Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Race to the Sky

Mondays are Ethan's "day off." The traditional Saturday is just too busy, him putting finishing touches on his sermon and creating/reviewing the Sunday School lesson and us getting food ready and the house cleaned in case we have Sunday guests. So Mondays we try to get out and explore this new state of ours.


This past Monday, we headed over to the local Goodwill for their 50% off sale in honor of President's Day. We picked up a few items and then decided to head to Lincoln, Montana. The annual Race to the Sky  (which has one of the most mountainous trails in distance mushing -- that is, sled dog racing) was scheduled for February 13-18, and I thought I had seen something about some finishers coming in on Monday. So we fueled up with yogurtccinos and shaken green teas at a local coffee shop and headed for Lincoln.


Ben (7) and Lily (5) were excited, as a little over a year ago we attended an event in Virginia where musher Doug Ruzicka from Alaska brought one of his sled dog pups and his sled and gave an outstanding presentation to the homeschoolers.


A little over an hour later, we were there, at the Hi-Country Trading Post. The snow was much deeper there than here (which makes sense, I guess, if you are going to hold a SLED dog race), and we cheered up at the sight of the finish line. Despite our not checking our facts, we had arrived at the right place! We saw people gathered in chairs and warm blankets at the finish line, and one of them told us that the first musher had come in, but the next one was expected between 12:30 and 1. It was 12:22. What good fortune!


There was an outside play set, feet-deep in snow, but the children didn't seem to mind. They finagled their way up to the top and slid down into the snow at the bottom. After about fifteen minutes of that, Ethan and Ben climbed the hill where they found an ideal spot for viewing the finalists coming down the hill to the finish. So we all climbed up there (note to self: clogs are NOT ideal for climbing in deep snow to an ideal viewing spot) and staked our claim on a pile of rocks next to a pine tree. The children pretended to be Grandma and Grandpa and the other Grandma and Mrs. Hollen. Jonathan (8 mos.) was on my back, impatiently begging for sweet potato puffs. Edee (2) was on Ethan's back, alternating between fussing back at Jonathan and trying to sleep on Ethan.


We waited. We kept thinking we were hearing dogs, which of course we were as there were several sled teams gathered at the bottom of the hill. But we kept thinking we were hearing THE team, the next one to come in. But they didn't come. 12:30 had already come and gone. 1:00 came. The team didn't. 1:15 came. The team didn't. 1:30 came, and Lily and Miriam (3) insisted they had to go to the bathroom and just "can't handle it. And I'm very sealious!"


So I took each of them by the hand and we headed down to the Trading Post. It took a while to see past all of the Montana paraphernalia to the door marked "Skirts," and they headed in there. I took their hands again when they came out so that I could pull them quickly through the store. I had one of those foreboding feelings.


And my feeling ended up being an intuition. Because there, as we squinted into the painful sunlight, was the dog team that had just come down the hill, just slid to a stop, just completed the race. And there were Ethan and the three other children, gathered around the team, excitedly asking what it was that the musher was giving his dogs to eat. And here was I, dragging two little girls over to a dog team and trying to explain what they had missed.


Jonathan was fussing, so I took him off my back and started to load into the van. The children were cold and the musher had started to care for his dogs, so the kids all piled into the van. Ethan ducked into the Trading Post, and I shook my head at the inevitable "OF COURSE"ness of it all -- the dog team coming in as I was debating whether the girls could go in the bathroom marked "Trousers" since they were, in fact, wearing pants. But just as I was feeling my keenest circumstantial kinship to Erma Bombeck, I noticed a group excitedly cheering at the finish line. And then I caught a quick flash of dog hair...there was another team coming down the hill! I called to the kids, "Look! Look out the window! Look! There's another team coming down! Lily! Miriam! LOOK!" Lily ran to the window and watched the team come down the hill, the sled anchor fall, and then everything slow to a stop.


"Did you see it?" I asked her.


"Yes." Then: hand hitting forehead, other hand coming up to cradle head, sob turning into wail: "That was it?? That was so short! That was all we missed??"


Hmmm. I didn't even know how to answer that, and I still don't. "Yes, dear, sorry, that was all we missed"?


Anyway. The corn dog at the Lincoln Pit Stop put an end to all sorrow, and we made our way back home, full of sunshine and snow and fresh air and cold cheeks and cheap fast food.


And next time, I'll know the surest way to hurry a musher. Which way to the restroom?


1 comment:

  1. You have a knack for storytelling. Your daughter's dramatic response sounds just like something my little boy would say! I enjoyed reading this!


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