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Season Finale? North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the 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…

2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

…and after 20 miles of conditions like this we wondered if, perhaps, the trails were too wet?

Heck no!

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

Once we got to some snow, I showed Lindbeck how a true professional rides a snowmobile.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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!


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

He emerged two hours later with a ravenous appetite, and demanded that Fyle pick up the pace to the Trestle.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

So we veered onto the Tomahawk trail and rallied ourselves towards the famous hamburger joint.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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!?!


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.


2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.

2016 North Shore Ride with the Chumps

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.



  1. I see some snow is coming. Will the trails be rideable this weekend if you get 6+ inches? We want one last hooorrraaaahh

  2. John, as always great read. My last ride was also my first ride this season. 43 years riding Arctic Cats, brand new 6000, NO local snow this year. Trailered 4hrs, one way, on the last weekend of Jan. Got 200 miles. For the weekend & year. Hope next year winter comes back. Glad you got some riding in.

  3. It’s always amazing to me that we can throw our sleds on a trailer, drive a few hours down the highway, and put together a memorable snowmobile ride like this when all odds seem against it (warm weather, non-existent snow, rain, etc). What a great ride, I’ll be thinking about it all summer! I hope this wasn’t my last ride of this season, but if it was I’ll keep reminding myself that in just a little more than 3 months the days will start getting shorter again!

  4. Tom is the last person that needs a Snicker to rid his hangryness. Either that or he just knows when he needs the next dose so we haven’t seen his hangry side.

  5. Winter Storm Watch for the North Shore is in effect & will likely dump 10+” on the CJ Ramstad trail just in time for the weekend. As a local Finlander – this type of storm with strong east wind off the lake often doubles the forecast amounts and is never reported. For those of us that tend to stray off the trails, the potential for new snow in the double digits approaching 18″ will likely fall in the higher terrain toward Isabella and along a line about 15 miles inland from Lake Superior. Areas north of the Gunflint Trail still has 20+” base on the logging roads. It might be mashed potatoes & lots of digging, but for sure this is not the last ride in the Arrowhead region.

  6. As you stated John we started the season riding in a little water so it was only fitting to end it the same way. If what Jeff Unger says turns out I’m open next week !! ; )

  7. john, had a great time on ride. lots of good stories and riding. as I look out the window, 5 inches of fresh snow and possible 12 inches on the way. maybe some riding yet.

  8. I was so taken back by your story that I am destined to repeat your route by this coming weekend. Of course Ill need a list of consumed menu items as well for the full effect.


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