Monday, January 21, 2008


Ever see the movie Memento? Let's work backwards through the weekend that was:


How about we just not talk about the Packer game. It's just. too. soon.


What the heck is up with this weather?? By the end of last week they were predicting a major storm for the weekend, with a blizzard "watch" in effect until Sunday. Well, the system showed up, but instead of 25 degrees and snow, it was 35 degrees and rain. The wind was crazy...on the left is a picture of our weather gauge from sometime Saturday afternoon (bottom two readings are sustained wind and highest gust). And our wind speed reading is typically about 10-15 mph low, depending on the direction the wind is coming from (darn buildings), so who knows how high the gusts were actually getting. Either way, it was crappy out...mostly because we went from having really nice, deep, powdery snow cover to having a few piles of crappy snow and foot-deep puddles of water everywhere. Good times.


Now here's a funny story.

Remember, oh, last fall or so when we had a bit of an adventure with taking the boat for a ride over to a neighboring village? If not, it's ok. Just a bit of an of those things that are a little frustrating, even scary at the time, but you have a sense even while it's happening that it'll make a pretty good story later on. Assuming you get through it.

Ok, I'm being way over-dramatic, I'll admit it. But it's still a good story.

So our friend Sara was planning on hitching a ride over to Akiuk from Napaskiak in order to retrieve the snowmachine she had left there in the spring, and was looking for some of us to ride back with her (the trail pirates are back....shiver me timbers!) Of course I said I'd go, I've been looking for an excuse to head in to Bethel and try out our sled and the new rig we hooked up to it. The original plan was to make the trip on Saturday, during the day, but Friday afternoon we all saw the weather forecast, and worried about getting caught by bad weather, decided to head out right away after school. We knew we'd probably be headed back after dark, but better the dark than in a "blizzard", was my thinking.

Well, everything started off well, except for getting a little later start than we expected. Which was troublesome, considering Christina was planning on meeting us in Bethel at AC at 5:00, and we didn't leave the gas station and get on the trail 'til about 4:45. But that didn't concern me *too* much...she knows we're poky, and probably wouldn't too worry too much if we're an hour or so late. So Carey, Maria, Sara R. and I headed out into the dusk, and were making pretty good time when our first little snafu happened...somehow, the bolt holding her hitch on came loose and the sled came off. I was riding behind her, with Maria behind me, so all three of us stopped and tried to figure out a way of hooking the sled back on without the bolt. In the meantime, Carey hadn't realized the rest of us had stopped behind her, and had kept going, so Maria went on ahead to catch her, and I stood by being very little help as Sara got her sled reconnected using some rope she had with her and the snap clip I still (luckily) had connected to the tow rope of my sled. By the time we were done and good to go, Maria and Carey got back to us and we all headed on, having lost a little time and one bolt, but with no real harm done.

Next comes the embarrassing part for me. So as I believe I mentioned before, our new tow bar for the sled was made to break down into pieces to allow us to bring it up here, in a box, from Wisconsin. Well, when I put it together last weekend, I did so on the living room floor, considering it was mighty cold outside, and I wanted to do as little of the work outside as possible. The problem, however, is that I failed to notice that I had put the bolts on the rear portion on upside down, that is to say, with the nuts on top when I put the thing together on the sled. In my defense, I had every intention on fixing them Saturday morning before we left (per the original plan), but in the rush to leave Friday afternoon, I kinda forgot. That is, until we stopped to fix Sara's sled and I noticed I had already lost one bolt, and the nuts on a few of the others had rattled darn near off as well. So I tightened them the best I could with my fingers, which I then crossed as we headed off to Bethel. By the time I got to AC I had lost two more bolts. Everything was still holding together, but only by a thread.

So Carey and Maria had headed on to Napaskiak with Sara, and I had broken off to Bethel, partially because of my precarious sled situation, and partially because at this point, we were a full 2 hours late meeting Christina and her roommate Erin, and someone needed to let her know we weren't stranded or hijacked somewhere. Here would be a good place to point out that when I arrived at AC, I parked by two snowmachines. This will become vital information in a minute.

But in the meantime, I chatted with Christina and started my shopping (including some extra tools to allow me to shore up my sled before heading back.) Carey and Maria showed up, having gotten Sara to Napaskiak, and were doing their shopping when Christina and Erin (who had been at AC for, oh, three hours at this point), decided it was time for them to head back to Oscarville. Or so they thought. I got a sick feeling in my stomach as soon as I saw Christina walking back down the aisle toward us, which only got deeper when she said something along the lines of "well, now I can top your guys' story for tonight"....her snowmachine, which I had parked next to only an hour or so before, was no longer there. Stolen.

So! Our new plan: Erin has her snowmachine there, but they both have groceries, and no way of hauling them back, so we'd all head the 6 miles down the Kusko to Oscarville, drop her off, and head back. Which is precisely what we did after everyone was finished shopping (and I made my...ahem...sled adjustments). The only problem on the way down was that I was riding 3rd in a line of 4, and the two machines ahead of me kind of...well...took off on the clear, wide, flat Kuskokwim, while I and my sled, better attached but not 100%, and feeling like a parachute behind me with the added weight of everyone's groceries, couldn't go much over 25 or 30 mph. But, Christina was on Maria's machine behind me, and thankfully passed me up and lead me to Oscarville after I had missed the turn off the river trail.

So we warmed up for a few minutes at Christina and Erin's, I called my lovely wife, as it was now about 10pm, 6 hours after we'd left and around the benchmark time we'd earlier set at which point she was "allowed" to start worrying. Luckily, she had been sewing some cool stuff (how domestic! Seriously, she should post about all need to bug her to post on her blog, mmkay?) and hadn't really gotten *too* worried just yet.

A few minutes after 10, we headed out from Oscarville, thinking we had about a 15 minute ride back to Bethel, and then a roughly hour long ride back to Nunap (depending on how quickly the sled would allow me to go). However, none of us being familiar with this particular area, there were "issues" finding not only the trail, but the right direction to head. I'll leave it at that :-) Suffice it to say, after a little bit of wandering around the middle of the Kusko in the dark, and one frightening run-in with an overflow (yeah, I had never seen one in person before...damn...) later, we got on the trail, in the right direction, and back into Bethel to fuel up for the ride home.

At this point it was 11:20. We found the H-marker after a little detour, and we set out, breaking trail as the storm was starting to kick up and it was windy and drifting, despite clear sky above, all the way back. Despite the bumps and the worry about the sled, the last 20 miles were really quite a nice ride...the moon was out, the wind was mostly at our backs, and due to how late it was, there weren't any other machines out on the trail. We rolled into Nunap right at 1am, a little cold, a little stressed, but really happy to be home with our machines, or groceries, and ourselves intact.


Happy ending postscript: So Christina's stolen snowgo? Well, she reported it to the Bethel police, of course, right away, and they took down all the information, etc. And guess who got a phone call from Bethel's finest around 2am? Yup, they found her machine, out of gas, about...oh...a couple hundred yards from where she had parked it. Nobody can figure out what happened, if the thieves took it joyriding, and then just happened to run out of gas at the video store next door, if it was all someone's idea of a joke, if someone was just drunk, or what. But hey, whatever the scenario, the machine is back with its rightful owner, and Christina will be able to ride over and visit Nunap this weekend! Hooray!!

Edited to add: If you're interested (and, unlike me, you live somewhere where you can access Myspace), here's Christina's blog entry about her super-fantastic snowmachine theft adventure!

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