I'm taking just a bit of a break before feeding the team. I got off duty a bit early today and headed down the road at a very sedate pace. It's been snowing at the pump station all day, and the highway hadn't yet been sanded by DOT. It was no major problem, just take it easy and stay on the road.
The first stop was to visit Ellis Maddox, the mechanic who repaired the puppy damage to the dog truck. I intended to pay him, but he didn't have the invoice handy and couldn't remember exactly how much I owe. "It's somewhere in the neighborhood of around $300 or $350.00. I'll call you when I find it."
Mike had to replace the wiring harness to the right headlight and a couple of hoses that run from the engine compartment to the front differential and axle assembly. While he was under the truck he took the liberty of repairing the tail light wiring also. I had done some of that, but he cleaned up my amateurish repair with solid, soldered connections and he tucked everything into the original plastic sheathing in hopes of reducing the temptation in the future. He warned me that the truck needs to go back for universal joints to the front, and a rear axle seal. I should be able to get it back to him once the trails have frozen up well enough that we can cross Potlatch Creek on the ice. Meanwhile, I need the truck for some errands, and to transport dogs for training runs on the "other" side of the highway.
The next stop was the grocery / department store. I try to leave the refrigerator completely empty when I go to work to avoid incubating biology experiments. Of course that means there isn't much to eat in the house unless I stop at the store on the way home. Today I needed some additional items as well. I restocked my cache of lithium batteries, because I tend to go through a lot of them during mushing season. I also picked up some gasoline stabilizer for the little tractor and, later, the four-wheeler. Once they are no longer being run regularly they will basically just be sitting until break-up. Let's see, there was also the diesel fuel treatment I'll use until I can be certain that the service stations are pumping #1 fuel. Otherwise I risk freezing up the fuel lines the first time the temperature drops to 40-below or lower.
From the grocery I headed straight to the house to unload and unpack. I make it a point to unpack and put away everything straight-away, because it doesn't feel like home if I'm living out of a suitcase. Of course I had to take a break and say "hi" to the dogs. They are all looking great and seem excited to see me, of course. We have Darling Daisy and Torus in the large pen than is accessible through the garage, as I think they will both need to sleep inside during the coldest nights. At nearly 15 years of age, Daisy doesn't do so well in cold weather, and Torus refuses to sleep in a dog house. At 11 years old, he's no puppy, so I figure if he won't sleep in a dog house he probably ought to sleep in mine, instead.
Ted (our handler) came by to brief me on what's been happening with the dogs the past few days. It was truly a "brief", as he had to dash off to run some errands of his own. I think the snow fall has served as a sudden reminder that a car purchased in Virginia or Boston or wherever it was probably needs some winterization work before the cold weather settles in.
My next stop was our little local hardware store for some carriage bolts for a fencing project that's been hanging fire and needs to be finished. Ted and I need to hang a 10 foot X 6 foot panel of chain link across the back of one of the pens, as it currently has a shorter welded-wire fence across that end, and Orion and Capella have been contemplating an escape attempt. From Kedrick's hardware store I was off to the post office to collect two weeks worth of mail, including a brand new pair of Wiggy's Joe Reddington Mukluks.
The Baffin pack boots I've worn the past couple of years have worn out, and it's time for a new pair of serious extreme-cold weather shoes. My Steger mukluks are great most of the winter, but they have some limitations that I'd rather not deal with when the goal is to train dogs rather than reenact history. I really dislike bunny boots because they trap moisture inside. They are always warm, but with all that moisture from sweating feet trapped inside they are a huge breeding ground for fungus and bacteria and not particularly comfortable.
I've heard nothing but good things about Wiggy's Joe Reddington Mukluks, so decided to give them a try. I already have Wiggy's Antarctic Sleeping Bag with the flexible temperature range sleep system, and I also use Wiggy's SunWalkers pack boot liners and when the bottom drops out of the thermometer I wear Wiggy's Antarctic Parka. I have never been cold in Wiggy's gear. NEVER.
The Mukluks are designed as an overboot similar to the popular Neos overboot, but probably much warmer. They are worn over regular shoes which I see as an advantage - wear 'em when you need 'em and put them in the sled bag when you don't (but want them handy in case you actually do). It'll be a month or two before I actually need them, but once I do I'll try to remember to write a report on their performance.
I should note that I bought my Mukluks from Wiggy's Alaska rather than Wiggy himself. Mark suggested a modification that was recommended by Ray Reddington Jr. I know Ray, he used to live and mush dogs here in Two Rivers, so I figured it would be wise to listen. As a result I had the new mukluks resoled with Vibram to make them a bit less slippery on packed trails. I'll let you know how that works out once I've tested them.
OK, that pretty much covers the day so far. In a couple of hours I'll feed the team and do my kennel chores and then I think I'll mosey down to the Lodge for supper. I have plenty of food at the house, but supper at the lodge gives me a chance to catch up on all the local happenings that I've missed over the past two weeks. I can always count on a cold beer, a hot plate of food, and great company when I head to the local watering hole.
Just in case I forgot to mention it - it is GOOD to be home.