Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Darth: Stolen and Stripped

No, I'm not kidding... No, this isn't a joke.

Sometime in the early morning hours of Friday, October 5th -- the day before I flew to Alaska -- my truck was stolen from a parking lot in Seattle. I held the scant hope that someone had just taken him for a joyride until I received a call last Friday that he had been found, almost entirely stripped.

On the outside, it's obvious that the thieves took my custom Rickson wheels and tires, the air-bag suspension for my camper and the entire front-end bumper-winch-lights assembly. Also gone is my truck box and its entire contents of winch equipment, towing gear, fuel cans, tools, etc.

Under the hood, both batteries were removed by cutting the wiring harnesses, and other engine parts are damaged or missing. The interior was entirely stripped of seats, console, electronics, etc. All of my personal property was taken, including a large duffel of winter gear for my trip to Alaska.

If you've been following my travels, you know that Darth is an integral part -- literally the driving force -- of my road rig. This is a major set-back for me, both personally and professionally.

I'm fully engaged in the insurance process, but I don't know anything yet. I have no idea what will happen, how or when. I will let you know when I do. Please don't ask me any questions.

Meanwhile, I still plan to establish my winter camp in Anacortes. A friend has very kindly offered to tow my camper sled to the RV park where I will be staying. After that, I can only wait to see what happens with Darth, consider my options going forward and make plans accordingly.

If it's sick to love a machine, I plead guilty. Darth has served me exceptionally well in every situation we have faced together, from the most comfortable pleasure cruises down the road to the harshest of extreme arctic expeditions. He didn't deserve this treatment at the hands of savages.

Friday, October 12, 2012

SP Kennel: Season Start-Up

I'm at SP Kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, for a couple of weeks, to help with some "season start-up" projects.

First things first, however, I got some quality time with the dogs, including this photo op with fantastic lead dog Dingle!

Within moments of my arrival, I was covered in mud and dog hair -- pretty much "as usual" around here -- and just as happy as I can be!

So, what am I doing here?

The biggest project is upgrading the SPK DogLog with a top priority to show "more dogs, more of the time." Check it out!

I'm also updating databases for dog training stats, keeping track of sponsors and an assortment of new collateral material. There's a whole lot more to running a kennel than just running dogs, and it's hard -- but very important -- to keep it all up to date in the chaos of a sled dog racing season.

It's been two full seasons since I've been here, but it mostly feels very familiar.

One thing I remember quite well is the temperature! It's only the middle of October, but it's already a very "crispy" 12 degrees outside. That's nothing compared to the dead of winter around here, but it's a slap in the face coming up from 70 degree Seattle.

I also remember how fast the days get shorter at this latitude. In just the week I've been here, the sun has set noticeably earlier!

There's also a lot that has changed since I was last here. The first thing I noticed are all the new faces of dogs I don't know!

During my two consecutive winters here from '08-'10, I'd gotten to the point I could identify every dog on sight, coming or going, in the dim daylight or the black of night. I can still recognize much of the team, but there are many young, rising superstars whom I can't tell apart. The hardest to identify -- by far -- are Biscuit's yearlings... Seriously, give me a break!

Another big change at SP Kennel are the new buildings. When I was here, we did everything in the small basement of the house, with much tripping over sleds, gear, clothing and each other. There was a pole barn where you could dig out something you might need, and a very small feed shed that wasn't much more than a place to keep kibble locked away from scavengers.

The old pole barn and feed shed are gone, replaced by a large workshop building. Big enough to hold the four-wheelers, sleds, gear, etc., it also houses the workout facilities that Aliy and Allen use to keep in peak physical shape. On top of all that, it has facilities for dog examinations, treatment, rehabilitation and even housing!

The other new building was built specifically for a major research project this summer, and consists of a central 18-dog "condo" area with individual runs outside. It will be used for various purposes going forward, including to give dogs a chance to get inside during the coldest days of winter.

Despite the very strong lure of SP Kennel, I won't be staying for the winter. It just doesn't fit into my life right now. I will do as much as I can over the next ten days to help the SP Kennel Team rev up. I'm looking forward to another fantastic season of sled dog racing... Stay tuned!