Dashing Through The Snow on a Sleigh Ride Nov 2008

For many years now, those of us located on the west side of the Cascades start to despair of dreaming of a wet Christmas that we usually have, and head east to find a little more of a white Christmas. This year was no exception – well – at least when the Leavenworth sleigh ride was conceived. I think it was still November when the call came out to again head to Leavenworth for a weekend of frolic in this Christmasy town, looking for beer, brats, shopping, and a ride through the woods on a sleigh pulled by not 8 tiny reindeer – but a couple of big draft horses instead.

Yep – that was the plan – before we had a record breaking western Washington snowfall of what was about a foot of snow, give or take, by the time we headed out to tread across Stevens Pass. So – instead – we exchanged this year’s west side world of snowy white for – a world of snowy white where they actually know how to plow the roads! Dan and Jules rode over in the van of Moose with Mary and me. (And since all of Moose’s vehicles have names, thanks to Auto-M’s mother Bonnie, he regrets to inform his readers that the new van is lovingly known as “Cupcake.” Yeah – don’t even ask……) Next stop as we headed over, was to pick up Ann Typer from her fortress of solitude, perched at the top of the hill in about 2 feet of snow in the frozen climes north of Monroe. And oddly enough – it had started once more to snow as we ascended the hill to her place. I was hoping not to have to chain up to get here (Cupcake in Chains? – Not actually a cover band you see at the casinos), and in fact – was doing pretty good in my 2 wheel drive – climbing, climbing – slowly but steadily, until the Typer homestead was in plain view. Keep up momentum, 500, 400, 300 feet more to the drive an-nnn-nnd – D’OH! Some of Ann’s neighbors walking their little piss ant dogs in the middle of the road – decided they didn’t have to get out of the way of a vehicle trying to climb the hill. Well – so much for forward progress, even though these bozettes finally got out of the road, wondering why we didn’t just drive up past them. No matter. We were close enough that Danny took a walk up to the porch, and he and Ann transported all her stuff back to the van. After getting all settled back in, we slithered (and I do mean slithered) backwards down the hill, until we found a neighbor with a plowed AND level driveway in which to reverse direction. The 180 was successful, and on our way we went.

Pretty much, it snowed without stopping from Seattle to Monroe to Leavenworth, where we stopped and met up with Ruth and Karl for beers and brats at Gustav’s. Good stuff, man. And then headed over to Ingalls Creek Lodging and Hospitality Center on Blewett Pass to make our home away from home. Once there, we met up with Gary, Mark, and the Lori’s – sizing up our accommodations. With 3 rooms and 11 people – there was a little rearranging to do and air mattresses to blow up – but in not too much time we got settled in.

Our hosts, Lonnie and Patrice were in their usual fine form – and after everyone got settled, we were invited up to their apartment for some snacks and drinks. Patrice is the hostess with the mostess – and she once again lived up to her reputation. Ah – but with Tamer’s present, there were shenanigans waiting in the wings. Having made the drive over in the snow, I was content to be quietly sitting on the couch, rubbing my head with my hands. Mary was standing right behind me, also rubbing my head and holding my hand. I started to bliss out from the attention, but then started thinking there was more than just my hand and her hand on my head. I opened my eyes and looked left to where Karl was sitting next to me on the couch. Noticing his mischevious grin, I followed from his face, to his arm, to his hand, where obviously – he also was rubbing my head. Then I looked up to Mary, who was blissfully unaware that Karl had displaced my hand in hers, and she now unknowingly was holding his hand, not mine, but caressing it as she does when expressing her affection for me. I’m not sure what happened next – but she looked down – noticing that both of my hands where now on my knees. Once coming to the horrific understanding that she had been holding and caressing Karl’s hand, she dropped it with a shriek, and then in a blur give me a whack on the side of my head. A few times. After I asked her to stop slapping me, I pleaded that Karl had made victims of both of us. I don’t think I was successful as presenting that as a tail that belonged to a dog that would hunt. Even yet. Karl had a look of supreme satisfaction on his face, and I dare say, a lot of me found the whole incident frightening and disturbing – though highly amusing all at the same time……

That kinda set the tone for much of the evening, as is want to be the case when you get a bunch of Tamers all in the same spot. Although Lonnie provided me with a treat. I think its was his market research in making Ingalls Creek into both a hospitality center as well as a dude ranch. You know – like one of those places you can go on vacation while helping do chores and other stuff for your hosts. He knows that as a kid, I loved to take my Jeep pickup and go plow snow. And Lonnie has a 70’s vintage short bed Dodge Power Wagon with a plow on it. Which really dug in and moved some snow. With power blade angling from in the cab!!!! Now that’s heady stuff. As a kid, I actually had to get all the way out of my rig, pull a pin out, and laboriously push the blade one way or the other. But power angling – man – that was snow removal heaven for me. So – I bundled up, we got the truck started (not a simple task on that rig, being that it is a tad cold blooded) – and I began to make the snow fly. It took a bit, but it all came back to me, and we had that place looking like a recently Zambonied ice rink in no time. Oh – well – except for that little thing about the truck totally dying. One moment, it was running – the next – no lights or starter. Fortunately – it chose to die out of the traffic lane, and just about the time all the snow got pushed out, so we pulled the battery and put it on the charger. By the time I headed back in – the party was winding down, and it was time for some Zzz’s.

Oh – did I say it had also started snowing again as we went to bed? Well – its was doing the same thing by the time we woke up too. About 12 inches of the same thing throughout the night. But hey – this is eastern Washington, where apparently there is an unwritten rule that almost everyone has an old snow plow sitting out in a shed, under a tree, or over in the back 40 just waiting to move some snow out of the way – unlike in Seattle – were the B+ the mayor gives for the snow removal grade must actually stand for bungle, or bobble, or backwards, or bull**it. Plus – when snow falls at 15 degrees – it is this wonderful stuff that looks like crystal, fluffs like talcum powder, and flows before a snowplow blade like the water of a clear running stream. I decided to sleep late, electing instead to watch Lonnie plow snow. I was pleased to see he was a little more “aggressive” with his equipment than I was. It just made me feel a li ttle better that I wasn’t being too rough with his toys. For me – its play to plow snow with someone else’s rig. It wasn’t lost on me that for Lonnie and Patrice – it is a business necessity. So I was glad that I hadn’t wecked anything.

But I did have to finally roll out to start breakfast, as the lodge has a commercial kitchen just waiting for somebody to throw some bacon and French toast on the griddle. Do you know how much fun cooking can be when you can just throw 3 lbs of bacon on a grill all at once, and not even have to worry about draining the grease out of the pan? Okay – you all know I’m a little (or a lot) strange – but it was good times, my friends, good times. Just tossing the bacon on the grill, and getting the bread ready to soak in the French toast batter. Gary and Lori had stopped by the kitchen to assist. Lori cracked some eggs, and Gary made sure the bacon got properly flattened for proper cooking. Lori Stevens also stopped in with some ham and a nice loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. In no time, we had French toast, bacon, coffee, some ham all lined up, and eveyone had their fill. By the time we got the kitchen cleaned back up, it was time to head out to Red Tail Canyon Farm for the sleigh ride.

Our band of 11 Tamers got seated in the sleigh (we had one all to ourselves) and then with impeccable timing, Tom, Penny, and Michael got there just in time to grab some seats before the horses moved off. Karl was overjoyed, because he had been missing his Tom so. It was pretty close match on the group of Tamers vs the 2 horsepower we had pulling the sleigh. They figure that that horses should be able to pull their combined weight – and with 2 horses weighing about a ton a piece, pulling a sleigh weighing in at about 1250 lbs – plus 14 Tamers now – we were just about at the break even point. But I will tell you – I was highly impressed with our willing steeds. When the driver gave them the command to go – more than once they pulled the front of the sleigh right off the ground getting it in motion.

The ride was restful, the jokes blissfully corny, the woods beautiful with their coating of snow, and it was all over too soon. The clouds overtook the sun as we went back into town for shopping and a late lunch, and surprise, surprise – it started to snow again on the way back to Ingalls Creek. But not as hard as the previous evening, and in fact, it was warm enough that it was combined snow flakes and freezing rain kinda spitting down from the sky. It wasn’t so bitterly cold that you couldn’t enjoy a fire – and so we unburied the fire pit, and Mark and Gary pulled some scrap wood out of a snow pile, and got a crackling fire going.

It was quite the moveable feast. I’d made a pot of chicken soup to simmer on the stove. Patrice not only brought out more food on which to snack, but even limbered up her chocolate fountain for some fondue action. As I’ve thought more than once – she is actually the devil in disguise. And one more treat Lonnie and Patrice had for us. They invited some friends who have a cabin down the road. Chris Ward and his wife, and his son (who isn’t named after him) and his nephew (who is – go figure that one out) both on leave from the service. It was a doubly good treat, because Chris and his family are not only just really nice folks to be around, they also entertained us with some music and guitar playing around the fire. I held some chagrin for seeing that guitar sitting out in the cold and the rain – since that is not a user-friendly environment for an instrument made out of wood. But Chris assured us that the guitar had seen more than a little rough service than that over the years, and it pulled through. The point was do do a little singing and entertaining – and it sure enough delivered on that count. Chris and his kin all sang. And quite nicely too. You may have seen him, as Chris is a bona fide country star ( www.wardcountry.com ). You might have seen him in videos on the CMT network, or on tour. He stays a little closer to home of late, because he said it was more important to see his boy grow up than always be on the road. And I’d support that line of thought any day.

I had the pleasure of throwing a few Tamer Christmas songs, and the infamous Moab rap into the mix before it again became time to hit the sheets. But I must say – that was quite an enjoyable evening.

Sunday morning came too soon, even with being a slug and getting up late while watching a movie from my youth on the AMC network – “The Shaggy Dog” – a Disney tale about a kid who turned into and back from a large sheepdog at the most inopportune times from reciting a sanskrit incantation. It included foreign spies, atomic secrets, the FBI, the “average” American family (whatever that is.) Man – after seeing that, I reflected that its a wonder any of us turned out reasonably normal, after growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s. Or maybe we didn’t – we became Timber Tamers after all.

That’s about the end of the tale. The weather had warmed up even more, making the trip back a whole lot less white knuckling than the trip over. I had a great time just enjoying everyone who made it, and especially seeing Lonnie and Patrice again. I thank them for making us feel so welcome, and providing a nice post-Christmas oasis of pleasant times in the midst of a busy holiday season.