Busted Axle Road
Chapter 122

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

It was just getting light when Josh and Mike left Warsaw. The crowd, if anything, was bigger than the night before, lining the streets for a couple of blocks. Unfortunately, the fire department hadn't laid out a wide enough path for a racing start that had never quite been anticipated, and only Mike knew the way out of town, so it was a fairly quiet start.

The dogs had come back a long way from their run the night before, and Mike felt better for having four hours of good sleep. He still felt a little rocky, but nothing serious, nothing a few more hours of sleep wouldn't have cured, he thought, but he didn't let on to anybody that he felt better.

Though it was still cold, the sky was still clear, and the wind of the evening before had died down. Fresh frost sparkled in the morning sunlight, and the dog's breath made clouds of steam as they ran down the street, with Mike and Josh waving to the crowd. In a few minutes, they passed Jim Horton's house, and ran down the road to the two-rut that would take them to the North Country Trail.

Though it was a new experience to Josh, to take the dogs this far, it didn't prove to be anything he couldn't handle. There were plenty of places where he had to bend the sled around sharp corners, or duck under low-hanging limbs. Other than that, the going was easy; after they'd gone to sleep, Fred Linder and another of the Warsaw firemen had gotten on their snowmobiles, to go ahead of them and break the trail open. Neither Mike nor Josh knew how far they planned on going, but there was a possibility that they might go clear to Spearfish Lake, and following the trail beaten out by the snowmobiles made the going easy.

At the corner to the spur trail to the campsite, Mike stopped them both, so they could give the dogs a snack. While the dogs took their break, drinking and eating and resting and rolling in the snow, Mike and Josh sat on the sleds for the first real chance to talk they'd had since the night before.

"You doing all right?" Mike asked.

"That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Josh said. "There was one limb that I thought was going to knock me off the sled, but it just brushed my parka back."

"I was watching," Mike said. "That was a low one, all right."

"Sure was nice of those guys in Warsaw to go ahead of us and break trail," Josh commented.

"Yeah," Mike said. "Mark and I thought of asking them to do it, but decided we'd already asked enough of them."

"That was a heck of a welcome, for two in the morning," Josh said.

"That was absolutely the last thing I expected," Mike said. "I mean, I figured Fred would be there at the fire station, with the lights on, and everything would be deserted. When that guy met us with the fire truck, and told us to follow him, I started wondering what was happening. Then, when we saw the crowd ... well, I just didn't believe it. All those people out, just for us."

"They really seemed enthusiastic, to be out at that hour of the morning," Josh said.

"Yeah," Mike said. "It gives you something to think about. We don't want to let the dogs cool off too long, so maybe we'd better get back going again, if you're ready."

Several hours later, Kirsten met them in her car, down at the 919 road crossing at Turtle Hill. "How's Mark doing?" Mike asked.

"He and Jackie are at our house, with the kids," Kirsten said. "He had the chills so bad that he couldn't warm up under a whole pile of blankets, so I told Jackie to bring him up and put him in the hot tub. That got the chills under control, but he's still running a temperature and feeling lousy."

"All right," Mike said. "It won't be long now. When you get back, drive over to the festival and tell Ryan we're two, maybe two and a half hours out. We will be, by the time you get there."

"Jackie told me you had a heck of a crowd when you got to Warsaw," Kirsten said. "I think you'll have a bigger one when you get back to Spearfish Lake."

This stop to rest, water and snack the dogs was short; in fifteen minutes, they were on their way, again.

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