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RETRAX, Inc

P.O. Box 34
Caribou, Maine 04736
Toll Free: 1-866-4-RETRAX
(1-866-473-8729)
Tel: (207) 492-0022
Fax: (207) 493-3077
Email: retrax@maine.rr.com

Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
MAP OF OVERALL TRIP

overallMap 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

Snowmobile Ride of the Millennium from Alaska to Maine

Alaska to Maine,
Ride of the Millennium
FROM DAY 1

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MAPS (CLICK ON LINKS TO VIEW MAP):

JANUARY 10-12, 2000 (THE BEGINNING)

Well, we finally started off on Monday morning (January 10, 2000). We drove to Bangor International Airport to catch our 11:20 am flight to Boston. Thanks to Michelle St. Peter (Kirk's daughter) and Alyssa Gagnon, who came down with us to drive the car back to Caribou. Mike McCarthy overcame his fear of flying, which was unfortunate for the man in the seat next to him, because he had to listen to Mike ramble on about our trip for the one hour flight to Boston. The second leg of our flight from Boston to Minneapolis was good except for the two crying babies in the row behind us (no rest for the weary!). Our final flight to Anchorage (6 hours) was pleasant, thanks to the nice lady who conversed with McCarthy all the way, so we didn't have to. We were met at the airport by Connie Pelletier (a former Caribou native) who came by to say hi, offer her assistance, and wish us well. Scott Kieffer (another former Caribou native) took excellent care of us. We loaded up his Chevy Suburban (the Alaskan Cadillac) with all of our gear and he drove us to The Long House Alaskan Hotel where we received a warm welcome and a 30% discount. Scott then gave us a quick tour of Anchorage (population of 250,000) where we met up with 'Mortimer The Moose", who was busily munching on tree buds in downtown Anchorage. We ended the day with Scott taking us to the Lone Star Restaurant for a great steak dinner at 2:00 am Caribou time. Thanks to Barrett Willey, owner of Four Season's Yamaha in Caribou, for picking up the tab. On Tuesday morning (January 11, 2000), our internal clocks woke us up at 4:00 am Alaska time. By 7:00 am, we were at Walmart picking up some final supplies, then we picked up our rental truck and finally headed to Alaskan Power Sports, the world's largest Polaris Dealer, where we loaded up our three 550 Indy Trail Touring snowmobiles and a few miscellaneous supplies. Special thanks to Jim Wilke, the owner, for having the sleds ready to go and giving us a nice discount on the supplies. While we were at Alaskan Power Sports, we were met by Quentin McCubrey, a former Caribou teacher for all three of us. Although it was great to talk to Quentin, Mike Ouellette was a little nervous that Quentin would remember that he still owed him a one hour detention. We were on the road at 11:00 am, heading from Anchorage to Tok on the Glenn Highway. On the way, we stopped at Eagle River Polaris in Eagle River to pick up a few more supplies. As we were driving to the dealership, we almost went off the road in our excitement to quickly pull over to take pictures of 10 or 15 bald eagles perched in a tree on the side of the road. The trip to Tok was absolutely spectacular. It was a beautiful, clear day and driving through the mountains was breath taking. We followed the Copper River and saw snow-covered mountains and glaciers. As an added bonus, we got a beautiful view of a 'Sun Dog", a rainbow-like phenomenon between two mountain peaks. We ate lunch at the Eureka Restaurant, where we met people who had heard about our adventure on the news. We arrived at Northern Performance (the Polaris Dealer in Tok) at 7:30 pm. The owners, Greg and Candy Thurneau, and their three beautiful little girls (Natasha, Danielle, and Annaliese) met us and helped unload our sleds. They even allowed us to store the sleds in their heated garage - very nice! Greg joined us for dinner at Fast Eddies Restaurant, where he enlightened us with the history of the area and the way of life around Tok, Alaska. We spent the night at Young's Motel and of course, woke up at 4:00 am (we hate jet lag!). Wednesday morning (January 12, 2000) greeted us with -45ºF weather. We went to Northern Performance to put cargo racks, saddlebags, etc. on the sleds. We plan to set off Thursday morning (weather permitting). Finally, we heard from Mark Baker that about $3,000 has been raised so far for the Pine Tree Camp for Handicapped Children and Pine Tree Burn Foundation - That's Great!

(Days 1 & 2 of Sledding) Thursday and Friday, January 13-15, 2000

We were up at 6:00 am with 8 hours of sleep, finally - AHHHH! The weather in Tok, Alaska was -50ºF with ice fog. We took our new sleds for a ride to 'shake them out" and went 45 miles up the Taylor Highway (an unplowed road from Tok to Eagle, Alaska). The windscreens and cowling bibs worked great. Thank you, Kendall Sutherland and Cushman's Embroidery for making them for us. To the right are some photographs taken at Northern Performance (the Polaris dealer in Tok, Alaska) of all three sleds and a close-up of one of the sleds with the windscreen and cowling bib. In the third photo from the top, Greg and Candy Thurneau (owners of Northern Performance) are the two people standing behind the sled with us. The last photo shows Mike McCarthy and Kirk St. Peter working on the tote sled, while Mike Ouellette tells us what to do (as usual). On the ride up the Taylor Highway, we saw at least 100 caribou in herds of 2 to 10 at a time. We came back to Northern Performance by 4:00 pm and spent the next few hours packing our sleds and tote for an early start tomorrow (January 14, 2000). To the above right are some photographs taken at Northern Performance during the ceremony for the transfer of the Alaska flag at about 7:00 pm this evening. We are taking the flag back to Maine with us. On Friday, January 14th, we were on the trail (the unplowed Taylor Highway - Route 5) by 9:00 am (1 hour before sunrise here). Greg Thurneau and his friend James joined us on the ride from Tok to Boundary, Alaska (population 1), near the border with the Yukon Territory in Canada. On the ride, we again saw numerous caribou, a few moose and 5 wolves running up the side of a mountain. We also passed through a town called 'Chicken" on the way to Boundary. [Any kids who find the name interesting might want to research why it's called that - we'll let you know later on.] We arrived at Boundary Lodge at 1:30 pm, gassed up and went east to the border crossing to find out what the trail conditions were like, while Greg and James went back to Tok, Alaska. The trail east of Boundary was unbroken with at least 1 foot of snow, so we decided to spend the night at Boundary Lodge and get an early start the next morning on the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. Louie Peet, the sole employee at Boundary Lodge and only year-round resident of Boundary, fired up the kerosene stove in our cabin so that by the time we went in it was heated to a balmy 20ºF (above zero). We enjoyed a nice MRE dinner, then bundled up in our nice, new -20ºF rated sleeping bags and were snoring up a storm by 7:00 pm. Saturday, January 15th we were up at 6:00 am and the temperature was a relatively mild -20ºF. [It's warmer on top of the mountains than in the valleys, without the wind - why this is true is another research question for any interested kids.] We had coffee and a light breakfast with Louis and set off around 9:00 am (still dark here, remember). The going wasn't too bad for the first 15 miles or so - a little dangerous in spots where we had to creep along at 5 mph (along the edges of cliffs). We took our time because we didn't need any trouble at this point in our quest. Just when the going started to get tough, breaking trail through 18 inches of snow, we met up with our guide, Sylvain Fleurant, who had come west from Dawson City and broke trail for us. In spots, he actually had to get off his sled and snowshoe ahead for 100 feet at a time to pack the snow down before he drove over it. Boy, were we glad to see him - there is no way we could have made it to Dawson City without him and his friend Ron McCready, because we were traveling heavy with extra gas, clothing, survival gear and a tote sled, and the snow kept getting deeper and deeper. Even with the trail broken for us, we got stuck 4 or 5 times going up a hill with at least 4 feet of very soft and fluffy snow. Pulling each other out in the thin air was exhausting, but once we got to the top of the hill (approximately a mile long), the riding was very good. The final 30 miles to Dawson City was easy because the wind blew the snow off the hillside, so we were on crusty ice. We got to Dawson City at about 7:00 pm, tired, but happy to finally be there, and we had the distinction of being the first people to cross the border and the Top of the World Highway in the new millennium! Sylvain let us store our sleds in his heated garage and we checked into the Downtown Hotel. We had a nice steak dinner, then met with Sylvain and his girlfriend, Chris Ball. We were joined by Bill Holmes, President of the Dawson City Snowmobile Club, who was very helpful in the planning stages of our trip via e-mail and telephone calls. We presented Bill with a Maine flag that had flown over the Maine State Capitol Building. In return, he made us honorary members of the Dawson City Snowmobile Club. Bill is also president of the 'Sourtoe Cocktail Club" and keeper of 'The Toe". All three of us joined the club with over 18,000 other crazy people, got our names in the ol' log book and received our 'Sourtoe Certificates" by following the rules, 'You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe!" Yep, that's a real human toe, folks! The club was born on August 17, 1973, when Captain Dick Stephenson found a human toe under the floorboards of an old cabin he had bought. The toe had been 'pickled' in a jelly jar full of rum under the floor of the cabin for 44 years and had quite a history. Visit http://members.delphi.com/toe2/index.jpg for a complete history of the 'Sourtoe Cocktail Club" with 'yukky" color pictures of the toe. Well, that's it for now - signing off from the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Depending on the weather (as always), we will set out soon for our next stop, Carmacks, on the Klondike Loop. We'll try to send an update from there. We heard from Mark Baker that almost $4,000 has been raised to date for the Pine Tree Camp and Pine Tree Burn Foundation. Thanks for all the support here, along the way, and at home and keep those pledges rolling in.

(Day 3 of sledding) Sunday, January 16, 2000

It was -45 F here at Dawson City (population 2,019) in Yukon Territory, Canada this morning. We were up at 6:00 am and packed our survival gear so Sylvain could ship it back to Caribou (Thanks again, Sylvain). We donated our tote sled to the Dawson City Snowmobile Club and left Dawson City by 11:00 am. We traveled down the shoulder of the road on the "Klondike Loop" towards Carmacks. The shoulder had about Ω inch of powder, but was only about 3-4 feet wide. Therefore, our left ski was riding on the gravel road quite a bit. By the time we got to Stewart Crossing (110 miles from Dawson City), our left carbide ski runners (also called "skags") were badly worn (Kirk's fell off), so we installed the "Mike Ouellette/BMW" homemade wheel kit on Kirk's left ski for the ride tomorrow. Thanks to Richard Schwab, manager of Stewart Crossing Shell, who let us store our sleds in his garage overnight. We walked to Whispering Willows RV Park (right next door to the Shell station), where Jerald Graham (the owner and a friend of Sylvain's), put us up in his beautiful log home for the night. Jerald cooked us a great steak dinner (Kirk's wife is concerned about his eating habits - steak, steak and more steak), we chatted with Jerald for a while, then off to bed - ZZZZZZ. Thank you for your hospitality, Jerald, and we want to thank Matthew for the washers we needed for our wheel kits.

(Day 4) Monday, January 17, 2000

It was -22ºF when we got up at 7:00 am in Stewart Crossing this morning. [A note to those of you who mentioned having a map at our web site to follow our trip, we heard that the folks back home are working on it, but no promises yet.] We called Chris Smeetom at Checkered Flag Recreation (the Polaris dealer in Whitehorse, Yukon) and he sent 6 sets of carbide runners via currier service to us at Sunrise Service Center in Carmacks. For you non-sledders, carbides or "skags" go on the skis and help to steer the sled. We left Stewart Crossing at 10:30 am, with Kirk using one wheel kit on his left ski. Mike and Mike (or "M&M") were still O.K. with their skis until we had gone about 50 miles, then we installed the wheel kits on the left ski of M&M's sleds, as well, which only took about 10-15 minutes. We rode to Carmacks like that and would not have made it without the wheel kits, because the skis would have burned up. Thank God for Mike O's foresight and ingenuity - we were prepared! We arrived at Sunrise Service Center around 3:00 pm and the new carbides had arrived about 1/2 hour before us. [God is definitely watching and taking care of us; it seems all of the prayers of family and friends (and us) are being answered.] We removed our wheel kits and installed our new carbides on the left skis in Sunrise Service's heated garage bay at no charge - Thanks Guys! We left Carmacks for Faro on the Campbell Highway (aka the Watson Lake-Carmacks Road) by 5:00 pm. The Campbell Highway is also a gravel road, but had a little more snow on it. It was still hard on the carbide runners, but not as bad as the Klondike Loop. We arrived at Redmond's Motel in Faro (population 500) at 8:30 pm. We traveled over 220 miles today - a good ride. Although the motel was closed (it's the only one in town), we called the owner, who not only let us in, but whipped us up a nice dinner in the restaurant (guess what Kirk had). Mounted in the restaurant was a 42-pound trout that the owner had caught in Little Salmon Lake (approximately 50 miles away).

(Day 5) Tuesday, January 18, 2000

We were up at 6:30, with a temperature here in Faro of -30ºF. We filled up the sleds at Faro Shell Services Gas Station and the nice people there let us bring our sleds in the service bay to put the second set of carbides on. We rode along Campbell Highway to Ross River (population 352) and ate lunch at The Welcome Inn. We bought extra gas tanks for the 239 mile stretch between Ross River and Watson Lake (with no towns in between). The ride on the Campbell Highway from Ross River to Watson Lake was excellent (VROOOOOOM). It was an ice road with a dusting of snow and we made it to Watson Lake (population 1,794) by 6:30 pm. Terry Scanlan, owner of Make Traxx Recreation (the Polaris dealer in Watson Lake), met us and let us store our sleds in his shop overnight. He then gave us a ride to the Belvedere Motor Hotel, where we ate dinner (steak again, Kirk?!) and spent the night. Pat and Barbara Irvin, owners of the Belvedere Hotel, made sure we had everything we needed and gave us a nice discount - thanks, Pat and Barbara! We traveled about 290 miles today - a great ride!

(Day 6) Wednesday, January 19, 2000

A little warmer, at -20ºF, when we woke up at 7:00 am today in Watson Lake (still in Yukon Territory, but close to British Columbia). Terry Scanlan picked us up and took us to his shop. With the help of Danny Mohr (the mechanic) we checked out the clutches, drive trains, etc. (almost 1,000 miles on the sleds this far). Everything was A-OK with the sleds (go Polaris). Terry gave Kirk a used ski because the left one on his sled was badly worn. We went back to the Belevedere Hotel and met with Michelle Philips of the "Watson Ink", the local newspaper. Michelle interviewed us for the newspaper and took photographs of us mounting the "Caribou, Maine/MKM/January 2000" sign made for us by Dave Bell, Sr., the Director of Caribou Public Works Department back home. Watson Lake has over 41,000 signs at a sign post location in town and invites visitors to post a sign from their home town, so before we left we contacted Dave about bringing a sign from Caribou. He readily agreed and it is now the second sign from Caribou, Maine (that we know of) to be posted at Watson Lake. By the way, we heard that today is Dave's birthday - Happy Birthday, Dave, hope you liked the hat with the "Alaska to Maine" logo (the one on this web site).

Before we left the Belvedere Hotel in Watson Lake, Kirk's wife Cheryl printed the Guestbook off the web page and faxed it to us. We don't mind telling you how touched we were (teary-eyed, actually) to hear from all of the people that are wishing us well - please keep it up, very uplifting! Cheryl intends to fax us the updated pages whenever we have access to a fax machine.

Watson Lake is where we leave the Campbell Highway and start on the Alaska Highway (which has quite a history for those of you interested). We plan to spend the night tonight at Liard River (136 miles from Watson Lake, at Historical Mile 496). We read in "The Milepost" (Trip Planner for Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Alberta and Northwest Territories) about the hot spring at Liard River and couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it (we could use some thawing out)! Thanks for all your support and we'll keep updating you on our progress whenever we can. Oh, and keep the pledges rolling in - remember all the money pledged goes to charity, either the Pine Tree Camp for Handicapped Children or the Pine Tree Burn Foundation.

[According to "The Milepost", story has it that the town named "Chicken" in Alaska is so-called because the early miners who settled the town wanted to name it after the Alaska State Bird, the "Ptarmigan", but they were unable to spell it, so they settled for the name "Chicken". Guess they should have stayed in school instead of mining for gold in Alaska. We'll let you in on the temperature difference question later and if we come across other interesting tidbits, we'll try to include them.] On our way from Watson Lake to Liard River (136 miles), we saw 15 or 20 buffalo along the side of the road. We got within 100 feet or so to get 8 pictures. It wasn't until later that night that Rusty Stevenson (a salesman we met in the restaurant) told us buffalo would get aggravated and charge if you got too close. Ignorance is bliss. Besides, we don't see many buffalo in Caribou. [We haven't seen any polar bears, and won't - why not? This is another question for those curious school kids following these updates.]

At Liard River, we stayed at Trapper Ray's Liard Hotsprings Lodge, a beautiful new (1994) log motel and restaurant at Historical Mile 497 on the Alaska Highway (out of the Yukon and in British Columbia now). We had a fantastic beef stew dinner (no steak tonight for Kirk - but beef stew still has red meat in it - yum!) and then headed off to the hot springs. This was an unbelievable experience! It was a clear night with a nearly full moon and a 10 minute walk through the woods on a boardwalk led us to a pool (50 feet wide by 200 feet long by 3 feet deep), with 108ºF to 120ºF water. We got into the water in our birthday suits (the "Chip-n-Dale" guys have nothing over us three hunks from The County) and wallowed around for an hour or so (10:00 - 11:00 pm). All of our chilled bones from the previous 5 days of riding were completely thawed out and it felt great! [You were right though, Cheryl, there weren't any naked women in the hot springs this time of year - too bad!]

[We forgot to mention previously the meteorite that lit up the sky in the Yukon Territory on January 13th. Did it make the news back home? Mike O. was outside loading up his sled at about 8:00 am on the 13th (still dark here, remember) when he saw the huge flash in the sky (he mentioned that it looked like an explosion in his radio interview). It must have been an omen.]

(Day 7) Wednesday, January 20, 2000

We were up at 6:30 am (-16ºF, getting warmer!) and had breakfast at Trapper Ray's before striking off for Fort Nelson at Historical Milepost 300 on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia (194 miles from Liard River). We are at least a day ahead of our estimated schedule. Things are falling into place, thanks to all of the great people that have helped us along the way. We rode ditches and the shoulder of the road along the Alaska Highway. (In our radio interview on Channel X (97.7 FM at home), we asked the kids when the highway was completed and why it was built. Also, it is sometimes referred to as the "ALCAN" - we'll let you in on the answers later on.)

On the way to Fort Nelson, we passed through Muncho Lake (population 26), where the lake is known for its beautiful deep green and blue waters. The beautiful colors are from a compound leaching into the lake - those interested kids/adults might want to try to find out what might make water blue green (chemistry lesson). We stopped for coffee and hot apple pie at a restaurant in Toad River (Historical Mile 422) and an employee at the restaurant asked us to talk about our journey to a class at the school across the street. Professor McCarthy gave a nice 10-minute presentation and again, half of the kids thought we were crazy and the other half thought it was really cool (about the same response as back home). The popular artist Trish Croal lives in Toad River and Toad River Lodge is world famous for its collection of hats, which numbers more than 4,500.

As we headed for Fort Nelson, we also came out of the Rocky Mountains, which was a pity because riding through the mountains for the last 6 days was absolutely magnificent, an almost religious experience (Mike O. said to tell Deb Sutherland that it was just like being in Church). Words cannot describe the beauty of this trek - everybody should see this area at least once in their lifetime, if not by snowmobile, then by car or camper.

We traveled about 200 miles today and pulled into the Travelodge Motel in Fort Nelson at about 7:00 pm. It was a very nice place with an excellent restaurant. At dinner we discussed heading east instead of south to Dawson Creek as planned because there was not much snow south of here. Thanks go to Hendricus Lulofs at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Caribou for keeping us updated on the snow cover across Canada! We finally decided to head east tomorrow to Rainbow Lake and then High Level (both in Alberta) and we'll let you know our destination from there when we find out.

We thought this might be a good time to explain our group dynamics. We are working great as a team and all decisions are made by consensus (or coin flip!). So far, we have been right on the money. Speaking of money, Mark Baker tells us that over $5,000 has been pledged for the charities we are riding for and we heard this is now updated on our web site. After you read this, if you haven't already done so, please either make a pledge online (very easy to do) or contact Mark at the Caribou Fire Station at (207) 493-4205. It is a great thing to help out the kids and their families in any way you can - we thank you.

Back to group dynamics, Mike M. is the treasurer and in charge of our group credit card. He pays for all of our gas, oil, and lodging expenses and we will square up at the end of the trip (that's what he thinks, anywayÖ). He also coordinates the next day's ride by making reservations and calling snowmobile club members in the areas where we are going.

Mike O. is in charge of P.R. He talks about hunting and fishing to anybody that has ever held a fishing pole or looked at a rifle. He is in his absolute glory up here. He is also usually the lead dog when we're riding, taking us safely through the trails (if any of you have ridden with Mike O., you know that this is also a religious experience for the two of us following him).

Yours truly, Kirk, is the secretary and scribe. I try to keep track of all of the places we go and the things we see and do, then scribble it down whenever I get the chance (it is now 11:45 pm). I then fax it to my wife, Cheryl, who types it into her computer (editing it and making it grammatically correct - thanks, honey - she also adds a lot of the historical/scientific tidbits [she used to be a teacher], so if you find them interesting or annoying, thank her or blame her). Kathy Ouellette (Mike O's wife) and Sue McCarthy (Mike M's wife) often review these updates before they are posted here for the public, to see what I say about their men. Cheryl then e-mails it to Dave Bell Jr. at Web Impressions, who posts it here for you to read. By the way, Dave, we just saw the new maps on the web site (Cheryl faxed them to us with the updates and the new Guestbook messages, which we love to read, even if they make us miss home) and the maps look great - Thanks! We also want to thank DeLorme Mapping Company in Yarmouth, Maine for the complimentary copy of the AAA Map n' Go CD that Dave used to make the maps (since Kirk took his with him).

Well, that's our group in a nutshell, except for the kids - Ally and Chad McCarthy, Neali and Haley Ouellette, and Michelle, Jessica, and Amy St. Peter, all of whom we miss and love dearly (keep up the messages kids). Now for you, our faithful followers, thank you so much for your support, prayers and snappy one liners. We truly appreciate the messages to us. This is not a trip for the weak-hearted (weak-minded, maybe) and reading the messages in the Guestbook is very uplifting. Our morale is high, we are working hard, but having a blast! Every time the track rolls over, we are closer to you, our family and friends. We are going to make this journey, all three of us, safely. Again, thank you and we'll send an update the next time we get a chance.

[In answer to one of our earlier questions for the school kids (and curious adults), the reason it is sometimes up to 20 degrees warmer on top of mountains than it is in the valleys, most often on a clear, calm night with radiational cooling (when the earth gives up its heat to the atmosphere), is because the cold air sinks, pushing the warm air up to higher elevations.]

(Day 8) Friday, January 21, 2000

We were up at 8:00 am today (we slept in) at the Travelodge Motel in Fort Nelson, British Columbia. We took a step outside and found balmy 20ºF weather, plus 20ºF - WOW! What has the weather been like back home? (har, har) The extra carbides we needed to continue our journey were due to arrive here at 3:30 pm today, so we took the time to re-organize our gear and send back the items we won't need anymore. We also took time in the morning to read our email messages from the Guestbook (we just LOVE them!) and to talk to the local people to get information on routes and accommodations for our newly planned course - east to Rainbow Lake, High Level, and then Fort Vermillion. We had decided to deviate from our original route south from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek - we needed a challenge! Actually, as we said in our last update, the reported snow cover was not that good in the Dawson Creek/Edmonton area and we are determined to ride every inch of the way home on our sleds!

The time we spent socializing really paid off, because we discovered that there are "ice" roads not shown on maps, used primarily by the natural gas and oil companies (big business in this area). These roads could take us directly from Fort Nelson in British Columbia to Rainbow Lake in Alberta. Again, our prayers and those of our well wishers sure are being answered. Rainbow Lake (population 1,146) is a service community for the oil and natural gas development in the region; the natural gas and oil is then piped to Edmonton, Alberta.

We spent the afternoon at Red Line Recreation, the Polaris dealer in Fort Nelson, where Rick Rossi (owner) and Dwayne Thompson (associate), let us bring our sleds into their new shop to thaw out and to check the sleds over. We also spent time talking to Greg Thompson, a helicopter pilot, who was very familiar with the ice roads and helped us lay out the next leg of our trip.

The new carbides arrived at 4:00 pm and by 4:30 pm we were off to Rainbow Lake in Alberta via the ice roads. Although we were off to a late start today, we didn't want to waste the opportunity to crank out a few more miles in the great weather. As we were leaving town, we gassed up our sleds and extra gas tanks at the Husky Bulk Plant in Fort Nelson and Nick Bidulka, the Husky bulk agent, wouldn't take a penny of the $100+ worth of gas we put in. We're telling you, the Canadian people we have met are just amazing! People that we talk to about our trip can't believe we don't have a support vehicle, but we tell them that our "support vehicle" is the wonderful people that help us, in whatever way they can.

On our way to Rainbow Lake on the ice roads, we saw numerous "camps" the gas and oil drilling companies set up to house their employees (similar to the logging camps in northern and western Maine). We also saw huge flames shooting 50 feet into the air from the natural gas wells that were being developed or vented. Luckily, we were traveling in the dark and these were pretty impressive to see. At about 10:00 pm, we stopped at one of the camps, owned by North American Gas Company, to take a little break. There, we met Cynthia Smith, who works as a cook at the camp. She was proud to tell us that she was the only female in the camp of 200 employees and she gave us sandwiches, pie and coffee, what a nice lady - another one of our Guardian Angels. Thank you so much, Cynthia!

We arrived at the Rainbow Center Hotel in Rainbow Lake, Alberta at 2:00 am. We traveled 160 miles today and about 1,400 miles total for a 175 mile per day average - not bad! By the way, we have crossed through two time zones so far in our journey. Alaska is 4 hours behind Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is the time back home and the time you see on all our email messages in the Guestbook. Yukon Territory and British Columbia are in the Pacific Time Zone (3 hours behind EST), while Alberta is on Mountain Time, only 2 hours behind EST, so we might be able to stop calling our wives in the middle of the night now! So far, we have also traveled in one state (Alaska), one territory (Yukon), and two provinces (British Columbia and Alberta). Good time for a trivia question - what is the difference between a territory and a province in Canada?

(Day 9) Saturday, January 22, 2000

We slept in this morning until 10:00 am. You might think we're getting lazy, but remember, we didn't get into Rainbow Lake until 2:00 am this morning. It was about +10ºF - the PERFECT snowmobiling weather. We had breakfast at the Rainbow Center Hotel, packed up and took off for High Level by 1:00 pm, following Highway 58. At High Level (population 3,093), which is at the junction of Highways 35 and 58, we ate dinner at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (emphasis on chicken, Kathy M.), where we met Joyce Harback and her family. Thanks for the nice email message Joyce, but did you have to spill the beans about one of us getting just a touch of frostbite?! Actually, we are all very healthy (as we keep reassuring our wives) - even though Kirk seems to be eating ALOT of red meat. In his defense, he has two vegetarian daughters at home and NEVER gets red meat there!

The terrain near High Level is fairly flat, with lots of wide-open fields where they grow grain crops (wheat, barley, etc.). In fact, High Level, which was a small settlement on the Mackenzie Highway after World War II and grew in the oil boom of the 1960s, has a strong agricultural economy and boasts the most northerly grain elevators in Canada. The Mackenzie Crossroads Museum & Visitors Centre is also located in High Level, which has a web site you can check out at www.highlevel.ca. An interesting thing happened to us at High Level. We actually rode on a groomed trail for a mile or so (first time since we started out) and Mike M. did something when we first got on it that caused me (Kirk) to split a gut laughing. You will all have to ask him what it was when he gets home!

From High Level, we traveled along Highway 58 East to Fort Vermillion (population 850), which was established on the Peace River as a trading post by the North West Company in 1786. We can't go any further east from here, so we are spending the night tonight at the Sheridan Lawrence Inn in Fort Vermillion before continuing tomorrow (Day 10 - Sunday, January 23, 2000) south down Highway 88 (the Bicentennial Highway), which goes 255 miles to Slave Lake. We are planning on spending the night in a town called Red Earth, about æ of the way to Slave Lake, then we'll head southeast to Athabasca, where the groomed snowmobile trails are supposed to start for us, but who knows, we're flexible.

It was pretty hard riding today following the road, most of the time half way down in the ditch on a 20-degree incline. We were also fighting through 6 inches of soft snow, all the while leaning over the side of the sled so it wouldn't tip over or slide down into the ditch. Eight hours of riding like that tends to make a person pretty worn out, but we made it and are 160 miles closer to home!

Just a quick personal note - Hey Rick {Kirk's brother and business partner}, I read your email message where you sold our family business - where'd you find the sucker and please send me my half of the proceeds in large bills - you know, $5s and $10s.

In our last update, we asked what might cause the water at Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway to be known for its beautiful deep green and blue colors - well, the colors are attributed to copper oxide leaching into the lake. Those adults who took high school chemistry should remember that the metal copper burns with a blue-green flame. Also, if the water coming out of your faucet has a lot of copper in it, it can cause blue-green staining in your sink and tub. We'll tell you about the polar bears (or lack of them) and the Alaska Highway history question later, to give you time to research them yourself.

(Day 10) Sunday, January 23, 2000

We were up at 7:00 am (+20ºF again, Yay!) and headed south along Highway 88 from Fort Vermillion to Red Earth (population 1,000). We put our wheel kits ("training wheels") on our skis because the ditches weren't very good and we had to ride on the road shoulder. We got into Red Earth at about 6:00 pm (hungry, since there's usually no lunch stop) and the restaurant at the Red Earth Inn was very crowded. When we asked some local people if it was always this busy, they said "only during the winter months". Evidently, the gas and oil drilling operations that we previously mentioned are only active in the winter here because during the other three seasons the soil is too soft for the heavy equipment (drill rigs, tankers, support vehicles, etc.) If you're wondering how the town "Red Earth" got its name, it's because of the Red Earth River, which has reddish soil on its banks (we obviously didn't get to see this red soil, since the banks are now white). If any interested kids/adults know why the soil is red, please leave the answer in our Guestbook. Our guess is that it has a high concentration of iron oxide (similar to the blue-green water of Muncho Lake, because of the copper oxide leaching into the water).

We haven't been getting the 200 mile per day average that we were hoping for, due to a couple of factors: (1) there is no groomed trail system in the areas where we have been traveling, and (2) the towns that have motels are far and few between, so we either have to ride 150± miles per day or 300 ± miles per day. Under the conditions, 300 miles would take 15 to 20 hours - no thanks! Besides, we plan to make up for it once we hit the Canadian Transcontinental Snowmobile Trail System, somewhere around Athabasca in Alberta. We sure are looking forward to groomed trails! The trails don't even have to be half as good as Aroostook County's (which are the best!), but just something flat. We've had enough of side-hilling and powder-riding, not that we're complaining, because we're still doing what we love to do most - RIDING!

(Day 11) Monday, January 24, 2000

When we got up at 7:00 am this morning, the weather in Red Earth was fantastic - about 15ºF. As an added bonus, the ditches of Highway 88 heading south to Slave Lake were wide and heavily traveled by snowmobiles, so the going was great (comparatively speaking). However, about 50 miles south of Red Earth, the snowmobile tracks stopped - oh, oh (with good reason, we were to find out), so we were breaking trail again. When we were about 10 miles north of Slave Lake, Mike O. ran out of gas. He had been breaking trail, so was using more gas than the other two of us. This was the first time we had run out of gas, so we were standing by the sleds discussing the best way to get more gas when John Doll, a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) pulled over. He quickly informed us that we were traveling through a Provincial Park (Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park) and that riding snowmobiles in the park was NOT a good thing. In fact, it is considered VERY BAD (so that's why the tracks stopped before - oh, well).

As the saying goes, "Sometimes it is easier to beg forgiveness after, than to ask permission before". Luckily for us, after we explained our journey to John, he not only let us off the hook, but he also gave Mike O. a ride into town to get a 6 gallon gas can filled, then gave him a ride back and showed us a short cut to Slave Lake. Whew - Thanks John and it won't happen again!

[I know we keep saying that our prayers and yours are being answered, but it sure seems that way to us!]

We arrived at Slave Lake (population 6,000), named after an Indian Tribe pronounced "Slavey", at about 4:00 pm. We brought our sleds to Whitecap Recreation (the local Polaris dealer), where Karl Congos, the owner, let us bring our sleds into the heated shop for the night and Tim Stonehocker, the mechanic, thoroughly checked over our sleds (2,000 mile tune-up). We then walked across the street and checked into the Northwest Inn, a very, very nice motel with an excellent restaurant (those of you faithfully following these updates may notice that Kirk no longer includes his menu choices - hummmm?!).

After we got settled in, we decided this would be a great opportunity to do our laundry. As of today, we have been away from home for two weeks - PU! We have found out that you can only turn your underwear inside out so many times. A quick trivia question for the men in our readership (the women all know the answer) - what happens when you wash your underwear, white socks and tee shirts with your blue jeans?

Well, we are almost out of "the bush" now and Mike M. is busy lining up local snowmobile club members to escort us to the Transcontinental Snowmobile Trail System. We plan to travel from Slave Lake to Plamondon, Alberta tomorrow. Although the snow cover is limited because it has been a very mild winter out here so far, the groomed trails are still passable. It looks as if our efforts to stay north are paying off, and except for when we traveled from Anchorage to Tok, no trailer will be hauling these sleds on this trip (we hope!).

As we are getting ready for our next phase of this journey (with clean clothes!), we have to say how well our sleds (Polaris 550 Trail Tourings) have held up. We have taken them through -50ºF weather and almost 2,000 miles of riding the road shoulders and ditches - in deep snow, soft snow, hard snow, and no snow, while carrying about 150 pounds of gear and extra gas - and we have not had a single breakdown! We have gone through a half dozen sets of carbides and a few skis, but still have the original sliders. Even Mike O. (Mr. 800 XCR with a few extra goodies under the hood) can't believe how good these "little" 550s run. All snowmobile manufacturers should be proud of their accomplishments and the evolution of snowmobiles to date. We snowmobile enthusiasts can hardly wait to see what they come up with next!

In closing, keep those emails coming. Don't forget about us, we still have a long way to go (we're about a third of the way home). To all of the kids (and adults) following our trip and sending us emails, we hope this is as much of an enjoyable learning experience for you as it is for us. Speaking of learning, if you didn't find the answer as to why we won't be seeing any polar bears, it's because they actually live at sea on the ice, rather than on land. An interesting fact is that Alaska's coastal brown/grizzly bear is the world's largest carnivorous land mammal. Although polar bears are as large or larger, they aren't considered land mammals.

After this update are some photographs taken by Michelle Phillips of the Watson Ink newspaper in Watson Lake, Yukon. If you remember from an earlier update, Watson Lake has over 41,000 signs posted from visitors around the world and some of the photographs show us posting our "Caribou, Maine/MKM/January 2000" sign at the signpost. There are also some nice photos of us and our sleds (at least our sleds look nice, we look a little "scruffy"). Michelle was kind enough to email these pictures to include on our web site - Thanks, Michelle. She also sent us a nice email message and is sending our wives copies of the article she wrote for the paper. In her email, Michelle offered help with "travel, hotel, dining or just plain old information" to anyone wanting to head north to the Yukon. If that's you, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!

ALL PHOTOS ARE COURTESY OF MICHELLE PHILLIPS OF THE WATSON INK







CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!

(Day 12) Tuesday, January 25, 2000

We were up at 7:30 am and the temperature here in Slave Lake, Alberta was around +10ºF (seems to be staying above zero now!). We put on our nice clean (blue!) underwear and socks and after breakfast at the Northwest Inn (the very nice motel), we went to Whitecap Recreation, the local Polaris dealer, to get our sleds. Tim Stonehocker, the master mechanic and all around nice guy, had decided that we did need new sliders after all and was busy installing them while J.D. Dennis, another mechanic, told us a few stories about the huge ravens at Slave Lake that kept us roaring with laughter (we'll try to add some of the stories in a later update, when there's less to say).

When our sleds were ready, we headed toward the Athabasca River over about 30 miles of "ditch banging". At the river, we met Dave Bilski, Dave Delancey, and Pierre Caouette from the Athabasca River Runners Snowmobile Club. Thanks go to George Jones for lining up these "trail guides" for us. After a quick lunch at Needful Things Restaurant (must be Stephen King fans, like some of us are) in Smith, we were off and "running" down 90 miles of the Athabasca River. On the river, we came upon a coyote or small wolf chasing a deer, but our sleds spooked him and he gave up the chase - I guess we ruined his lunch!

Dave, Dave and Pierre took us as far as Jackfish Lake, where we were handed over to Frank, Donnie, Brian and Mike of the Grassland Knight Riders. These four trail guides took us to Plamondon, Alberta and told us that we were the first "official" guest riders on the proposed "Northeast Corridor" of the Trans-Canadian Trail System in Alberta. In Plamondon, located near the west end of Lac la Biche (deer lake), we pulled into the driveway of Voyageur Electric Ltd., an electrical contractor. Much to our surprise, when the overhead door opened, Cletus Gauthier (owner of Voyageur Electric), Danny Chevigny (President of Plamondon Caribou Trailblazers Snowmobile Club) and about ten other club members gave us a nice reception with cheese and crackers, kubisan (moose meat sausage) and coffee. The Plamondon Caribou Trailblazers also gave substantial donations to the two charities we are riding for - Thank you so much club members!

At the reception at Voyageur Electric, we all spoke at length about the trail systems in Aroostook County and about the efforts to get the trail systems here in Alberta to the same level. There are some very dedicated club members here and they should all be congratulated on their efforts. After sledding all day (about 160 miles) and talking about sledding all evening, we finally headed to the Chez-nous Motel in Plamondon, were we dreamed about sledding (and our wives, of course - oops, did I say that out loud) all night.

(Day 13) Wednesday, January 26, 2000

We were up at 7:00 am, with the temperature at 0ºF, but it warmed up later to the mid-20s. Danny Chevigny and Wilfred Casavant (Mayor of Plamondon) met us for breakfast before we hit the trails with Danny and Jarett Gauthier as our trail guides. As we were heading across Lac la Biche, Arlene Hrynyk and Monette Duplessis joined us and followed us to a stop on the shore where we met Lac la Biche Snowmobile Club members Jim Piquette, Pierre Gauthier, Luke Gumble and Raymond Tardiff (as you can tell, we're out of "the bush" now and into snowmobiling country). We all rode together about 15 miles across the lake, which was good riding except for the 6 inch high, hard drifts that made for a somewhat bumpy ride. [Don't worry "Meme" (Mike M.'s Mom), we velcro'd Mike to the seat, so he wouldn't fall off.]

Those of you interested in geography might want to get out your maps and check this out - Lac la Biche and Beaver Lake are only separated by a couple of miles of land (a portage), but Lac la Biche drains into rivers and streams that flow north, eventually into the Arctic Ocean, while Beaver Lake drains into rivers and streams that flow east and eventually drain into Hudson Bay.

We stopped on the trail and started a fire to cook kubisan for lunch, which reminded me (Kirk) of the fun hotdog roasts the St. Peter families used to have on the trail when all the kids were little (those sure were the "good old days"). While stopped for our cookout, we were joined by Jerry Bioulock (owner of Hillside Power Merchants, a Ski-Doo dealer), Gerry Pickard (the Ski-Doo District Manager for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories), and J.F. Guertin (Ski-Doo Regional Sales Manager for Ontario and Western Canada). A personal note to Rob Kieffer (an avid Ski-Doo rider back home) - too bad you didn't join us, huh Rob?

This whole gang took us to Bonnyville, where we were left in the caring hands of Gilles Choque, Dave Roche and Rick Kowalski, members of the Bonnyville Snowdusters Snowmobile Club. I have to tell you, we were starting to feel like the baton in a relay race, but we sure were "carried" with care and we weren't "dropped" once. Our three new trail guides, or "runners", took us as far as Ardmore (thanks for the email message Dave R., it was great riding with you three), where we were passed to Gary Wahn, Greg Spencer, Barry Meyer and Kirk (great name!) Matthews, who escorted us to Cold Lake, the end of the trail (and the end of the relay race) for the day. We are another 160 miles closer to home tonight. We stored our sleds at Rider's Connection in Cold Lake, a Ski-Doo Dealership owned by Brian Koluk. (The "Brotherhood of Snowmobilers" doesn't care what kind of sled you're riding.)

There was another nice reception in Cold Lake, with snacks and drinks (coffee for us three) and Cold Lake Snowmobile Club President Norm Rourke, club members Barry McLaughlin, Gerald Traa and Dennis Collins presented us with Cold Lake Snowmobile Club tee shirts. We spent the night at the Western Budget Motel in Cold Lake and our room had a kitchenette and gas fireplace - how romantic. When we got up the next morning and went to check out, we were informed at the desk that the Cold Lake Snowmobile Club picked up the tab for the room - Thanks go to all of the club members!

[We want to give recognition to all the wonderful people who have helped us along the way, and they truly deserve the credit, so please bear with us through all the names we listed in this update.]

(Day 14) Thursday, January 27, 2000 (Two Weeks Straight of Sledding!)

Up again at 7:00 am (even tired Mike O.) with another beautiful day in the 20s here in Cold Lake, Alberta, near the Saskatchewan border. We think we're going to try and ride this jet stream all the way back to Caribou. Four of our trail guides from yesterday (Gary, Greg, Barry and Kirk) rode with us to Goodsoil, Saskatchewan, where we entered the Central Time Zone, only one hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time (EST) back home. We would like to say goodbye and thank you to all the great people and great riding on the trails in Alberta. On the way to Goodsoil, we traveled across Cold Lake, which is on both sides of the border, and got a real close-up look (within 50 feet) of a huge wolf running across the lake - wow!

Kenny Johnson from Northern Lights Snowmobile Club in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, escorted us to Meadow Lake, where we stopped at Extreme Speed R.V. (a Polaris dealer) to pick up some injection oil. Once there, Kerry Million, the manager, helped us out by shipping back some more supplies that we won't be needing anymore (sleeping bags, etc.) - Thanks Kerry. Kenny then pointed us in the direction of Chitek Lake, where we met Dale, Jolene and Carl Daniels and Stanley Blocea, who rode with us to Leoville. From Leoville, we followed the beautifully groomed trial to Big River, where we planned to spend the night tonight.

While eating dinner at the Big River Hotel, pondering where we were going to spend the night since the hotel was full, Dan and Leah Scriven from Timber Trails Snowmobile Club came over and gave us information on the trails east of Big River. To our great relief, they also booked us into a nice cabin for the night overlooking Big River and agreed to fax this update for us in the morning (since we are in such a hurry to get riding again!) - Thanks, Dan and Leah. We traveled 210 miles today, and tomorrow (Friday, January 28, 2000), we're heading from Big River to Carrot River, Saskatchewan. As you may have guessed, there are many lakes and rivers in this area.

Before you forget we even asked the question, according to "The Milepost", the Alaska Highway was originally called the "ALCAN", which stood for Alaska-Canada military highway, and this was the military name for the pioneer road at its completion in 1942. It was officially named the Alaska Highway in 1943, but quite a few people still refer to it as the ALCAN. You may have noticed that while we were traveling along the Alaska Highway, we often referred to "Historical Mile" and "Historical Milepost". Mileposts were first put up at communities and lodges along the Alaska Highway in the 1940s to help motorist know where they were in this vast wilderness. These original mileposts are still used today as mailing addresses and reference points, although the figures no longer accurately reflect driving distance.

Finally, a personal note from Kirk to "Uncle Al" St. Peter - got your email dated January 25th and now I know why you have such a "crappy" golf game. A second personal note - we did get a chance to "line 'em up" on the Athabasca River and boy, is Mike O. upset! He doesn't like looking at taillights! Hey, Reg, what did you send him in that top-secret box - a governor? Thirdly, we thought you should know (if you didn't already) that all the kidding you hear on the radio interviews and in these updates is just that, kidding. We three sledders are getting along just GREAT, on and off the trail!

(Day 15) Friday, January 28, 2000

We were up at 6:00 am and on the trail by 7:00 am, with the temperature at 10ºF here in Big River, just west of the Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. The temperature warmed up to the mid 20s and it turned out to be just another GREAT day of sledding on Snowmobile Route 66 on the Trans-Canada Trail System. The trail we followed today was a nice mix of woods, abandoned railroad tracks, and old logging roads (sound familiar to those of you who ride in Aroostook County?).

While we were looking at the billboard trail map at an intersection in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, we met Dwight Thesan, from Arborfield Pasquia Snowgoers Snowmobile Club, who led us to Thomas Motors, a Polaris dealer, to say hello and get a sticker for our windshield. We're getting quite a collection and are trying to get one from every Polaris dealer along the way. Since we didn't leave Thomas Motors until about 5:00 pm, we decided to call it a day and checked into the very nice Kingfisher Inn in Nipawin for the night. Even with the early stop, we traveled 240 miles today over great trails.

(Day 16) Saturday, January 29, 2000

It was in the mid-20s today when we got up at 7:30 am in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. While checking over the sleds, we discovered that Mike M. and Kirk had done a little damage to their sleds yesterday (sorry, non-Polaris riders, but it was nothing major - the running boards were bent a little after hitting a "yes ma'am" with a full load on back). Bob Berezowski, the owner of Westside Welding and Machining Company in Nipawin, was kind enough to work on a Saturday morning to help us repair the minor damage, which was mostly preventative maintenance. We subscribe to the adage, "If you take care of your sled, it will take care of you!" The worst part of the repair work was having to listen to Mike O. lecturing us about running the sleds too hard (Mike O. lecturing us?! That Hurts!). We worked on the sleds until 11:00 am or so, ate brunch and were on Snowmobile Route 66 again by 1:00 pm.

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner in Hudson Bay, about 130 miles southeast of Nipawin. However, since the Trans-Canada trails were in excellent shape (mostly woods), the weather was great, and we sure want to get home soon, we decided to push on to Norquay, just west of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, and another 100 miles south of Hudson Bay. We pulled into Norquay at 9:00 pm (after traveling 230 miles today) and found the town closed down, except for the Norquay Motel (whew!). The Assistant Manager, Glenda Lewis, even called the owner of a gas station in town (Terry Galay), so that we could gas up our sleds and get an early start in the morning. Terry met us at his station, opened up for us and let us fill up. Thanks to both Glenda and Terry for their help! When we told Gordon Minto, Manager of Norquay Motel, about our ride, he not only told us to use our room fee money for the two charities, but also gave us $20 out of his own pocket for the charities. Gordon rides his motorcycle for charities and could relate to our journey. Does any of this Canadian hospitality and generosity surprise you? Not us, not anymore!

(Day 17) Sunday, January 30, 2000

This morning in Norquay, it started out at about 0ºF when we got up at 6:00 am, but quickly warmed up to the mid-20s again. We just cannot believe the BEAUTIFUL weather we've had for the last 6 or 7 days. We are almost hoping for a snow day, so we can have a break (not really!). This is our 17th straight day of riding and we are LOVING every minute of it. We're now almost half way home (about 3,000 miles). We were on the trail by 7:00 am and were into Manitoba by 8:30 am. So long Saskatchewan - you were not at all what we expected! We thought we would be riding in wind-blown prairies, but instead found GREAT trail riding along the timberline (the prairies are south of the timberline).

Because we couldn't find any Manitoba trail maps in Saskatchewan, we took a wrong trail for the first time in 3,000 miles - not too bad. We went about 20 miles out of our way, but as luck would have it, the detour was well worth it. While on our misdirected trail (we were NOT lost!), we came upon a herd of approximately 100 elk, which made Mike O.'s day, because he had been waiting to see elk ever since we left Tok, Alaska.

Then, as we were riding through Roblin, Manitoba, we stopped at an intersection to discuss which way to go (more like guessing, actually), and as the three of us were all pointing in opposite directions, Pete Mysko (who was just riding by) stopped his sled to offer his assistance. As it turned out, Pete just happened to be the owner of the (you guessed it) Polaris dealership in Roblin and his "Snowever Sales and Service" dealership happened to be (guessed it again!) just across the street from where we were standing. Since it was Sunday, his shop was closed, but he invited us over, put on a pot of coffee, and gave us trail maps of Manitoba. He then escorted us out of town and got us on the right trail to Dauphin, where we spent the night at the Canway Inn & Suites, and John Schur, Manager of this very nice motel, gave us a nice discount - Thanks, Pete and John! We traveled 230 miles today - 190 in the right direction.

Because the mapped trails from Dauphin tended to travel southeast toward Winnipeg, and due to the lack of snow in that area, we asked around to see if we could head east instead, across Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg (two VERY large lakes east of Dauphin). Todd Rathwell, avid snowmobiler himself and owner of Smitty's Restaurant adjoining the motel, gave us directions and the names of people to contact along the way, so we could do just that (head east instead of south). He also gave us our dinners "on the house". We had chicken stir-fry, if anyone is still concerned about our diets. Thanks for the delicious meal and super help, Todd!

After dinner and watching the second half of the Super Bowl (great game and nice comeback, almost), yours truly is writing this update, while M&M are snoring up a storm. Just a quick personal note before I join them in la-la land. In case anyone was wondering about the sleeping arrangements, we always get a double room and M&M have to sleep in one bed, while I always get the other bed. After all, I have to write everything down at night, while they get to sleep! (Just kidding, I'm glad they're asleep right now!) Actually, we get a double room and a cot for the third person, and then we rotate who sleeps on the cot according to a rotation schedule based on our initials, something like "MKMKMKÖ" After almost three weeks of this rotation schedule, I finally figured out who was getting the short end of the deal!

(Day 18) Monday, January 31, 2000

We were up at 6:30 am this morning and, after a big breakfast at the Canway Inn & Suites in Dauphin, Manitoba, were on the trail by 8:00 am, heading east in the ditches of Highway 5, south of Dauphin Lake. The going wasn't too bad though, because the ditch was flat and well traveled by local snowmobilers. Plus, 'ditch banging" is the price we've had to pay to stay north, where the snow cover is better. During this trip, we have repeatedly heard that this is the third year in a row that the snowfall has been minimal. Locations that normally have three feet of snow on the ground this time of year now only have 12 inches or so.

In Ste. Rose du Lac, we stopped at Worrall's Air Cooled Engines (a Polaris dealer) to pick up some injection oil. Wayne Morrall, the owner, gave us stickers for our windshields and confirmed that we were on the right track. Our next stop was at Lake Manitoba Narrows Lodge, where we had coffee and a pastry. We usually don't eat lunch, so we snack along the way. If you look on a map, you'll notice that the three BIG lakes in Manitoba - Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg - are long from north to south and narrower east to west. The lakes drain into Hudson Bay, which forms the northeast border of Manitoba. (We noticed there is also a 'Cross Lake" north of Lake Winnipeg, which reminded us of home - especially Kirk, who has a camp he misses there!)

Our last stop on the way to Gimli, where we spent the night, was at Randy's Tire Craft (yes, another Polaris dealer) in Lundar on the east side of Lake Manitoba. Randy Goodman, the owner, was kind enough to log on to the internet, so that we could see how dashing we looked in the photographs taken in Tok, Alaska and in Watson Lake, Yukon. (Although we had seen black and white faxes of the pictures, they did not do us or our sleds justice - well, WE might have looked better in the blurry fax!) He then, of course, gave us stickers for our windshields. Also, Kristina Goodman, the office manager, informed us that Lundar (population 1,000) is known as the goose capital of the world. Many thousands of geese migrate here in the summer, due to the vast amount of marshland. Being smarter than us, they go some place warmer for the winter.

After traveling 210 miles today, we arrived in Gimli, on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipeg, at 6:30 pm and spent the night at the Lakeview Inn & Suites, the most lavish hotel we have stayed in so far. After dinner, Mike O. and I soaked in the hot tub (Mike M. didn't bring his bathing suit and was too shy to go in his 'blue" underwear).

(Day 19) Tuesday, February 1, 2000

We were up again at 6:30 am and the temperature was about 10ºF when we hit the trail at 8:00 am. First, we traveled the 18 miles across the south end of Lake Winnepeg. Although it was very foggy and we could only see about 200 feet ahead of us, the trail was well marked and we easily made our way across. From the east side of the lake, we traveled southeast on groomed trails to Lac du Bonnet, where we again picked up the Trans-Canadian Trail System. The snow cover is getting better the further east we go, so we can now head south on our planned route.

As we were passing through Seven Sisters Falls, the trail took us over the top of a LARGE hydroelectric dam. Kathy M. - we agreed that you have to get one of these for our Aroostook County Trail System - it was pretty impressive! Can you squeeze it into next year's budget?

The last leg of today's ride took us into Ontario. Good bye Manitoba - we're sorry we couldn't stay longer (we were there 3 days and 2 nights), because you gave us some great snowmobiling! However, if you look at your map again, Manitoba is a pretty narrow province in the south, unlike Ontario.

Speaking of maps, if you look at the border area in southeastern Manitoba and southwestern Ontario, there are a lot of lakes! The trails led us over many marked and well-groomed lakes, soÖof course we had to play a little. Mike O. waxed us this time (he must have been sneaking out at night to tweak his clutch or something), so now he has a constant grin on his face. He also mentioned that he saw one of the Lister Boys in the bush.

We arrived in Kenora, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, at 5:30 pm and spent the night at the Day's Inn. After traveling 215 miles today (and 3,700 so far), Mike O. and I again soaked in the hot tub after dinner. We agreed that it wasn't as majestic as Liard Springs, but soothing just the same. (We'll have to get Mike M. a bathing suit, since from now on we plan to drive by hotels that don't have hot tubs!)

A special personal note to Lindsey Peabody from Addison, Maine, who sent us an e-mail on January 31st - we were thrilled to hear from you! You know, over the last few weeks, we have been getting lots of messages calling us courageous, brave, heroes etc. It might make our heads too big to fit in our helmets, but believe us, we're just three ordinary, very fortunate guys doing something that we love to do. You, Lindsey, and your friends that go to the Pine Tree Camp are truly the most courageous, and you are OUR heroes. Any thanks that you and your friends may have should go to the generous people donating money to your camp. Please e-mail us again (and also tell any of your camp buddies to) and tell us more about the camp. What do you like to do best there? Do you pick on the councilors? Is the food yucky or yummy? Again, it was great hearing from you and may God bless you, 'MKM"

(Day 20) Wednesday, February 2, 2000

After we got up at 6:30 am today in Kenora, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, the first task of the day was to go to the Husky gas station/convenience store to gas up and get our seven-day trail passes. The weather was again beautiful and the temperature was about 25ºF. We found that trail passes, both temporary and seasonal, seem to be quite a controversial item in Ontario. Issues such as cost and reciprocity with abutting Provinces and States are an important concern for sledders and the government. We paid $85 (Canadian) each for a seven-day pass, but we're sure to get our money's worth, whereas it will likely take us 5-7 days to cross Ontario.

Our next stop in Kenora was at Outboard Life, the local Polaris dealer, to get injection oil, trail advice and, of course, stickers for our windshields. Ron Christie, the owner, had us bring our sleds into his shop to strengthen the rear bumper. Since the cargo racks are attached to the bumper, and because we are almost doubling the load rating of the racks, the bumper mounting bolts were loosening up. His mechanics added a few extra bolts and we were "off and running", as good as new, and there was no charge for the work at Outboard Life - Thanks, Ron and crew! (As it turned out, it was a good thing we took the time for this "beefing up", for the next day's ride would put the cargo racks and bumpers to the test.)

We left Kenora at about 10:30 am and headed to Dryden, where we met Don Dingwall and Al Wice from Dryden Power Toboggan Snowmobile Club. They gave us great advice as to what trail to take to Ignace, our destination for the night. The sledding was the best we've had to date: great trails - mostly over lakes and through woods, excellent grooming, good snow conditions and, of course (we're getting spoiled!), perfect weather. After traveling 275 easy miles today, we got into Ignace at 10:30 pm and checked into the North Woods Motel.

(Day 21) Thursday, February 3, 2000

We were up at 6:00 am, and by 8:00 am, with the temperature at 20ºF, we were on the trail leaving Ignace for Thunder Bay, a city of 125,000 on the northwest shore of Lake Superior. At English River, about 40 miles southeast of Ignace, we followed a gas pipeline (similar to power line riding back home). The pipeline trail was ungroomed and very rough for about 90 miles, and our top speed was about 20 mph! This is where we were thankful that we "beefed up" our cargo racks and bumpers yesterday, because they never would have taken the pounding. However, as we got closer to Thunder Bay, the trails got better and better. The 90-mile stretch of bad trail was a little disheartening (especially since we had such GREAT trails the day before), but hey, that's all part of sledding.

When we arrived in Thunder Bay at 6:00 pm, we called the Polaris dealer, North County Cycle and Sport. Dane Goodfellow, the service manager, and Gill Haglund, the mechanic, came to pick up my sled and Mike M.'s sled to bring them to their shop, which is inaccessible by snowmobile, for a 4,000-mile check-up. Mike O. refused to have his sled put on a trailer for any reason during this trip, so he is going to wait until we get to the next dealer for his check-up. (Is he this stubborn at home, Kathy?) Thunder Bay is a special place for Mike O. because he was here in 1990 with Reg Thibodeau, and Rob and Scott Kieffer to compete in the "I-500", the world's toughest snowmobile race! After traveling another 195 miles closer to home today, we are spending the night at the Landmark Inn in Thunder Bay, Ontario and, as of this writing, we don't know exactly where we are heading tomorrow, except east.

We haven't been asking too many questions for the school kids following these updates lately, so here's a few facts about some of the places we've been and a few questions to leave you with. Except for our first day of sledding in Alaska, we've been traveling through Canada, which is the second largest country in the world; what is the largest? (Hint, it's not the United States.) Also, many authorities divide Canada into five general regions. We were in "Western Canada" through the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, then traveled in the "Interior Plains" in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We're now on the "Canadian Shield", an area covering nearly half of Canada which contains some of the oldest rocks on earth. Although all three of us have sledded in "Atlantic Canada" before (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland), we won't be traveling in the fifth general region during this trip. Can you figure out where it is and/or what it's called?

Enough geography, now for the nature lesson. You might remember that on January 19th, we saw 15 or 20 buffalo on our way from Watson Lake in Yukon Territory to Liard River in British Columbia. Well, in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories is the largest park in Canada (and among the largest in the world), Wood Buffalo National Park, which provides habitat for the world's largest free-roaming herd of bison (about 6,000). Canada first established this park in 1922 to preserve the last herd of wood bison. This park also contains the only natural breeding ground of an endangered, long-legged, white, wading bird that summers in the marshy areas of the park. What kind of bird is that? Finally, combining geography and nature, the park is bordered on the east by the Slave and Athabasca River (we sledded on the Athabasca River on January 25th) and near the southeast corner of the park is the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, where more than a million geese, swans, and ducks stop during the spring and fall migrations (talk about your bird droppings!). Next time we might give you some facts and ask some questions about lakes, since we've been traveling on or close to so many lately, so be ready.

Since it seems that we have been ending our updates with personal notes lately, here are three. First, yes, they have a hot tub at the Landmark Inn and Mike M. finally bought a "disposable" bathing suit in a small shop here (a real fashion statement), so now it's all three of us relaxing in the hot tub after a long day of riding - AAHHHH! (Sorry that this paper is so smudgy, Cheryl, but you know, it's awfully hard to write without getting the paper wet when you're sitting in the hot tub.)

Second, a personal note to those of you who want to know when, and by which route, we'll be coming home. The short, simple answer is "We really don't know." We don't want to set any deadlines (sorry) because we don't want to get into a position where we have to push hard to meet a deadline. The amount of time it takes for the last leg of our trip also depends greatly on the trail conditions we encounter along the way. At this point, we assume we are going to come into Maine through St. Pamphile, but if it's on a weekend, we will have to travel to Fort Kent to get through customs. We appreciate that the "Welcome Home Celebration & Dance", sponsored by the Caribou Snowmobile Club is "tentatively" scheduled for February 12th, with a back-up date of February 19th (in case we don't make it back by the 12th) and we want to thank the club for sponsoring this event and donating all proceeds (over cost) to the charities we are riding for.

Finally, Mike O. called home earlier tonight and has had a big smile on his face ever since. His oldest daughter Neali and her husband Scott told him that he is going to be a grandfather! He wants so badly to be with them now, but the hugs and kisses will have to wait a little longer. (We understand that Kathy was just a teeny little bit emotional, also.) Congratulations, Neali and Scott!

P.S. We sent some film back home awhile ago and we thought you might like to see some of the pictures we took on the first leg of our journey.

CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!







CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT!

(Day 22) Friday, February 4, 2000

We were up at 7:00 am (back to Eastern Standard Time, now that we're in Thunder Bay, Ontario), with the temperature around 15ºF. During breakfast at the Landmark Inn, we were interviewed by the local newspaper. Then, after a very thorough 4,000 mile tune-up at North County Cycle and Sport, my sled and Mike M.'s sled were returned to us at 10:30 am (remember Mike O. wouldn't trailer his). County Cycle and Sport did a great job and gave us a nice discount - Thanks, Dane and Gill!

By 11:00 am, we were on our way to Nipigon, where we picked up a 'pipeline" trail to Geraldton, our destination for the night. The pipeline we followed runs from Alberta to New York and consists of four underground pipes, with the two larger pipes at 4 feet in diameter - that's pretty big pipe! All four pipes carry natural gas, and the pipeline is about 300 feet wide and treeless. Again, these 'pipeline" trails are very similar to Aroostook County's 'powerline" trails, but without the poles and wires.

The ground surface above the pipes followed the natural terrain, and along the pipeline trail were many steep hills and valleys, usually about 100 feet from top to bottom, except for the dreaded 'Dead Man Valley". (Why do they always have to call them that?) This gulch just happened to be about 10 miles deep, with an 89Ω-degree incline (a little exaggeration there, perhaps). We had to ride the brake all the way down and then, of course, we had to go back up the other side at full throttle. It was pretty intimidating when we were at the top looking down, but was actually kind of fun while making the run (TGIP!). After 230 miles today, we arrived in Geraldton, Ontario at about 11:00 pm and spent a short night at the Golden Nugget Motel.

(Day 23) Saturday, February 5, 2000

Up at 6:30 am, we were on the trail by 8:00 am, but once we got off the groomed trails around Geraldton and back on the pipeline trail, the going was pretty slow (evidently, the groomer has been broken down). We found ourselves busting through 8-12 inches of soft snow, and finally, after about 40 miles of this (felt more like 1,000 miles), we hit groomed trails again, with smooth sailing into Hearst. The trails from Hearst to Kapuskasing ('Kap" to the locals) were excellent! About 30 miles before Kap, we stopped at our first clubhouse of the trip for coffee and story telling to whoever would listen.

We are just now starting to get into areas where more and more French is spoken. Interestingly, until several days ago, there was no French whatsoever, except for in Plamondon. So from now on, we'll be eating a lot of 'potat frits", the only food we can say in French. (Hey Mom, how do you say 'steak" in French?) After 280 miles of sledding today, we ended the day at 8:00 pm at the Mattagami Motel in Kapuskasing, Ontario. We hit 4,600 miles today, so we've finally made our goal of 200 miles per day. With 23 straight days of sledding and a 200 mile per day average, we're happy - another milestone, another victory!

If everything goes well tomorrow (Day 24), it is possible that we may end up close to, or maybe even in QUEBEC (tah-dah!). As good as that sounds, Quebec is also a pretty wide province, so we're not home yet, but it's looking good. We even thought that we could see Caribou from the top of a big hill today, but it must have been a mirage.

For the school kids - in our last update, we said that we might give you some facts and ask some questions about lakes, since we've been traveling on or close to so many lately, soÖhere goes. When we were in Manitoba, we sledded across the southern end of Lake Winnepeg, the third largest lake in Canada. What are the largest and second largest lakes? (Hint, they are both in the same part of Canada and it's a part we did not sled through.) Also, the day we sledded across Lake Winnepeg, we entered Ontario, where we traveled across many lakes to Thunder Bay, on the northwest shore of the world's largest expanse of fresh water, Lake Superior. The reason there are so many lakes and rivers in Ontario is because the 'Canadian Shield" has been pushed, gouged, and scoured by glaciers from several ice ages, which left thousands of lakes and ponds. Do you think Lake Superior freezes in the winter? (What about the other Great Lakes?) You might remember that in The Song of Hiawatha, Lake Superior is called, 'shining Big-Sea-Water", and the poet Longfellow gave another legendary name to Lake Superior, do you know what it is?

Finally, a personal note to our wives - as we begin the last leg of our LONG journey, although we are anxious to get home, we have been talking about how we're going to miss riding together, eating together, laughing together (we've been doing a lot of laughing the past month), and of course, having our 'pillow" talks (and 'snoring" contests!). So, we've been talking about having 'sleepovers" at each other's houses on weekends for a month or so, just to wean ourselves from each other. (Is that O.K. with you, dears?)

(Day 24) Sunday, February 6, 2000

We got up at 6:30 am and were on the trail by 8:00 am, with the temperature at about 15ºF here in Kapuskasing, Ontario. We had good trails from 'Kap" to Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where we got off the trail to get gas. (Kirkland - hummm, what a noble name for a town. There's a 'King Kirkland" east of here - even better!) When we pulled up to the pumps at Speedy Lube to get gas, we saw the 'closed" sign on the station door (it was a Sunday), but as luck would have it, the owner, Nick Bruneau, was inside and turned on the pumps for us. Of course, while we were filling up in Kirkland (I just LOVE that name!), other vehicles started pulling in, so Nick's day off may have been busier than he wanted - sorry, Nick, but thanks for the gas (and for the email message in our Guestbook).

The trails got a little choppy later on due to heavy weekend traffic, but we made good time until we got turned around a little on the way from Kirkland to the border. [I just had to throw that name out one more time. Maybe we should change Caribou's name. Hey, ëKirk' Tibbetts (another product of the great class of CHS '75), can't you use your pull at the Caribou Chamber of Commerce and Industry for such a worthy cause? After all, we can't let the ëMikes' get all the name recognition.]

Anyway, back on the trail to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec (can you tell we've been on the trail a LONG time?) - there was no sign to point us to a side trail and we went about 10 miles before 'Master Map Reader and Trail Master", Mike M., realized we were not heading in the right direction. Seriously, we would have gotten lost many times had it not been for Mike M. - he's got a GREAT sense of direction and NEVER misses a sign. Mike O. is usually too busy looking for wildlife - he can spot a deer 200 feet in the woods, tell you how old it is, when it ate last, and even what it's last meal was, etc. etc. etc.

When we got to the Quebec border, the trails turned from good to EXCELLENT (they must have different snow in Quebec). As we were riding on these perfectly groomed trails for all of about 5 miles, we actually passed a groomer heading in the opposite direction - a groomer grooming groomed trails!?! (Say that three times real fast.) Unbelievable! But wait, there's more - 5 miles after that we passed another groomer, grooming the same groomed trail that the first groomer was grooming. (O.K. enough of the grooming talk.) So, needless to say, we had a pretty smooth ride into Rouyn-Noranda, where we checked into the Comfort Inn at 8:00 pm, made our phone calls home, and had pizza delivered to our room (just like college guys). We also finally broke the 300 miles in one day mark by logging in 320 miles - we're comin' home, Mama!

(Day 25) Monday, February 7, 2000

Up again at 6:30 am and on the trail heading east toward Val-d'Or, Quebec by 8:00 am, but with the temperature at about 0ºF (burrr - we're getting spoiled from all of the 20± degree days). An interesting thing happened to me today while I was the 'lead dog" 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-d'Or, 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 shouldn't need to get any more before we get home (another milestone). We spoke (as best we could in 'Franglish") 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 can't 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 wasn't 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 'Canadian Shield", as we said earlier, and the forests we have been traveling in are called 'boreal" forest (good vocabulary word), or jokingly the 'spruce-moose" 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 'High Arctic", Great Bear Lake, and sometimes yes and sometimes no.

(Day 26) Tuesday, February 8, 2000

When we got up at 6:30 am today, it was -30ºF 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 0ºF. 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, 2000

There was light snow falling when we got up at 6:00 am today in Relais 22, with the temperature at 10ºF. 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 25ºF (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, 2000

The temperature was -10ºF 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.'s 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 didn't 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 P'tits 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 didn't 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 wouldn't 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 P'tits Moteurs) worked for a short time on Mike O.'s 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 night's 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 couldn't 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.'s 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.'s 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 'Welcome to Caribou" sign on Route 161 at about 3:00 pm and found another twenty or so sleds waiting for us there (including Kirk's 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.'s sled. Time for one (last?) trivia question - the flag on the back of Mike O.'s sled was blue with the seven stars that form the big dipper on it. An eighth star, lined up with the 'cup" 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 'parade" 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 'tool through town" 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, Caribou's 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 Alice's Bakery at Ouellette's 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 'welcome home" 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 'rugged-looking", or was that 'ragged-looking" beards), we attended a SUPER 'Welcome Home Celebration & Dance" 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. (Didn't know we had THAT many relatives!)

The cake made at Shop 'n 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 'gag" gifts to the members of our support team. The 'Sourtoe" iced-tea drink was fun and "different" - Thanks to Mark Baker for providing the 'toes" and to Bonnie Akerson for providing the 'cocktail". 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.

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