A Musher’s Day Off

When we are in Canada we sometimes go over the border into Madawaska Maine. Kevin has his own impressions of what the experience is like. Here is his report on our border experience.

Crossing The Border And The Canada Plan by Kevin Powers

Yesterday, we decided to try to get back into the United States for lunch.

St. Jacques, New Brunswick, where Baisley Lodges is located, is directly across the border from Madawaska, Maine. The two towns are separated by the Madawaska River so crossing the border involves driving across a two lane bridge and going through a border checkpoint manned by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol people. They are all part of the Department of Homeland Security.

It is a pretty busy border crossing and there are always lines of traffic on the bridge…


The U.S. Customs/Border Patrol people are largely a humorless lot. Very efficient, no-nonsense kind of people who want to make sure that it’s apparent that they are very efficient, no-nonsense kind of people. This gives the impression that no terrorist disguised as a mild-mannered One-Man Pit Crew and his mushing wife are going to put one over on the steely-eyed officers of the U.S. Homeland Security Department. It also prevents them from saying “Good morning” in a tone other than one that carries the sub rosa meaning “You look Middle Eastern”.

One of these days I’m going to creep into their control room and see if they have vision and mission statements hanging on the wall. They must have vision and mission statements. You can’t be running a government agency without either one, as I recall. But then again I’ve been retired for a few years and maybe in the interim they’ve discovered that agencies run (or don’t) despite, rather than because of, such things.

I probably could find out what the vision and mission statements are if I put on my boots and parka, put the five dogs in the van, walked over to the bunkhouse with my computer and got on the internet. But why do that and confuse the issue with facts?

I can take an educated guess at what the vision statement is. It reads:

“Our vision is to provide excellence in Homeland Security while keeping the homeland secure in an excellent way – Excellence is our business.”

Then you’d have a mission statement that would drill down into the particulars not covered by the more general vision statement. The mission statement would be something like this:

“Our mission is to make sure that Powers, his wife and five dogs, his suspicious looking van with the putative dogsled on the roof, and the trailer with two suspicious supposedly-empty metal crates, are not allowed back into the country unless he owns up to the fact that he has been up to something nefarious, although, thus far, we haven’t been able to catch him at it.”

Well, they let us into the country but only because we had valid U.S. Passports, I knew that Ted Williams had 521 career home runs, and we told them that we would be heading to Dolly’s for lunch. Dolly’s is a place in Madawaska that has great lobster rolls and is frequented by U.S. Customs agents. In fact it was a U.S. Customs agent who told us about the place a couple of years ago while one of his partners was strip-searching our car. So, if you’re ever at the Madawaska border-crossing mention Dolly’s, but don’t tell them you heard it from me.

A few hours later, when we returned to Canada, we had to confront the Canadian version of Homeland Security. They are much less intense. Their mission statement seems to be:

“There are a lot of ordinary, innocent people out there, eh. Welcome to Canada.”

A couple of mushing related things have been going on. Gino has left the building and is running is a 100-mile race called the Plum Creek Wilderness Sled Dog Race in Greenville, Maine. He figures it’ll take him ten to twelve hours to run the 100 miles. As the dogs say, “Hey, what’s the big deal? We’ll run ten miles an hour for ten hours and be back here for dinner.” Then in the morning they’ll all be barking to run some more.

The Head Musher and her friend Ruth have done a couple of two-hour training runs on Gino’s trails one of which is called “The Tadpole” and the other is called “The P-Loop”. This has given us a chance to test out Verizon’s “Canada Plan”.

You probably remember the “Canada Plan” from last year. Last year’s version I would describe as follows: first you pay Verizon some extra amount of money for a period of time you are in Canada. Then, they make sure that your phone is functionally disabled for that entire period of time. I figured that they next were going to render cable television inoperative for a small additional fee.

Last year, the Head Musher sent me a text saying that she had taken a wrong trail and would be 45 minutes late getting back to the trail head. I got the message the next day while we were eating dinner, meanwhile I have visions that she has met up with a moose and is in a crumpled heap next to the trail. Technology at its finest.

So, we had diminished expectations as she headed out and yelled over her shoulder “I’ll text you from the Trapper’s Cabin!” I packed up the flotsam and jetsam that she left in her wake and headed back to Baisley to read in front of the wood burning stove and await her missive.

Just as an aside, is there anything better than reading in front of a wood burning stove when it’s twenty below zero outside? Maybe an ice cold Slurpee from the 7/11 after a round of golf on a hot day but that’s about it.

So, I’m perched in front of the wood burning stove with John LeCarre’s Constant Gardner illuminated on my Nook. It was a $2.99 special from Barnes and Noble. I’m thinking that it just doesn’t seem right that a guy should write 485 pages of prose of that quality only to have it discounted to $2.99. I’m not complaining. I’m just feeling guilty. But then again what if I didn’t buy it at $2.99 and they are forced to discount it to $1.99. Then I’d feel even worse!

Luckily, my phone buzzed to get me out of this spiral of guilt over book prices. Mirabile dictu!, as Cicero once said when his wife sent him a message by courier. It’s a text message from the Head Musher at 2:52pm that reads:

“Sand Pit” ((no indication of whether she’s in it or going around it so I assume it’s the latter))

Then there’s another at 3:15pm…

“Tad Pole 3:15. Middle.” ((No doubt the Russians have intercepted this one and are desperately trying to figure out who the agents “Tadpole” and “Middle” are.))

The important thing here is that I received the texts immediately after she sent them. As Dr. Frankenstein once said about his monster, and would have said about the Canada Plan had he had a chance: “It’s alive!!!”

I fire off a quick response: “Reading by WB stove w/coke & pretzel” so that she knows everything is OK on this end.

She later showed up at the trail-head exactly on time with all dogs smiling.


The One-Man Pit Crew

P.S. Since I finished this bulletin a couple of days ago, the Head Musher, who has been suffering from some sort of stomach bug, started feeling worse. Yesterday, we drove to Fort Kent to see a doctor and he grounded her for the next week. That means no race in New Hampshire this weekend. Rest and lots of fluids was the direct order. So, as Alexander Haig once said, and I echo his words with as little authority as he had, “I’m in charge here!” We’ve got to pack up and start the two day journey home.

The Head Musher is resting as you can see from this photo. Full battle gear. Sweater. Mushing mittens. Two hats (one with ear flaps down). Neck warmer. Zoned out with iPod dialed in to a meditation cut. Five huskies are asleep on the floor around the bed wondering what is going on. This may be my favorite all-time mushing picture!


  1. Og poor Linda. I hope she gets better soon, but I may still be laughing from this post at that time!!

  2. Oh Linda! I’m so sorry you got the flu on your mushing vacation. Hope you feel better soon.

  3. Kevin,

    Great blog!

  4. Linda, Hope you are starting to feel better!! As always, my hubby and I enjoy reading/laughing at Kevin’s report on your adventures…

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