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Last Snowmobile Ride of 2018 (Or Maybe Not??)


(4/3/2018)

Every year in a snowmobiler's life, the riding season eventually comes to an end. Spring does its thing, the snow melts and life turns a corner towards the stuff we do in the non-winter months.

Last Friday was (or appeared to be) that day for myself and a handful of friends, all of whom played hooky from work/life to spend a day in North Central Minnesota.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We all met at Thomas Sno Sports in Ogilvie, Minn. From L-to-R: Tom Rowland, Eric Bergstrom, Randy Holland, Pat Bourgeois and Lanny Stegeman. I'm not sure where Bill Weikert was when I snapped this shot, but he was there too.

Unlike many of our trips that begin at ridiculously early times in faraway locations, this end-of-the-season rumble had a more leisurely vibe. So much so that we left our homes at reasonable times and arrived at Thomas with plenty of time to chat about wherefores and whatnots. Everyone in the room put money down on a new ALPHA ONE that morning, then it was time to drive 30 miles up the road to Isle, Minn., where we would meet our mutual friend Les Pinz.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Mother Nature was smiling pretty on us that morning as we drove to Isle, delivering an unexpected snowfall that belied the fact that April was only two days away.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We met at the Corner Cafe, where my truck and sled enjoyed a nice blanket of snow while we got down to the business of talking snowmobiles.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The conversation halted abruptly when breakfast was served. For 8 minutes and 23 seconds, the cozy little cafe was nearly silent as we wolfed down the calories we'd need to spend the day laughing, sharing stories and riding sleds.

 

The amazing Les Pinz snowmobile collection. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After breakfast we went straight to Les Pinz's place on the outskirts of Isle to see his vast collection of snowmobiles and related memorabilia.

I'll post that story later this week as it's worth its own dedicated feature.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

For now I'll leave you with this photo of Pat Bourgeois and the sled he cozied up to for several hours that morning.

After the tour of Les's collection, we donned our gear, unloaded the sleds and headed out for what we all suspected was a last ride of 2018.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We started on the famed Soo Line North trail, a 114-mile converted railroad grade that serves as a corridor to many great riding areas across a swath of North Central Minnesota.

Thank goodness for the 1-2 inches of snow that had fallen that morning, otherwise the rock-covered Soo Line would have been a bit ugly, at least in the sections without trees where the previous week's melt had cleared most of the white stuff.

It was a different story in the tree-lines sections, where a light base combined with a fresh layer were enough to make it feel like middle of the winter conditions.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

There was no hurry to the pace or to an agenda. With Les guiding us on the very trails he and other members of the Mille Lacs Drift Skippers have worked to make so perfect, we had a front row seat to great riding and great stories about how some of the trails were built and why the Drift Skippers have been so successful.

During stops like this we also solved several concerns and answered many pressing questions, including:

-How to get new people into the sport

-How to make kids and families the focus of snowmobile manufacturers

-What Arctic Cat is like after one year of ownership under Textron?

-How quickly can eight men consume the two packages of M&Ms and one package of Almond Joy that Tom bought at the gas station that morning?

-Are snowmobiles truly the same price now as they were 25 years ago? (YES!)

-Should we have been more concerned about how much time Pat spent with that Skiroule?

We also learned via the convenience (and curse) of modern smartphone technology, that a winter storm was brewing in the North Dakota that was going to dump 10-15 inches of snow AT THIS VERY SPOT beginning later this night.

The question we weren't able to answer was, "Why in the heck didn't we plan our ride for one day later?"

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Some of the nicest riding of the day occurred in the tamarack swamps that characterize the lowland areas of this part of the state. Not quite full-on soggy swamp but also not exactly solid ground, these vast areas of tamarack tree covered lowlands make for awesome snowmobile trails. Their general lack of rocks meant that the 1-2 inches of fresh snow was enough to provide a great trail surface.

After meandering through the tamarack for 20 miles or so, we headed out to the big lake that this area of Minnesota is famous for: Mille Lacs.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The fresh snow on what was already a massive base made the big lake joy to see and ride. Everyone stretched their legs while exploring the furthest reaches of their sled's throttle lever.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We stopped at a couple spots not far from shore, including this VERY SMALL island with an old cabin on it.

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Again, more problem solving that's made possible only because we had the kind of clear minds that come from riding snowmobiles. On this stop we:

-Determined the exact role the Russians played in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

-Pinpointed the exact date that riderless/self-driving snowmobiles will debut

-Confirmed with Tom that 10 packages of M&Ms and six Almond Joy candy bars would have been more appropriate for a group our size

After tackling these issues, it was late enough in the day that everyone was ready to return to their respective homes and the stuff of spring

 

Snowmobiling with friends, Arctic Cat, Minnesota and winter 2018. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

And so we posed for what MIGHT be the last ride for several of us this season, outside of the Drift Skippers clubhouse in Isle.

I say "might" because after the photo and the loading of sleds and the handshakes goodbye, mother nature actually did deliver 14 inches to a large swath of Minnesota beginning that night. And now, three days later, there's 6-8 inches falling outside my window as I type these very words.

The calendar says April 3, but it's feeling a lot more like February right here, right now. So maybe a few of us will get in another bookend ride to the winter of 2018?

If so, I'll share the story. And if I don't get out again, I'm content with the great day in Isle last week.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that snowmobiling is an unpredictable sport. Weather and life sometimes mesh in perfect harmony and allow us to ride thousands of miles in one season. But sometimes they collide and leave us desperately short of the goals and dreams we'd anticipated back in October and November.

So we make the most of it and hope to ride another day.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (16):

Paul Hein says:
4/3/2018 4:22:00 PM

Sorry I missed the "last " ride of the year but I'll be ready for the first ride again next Fall. Timing of the snow could've been better but not complaining as I put on about 3,000 miles this year.
Tom says:
4/3/2018 5:43:00 PM

That was classic AI - had some loud chuckles over this one,,,
Big winter in upstate NY, going to check out Powley Rd. north for the victory lap this weekend.
Tks John :)
John Sandberg says:
4/3/2018 5:44:00 PM

We missed you Paul! 3,000 miles is an AWESOME year, I'm jealous.
Scott Watters says:
4/3/2018 6:29:00 PM

That looked like a fun day of riding with friends John. I am also content with the amount of riding we did, 2780 myself and about 1700 of that my 12yr old son was along who is having a blast the past 2 season's riding the trails. After many years and several thousand miles around the neighborhood and lake trails with his friends he has been riding with me & my friends and is a very good and smart rider. To a good season and until the next. ??
Bill Weikert says:
4/3/2018 8:53:00 PM

It was a interesting and fun day. I look forward to the next ride. The river is looking very good right now. May have to give a ride.
Mike Miller says:
4/3/2018 9:15:00 PM

Looks awesome guy's, glad you had a great time!
Todd Ulschmid says:
4/4/2018 7:08:00 AM

Nice! : )
Gbarchives 67 72 says:
4/4/2018 9:52:00 AM

Gee I’m purple with envy. Lucky folks.
tito says:
4/4/2018 1:01:00 PM

I'm jealous of that cabin on the island
Gingy says:
4/4/2018 2:53:00 PM

I am jealous of you guys, here in western Colorado we had a miserable winter, no snow at all. Less than 300 miles total, 4 rides and only one of those had powder to play in. "mother nature actually did deliver 14 inches to a large swath of Minnesota beginning that night", I don't think my yard saw 14 inches total all winter. Hopefully you will get to take on more 'last' ride this year!
Derek says:
4/4/2018 5:11:00 PM

You guys can come WAY UP NORTH to ride yet until June LOL.
Mike Mattson says:
4/4/2018 9:33:00 PM

Looks like you all had a great day. Thanks for sharing.
Dave Guenther says:
4/5/2018 1:46:00 PM

A great group of guys having a great time... so good to see you out enjoying the opportunity to visit Les and enjoy the Mil Lacs lake trails and his museum. Eric < i thought you had decoys to get carved for the Perham Decoy show!! oh well you gotta take a break once in a while! some people see the late snow as a negative, Positive people see it in a positive and take the time to enjoy it.. good for you! still a few sleds going by my house on the trail getting that "last ride " in ! why not! have a good one!
Greg Hallstrom says:
4/6/2018 8:09:00 AM

Looks like you southerners still have some decent snow down there in the tropics. I rode on Tuesday (April 3rd) of this week up at the Northwest Angle and they still have a 2 foot snow pack in the forest. It looks like I will be able to ride next week too. The waitress at Jerry's on Young's Bay said the Polaris test riders have been coming in every day for dinner.
Eric Bergstrom says:
4/7/2018 11:18:00 AM

I won't be selling decoys at Perham this year Dave... too many other things going on... one of which is taking advantage of this late season snowmobiling! It was pretty awesome of Les to show us around and take us for a ride, and it was great fun to catch up with old friends and ride some of Tom's Arctic Cats for the day. Pretty tough not to be thankful for a day like that!
Tom Rowland says:
4/7/2018 7:18:00 PM

That was another great ride, for sure! Getting out with a group of friends, hitting the trails, talking old/new sleds and eating candy bars was a perfect way to end a winter season and start looking forward to the next!

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