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Feels Like Cheating: 235-Mile Weekday Ride in March

When Arctic Cat announced that they would be holding this 2014 snowmobile demo ride in Brainerd, Minn., a flurry of emails began hogging bandwidth among a group of friends determined to ride ever deeper into the sunset of this winter.

A few days later a plan was hatched: Gather at Thomas Sno Sports in Ogilvie, Minn., on Wed. March 27, and ride sleds to Brainerd.

Once there, we’d take a few rides on the new 2014 Arctic Cat ZR6000 and ZR7000 machines, grab a quick meal, then point our sleds back towards Ogilvie.

Man, I like a good plan!


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

The group started with eight of us leaving Thomas Sno Sports (only 15 minutes later than the 8am planned depature!).

With warm daytime temps and cold evenings, the snow started out rock-hard. As Tom would point out at the first stop, “Ah, the smells associated with snowmobiling: the faint whisps of smoke from a far-off wood-burning stove… the fresh, crisp wafts of a pine forest… and the acrid spike of burned hyfax.”

Our route included the towns of Hillman, Lastrup, Harding.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

About half way to the Brainerd area, and with the temps were well on their way to the predicted 40s, we met up with a few more friends.

Handshakes and warm smiles marked the occasion, with everyone feeling giddy about playing hooky for the day and getting to ride in fantastic snow conditions with only a couple days left of March!


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

One of the riders in this group was 1990s Team Arctic cross-country ace Jeremy Fyle, who had his main sponsor logo placed prominently on the hood of his 2012 Arctic Cat F800 Sno Pro.

Jeremy is also sponsored by the color blue, which paid for placement on his C&A Pro skis.

Tom Rowland (left) and his son Mitch (right) laugh, as they only wish they could be sponsored by a color.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

A stop along the backwaters of the Mississippi River east of Brainerd provided a nice chance for a group photo. Not that you can make out their faces, but I’ll list them anyway from L-to-R: Tom Rowland, Jeremy Fyle, Martin Joyce, Mitch Rowland, Kale Wainer, Bill Weikert, Paul Hein, Pat Bourgeois, Mark Larsen and Mer Larsen.

Get this: both Bill Weikert and Mer Larsen have logged 4,000 miles already this season, with 3,000 of them coming in March! That’s some serious riding, made possible by retirement and a great winter in Minnesota.

Both guys were really gracious in their offers to help run my kids to sports, do the house chores and perform all my work duties next year so that I can log a 3,000-mile month. I’m really looking forward to it.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

We were definitely on the path to pleasure the entire day.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

Arriving at Ernie’s on Gull Lake, we snarfed down some chow then hit the Arctic Cat Demo Rides, where 15 brand spanking new 2014 Arctic Cat ZR6000, ZR7000 and ZR9000 models were there for anyone older than 21 to ride along a 7-mile route of primarily trail and a little lake.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

The free-admission demos are going on through this weekend and definitely worth the experience for anyone interested in trying out these machines.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

There was a pile of snow in this region on Wed., but it’s also been pretty warm. The trails were groomed flat on Wed., but my suspicion is that it’s been too warm to groom since.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

Each ride lasts about 20 minutes and includes a stop where everyone switches sleds. You can take as many demo rides as you like.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

In the hour or so I hung out in the demo area I heard lots of positive comments about the machines.

Interestingly, there were several occasions where a person who had their heart set on a particular machine was surprised by how much they liked a different sled after the demo ride. It happened to people who were planning to buy both ZR6000s and ZR7000s.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

I met a number of people who read this site, including a group of guys who rode to Brainerd from Nevis, Minn.

Always great meeting fellow sledders and, fortunately, nobody punched me in the throat for having written something they didn’t like.

After a few demo rides it was time to head back to Ogilvie, albeit via a different route.


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

The route home brought us through Merrifield, Crosby, Garrison (where we had a beautiful shot across Lake Mille Lacs) and Onamia.

All day long we were greeted with beautiful trails just begging to be ridden.

On behalf of our entire group, we want to thank every club who made these trails (and shelters like the one here in the Rum River State Forest that was built by the Mystic Riders Snowmobile Club) so awesome!


235 miles among friends: Arctic Cat Demo Ride Day

When the day ended the odometer indicated 235 miles (although Mer Larsen’s XF1100 probably showed 250 miles because of his relentless track-spinning).

It was my longest single-day ride of the season and one of my favorites. In a way, it felt like we were cheating, maybe because we’d all called in sick to work, maybe because it was almost April and maybe because the temps and sun were making it clear that this party wasn’t going to last forever.

This day was a winner for everyone involved, even if we all cheated a bit to make it happen.

Thanks for reading.



  1. I seen ya all parked outside Ernie’s. I rolled up on my retro turbo. Was gonna go in the bar and hang out but then I seen the cat trailer on the other side and had an overwhelming desire to go demo ride the new stuff!! That and I had s overwhelming fear that somebody might want ho punch me in the nose!! I mean I have a made for tv face so I doubt anybody would truly want to damage that but ya never know!! There is just something intimidating about a snowmobile gang when you’re by your self and have terrible on line reputation!! Lol

    But now that you have a taste of my riding area, the reason I only buy the fastest sleds is pretty obvious huh!! Old rail road grades, big lakes, big rivers, groomed power line trails, etc… Yeah it gets used!! 4000 miles on her with 2700 this season. Still riding too!!

  2. I’m sitting in a motel room in Adel, Georgia in route to a month in the Florida Keys. After two 13 hour days in the car reflecting on this ride and the past winter I almost wish I was in Grand Rapids or someplace ! ALMOST !! I guess 2500 miles will have to do for this year. With fishing boat in tow I’m ready to move on. Too next year ! ????

  3. The lakes are going to transform into a high speed dream here in brd in the next few days. It sucks though cause I would have to go alone. The last friend I had that liked to run the big lakes in the spring when the thaw was going on and we had to trailer out got killed in a sled accident last season up in the north shore when a tree jumped out in front of him.

    Hey Paul, how did you like the yammi power?

  4. Wednesday was a great end to a good season of fun. Thank you to all the guys who I rode with. It is always nice to meet new people who enjoy this sport.

  5. Flintstone : The Yamaha is pretty snappy. Quicker I’m sure than the 1100na. But nothing about it made me want to get one. I’d buy the 6000 at this point. The only reservations I have are , I’ve grown to like the advantages of the 4 stroke. No oil to carry and 87 octane fuel. I may be swayed by fall though !

  6. Flintstone, I’m going to punch you NOW because you didn’t come and say “hello!” Seriously, say hi next time.

  7. Nice pics! I think everyone made up for last year with some late season riding this year!! With the cool weather returning early this week, there may just be a little time to sneak in one last ride. The U.P. still has alot of snow!!

  8. I was able to get a 120 miles in Tug Hill ny last week. It felt great to pull the sleds out for one last ride before spring crops start.

  9. We were able to ride a 100.5 miles on Friday March 29th in the Laurel Highlands (Southwestern PA). I know exactly what you mean by “feels like cheating”. Hard to believe we could ride so late in the year!

  10. Can’t wait for retirement myself. Then I can put on 4,000 miles a year.

    I am going to wait until next year to buy a new XF 7000 YamaCat. By then Cat will have a turbocharger or supercharger on it.

    If yĆ”ll are suffering from Snowmobile Withdrawal Symptoms (SWS), there is the Sneak Peek Snowmobile Show in the Twin Cities this upcoming weekend. I will be wearing my “Snowmobiling Is Life. The Rest Is Just Details” sweatshirt.

  11. Very nice end of season riding oportunities,it has been quite a few years since this has happened. As for your motley crew is scary enough to send the locals inside and hide the women and children.:):)


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