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My Trailering Nightmare

Published online: Sep 16, 2007 Column LANE LINDSTROM
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It only seems fitting as this is our annual trailer buyer's guide issue that I share by trailering story from hell.

I really didn't have a trailering nightmare story until last winter. I always used to rely on stories about my travels with Steve Janes, because, wow, did I have some scary trailer experiences.

Now it's my turn.

I have to tell you, though, the trailering nightmare was just a small part of the day that went from bad to worse as the day wore on. I don't have many bad days snowmobiling-I could probably count them on one had. And it wasn't that the day in question was a bad day snowmobiling, it was just all the other things that happened.

All this happened last January on a ride through Yellowstone National Park. I was with a media group touring the Park and I was excited to go along so I could get some new pictures as well as see the Park again.

It was colder than a mother-in-law's stare (or even colder) that day. Pictures I took of the thermometer at Madison Arm Junction read about 5 degrees F but the wind was howling so who knows what the wind chill was. And there were periods of snow that fell horizontally throughout the day. Sometimes visibility was nil. It was so cold, that once we got to Old Faithful, most of the tourists didn't even wait for the geyser to die down before they left looking for shelter. It was cold.

After watching Old Faithful our group was to meet together for a luncheon. Somehow (I'm still trying to figure that one out) I got separated from the group and spent about an hour looking for them-in one lodge. I finally decided I'd better eat something. I had brought a little food along with me so I went to the sled to get it and discovered the ravens had not only cleaned me out of my food but a pair of my brand new Klim gloves. Yes, ravens. Those scavengers know how to open the trunk, get into backpacks and windshield bags. I knew this so I had purposely packed my food accordingly-like right in the bottom of the trunk compartment, under my water bottles and gloves. The water bottles were the only thing left.

By now I was getting a little agitated. I ended up buying my own lunch and while I was sitting there eating it, my group shows up and said, "Hey, where'd you disappear to?" My question back was, "Was anyone going to look me and tell me where you guys were going?

Did I mention I was agitated?

(Yes, I'm going to get to the trailer nightmare. I'm building up to it.)

The ride back to West Yellowstone was nice. The sun came out a little and it wasn't too bad. The wind was still howling and all the while I'm thinking in the back of my mind, "I hope they don't close the highway across the flats in Island Park." This stretch of highway is notorious for getting wind drifts and sometimes just has to be closed because the plows can't keep up. It had stopped snowing by now but the wind was creating ground blizzard conditions.

Once back to West Yellowstone, I was anxious to get on the road and get home before they closed the highway through the northern part of Island Park. I was hoping to get under way before dark, because that stretch of highway is easier to navigate in daylight.

There was a little get together I needed to attend so I decided, to save time, to change out of my riding gear and into some jeans and my favorite SnoWest jersey for the meeting and drive home. So I went into the men's bathroom, picked out a stall and commenced to change. Then I dropped my jersey in the toilet. So much for that idea. I had to carry the wet jersey into the meeting room, where someone promptly said, "Hey, how did your shirt get so wet?" I just muttered, "Never mind."

By the time I finally got out of West, it was dark, the wind was still howling and it was colder than before. I was towing our two-place trailer (which has an aluminum cap on it) with two sleds in it and I was headed for home. I came over the Continental Divide, dropped into Island Park and headed south across the flats between Valley View and Island Park Village.

I'll admit I was probably going too fast for the conditions-which consisted of a ground blizzard that had turned the highway into a Zamboni-like finished sheet of ice any hockey team would be proud to skate on. Visibility was next to nothing because of the blowing snow.

I did slow down and was doing my best to follow the white line along the right edge of the road. I was about a mile from the trees (Island Park Village) where I would have been home free when I lost sight of the white line-which disappeared under the drifting, shifting snow. I let off the gas and at that moment the truck lost grip with the icy road and I started to spin-with the trailer in tow.

In a flash I was now pointed back north with the truck up against the snow bank (probably 3-4 feet tall) along the edge of the road. I collected my thoughts, figured out where I was and tried to figure out what to do next. I figured I should check to make sure the trailer was okay and then try to get out of the snowbank. I hopped out the passenger side of the truck, went to the back of the truck and . no trailer.

Oh, the hitch was still hooked onto the ball and the chains were still attached and the light plugin was still in . but no trailer. It was about 50-75 yards down the highway still pointed south. The tongue had snapped right off, about a foot or so past the hitch. It was a clean break, too, just like you cut it with a knife.

My circumstances had just worsened.

I tried to get the truck out-it wasn't even really stuck in the snowbank, just the front driver's side tire was in the snow, but the road was so icy I couldn't get any traction to get out. So I got out and dug (I had the shovel from my avalanche pack) but to no avail. Someone stopped and offered to go call the sheriff, who showed up and called a tow truck.

The tow truck pulled the truck out and then hooked the trailer up to his rig (there was no way I could tow it in that condition) and towed it the one mile to Island Park Village, where we picked it up the next day. That little escapade cost me $250. Probably the worse part was having to call my boss later that night and tell him what happened. Oh yea, and I was supposed to take my wife out to dinner that night. Ugh. I didn't even have the guts to tell her about it for two or three days.

Aside from the snapped tongue, there was no other damage to the trailer or the sleds inside. I'm pretty lucky that some northbound vehicle didn't take the southbound trailer head on. That could have been real ugly.

No doubt it could have been much worse.

But it's still my little trailer nightmare.

And no, I didn't get any pictures.