Tom’s Flip Side


Tom rigging his Laser

Tom rigging his Laser

One is sailing – an avocation since his teenage years. Once he became proficient, Tom began racing on a Morgan 34. Saturdays on Lake St. Clair and Sundays on Lake Erie. Then once a year, the big trek from Port Huron to Mackinaw.

But during one race, Tom realized that he raced to be able to sail. That was his last season of racing. He converted from a 34 foot Morgan to a 14 foot Laser. The Laser is an Olympic class boat, designed for high performance.


Tom and his sled dogs in Hiawatha National Forest - Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Tom and his sled dogs in Hiawatha National Forest – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Tom’s other avocation, however, does require a little more than a few minutes travel time from his house. Certainly, it’s an unusual hobby for a Virginia resident. Tom is a sled dog owner. Does he actually use them to pull a sled? Yup! Here’s living proof.

Sled dogs run along an amazing 10 miles an hour, mile after mile after mile. (A 14 week old puppy will playfully run at 14 miles an hour for shorter distances.) Tom reports that the sensation is much like sailing. Outdoors, quiet, peaceful. With sailing, the only sound is the boat slicing through the water. With mushing, it’s the sled gliding along the snow. And neither piece of equipment has a brake.

Tom and Helmi (Tom is the one with the hat)

Tom and Helmi (Tom is the one with the hat)

Tom’s two lead dogs are Helmi and Smokey. Helmi is a good gee-haw leader, meaning she takes directions very well and will (usually) point the team in any direction Tom calls out. Smokey, on the other hand is a good trail leader, meaning he can keep the team going at a steady pace mile after mile.

How close does a musher get to his lead dogs? Pretty close. Ask Tom to tell you about what happened at Dixon.

P.S. Tom doesn’t keep his dogs in Virginia. They reside in Michigan. So while most people are heading south for the winter, Tom is heading north to run dogs.