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Published: March 15th 2011
(Contributing Photographer-Michael Weinstein: Many thanks)
It sure was beautiful when we woke up this morning. The sun is shining. The snow has stopped and the wind has calmed down. About 8:30, a crew from a local TV station came to the hotel and wanted to do a piece about the blizzard and snowmobilers, so Gary gave them an interview. They also wanted to film our departure from Matane on the snowmobiles for their story. We hope to get a copy of the video.
Update 3/31/11: They posted a video of the news story on YouTube. It's all in French, but you can get the drift.
Now to get the machines fixed and trail ready. Rich & Charlie were able to get their sleds picked up and brought in to their sled dealers and got them fixed fairly quickly. Gary called his dealer and was told that the parts might still arrive by 9:30 and to bring his sled in at that time. They also told him that if the springs didn't arrive by 10:00 or so, they would pull springs off one of the machines on the floor and install them on his sled, since Gary offered
Big news in Matane
to pay for the additional labor. By 10:30, the springs still hadn't arrived. (no surprise since they were coming a long way and the highway was closed yesterday) So they proceeded to take the springs from the sled on the floor. 12:00 came and the mechanics went to lunch. Finally around 1:30, Gary's sled was done and he told us to meet him at the gas station we stopped at 2 days ago to depart together. Gary was going to ride his machine and take the back trail to meet us at the station. The TV cameraman was waiting at the station as well. Gary made it there at about 2:45. It turned out that he ran into another snowmobiler who was stuck on the town trail and tried to help him out to no avail. All of this added up to a 3:00 departure from town. Our hope was to get to Mont Saint Pierre about 90 miles away on the trails.
The trail was not yet groomed and there was only one or two tracks in it. John took the lead and I followed him. It was hard work busting trail and we got about 12 miles
No Groomer Yet.
out of town when John and I made a 90 degree right turn and waited for the rest of the guys. We waited about 20 minutes, sometimes hearing voices and a motor running. We couldn't make a u-turn there because the trail was narrow and the snow was so deep. Finally John said he would go ahead to find a place to turn around. He said if he wasn't back in 5 minutes to come and get him. Just as I was starting my sled, I heard his engine coming. He found 2 other guys going the opposite direction and they were stuck. He helped them out and then went to our guys. I waited about 5 more minutes and rode down about 1/2 mile to where John had made a u-turn. I rode back and found that all 5 of the guys had gotten stuck in a big field. They had gotten a couple of them back on the trail and we dug out the other 3. We worked on getting everyone out of the field and back on the trail, with John doing all the riding out of the stuck spots. By now, the sun was getting low
in the sky.
We decided the only option was to go back to Matane and the Riotel. Fortunately, no one got stuck on this 12 mile ride back. I kept thinking about the old John Wayne movie, "Back to Bataan," about the return to the Philippines during WWII and the Bataan Death March. Matane rhymes with Bataan and that along with the thoughts of a death march is why it came to my mind while trying to get our group back. This whole trip is turning into a death march!
As it turns out, it probably was just as well that this all happened when it did. I'm real happy we weren't 50 miles into the trip when it happened. It would have been pitch dark and we would have been 50 miles from anywhere. I guess in hindsight, once we saw that we would be breaking trail and it was such a late departure, we probably shouldn't have started. the news said this was the 3rd worst blizzard in Quebec history and that areas received from 3-4 feet of snow. It sure is playing hell with this tour. I'm real glad the TV crew didn't see us
Oh well, the vodka hit the spot when we got back and Tanya was waiting to take care of us again. Tomorrow is another day and our luck has to change soon.
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