Monday, February 9, 2009
The life of an Iditarod musher is never boring. January started with a cold snap (minus 50 on the Knik 200), then warmed into the plus 50's and melted all our trails. After 6 days it finally cooled off enough to refreeze the trails, but the snow was gone. Back to quads. Disappointing, but not terminal.
My poor quad is an '87 Honda that was hard used when I bought it 7 years ago. Since then the dogs have pulled it close to 6000 miles, mostly against the engine compression, sometimes over obstacles that made me cringe, bouncing off rocks, trees, and stumps. I've become good friends with the local salvage yard mechanic who has kept us moving down the trail time and again, but this time...
We were 4 miles back bouncing over the frozen tussocks in the swamp for about 2 miles. The trail crossed a large frozen puddle and the quad broke through. About an inch of ice over 8 inches of cold water. The dogs pulled mightily while I gunned the engine. After a bit we broke out the rest of the ice and popped out, but the steering wasn't right. Handlebar cocked full left, wheels turned right. I could almost go straight, or turn right - there was no going left. Do you have any idea how many left turns there were to get back to the parking lot?
Thank heaven I only had 8 dogs instead of 16 or we would still be out there discussing matters :-). The solution was to run down the trail a bit, stop the team, pull the front of the quad left, and run back down the trail until we ran off the right side again. Repeat the process until we got to the truck. If I hadn't been worried about setting a bad example I'd have bought some hot dogs and had a BBQ right there!
Bonnie Foster loaned me her machine and we ran the second team. We got home a little later than planned, but except for loss of sleep and general wear and tear on nerves and body it is just another story. Four long runs on Bonnie's machine (sweet beast - heated hand grips, odometer and speedometer, the works) later we are back on sleds.
My quad is a good news / bad news story. The good news is the mechanic can fix the broken support arms, assuming he can get the parts for a machine that old. The bad news is the estimate is $1000 - which is what the machine is worth.
I think this quad will get a good christian burial, but can't you hear my dogs talking to their grandkids. "Back in my day we had to pull the quad, not ride on it. Fifty miles at a time, uphill all the way..."