Why Not? III: re-learning the snowmobile

January 10, 2015

The sofa feels pretty good after this morning’s session with 450 pounds of aluminum and rubber attached to my ankle.

It may not have been as drastic as all that, but I did manage to tumble off the machine when I dumbly tried to climb an interesting set of drifts without adequate forethought. The machine ran out of momentum and I tipped off to the downhill side. One of my over-sized insulated rubber boots didn’t free itself from the stirrup and there I was. The boot soon came free, but I found myself stuck in my own back forty.

Then I remembered a video series where these guys from Ottawa ram snowmobiles through impossible conditions on a trip north. One of the topics was how to unstick a snowmobile. So I stamped down the snow on the uphill side of the machine and around the back. Of course I was getting wet because there hadn’t been much reason to put on snowmobile pants for a run around the farm.

The machine dutifully backed out of the trap. I remounted, remembered to balance the thing, and blasted up the hill over the remaining drifts. I stopped at the top, breathing pretty hard, but no more than I would lifting a large round of maple onto the block splitter.

Lesson relearned: every time you start a snowmobile it’s game on, and you had better be ready for whatever the trail can throw at you. Quietly I felt grateful for the week of wood-cutting I had gotten in after the recent thaw. It left me moderately prepared for unexpected exertions.

But it would be to oversimplify the tale if the prequel to this misadventure weren’t told. After Cory Sly rebuilt its carburetors I test-drove the 1999 SkiDoo Touring LE last night for a half hour. Apart from its tendency to fight the ruts on the Forfar section of the Cataraqui Trail, the machine ran perfectly.

This morning it started dutifully, but then the oil light winked on. I shut off. Restarted. Definitely on. This light indicates* that no oil is getting to the engine to mix with the gasoline.

Into the house, laptop open, crash course on oil injection systems in Ski Doo models. Posted a plea for help online, complained by email to pals. Before taking wrench to engine, though, I called Cory.

“It’s not an oil shortage. The light comes on when it’s a litre down to warn you to add more.”

“It’s full, and I backed the top off to let air in.”

“Is the parking brake on?”

“Uh, yeah?”

“You shouldn’t leave it on. It may stick on and you’ll end up with a hydraulic leak and hot pads, a recipe for a fire. Shut the parking brake off and it should be fine.”

And it was. Of course then I had to send more emails and Internet posts admitting my newbie jitters.

Then came the ride around the property, the wonderful new drifts, and a return to the couch to compose this account.

At the current rate it will be a long time before I log significant mileage on the snowmobile, but so far it appears willing.

* (among other things, it turns out)

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