Monday, March 31, 2008

Snowmobile Riding At Katahdin Lodge

Believe it or not, these are mild jumps, compared to what we Patten, Maine snowmobilers were into. We had jumps that gave us a lot more 'air'.

This third photo was taken so that I could show my family and friends in Dundalk, Maryland just how you have to throw your body around on a snowmobile in order to counter balance the G-Forces during a hard curve, or the sled will flip over. What's happening here in the photo is that my left foot is planted firmly down onto the left side running board of the sled to hold it down, my right leg is holding tightly onto the sled's seat, my right heel is dug into the seat and I'm holding on tight to the handle bars.

My favorite and most versatile riding position was with my left foot planted down nice and comfortable on the left side running board, my right knee on the seat along with the lower part of my leg down to the top of my boot. That way, the rider is half kneeling and half setting down. Then I could easily dig my right foot and leg into the right side of the soft, padded, smooth vinyl seat, hang my warm mitted hands over the handle bars, loosen up my thumb for the throttle, hit the gas, haul-ass and hold on like a baby Opossum hangin onto its moma's back when the hounds are barking bad breath at 'um.

Then it doesn't take but second or two or dexterous throttle action till you're outrunning the hounds and being blasted in your face with cold, delicious Northern Maine air.

Some sled riders rode kneeling down with their knees on top of the seat most of the time. That is the absolute most advantages way to ride, and that is how we had to go through certain sections of our favorite trails. Riders can shift their weight around faster and tighter in tune with all that is happening when in that position. Sometimes when the riding got to where everyone had to ride on their knees, we had to yell over the sounds of the running engines at first time snowmobilers who thought that riders sit down flat all the time. 99.99% of all first time riders take a little convincing to get 'um up off their haunches when the trail gets its roughest. Then after a short ride for them in the company of skilled riders they usually find the groove and fit right into it easy enough.

There are times when it is best to stand up nearly straight, but with your knees flexing to the pounding of the snowmobile against the snow. If the surface of the snow on a wide open field is hard packed or crust covered enough for the sled to travel across it without sinking down into the snow at all, then it is often best to stand up when flying along at whatever the highest safe speed was. Sometimes a rider stands up just to hoot and holler from the intense excitement and shear joy of riding.

Every time that a sled goes galloping down an ungroomed trail it cuts any low spots even lower. And ya' carve up the trail into the best line of travel, so as the days pass after a good snowfall hits then those kinds of trails get more challenging and that provides you a nice dose of miniature roller coaster style fun. It was always top speed for us Patten area riders throughout the tightest of barely cleared woods trails.

When I set up this series of photos, I knew that people who have never ridden a snowmobile like this might think that I'm showing off by hanging off the other side of the sled like that, but G-Forces, gravity and natural balance dictates how you have to lean into the curves. If you do not do what the natural balance demands of you then the sled flips and you flies. You have to have your body in what ever position that is necessary; or it's down to the snowmobile repair shop to replace broken sled parts and maybe to the hospital to repair or medicate some busted or badly bruised human body parts.

John Birmingham flyin' a Ski Doo.

Now here is John Birmingham showing what a hard left turn looks like from the left side of a sled when you stay setting down. If he was riding in a straight line and had hung his body off the side of the sled like that, then the sled would have tilted over onto its left side. If he had not hung off the side like than when making a hard left turn than he would have flipped and flown off to his right.

Again. It may look like we were showing off for the camera, but there is always only exactly one position that your body can be in during this kind of riding. You either get into it and get a good feel for the balance and the G-Forces or you will wreck.

The powerful, Adrenalin feel of those forces is what I loved most about riding snowmobiles. I rarely ever sat down flat on one. This was because we did most of our riding back then on our own woods trails or out on old unused farm fields.

Today, there are well groomed, fairly flat and smooth snowmobile trails running all over the State of Maine. When riding on those modern trails, you do spend most of your time sitting down, but ya' still gotta' lean into them curves.

And, oho, it feels so good when you get right into that groove and ride well.

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