We ride snowmobiles for many different reasons. Some of us simply require a mode of transport to navigate our way in a northern climate. Others ride for the camaraderie and the opportunity to truly appreciate the wonders of winter. Snowmobiling provides a brilliant release for the adrenaline junky, makes for great family entertainment, is a healthy alternative to a day at the gym and most importantly, creates wonderful stories which can be shared for many generations.
Needless to say, snowmobiling attracts an especially eclectic crew of people who embrace whatever life happens to present. In fact, the adage, “If life passes you lemons – make lemonade!” could be the official battle cry for our sport. Such an attitude often results in some of the most creative ‘McIver’ trail remedies, the necessity to laugh at every situation, endless tirades and some of the funniest retorts you’ve ever heard. As a writer and a rider I am especially appreciative for the endless supply of material my snowmobile adventures provide.
One of my all time favorites includes my long time riding partner and very good friend Dave Crewe – surprisingly though the story has little to do with his usual antics, resulting instead from his passion and the power of snowmobiling.
Several years ago Dave and I were working to establish a snowmobile rental and guided tour program for Strawberry Hill in Newfoundland’s beautiful Humber Valley. Dave had recently ended a tumultuous long term relationship and desperately needed to get out of the city for a while. I was looking for a way to extend the winter season at the resort and realized that mountain riding stretched long past the window of opportunity provided by the local ski hill. We started out with a $15,000 budget and through a lot of wheeling and dealing we managed to accommodate every guest (we actually had 27 sleds out one day) and never left a machine in the woods.
Despite all the pushing and pulling, the wrenching and trailering, late nights and early mornings – we were having the time of our lives. On one particular evening though, Dave received a call from the ex and for the first and only time that I’ve known him – I saw a woman get under his skin. Even though we had been touring in especially deep snow that day, had pulled out 77 stuck sleds (our record) and had burned up over half the belts in our inventory – I knew the best cure for this ailment was a night run and the minute I suggested it we were off.
Dave was riding a 1999, ‘Mike Houle’ special edition Mach z 800 and I was on a brand new 2000 SXR 500 so the best run I could think of was down along the North side of Deer Lake on Nicholsville Road. There were lots of straight patches for Dave to really let the Mach loose and enough whoops and twisties to provide me with the chance to catch up and occasionally, even pull ahead. As we approached the head of the lake (about 30kms as the crow flies) we noticed an odd assortment of lights gathered near the Upper Humber River and of course we diverted from our route to investigate.
I don’t know who was more amazed when we pulled into the miniature town of ice fishing shacks. After all, Dave was carrying a set of wild sounding triple pipes which accentuated the screams from the brilliant yellow paint job the factory applied to his Mach. But you had to see this village – there must have been at least 15 or 20 rather ornate little structures lined off in block formation like the downtown core of a major city center. Some of the pathways that connected the shacks even had road signs on them. Regardless, a crowd had gathered and once we paid our respects they invited us to in to have a look. We marveled at the comfort they’d brought to the sport of sport fishing and they suggested we visit Uncle Harry’s (unfortunately I can’t remember his real name) place if we really wanted to experience luxury. “Take the second left on St. Jude’s Drive and look for the double lights over the door.”
Well now boys, I’m going to tell you – you never seen the like of this. The exterior of Uncle Harry’s fish hut was a large scale version of a young girl’s doll house. Intricate in every detail from the swirled eaves trough to the European trim board – it was a perfect model of a Swiss mountain home. We approached the tiny door and knocked as we attempted to crawl through the wee entrance. Not that it was too small; rather the shear intensity of heat generated by the propane furnace staggered us. That and the sight of poor Uncle Harry for when our eyes adjusted we were greeted by a 70 year old man stripped down to nothing but a pair of skivers, a stocking cap and his rubber boots. He was perched on a five gallon bucket with a half finished bottle of Lamb’s Rum between his feet. He had four fishing holes active and he must have had nearly 30 dozen smelts hauled up on the ice surrounding him. What a slaughter!
Perhaps that’s why snowmobile riders are so spontaneous – we know that in a worst case scenario we have one fast getaway vehicle available!