The delivery, and the dog
Although the odds were against him, Solaro managed to make his goal, rolling into Churchill with the first part-load of dog food and hay after an 11-hour sun-up to sun-down ride. after an 11-hour sun-up to sun-down ride, starting at -32 C and never warming above -25 C that day.
“To actually see a snowbike come up from Gillam with a huge load of dog food and hay — you could hear the collective thud of all the jaws hitting the ground while I rode through town,” he says. With the first load delivered, he turned around and rode back, packed the rest of the load on the sled, and headed north again.
While 1,000 pounds of dog food sounds like a lot — it’s more than 450 kg in newspeak — Solaro says the supplies he brought up were still only a drop in the bucket of what the town needs. People were happy for the dogs to get the food, and it probably saved some dogs from being destroyed because they couldn’t be fed, but the locals in Churchill still felt forgotten or ignored by the businesses and politicians who are supposed to watch for their best interests.
“If you wanted that bag of dog food in town, it’s $140, if you can get it — which you can’t,” Solaro says. He understands their frustration. Now, he’s working with Inukshuk to send more dog food north, at prices the sled dog owners can afford. Corey Nutrition is sending eight tonnes of the specialized sled dog food to Churchill with a price subsidy, but they need to figure out how to get it into the town first. It’s difficult when there’s no road in.
But Solaro’s already done a lot for Churchill and its sled dogs — especially one particular pup, given to him by one of the town’s breeders. The dog’s name? Solaro picked Bruce Springsteen, Bruce for short, because “in Churchill, this dog might have been on the list of ones that might not have made the winter. So he had to get out of Churchill while he was young, and baby, tramps like us, he and I, we were born to run.”
After his second run of dog food and hay into the town, Solaro headed back south on the decommissioned rail line, for a total of more than 900 kms by snowbike. He’s safely home now, plotting his next expedition and cleaning up after his puppy.
If you’d like to meet Oliver Solaro, come to the Toronto Spring Motorcycle Show on next Saturday and Sunday (April 7-8). He’s there to receive an Eddy Award for his achievements. You can’t miss him—he’s the guy in the kilt …