Friday, January 22, 2010
Another dream realized! Yep, we did it today. Rode a snowmobile all day. In the snow. And the cold. And it was terrific!!
We started the day at the snowmobile rental place, getting some limited instruction on dos and don’ts, getting snowmobile clothing, boots, gloves, etc. The instructions were pretty simple, and the equipment was first-rate. Heavy, insulated boots, and one-piece coveralls from Cabelas that kept us warm and dry.
The first few minutes on the machine were somewhat tentative. With no clutch nor gears, and with steering that works opposite of a motorcycle, it was very different from what I was used to experiencing. The automatic clutch did not engage until about 3,000 rpms, so there was a lot of engine revving with nothing happening. The machines have better brakes than I expected, but still don’t stop quickly. Gunning the engine at speed also has much less acceleration than my motorcycle.
There were 9 snowmobiles plus a guide going into Yellowstone Park. Our destination was Old Faithful; we wanted to see her spew in the snow. With about 30 miles from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful, we were covering a pretty large area in our inaugural trip.
The sleds tend to follow tracks laid by earlier riders, so the sled tends to veer left and right constantly. Not far, but maybe 6 inches or so, but the effect is that the rider is constantly swaying left and right, following the sled’s motion. In a day of riding that motion was not kind to my back. The ride was generally relatively smooth, and would have been terrific, if not for the swaying left and right.
It snowed all day. Sometimes light snow; sometimes heavy. It left a coating of about 4-5 inches on top of what was there before we started. The sun popped out a time or two, but most of the day it was dark, snowy and cloudy. Temperatures started at 11 degrees and went to a high of probably 28 or so when the sun popped out for a few minutes. But with the clothing, we stayed warm and toasty all day.
Old Faithful did her thing, slightly behind schedule. It is an amazing sight, especially in cold weather, to see the water spew so high into the air and the resulting steam occluding the view. Outstanding—better than in the summer. It was what we wanted it to be.
Wildlife was fairly scarce. We saw a few Elk, a good sized herd of Buffalo, a bald Eagle, some swans, and birds. No Moose nor Wolves, both of which I wanted to see. The Buffalo were pretty awesome, with snow covering their shaggy hair and ice hanging off in places. Neat!
We had no mishaps or problems. One in our group got too close to the edge of the road and the machine skidded sideways, running off the road and overturning. No damage to people or machine. The guide and some other riders righted the machine, and the guide backed it back onto the road. I saw it all happen, and it taught me that I needed to not get too close to the edge.
We returned to the snowmobile rental place to turn in the 4-stroke big machines and pick up smaller, more nimble 2-stroke machines that Clay and I will use on the next two days. We had ridden almost 70 miles for the day, and I was tired.
Back to the hotel (it’s neat riding these machines on city streets) for some rest before dinner. We all had a good day.
Tomorrow—trails outside Yellowstone Park