Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reeses, Val, Mischief, Panda, and Beethoven (aka Shivery)

So, we woke up yesterday morning (in the broadest definition of "morning," -- we bailed on the scheduled City Tour and slept until the bus for that one had already departed -- which was about 7 hours of sleep) had some lunch in the pub in the hotel, and got ready for the day's adventure.

The day's adventure was a half-day dog sled tour.  Now, I did a dog sled thing up (or is it "over"?) in Alaska.  In that one, every dog team had two little sleds attached, with the guide on one of the sleds and three tourists in the other three positions (one "driving" the second sled, and two others riding in the sleds).  None of that crap here.  Here, every pair of tourists got its own sled -- you get to switch driver/rider positions at the halfway point.  There were a total of 5 sleds that went out.  We had two guides covering the lot.  They were relatively nearby, on snowmobiles.  They'd come by if you stopped and waved at them (as we did when one of our dogs got tangled up in the lead), but otherwise tried to stay out of range as the sound of snowmobiles detracts somewhat from the dogsled experience.

But, basically, after about three minutes of instruction (well, no -- after signing the waiver form, a half hour of getting us all in the right gear, and about three minutes of instruction), I was standing on the back of a sled, with Margret riding, and the five dogs named in the title of this blog post rarin' to go.

(Yes, five.  I'd always assumed an even number of dogs pulling a sled, but Mischief liked to run in the middle -- sometimes in line with the dogs on the left, and sometimes in the dead center of the pack.)

Our dogs were quite enthusiastic about the whole process.  We were told how to slow the sled, how to stop the sled, and how to get the dogs to go.  Apparently, you yell something like "Go!" while stepping off the sled and giving it a bit of a push.  I never had to push.  Getting our dogs to go after a stop (usually because the sled in front of us stopped -- but sometimes because the dogs needed to poop, or were thirsty and wanted to eat snow)...  anyway, getting our dogs to go never required giving the sled a push.  What generally happened was that I'd be standing on the brake, while they'd be standing up ready to run.  I'd say, "Wait for it....  wait for it....", while I waiting for the sled in front to get a good distance ahead, and then lift the brake while saying, "OK, go!"  You didn't have to tell them twice.  I heard a constant stream of "Go Mozart!  Go Mozart!" from the snowmobile, directed at the sled ahead, but Reeses and company were genuinely happy to run.

(Except perhaps Beethoven, who we named Shivery.  At first, we didn't know their names, so I just called them by numbers.  And Dog Five would shiver every time we stopped, and liked to rest and eat snow.  This annoyed the dogs in front.  We'd take a snow break for Shivery, and after everyone else had two bites of snow, they were eager to go, and he'd be sitting there resting.  But you say "Go!" and they're all up and running.  Heck, the dogs in front wouldn't even stop to poop -- Reeses did his business while on the move.  I expect that's the privilege of being the dog in front.)

It was solidly fun to drive the sled, and also solidly fun to ride in it once we switched positions.  I pretty much laid back in there, relaxing, and leaned out every now and again to take a picture.  (To follow later.  I can't get photos from the card in my camera to the tablet from which I'm posting.)  Afterward, we were told we did about 18 kilometers (upwards of 11 miles), which is really awesome.

(Subsequent thereto, though, I had an evil evil headache.  The nice people at the dog sled tour place provided us with warm drinks and fresh baked brownies, and I felt so lousy I didn't even want a brownie.  Shocking.  I begged some headache stuff, and was supplied with aspirin with caffeine and codeine, a combination which, unfortunately, did not knock out my headache, and also had unpleasant gastrointestinal effects.  I told Margret, as we piled into the van for the ride back to the hotel, that there was about a 40% chance of me throwing up on the way back.  About halfway to the hotel, the van driver decided it was too quiet in there, so put on a Neil Diamond CD.  This did nothing good for my headache.  I did make it all the way back to my hotel room, and managed to get a clip holding my hair back before I commenced driving the porcelain dog sled.  I will never hear "Sweet Caroline" again without thinking of that moment.)

I did feel immediately better, and Margret and I thought we'd get some Chinese food for dinner.  The guy at the hotel reception desk pointed out the existence of three Chinese restaurants in downtown Whitehorse.  One was directly across the street from the hotel, one was six blocks away, one was about 12 blocks away in the opposite direction.  He recommended the one six blocks away.

We walked there.  It was closed.  (Renovations.  Several weeks.)  We walked back to the one across the street from the hotel.  Here's the thing:  when there is a restaurant directly across the street from your hotel, and the dude at the reception desk recommends the one six blocks away, there's probably a really good reason for this.  I had a bowl of wonton soup which I can honestly describe as "edible," while Margret ordered some beef with broccoli, which we could not describe as "edible."  Indeed, it would probably be a stretch to describe it as "beef."

We went back to the hotel and, after checking out the Aurora Forecast (low activity and relatively crappy skies), we decided to take a pass on the four hours in the middle of nowhere, and instead stick around town, get Margret some real food, and get a good night's sleep.

The town ... ok, the other day, I said that it must have had 10 Starbucks for the entirety of the 27,000 people.  It probably does, if you include the outer areas.  But we're staying in downtown Whitehorse.  Downtown Whitehorse has one Starbucks.  We are talking about a place that has an entirety of seven traffic lights.  We walked up and down Main Street, and (with the exception of one bar and one snooty steakhouse) couldn't find one place that was open and still serving after 8:00.  So, unfortunately, our Decent Food mission was a failure.

The Good Night's Sleep part was not.  And when we found out this morning that there were no Aurora to be seen last night, we realized we'd totally made the right call.

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