Running For Home

18 July 2012     7.00 PM      73F         Sunny and oh so hot

Driving a long way with your dogs is both fun and a bit of hassle. It’s fun to have them with you, the hassle comes from the requirement to drop them every few hours. It’s not just the finding of a suitable location to do so that is the worry, but particularly with new dogs, the concern over broken collars, malfunctioning equipment or just a simple mistake ramps up the stress levels.

The upside of having made this trip three times is that I am beginning to get an idea of where some of the better dog stops are to be found. With previous journey dates varying from early May to late September, this run in mid June falls right into the tourist season category. The upside is that picnic/campgrounds that were closed in May (especially true of my un-favourite Canadian Province of Saskatchewan) are now open. The downside is that these nice rest spots now tend to have people making use of them.

First stop of the trip worked out well. A tropical downpour just finished as I reached my intended rest spot. Even better, it was deserted, so no silly questions about “what’s in the boxes, mister”, ” are they wolves?”, “oh what’s wrong with that one’s eye?”  (nothing – its blue) etc. That first time you open the door on a new dog is a real test of nerve. Worst case scenario, you are but moments away from a frantic chase as a frightened dog takes off seeking familiar faces and surroundings – neither of which is closer than a couple of hundred miles. Best outcome, your new 4 legged friend just sits patiently waiting whilst you clip him on a lead and he then jumps out of the truck on command. The reality lies somewhere in the middle. None of my new dogs seemed inclined to bolt and did all sit happily in their box as I fiddled with the lead. A couple of them did need a little gentle persuasion to convince them that it actually would be to their benefit to spend a few minutes stretching their legs and making use of the facilities. Yuri failed to believe me and chose to stay in his box. With the surrounding trees and shrubbery suitably watered, and the dogs refreshed, it was time to load them again. As with letting them out, putting them back in has its moments of concern. Happily, again, the 4 adventurers were remarkably co-operative and we were soon on our way.

There’s not much to see out the flatlands, so I usually pass the time drinking coffee and soda, (although not at the same time), singing loudly and tunelessly to the songs on the MP3 player and munching on whatever healthy snacks are within arm’s reach.  I almost managed to finish that sentence with a straight face – no, you’re right, there are no healthy snacks allowed in the dogtruck.

Gealach Mor Seppala Siberians new recruits
Second drop of the day, Yuri can just be seen, still in his box.

It seemed a bit early in the day for places and times to be blurring into each other, but I think the 4 day trip down maybe fried me a little. After all, I never got my mini-holiday in Whitehorse this time. I’m not a great fan of artificial stimulants and maybe I drink too much coffee as it doesn’t actually seem to keep me awake especially, I just like the taste, but as the evening wore on, I finally gave in and tried one of those 5 Hour Energy potions. Hmmm, well I guess it sort of worked, it got me through Edmonton late at night and just before 2.00 am, I pulled over for the last dog drop of the night and a quick snooze. 5 Hour Energy was drunk at 10.30PM and I was fast asleep on the back seat by 02.15AM.  I guess 3 Hour 45 Minute Energy just doesn’t have the same marketing ring.

Hitting the road bright and early, the next few hours driving saw me in Grand Prairie during the morning rush hour. Oh dear.  Let’s just say I’d like to apologise to the lady in the little black car. It wasn’t that I didn’t see you – I just really had to be in that lane at that moment and you were dawdling……….

Having survived the centre of town, I pulled into the gas station which, of course, also has a Tim Horton’s attached to it. One slight problem arose when I discovered that the gas station didn’t actually have any gas. Fortunately, and much more importantly, Timmie’s had plenty of coffee available, along with a very nice breakfast sandwich.

Heading out into the wilds, I calculated that I would make it to the next place that sold petrol easily and that there would be no cause for alarm or panic. Oh ye of little faith, thinking that was a precursor to some tale of doom and gloom and running out of fuel. Not at all, as Dawson Creek is only about 60 miles further on. From there, it is greater distances between towns, greatly reduced traffic and generally far prettier scenery. The sun also decided to join me on my trip north, the first time that I had really be blessed by its company. With a cloudless blue sky, the summer sun could be felt to full effect, and that was very evident when I stopped to drop the dogs just outside Fort Nelson. As soon as I opened the truck door, a blast of hot air rushed in, I was astounded at the heat and decided that with no shade available, the dogs would probably be far more comfortable if we were moving again. On checking the thermometer, it displayed 83 F, which is far too hot for me. Even on my holidays. I knew that the road ahead climbed up into the mountains and figured that it would have to be cooler, the higher we got.

dogs in the shade of the truck
Making our own shade, in the slightly cooler mountain air.

The dogs got a good break, a nice walk and plenty of water. I got my easy chair out and sat in the shade with them for a while and we could have made a small fortune if only I had charged every tourist who asked if they could take a picture of the dogs.

young elk

baby and adult stone sheep
Stone Mountain Sheep, not a care in the world.
big brown bear
Lots and lots of bears
bear in the truck's wing mirror
I think she might be a little too close

I will admit to being just a little, well let’s just call it concerned, when I realised just how close that black bear was to the truck. I was happy the dogs were all safely in their boxes on the other side.  I did wonder if the mother and her cubs were working as a team, the cubs were playing nicely on the grass verge for the tourists, and mama bear would sneak up on them from the other side.

Big, they are just so big.

I love these bison, they just exude an amazing amount of sheer, casual power and authority. It’s easy to lose track of time whilst enjoying the scenery, the wildlife and the beautiful day. All too easy as it turned out, because by not really paying attention to the clock and/or the fuel gauge, I now found myself in the early evening doing some quick mental arithmetic. If A = the distance to Watson Lake, B = my average speed , C = miles left to empty on the fuel gauge and D = a number greater than C and A, where and when am I going to run out of fuel?  The equation is further complicated by the fact that there is no fuel available in Watson Lake after 10.00PM. So, any increase in B, leads to a reduction in C. Much mental juggling later, I accepted the fact that I might just about make it to the gas station, but it was definitely going to be closed. It was right about that moment I remembered that I carried spare fuel for just such a scenario. The very storage box that the bear in the photo above was investigating, held 10 gallons of gas. Panic over.

At the next dog drop, I emptied my spare gas into the thirsty truck and set off again, heading for Nugget City, secure in the knowledge that they have 24 hour fuel available. Well, fairly secure in that knowledge, it seems businesses round here tend to do exactly as they please.  Not much further up the road, I came upon a Uhaul van driving rather slowly and weaving erratically across the lanes. Being a suspicious chap, my first thought was “drunk driver” and I kept my distance until a long straight section appeared. I decided to pass the van as far over the other side of the road as I could be, without actually being in the ditch. As I drew level, I looked over and noticed the driver was a lady in her 30s, with a young boy in the passenger seat.  She wound down her window and we yelled a conversation at each other – it turned out she was low on gas and was trying to make sure all of the fuel in the tank was getting to the engine.  I decided not to bother telling her that I really didn’t think that shoogling the van around like she was doing would be of much benefit. However, I did helpfully point out that the fuel station in Watson Lake was now closed for the night though. She said she was staying in town anyway and that she was sure they had enough to make it there, and as I had just poured all my spare fuel into my own truck, I was unable to offer any other assistance beyond a hopeful “drive safe” before speeding off into the distance. In my defence, she didn’t look that comfortable with my solicitation, although if she is going to be nervous around slightly dishevelled, bushy bearded large men in big, dirty trucks, perhaps the Yukon is not the best place for her.

Pushing on, I made it Nugget City just before midnight, filled the truck and raided their bakery counter. Sausage rolls – good, their peanut butter cookies – not so good. I spent about half an hour there, chatting with the owner and a couple of local lads who were on their way to work. I learned some very important things – such as , at speeds over 140 kph, the BC police will impound your car and arrest you, speeding in the Yukon is a fixed penalty of around $50 and no points. All very useful. If you’re the type of driver who might need to know that kind of thing. Which I’m not, so I carefully and legally trundled on for a couple more hours before finding a nice empty rest stop and pulling over for another snooze in Hotel Ford.

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