing the next post telling you what exactly we have bought. My only demands were that the truck be black, have either power windows or air conditioning (I got both) and that the dog box doors have maple leaves on them!
And as for the old truck – well, it won’t fit in Geriatric Park (where our old dogs live), but it won’t be leaving either. With the shape it is in now and the mileage on it, it is not worth much, so it will hang out here and do runs for dog food, trips to the dump, and such. Tasks ‘beneath’ the new truck but more then the mini van can handle.
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We owe it a lot.
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