A Ride Through Winter Wonderland

June 5, 2010
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“Be safe! I’ll have hot chocolate ready for when you get back,” my mom shouted from the doorway. My buddy Jake and I followed my dad to the snowmobile waiting for us in the driveway while I dragged the toboggan behind me. My dad bushed off the white fluff that had accumulated on the gas tank, took the cap off, and began filling it from the fat, red can he was carrying.

“When will I be able to drive it, Dad?”

“Not for a couple more years,” he replied. I straddled the charcoal colored vinyl seat and looked over the machine with envy. It was an Arctic Cat JAG, green and black, at least twenty years old. I grabbed the handle bars and jerked them back and forth, but the pair of skis out in front of me barely budged. “You guys ready yet?” My dad asked as the tank topped off.

“Yup,” my buddy Jake replied with a voice muffled by a ski mask and a buttoned up hood. At the moment Jake resembled the Michelan Man. He was wearing puffy cotton snow pants with an even puffier jacket. Jake slipped his borrowed ski goggles over his eyes, waddled over to the toboggan, and plopped himself down on top of it.

Our toboggan of choice was homemade by my father when he was a boy. It consisted of a long piece of sheet metal bent up in the front. This allowed it to glide up on top of the snow. Going lengthwise along each side were a pair of two by fours to give it some structure. Oval shaped holes were cut along the wooden beams for handholds. The coarse, blue and white pull rope was tied through one of the holes on each side.

I snatched up the rope and began tying it around the stainless steel bar that curved around the back end of the snowmobile. It was a struggle to actually make a knot while wearing thick winter gloves, so I ended up making a tangled mess.
“No, no, no. That’s not how you do it.” My dad came over and undid my misshapen ball of rope. In a flash, he flipped the rope around, twisted it, wove it through itself a few times, and gave it a final tug, making a knot any boy scout would be proud of.
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “How did he do that?” I went over and positioned myself in front of Jake on the toboggan. He was sitting cross legged Indian style, while I sat with my legs out in front of me with my knees slightly bent. This made it so I could easily lift my legs and plant my feet into the snow when we needed to break.
Jake and I eagerly clenched our fists in the handholds as we waited for my dad to start the engine. He put one knee on the vehicle’s seat, placed his left hand on the handlebars, took up the pull cord in his right, and yanked once, twice, three times. The engine remained silent as my dad paused to catch his breath. He flipped a switch below the instrument panel and tried again with all his might. Once, twice, three times. Nothing. My dad let out a long sigh followed by a bad word under his breath as he proceeded to open the hood.

We starred quietly while my dad fiddled with the engine. After spraying some liquid from a spray-paint-like can into the engine, he slammed the hood down and prepared to give the pull cord another go. He jerked the cord back with such effort it seemed as though he wanted to pull it right out of the snowmobile. “Puh, puh, puh, pupupupupupu,” the engine stuttered to life. Finally we were done freezing our butts off while we waited, but it’s not like the ride we were about to embark on was going to warm us up at all.

My dad swung his leg over the seat, revved the engine, and we were off. The toboggan soared across the fresh powder snow like a boat on a glassy lake. We sailed through the crisp fields at a leisurely pace, waiting patiently for the thrilling part of the ride to come along.

The snowmobile pulled the toboggan up and over a snow bank into my meandering driveway. We were getting close now. We slipped along the driveway until we came to a dangerously steep hill. “Break!” I shouted to Jake as I shoved my feet into the white powder. Because of the way Jake was sitting, he could only slow the toboggan by dragging his hands through the snow. We had learned the importance of breaking during our previous snowmobile riding experiences. The first time we went down that hill we ended up going faster than the snowmobile pulling us, and the toboggan slammed right into the vehicle’s rear end.

We made it safely to the bottom of the hill, took the sharp right turn, and there, stretching out in front of us was the long, strait stretch of road. It was the only part of my driveway that was strait enough so that the snowmobile could hit its top speed.
My dad stopped and looked back to make sure we were ready. I gave a thumbs-up and quickly reached back for the handhold as the engine roared. While the sled accelerated, snow began to get kicked up by the spinning tread. Soon there was a white whirlwind around us. We reached a speed that felt like a million miles per hour. Everything was a blur. My nose, the only exposed part of my body felt like it was being whittled down with sandpaper. Some of the snow blowing by us began to form a pile on my lap.

When we got back to the house, I was up to my chin in snow. My dad turned around in his seat and asked, “Have you guys had enough yet?” We shook our frosted heads no, but he turned off the snowmobile anyway. “I think you should get warmed up a little before our next run.” As disappointing as it was to put an end to our fun, we couldn’t resist the temptation of French vanilla hot chocolate with marshmallows waiting for us inside.

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