The Drive
Sunday, March 7, 1999

So now it’s 2:00 a.m. on March 7, 1999, my father is driving, his cousin Pete is sitting shotgun, and Pete’s friend Sam and I are sitting in the back seat of my sister’s Expedition. We are driving through a raging winter storm, with snow swirling around our truck and limiting visibility. The plan is to meet on Sunday afternoon with the owner of Croinor Adventure, Louise. We are so well-equipped we could live through the worst winter weather in Canadian history, until May.

Around 11:00 a.m. we pass over a rushing waterfall glittering under the morning sun just before stopping at an unnamed, smoke-filled diner on route 117 for lunch. Further along on our journey, Sam convinces us to stop to take photos of a fox trotting across bush laden fields. I’m reading The Great Gatsby and shadows of Tigger the Tiger from the window of the ultimate family-mobile bounced across paragraphs about Tom Buchanan and Daisy Wilson being killed in a car wreck, all the while Tigger’s shadow teasing me as though he would eat F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words.

Carl had arranged to spend the first night at the Senabi Motel in Senneterre, so we checked in as best as we could, considering I haven’t spoken a word of French in twelve years, the rest of us had never spoken it, and the hotel staff spoke very little English. I managed to understand the room numbers, quarante quatre and quarante cinque, and we were on our merry way. Once unpacked we drove to Croinor Adventure to meet Louise. We were greeted with her friendly smile and joking manner as she welcomed us into her home to meet her daughter, Laurie Anne. Laurie Anne, 11 months old, was so friendly she offered up her half-eaten cookie to share with us. It was a bit soggy so we passed on the offer, but still felt welcomed by the potential gift. Once we were all properly bundled for the below zero weather, including Laurie Anne, we ventured outdoors to feed the dogs and tour the farm.

35 excitedly barking dogs, each chained to their own pole, each with their own makeshift doghouse for night warmth, each with their own food hole in the snow to have dinner from, permeated the morning air with yelping that carried for miles. If one didn’t know better, you would think a helpless rabbit was cornered by a pack of angry wolves. They were hungry and knew that Louise was the answer to their needs.

One daily dose of kibble, hot water, dried herring for protein and lard mixed together by hand, created a sloppy stench that the dogs would find to be gourmet cooking. We mixed four buckets of food and dragged them by sled over to the yelping pound and dished out a warm pot-full of food to each of them. Lesson number one was how to feed the dogs. This was something that would normally be done by the outfitters for the rest of the trip, but became part of everyday life for the rest of the men of the group as well (I stayed warmly in the tent during feeding time in the evenings).

With feeding the dogs being a success, we made a plan for the next day and the four dogsledders-to-be hauled into town to The Café Bar to experience the local lifestyle. We shot an awful game of pool and met Daniel, who spoke out-of-practice English, but was eager to help me relearn a bit of French. Marco, who was the bartender, was unsure of how to address our group, but was interested in remaining involved in the interchange.

Although it looked like the typical local bar with a pool table at first glance, the bar stools were black with zebra striped fabric covers and disco-type music played on the stereo. One could tell it was the "hip" place to be in town although there were only 3 people there aside from us at the time.

Once we had exhausted our stay at the pool table, BAM, the Chinese restaurant across the street, became our next stop. We were soon tired from the extensive drive and were eager for Monday to arrive, so we made the evening an early one to be rested for the week to follow.

the idea of dogsleddingthe drive to Senneterrelearning the ropeson to Fall Down Lakeanother big firebitter cold thinkingthe grand finale