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Published: March 19th 2011
(Photos courtesy of Michael Weinstein and John Carson: Many thanks)
I sure wish I had been able to keep up better with this blog during the trip. It's so much easier to remember things that happened within a day or two rather than a week later. But our days were so long and I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I couldn't get to it. I would need all the sleep I could get before tackling another day on the trail.
During dinner the night before, we all talked about getting an earlier start riding since we had somewhere near 200 miles to get back to Riviere du Loup from Matane. For a change, we had no mechanical issues to deal with and the trails should be well groomed.
We started out about 8:30 and the trail was ok, not super smooth, but not too rough either. The riding was enjoyable again and with no new snow things were pretty easy, at least as far as anyone getting stuck. The scenery was nice. Gary decided to take us into the town of Rimouski for lunch & gas. Rimouski is a pretty large town and
after crossing the main east-west highway the trail makes a cloverleaf loop then heads north into town. Mike got a picture of it. It's the first time I've done that on a sled.
When we got to about 40 miles from Riviere du Loup, it was time to gas up again. We came upon the trail intersection of Trail 5, which we were riding, and Trail 571. There was a sign for a gas station about 9 kilometers south on Trail 571 in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Dieu. It was debated whether we could find gas right on Trail 5 close enough to not have the problem of running out of gas or go the 18 km in and back from Saint-Jean-de-Dieu ( they sure love to name their towns after saints around here). We chose to go to Saint-Jean-de-Dieu, especially since Trail 571 was recently groomed and smooth. At the gas station, Rich mentioned that this trail could be taken as an alternate to Trail 5, but it looked a bit longer and we decided to backtrack to Trail 5. After fueling up, we missed the turn to go north on 571 back to Trail 5. I have to
I'm Telling You It's That Way
Gary always had plenty of help making decisions
take responsibility for this one because Gary stopped and asked me if we were on the right trail and I told him we were. I realized just after the stop that we weren't backtracking along our previous track on the GPS. I managed to stop Gary a kilometer or so further and Gary got the map out. He talked about it with a couple of the guys and they chose to take this way since the trail was the smoothest we've ridden on the whole trip. Fine with me!
We would take Trail 571 south to Trail 544, turn east on that and then take Trail 565 back north to Trail 5 which runs into Riviere du Loup. This was one of the best decisions of the whole week. The trails were all smooth as silk and the riding was outstanding. It added a few miles to the day's ride but it sure was worth it. But after a few miles, we ran into fog! The visibility was down to about 1/8 mile. Thank God they put poles on each side of the trail about 1/8 mile apart. I was following Gary at about 10 mph and you could
barely see the next poles when you got to the poles alongside you. When we stopped, Michael mentioned the story in the bible when God made the people endure 7 plagues. Maybe locust are next! We feel like we're cursed. Fortunately, we got out of the fog after a couple miles.
We almost got through the entire day's trip without having to pull out a stuck sled.....almost. About 10 miles out of Riviere du Loup, we went through a drifted area again in an open field and Gary got sucked off the trail. He tried to make a big loop in the field and get back to the trail, but he got stuck. Why should today be any different? We walked down into the field and with my Snobunje and Bill's tow rope, Johnny rode the sled out to the trail. We trudged back uphill to the trail through 4 feet of snow. We managed to get to the hotel without incident from there. I, nor anyone else could remember how many stuck sleds we had on the trip. My best guess is around 30. I haven't had a stress test of my heart in a couple years and
I'm probably due to get one, but I might be able to put it off for a while. Every day we all had our share of stress tests!
When we got to the hotel, I went out to the secure truck lot to get the bags I left in the truck when we checked out last Sunday. All of the trucks were buried in snow from the blizzard. I figured I would worry about that dig out job the next morning.
At dinner, I almost fell asleep at the table and excused myself before dessert to go hit the sack. We met again for breakfast the next morning and said our goodbyes. It really was a fine group to ride with. We got to know each other fairly well in the past six days and did manage to have some laughs along the way. I haven't done a guided tour in probably 15 years when we made 5-6 trips to the West Yellowstone area. I've often said in these blogs that the best part of travel is meeting new, interesting people. One of the best aspects of the entire trip was meeting these guys, snowmobile enthusiasts all.
After breakfast, it was time to extricate my truck and trailer from the 4 foot mountain of snow burying it. I carry a shovel in the sled trailer and was just starting to dig when Gary pulled up with his truck and trailer. He offered to help and I thought of a way I might avoid an hour or so of shoveling. Two years ago, I bought a 40 foot, heavy duty tow strap, which fortunately had never been used until now. We hooked up my Suburban to his Suburban and with some 4 wheel drive effort, we got it out. I knew that tow strap would come in handy some day. Now to load up the sled and luggage to start the 1,100 mile drive back home.
Before the trip, Gary sent us all a lot of information about the tour and one piece was a questionnaire. Bill told me early on that he answered one of the questions that he was willing to be flexible. How true that is of this crazy sport and it was especially true of this tour. This group was cursed with an awful lot of bad luck and if you couldn't roll
with the tough punches, you would probably want to pack it in and hire a truck to get you back. The third worst blizzard in Quebec's history totally changed everything. Although it was disappointing to not be able to complete more of the planned tour, I still had a good time. The positives I take from it were the camaraderie of the group, the wonderful people of Quebec, the lovely scenery and an opportunity to try using some of my 4 years of high school French from 44 years ago. Foremost of these were the Quebecois. I had some misgivings that the people would not be friendly and may resent we English speaking Americans. I couldn't have been more wrong. As I've said numerous times, these were the most friendly, helpful people I've ever met.
Even though it's an awfully long drive from Chicago, I really want to come back here to ride again, hopefully avoiding a blizzard! (tempete in French) See, I did learn a few new words.
Some minutiae provided by the GPS from the trip:
Total Miles Ridden: 805.6
Moving Average Speed: 28 mph
Total Hours on the Trail: 53 hours, 40 minutes.
Bill, Rich, John, Charlie, Michael and Me
One last thing. If you're a snowmobiler (motoneigiste) and ever ride in deep snow, I recommend you carry a tow rope and a Snobunje. Here's the website:
Tot: 0.243s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 19; qc: 109; dbt: 0.0249s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb