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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
We were definitely on the path to pleasure the entire 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.
The free-admission demos are going on through this weekend and definitely worth the experience for anyone interested in trying out these machines.
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.
Each ride lasts about 20 minutes and includes a stop where everyone switches sleds. You can take as many demo rides as you like.
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.
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.
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!
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.