A New Ride – December 2013

It’s been months since I’ve posted a new blog but don’t think that’s because I’ve not been riding. I made several trips to Port Aransas, Texas and a fun trip to Louisiana in the fall.  Every ride was a good time, as usual.

Now, we find ourselves already into December and when the weather man reported a cold front headed our way Frank and I decided to take the bikes out for a ride and park them till next year.

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Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean much in south Texas – a week or two maybe.  We’ll be riding again in no time flat.

To satisfy our wild side, we traveled to Beaver Creek, Colorado for a change of scenery.  I’m a southern girl and not too fond of cold weather but we thought, Why not? What the heck?

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Good News -16 degrees is cold. Bad News – It got below zero.

We arrived to find freezing temperatures.  What is a biker girl to do? Well, that wasn’t too hard to figure out.  We bundled up good and went snowmobiling.  I told you I’d be riding in no time flat.  I figured if I can’t ride in the wind, why not ride in the snow.  It can’t be too difficult, right.

There were several businesses that offered snowmobile tours.  We chose Vail Valley Tours, a small, locally owned company.  Our guide, Gregg Haggen, was a great instructor and took very good care of us.  Here’s a shout to Gregg.  Hey, Gregg!  Thanks for everything.  We had a great time.

The company provided everything we needed to protect us from the weather.  That included snow bibs, snow boots, helmets and goggles.

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Colorado is not a helmet state but we wore helmets.  It was actually required by the tour company.  I found them to be quite comfortable and, as a bonus, helped keep my head warm.

We rode 2012 Arctic Cat snowmobiles.   I never gave much thought to what a snowmobile would look like up close and was quite surprised to see two small skis up front and a large traction belt underneath.  Of course, it makes perfect sense to operate with that type of set-up and to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not sure what I was expecting.

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Unlike a motorcycle, the throttle for the Arctic Cat is a lever you push with your thumb to accelerate.  I found it to be very simple to operate.  There was a hand brake just like on the motorcycle but no rear brake … duh!  Gregg said when applying pressure to stop, pump the handle,  A sudden yank could result in locking up the brakes and could possibly throw you off.  We don’t want that!

Recently, there was a big snow in the Vail/Avon Colorado area so there was plenty of snow on the ground in the White River National Forest where we rode.  We mainly stayed on paths but a couple of times took off road, which was awesome.  The snow was very deep as you can see in the picture below.  When we stopped for a photo opt I sank down at least a foot or two.   When riding off road you have to be very careful about getting off path because it’s hard to gauge the depth of the snow.  We were instructed follow our guide closely to avoid burying the snowmobiles.  Good advice.

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After riding trails we went to a track where we could really do some riding.  It was a blast.  I never got the machine above 70 on the speedometer.   I found it weird there were no gears to change.  I constantly felt like I needed to shift up for speed.  Slowing down for curves was easy.  Letting off the gas slowed you down fast and then with a little pumping on the brake it was very easy to manage.  Having never ridden a snowmobile before, I was anxious to see what it would do, but not knowing a safe speed for curves I tried to keep it under 55.  That seemed to work well.

After letting it all hang out on the track, Gregg took us to the tour camp tent for hot chocolate with marshmallows before returning to home base.

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Frank and I inside camp tent. They had a furnace and satellite TV. It was cool … or should I say warm!

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Frank and daughter Christy standing outside camp tent.

After warming up, everyone loaded up on the snowmobiles and headed back to our starting point.  We passed three snowmobilers coming around the corner, one at a time.  They were headed out for a ride.  When I saw the first snowmobiler come around, he acknowledged us with two fingers up, like the peace-sign gesture.  I waved back.  A minute or two later another snowmobiler rode by and held up one finger.  I though, hmmm, and waved.  Then a third rode by with a fist up.  It wasn’t until I saw that final sign that I realized they weren’t waving hello but were simply signaling us there were more riders coming … peace sign, two left; finger up, one left; and fist up indicated he was the last one coming.  I though that was pretty smart.  Always Safety First!

In conclusion, riding a snowmobile was pretty easy.  In fact, much easier than riding a motorcycle.  For me, it will never take the place of riding a motorcycle but it was a great experience.  I don’t long for snow and freezing weather but I can’t wait to snowmobiling again – maybe next year.

Tip for the Day:  When the weather takes a turn for the worse, remember there are other ways to satisfy your wild side.   Just get out there and find it!

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