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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The trip to Norway

"The Long Trip to Norway"

or more aptly titled

"Didn't Orville and Wright invent that great silver flying machine?"

After a great last training session at coach Steve's place on Sunday we stayed "overnight" at the B&B. Well...not quite overnight as we had to be up at 2:30 am to be back at Steves to get on our coach bus for our three day excursion to Norway.

Even packing was difficult as we needed multiple bags. One bag could not be accessed until we arrived at our hotel in norway. So in that went all the clothes we would wear at the Champs (team shirts and jackets, and 4 pair of blue trousers!). We needed another overnight bag for our three night on the road and a bag for the dog. Plus of course bags of food for us, pillow and blanket for the coach and dog beds and crates for when we arrive.....needless to say it was ALOT of stuff!

The bus left Steve's in Hinkley at 3:30 am on Monday and we arrived in Lillehamar tired and pretty stiff by Wednesday afternoon. Almost three whole days in a coach does not make for handlers and dogs in good mental or physical shape. One would think that we are all whingers and moaners (and you well may think that after reading my account!) but really I think the trip was so stressful on top of our natural stress about competing that we just couldn't help ourselves! I know that in time I will forget the bad parts of the trip and just remember the good!

The bus was set up with the crates along one side in the back of the bus. They were metal folding crates placed with the large crates on the bottom and the medium (and one small) crates on the top. These were all fixed into place with plastic ties and separated from each other with plastic sheeting. It is hard to explain but here are some photos.

Somehow even though I was first on the bus, I didn't think about sitting in the best seats. I just picked the seat opposite Zen. Silly me! Meanwhile Nicky picks the emergency exit seat which has all the leg room (and she has short legs!) and Mr Derrett picks the back row which has 5 seats in which to spread out in! Note to self, must be more selfish next time! hehe

The hardest part about the trip was worrying about the dogs being cooped up in the cages for such a long period of time. Little 2 year old Indy had the worst of it because for some reason he ended up in the smallest cage. He started out as a great little traveller but by the ride home he had just about had it and you could see he was physically uncomfortable in the crate..

The first day of travel involved driving down to Harwich to get the ferry to the Hook of Holland. Leaving at 3:30am to start, drive to ferry, ferry was around 7 hours (dogs had to stay on the coach and we could not return to them) and then drive to hotel arriving around 8pm. So I put that at around a conservative estimate of 15 hours in the crates for the dogs on the first day.

There were not alot of stops along the way. But luckily when we did stop we seemed to always find a good place to walk the dogs. This was my main worry about Zen as being a typical sheltie girl she is very particular about where she will toilet (off lead and needs nice grass!) The stops were short with some being only 20 minutes and others being 45 minutes or 1 hour. The short ones were difficult on us because our first concern was to walk the dogs and often that gave us no time to eat or toilet ourselves! Note to self: my next dog will toilet on command ,on concrete and on lead!

Here is Zen with some of her mates (hey I just realized it is the Bronze medal winning large dogs in this photo). Zen is not fond of border collies in general but she did OK as most just ignored her!

The first night we spent in a hotel in The Netherlands. It was a nice hotel and little did we know it would be our longest night of sleep for a long time! We got there late and just about had time for dinner and a drink with team members before heading off to bed around 11pm.

The second day was another long day in the coach driving thru the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Leaving the hotel around 8 am (after walking the dogs around a lovely canal near the hotel) and then arriving at the next ferry around 8pm only to find out it was delayed! So another conservative estimate of 12 hours in the crates for the dogs.

Once we boarded the ferry in Denmark around 1 am we all went off to our cabins to sleep until 6am. Hurrah, 5 full hours of sleep.....and the dogs stayed on the coach for the night. Another 5 hours in the crates for them.....

The third day we arrived in Norway and yes, back on the coach for another few hours. I think we arrived at our final destination after lunch around 2pm. So another 6 hours in the crates for the dogs.

It was nice to finally arrive at the Hotel and be greeted by my hubby Dennis, my sister Terry and my groom Lisa. My main concern was getting Zen out and letting her walk and stretch. We took a walk down to the lake near the hotel and gave the dogs a nice run. After a short visit with Terry and Lisa I went to take a shower and Dennis drove them back to their luxurious hotel which was ONE HOUR away.

Our hotel was quite basic. Kind of scary at first and Nicky was worrying about sleeping alone in her room! Have you ever seen the movie "The Shining"? Well that was our nickname for this hotel at first! Eventually I grew to like the hotel and was glad that it had some good places to walk the dogs as we really needed that. The food was decent and we were able to make sandwiches (legally) at breakfast to take for lunch. ( Although by the end of the week I was sick to death of cheese sandwiches! )

But the worst part of this hotel was how far it was to the venue........1 hour each day back and forth. And the supporters and other teams were all near the venue. Needless to say there was not much chance to socialize with anyone. My worst regret was being unable to spend any time with my sister who had just flown over from New York to support me and Zen. And we were all so tired by the end of the say that socialization between the team members was pretty slim also...

So I conservatively estimate that our dogs (our physically fit competition dogs) had been crated on the bus for around 38 hours on the trip TO Norway....It is a wonder they all competed as well as they did and that is such a credit to each and every dog and handler on the team.

After a nice meal in "The Shining" hotel on Wednesday night we all packed it in and got ready for 4 days at the venue. Now the excitement is beginning! We would be starting off on Thursay with the team practice.... I will post more about that later!

The coach trip over was pretty horrible. But some good times happened when we had a chance to get out! This is a photo of some of us at a restaurant in Denmark while waiting 5 hours for the ferry to show up! I tried to speak my Danish to the waitress but she just laughed and spoke english back to me. The only words of Danish I know involve something about "drink it all up or pour it over your head".....


Andy & Nancy said...

Excellent account. Looking forward to the next instalment. Wow, that's a heck of a lot of crate time for those poor dogs and a lot of coach time for the poor people. Seems a real shame your hotel was so far from the venue ... and the supporters.

Karen said...

Blimey I think you deserve a medal just to endure the journey there and back !!

Chi (Obay Truly Focused) said...

No comment!!!!
NEVER though i'd be so plsed to be reserve...... Seeing some of your faces when you got there said it all - horrific journey.