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Up in Smoke: Last Snowmobile Ride of 2014?


(4/15/2014)

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The winter of 2014 has been truly outstanding for Minnesota (and many states/provinces). But all good things must come to an end, and with a couple weeks of warm temps, much of Minnesota has turned brown.

But the weather and temps throughout "most" of Minny doesn't mean beans when it comes to the iconic North Shore, the name given to the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior that curves northeast from Duluth to Canada.

No sir, the North Shore was still in the middle of winter when we arrived at the park-and-ride lot outside of Two Harbors last Wednesday.

Like last year, a group of delinquent friends and I came here for one last hurrah, to put an exclamation mark on a great season of sledding.

On a day in which temps hit the 80s in southwest Minnesota, we enjoyed 50s and sunshine. It isn't often that you can comfortably wear shorts while unloading for a snowmobile ride, but that's exactly what Kale Wainer did on this occasion.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The group for this year's ride included (L-to-R) Tom Rowland of Thomas SnoSports; Andy Swanson of Snow Goer magazine; Pat Bourgeois of OSM magazine; Chad "Juicebox" Davis of the human race; Kale Wainer of Arctic Cat; and me.

We posed by the C.J. Ramstad Memorial Trail sign prior to departure to honor our friend and colleague who most certainly would have been on this ride had he not died in an automobile accident in 2007.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We all expected a lot of dirt and crummy conditions, but a winter's worth of huge snow requires more than just a couple weeks of warmth.

Consequently, the trail was in fantastic condition!

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I think of this 153-mile trail from Duluth to Grand Marais as snowmobiling's equivalent of California's Pacific Coast Highway: a wide, curvy, hilly route that's thrilling and scenic.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Our destination would have been Grand Marais if this had been January. But there's a different mentality that hits us when it's a springtime ride and we've already enjoyed a high mileage winter. We shot more photos, stopped to BS more and lingered far longer during the stops.

It was a day for hanging out as much as it was for riding.

Of course temps in the 50s certainly encouraged the frequent and long BS stops.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Chad Davis proves how much snow was still on the ground.

For reference, Chad is 7'10".

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

In fact, there was so much snow that getting off the groomed surface required lots of throttle and finesse, which Kale showed neither of when he nonchalantly put MY sled into the thick stuff.

Little did we know how this little brain fart just 30 miles into the ride would set off a series of events that made for a funny, memorable day on the trails...

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

At first Pat jumped in to pull a ski...

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

"STOP," yelled Tom Rowland, "I have a better solution: the Snow Bungee!"

The rest of us took a step back as Tom grabbed the stretchy tow strap made just for such situations and then attached one end to his rear bumper and the other end to MY stuck Tiger. 

As Snow Bunge virgins, the rest of us just stared with glassy-eyed wonder...

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Tom had perfect form on his 2015 XF6000. He was wearing the proper gear and exuding the can-do attitude he's known for.

Likewise, Kale was channeling Rob Kincaid, David McClure, the Tapio brothers, the Zollingers, the Tuppers, Chris Burandt (pre-2009) and every Team Arctic racer who's ever gone over the top at Jackson.

He was fully committed to uphold the grand tradition of side-hilling and side-boarding.

There was just one small problem...

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...the Snow Bungee was attached to the upper A-arm on MY Tiger.

We immediately realized the folly of this decision when we heard the metal snap and saw the spindle contort into all-new prototype front-end geometry.

Look close; you can see what I'm talking about.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Before making ANY other moves, we had Tom pose with the Snow Bungee for possible future product endorsements.

After a few minutes of roaring expletives and laughter, it was time to get busy.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A quick inventory of our tool bags revealed no extra A-arms or welder.

However, we did have a couple hose clamps, bailing wire, some tools, zip-ties, duct tape and ArcticInsider decals.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

And we had the much-needed sarcasm and wit that spews from the mouths of everyone in this group.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Now channeling our inner MacGuyvers, we used a sparkplug socket as a sleeve over the broken A-arm tube.

A couple hose clamps held the offset-Torx wrench as a de facto splint on the kinked portion of the arm.

Ample use of bailing wiring made zero contribution to the fix, however, it at least made me feel good about carrying it in my tool kit for 20 years without EVER having used it until now.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We added some duct tape and ArcticInsider decals for extra strength and then zip-tied an Energizer battery onto the wound for added power.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore.

Confident that the hasty repair wouldn't last more than two corners, I gave the situation a thumbs-up and then pleaded for someone to step forward to ride this contraption for the rest of the day.

And just like that, the banter stopped and the forest was eerily quiet. I even heard the howl of timberwolf from somewhere near Thunder Bay.

Mr. Snow Bungee himself soon interrupted the silence as he went to move his XF6000 to the other side of the trail...

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...and proceeded to bury it!

The timber wolf near Thunder Bay DEFINITELY heard Tom's reaction, as well as the howling of laughter from the rest of our group!

This time we used good ol' manpower to free the stuck sled and then continued onward towards our goal of the Trestle Inn, some 30 miles up the trail.

There was just a wee-bit of uncertainty regarding the structural integrity of our repair job. It didn't help that everyone in the group took off like they were in contention to win the Jeep 500.

After inspecting the repair a few times in the first handful of miles, we deemed it "good enough."

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Peeling off the North Shore trail and onto the Tomahawk for the last push to the Trestle, our group was still amazed by the amount of snow and the great trail conditions.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

This is pretty much what it looked like all day, save for a few corners that were showing dirt.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore.

The obligatory group shot at the Trestle,

After a feast on fantastic hamburgers, we opted to play it safe with Tiger's A-arm by taking the same route back to Two Harbors rather than the longer Tomahawk-to-Isabella-to-Yukon-and-back-to-the-North Shore loop option.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Cheesy posed photo on an overlook. I chose this special moment to propose to Tom...

...that he never again hook a Snow Bungee to the upper A-arm of a snowmobile.

He accepted.

At this point the revised front-end geometry had survived 60 miles of abuse without so much as a tweak or a twerk.

No sooner had I let out a sigh of relief then my sled started smoking as if it were on fire!

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It's great to have friends like mine. Not only do they launch MY sled off the trails, destroy the A-arms and light smoke bombs, they also laugh AT me.

Worse, not one of these yahoos has liked me on Facebook!

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I suppose it was some consolation that, a few miles down the trail, Andy Swanson got all rodeo-like and buried his sled.

Rowland tried desperately to use the Snow Bungee to help him, but when we saw Tom attaching it to the brake cable of Andy's sled, we forever banned Tom from using that contraption on these rides.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A few miles from the parking lot and the end of our ride, I snapped one last riding shot to capture the day and the memories provided during the 123 clicks on our odometers.

In all seriousness, the conditions on the trail were awesome, way better than anyone expected.

 

April 9, 2014 snowmobile ride on the Minn. North Shore. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After loading up the sleds we spent a good half-hour soaking up the afternoon sunshine and witty banter this group is renowned for.

There's STILL enough snow on the North Shore to ride this coming weekend. In fact, there's talk of another "last ride" among our group.

Whether we go again or officially call the season "over," we enjoyed a great day and an even greater winter.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (25):

the Candle Stick Maker says:
4/16/2014 9:48:00 AM

John, this is almost a photo copy of my last ride with some friends. Well minus the smoke bomb and trail side engineering. We learned that even getting 49% of 1 ski off the trail was about like being sucked into a black hole.

I have some questions?
1. What was the height of Bobby Flames riser(s) on this trip?
2. Did any one give Kale crap for keeping it casual with the button up shirt? (I can only imagine he had on khaki shorts and sandals under those bibs)
3. If I had been there, do you think the chances of having an a-arm in my pocket would have been pretty good?

Looks like a blast!
Bobby Flame says:
4/16/2014 10:21:00 AM

1. My riser was 10+10inches strong - You know this.
2. Truly, Kale's Tekvest makes him look fat, not the button-up shirt, or his face.
3. That red plaid shirt is Famous. Really it is.

This is a fun group and the North Shore trail in Minnesota is one of the best!
Andy says:
4/16/2014 11:03:00 AM

I really enjoy reading your articles, but my jaw dropped when I first saw where you put the Snowbunje and thought to myself, "did you seriously hook the Snobunje to the upper a-arm?". Then I scrolled down to see the next few pictures, yep, that's exactly what I thought was going to happen. I'm sure someone from Snobunje or other retailers are going to scold you like crazy for using it that way, haha! Keep up the articles!!
kevin sebastian says:
4/16/2014 12:35:00 PM

By far the best article of the season!!! sounds like you're season may get another shot from mother nature! My wife tells me it's time to think about other stuff rather than sleds..won't happen even though our season is done.Anyway cool article had me smiling and laughing all the way through!!
Tom Rowland says:
4/16/2014 1:33:00 PM

I always try to learn from my experiences aka mistakes. Out of the rubble of my actions that day I came up with an idea for a future sales promotion...I'm going call it "a-arms half-off".
John Sandberg says:
4/16/2014 2:50:00 PM

Candle Sticker:
1. Bobby's answer is correct. Always and forever.
2. This shirt will be a story in itself someday on this site.
3. We actually talked about you during the repair, wondering if you actually would have produced a spare A-arm from your tool kit.
Matt Villanueva says:
4/16/2014 4:52:00 PM

Badass story.. Love the smoke bombs!!!

Now how do I get some arctic cat insider stickers for my sled?
s.t.i.c.s.9 says:
4/16/2014 9:51:00 PM

Proper S.T.I.C.S. protocol would require a photograph with beer can held adjacent to repair. Next time Mr. Rowland should smoke a candy cigarette when using the snow bungee. Also think about incorporating a spent sardine can into your repair. Bonus points for wearing "Billy Bob" teeth. Clean up your act, geez.
s.t.i.c.s.9 says:
4/16/2014 9:54:00 PM

Double bonus points if Tom wears an eye patch while pulling you with the bungee.
John Sandberg says:
4/17/2014 7:29:00 AM

Matt: Click the "Contact Us" link at the very bottom of this page, then send me your address. I'll send you the wrecked A-arm... you can peel the decals off of it.

s.t.i.c.s.9: We are painfully amateur in all aspects of snowmobile protocol. We need someone of Webmaster-like experience to help us reach the proverbial "next level." So next year you're joining our ride.
Tom Rowland says:
4/17/2014 9:47:00 AM

The spent sardine can s.t.I.c.s.9 mentions really opens my eyes to some possibilities. I think I'll start drinking my trail-side Mountain Dew from an aluminum can instead of a plastic bottle. I can see some strips of aluminum being handy on rides like this.
pluedy says:
4/17/2014 10:01:00 AM

Use of the plug socket as splint was brilliant. Too bad this did not occur in a cemetery, where more repair resources might have been available.

If nothing goes wrong you never remember the ride.
the Candle Stick Maker says:
4/17/2014 3:21:00 PM

John, I forgot to ask. Did the 70 degree difference in temperature from a previous ride make Pat's back side temperature easier to control?

Also I see duct tape must have been in short supply. Was the battery remnants from the expended tape roll? I know if you had an entire roll, it would most likely been completely used up to increase confidence in the repair.

Tom's error of snobunje placement is a typical snobunje rookie mistake. I have video from Wyoming this year of a friend pulling on my windshield while assisting during recovery from getting stuck.
John Sandberg says:
4/17/2014 3:34:00 PM

Pat had none of the cold-butt complaints that were heard during the St. Cloud/TRF trip, but an 80 degree temperature swing might have had something to do with that.

Yes, I wrap a stretch of duct tape around a AA battery, it stores so much easier.
Scott Watters says:
4/17/2014 4:39:00 PM

That looked like a very nice last (maybe) ride John......I think I heard you go by that morning on the freeway from my house:)
Russ bode says:
4/17/2014 8:16:00 PM

John ,
Great article! Looked like a great ride.
I have read the article two times and can't
help not to laugh!The fix looks top notch
with what you had to work with!(been there before)
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Mateus says:
10/9/2015 2:07:00 AM

I have realized that over the corsue of constructing a relationship with real estate managers, you'll be able to come to understand that, in each and every real estate exchange, a payment is paid. Ultimately, FSBO sellers do not save the commission payment. Rather, they try to win the commission by doing the agent's job. In doing so, they invest their money plus time to accomplish, as best they might, the assignments of an broker. Those jobs include exposing the home by way of marketing, representing the home to willing buyers, building a sense of buyer urgency in order to prompt an offer, scheduling home inspections, controlling qualification assessments with the bank, supervising maintenance tasks, and facilitating the closing of the deal.
Mateus says:
10/9/2015 2:07:00 AM

I have realized that over the corsue of constructing a relationship with real estate managers, you'll be able to come to understand that, in each and every real estate exchange, a payment is paid. Ultimately, FSBO sellers do not save the commission payment. Rather, they try to win the commission by doing the agent's job. In doing so, they invest their money plus time to accomplish, as best they might, the assignments of an broker. Those jobs include exposing the home by way of marketing, representing the home to willing buyers, building a sense of buyer urgency in order to prompt an offer, scheduling home inspections, controlling qualification assessments with the bank, supervising maintenance tasks, and facilitating the closing of the deal.
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