Last week eight friends and I gathered for day of snowmobiling on the CJ Ramstad North Shore Trail.
It’s become an annual ritual for many in this group to gather for an end-of-the-season ride, after the various races, dealer shows, marquee events and other activities that consume the majority of winter’s precious few weekends. That means mid-March which, coupled with the recent unseasonably warm temps, meant our closest destination choice this year was the tried-and-true CJ Ramstad/North Shore Trail along the blade of Minnesota’s Arrowhead.
This year the group was comprised of World Champs, I-500 champs, one media guy who has no credibility. There were eight Arctic Cats and one Polaris. And it was kind of raining/misting all day. In other words, we were a bunch of chumps.
Gathering for the pre-departure group shot next to the CJ sign outside of Two Harbors, Minn., was a motley crew of riders (most of whom were close friends of CJ). From L-to-R: Paul Hein, Jim Butler, Dale Lindbeck, Pat Bourgeois, Tom Rowland, Jeremy Fyle, myself, Jim Dimmerman and Chad Davis.
Photos taken, gear checked, stopwatches synched and planets aligned, we departed with the goal of eating hamburgers for lunch at the Trestle Inn…
…and after 20 miles of conditions like this we wondered if, perhaps, the trails were too wet?
Since Lindbeck is a mult-time World Champ watercrosser, we forced him to teach us his secrets, including the thumbs-up-as-you-pass-the-photographer trick.
Once we got to some snow, I showed Lindbeck how a true professional rides a snowmobile.
In all seriousness, the trails were pretty dang good between Finland and the Trestle, despite temps in the upper 40s and a steady mist/drizzle throughout the day. A large section of the trail had even been groomed a couple days before.
We saw Jeremy Fyle (right) and Lindbeck at the start of the ride, then they were gone as if shot out of a cannon. I think Fyle was reliving his 1989 Jeep I-500 win that included this very trail, and Lindbeck was the only person in the group who could keep up with him (on a M Series sled, no less!).
When we eventually caught up with them, they had that look on their faces that said “Damn, you guys ride like my grandma.”
Fyle apparently never got the memo about this ride being a chatty, stop-every-20-minutes-and-tell-a-funny-story kind of a day. We eventually broke him, but I’m guessing this was the last time he signs up for one of these rides.
All the fast running shook loose the hearty breakfast we’d eaten a couple hours earlier. Thankfully, this is a trail with multiple pit stop locations, each well stocked with important supplies. Bourgeois was stoked!
He emerged two hours later with a ravenous appetite, and demanded that Fyle pick up the pace to the Trestle.
So we veered onto the Tomahawk trail and rallied ourselves towards the famous hamburger joint.
Hamburgers were downed and a group photo was taken for posterity. There was perhaps a bit of reluctance to turn back towards the trucks, because everyone suspected this might be the last ride of the season, but we eventually pointed the sleds back towards home and started chasing Fyle again.
Five minutes later, we were stopped so that Rowland could replenish his reserves with a Snickers bar. How about that guilty grin he’s flashing!?!
There were some great conversations at every stop, even though we had to wear our helmets because of the light misting drizzle. There were stories about racing, about the sleds and about a winter that was about to end.
Somewhere along the way, Fyle’s ZR 6000 blew up! Either that, or Bourgeois tossed a smoke bomb underneath it when Fyle wasn’t looking.
Everyone was on their best behavior for this ride, because there were no off-trail excursions, no broken A-arms, no Paul Bunyan moments and not a single broken anything.
Seven of us finished the day with 120 miles on the odometers. Fyle and Lindbeck had 144 and 142 miles respectively on their odometers, which we chalked up to the additional track spin from their full-throttle riding style.
It wasn’t perfect weather, but a day spent snowmobiling with friends (even in a light mist) is a day I’ll take any chance I can get.
I haven’t given up on extending my winter just a little bit longer, so I hope this isn’t the “last ride of the season” post for this year.
If it is, then I’m satisfied. And I’m soaking wet.
Thanks for reading.