Sunday, March 7, 1999
So now its 2:00 a.m. on March 7, 1999, my father is driving,
his cousin Pete is sitting shotgun, and Petes friend
Sam and I are sitting in the back seat of my sisters
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,
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,
diner on route 117 for lunch. Further along on our journey,
Sam convinces us to stop to take photos of a fox trotting
bush laden fields. Im 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 Tiggers shadow
teasing me as though he would eat F. Scott Fitzgeralds
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 havent 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
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
35 excitedly barking dogs, each chained to their own pole,
each with their own makeshift doghouse for night warmth, each
their own food hole in the snow to have dinner from, permeated
the morning air with yelping that carried for miles. If one
didnt know better, you would think a helpless rabbit
was cornered by a pack of angry wolves. They were hungry and
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
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
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.
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.
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.