My son Calvin raced a snowmobile for the first time this past weekend, in the Junior 10-13 class at the USCC cross-country race in Warroad, Minn.
During a winter in which we’ve had some amazing snowmobile experiences, this was MAJOR highlight.
Here’s what we learned:
In the week prior to the race, we put 100 or so Stud Boy studs in the track, and new Shaper bars on the skis. We also checked the drive belt, adjusted track tension and put Stud Boy decals on the sled (Cal’s favorite part of the prep). We did this stuff together in the evenings, at a time when he might otherwise watch a little TV or play on the computer. Cal and I are lucky because we get to do a lot of things together, but I could do a lot better job of getting him involved with the work-side of activities, because I think it’s an important life lesson.
When we finished the prep, Cal gave me a hug and thanked me for showing him how to do it. At that point, our racing experience was already a huge success. But the best was yet to come, as we loaded his sled, my vintage ’79 el tigre, and headed north to Warroad for the Saturday race.
We’d no longer pulled into the parking lot and gotten out of the truck, when Team Arctic Jr. racer Matt Feil (left) came up, introduced himself and promptly offered whatever help he could to Calvin and me. I say that snowmobile racers are an amazing breed, which Matt’s behavior perfectly illustrates. For Calvin, who was nervous about the kinds of kids he’d be competing against, having this warm reception from a fellow competitor really calmed his nerves. Thanks Matt (and the entire Feil family), you rock! (By the way, Matt finished third in class… awesome job.)
Gotta love the duct-tape number system on the tunnel! My graphic sponsors Action Graphics and Blown Concepts would cringe, but I actually liked showing Cal that you don’t need to have perfect-everything to race. Ditto for racing out of the back of our pickup truck with “regular” trailer.
Just prior to the start of the race, we snapped this photo of Cal and I in staging. So many people had come up and wished Cal good luck, and told him to “just have fun,” that it really drove home the same messages I’d expressed the two preceding weeks.
In USCC cross-country, racers start one at a time in 10-20 second intervals, depending on the event. I entered the Vintage class, mainly because we started immediately following Cal’s Jr. 10-13 class, so I knew that if anything happened to him on the course, I’d be one of the first people there to help.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Joey Hallstrom! (Applause.)
Moments before I started, I went over to Vintage I-500 Champion Joey Hallstrom, and proclaimed that I would promptly dethrone him from his championship perch. Joey had other ideas. And he also appeared to be picking his nose. Both of us would be thoroughly drop-kicked by Brett Lessman and his Yamaha SS440. Lessman FLIES!
On a day in which the flat light and a rough course pretty much scared me, Cal did absolutely awesome and shrugged off the difficulty.
We both did two laps of the 13-mile course. After starting behind him, I caught Cal about halfway through the first lap (that’s me behind him in the photo above). So I just stayed a few sled lengths behind and watched. And smiled. And swelled with pride. And got worried about what I was REALLY getting myself into. And thought of toys we’ll have to sell to pay for our new pastime.
But mostly, I just thought about how grateful I was that my kid loves snowmobiling, that the people who comprise USCC actually make racing possible, and that we were able to go racing.
Cal ended up finishing in just over 50 minutes, in 7th place (out of nine).
Immediately after the race Cal and Matt hooked up again. I brought them to the Christian Bros. Racing big rig, where they got to see D.J. Ekre getting ready for the Pro 600 race (which Cal thought was ALMOST as cool as getting to race).
Racing in USCC is as easy and enjoyable as I can imagine. From the race crew to the fellow racers, everyone is helpful and encouraging to a degree that actually surprised me.
For the people who race with any frequency, race circuits become like extended family. And it’s that dynamic that was the over-arching vibe to our day in Warroad.
The entire experience was such a positive success; we will definitely be back for several races next year.
A big THANKS to everyone who helped us during the weekend. That was as enjoyable as the actual racing.