Friday, January 31, 2014

Wedding in the Family


                                                We once had a niece called Holly
                                              Whose nickname became Holly Dolly
                                              Along came a prince called Andy
                                           Who in marriage asked for her hand-y
                                          And now they find themselves quite jolly

I just felt like trying my hand at a limerick.  Yes, my niece Holly just married Andy, a very kind gentleman from Chisholm, MN who also happens to be a sheriff.  It was a joyous wedding with all Holly's nieces and nephews involved.  Larry Oberg, John's brother is her father and also officiated at the wedding.  Our daughter Cherish and I provided the music for the wedding which was great fun.

Larry and Kathi have four children.  All are now married with Holly being the youngest.  So, Holly's other two sisters and a sister-in-law were bridesmaids along with Joanna who is very close to Holly, her cousin.  It was a very touching ceremony with lots of tears and laughter. 

Andy was welcomed and loved by Larry's whole family the moment they met him and HE was infatuated with Holly the moment he met HER.  Andy spent all his time off over at the Oberg's home in Buyck, MN helping with projects and playing with the other grandchildren.  Everyone was hoping that Holly would fall in love with him and some day marry him.  Well, it finally happened.
When Larry walked her down the aisle to present her to Andy and the question was asked,  "Who gives this woman in marriage to this man?"   the whole family shouted,  "WE ALL DO!!!"

I believe they are well suited for each other and will enjoy a lifetime of happiness together.
John's mother flew home from Texas for the wedding and looked stunning in her blue dress.  She is flanked in the above picture by Joanna and Cherish.

Excitement on the Trail

About a week ago John headed out on his snowmobile to pack a longer trail for Joanna on which to train the dogs.  It was twenty-five miles from camp and way out in the wilderness on some old logging roads.  He gathered together some survival gear and fastened it to the snowmobile, including a chainsaw for downed trees, a pack with extra clothing, gloves, handwarmers, matches, food, etc. snowshoes and an axe. 

He knew if he broke down out there, he was on his own and needed to be able to walk to the nearest road for help or camp out till help came. 

When he finally came back to camp, covered with snow from breaking trail, he told us the exciting details of his trip.  He came to an area where he knew there were some moose hanging out.  Suddenly, he looked about 200 feet ahead on the trail and saw a large Timber wolf.  He was HUGE in John's estimation, looking to be about 120-140 pounds and in good health.  Wanting to move the wolves away from the moose, he kept a steady speed and soon came upon five more wolves.  That was  a bit unnerving, especially since you can't carry a gun with you anywhere unless you are a trapper or a hunter during the appropriate seasons. 

The wolves kept running ahead of him at about 15 -20 miles per hour.  After a short time, one by one they hopped off the trail into the deep snow, except for one which continued on for four more miles. 

It was starting to get dusk when John turned around to head back.  You can imagine what was going through his mind wondering where the wolves were now and if he would again encounter them on his way back.  But instead of wolves he came over a knoll and came upon a huge bull moose and a cow!!
Such magnificent mammals they are especially seeing them up close.  They soon ambled off the trail and he had a clear shot ahead.  I didn't check his pulse when he got home, but I'm sure there was a hefty portion of adrenalin pumping through him with all that excitement.  Too bad he didn't have a camera. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Voyageur Classic Race 2014

It's that time of year again when Joanna and I hit the dog sled races.  John and Joanna have logged over 700 miles of training the dogs using both four wheelers and sleds in preparation for the races.  When Joanna trains with a sled, sometimes hooking up as many as 18 dogs, John follows closely behind with his Polaris snowmobile in case she has to have help holding the team in the event there are tangles or some other problem to deal with.  She uses her snow hook to connect to his snowmobile for ballast.  And you never know when you might run into a moose or wolves in the woods.  It's comforting for her to know he is there for protection as well.

The Voyageur Classic Race is her first race of the season and one that she has never run before.  It actually is also the closest race, situated in Northome, MN, a mere 6 hours away from us.  It was advertized as being a 70 mile race, but actually ended up being an 83 mile race.

On Saturday morning, the day of the race, all the mushers' vehicles are parked in the order they will start the race.  Joanna is number four and third to leave, since there is no number one musher.  Everyone is bustling around their trucks, making last minute adjustments to equipment, loading their sleds with the mandatory articles, including winter sleeping bag, knife, cable cutters etc. and also dog food that they will be giving the team when they reach the halfway rest spot.  Mentally, Joanna and I are going through a checklist to make sure she has everything she needs for the race.

It's now getting close to race time.  Joanna quickly puts harnesses on all eight dogs and one by one hooks them up to the gangline.  I'm holding the lead dogs to keep them in a straight line and heading the right direction.  The dogs are going beserk, barking like crazy and lunging forward in their places, eager to run down the trail.  In this race they position four wheelers behind each racer and hook a rope to their sled to help hold back the team as they head up to the starting line.  This is so helpful since it is extremely difficult to restrain a fired up team. 

Right when it was our turn to head up to the start, I see Joanna waving to a by stander to come help her hold one of the dogs closest to the sled.  Apparently, the dog was so revved up he broke the line to which his tugline was fastened on the rear of the harness.  She frantically tried to retie a knot and refastened the tugline.  Again it broke and she quickly grabbed another fastener that she keeps in her sled bag for just such a time.  That was not going to break.

As we approached the starting line, I found myself weeping with joy, excitement, pride, fear... it was all so overwhelming with dogs screaming all around us and realizing again what an amazing daughter Joanna is to be able to participate in such an extremely adventurous sport. 

Finally it was her turn to start and we all joined the announcer in the ten second countdown.  Whoosh, away she flew, the dogs finally released to fly down the trail.  That was about 10 am.  Since they didn't allow us handlers to be involved in this race anymore, I had a ten hour wait till she came back over the finish line at 8pm that evening.  I hung out at the high school, which was race headquarters.  I had no idea what was happening or how well she was doing.  I heard the whole story at the finish of the race.

Apparently she quickly passed the first two mushers and was leading the race to the halfway point.  I give the race officials a lot of credit for how well they organized the whole event.  They had a Search and Rescue snowmobile with blue flashing lights leading the way some distance ahead of Joanna to let any snowmobilers riding the trail know that there was a dog sled race in progress and to be careful.  They also had Search and Rescue vehicles at every road crossing to assist the mushers safely across.  It was very comforting to the mushers.

Joanna had a bit of a scare at one point where she had to make a 45 degree left turn, but there was also at the same intersection a road that was a 90 degree left turn.  Her dogs took the 90 degree left turn, which was the wrong one.  It was very difficult for her to stop them because there wasn't enough snow on the road for her brake to help out or to sink her snow hook into.  She was finally able to turn the team around and untangle everyone to get back on the right trail, which cost her some precious time.

The halfway point was a resort where they could use the bathroom and get cold water for the dogs.  Joanna realized on her way there that she had forgotten to bring the dogs' dishes to be able to feed them.  She asked a race official if the resort had a pie tin or something she could use.  He brought her eight paper plates.  Imagine trying to put a dog food/water mix on a paper plate for dogs to eat.  It was spilling all over the place on the unlevel ground.  Then her container with the dog food mixture in it accidentally tipped over and spilled all over the ground.  That was a disappointment.  She did have some frozen snacks with meat that she gave them which helped. One dog even ate part of his paper plate.  He must have been hoping for a second helping.

There was a two hour mandatory rest.  Each team left the starting line in their order, two minutes apart.  So, those who came in first to the checkpoint actually got more than two hours rest.  Frank Holmberg's team had a 40 second lead over Joanna's which put her in second place.  So, Frank headed out first after the rest period and Joanna followed soon behind.  It wasn't long before Joanna caught up to Frank and was able to pass him.  But then she had some problems with her leaders and had to stop to switch some dogs around.  Frank too was having to switch leaders and place booties on a dog with sore feet.  It seems they traded first and second place the whole way.  About one mile before the finish line, Joanna was right behind Frank when they came to a wide spot in the trail called "no man's land".   Joanna's dogs seemed to have a little burst of energy and were able to pass by Frank's team and hold the lead till the finish. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us spectators were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first teams at the finish line, not knowing what was happening on the trail.   It was dark, so we were only able to see the finish line where they had positioned a spotlight.  Soon, we saw two teams heading our way.  I couldn't see who it was till they crossed the finish line and was so surprised to see it was Joanna out in front!!  I think she was equally surprised to have done so well.  The dogs are amazing athletes and seemed to be in good condition despite some sore feet and a sore wrist.  I was so happy for her and the dogs.  What an accomplishment!!!  She couldn't wait to tell her Dad who had so faithfully helped her get the dogs in shape.  We thoroughly enjoyed this race and appreciated the kindness and helpfulness of the race officials and the many volunteers from the community.  It is a huge effort to put on a race.  Hopefully, we can do it again next year.

As you can see in the pictures, her trophy was a cute little water bucket handmade by a gentleman in the community.  This bucket was a replica of the same water buckets he made for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  We thought that was quite unique.

Joanna's next race will be the Midnight Run in Marquette, MI on February 15-16.  So, stay tuned....