Ever wish you could snowmobile every day?
Me too. So I did it.
Last January I rode at least once every single day.
In retrospect, it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had on a snowmobile. Yes, it was 31 experiences, but it was also one big experience.
The original plan was to aim for February because it’s more a consistently reliable period for consistent snow. However, my January started with three straight days of riding (beginning with a North Shore ride shown above) so I jumped the gun and began a month early. Turned out to be a good choice.
Thirty-one days later I enjoyed a celebratory tin of sardines on a small patch of snow a mile from my house. I’d been an #everydaysledder for a month!
I’ve spent a lifetime wishing I could ride snowmobiles every day, and in this imaginary world each ride lasts for hours; the snow is deep; the trails are groomed; and I have nothing to worry about except making sure there’s enough fuel in the tank to keep exploring.
Having a job; two teenage kids involved in lots of activities; a spouse; a dog; and a home to maintain throws a cold bucket of reality on top of my imaginary world. Plus there are those other tiny hurdles of weather and cost.
Indeed, the challenges to a goal such as this can be stripped down to three things: cost, time and whether or not nature cooperates with snow.
From a weather standpoint, last winter was one of worst that I can remember, at least for the Twin Cities area that I live near. Very little snow to begin with, some soul-crushing melts and no monster storms. I literally could not have picked a worse winter to attempt to ride 31 days in a row. Which made the accomplishment all the more satisfactory.
The best part of #everydaysledder wasn’t reaching the goal. Nope. It was the great experiences that occurred along the way. Funny how that works.
I’m not going to bore you with a daily diary. Instead, I’ll impart a few choice nuggets of wisdom* that I gained along the way:
*The first ride of the journey began with a 140-mile romp on Minnesota’s North Shore trail with my friends. It would be the longest ride of the month, while the shortest ride was no further than 100 feet. Lesson: Requiring some arbitrary minimum mileage would have probably made this an impossible goal (and for sure would have made it less enjoyable).
*There were probably 3 or 4 days during the month when time was short, gumption was low and the thought of gearing up and riding felt more like a chore than a blessing. But that feeling ALWAYS evaporated at some point during the ride. I have never, ever regretted riding a snowmobile.
*The only possible way I was able to ride every day was having the luxury of being able to snowmobile straight out of my house AND a job that allows me to work from home. Probably half of my rides were lunch breaks that took fewer than 45 minutes (including gearing up) and were no longer than 15 miles.
*There are fun, interesting things to see and satisfying destinations within a few miles from home. The only challenge to discovering this was my own imagination. Fortunately, I learned pretty early on that riding to the same local lake day after day doesn’t mean I’d have the same experience each time. There was always something new and different with each ride, such as taking a minute to glide down a slide at the playground.
*Getting asked about my progress by people who followed it on Facebook created its own momentum. It’s funny how we act differently when we know people are watching.
*It was fun to ride with other people. In a year with normal weather, I probably would have ridden more frequently with other people, and probably with a greater variety of people. But the poor conditions here meant that a lot of people weren’t in the mood to ride.
Friends I got to ride with:
Brad and Andy Pake (above)
All the USXC racers at Pine Lake and Detroit Lakes
5,000-or-so vintage sledders at the Waconia Ride-In
*While riding with people was great, the many times I rode by myself gave me time to process some pretty big things that happened that month, most notably the death of my friend Hunter Houle, as well as the announced buyout of Arctic Cat by Textron. Strange how a beautiful sunset brings tears of sadness when you miss someone.
* The longest was the 140-mile run on the North Shore on Jan. 1 that started the whole thing. Ironically, the shortest ride occurred the next day: a 100-ft. adventure from the parking lot at Thomas Sno Sports into a trailer.
*I had the great fortune of riding a lot of different sleds during #everydaysledder, including:
XF 6000 Cross Country
Sno Pro 500
ZR 8000 with Speedwerx Stage II kit
ZR 6000 Roger Skime Edition
SVX 450 Snow Bike
ZR 200 (can’t believe I don’t have a photo of this!?! #amateur)
*I captured most of the photos using my iPhone (with its self-timer) mounted to a small tripod. The people who had to wait for me in the Post Office parking lot weren’t too amused.
*I rode through some really, really ugly conditions. Which at first was a bummer, but later became a source of humor.
Only one true night ride during the month, and it occurred on the first ride.
Getting to ride with Arctic Cat’s Roger Skime (plus getting fed lunch by his wife Bernice) was one of many highlights.
Early on the photos were simple selfies or shots of the machines. After about a week I transitioned to a tripod and the camera’s self-timer.
When Tucker Hibbert and his family/crew were in the Twin Cities for the Canterbury snocross, I snowmobiled to the house they rented and enjoyed a breakfast of Monster Energy and Hot Stuff pizza. Sort of.
Two of the rides were on a borrowed Bearcat during USXC cross-country races in Pine Lake and Detroit Lakes, the latter of which included a nice snack of sardines courtesy of my friend Scott Schuster. Thanks Scott!
Several rides were with my son Calvin during that short period of daylight after he got home from school and before dinner.
The second-shortest ride was a couple laps of my backyard, giving Otis the dog a pre-dinner run.
It wouldn’t be a Minnesota snowmobiling winter without a pass by some ice-fishing houses.
There was a Supermoon last January. This was a pre-dawn photo (until you try it, you have no idea how difficult it is to do a self-timer shot TRYING to look as though you’re holding the moon in your fingers).
Sweet ditch banging! Not.
At some point during the month I started wearing old and/or interesting Arcticwear gear, like my Team Arctic race jacket from 1994 (top, above) and Tucker Hibbert’s 2002 race gear (bottom, above), the latter of which will be included in the SHOF silent auction this coming winter (and will be extra-valuable now that I’ve worn it).
Best find of the experience: this sweet telescoping tree trimmer, found in road ditch near Prior Lake, Minn.
Due to the really poor conditions last winter, there were many days when mine were the first and only tracks.
Fastest sled of the series? This ZR 8000 with a Speedwerx Stage II kit.
Funniest ride of the series? Probably this short adventure in a Cat Cutter by a stranger that I flagged down at the Waconia Vintage event. Big thanks to Rodney Dragan for capturing the image (then sharing a hot dog with me).
I also chuckled while wearing this Tucker Hibbert LIFE COACH jumpsuit while making America great again.
The last ride of the series included a celebratory feast of sardines!
Thanks for reading. And I hope you get to have your own #EveryDaySledder adventure some winter.