This Sunday was not the first time I took the snowmobile out, however it was the first time that it left the property. I have been using it to run errands around the yard, but with the trails open, it was time to go off the reservation.
Sunday mornings are when I normally go out. Although I have been sledding off and on since I was 16, I only put about 500 or so miles on each year, which means I consider myself a novice. And of course, this is only my second year with the new sled (a Yamaha FX Nytro) so that adds to my feeling of being a beginner. By hitting the trails at 8 or 9 AM on a Sunday morning, I feel that those people who like to mix alcohol and snowmobiles are still sleeping off Saturday night. It is also pretty early for the speed demons… and I often get the trails to myself. This Sunday, I left around 8:30. I met one sled coming the other way, and passed one sled who was actually going slower than me. That is all that I saw on the trails until getting closer to Wausau were I met about 3-4 other snowmobilers out, but by that time it was closer to noon.
I take pretty much the same route when I go out for my Sunday morning rides. It has a nice combination of slow going through wooded areas, moderate speed fields, and long straight stretches where you can open it up a bit.
From my house, I jump on the trail where it crosses Franklin Street, just west of the 25th Street intersection and head north going past the Loading Zone. By making a right at intersection 173, a left at 174 and another right at 153, I am out by Highway 52 in the Nutterville area.
From there I trek north by making a left at 154 and another left at 161.
At intersection 162, I make a right and start heading more easterly. Or that is what I normally do. It is easy to just appreciate the relaxation of the ride and lose track of which intersections you have passed and which ones are next. Before heading out, I write with a small marker on the back of one of my hands which direction I want to go at which intersection, that way I don’t have to constantly reference the map. Plus, I do run this route 5-8 times per year, so you start to remember what to do when, but this was the first time out this season. When I got to intersection 162, I didn’t know that is where I was. I looked all over and could not find the sign with the intersection number on it. (I am not saying it isn’t there, I am just saying I couldn’t find it.) So, looking at my hand, if I remembered what the last intersection was, I would know what to do here. But, nope.. mind blank. So, I made a left and hoped for the best. A few miles down the trail started running parallel to a county road, and it didn’t look familiar to me. Then I saw the sign that this is where northbound Q intersected with G. I pulled over and checked the map to find that intersection. It was clear that the last intersection was 162 and that was where I was supposed to turn right to head eastward, toward Shawano County. So, I go up a little while further where there is room to turn around and double back.
Continuing easterly, I make a left at intersection 163 and a right at intersection 164. After a little while, I hit the T-intersection and make a right, onto Trail 13. This is when the trip back home officially begins as I start heading south skirting the eastern edge of Marathon County and the western edge of Shawano County. At intersection 170, I make a left to continue on southward until eventually hitting the Mountain Bay trail at intersection 167.
It is then throttle open for a while as I follow the Mountain Bay trail all the way back. Of course, for me, open throttle on a sled capable of well over 100 mph is right around 45-50. As I come into the Wausau area, I gas up at the Schofield Avenue Citgo station, just a little west of the new schools out there in Weston. Then back on Mountain Bay to the trail head.
I don’t know why it is, but that last stretch home, from the Mountain Bay trailhead back toward the Loading Zone always seems to be the worst stretch. Maybe it is just because I have been going for nearly 4 hours and I am just too tired to stand up for the bumps. But the three places that in my opinion are the most dangerous are all on that short home stretch. There is a place where there is a very steep hill, you really need a good running start to hit it and you are blind to traffic coming the other way until you crest it. Then there is a place where the trail runs along the side of a hill and feels very narrow, it is a pretty good drop off to one side so not a good place to meet an oncoming sled. And, the Eau Claire river crossing on X by Iozzo’s also not one of my more favorite things. I do hope that when they re-do X here soon, that this is made a much safer endeavor.
However, considering the relatively little amount of snow and that whole ice/rain event we had around X-Mas, the trails were generally in good shape. And, it got me relaxed and able to handle the eventual Packer loss (did our defense not make it through airport security?) and the busy week that lies ahead. That busy week includes trips to the Madison area on Tuesday and Wednesday, and ends with a very long Saturday that will include meetings in the morning and afternoon in Baraboo and an evening meeting in Janesville.
By the way, if there is anyone out there looking for someone to go riding with – drop me a line.