Suppose Tom and I made a winter assault on Scott Island and nothing went wrong?
January 24, 2015
Tom just told me that this won’t work as a title because nobody wants to hear about the trip unless it gets screwed up or we have bad luck.
But how about a couple of geezers defying the law on a back-roads tour to Newboro in a UTV? And then bouncing over drifts for three miles each way across the lake in a crude vehicle without working cup holders?
Or letting each other drive? Neither of us is much of a passenger.
I should mention that for winter I have enclosed the cabin of the Ranger so that the only exit is from the driver’s side. Last fall Tom gave me a piece of left-over boat-canopy plastic which had become translucent from age, but when I fitted it with pipe clamps where the right door would normally go, it kept the wind out quite well. There was just the problem of a little bit of claustrophobia for whoever’s riding shotgun.
Anyway, the rig is pretty warm in a cold wind, so for his annual winter expedition to the cottage I suggested to Tom that he would feel more comfortable and likely safer in the Ranger cabin rather than perched on the back of my Ski-Doo. The only trouble was that we would have to drive back roads to Newboro as the plastic windshields and improvised side tarp wouldn’t withstand a ride at highway speeds on a trailer. We’d have to drive seven miles of back roads to get to the lake.
I expected Tom would be fine without a means of escape from the Ranger until we got onto the ice, but it turned out my friend’s heart-stopping moments began as soon as we headed down the shoulder of the first paved road. I’d forgotten how spooky a ditch can look when one is perched above it on an icy shoulder. It’s hard to trust the left tires to maintain traction while the rights are sliding on glare ice. That metal cabin frame is reassuring when overhanging branches loom up on a trail, but the same metal seems less friendly when one thinks of banging into it with his head during a roll-over.
That’s what the seat belts are for, Tom.
Down the back roads we sped, cruising along at the Ranger’s full 24 miles per hour and letting on we were driving a Miata. A noisy Miata. The enclosed cabin keeps a lot of noise in, making it especially hard for the passenger to hear.
Tom played tourist, fascinated by our neighbours’ pristine stone house and property. He wondered about the missing windows from a brick porch on another, then he discovered the old cheese factory just off the Narrows Lock Road. We slipped into Newboro and changed drivers.
Now it was my turn for claustrophobia, as I decided that Tom would be less nervous on the ice with a steering wheel in hand. Of course that meant I’d be unable to bail out in an emergency. But I had brought along an escape tool, one of those padded hammers with a cutter built in. I rehearsed the routine: plunge the point through the vinyl, cut a big hole, then bail out, every man for himself. But in the meantime don’t let Tom get the Ranger stuck!
Trouble was that Tom couldn’t really hear my shouted instructions as to route selection because of the noise and the fuzzy earmuffs on his trapper hat. Fortunately Tony was running his 4WD Ranger ahead of us and I knew he would pick a clear route through the drifts. He learned his lesson last winter after twice belly-hanging the UTV on large patches of deep snow, the first time without a shovel aboard.
The ice is thick this year and quite predictable — as long as you don’t look at it. If you do try to find a way through the sea of small drifts by eye, though, the bare spots are terrifying. They look like open water.
Tom’s naturally a cautious driver, and when he’s not sure of his course he slows down. To his credit he didn’t spin the Ranger out for all of his drift-hopping while I screamed at him to keep his speed up.
In fact between us we managed to turn the voyage across Newboro Lake into an uneventful drive, if we don’t count a strained vocal cord on my part.
BTW: Two minutes before this photo was taken Tony was all neatly buttoned up into a sensible parka, but I think he was going for a contrast with Tom’s many layers of clothing.