Sunday, January 29, 2006

To a select few foreign and domestic individuals today marks a very important date on their calender. Months of practicing commands and coordinating maneuvers will be put to the test . Each team's layout was carefully planned long before the snow fell and now after their booties have been secured and frozen meals packed securely on the sled along with a few key items in case shit should hit the fan out in the woods miles between two checkpoints. For 24 years now this race has stirred up excitement amongst Duluth's citizens frozen in the depth of January, the heart of winter. For 24 years the John Beargrease dogsled race has pitted man and dogs against one another in one of the oldest manners of transportation.
The dogsled and team has been around for years and used to conquer some of the earths most rigorous geographical obstacles. In the yukon during the era of the goldrush Mushers and their teams delivered and collected all the letters or packages miners sent home or eagerly anticipated reading from loved ones back home. In Greenland natives who don't so much shy away from modern technology but use what work still rely on dogsleds to take them on hunts or travel between villages. The dogs raised and bread are felt to be of such a superior quality the importing of any dogs onto the island is strictly forbidden for fear of contaminating the strength of the dogs. Far from mutts most dogs used for pulling can sleep out in the harshest of nights insulated by a heavy fur coat. Explorers have relied on dogs to reach both poles even in an era of snowmobiles and lumbering mechanical crawlers.
The Beargrease celebrates the men and women who live comfortably with the modern conveniences of internal combustion and central heating but still have a need, feel the urge to devote almost their entire life to a team of dogs and beautifully crafted wood sleds. The spectator gets to observe these individuals enjoying themselves as they race through the trees with only a headlamp tethering them to the modern world. Rarely do you see Gore tex or nylon shells over engineered synthetic insulators. Just like the sleds each musher's defense against the elements looks dated and inadequette but if anyone knows how to stay warm it's them. Standing on two thin runners for hour on end day after day with a constant wind in your face and minimal sleep between these endless shifts can wreak havoc if you aren't dressed for it.
So for the next week now as you sip hot chocolate relaxing on the couch or complain of a chilly house or biting wind remember that there are a bunch of mushers and dogs up in northern Minnesota dealing with alot more than numb fingers or toes. They're navigating narrow trails, frozen rivers, tending to a pack of dogs they must know and understand like a fellow human. Though old and unchanging dogsledding is perhaps the most bomber way to travel when snow and ice cover everything we don't shovel off and the wind clears.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday the 13th. If I had to pick a day for something bad to happen I guess this would be the day. Ironically sadly enough nothing bad did happen. I biked to school for the first time in 06 and got to play hockey again. This bitch warm weather had put a halt on all outdoor ice so it was a welcome relief to be able to skate and shoot a puck around. Then I came home to watch the Minnesota Gophers schlack the North Dakota Fighting Sioux what, 6 to 1? That was pretty cool. Winter finally seems to be coming back, a ski race at my school brings the blustery month of January full circle. But I'm totally digging the fact that I biked to school in January. The temperature was hovering in the low 20's but shit, I was haulin' up the streets on this old skool Fuji. I roll on 27's and cross tires. The old zipties holding the various imperative cables down were replaced with I think chrome stays. The whole machine got an overhaul right before Christmas. It's a great winter bike through and through.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

one of the many glorious aspects of being a senior in highschool is the oppurtunity to get the hell off campus during study halls and lunch. So my friend max and I take almost every chance we get to go skiing during a block study hall. When the schedules align we can ski from the time first hour ends 9:35 to the time 7th hour starts 12:40. Today the snow was soft and forgiving. This warm weather is nice to ski in. Most years frigid days turn the hill to ice and we careen down the side. Not earlier today, our edges could sink into each turn and everytime we hit a jump or noel we would touch down into the soft ground. A guy who recently moved here from Colorado joined us for a few runs there's this killer section off in the woods, a rock garden with tight lines and drops everywhere. A person could with enough snow ride a gaggle of lines linking up all the various features. All we could do today was visualize where we'll steer ourselves once we do get enough snow. The park is getting a final manicure for some big competition this weekend and was gorgeous as well, that's where we started the day. But relatively quickly it became over ran with the intense riders preparing to throw it all down this weekend. That could be pretty cool to check out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I ran into a snow bank on Monday after this wet snow/freezing rain turned the early morning roads to ice. Some chick crashed her van after a sharp turn and I had to swerve to avoid a serious jump in my insurance rates which as a teenage boy aren't exactly low. So instead I aimed my swedish machine for the soft bumper of a snow bank. The car is fine except for a mis-aligned front bumper. I love Minnesota for that reason, I can just run into snowbanks, pretty much get in an accident and pop it into reverse and be on my way no worries.
Running into a snowbank is suprisingly fun. It gives you a literal cushion to do the stupid things with your car a drivers ed instructor would cringe at, brake sliding through residential neighborhoods and if you come into the corner too fast? No biggy just wait for it... BAM! snow goes flying and the lumination from one of your headlights is dimmed. The only real trouble is if you get stuck, that's kind of lame because then you usually need someone with a big onbnoxious truck to save your ass from your parents knowledge that you were doing dumb shit in a car. On the other hand when the obnoxious truck pulls you out the driver is pleased because now his owning some gas guzzler is justified, sigh. What a catch 22.