Homeless in Alaska

The glacier dogsledding gig that brought me to Alaska in the first place ended in late August. My intention was to stay in this great State until early winter and check out the mushing trails I had been hearing about for years. We both knew at that point that we were going to get married, but Darrel still had some obligations in Seward – his elderly father lived there and he owned a house with his ex-girlfriend that they needed to do something with.

Before arriving in Alaska I had put a deposit on a rental cabin and a dog yard in Wasilla. I had rented from a well known musher and it quickly became apparent that the arrangement wouldn’t work out because said musher was and is crazy. It was one of those “if I only knew then what I know now” kind of things. When I mention that name now the reactions vary from a shudder to vehement rantings. How did I not know this?

No going back now.

One day in early October Darrel helped me pack up my cabin and load up the dogs and I left that nightmare with a one fingered salute. Now we were officially Homeless in Alaska. With 40 dogs. And a dog truck affectionately dubbed Betsy Ford.

It felt really good to leave that dysfunctional place. We had no idea really where we were going other than the Seward area.

Here’s a video clip so you can get a feel for the adventure – or insanity – depending on how you look at things.

It wouldn’t be until January that we would finally have a home that wasn’t on wheels. A place to permanently stake out dogs, to fully stretch out on a bed, to pee without squatting, to cook on more than one burner and to change into dry and somewhat clean clothes every day (remember we are mushers). Don’t get me wrong, I will never ever regret that time in the truck. The adventure was awesome. I learned a lot about myself, about Darrel and about us. Resiliency is one of life’s greatest gifts.

It’s just that when we settled into something a bit more permanent it felt really good. Our bed in that tiny first cabin was an air mattress on the floor. It might as well have been a feather bed! Sitting on a toilet seat, even in an outhouse, lends itself to a lot more contemplation than squatting in the woods, freezing your nether regions, because winter has finally settled in. And since I have already thrown good etiquette out the window by talking about nether regions let me add that trying to wipe your butt while squatting, or even worse standing, is one of life’s greatest challenges.

The dogs were excited by their new digs too. No more being loaded and unloaded out of the truck. No more being staked out on picket lines. Now each had his or her own house and plenty of room to run around.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Back to our road trip.

We finally found a spot just outside of Seward. Alaska has all these pullouts on the highways – some right off the road and some set back from the traffic. Darrel knew of one that had plenty of woods to picket out dogs and that was quiet and private. After a long day on the road, dogs were taken care of, we had a romantic canned chili dinner and Darrel headed to town to be with his dad. I was left with the dogs and my thoughts.

Betsy Ford is a crew cab truck so the 14″ bench seat in the back was my bed. Now let me state for the record that even back then I was not 14″ wide so it took some gymnastics to crawl back there and into the sleeping bag every night. Kind of like sleeping in a coffin. And just when I was finally comfortable and my headlamp was turned off, it would happen. I would have to pee. That meant gymnastics in reverse, pulling on boots, going outside, doing the deed, getting back into the truck, pulling boots off and crawling into the back. Every single night. Without fail. Like clockwork.

Jump ahead to this year. We were cleaning Betsy out and discovered that the bench seat will actually flip down and make a comfy little bed now 28″ wide. Sigh.

Here’s a video clip from Day 2. It’s very, um, cozy.

And I will leave you hanging right there. Well ok, just one more picture. It will give you a clue as to what happens next.

We move uptown!


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