I'm not complaining at all about this season's first ride. It didn't beat my early record of October 20, back in '95. But it didn't cost me a chaincase, either.
And 2009's first ride was in December, so getting out on Nov. 16 was enough reason to celebrate: 5 feet of snow, however, was reason to rejoice.
Rather than the usual road ride, we decided that with the supposed huge amounts of snow the peaks have been getting, we ought to try one of our usual mid-winter rides up a trail-less drainage and get right into the thick of it.
It's the kind of ride that everyone avoids in November because of the high chances of hitting something. But we weren't about to avoid five feet of powder.
We unloaded on about 8 inches and dealt with rocks, open creeks, logs, willow patches, stumps and dirt. In other words, perfect conditions.
Two hours and nine miles later, we were up to our armpits in powder. No, really. My legs were touching the void and I was eye level with my front shock. It was a bad stick. One of about 17 bad sticks and that was just me.
The good thing was I didn't hit anything this time.
Well, there was the cut end of a deadfall log that knocked me off the sled, but aside from that I didn't hit anything.
And I guess there was a tree snag that tore the side panel off of my Summit. I had to walk back and get the panel, which wasn't a big deal because I was stuck anyway, but aside from those two, I didn't hit anything.
Of course, I have to mention the end table-sized boulder that I tapped at five miles per hour. It was just that right speed where the sled stops instantly but you think you can hang on . and your body continues over the front of the sled, through the windshield and onto the ski tip. I held on long enough to twist my shoulder in a way they only use in severe interrogations. It makes a clicking sound every time I put a jacket on now, but that's just a reminder of how awesome the season's first ride was, right?
Oh, and aside from that, I didn't hit anything.
Here's a few stats from this year's first ride:
Number of sleds: 4
Number of open water crossings: About 6
Times a sled was stuck in water: 2
Hidden logs/stumps/rocks located using $12,000 machines: 7
Times logs/stumps/rocks separated man from machine: 4
Damaged parts: 0, not counting the clean removal of one windshield and one side panel.
Injuries: 1 (some guys just can't suck it up)
Sleds that got stuck: 3 out of 4
Times those three sleds got stuck: 18
Times my own sled was stuck: 10
Times I was stuck three times within a 50-foot radius: 2
But hey, at least there was one place I wasn't stuck in.