Adventures in Mushing

My little six dog team blows me away. They are strong and coordinated. I use an eight dog string and to be honest, so they look almost like a “normal” team,  and they have the power of any other team I’ve run. I stand on the drag the entire run. They are good, good girls. Also they are happy girls!!! They all have wagging tails and big grins at every stop. I am constantly proud and impressed. I love those girls.

We’re starting to get into longer runs now, of four and five hours. As we mush, I have intermittent cell service. I am using a cool app called MapMyRun to track my runs. It gives me vocal feedback about how fast we’re going and how far. Later I can look at the map of where we’ve run, which is super useful and interesting. MapMyRun uses GPS and it doesn’t require cell service. I found this out when I was traveling in Canada and using it to track my own runs. Pretty neat.

Siri, however, can go sit in a big pile of poop.

When I was mushing here in Two Rivers for the first time, Apple had released its voice interaction recently. This wasn’t called Siri yet. AND, it didn’t require #!^!$%#@$ cell service! So I could use the remote on my headphones and ask my phone to play different music, or an audiobook. My phone is usually buried really deeply in my gear to keep it warm, so being able to interact with it via remote is key. I listen to a lot of different things while I mush. Podcasts, audiobooks, and music mostly. However, if I dare to want to change what I’m listening to, I better have cell service, or Siri will say NO WAY.

Also, recently, Apple seems to have changed the way Siri interacts with music. She now wants to play “stations” instead of pulling from your on-phone library. Eg, they are moving more and more towards everything being Cloud or internet based. Okay, super, but that is totally stupid when I’m out in the middle of nowhere. Even if I didn’t have cell service before, I used to be able to ask Siri to play music that is actually ON my phone.

So, I want to give you a picture, which is that I will often be going down the trail arguing with Siri.

“Siri, play music,”

“Starting your custom station.”

“NO! No. Siri, Shuffle Library.”

“I can only do this when you are already listening to a song.”

“WHATTTT NO damnit. Siri play ‘Ophelia’.”

“You’ll have to connect to the internet first.”


“Oh my!”

So, in this case, I am stuck continuing to listen to the already downloaded audiobook. Which is all well and good! Except, sometimes audiobooks are…… sub-par. Don’t get me wrong. I *love* Audible. It’s my mojo. I listen to so. Much. Stuff. While I’m mushing. But, often, audiobook performers are…… hit or miss, in my opinion. And when they miss it is so upsetting.

For that reason, I do not listen to books which I may not want ruined. In other words, I only pick books that are kind of pulpy, ideally fast-paced, but books which I don’t mind being destroyed by a terrible performance. Sometimes this means I am listening to badly written books.

The book I am currently reading, while entertaining, is not well written. Nor is it well performed. So, when I’m not arguing with Siri, you may find me yelling at the damn audiobook. I also tend to laugh out loud at audiobooks. Which I’m sure, if you were to see this scene, would be weird. A silent, beautiful dog team in the middle of nowhere. My wacky laughter, echoing off the trees.

So, sometimes better to just mush in silence. I do love mushing in quiet. Dog teams are quiet, quiet. The runners of the sled and the dogs’ padding paw prints are all that you hear. A raven, maybe, cawing and clocking at you as you go. All the silence gives me room to think. It is not frightening, overbearing silence. It is silence which seems like it goes with the world, like you are a part of the trees and the snow and the landscape.

But of course that all feels very dignified. Luckily dummy mushers are around to bring things back to earth.

The other day I went on a long run after a lot of coffee, and, inevitably, I really had to pee. I was doing the pee dance, holding back, but I knew I had another two hours left on the run. I stopped to snack the dogs and decided it was as good of a chance as any. I was wearing bibs which don’t have a drop seat– so I had to take off my parka and another coat to get the bibs off my butt. I stuffed those into the sled (lest the team take off, better to have those things together) and went up to the front of the team popped a squat by my leaders. Oh what a glorious pee! And while I was enjoying this pee, my leaders Ophelia and Bonnie, whose line I was holding for balance, decided they wanted to get some tasty snow from the side of the trail, which meant my balance was suddenly AWOL and I slowly tipped over backwards into the snow, also off the side of the trail. And, since the side of the trail is not compacted, I did not stop falling, My bare butt (and my back) tipped all the way into the snow. It was full snow TP, and more. I didn’t stop peeing because…. What else was I gonna do? I was already screwed. I finally finished and clambered out of the well of snow, and tried to brush my freezing backside off before hauling my underwear and long johns and bibs back on. Luckily my long johns are water wicking (cuz there was no getting all that snow off), but my underwear is cotton, so I knew I’d have a wet cold butt all the way home.

I put all my gear on (my dogs screaming “LET’S GO YOU DUMB HUMAN”), stepped on the runners, and we took off down the trail. I pushed the remote on my headphones:

“Siri, play Epic Score.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do that for you right now!”