While I was in Fairbanks last weekend, I bought a snowmachine. That wasn’t my aim in going to town (I really wanted a backpack and some bell peppers, both of which I got). Geoff was going to take me snowmachine window-shopping, basically, to help me learn what to look for and what to stay away from. “You want a long track, nothing so heavy you can’t shift it on your own, something like a Bravo.”
We looked around, but everything at the dealerships was too big or too powerful or too new and expensive. There wasn’t even anything worth showing me in any detail, as far as Geoff was concerned. I was cool with it. I didn’t want to have to test drive a sno-go – it’d be my first time driving one, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn under that kind of pressure.
We’d given up on the windowshopping when some guys pulled into the parking lot with a snowmachine on a trailer. “That’s a Bravo. You need one of those. Let’s ask if they’ll let us take a look at it,” said Geoff. He hopped out of the car and introduced himself. “Would it be okay if we took a look at your machine?” I was close behind, and he gestured to me, “She’s looking for her first machine and I think a Bravo would be perfect”
“absolutely. These things are fantastic. Nothing more reliable than a Bravo,” he turned to me, “and you’d have no trouble moving it if you got stuck.”
“sounds pretty good to me,” I grinned.
We chatted for a while, and they told us that the Yamaha dealer sometimes gets older Bravos in and that they’ll put you on a list for one if you’re interested. We shook hands all around, said thanks, and cruised over to the Yamaha place.
To make a long story short, they had one on the lot. “This is perfect.” Geoff said, “you’ll never do better.” I thought about it for all of five minutes and decided to go for it. Why not?
My first time driving a sno-go was a test-drive after all. I told the guy who was helping me that I was completely new at this, and he was stoked! When Geoff found us on the lot, my hands were all greasy and there were two guys standing beside me with big grins on their faces, coaching me through replacing the belt. They talked me through the basics (gas goes here, oil here) and explained how to start it. It fired up on the first pull. Geoff gave me his gloves and I took it for a spin around the parking lot, getting a feel for it, nervous, excited, then giddy.
I sat down with paperwork, and Geoff wandered around the place finding the various bits and pieces I’d want to go with my new ride (“here’s a kit for handwarmers, and here’s a siphon hose, and we’ll need to get you a gas can… Don’t forget to get sparkplugs… and oil!”)
Pretty soon, it was done. There was some shuffling of vehicles and some running back and forth to the airport, but it all worked out. I had a snowmachine. “Your very own?” one of my students asked, when they found out why I was calling Wright’s every day this week (they finally flew it up on Thursday). Yes. My very own.
Ben and I took my Sassy White Bravo out for our first adventure yesterday. We rode five or six miles, then unloaded our skis and skied another four or five miles beyond that. This is why I wanted a snowmachine: to get out beyond the circle around the village that has been circumscribed by my physical strength and skiing skills. Now I can carry myself and my gear outside of that circle and explore new territory.
Here’s our route from yesterday, more or less. We left the Sassy White Bravo at the marker farthest to the right, and skied west as far as that green lake (currently white, of course), then turned and came back.
The part that scared me the most was cold-starting it by myself in the field. What if I couldn’t get it going? Ben knows less about this stuff than I do, and we were miles outside of the village, already exhausted from skiing. It’d be a long haul home on foot, even with skis, and so embarrassing. I did it though, on the third pull. I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I like snowmachining. Jake says the grin on my face is so big, I’d have bugs all through my teeth if we had bugs up here. It’s crazy how fast you can move, even on a Bravo (top speed… thirty? I dunno. I think I get a little jittery at twenty, for now, so I haven’t pushed it) compared with skiing. It’s like the world opened up, or the map just unfolded so that I can see the whole thing, instead of just the panel I’ve been living in for the past year. There’s some cool stuff out there, and now it’s all within my range.