Hasn’t it been quite a couple of weeks? Just about every piece of the snowmobiling puzzle has fallen perfectly into place over the past week or so. It’s been cold – really cold, so the ground is like granite. Then the snow came and then came again. Barring a major meltdown that’s here to stay and all this means that a good old fashioned winter is here. We haven’t seen that in a few years and most of us are feeling the itch on our throttle thumb. It’s time for a ride.
From my vantage point everything is coming together beautifully. Clubs are out doing last minute brushing and signage. There are some invariable re-routes being done to accommodate landowner activities, but by the day after Christmas it is likely you can ride in most parts of the state. We haven’t seen this in a while, and the only word for it is fantastic. But – you did know there was a but, didn’t you?
Preparation is essential for an enjoyable season. We all know it, but for many folks it is just too easy to put off during the off season, and way too easy to ignore once everything begins, like now. So, for the sake of the rest of your season here’s just a few basics to at least get you out there without walking home or suffering the shame of being on the end of your better prepared companion’s tow strap:
If you parked it in the back yard with a half a tank of gas at the end of last season, dump it and refill. The ethanol in that pesky E-10 fuel has been hard at work all summer using the process known as phase separation to scour and collect every speck of crud in your fuel system and every drop of moisture that has collected in your tank. Fire the sled up and the worst of it will end up in a cylinder lickety-split. A loud pop and some smoke comes up from under the cowling, and you’ll know you’re going to have a shortened season. Maybe you put an additive in. Maybe it works. Maybe not. Get some fresh gas.
2. Charge your battery.
Really charge it. If you don’t, hope you have a friend along who has a portable charger. This is embarrassing – I know.
3. Lube all the fittings that need to be lubed.
Otherwise your first ride will be a wrestling match with your sled and at the end of the day you’ll feel like you’ve been driving a large dump truck with no power steering. You’ll have it lubed for the second trip, so you might as well do it now.
4. Check that trailer too.
That includes greasing the bearings. It’s been sitting outside all summer, and it will need a shot or two. If you don’t the bearings will overheat, seize, and ultimately the wheel will separate from the hub. If you’re as lucky as you are lazy, this will happen when you’re traveling slowly and close to your destination. Again, I know.
5. Register that sled and join your local club.
Registrations fund the Snowmobile Program. Maine is a cheap date when it comes to registrations and is a very modest investment for a winter full of fun. As tempting as it is to shoot right out at the first decent snowfall, this is another item that should have been done well beforehand. And if you do consider it worth the risk, keep in mind that the fine for an unregistered sled is $240 – that’s a lot of gas. The club membership is a no-brainer. Maine’s trail system is maintained almost entirely by volunteers. This is another modest investment that comes with a lot of benefits. You have a place to call home. You’ll meet a lot of folks that love to do what you love to do. You will be on the “inside” and get the latest news, gossip and insights into what’s going on. What’s not to love about that?
These tips aren’t necessarily in order, but the important thing at a bare minimum is to do them all. Please. None of us like to listen to whiners, and why do you want to be stuck at home when the rest of us are out having a blast.
Now for some really good news: The combination of cold temps and snowfall this early in the season gives us an indication that this could be one of those really special winters. Clubs across the state are out now catching up on last minute brushing and signing. A few places have groomed, and every indication is that there will be a lot of excellent riding for the upcoming vacation week. We’ll be posting trail conditions as we get them from the clubs at http://www.mesnow.com/
Be patient. The clubs are working as fast as they can, but those volunteers have wives and kids and mothers and jobs and… it goes on and on yet still we end up with great trails. While you’re waiting, maybe you can give them a hand.
See you on the trails.