After the roughly 8 inches of snow that fell in my area south of the Twin Cities this past weekend, I was ready to lay down my first tracks of the season.
My 2017 Arctic Cat XF 6000 Cross Country was prepped. The sun was shining. Pat from OSM Magazine was only two hours late.
Yep, everything was shaping up for a normal first-ride-of-the-season.
Lesser men might have inspected the 8 inches of fresh snow and taken note of the fact that it had almost zero moisture content; that when stepped upon it would crunch down to a depth that required a micrometer to measure.
Those same lesser men might have given pause to the idea of setting first tracks along many miles of ditch, knowing that it’s a recipe for tearing off a perfectly good spindle/A-arm on account of intercepting a bowling ball that someone tossed into the ditch last August.
And yes, the lesser men might have been wise to wait for the lakes to make something more than 2 inches of ice.
But clearly Pat and I are not lesser men. There was beautiful white snow on the ground and we were going make tracks!
Look: I’d like to tell y’all that this ride was perfect, epic, next level, lit, paradigm shifting and all the other descriptors meant to elicit awe, awesomeness and awe-shucks. But I’d be lying, which I’m not opposed to doing (read below about the bowling ball story), however, I reserve my lying for Pat.
Truth is, the riding was okay at best, and terrible at worst. We rode a few miles of trail that were on smooth fields and enjoyable. But we putted a mile or so across chisel-plowed fields that gave us arm-pump and loose tooth fillings.
Once we realized the folly of trying to ride farm field trails, we hit a ditch that had already had some tracks and that was really fun. Emboldened, we opted down an untouched ditch with the general aim of seeing the Minnesota River.
The thing about riding a ditch with untouched snow — especially one that’s been untouched by a snowmobile for 8 months — is that I’m always a bit, um, clenched when I ride, because I’m expecting to plow into some unseen (but very solid) object.
So there I was, in the lead, trying to have some fun but worrying about tearing off a ski, when it occurred to me that I should share my anxiety with Pat. But how, since he could just follow behind in my track and swerving in the event I nail something and catapult over the hood of my sled?
So I did the only thing a good friend can do in a situation like this. I lied.
I told him that earlier this fall I bought six bowling balls at a garage sale, painted them white and then threw them out at various spots along the very ditch we were riding.
“Why in the #@&! did you do that,” Pat asked incredulously!?! For some strange reason, he actually believed the story.
“As a cruel joke,” I responded. “But don’t worry, I know where they are and I’ll point them out to you.”
Then I started my sled and took off down the ditch, occasionally pointing off to the side while heartily laughing inside my helmet.
I kept laughing until I saw the county sheriff car’s lights next to me. Uh oh!
We pulled over, took off our helmets and ended up having a nice conversation with the deputy, who had pulled us over because we’d been weaving back-and-forth on the slopes of the ditches, sometimes to avoid culverts but other times just because it was fun. The deputy kindly informed us that, technically, we were supposed to be on the very bottom of the ditch, rather than on either slope, and that while he was just giving us a warning, the DNR was rumored to be enforcing this law more closely this year.
Pat informed the officer that he’d been swerving to avoid hidden white bowling balls, which confused the deputy greatly.
We chatted a bit, I grabbed an incriminating photo of Pat next to the squad car, and we were back on our adventure (and running at the very bottom of the ditch).
We found a few more out-of-the-way routes that eventually brought us to the river; took the trail a mile or so to a locally favorite overlook; laughed about the day and then grabbed a photo before heading back for home.
When we made the obligatory lap of my house to finish the ride, my odometer showed 49 miles. It hadn’t been great riding, but like ALL rides, we’d had a great time. Fun happens when you take a chance and ask the pretty girl to the dance; stop waiting for the perfect situation to do something; and when you just go for it. Whatever “it” is.
And that was our “it”: the first tracks of our 2016-2017 season. I can’t wait to make more.
And I sincerely hope you get to make your’s soon too. Just be careful not to hit those bowling balls!
Thanks for reading.
Damn, it’s a good looking machine!
Those jagged ski tracks tell the story of riding chisel-plowed fields.