What do you do when you have friends that you'd like to visit in Montana, Idaho and South Dakota, the world's largest snowmobile event is happening in Minnesota, the World Snowmobiling Headquarters is in Wisconsin and you have two weeks off? Change oil on the car, it’s time for a snowmobile road trip!
I know what you are thinking, how could one possibly plan anything more fun than spending two full weeks in a car with your wife? How about also making zero hotel reservations for the trip! That's right, this entire trip was completely off the cuff with no plans as to how far we would drive, or where we would stay, on any given night. Picture a rousing game of "where do you want to eat?" times 1000. Fantastic.
My wife Carla and I like adventure so this little plan was actually right up our alley - no set route, no set timeline - let’s see where the circumstances take us. The first leg of our trip was extended slightly as the forest fire situation in BC had caused some highway closures in the southern part of the province so we decided to cut through Alberta. This detour led to a mostly comfortable night spent sleeping in the hatch of the car, parked in the trees down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I'm pretty sure we were in Bigfoot country so I am confident that we were safe; Bigfoot doesn't let crap go down on his turf. I left him cookies on the roof of the car just to make sure he was on our side.
Day two brought the US border and a quick lesson in speed limit cultural differences; Things happen fast once you cross the line. The narrow, winding road through the woods had an 80kmh limit on the Canadian side but a 70MPH limit in the USA. I was raised with both metric and imperial and consider myself a bit of an expert on conversions but for those who don't know, this doesn't add up. In fact, it's not even close. 70mph is the equivalent of 110kmh, a speed limit reserved for only our biggest and best highways in BC. In the USA this is the limit on a virtual bush road. I thought it was more awesome than Carla did however, as she struggled to neatly pour coffee from our thermos as we careened around corners, dodging squirrels and noticing an abundance of white crosses in the ditch.
The next few days brought some great visits with friends we hadn't seen in years and some incredible scenery. Touring with no kids and no agenda was quite relaxing, even if we stayed in some hotels that may not show up on the popular tourist websites. Some of them may show up on Unsolved Mysteries or America's Most Wanted I'm sure, but not Expedia. Picking a hotel on the side of the road that had vacancy with no reservations at midnight shortens the option list a little bit. We weren't fussy, as long as it wasn’t named the Bates Motel it was all good - a little sleep and we were back to driving. Our route took us through Jackson Hole, home of Snow King Mountain and the World Championship Hillclimb and then on through the Grand Tetons and the infamous Togwatee riding areas. While there was no snow yet, the scenery was amazing and we could certainly see the draw to ride there – it has now been added to our list of places to sled one day.
Fortunately for my wife and I, there is never a shortage of things to talk about during the drive, especially our love of music. This became very clear as we progressed across the great expanses of Wyoming where the scenery became a little less than exciting and conversation played a bigger role in passing time. There is not a lot to look at in Wyoming:
Me: "What would you like on the radio?"
Her: "Anything that drowns out the sound of your voice"
Her: "What?" *turns up volume*
Onward, through South Dakota we travelled, with more visiting of friends as well as stops at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse for some historical touristy type stuff, before heading up to our main destination, the Haydays Snowmobile Drags and Swap Meet. I hadn't been to Haydays in more than a decade and I couldn't wait for my wife to see it - there is really no way to properly describe an event that garners 50000 fellow sledheads, showcasing every OEM and aftermarket parts distributor you can imagine as well as some of the fastest grass drag sleds in the world, plus freestyle ramps, a mud bog and a huge swap meet - it absolutely has to be attended to understand the vastness. If you are health oriented you may understand that my wife's fitness tracker logged 23,000 steps on the first day of Haydays alone, and we attended both days - and we never saw it all.
Of course these steps also included numerous trips back to the car to unload purchases - hey when you find a deal on sled parts you have to buy! I now completely understand the way my wife feels when she is in a shoe store (I don't care if I have 17 pairs of highheel shoes already, I need THIS pair!) If you work for the Bank of Canada then rest assured that we did our best to give you some job security, there will be a need to print more Canadian Dollars.
Following Haydays, a short jaunt of only four more hours (four hours is like a trip to the corner store on this odyssey) and we found ourselves in what has become known as one of the birthplaces of snowmobile racing, Eagle River, Wisconsin. No trip here is complete without a tour of the World Snowmobile Headquarters and the ASCOA Snowmobile Museum. The history held within these walls is rich, you can almost hear the crowd screaming as you look over the trophies displayed behind the retired race sleds of years gone by. The quiet reflection in here lies in stark contrast to the noise and hustle of Haydays but it is just as much a part of the world of snowmobiling and its growth from weekend hobby to a lifestyle; this is another stop to be added to the bucket list of any diehard sledder.
After all of this excitement it was time to make a run for the border so we started working our way back up towards Canada. As with the rest of this trip, we did not take the shortest route but instead we took a route that continued with our snowmobile theme; this leg saw us through both Duluth and Roseau Minnesota (if those names do not mean something to you then we can’t be friends) before we finally zipped back in to Canada. Our friendly border patrol agent quickly checked our purchases and had a good chuckle but didn't see anything wrong with an 8000 kilometer road trip to look at sleds with a model snowmobile taped to the hood; I guess he figured we had to be Canadian and he let us back in to the country. The total trip by the numbers was as follows:
Run time on the car - 96 hours
Total mileage - 8396kms = 5217.03 miles
Fuel burned – 747 litres = 197.34 gallons
Different Hotels - 15
Times lost in the wilderness – 2
Divorces – 0
Memories that will last a lifetime – infinite!
We would like to welcome our new writer, Marty Anderson.
Please feel free to comment your thoughts!