Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Inconvenient Necessity

Today was another of those “errand days” that are so necessary, yet so very inconvenient. I dislike having to go into town (Fairbanks) for any reason. First, I didn’t come to Alaska to spend all my time in a city, and Fairbanks is rapidly becoming just as generic as every other city in the U.S. Second, I have plenty enough to do here at the house, where I’m more comfortable anyway and finally, I’d just prefer to be spending the time with my dogs, especially my puppies, than something so damned expensive as shopping. That being said, my trip to town today was remarkable in that everything went just right.

I started the day at 5:30 to get enough coffee on board to manage watering the team, feeding the puppies and scooping the yards. I was glad I installed some floodlights over the kennel this summer, as it was nice to be able to do the work without stumbling around with nothing more than a headlamp. I finished my kennel chores in good time and was able to enjoy another cup o’ joe before firing up the dog truck.

The primary purpose of going to town today was to get the truck ready for winter. The other errands were just things that needed to be done, and I figured if I did them this morning I might get away without having to stop in town more than a few minutes when I return to my place of employment on Tuesday.

I rolled into town and was sitting at the tire shop when the doors opened for business. With winter coming fast and the forecast calling for (but never delivering) fresh snow, it is time to put snow tires under the dog truck. After six or seven seasons my old snowtires were worn down to nubbins, so this year I had to buy a new set of them. 4 studded tires suitable for a “light truck” are plenty stinking expensive, too.

I really did luck out, though. Usually this time of year everyone has the same idea at the same time and it can take hours to get a set of tires changed out. Not this morning. The techs at TDS had my truck in and out in less than an hour. That bought me time to toss another errand into the list. I was sitting in front of my favorite barbershop when Joe opened the door for business. Joe’s “Just Haircuts” barbershop on South Cushman is far and away my favorite shop perhaps because it reminds me of the small town barbershops of my boyhood.

Joe is a gentleman of the old-school, always nicely dressed complete with vest and tie and always well groomed. He has a smile that will light up a hard rock mine drift and always a cheery greeting. Like those old shops ‘back home in the day’, this ain’t no foo-foo girlie-man hair saloon. It’s a guy place, where elders and youths alike share their wild-arsed opinions about everything from the latest DUI or drug bust to presidential politics to the virtues of caterpillar versus Cummins. Every time I get in the chair I ask Joe to “make me look like a good republican.”, and every time he somehow succeeds.

I’m not one to pay that much attention to the length of my hair. Before I hired on as a security guard / medic on the pipeline my hair fell well below my shoulders and my full beard damned near tickled my tummy. One of these days I’ll have to dig out a photo album and post some “then” and “now” pictures. Today my job requires a bit higher standard of appearance and though I appreciate the necessity, especially when I’m trying to convince some miscreant to stop doing something s/he shouldn’t be doing, I also miss the ‘good ol’ days’ when it didn’t much matter if I missed a haircut for a month or four.

From the barber shop is was a drive across town to the Skidoo snowmachine shop to buy some parts. On of my tasks in the next few days is to get the machine ready for the season so that when (and if) we DO finally get some snow I’ll be able to break out and pack my feeder trail. My machine is an old Tundra that has seen 17 seasons, 10 of ‘em with me. It’s nothing fancy and the lack of suspension leaves my back aching for days, but it starts every time I pull the cord, so long as I hold my mouth just right and lovingly shout all of the proper epithets. It’s not fancy, it’s certainly not fast, but it runs reliably enough that I’ve not yet had to walk out of the woods.

The next stop was Jiffy Lube, to change out the oil and winterize the truck. Once again I came in at exactly the right to avoid a long wait. While the techs did their thing on the big green dog truck I had just enough time to grab a slice of pizza for lunch. Then there were two stops at two different banks before heading to the feed store for some plastic to put better brush bows on my two modern sleds. One last stop, at the grocery store, and I was on my way home, easily three hours faster than I had planned on.

Since I had time to spare I decided to put it to good use. After all, idle hands are the devil’s workshop and all that. I tossed a load of laundry into the machine, and then went outside to take the puppies for a romp in the front yard. We probably spent an hour just wrestling around with each other, exploring the edge of the big woods and teasing the big dogs before I called a halt to the puppy games.

Next I gathered up all the garbage and made a run to the dumpster station and, because I was out and about anyway, I figured a side trip to the post office couldn’t hurt anything. As usual my box was full, though I only brought home two items. The rest was just useless tree-killer spam that I flagrantly tossed into the garbage bin. I figure the postal staff can throw it away as easily as I and I’ll be damned if I’ll carry something home just to toss it into the trash bin. I can’t help but wonder how much atmospheric C02, chlorine and other chemicals are released into our environment to produce all the crap that no one with half a brain cell bothers to read in the first place. I’d bet we could make a big dent in the “global climate change” problem if we just banned unsolicited junk mail. Oh-oh, I think I feel a rant coming on.

Back to the house with an hour and a ½ until feeding time, I contemplated doing some one-on-one training with the puppies, but the wee ones were all huddled up in their whelping house, sound asleep. Many years ago, as a young parent, I learned that it is always wisest to let sleeping babies lie, regardless of the specie. Instead, I removed the mower deck from my garden tractor and installed the snow blade. From the looks of the mower blades I’ve hit something that was hell for stout. One of the blades is completely bend out of shape and basically useless. Both blades will need to be replaced before next green-up, but that is a LONG time away.

The garage smells like I need to be processing more meat scraps pretty soon. Tonight I’ll lower the thermostat out there to let the stuff chill and I’ll plan to work on that project after running dogs tomorrow. They “A” team has had three days off in a row, and that is two days off too many. I also want to give Amazing Grace and Lynn O’s Scooby Doo another Sacco cart run to prepare for Saturday’s big dryland race down in North Pole. They need more practice doing the “haw back” turnaround that will be expected on race day. Those two wild ones already have the “run fast” part figured out on their own.

So, that’s where we’re at this evening. Just a simple day of running errands. No big deal, but a necessary inconvenience that even an old school kind of guy has to endure once in a while. Hmmm. I wonder if I have time to clean the office before feeding?

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