Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
MAP OF DAYS 25-HOME-SWEET-HOME (FINALLY)
Map Courtesy of DeLorme Publication. Thank You DeLorme for your Generosity!
NOTE: Each Number on this map represents each day.
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF MILES: 6,000
(Day 25) Monday, February 7, 2000Up again at 6:30 am and on the trail heading east toward Val-díOr, Quebec by 8:00 am, but with the temperature at about 0∫F (burrr - weíre getting spoiled from all of the 20± degree days). An interesting thing happened to me today while I was the ìlead dogî for a while. (Mike O. figured that after 25 days it was finally safe enough for me to lead - thanks, Mike.) As we were going through a wooded section at about 30 mph, a huge owl with a 5-foot wingspan swooped out of a tree and glided at about 10 feet high right in front my sled for about 500 feet. I thought that he might drop a little surprise on me, but then he just flew off back into the woods.
At Val-díOr, we stopped at Carols Motor Sports, the Polaris dealer, to pick-up injection oil and, of course, stickers for our windshields. We are each carrying 2 gallons of oil, so we shouldnít need to get any more before we get home (another milestone). We spoke (as best we could in ìFranglishî) to the employee at the Polaris dealer about where our destination should be for the day and he recommended Balbuzard Lodge, about 150 miles east. He even called them up to make reservations for us - Merci.
When we got to Balbuzard Lodge at 7:00 pm with another 250 miles under our belt today, we were some impressed to say the very least! The log lodge was absolutely gorgeous, with many log cabins surrounding it. The complex was built seven years ago, so it had modern plumbing and heating (key to my heart) in all of the cabins. The lodge was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and we took plenty of pictures, because we canít describe the beauty of it.
Dining at the lodge was also a novel experience. A 6 inch wide by 12 inch long by 1 inch thick granite slab, with sterno-like flames underneath, was placed on the table in front of us, with a big plate full of bite-sized raw steak, chicken and veal. We then cooked our own food, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, and while we ate the cooked meat, our next few pieces were being cooked.
After dinner, we were approached by some Canadian snowmobilers, who asked if we could help them fix one of their sleds that wasnít running very well (sorry, Ski-Doo, it was one of yours). Mike O. obliged; with all that the Canadians have done for us, it was the least he could do for them. While Mike O. was checking out the sled, they told him that their group of 8 had come across three people from France who had somehow gotten separated from their touring group of 17 snowmobilers. The three sledders from France had no idea what to do, so the Canadians had them join their group and brought them to the lodge to spend the night. Tomorrow, they will help them reunite with their own group - typical Canadians!
For the school kids - in Ontario and Quebec, we have been traveling over the ìCanadian Shieldî, as we said earlier, and the forests we have been traveling in are called ìborealî forest (good vocabulary word), or jokingly the ìspruce-mooseî forest because both spruce and moose are abundant (just like at home). Lastly, in answer to all the questions we asked in our last two updates, here is a list of the answers, not in any particular order. All you have to do is put the correct answer to the right question. Good luck! The answers are: whooping crane, Great Slave Lake, Russia, Gitche Gumee, the ìHigh Arcticî, Great Bear Lake, and sometimes yes and sometimes no.
(Day 26) Tuesday, February 8, 2000When we got up at 6:30 am today, it was -30∫F here at Bulbuzard Lodge in south central Quebec (burrr - feels like the Yukon again). We ate breakfast here, hit the trail heading east at about 8:30 am, and the day warmed up to about 0∫F. There were numerous lodges (powered by generators) along the way, usually on ponds, lakes and rivers to attract fishermen and hunters of bear, moose and deer. During the winter, the lodges appeared to be filled with snowmobilers, like us. The trails were pretty good, even this deep in "the bush". Although they were probably only groomed once a week or so, they held up good due to the light traffic.
After 270 miles on the trail today, we stopped for the night at about 6:00 pm at Relais 22, which appeared to be a converted logging camp, located about 80 miles west of La Tuque. The main building was used for dining and was surrounded by small cabins and mobile homes converted to six bedrooms and one bathroom each (no hot tub though - bummer!). At dinner, we met up with six snowmobilers that love to ride as much as we do. They ride together each year for 2-3 weeks and go about 3,000 miles in that time. Their names were Patrick Boylan from Bellows Falls, Vermont, Jim Wells from Colebrook, New Hampshire, Carl Gillespie from Standish, Maine and Marcel, Reno and Richard Gervias from Island Pond, Vermont. As avid snowmobilers, they appreciated the magnitude of our trip and had nothing but praise for our efforts. We wouldn't be surprised if they do this trip someday themselves. (Call us first though, guys, we've got a few tips for you - like don't get too close to buffalo, they are known to charge!)
(Day 27) Wednesday, February 9, 2000There was light snow falling when we got up at 6:00 am today in Relais 22, with the temperature at 10∫F. We had breakfast with our six new snowmobiling friends. (Thanks for picking up our breakfast tab, guys!) We then packed up and were on the trail by 8:00 am, with the temperature up to 25∫F (now, that's better!). We knew we were getting close to home when we stopped for gas in La Tuque at an Irving Station instead of a Husky Station. Since we were adamant about riding every inch of this journey without trailering the sleds, and because we thought we stood a better chance of crossing the St. Lawrence over the bridge at Trois-Rivieres (Three Rivers), we opted to head there, about 50 miles southwest of Quebec City.
After traveling 220 miles today, the trail led us right to the very nice Laviolette Motel, located next to the foot of the bridge. We arrived at about 6:00 pm, but to our dismay, the bridge was about a half mile long and heavily traveled. The two receptionists at Laviolette (Stephanie Marchand and Julie Frechette) made a gallant effort to help us cross the bridge by calling the police to see if they would escort us over. The police declined, but thanks for the try anyway ladies. They then called a local wrecker service to load up our sleds and drive them across the bridge in the morning. We were a little disappointed that we were forced to trailer the sleds, even for this short a distance, but we had sure done our best to avoid it. (The person typing this update into the computer happens to know a little surprise that the guys will tell you later about crossing the bridge!)
Tomorrow (Day 28), our destination is St. Pamphile, on the Quebec border with MAINE! It is about 220 miles northeast of here and we assume that Thursday, February 10th will be our last night away from home. We have about 5,600 miles on our sleds to date, so we may have to circle around County Sports in Caribou a few times to get to the 6,000 mile mark that we thought this trip would take us to.
Finally, although we'll be sure to do at least one more update at the end of this trip (and the Guestbook and Pledge Form will remain open), this will be our last update "from the trail". Therefore, we would like to close this particular update with a personal note to all of our faithful followers (you). We want to thank all of you for coming along for the ride (by reading these updates and sending us your messages and/or by following us on Channel X). We also want to thank all those people who have made that possible, especially the folks at Channel X radio and Dave Bell at Web Impressions, who we think of as part of our crew. We just can't tell you how much keeping in touch with everyone has helped make this long journey easier for us. Hopefully, you have enjoyed it too. And thank you for your pledges to the charities we are riding for; we can't tell you how much that means to a lot more people than us.
We plan to be back home in Caribou sometime Friday afternoon, February 11th (Day 29), and we have heard that there is a police escort planned from the Caribou sign on New Sweden Road (Route 161) to County Sports (we hope they don't keep going all the way to the Police Station). We invite those snowmobilers who would like to sled with us for the last few miles to meet us at the Caribou sign. Others should feel free to meet us at County Sports, where we will be taking the flag we brought back from Alaska to hang on the wall - Thanks for everything, Myron and crew! Or maybe we'll see you at the Caribou Snowmobile Club "Welcome Home Celebration & Dance" on Saturday night (February 12th) at Hillcrest Resort. Finally, after the LONG journey home, we will be heading to our own homes. As Dorothy so aptly put it, "There's no place like home", but for the three of us crazy sledders from Caribou there also has been nothing quite like our "Ride of the Millennium" from Alaska to Maine. Thanks again for coming along for the ride!
(Day 28) Thursday, February 10, 2000The temperature was -10∫F when we got up at 5:00 am here in Trois Rivieres, on the west side of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. We were up so early because the flat bed to transport our sleds over the bridge was due at 6:00 am. However, we noticed that one of us was VERY tired and had a VERY hard time waking up - almost like he had only gotten a couple of hours sleep. We then discovered that there were only TWO sleds in the parking lot! Did somebody steal one of our sleds!?! Luckily, we found the third sled at the other end of the bridge, which was actually 2 miles long, instead of the half-mile estimate we gave you in the last update. The sled was safe and sound under the entrance canopy of the Auberge Godefroy Hotel (Thanks, Jack!). Hmmm - how did it get there? And why were there two extra miles on the odometer? And why did one of us have a big grin on his very tired face? Oh well, by some miracle, this last minute major obstacle was overcome and we had at least one sled that traveled every inch of the way from Tok, Alaska to Caribou, Maine!
We were heading north on Trail #5 on the outskirts of Trois-Rivieres, when we stopped for breakfast at a little diner. After eating, we made our daily call to Channel X radio station, when Dennis Curley (owner of Channel X radio) informed us of the tragic single vehicle accident that claimed the life of Deana Bell last night. Deana was the wife of Dave Bell, Jr., the webmaster of this website and an integral member of our support team back home. The news of this tragedy put us into total shock and we spent the next half hour discussing what we should do to express the deep sorrow we felt. We finally decided to ride a little further, so we could each think individually about our options.
As we were coming into Ste-Croix, Mike O.ís sled had a minor problem, which was not AT ALL a fault with the machine, but our doing only, because we had changed the needle positions when we were riding in the warmer weather, but didnít change them back when we got into the cold weather again. Of course, when we noticed the problem, we just happened to be about 1,000 feet from Les Pítits Moteurs (yep, another Polaris dealer!).
When we got to the dealership, we found the place closed for lunch, so we went to the restaurant next door for a light lunch. It was here that the three of us decided to ride as far as St. Pamphile in Quebec, store our sleds there, then get a ride home and finish the trip at a later date. We didnít think it would be appropriate to finish the trip and have a big celebration when one of the team members was in mourning for his wife. When we called our wives to inform them of this decision, we learned that Dave and his mom, Denise, had already spoken to them and insisted that we finish the trip as planned. Mike M. then called Dave personally to extend our heartfelt condolences and to make sure that Dave knew we wouldnít mind postponing the end of the trip. However, Dave made it abundantly clear to Mike M. that he wanted us to push on, so that is what we did, although with VERY heavy hearts. We also decided to dedicate the last two days of this wonderful adventure to the memory of the life of Deana Bell.
After lunch, Martin Denis (the owner of Les Pítits Moteurs) worked for a short time on Mike O.ís sled (Thanks, Martin!) and we made it to St. Pamphile by 8:00 pm. After 240 miles spent on GREAT TRAILS in Quebec, we checked into La Boise Motel for our last night of this fantastic journey!
(Day 29) Friday, February 11, 2000 (Home at Last!)After a good nightís sleep in St. Pamphile, on the Quebec side of the border with Maine, we were up at 5:00 am and ready to hit the trail home by 6:00 am, but unfortunately, we couldnít find a gas station open until 7:00 am. Also, ironically, on our very last day, and only when we got to the border of Maine, we were greeted with 6 inches of new snow and it was still coming down. This was the first time in 29 days of riding that we had to travel through ANY kind of storm - absolutely amazing! No matter, at this point we would have traveled through fresh snow ten FEET deep to get home. We went through Customs at about 7:30 am (U.S. Customs opened at 6:00 am), took a few pictures, and were finally riding on Aroostook County trails on United States ground (for the first time since we left Alaska 28 days ago). Goodbye (Au Revoir) Canada, words cannot express our feelings for your land and your people! We all plan to return with our wives for another trip across this beautiful country (only they said we have to go in the summer next time!).
After we crossed the border, the riding was GREAT for the first five miles, even through the 6 inches of new snow, and then we met a groomer operated by Cedric. He told us that he knew we were coming through, so he made a special run to pack down the snow that had fallen during the night. Thank you, Cedric - we really appreciated it! However, when we were about five miles from Dickey, the going got really slow, not due to the snow, but because we were going through a deer yard where we saw about 50 deer within a half mile and Mike O. had to stop to take pictures every fifty feet!
Just as we were pulling into Dickey Trading Post in Allagash, we met some GREAT friends of ours that had come all the way just to ride back to Caribou with us! We knew that we were essentially home when we saw the familiar faces of Harry McCarthy (Mike M.ís brother), Norm Plourde, Bub Anderson and Tom Clowes - Thanks, guys! After a quick cup of coffee and a few stories, we headed to Portage, where we were met by approximately thirty well-wishers (including Mike M.ís children, Ally and Chad!) and a WLBZ-TV News crew. After a quick gas stop in Portage and interviews with the WLBZ crew (our heads just barely fit in our helmets now!), we were on our way to Caribou, with at least ten additional sleds following us.
We finally made it to the ìWelcome to Caribouî sign on Route 161 at about 3:00 pm and found another twenty or so sleds waiting for us there (including Kirkís youngest daughters, Jessica and Amy!). From here, we were escorted down the road by two flashing and blaring fire trucks and police cruisers, while we proudly displayed the Alaska state flag from a pole attached to Mike O.ís sled. Time for one (last?) trivia question - the flag on the back of Mike O.ís sled was blue with the seven stars that form the big dipper on it. An eighth star, lined up with the ìcupî of the dipper (in the upper right corner of the flag) represents, of course, the North Star. What is the official name of the North Star? (Hint, TGIP!)
Our little ìparadeî continued past County Sports, where people actually threw carnations at us (and Kirk stopped to kiss his wife and hug his Mom) and we were greeted by hundreds of people lining the side of the road (including the teary-eyed daughters of Mike O., Neali and Haley!). We took a very noisy ìtool through townî as the teenagers would say and what a GREAT welcome home! Thanks to all who took the time to come out in the middle of a snow storm and welcome us back! (You know, those Guardian Angels who followed us on this trip even took the extra time to make snow fall on the roads in Caribou on the day of our return, so we could ride our sleds through town.)
After 5,977 miles (the average of all three sleds) and 29 straight days of riding from the beginning of our trip at Tok, Alaska, we stopped at our final destination - County Sports, Caribouís Polaris dealer. (Hey, Myron, in all the exitement, we forgot to get a sticker for our windshields!) After an extremely emotional reunion with our families and friends, we read a letter of greeting from Tony Knowles, the Governor of Alaska, and presented the Alaska flag to Myron Hale, the owner of County Sports. Before heading to our own homes, we went inside for coffee and a piece of excellent cake (donated by Aliceís Bakery at Ouelletteís Variety), and John Begin of Pine Tree Camp presented us with sweatshirts and beautiful plaques in appreciation of our fund-raising efforts. Cary Medical Center also gave us wonderful ìwelcome homeî baskets - Thanks, Cary!
(Day 30) Saturday, February 12, 2000 (Family Time, Then Party Time!)After a nice relaxing day in our own homes with our families (where our wives bravely did our laundry for us, while we all shaved off our ìrugged-lookingî, or was that ìragged-lookingî beards), we attended a SUPER ìWelcome Home Celebration & Danceî sponsored by the Caribou Snowmobile Club at Hillcrest Resort. What a tremendous party! With 350 people in attendance, we heard that the tickets pretty much sold out several days in advance. (Didnít know we had THAT many relatives!)
The cake made at Shop ín Save had edible pictures of us on our trip (weird!) and the buffet put on by the folks at Hillcrest was delicious. (You have to go there to eat, as my family and I did on Sunday - excellent food and service!) The program had just GREAT M.C.s - Thanks, Kathy M. and Mr. C. And we received all kinds of presents - Ken Desmond and Tom Malcolm of the Pine Tree Burn Foundation gave us all tee shirts and recognized Mike M. for his generous ride for charity with a plaque. Then Reta Ricker gave us each an autographed photo of Ricky Craven that Steve Doody took the time to get for us. Steve and Ginnie Gagnon presented us all with nicely-framed copies of the poem they wrote and they gave Kathy and Mike O. a framed copy of the touching Bangor Daily News photo of them reunited at County Sports. Jim and Doris McBreairty gave us all gift certificates to the Caribou Inn and Convention Center.
Lastly, we each got to speak and we gave out ìgagî gifts to the members of our support team. The ìSourtoeî iced-tea drink was fun and ìdifferentî - Thanks to Mark Baker for providing the ìtoesî and to Bonnie Akerson for providing the ìcocktailî. The music was great to dance to - Thanks, Jack Matisko, and last but certainly not least, the company was FANTASTIC - Thanks, everyone! What a great way to end our journey! Signing off for the last time (maybe), MKM.
P.S. A personal note to those of you who asked us to post some pictures of our trip on this web site. As soon as some of the film is developed, we plan to do just that, so keep checking this page.