Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Midnight Run and Copper Dog 150 Dog Sled Races

 Top two pictures are from the Midnight Run and last one from the Copper Dog

This year Joanna and I left for the Midnight Run on Feb 13th and stayed down in the states till March 8th through the Copper Dog Race.  There were about 2 weeks in between the two races and it saved time and money to do that.

Joanna did well at the Midnight Run.  She was in first place at the halfway point, 45 miles.  Then on the second leg of 45 miles, two teams caught up to and passed her but she continued to run with one of the teams. They kept trading off second and third position for a long time then eventually Joanna pulled ahead. Near the finish line a husband and wife team both passed her, she was able to re-pass one of the teams but then got re-passed near the finish putting her in 4th place instead of 2nd place by 28 seconds.  It was a race to the finish to be sure.  

After the Midnight Run we vagabonds stayed with a dear friend and her husband near Munising, MI.  Mary and Dan were over the top hosts and warmly welcomed, fed and housed us for several days in their beautiful lake home.  Dan even found an 11 mile trail for Joanna to run her dogs to keep them in shape for the Copper Dog.  Mary is a long time friend from our 20 years in Ely, MN, so we had lots of catching up to do.  Such a great time of fun and fellowship. 

Then a retired musher from Chatham graciously invited us to stay with him for a few days.  We barely knew him, yet he generously helps all kinds of mushers who need a place to stay for races etc.  He has an apartment setup in his basement so you can eat and sleep there comfortably.  But he insists on making breakfast for his guests and does he ever put out a fine banquet.  Lloyd Gilbertson is his name and is very well known in mushing circles as a champion.  To me, he's a big teddy bear ( he must be about 6 foot 6 inches tall) and he encourages everyone in the sport , young and old alike.  He too found a trail for Joanna to run her dogs to keep them in shape.  Also at this time the weather was quite warm and there were not many places left that had any snow to run on.

Our next place of habitation was Irma, Wisconsin with the Schouwiler family.  Joanna first met Chad and his mother Martha at the Marquette sled dog race.  They are a mother/son racing team.  Chad is an excellent trainer and racer having won first place at the Gunflint Mail Run this year.  Martha seems to truly love the thrill of racing.  This year at the age of 61, she won the Beargrease race for the third time in a row; she won the Bayfield , WI race and came in third at the Copper Dog race with some VERY stiff competition.  She's an amazing woman.  She and Chad are a formidable team.

They invited us to stay with them for the week preceding the Copper Dog.  What a grand time we had with them.  They were so gracious in helping us in every way possible, from taking an ailing dog to the vet in their pickup truck, serving us the most fantastic gourmet meals, packing snowmobile trails for training, freezing our dog treats, taking us to church, entertaining us with bone tickling humor, and making us feel so warmly welcomed.  In fact Mark, Chad's Dad, commanded us to feel welcomed and we surely did.  A week is a long time to impose on people you barely know, but now we all feel like family.

The Copper Dog race is a 10 dog pool.  In other words, you can use all ten dogs for all three 50 mile legs of the race or you can trade dogs in and out during that time, just using 6, 7, 8 or 9 dogs.  If a dog gets a treatable injury one leg, you can box the dog for the next leg and bring it in for the last leg which is helpful to both the musher and the dogs.

Joanna ran with all ten dogs the first leg, but then noticed that two of the dogs had some minor injuries.  So, she left them behind the next day to recover and just used eight dogs the next day.  At the end of the second leg, she was in 6th place which was great seeing as there were at least 10 mushers with great teams who could have won the race.

On the second night of the race we have stayed each year with our lovely host family, Mike and Suzi Borlee, whom have become dear friends! We look forward to seeing them each year at Copper Dog and they go out of their way to take care of us in every way possible! They even brought us cheesecake and pizza on the first night of the race!!!What a blessing they and all of our other wonderful hosts throughout our trip have been to us!!!

On the third day, Joanna put in the two dogs that had rested on the second leg and left behind two others that had minor injuries after running the first and second leg.  The team looked fantastic leaving the starting gate on the final leg of the race.  They were banging their harnesses and screaming to go.  But about halfway, the dog we thought had recovered from his injury on the first night , starting limping again.  He was a huge 60 pound dog as well.  Joanna stopped along the trail three times to try to load him in the basket of her sled, but he wrestled and fought her, determined not to sit this one out.  So, she had to put him back in the team.  And still he pulled.  What a dog.  She lost lots of time trying to load him and slowing the team speed down for him, so dropped down to 9th place in the overall standings.  But that's dog racing.  You never know what will happen.

We had such fun adventures and wonderful encounters on our trip.  We are so grateful for the kindness of all those who helped us along the way.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gunflint Mail Run 2017

Joanna placed 2nd in the Gunflint Mail Run this last weekend near Grand Marais, MN. Her team did quite well and she was very happy with the results. She moved up one position from last year when she placed third in the same race. The trail was in excellent condition as it had been groomed the whole way, making it much easier and safer to pass other teams.

Chad Schouweiler placed first this year which he definitely earned. Last year he was ahead most of the race and in the end lost by just seconds due to an unexpected tangle in the team. His excellent training skills have produced the desired results. It was his time to win. His mother handled for him at this race, but she has also run their team and won many times as well in past years.

I'd have to say the directors of the race have done a fantastic job upgrading every facet of the race so that now it is one of our favorites. The volunteers who help run the race are spectacular. Imagine standing out in the extreme cold for hours on end to make sure road crossings are safe for the teams coming through. Ham radio operators staying in place at different points along the trail to inform the folks back at headquarters the time each musher comes through a certain road crossing. Sarah and her gracious staff of waitresses, waiters and cooks at Trail Center Lodge where all us handlers hung out waiting for our mushers to come back, waited on us hand and foot and provided the most delicious meals all during the race.

The purse for the race went up a great deal which is a big plus for attracting mushers to register for the race. I also liked the fact that everyone who entered got a piece of the prize money to take home because everyone has worked hard to prepare their teams. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.

One of the greatest facets of these mid distance races is spending time with a lot of the same mushers throughout the winter season. You get to know them personally the more often you are together and there is a great family feeling that that has grown through the years.

The winner of the 12 dog race, Ryan Redington, is from Alaska and is the grandson of Joe Redington who help start the Iditarod Race. When receiving his prize, he commented on the great sportsman like conduct of the racers. Once when he had to stop his team because of a problem, another team stopped to check on him and see if he needed help. He really liked that. And it is true. Each racer wants to win and have their team perform well, but there is also a camaraderie among the mushers and handlers that makes the whole experience a lot more fun.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas and Family

Did we ever have a wonderful time with Cherish and Patrick joining us for Christmas! We took advantage of the warm weather to get outside and enjoy the beautiful woods heavy with snow. Patrick rode in Joanna's sled on an 18 mile dog sled training run. John followed with his snowmobile to help if needed and Cherish and I rode the new snowmobile just for fun and to watch Joanna and Patrick on the trail.

We all went on our first cross country ski run of the year on the frozen trail alongside the river and out onto the lake and then up the trail into the tall jackpines. Gorgeous!! The next day entailed another dogsledding adventure with Patrick mushing his own team of seven dogs and Joanna with a larger team. Patrick had lots of exclamations on his return and seemed to be in awe of the whole experience.

Our chilluns were planning on heading back to Ely on Monday so Patrick could be to work on Tuesday, but the weather was quite brutal with lots of snow, some rain and high winds making driving too treacherous, so we hiked along the river trail to the overlook of Indian lake for an outing, taking all three female dog cousins too. They became quite good friends during their time together. After that outing, we were all so pooped, we took some restful naps.
It's a good thing we had so much outdoor activity because we ate and ate and ate some delicious meals and continuous delectable treats the whole time. The only thing we were missing was Jonathan, Reseth, Aaron and Titus. At least we got to visit with them via Skype which was fun.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

BRRRRRR Below Zero

It is FIREEEEEEEZING outside today. Thermometer showed eleven below zero this morning and the river is just about frozen over, except the narrow slit where there is the strongest flowage. John and Joanna took a frigid ride on their four wheelers for 38 miles to Hwy 599 to train the sled dogs. They dressed as warm as they could and used hand and foot warmers, but the cold still seeps down inside. Only the bold, brave and courageous can manage such a trip. That leaves me out. Scarlett and Trinity were nice and toasty inside finding some soft spots near the sliding doors to rest and bask in the warm rays of the sun.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

North Carolina in the Fall

Near the end of October, I had the pleasure of flying down to North Carolina to visit my 92 year old Dad. He is staying in an assisted living facility and doing quite well. We played lots of chess and checkers with him which he loves to do. I even beat him in checkers for the very first time ever in my life. Amazing!

 For Halloween, they invited friends and family members of the people living there to dress up and come celebrate. Dad dressed as a cowboy and his nurse Tammy who he dearly loves, dressed up as a bride. Dad's great grandsons Oliver and Benjamin joined in the fun too.

 I got to spend some very special fun times with my brother Rick, and my sisters Nicki and Wendy. We went hiking in the beautiful NC mountains and drove up to Highlands where our parents used to live, stopping to see Dry Falls on the way. My other brother Ron went to NC a few weeks earlier to see Dad, so I missed him. I'm so thankful for a wonderful , wonderful family and for God's many blessings.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Mission Accomplished

Slowly but surely John, Joanna and I have worked hard to makeover eight large cabins and one smaller one, inside and out.  I look back now at what has been done and think it was a lot like mission impossible.  I don't know today if I would accept the mission again, but it has been rewarding to see the changes and feel a sense of pride when we look at them. 

Just two days ago we completed the outside painting of the last two cabins.  Painting a cabin requires a series of preparation including power washing, removing and replacing rotten boards, going over every board and screwing in loose ones, finding two days in a row when no one is in the cabin and sunny days above 36 degrees.  It takes one day to paint the brown part and another day to put two coats of white on the trim around windows and doors.  Sometimes John has to spend days leveling and fixing the footers to keep them from sinking into the soft sand.  Then you have the frustrations of the paint sprayer breaking down and painting it all by hand... or opening a new five gallon pail of paint and finding it to be the wrong color and Menards is four hours away.  What fun!!

But team Oberg put their noses to the grindstone and in four days this last week we finished painting the last two cabins.  Now all the cabins look new or at least consistent.  Fortunately this paint is supposed to last a lifetime so we won't have to do it again.  You can see that I really slopped the paint on fast and furiously as a lot of it ended up all over me.  At one point the spray gun got plugged and a huge glob of paint shot backward at me across my glasses and forehead.  I ran to a pail of water and splashed myself vigorously to get it off.  What a mess! 

There are other maintenance tasks on the list for this fall for sure, but it is nice to cross this one off the list for good.

The Glorious Colors of Fall

Autumn colors of reds, oranges, yellows and greens all mixed together in the trees of the forest tickles and prickles my soul like a mini internal eruption of glory from God.  I wish it lasted longer, but then maybe I'd somehow overdose on all these wonderful colors and be totally useless for months on end.

To think I grew up in Florida and never knew this season existed except in name only as we never saw these color contrasts there.  Then I met John and he brought me to northern Minnesota so I could see it all up close.

A couple of weeks ago, we had some free time and couldn't pass up the warmth and sunshine, so John took his mother and I on a slow and relaxing tour of Indian Lake.  We meandered through some bays we'd never really explored before and I made a mental note to try fishing in some new spots that looked promising for next summer.  On our way back we stopped at the place we put the marker bouy at the end of the gravel spit and picked it up to bring back in for the winter months.

This pontoon boat is John's vacation that he takes in little parcels throughout the summer and fall since he doesn't often get the opportunity leave camp.  Everybody needs to get out and be refreshed by God's creation.  It does wonders.