It’s only fitting that the long running saga that was the building of our dog boxes for our new truck should be matched by an equally long running saga that was the trip to get it from New Hampshire to our new place in Willow, Alaska. Once I knew it was ready to be collected, I started planning the route and trying to work out where exactly I would be passing through. To further complicate matters, I had 3 different kennels I had to visit on the way, rather than just head directly for Alaska.
Finally, after a long overnight flight from Anchorage to Manchester NH, via Seattle and Newark, and a ride from Bob of Mishawum Siberians, I was able to collect my truck and look forward to the drive west. Next stop – Minnesota. Well, actually not – because I need to sleep. So, the first stop turns out to be Erie, Ohio after a day of driving in torrential rain. Up bright and early, well early anyway, as once again it continued to pour down. Several hundred miles later, another night stop in Tomah, Wisconsin. The next day saw me reach my first intended destination, Manitou Crossing, home of Jedeye Siberians in northern Minnesota. I spent a couple of days there meeting Blake and Jen plus a couple of their handlers, Phil and Kim. I got to go out running on several of their training runs – on delightfully cold mornings at 20 F. I also got to spend a little time with the 3 dogs I was taking away with me, Avery, Lightfoot and Oscar.
After that nice break, it was time to hit the road again, a short 350 mile drive down to southern Minnesota to spend the night with Aaron and Natalie of WildWind Siberians and to collect Junior. Needless to say, it chucked it down all day Thursday.
Friday was spent driving across South Dakota on possibly the worst surfaced Interstate I’ve been on. The upside of a 75 mph limit was countered by the rough road and what can only be described as dreadful fuel consumption – I saw 7.6 mpg on the computer ! My driving, refuelling and bladder emptying routine was also disrupted by the fact that now I was carrying 4 dogs that also needed to be refuelled and have their bladders emptied too. Saturday saw me hit the Badlands and drive through country that had me remembering all those Westerns I used to watch as a kid. I reached my next stop in Wyoming, the home of Allan and Tabby Berge of Deer Creek Sleddogs, to collect another 2 dogs, Oak and Quizno. I was also able to collect another 2 four and half month old pups from TJ of Cold Canyon – TJ is based down in Colorado but kindly made the 5 hour drive north to hook up with me at Tabby’s and save me a days’ driving. These two youngsters, Rimini and Whopijaw faced the long trek west with the rest of us, but despite their youth, they had already experienced a whole lot of driving, camping and eating on the road.
I left Wyoming around 6 PM on the Saturday and after all those days of driving west, finally felt like I was heading home as the truck’s computer showed “N”. I headed up through Wyoming and on into Montana. The dogs and I settled into a steady routine, drive, drop, feed,drop, drive, hydrate, drop, drive, eliminate, drop, drive and then some more driving. That next day, we sailed through the border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana into Canada. That day, I managed to log 950 miles, getting deep into Alberta and on past Calgary and Edmonton. If it’s Monday – it must be British Columbia – at least for several hundred miles or is it the Yukon now. The days, distances and places are all beginning to blur into each other and quite frankly, grabbing naps in the truck instead of a proper night’s sleep in a comfortable bed contribute to that. Monday evening involved dodging the famous herd of buffalo near Liard Hot Springs, driving 30 miles driving behind a snowplow and nearly running out of fuel.
Tuesday saw me pass Whitehorse and resist the temptation to go into the city and visit the Yukon Quest Headquarters. I could now sense that I was close to home and just wanted to push on. The drive through the Kluane National Park was stunning.
The road from Destruction Bay to the US Border was a nightmare – it’s full of massive frost heaves, huge dips and was really hard on the truck and the dogs. Crossing the border was a breeze and I grabbed a cool photo.
Suddenly, the prospect of the journey being over was very real and I wanted to push on and get home. Passing through Tok, I took the Tok Cutoff, heading for the Richardson Highway and one last night of sleeping in the truck. The next morning, I drove the last few hundred miles, through some snow at Sheep Mountain, in bright sunshine past the Matanuska Glacier and than back into “civilisation” onto the Parks Highway at Wasilla.
It was with some relief that I finally pulled into our driveway on Wednesday morning, with 8 more dogs than I started my journey with, 5 937 more miles on the dogtruck and some amazing memories.
Anyone got a beer?