December 1, 2006

Making Friends




A few years back, an associate (I hesitate to call him a friend because quite frankly, I don’t like the guy) kept bugging me to take him snowmobiling. Apparently, to him it would be a cool thing to ride with the SnoWest dudes—something he could brag about to his friends at work.
Anyway, he kept bugging … and I kept making excuses. After all, snowmobiling is an intimate experience—something you just don’t want to do with anyone. Especially the kind of riding I like to do—boondocking—where you’re counting on your riding buddies to help you out of jams … and not create more problems. The last thing you want is to ride with someone who is always getting stuck, lost, cold or tired.
Well, this associate was quite insistent. After all, he had just purchased a new snowmobile (which he was constantly bragging about and polishing  about three times a day), new sled gear, everything he needed that would make him look like a serious rider.
Now let me take just a moment to make one simple confession—I’m not a nice guy. There are reasons why my circle of riding friends is quite small. I live by the motto of “We’ll count heads at the top of the mountain … anyone who can’t make it that far isn’t worth counting.”
But after much persistence, I reluctantly conceded to take this person snowmobiling. I wasn’t happy about it, but I figured that once he’d ridden with me, it would be out of his system and I could finally get some peace.
The day came when we had planned our ride. And what a great day it was. A storm was working its way through the area and had already dumped a foot of fluff in the mountains … and more was still falling from the skies. And any crusty rider knows that on snow days, the best riding is in the trees.
After unloading, I proceeded to lead the small group (I always bring a couple of  “friends” who are well adapted to boondocking … just in case we do get into some tight spots) back through the trees and over ridges until we were basically in the middle of nowhere (a common-used synonym for lost). Up to that point, the riding was pretty basic—pick good lines and keep moving forward. But now it was time to go extreme.
Perched on a high ridge looking into a dark canyon smothered in pines, I pointed down and said, “Let’s go this way.” Without time for debate, my two friends and I fired up our sleds and dropped over the ridge. My tag-along self-invited guest just stared in a daze as we disappeared into the dark of the trees below. Here he was, in the middle of nowhere with a snowstorm covering his tracks about as fast as he could make them, looking over a ledge to a 40-foot near vertical drop smack dab into a thick group of trees. Even with the wind howling in his ears, he could still hear the faint sounds of snowmobile engines mixed with breaking branches.
At this moment, he realized that riding with a SnoWest dude probably isn’t that exciting after all.
Well, caught between two very unattractive choices (some would call this situation a dilemma), he realized that we weren’t coming back his way. And unless he hurried and follow, he would have to find his way back to the truck.
After we carved our way down the canyon, busting tree branches along the way (somehow you need to slow your descent) and negotiating a partially drifted-over creek at the bottom, we worked our way back up the other side, coming out on the trail that led back to the parking area. As the three of us shut off our sleds and removed our helmets, steam just flowing off our sweaty heads, we could hear the faint sound of that fourth sled, battling its way through the canyon.
“Should we go back and help?” one of my friends asked. (And let’s be honest here, although he asked the question, there was no intent on his part to do anything other than sit back and relax.) Pulling a sandwich out of my backpack, I said “probably” and then started to eat my lunch.
About the time we finished eating, the fourth sled finally made its way up to the trail. The windshield was broken, the hood scratched in several places, tree bark covered the bumpers … basically, it looked like the guy had played pinball with every tree in the canyon.
“Ready to go?” I asked, even though this poor guy was exhausted and hungry.
Before he could answer, we fired up the sleds and raced back down the trail 20 miles to the parking lot. We had our sleds loaded and our gear removed by the time the fourth sled finally made it to the trailer.
Well, since that day, that associate has never bothered to ask us to go riding again. In fact, he seldom even talks to me.
Boy, I love snowmobiling. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: At least one tree was killed in the production of
this column.)






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